• Fauci Sees Far Fewer U.S. Deaths; More Fed Aid: Virus Update
    Bloomberg

    Fauci Sees Far Fewer U.S. Deaths; More Fed Aid: Virus Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said fatalities in the country might be lower than previously thought. While deaths are now slowing in parts of Europe, they are still accelerating in the U.S., which is on track to overtake Italy in the coming days.The Federal Reserve announced another series of sweeping steps to provide as much as $2.3 trillion in additional aid, and Americans applied for jobless benefits in massive numbers for a third straight week. General Electric Co. withdrew its forecast.Spain reported fewer coronavirus-related deaths and is poised to extend a nationwide lockdown. Curbs are likely to remain in Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to improve in intensive care.Key Developments:Global cases 1.5 million; deaths pass 89,000: Johns HopkinsSpain, Italy to extend lockdowns amid persistent rise in casesUBS, Credit Suisse will split payouts for 2019 into two installmentsSouth Korea’s CDC says virus may “reactivate” in cured patientsWorld economy faces $5 trillion hit, that’s like losing JapanFed Announces Plan for Muni, Business Aid; Jobless Claims (8:43 a.m. NY)The steps announced include starting programs to aid small and mid-sized businesses, as well as state and local governments.A total of 6.61 million Americans filed jobless claims in the week ended April 4, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. That exceeded a median forecast of 5.5 million.Deaths in Sweden Increase Amid Relatively Relaxed Stance (8:41 a.m. NY)Sweden reported 106 more virus-related deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 793, on par with the daily gains reported in the past week. The Nordic country is under scrutiny as it continues to experiment with a laxer policy response compared with the rest of Europe. Restaurants, shopping centers and primary schools all remain open in Scandinavia’s biggest economy. Deaths in Sweden continue to outpace its Nordic neighbors, which implemented stricter measures to curb the spread early on, and are now discussing how to lift them.U.S. Virus Fatalities Looking More Like 60,000, Fauci Says (8:10 a.m. NY)“I believe we are going to see a downturn” and projections look “more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000,” National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci said in response to an NBC interview question about virus fatality models. Fauci said he thinks the U.S. is starting to see a flattening of the curve in New York. “I don’t want to jump the gun on that but I think that is the case,” he said.Pfizer to Develop Vaccine by Year-End (8 a.m. NY)Pfizer and BioNTech said they will jointly develop a vaccine for Covid-19, potentially supplying millions of doses by the end of 2020. The two companies plan to jointly conduct the first clinical trials as early as the end of April, assuming regulatory clearance. Clinical trials for the vaccine candidates will initially be in the U.S. and Europe across multiple sites.Earlier, IBio jumped 25% in pre-market trading after reaching an agreement with the Infectious Disease Research Institute to support development of a vaccine for Covid-19. And Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding got an FDA “may proceed” letter to begin a Phase 2 trial of intranasal vazegepant to treat lung inflammation after COVID-19 infection.U.K. PM Johnson Continues to Improve (7:58 a.m. NY)“The prime minister had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care in St Thomas’ Hospital,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack told reporters. Johnson is “receiving standard oxygen treatment,” Slack said. U.K. officials are drawing up plans to extend the lockdown and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee at 3:30 p.m.World Hunger Could Double (7:56 a.m. NY)The number of people going hungry around the world could double in just a few months as the pandemic wreaks havoc on food supplies and hurts incomes, according to a group of major food companies, industry bodies and academics. The number of those suffering from chronic hunger may surge from about 800 million.Charity group Oxfam had earlier warned the economic hit from coronavirus threatens to put more than half a billion people into poverty unless countries take action to cushion the blow.Netherlands Reports Slowest Hospital Intake (7:50 a.m. NY)The Netherlands recorded 237 new hospital intakes, a 3% increase and marking the lowest daily gain since the outbreak began. Confirmed cases rose 6% to 21,762, while fatalities advanced 7% to a total of 2,396.London Delays Pollution Controls for Trucks (7:40 a.m. NY)London delayed the start of stricter pollution controls for trucks in the capital, because the pandemic has put too much pressure on supply chains. New minimum standards for freight are due to come into force in October with fines of as much as 550 pounds ($683) per day. Enforcement will be delayed for at least four months, Transport for London said. It’s already suspended other pollution and congestion charges for cars and van, to ensure deliveries can take place and for key workers to travel.Irish Unemployment Soars (7:20 a.m. NY)Irish unemployment may have risen to its highest level since 1988, in the latest sign of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Unemployment rose to 16.5% last month if it is adjusted to include people receiving government support because of the coronavirus crisis, the Central Statistics Office said in a statement. The adjusted rate “should be considered as the upper bound for the true rate of unemployment,” it said.U.S. Poised to Pass Italy With Deadliest Outbreak (7:07 a.m. NY)The U.S. is on track for a grim milestone in the coming days -- passing Italy as the world’s epicenter of Covid-19 mortality. Deaths from the virus were at about 14,800 in the U.S. as of Thursday morning and still accelerating, while Italy had more than 17,600 fatalities and the pace was beginning to slow, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. has logged about 2,000 deaths each of the past two days, while in Italy, the number has hovered around 550 daily deaths.German Study Finds Virus in 15% of Hard-Hit Town (6 a.m. NY)The coronavirus probably infected 15% of people in Gangelt, a small town in the hard-hit rural German region of Heinsberg, researchers said in preliminary results after using antibody tests to sample a random portion of the population. On that basis, the case mortality rate in the town so far would be 0.37%, less than one-fifth of the mortality rate based on confirmed positive tests in Germany as a whole, the researchers said.The difference is because the antibody test picked up mild cases of the virus that had previously gone unnoticed. The researchers didn’t disclose how many lab-confirmed cases of the virus had previously been found in the 12,500-person town. In the Heinsberg region as a whole, less than 1% of the population has tested positive for the virus, and 44 patients have died, according to the Robert Koch Institute.Infections and Deaths in Spain Slow (6 a.m. NY)Spain reported fewer coronavirus deaths and new cases on Thursday in Europe’s second-most deadly outbreak of the disease. There were 5,756 new infections in the 24 hours through Thursday, pushing the total above 150,000, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 683 to 15,238, a smaller gain than Wednesday’s 757.Iran also reported a decline in cases and fatalities. The health ministry reported 1,634 new cases, down from 1,997, and 117 deaths, down from 121. That brings the country’s total to 66,220 cases and 4,110 fatalities.India Steps Up Stringent Lockdown Measures (5:54 p.m. HK)India has further tightened lockdown measures and enhanced surveillance at hundreds of areas designated as virus hotspots, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the epidemic as a “social emergency.” Authorities have sealed settlements, lanes and apartment complexes in the financial capital Mumbai, as well as in Delhi and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, allowing in only medical services, surveillance workers and those delivering food and other essential items.Botswana Quarantines Lawmakers (5:35 p.m. HK)Botswana is placing its entire cabinet and members of parliament in quarantine after a health worker screening lawmakers for coronavirus was found to be infected. All lawmakers, as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi, will go into quarantine on Thursday.KLM, Philips Set Up China Airlink (5:20 p.m. HK)Air France-KLM will start a temporary airlink to China with support from Royal Philips NV and the Dutch government to increase the transport capacity of medical equipment and other supplies between China, Europe, and the U.S. KLM will temporarily return two Boeing 747s which it phased out last month to operate five weekly flights to Beijing and Shanghai from its base at Amsterdam Schiphol.The first flight is set to take of on April 13, and add to the “skeleton operation” Air France-KLM announced earlier today, which includes regular cargo flights to destinations around the world, including the U.S. The operations are expected to remain in place for six to eight weeks.Indonesia Reports Highest One-Day Virus Deaths (5:10 p.m. HK)Indonesia reported the largest number of deaths in a single day since the outbreak and new confirmed cases continued to climb in the world’s fourth-most populous nation. The death toll jumped to 280 with 40 more fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, while the number of new cases surged by 337, the highest since the country reported its first case in early March, taking total infections to 3,293.Italian Cabinet Meets (4:45 p.m. HK)Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was set to hold a cabinet meeting at 11 a.m. in Rome. La Stampa reported earlier that the government plans to extend its lockdown by two weeks as scientists warn Conte that it’s too early to relax confinement measures,. The government will approve a decree on Friday to extend the closures beyond the current April 13 expiration date, the newspaper said.Conte told BBC the country may start easing the lockdown by the end of the month. If scientists confirm that Italy can start a gradual return to activity, “we might begin to relax some measures by the end of this month,” he said. Italian steelmakers are in talks with the government to restart at reduced capacity in the coming weeks.Luxembourg to Start Mass Testing (4:30 p.m. HK)Luxembourg will become the first EU country to start mass testing its citizens, regardless of whether they show coronavirus symptoms or not. The move is important, as mass testing to isolate carriers and prevent new surges is a condition for the lifting of restrictions on movement, according to a draft “exit strategy” memo by the European Commission, seen by Bloomberg.The tiny Grand Duchy, which has one of the highest infection rates in the world in its population of just over 600,000, will this week start a new series of tests to evaluate “the dynamics of the spread” among citizens. The project will consist of 1,500 tests first on a sample of people over the age of 18 and follow-up tests will then be done only on those that are asymptomatic and show mild symptoms, the nation’s health ministry said. The tests could provide the first comprehensive data on herd immunity.EU Agency Recommends Use of Face Masks (4:15 p.m. HK)The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control now recommends the widespread use of face masks to reduce the spread of the infection. While face protection is seen only complementary to other measures, such as social distancing and personal hygiene, “the use of face masks in the community could be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces, such as grocery stores, shopping centers, or when using public transport,” according to the EU agency.The debate over whether face masks can help contain the spread of Covid-19 is shifting quickly, with more countries requiring citizens to cover their faces in public.Dubai Freezes Hiring, New Projects (4 p.m. HK)Dubai’s government is freezing all hiring and cutting administrative spending by at least 20% across departments as the coronavirus pandemic squeezes state revenue. The emirate’s Department of Finance also ordered a 50% reduction in capital spending and a delay to new government construction projects until further notice, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.China Says Accusations It Covered Up Virus are Groundless (3:52 p.m. HK)Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing that the World Health Organization had upheld the nation’s objective and science-based position.Russia Cases Jump Again (3:50 p.m. HK)Russia reported 1,459 new cases, up 17%, taking its total to 10,131. This is the country’s biggest daily jump yet, and Russia has now reported more than 1,000 cases for three straight days. Total deaths rose by 13 to 76.Tokyo Finds at Least 180 New Cases (3:46 p.m. HK)Tokyo found at least 180 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number yet in a single day, FNN reported in a flash headline, without attribution. NTV later reported the number at 181.Sweden Hits Back at Trump’s ‘Herd Immunity’ Criticism (3:44 p.m. HK)“He has used a factual error,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in an interview with TV4. Her comments follow Trump’s remarks a day earlier when he told reporters that Sweden is trying to achieve “herd immunity” and “is suffering greatly” from not doing enough.The Nordic country is under intense scrutiny as it continues to experiment with a laxer policy response to the virus despite an accelerating death toll. Restaurants, shopping centers and primary schools all remain open in Scandinavia’s biggest economy.Goldman Sees Virus Causing $75 Billion Funding Hole in Africa (3:28 p.m. HK)“Possibly the most severe impact of the crisis will be on already stretched fiscal balances,” Dylan Smith and Andrew Matheny, Goldman’s economists in London, said in a note. “Budget deficits would likely rise from an average of around 3.5% to high single digits, even before any loosening to soften the economic effects of the corona-crisis.”Earlier, the World Bank said Sub-Saharan Africa will post its first recession in 25 years as the coronavirus pandemic brings economies to a halt and disrupts global trade.U.K. Economy Shrinks (2:57 p.m. HK)The U.K. economy unexpectedly contracted in February, putting it on an unsteady footing even before the nation imposed more stringent restrictions to contain the coronavirus. GDP fell 0.1% from January, with the downturn driven by a huge drop in construction, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday.The government signaled plans to borrow directly from the Bank of England, easing the pressure to immediately sell bonds for the billions it needs to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury said Thursday that it’s increasing the long-standing “Ways and Means facility,” a short-term overdraft that it can use if needed to smooth its cash flow and support the functioning of markets.UBS, Credit Suisse Delay Dividends (2:00 p.m. HK)Switzerland’s two biggest banks proposed pushing back dividend payments as the spreading coronavirus roils markets and upends businesses.Credit Suisse Group AG said on Thursday its board proposes to pay half of its 2019 dividend and intends to distribute the rest in the fall of this year. UBS Group AG, meanwhile, has proposed shareholders approve the bank’s previously announced dividend of $0.73 for the 2019 financial year be paid in two installments, according to an emailed statement.Investors in British-listed companies could lose as much as half of their dividend income this year, according to a report from Link Group. More than a fifth of companies on the European benchmark Stoxx 600 Index have canceled or postponed dividends in recent weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • If You Like EPS Growth Then Check Out Exelon (NASDAQ:EXC) Before It's Too Late
    Simply Wall St.

    If You Like EPS Growth Then Check Out Exelon (NASDAQ:EXC) Before It's Too Late

    For beginners, it can seem like a good idea (and an exciting prospect) to buy a company that tells a good story to...

  • Peloton (PTON) Stock Sinks As Market Gains: What You Should Know
    Zacks

    Peloton (PTON) Stock Sinks As Market Gains: What You Should Know

    Peloton (PTON) closed the most recent trading day at $27.50, moving -0.29% from the previous trading session.

  • Bloomberg

    Cisco CEO Tells Staff Jobs Are Safe, Urges Others to Avoid Cuts

    (Bloomberg) -- Cisco Systems Inc. Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins said he’s told staff not to worry about losing their jobs and urged other companies to follow his example when possible.“We’re actively involved in the community trying to help people who’ve been impacted by this, why would we contribute to the problem?” Robbins said in an interview. “There are companies whose revenue has gone to zero who have no option. To me it’s just silly for those of us who have the financial wherewithal to absorb this, for us to add to the problem. It’s illogical.” Cisco, based in San Jose, California, has about 75,000 employees.Robbins said Cisco is focused on the near-term response to Covid-19 and has little visibility into how the economic downturn will affect its business farther out in the future. For now, the largest maker of hardware that handles internet traffic is rushing to meet demand for its Webex conferencing business and help customers expand their online capabilities, he said.Like other hardware makers, Cisco has seen increased demand from corporate customers that are experiencing a surge of online activity or trying to support more employees working from home. It’s too early to say whether that’s a short-term bump or a more permanent shift in the way companies do business, he said.IT Support Staff Go From Ignored to Indispensable: Fully Charged“Customers got to the point they’re at now by using everything they could to get up and running,” he said. “There’s a thesis that says some of our customers are going to go through an upgrade cycle. But we don’t know.”Some industries such as health care, higher education and financial services may be among those that build up their infrastructure to adjust to these changes more permanently, he said.Robbins said he’s spending a lot of his time on efforts by Cisco employees to help local communities. The company has implemented programs such as removing conferencing hardware from offices that are empty and sending it to hospitals. They’re using such gear to implement new procedures like remote patient check-ins, he said.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • DuPont Stock Rises 4%
    Investing.com

    DuPont Stock Rises 4%

    Investing.com - DuPont (NYSE:DD) Stock rose by 4.05% to trade at $38.78 by 14:37 (18:37 GMT) on Wednesday on the NYSE exchange.

  • Implied Volatility Surging for Plains GP Holdings (PAGP) Stock Options
    Zacks

    Implied Volatility Surging for Plains GP Holdings (PAGP) Stock Options

    Investors need to pay close attention to Plains GP Holdings (PAGP) stock based on the movements in the options market lately.

  • Infosys (INFY) to Report Q4 Earnings: What's in the Offing?
    Zacks

    Infosys (INFY) to Report Q4 Earnings: What's in the Offing?

    Infosys' (INFY) fourth-quarter fiscal 2020 results are likely to have benefited from ongoing digital transformations and large deal wins. However, elevated expenses are expected to have negatively impacted the company's bottom line.

  • General Electric Stock Rises 3%
    Investing.com

    General Electric Stock Rises 3%

    Investing.com - General Electric (NYSE:GE) Stock rose by 3.13% to trade at $7.24 by 11:43 (15:43 GMT) on Wednesday on the NYSE exchange.

  • Cisco (CSCO) to Buy Fluidmesh Networks to Boost IoT Portfolio
    Zacks

    Cisco (CSCO) to Buy Fluidmesh Networks to Boost IoT Portfolio

    Cisco's (CSCO) acquisition of Fluidmesh Networks is expected to strengthen its industrial IoT offerings, which bode well for its long-term prospects.

  • INFY vs. WIX: Which Stock Should Value Investors Buy Now?
    Zacks

    INFY vs. WIX: Which Stock Should Value Investors Buy Now?

    INFY vs. WIX: Which Stock Is the Better Value Option?

  • NLOK or AAXN: Which Is the Better Value Stock Right Now?
    Zacks

    NLOK or AAXN: Which Is the Better Value Stock Right Now?

    NLOK vs. AAXN: Which Stock Is the Better Value Option?

  • Is Sea Limited Sponsored (SE) Stock Outpacing Its Finance Peers This Year?
    Zacks

    Is Sea Limited Sponsored (SE) Stock Outpacing Its Finance Peers This Year?

    Is (SE) Outperforming Other Finance Stocks This Year?

  • General Electric Stock Falls 3%
    Investing.com

    General Electric Stock Falls 3%

    Investing.com - General Electric (NYSE:GE) Stock fell by 3.18% to trade at $7.00 by 15:24 (19:24 GMT) on Tuesday on the NYSE exchange.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Moderna, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Zoom Video Communications, Peloton Interactive and Costco Wholesale
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Moderna, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Zoom Video Communications, Peloton Interactive and Costco Wholesale

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Moderna, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Zoom Video Communications, Peloton Interactive and Costco Wholesale

  • President Trump has singled out these companies for their coronavirus response
    Yahoo Finance

    President Trump has singled out these companies for their coronavirus response

    During his daily White House appearances, President Trump has not shied away from calling out companies by name. Here’s a running tally of the companies he’s focused most of his attention on.

  • Cisco (CSCO) Webex Sees User Growth Amid Coronavirus Crisis
    Zacks

    Cisco (CSCO) Webex Sees User Growth Amid Coronavirus Crisis

    Cisco's (CSCO) Webex witnesses surge in users due to enhanced features and capabilities amid global pandemic.

  • Bloomberg

    Trump Risks U.S. Jobs While Saving Apple’s at Austin Factory

    (Bloomberg) -- When Donald Trump toured an Austin, Texas, factory in November alongside Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, the president promoted the event as a celebration of U.S. manufacturing and the return of good-paying jobs to the country.The Apple CEO had successfully made his case to the administration that some components for his company’s products should be excluded from Trump’s China tariffs in exchange for keeping production in the U.S.“Today, I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high-paying jobs back to America,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 20.But the facility Trump visited is owned and operated by contract manufacturer Flex Ltd. and has been open for 30 years. For decades, it has been producing various devices for many companies including Cisco Systems Inc. Apple has been at the Flex plant since 2013.Computer Parts“He doesn’t have to worry about tariffs,” Trump said of Cook during the Nov. 20 factory tour. “Because when you build in the United States, you don’t have to worry about tariffs.”Two months earlier, the iPhone maker was exempted from tariffs levied on components it imports from China that are used in the Mac Pro desktop put together at the Flex plant. The removal of a 25% surcharge on items like power supplies and printed circuit boards that house the main components of the computer lowered Apple’s costs and, according to Cook, was the reason why the Cupertino, California-based company continued its manufacturing at the Austin factory.But other companies, like San Jose, California-based Cisco, didn’t receive the same treatment. Now jobs related to the manufacture of its products are at risk.In July 2019, Cisco asked the government to exempt the company’s power supplies for U.S.-made servers and switches from the same 25% tariff. Cisco said neither this China-made product nor a comparable one is available in the U.S. or from sources in third countries.Tariff ExemptionsCisco, like many other U.S. companies, was making the same plea to the Trump administration as Apple had: The exemptions were necessary to save good-paying American jobs.After months of being stuck in the process, Cisco was told March 5 that its application for the tariff exemption was denied.“After careful consideration, your request was denied because the request concerns a product strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or other Chinese industrial programs,” Joseph Barloon, general counsel for the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, wrote in the denial notice.The applications for an exemption from Apple and Cisco were strikingly similar, particularly when it came to the question of whether their products helped China expand its industrial might.Power Supply“The subject power supplies are not strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or any other Chinese industrial policy,” Cisco wrote. “The manufacture of these products in China is unrelated to China’s efforts to develop indigenous, advanced Information and Communications Technology products.”Apple used nearly identical language, saying: “This product is a component of a consumer electronic device. It is not strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or other Chinese industrial programs.”Indeed, the power-supply boxes imported from China don’t require cutting-edge technological know-how. They are mostly made up of large spools of copper wire, capacitors and other basic wiring. They haven’t been made in the U.S. for years and don’t require highly paid skilled labor.Apple’s application to get a tariff exclusion was approved in September 2019.Tariff ReliefA USTR spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment when asked why Apple’s power supply unit doesn’t constitute a product that’s strategically important to China’s industrial programs if an almost identical one from Cisco does.Cisco representatives specifically told USTR and others in the administration while the applications were pending that jobs were at risk, according to sources familiar with the process who asked not to be identified discussing private talks.In a statement after the decision, Cisco said the exemptions it sought “would support the competitiveness of this domestic manufacturing.”The company said it would continue to work with the trade representative’s office for tariff relief on other items, including “for communications equipment that we believe are vital to support the medical response to the coronavirus.”USTR doesn’t make public the reasons why it approves a company’s exemption requests. The business community writ large has complained about the lack of visibility into why certain companies get what appears to be preferential treatment over others.San Jose, California-based Flex, which works for both companies, said in a statement that “securing waivers for tax exemptions is an individualized process based on each customer situation” and declined to identify other customers that use the Austin plant. “Flex’s global footprint provides our customers with options for manufacturing locations, however, we also work closely to help our customers secure tariff exemptions based on their needs.”A group of Texas lawmakers in a letter to trade chief Robert Lighthizer last year underscored that jobs are on the line in Cisco’s case. “Cisco’s operations in Texas directly support more than 1,150 jobs in our state and indirectly support thousands of related jobs in logistics, warehousing, distribution and transportation,” the lawmakers said in their Sept. 13 letter.The decision by the trade office means it’s now a lot cheaper for Cisco to put together its servers, switches and routers in Flex plants in Mexico and export the finished device tariff-free to the U.S. The company declined to say what actions it would take regarding jobs or manufacturing in light of the denial of tariff exemption.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Is Peloton Interactive (PTON) Outperforming Other Consumer Discretionary Stocks This Year?
    Zacks

    Is Peloton Interactive (PTON) Outperforming Other Consumer Discretionary Stocks This Year?

    Is (PTON) Outperforming Other Consumer Discretionary Stocks This Year?

  • It’s a Quibi! Quirky Streaming Service for Smartphones Is Born Into Quarantining Nation
    Bloomberg

    It’s a Quibi! Quirky Streaming Service for Smartphones Is Born Into Quarantining Nation

    (Bloomberg) -- After a long stint embedded in his home office, Jeffrey Katzenberg felt almost ready to take a break. He was looking forward, he said on a Zoom call in late March, to watching more of “Tiger King,” the wacko documentary series from Netflix about big-cat trainers behaving badly, which was currently captivating large numbers of homebound viewers. A few years ago, Katzenberg said, he’d come across Joe Exotic, the incarcerated zookeeper at the center of the Florida-noir series, and had considered making a show about him. But it never came to pass, and now he was in the same boat as everybody else, stuck at home, watching the hit program on Netflix. The special powers of exotic animals seemed to be lingering on his mind. The press could hound him all they wanted but he didn’t scare easily, he explained. He leaned forward, took a pinch of his arm, and held it up to his computer’s camera. “This is rhino skin,” said Katzenberg. In the days ahead, he will certainly need all the big rhino energy he can muster.  On Monday, Katzenberg and his business partner Meg Whitman, the former chief executive officer of EBay, are overseeing the much-anticipated launch of Quibi, a short-form mobile video service that arrives into a crowded field of fierce competitors who are digging in for a long, bloody battle. Quibi, which will eventually cost $5 a month with ads, or $8 without them, will roll out 175 shows this year. The kaleidoscopic slate of programming is a mix of comedic series, dramas, reality shows, and topical news programs — all of  it serialized into brief episodes. The idea is to reach out and grab users’ attention for a few minutes at a time whenever they’re idly staring down at their phones. In one cooking competition, food is blasted out of a cannon onto participants’ faces. In another show, a sex therapist talks about how to date during a pandemic.While Quibi can sometimes sounds like a film school fever dream, it’s one of the more ambitious projects to emerge in recent years from the crossroads of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. To date, the company has collected about $2 billion worth of investment, much of it coming from major media companies. It has written checks to some of the biggest celebrities in the world. Steven Spielberg and Bill Murray are contributors. “The first thing you have to understand is, if you are a storyteller and you work in Hollywood — movies, television, animation, I don’t care, any part of it — you are an entrepreneur,” said Katzenberg. “And that entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been tapped in a while.”Despite Katzenberg’s impressive track record in the entertainment business, plenty of competitors, critics and industry analysts are betting on Quibi to lose. “Our reaction out of the gate was: ‘I think this is gonna be pretty tough,’” said Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of management consulting firm CG42. “Free short-form video on your mobile phone already exists, and you can get a lot of it by relatively big-name stars.”  See, for example, YouTube. Katzenberg said he has found some of the more pointed criticism of the yet-to-launch service downright amusing. In February, the New York Times published a lengthy essay by writer Dan Brooks entitled “What’s a Quibi? A Way to Amuse Yourself Until You’re Dead,” which argued that the service cynically aimed to exploit consumers’ already unhealthy addictions to smartphones. Katzenberg said that after reading the piece, he reached out to its author and set the guy up with a phone loaded with Quibi content. That’s Rhino Skin, buddy. (Brooks said in an email the shows he saw were “uneven.”) “I asked my kids: ‘Are your friends watching stuff on their phones?’ They said: ‘Absolutely.’ So we wrote the script.”On Feb. 2, Quibi ran a Super Bowl ad in which a bunch of bank robbers wait for their getaway driver, who is distracted mid-heist by a Quibi show on his phone. Tagline: “Episodes in 10 Minutes or Less.” In the weeks that followed, Katzenberg and his colleagues were planning to advertise heavily during other major sports events, including March Madness. The campaign was supposed to culminate with a star-studded premiere party at 3Labs in Culver City, California. All of it was conceived to generate a ton of free press. Getting Quibi’s quirky-sounding name out as much as possible was important. Outside of the entertainment and media industries, few people knew what Quibi was. In a poll commissioned by the Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult in March, 81% of adults said they’d heard little or nothing at all about Quibi. But before Quibi could promote itself to America’s legions of live-sports viewers, the pandemic hit and the entire sports industry ground to a halt. Quibi would have to turn elsewhere for introductions en masse. In mid-March, with businesses and schools shutting down around the country, Katzenberg, Whitman and the board discussed the possibility of delaying Quibi’s April 6 launch date. "We said, ‘OK, we can launch, but should we launch?’” Whitman told Bloomberg Television. “We’re not health-care professionals, we’re not first responders. But we thought what we do is inform, entertain and inspire. So we thought we could bring a little joy and light and levity to people’s challenges right now. So we decided to go."Rather than postponing, they tweaked the rollout. They decided to give away the service for free for the first 90 days, a way of appealing to cash-strapped viewers suddenly grappling with a dire economic situation. Quibi also shifted the focus of its advertising blitz away from live TV events and onto social media.Katzenberg and his colleagues have since rolled out a campaign in which the company is paying its series’ stars like Chrissy Teigen to hype Quibi on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Meanwhile, many contributors in Hollywood are watching the launch with curiosity.  Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the fraternal screenwriters known for comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” have a Quibi show in the works, entitled “The Now,” starring Dave Franco and Bill Murray, which will premier in May. In separate phone interviews, the Farrelly Brothers said it was a little weird to make a film that needed a cliffhanger every 10 minutes, but ultimately that it was “a fun experiment.”“I rarely watch things on my phone, certainly not television,” said Peter Farrelly. “So I asked my kids: ‘Are your friends watching stuff on their phones?’ They said: ‘Absolutely.’ So we wrote the script.”While the new service may feel experimental, Katzenberg is quick to point out that Quibi has plenty of historical precedents. He cites Charles Dickens as a producer of Quibi-like narratives, as well as Dan Brown, the author of “The DaVinci Code.” Both writers, Katzenberg said, were masters of feeding audiences long stories in installments. For readers lacking time or self-discipline, that meant they could consume a sprawling, complex tale in brief increments over weeks or months without losing the plot. Quibi’s kickoff comes not long after the debut of Disney+, the robust streaming service that arrived in the U.S. in November and quickly attracted more than 28 million subscribers. Disney can be a tough act to follow. Katzenberg should know. During the ’80s and early ’90s, he oversaw a major revival of Disney’s animation division. While he may have missed out on “Tiger King,” back in 1994, he found an epic feline hit in “The Lion King,” which went on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office for Disney and has since spawned an impressive litter of spinoff movies and shows. These days, “The Lion King” franchise is still hard at work, attracting streaming subscribers to Disney+. “They got 100 years, the greatest brands ever known, the most amazing library ever, and ‘The Mandalorian,’” said Katzenberg, referring to a popular Star Wars show.Quibi, by contrast, has got some interesting mobile viewing technology, a large batch of unproven programming and some great expectations.  Katzenberg said that of the 50 shows that Quibi will offer people in the first two weeks, he expects eight to 10 to go viral. “Meaning, in the same way we’re laughing about ‘Tiger King,’” he said. “You’re hearing about it through a connection. We’re not allowed to be around one another, but we are all still connected.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Canned Food Sprees Won’t Save Aluminum
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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Aluminum isn’t the worst-performing base metal this year, an honor that goes to copper. Yet that’s only because it had less far to fall: Demand was ailing well before the coronavirus forced some three billion people to stay home. Add the near-total shutdown of the world’s auto and aviation industry, crunching more than a third of demand, and the lightweight metal is fast heading for levels last seen during the global financial crisis. That should translate into some of the mining industry’s deepest cuts as the pandemic forces producers such as Alcoa Corp. and Rio Tinto Group to take long-overdue decisions.Aluminum is a serial underperformer, having racked up the biggest real losses for any base metal since 1913, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Demand has slowed for a decade, and a surplus was expected this year even before the current crisis. Prices have declined for eight consecutive weeks to below $1,500 per metric ton. That’s made most of the world’s production unprofitable.The metal has never been good at responding fast to a changing market. That’s partly because it’s inexpensive to mine the raw material bauxite. At the same time, smelters that produce aluminum metal from its oxide are slow and expensive owing to fixed costs such as power. As a result, the industry is still working through the stockpile accumulated during the last crisis. In this context, it’s less surprising that China’s aluminum production increased in the first two months of the year.The scale and speed of the demand drop caused by the coronavirus will test the industry’s elasticity. Aircraft makers are pondering production cuts, while automakers have shut down from Japan to Germany. The premium paid by Japanese buyers over the London Metal Exchange price is at its lowest in over three years. Car sales in locked-down economies have dropped by around 80%. Other sources of demand, like machinery, have been little better. While shoppers have hoarded canned food, this accounts for a small fraction of aluminum usage.Analysts at BMO LLC estimated late last month that worldwide primary aluminum demand could fall 6% in 2020 from a year earlier — similar to 2008, but larger in absolute volume terms. That’s not the steepest estimate out there, yet they suggest it already entails an unsustainable surplus of 4.2 million tons, roughly 5% of global demand. Aluminum giants cut back during the global financial crisis, and a few years later in 2015, when cheap Chinese metal flooded the market. China won’t help much to soften the blow this year, even when the full extent of Beijing’s stimulus plan is unveiled. In 2009, when consumption dropped 17% outside China, it rose 15% inside the country, according to a Boston Consulting Group report. This time, even Chinese appetite could take years to recover fully.There are some welcome signs of realism. Norsk Hydro ASA said last week it would postpone the restart of its Husnes plant. Analysts at CRU Group estimate some 365,000 tons of Chinese capacity has already been taken out. More should be on the way, even if low-cost production from the likes of China Hongqiao Group Ltd. is spared: Russian giant United Co. Rusal estimated in mid-March that at prices below 13,000 yuan ($1,830) per metric ton, more than a quarter of China’s smelters, equivalent to 10 million tons of annual capacity, were losing money. Less environmentally friendly operations will suffer disproportionately.Rio Tinto, meanwhile, had already been reviewing its Tiwai Point smelter in New Zealand and its ISAL smelter in Iceland, and now needs to think hard about the capital allocated to its least profitable division.All of those cuts and more will be needed, especially if demand weakness lingers. BMO forecasts 4.2 million tons per year of idled capacity by the third quarter, rising to 10 million tons by 2025. There are plenty of unknowns, from how long the downturn lasts to the level of demand from traders seeking to bet on stronger markets down the road. For now, absent a significant reduction to supply, it’s hard to see anything but a dim future.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Clara Ferreira Marques is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities and environmental, social and governance issues. Previously, she was an associate editor for Reuters Breakingviews, and editor and correspondent for Reuters in Singapore, India, the U.K., Italy and Russia.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    What I Learned From Trying to Cut My Own Hair

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Writing to shareholders this week, BlackRock Inc.s chief executive officer Larry Fink ruminated on how business and society will be reshaped by the searing experience of the new coronavirus:“People worldwide are fundamentally rethinking the way we work, shop, travel and gather. When we exit this crisis, the world will be different. Investors’ psychology will change. Business will change. Consumption will change. And we will be more deeply reliant on our families and each other to stay safe.”I had a similar epiphany this week while trying to cut my own hair — it turns out my regular $30 haircut isn’t as essential as I’d thought. Preparing a meal for my family later that evening made me think that eating out or getting dinner delivered isn’t as rewarding as home cooking. Right now the do-it-yourself version also feels a whole lot safer, and probably will do for a while.Compared to the courage shown by medical workers and those in other essential functions, and the devastation wrought by coronavirus on already vulnerable communities, many of us in the western world have it easy. We’re asked to do no more than stay home. But in between worrying about our jobs, our parents and how to entertain or home-school children, we’re reevaluating priorities. What will we do differently when this is over? What will we prize more and what will we give up? Once the immediate battle to protect employees and remain solvent has passed, the business world will have to confront these questions too. Two themes stand out: Instead of visiting far-flung places and seeking out mass entertainment, I’m sure there will be a bias toward more modest, local activities. And where the coronavirus has exposed dependency or vulnerability, as with the business world’s complex cross-border supply chains, we’ll seek more security and resilience.Looming above all of this is the damage that the lockdowns are inflicting on people’s incomes. The longer the economic shutdown lasts, the more reluctant the world’s consumers will be to spend, period. With more than 10 million Americans filing new unemployment claims in the past fortnight, the omens aren’t good.In the worst-affected sectors such as travel, hospitality and leisure, businesses are already facing a bleaker future. Increased consumer awareness about the negative environmental and social impact of mass tourism has now been compounded by the realization that people on planes and pleasure boats carried the virus around the globe. Lufthansa AG’s boss, Carsten Spohr, thinks the German airline will have to shrink because the economy will be smaller than before. Easyjet Plc’s founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said similar this week when calling on the carrier to cancel a big order from Airbus SE.Even once travel restrictions are lifted, demand for cruises may remain weak for a “significant length of time,” Carnival Corp. warned. The beleaguered company had to offer bond-buyers an 11.5% interest rate to get them to back a $4 billion debt offering. That’s a bad sign.Fitness is another industry that relies on cramming people into confined spaces. Until recently it was booming but customers are discovering much cheaper ways to work out. Having sampled online classes and the time-saving benefit of exercising at, or close to, home, some memberships won’t be renewed. Good news for Peloton Interactive Inc.’s indoor cycling business, perhaps not for Planet Fitness Inc. or The Gym Group Plc. Until coronavirus came along, the tech world seemed hell-bent on taking agency away from individuals and consigning ownership to the dustbin. Why learn to cook when you can have food delivered in 30 minutes? Why own a car when you can take an Uber? Why look after your gadgets, when those nice people at Apple will fix them for you. But as my colleague Adam Minter pointed out this week, it’s only in a crisis that you discover the drawbacks of not being able to repair your own phone.There will be winners from this realignment too. Right now, auto sales are collapsing in Europe because you can’t go to a showroom and you’re not meant to drive far, but the freedom and security of owning a vehicle might cause sales to rebound more quickly than other discretionary purchases (provided of course that governments can curb unemployment). In China, emerging from the first virus wave, cautious consumers have begun returning to car dealers. Home improvement stores saw a brisk trade from customers wanting to fix up their homes, balconies and allotments whilst on lockdown, and some hardware stores remain open. Once the housing market reopens, urbanites may decide they’ve had enough of crowded cities and tiny apartments. The countryside is suddenly more appealing — the more so if employers become more trusting of those who want to work from home. Coronavirus has exposed our vulnerability and it won’t be the last crisis. Our planet-warming emissions mean more pain is preordained. Faced with uncertainty or disaster, humans respond by trying to strengthen their communities. We’ll also seek more control over our lives. For societies, that means equipping our health services, paying key workers properly and securing supplies. As individuals, it means out-sourcing fewer decisions and mastering things for ourselves. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Bryant is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies. He previously worked for the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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