The global death toll from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 topped 300,000 on Thursday, while, in the U.S., a new poll found the majority of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group on behalf of nonprofit Accountable.US., found 57% think the response so far only benefits Trump and big companies, and, while there is strong support for the $2 trillion stimulus package, 59% of those polled said it does more for companies than individuals. And 69% of those surveyed said Trump is not being transparent enough with how taxpayer dollars are being distributed.
“To put it mildly, the American public is not pleased with the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kyle Herrig, Accountable.US’s founder and president.
Global Strategy Group conducted the survey of 1,067 registered voters nationwide between May 4 and May 8. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 3.0%.
The news comes as government vaccine expert Rick Bright testifies before a House committee about the pandemic, warning that the U.S. faces its “darkest winter in modern history” absent a stronger federal response to the pandemic.
In testimony prepared for the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, Bright says “our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
Bright has alleged he was reassigned from his role as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug publicly championed by Trump as a coronavirus treatment but which is unproven as a remedy for COVID-19.
In a tweet, Trump said Bright “should no longer be working for our government!”
Trump said Wednesday he wants schools to reopen and expressed frustration with the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, who has cautioned that thousands will die if the U.S. reopens too quickly and abandons the lockdown measures that aim to slow the spread and pace of infection.
“I think they should open the schools, absolutely. I think they should,” Trump told reporters at the White House, echoing comments he’d made in a television interview. “Our country’s got to get back, and it’s got to get back as soon as possible. And I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed,” he said.
Italian doctors on Thursday reported they have found clear evidence of a link between COVID-19 and a rare inflammatory disorder that is affecting children, as the Guardian reported. The condition, which is called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has killed three children in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, and sickened 102 others, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, the state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’s coronavirus stay-at-home order Wednesday, ruling that his administration overstepped its authority when it extended the mandate for another month without consulting legislators, as the Associated Press reported.
Evers said the move will cause more infections.
“Today, Republican legislators convinced four members of the state Supreme Court to throw the state into chaos,” Evers said. “They have provided no plan. There’s no question among anybody that people are going to get sick. Republicans own that chaos.”
Photos posted on social media as well as local news accounts reflected taverns in the state filling to near-capacity almost immediately after the high-court ruling.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies director said the virus may never go away. Mike Ryan told reporters at a briefing that the world should prepare for the possibility that a vaccine for COVID-19 will not be found. Even if one eventually is developed, it would still take a “massive effort” to distribute it worldwide and control the virus — a “massive moonshot.”
“It is important to put this on the table: This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” he said. “I think it is important we are realistic, and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this, and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”
There are now 4.41 million documented cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 300,074 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 1.6 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has the highest case tally at 1.39 million and the highest death toll at 84,239, as of early Thursday.
Russia registered another spike of more than 9,000 cases overnight bringing its case tally to 252,245, the second biggest in the world. Russia has reported 2,305 deaths.
The U.K. has 234,431 cases and 33,692, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.
Spain has 228,691 cases and 27,104 deaths. Italy has 222,104 cases and 31,106 deaths.
Brazil has overtaken France and Germany with 192,081 cases and 13,276 deaths. France has 178,184 cases and 27,077 deaths. Germany has 174,098 cases and 7,861 deaths. Turkey has 143,114 cases and 3,952 deaths. Iran has 114,533 cases and 6,854 deaths. China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has 84,025 cases and 4,637 deaths.
New York has 345,828 cases and 27,450 deaths, according to a New York Times tracker.
What’s the economy saying?
The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits after losing jobs amid the pandemic rose by another nearly 3 million in the latest week, but a historic wave of layoffs is likely to continue to subside as states take the first halting steps toward reopening their economies, as MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Initial jobless claims increased by 2.98 million in the week of May 3 to May 9, the government said Thursday, marking the eighth week in a row in which they’ve risen by at least an approximate 3 million.
More than 36 million people have applied for jobless benefits since the pandemic struck two months ago, including self-employed workers and independent contractors made eligible for the very first time under a federal relief program.
“Layoffs are abating, but remain extremely high,” said chief economist Gus Faucher of PNC Financial Services. “After job losses of 20.5 million in April, by far the worst month in history, May job losses will also be in the millions.”
Separately, Labor Department data showed U.S. import prices fell by 2.6% in April, the biggest decline in more than five years. The decline was led by oil prices, which have tumbled due to the weak demand and lack of travel as a result of the pandemic. See Economic Report.
The price of imported fuel declined a record 31.5% in April after a 26% drop in the prior month. Excluding fuel, prices of imported goods fell 0.5% in April. Import prices have fallen 6.8% over the past 12 months. Excluding fuel, prices have fallen 1%.
What are companies saying?
Cisco Systems Inc. CSCO, +4.52% said the pandemic is worse than both the dot-com bust in 2000 and the Great Recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis — but it’s earnings were still stronger than expected.
The networking giant beat estimates for its third quarter and even braved offering guidance for the current, fourth quarter, something few companies have dared do this earnings season given the uncertain outlook.
“I still think there is a lot of volatility out there,” Chief Financial Officer Kelly Kramer told MarketWatch, when asked how the company was able to give guidance while others are deferring. “I think it’s a balanced guide.”
When asked if the fourth quarter could mark the company’s bottom for the year, Kramer said it was too hard to call this the bottom because COVID-19 still lurks. “It depends on if there is a secondary outbreak — God only knows what happens. I think it’s way too early to call.”
Ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. UBER, -0.69% and Grubhub Inc. GRUB, -5.88% are in talks on a takeover deal that would value Grubhub at about $6 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Uber would reportedly pay 1.9 of its shares, or about $60 a share, for the food-delivery service.
Grubhub, however, is reportedly seeking 2.15 Uber shares for each Grubhub share. Uber was not immediately available for comment. The deal is supported strongly on Wall Street, which is betting on consolidation in the crowded, low-margin food-delivery space. Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, has voiced his opposition to the deal, saying it represents a “new low in pandemic profiteering.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission continued its crackdown on companies making false claims relating to COVID-19 on Thursday, filing complaints against Applied Biosciences Corp APPB, -13.04% and Turbo Global TRBO, -73.91% in federal courts in New York and Florida.
The former said in a March 31 press release that it had started offering and shipping supposed finger-prick COVID-19 tests to the general public that could be used for “Homes, Schools, Hospitals, Law Enforcement, Military, Public Servants or anyone wanting immediate and private results.”
The SEC complaint alleges that the tests were not intended for home use and could be used only with the help of medical professionals. It also alleges that the company had not shipped any such tests as of March 31.
The Turbo Global complaint relates to false and misleading news releases on March 30 and April 3 regarding a purported “multinational public-private-partnership” to sell thermal scanning equipment to detect individuals with fever. The complaint alleges that the company had no agreement to sell the product, no partnership with government entities and the CEO of the company’s alleged corporate partner did not make or authorize statements attributed to him.
“We are actively monitoring the markets to detect potential fraudsters who seek to use the COVID-19 crisis as a basis for investment scams,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
Elsewhere, companies continued to offer updates on their plans to get businesses open again and to raise funds to boost their liquidity positions.
Here’s the latest of what companies are saying about COVID-19:
• 3M Co. MMM, -0.09% provided a monthly sales update for April, saying the declines as a result of the pandemic were in line with the trends discussed during the first-quarter earnings call on April 28. The diversified consumer, health care and industrial products maker’s April sales fell 11% from a year ago to $2.3 billion. A 5% increase in health care sales was offset by declined of 5% in consumer, 11% in safety and industrial and 20% in transportation and electronics. In light of providing a 2020 financial outlook, which it withdrew in April given uncertainties about the effects of the pandemic, 3M will continue to update investors by providing monthly sales data.
• AT&T Inc. T, +1.74% executive John Stankey said the company had confidence it would continue to generate “strong cash flows” to continue to “comfortably” continue to pay its dividend and pay down its debt. Stankey said cash flows would also be sufficient to invest in areas such as fiber, 5G cellular service and its upcoming new streaming package, HBO Max. Stankey told a J.P. Morgan conference that it continued to be a challenge to predict the pandemic’s overall economic impact or effect on its businesses.
• Carnival Corp. CCL, +0.08% has decided to it was “necessary” to cut labor costs, through layoffs, furloughs, reduced work weeks and salary reductions, to strengthen its liquidity position as the pandemic has led to cruise suspensions. While the cruise operator had suspended cruise operations in early March, it had placed workplace changes on hold. “Unfortunately, it’s necessary, given the current low level of guest operations and to further endure this pause,” said Chief Executive Arnold Donald. To date, less than 38% of customers have requested refunds of suspended cruises, suggesting the intent to re-book with Carnival at a later date. Booking trends for the first half of 2021 remain within historical norms, the company said.
• Jack in the Box Inc. JACK, +2.76% reported earnings that reflected significant impacts from the pandemic and the broad damage the coronavirus has caused the restaurant industry. The company pulled its long-term outlook, after previously yanking its fiscal year-end guidance due to the pandemic. The company suspended its dividend payments, stock buyback program and said that as of the end of the second quarter it had roughly $169 million in cash.
• Mastercard Inc. MA, +3.02% has detected a slight rebound in credit-card use in the two weeks ended May 7, in part due to the loosening of social-distancing rules in several areas and the impact of fiscal stimulus in the U.S. The recent trends in credit-card volumes and transactions point to a “transition from the stabilization phase to the normalization phase in some markets, although it is very early days,” the credit-card company said. The company defined the “stabilization phase” as spending at new lower levels as a result of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, in place across the globe to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Cross-border volume is still taking a hit by the decline in travel, “although we have seen modest improvements over the last week in part due to an increase in intra-Europe travel,” Mastercard said.
• Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. NCLH, +4.36% reported first-quarter results that missed expectations but said it has recently raised enough liquidity to weather an “unlikely scenario” of over 18 months of suspended cruises as a result of the pandemic. While it has experienced “significant softness” in near-term demand and an elevated rate of cancellations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there is demand for cruise vacations beginning in the fourth quarter and accelerating through 2021, as overall bookings and pricing for 2021 within historical ranges.
• 1Life Healthcare Inc. ONEM, +9.26%, the primary-care provider doing business as One Medical, reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss and sales that came in above Wall Street expectations. The company ended the quarter with about $375.4 million in cash and equivalents, and about $2.2 million in debt. Its doctors have “engaged with hundreds of thousands of members digitally, arranged for COVID-19 testing services, donned PPE to deliver care, conducted video chats and remote visits, and followed up with patients on test results and subsequent care needs,” it said. One Medical ended the quarter with about 455,000 members, a 25% increase year-on-year, it said. The company expects to end the current quarter with between 465,000 members and 475,000 members, and sales between $56 million and $66 million. It expects to end 2020 with between 500,000 members and 515,000 members, compared with a previous guidance of 495,000 members to 510,000 members. No other guidance for 2020 was provided “because of uncertainties around the duration and extent of the continued COVID-19 pandemic,” One Medical said.
• Moody’s Investors Service cut the rating Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s RCL, +1.79% senior unsecured rating by two notches into “junk” territory amid concerns over the expected prolonged negative effects of pandemic. The new rating of Ba2, down from Baa3, is two-notches into speculative-grade, or “junk” territory, which matches the BB rating at S&P Global Ratings. The short-term rating falls to non-Prime from P-3, while the outlook is negative, suggesting the rating could be downgraded again. “The downgrades reflect the risks Royal Caribbean faces as their operations continue to be suspended and Moody’s expectation of a slow recovery resulting in financial metrics that are not indicative of an investment grade rating for the foreseeable future,” said Pete Trombetta, lodging and cruise analyst at Moody’s. “Moody’s forecasts that cruise operations will continue to be suspended in the US beyond the current July 24 no-cruise order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and available capacity will be modest for the remainder of 2020 and possibly into early 2021 as the risk of fully restarting operations before proper safety protocols are in place far exceed the potential reward.”
• SmileDirectClub Inc. SDC, -9.32% reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, and its sales missed forecasts. Despite “challenging times” amid the coronavirus pandemic, SmileDirect “leveraged our teledentistry platform, along with our completely remote kit business, to continue to serve” its customers, the company said. SmileDirect has a new debt facility with HPS Investment Partners. After refinancing its previous debt facility, it will have about $420 million in cash on its balance sheet, “giving the liquidity needed to continue its growth plans and manage potential downsides with COVID-19.”
• Tapestry Inc. TPR, +4.02% has started to reopen stores in North America, Europe and in additional markets in Asia as government regulations on movement ease. By the end of the week, the company expects to have more than 300 Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman stores in North America offering curbside and store-pickup service. About 20 stores in Europe, 35 across Japan, 35 in Malaysia and nearly 30 stores in Australia will be open to customers, while complying with social-distancing and other public-safety practices, the company said. Workers will wear masks and gloves, where required; cleaning of fitting rooms will be enhanced; and all store employees will undergo temperature and wellness checks on arrival.
• Tempur Sealy International Inc. TPX, +6.46% has secured a $200 million term loan from a group of banks, as it works to bolster liquidity during the pandemic. The mattress company said it will use the proceeds to repay debt under a $425 million revolving credit facility. “We believe that our previous liquidity position was adequate based on current and expected market conditions,” said Tempur Sealy Chairman and CEO Scott Thompson. “However, given the future uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, we worked with our commercial bank group to proactively secure the 364-Day Loan.” The loan was oversubscribed by 50%, he said.
• Wells Fargo & Co. shares WFC, +6.79% fell in early trading before reversing course, after J.P. Morgan analyst Vivek Juneja reiterated the underweight rating he’s had on the stock for the past two years, writing in a note that “concerns about dividend cuts have weighed on Wells Fargo recently because it has the highest payout ratio among our banks and also because of remarks by Vice Chair Quarles.” Regarding speculation by some of a prospective merger between Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. G, -0.45%, Juneja said any bank acquisition by Wells is “banned by law” as the bank already exceeds the 10% deposit market-share limit.
• Whirlpool Corp. WHR, +5.27%, Dow Inc. DOW, +3.58% and Reynolds Consumer Products Inc. REYN, +1.14% are collaborating to provide respirators to health-care workers, who are struggling with a lack of personal protective equipment in the face of the pandemic. The equipment being made is a protective piece of headgear and respiratory system made and sold through WIN Health Labs LLC. The equipment includes a powered, air-purifying respirator, or PAPR. Whirlpool designed and made the headset, Dow provided the polyethylene resin for the hoods and Hefty bags-maker Reynolds Consumer designed and produced the disposable hood. Volkswagen of America helped connect materials and supply-chain partners.