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Futures on Wall Street pointed to a jump of nearly 1 percent when trading begins Monday, reflecting some rising hopes about medical advances against the coronavirus. European markets were higher, while Asian indexes closed up between 1 and 2 percent.
The enthusiasm for stocks sent bond prices lower. Both major benchmarks for oil futures — Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate — gained about 0.8 percent. Gold rose, too, up 0.4 percent to $1,947 an ounce.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of blood plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus infections for patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Although convalescent plasma has not been proven to work in randomized trials, many researchers see it as a potential bridge until a more effective treatment, or a vaccine, is available.
Trump aides reportedly told lawmakers that a vaccine would probably be approved before drug trials are complete, in time for the presidential election in November. Such a move would most likely raise concerns that the administration was cutting corners for political purposes.
Among the stocks surging Monday morning was BT Group, the parent of British Telecom, which rose as high as 8 percent after Sky News reported that some private equity firms were considering a joint bid for the company.
🗣 The Republican National Convention kicks off on Monday with the only in-person component of either party’s events: a roll call of delegates inside the Charlotte Convention Center. Over four days of programming, speakers include the former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley; Senator Mitch McConnell; Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York; the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s president, Dana White; and all four of President Trump’s adult children. Mr. Trump himself will speak every night of the convention.
⛰ The Jackson Hole Symposium is held virtually on Thursday and Friday, featuring central bank chiefs from around the world. Jay Powell, the Fed chair, delivers the keynote on Thursday, which is expected to address how the bank is fighting the pandemic downturn and grappling with persistently low inflation.
🛍 On the earnings front, a number of retailers open their books: Best Buy on Tuesday and Abercrombie & Fitch, Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Gap on Thursday. Other companies publishing their latest financials include J.M. Smucker and Salesforce on Tuesday and Rolls-Royce and WPP on Thursday.
✈️ Creditors for Virgin Atlantic vote on Tuesday on the airline’s rescue deal, which includes a reduction in the amount it owes to lenders, suppliers and others. The company has warned that it will soon run out of cash if the agreement is not approved.
Across the United States, department stores are shuttering and malls are defaulting on their loans, a sign of the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus.
But for a handful of Wall Street investors, the trend has turned out to be very, very profitable.
Months ago, a few hedge funds saw the demise of malls coming, and bet that many of those brick-and-mortar icons of America wouldn’t be able to make their debt payments, a trade known as a “short.” So as their prediction has come true, in part with the help of the pandemic, those investors have made hundreds of millions of dollars.
Carl Icahn, one of the country’s best-known investors and a onetime corporate raider, made $1.3 billion on one trade alone. He had made the bet last year after meeting with Catie McKee, a 31-year-old analyst for MP Securitized Credit Partners, a hedge fund. Ms. McKee, who spotted the opportunity by inspecting malls’ mortgages, more than doubled investors’ money on the trade.
The trades, known as the “mall short” in financial circles, again raise the debate over the value of such bets, particularly amid the backdrop of a pandemic that has devastated the economy. Some criticize such trades as bottom-feeding because they can push a business over the edge while contributing little to the economy. But defenders of the “short” say it can help expose corporate fraud or deflate a dangerously overvalued asset, which can aid the smooth functioning of markets.
When European countries ordered businesses to shutter and employees to stay home as the coronavirus spread, governments took radical steps to shield workers from the prospect of mass joblessness, extending billions to businesses to keep people employed.
The layoffs are coming anyway.
Airbus, BP, Renault, Lufthansa, Air France, the Debenhams department store chain, Bank of Ireland, the retailer W.H. Smith and even McLaren Group, which includes the Formula One racing team, along with countless smaller businesses, are among those planning cuts that will sweep factory workers, retail employees and high-paid white-collar workers into the ranks of the unemployed.
The tsunami of layoffs is about to hit Europe as companies prepare to carry out sweeping downsizing plans to offset a collapse in business from the outbreak. Government-backed furlough schemes that have helped keep around a third of Europe’s work force financially secure are set to unwind in the coming months.
As many as 59 million jobs are at risk of cuts in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs, especially in industries like transportation and retail, according to a study by McKinsey & Company.
Governments are warning that millions will soon lose paychecks.
“Europe has been successful at dampening the initial effects of the crisis,” said John Hurley, senior research manager at Eurofound, the research arm of the European Union. “But in all likelihood, unemployment is going to come home to roost, especially when the generous furlough programs start to ease off,” he said.
“There’s going to be a shakeout,” he added, “and it’s going to be fairly ugly.”
With a federal moratorium coming to an end, legal aid lawyers say they are preparing to defend renters in housing court.
For tenants, especially those with limited means, having a lawyer can be the difference between being evicted or being able to stay on in a rented home. Yet legal representation for tenants is relatively rare in housing courts. Surveys from several big cities over the years have shown that in housing court, landlords are represented by lawyers at least 80 percent time, while tenants tend to have lawyers in fewer than 10 percent of cases.
This unlevel playing field is about to come into sharper focus in the months ahead, now that the four-month pause on evictions provided by the CARES Act, followed by a 30-day notice period that ends on Monday, is coming to an end. The moratorium had provided protection to about 12 million tenants living in qualifying properties. Additionally, local moratoriums in some states had protected renters in homes not covered by the federal law.
“Tenants are not equipped to represent themselves, and eviction court places them on an uneven playing field that allows landlords to run roughshod over their rights,” said Ellie Pepper of the National Housing Resource Center, which focuses on housing policy and funding issues.
Demand for legal assistance with housing issues is on the rise in states where local moratoriums for rentals not covered by the CARES Act have already ended. In the Atlanta area, legal aid lawyers say calls seeking help in dealing with private landlords are running 25 percent higher than they were two months ago. In particular, lawyers said, calls are coming in from Clayton County, one of the poorest areas that Atlanta Legal Aid serves.
“Our caseloads haven’t yet exploded, because the courts just started hearing cases that were pending before the pandemic struck,” said Lindsey Siegel, a lawyer with Atlanta Legal Aid. “But it’s coming.”
When coronavirus shutdowns caused millions of layoffs and furloughs this year, landlords feared they would stop receiving rent checks, tenants worried they would be evicted, and economists and politicians braced for a housing crisis.
Nearly six months into the pandemic, few of those fears have materialized. Interviews and surveys of landlords across the country have shown little different in rent collections from a year ago. The government’s financial-rescue efforts appear to have helped tenants keep their homes.
But those government programs are running out. The $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits from the federal CARES Act ended last month, and only about 20 states still have eviction moratoriums, down from 43 in May.
Now mounting bills are forcing many tenants to take drastic measures, some with long-term effects.
Nura Moshtael, 45, has long dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot, and this year, she finally began to work toward that goal, starting two new jobs to save for flying lessons. But now she has lost both of them because of the coronavirus. Last month, unable to afford rent, she left her apartment and moved back into her childhood home with her mother in Macon, Ga.
She has abandoned her dream of becoming a pilot. “That’s dead in the water now,” she said. “I can’t afford to chase that dream anymore.”
Across England, in numbers that travel businesses say they had rarely seen before, lockdown-freed Britons are not only staying close to home this vacation season but spending it in motor homes, campers, campsites and glampsites. Vacationers are turning to camping as the holiday of choice for some social distancing in the great outdoors.
“For the first time in the U.K., owning a caravan is kind of cool,” said Gareth Mills, a 38-year-old father who lives on the English seaside, referring to big, boxy campers or motor homes. “Some of my parents’ friends who are caravan club enthusiasts, they are very smug at the moment.”
Hotels have largely reopened in England, but many of them are at 30 to 40 percent occupancy, with popular areas such as Cornwall and elsewhere in the southwest faring better, said Patricia Yates, a director at the tourism organization VisitBritain.
Finding a spot for a caravan or tent may be more competitive, as demand has surged. During a recent weekend, Pitchup.com, a booking site for camping spots, recorded 6,100 bookings, almost double the amount from the same weekend in 2019.
Camping has deep roots in Britain. The man considered the father of modern camping, Thomas Hiram Holding, was a traveling London tailor whose 1908 how-to, “The Camper’s Handbook,” documents the joys of self-reliance and getting away from it all, inspiring generations. About the same time, the Boy Scouts were started in Britain, followed by the Girl Guides a couple of years later.
Caravan parks across Britain have been flooded with bookings for the traditional summer period and into the fall, according to the National Caravan Council, an industry group. Parkdean Resorts, which operates 67 parks across the country, reported a 140 percent rise from last year at its parks in Devon.
Huw Pendleton, the managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks in Wales, said he hadn’t seen anything like it in his two decades in the industry.
“We’re sold out pretty much through to September, with little or no availability now this season for the top-end lodges and glamping with hot tubs,” he said.
Concierge care, which offers personalized medical services for people who can afford it, has grown fast in the pandemic as patients seek direct access to physicians.
Basic telemedicine can bring with it cumbersome insurance protocols and hard-to-navigate health care portals. Concierge care, which is typically not covered by insurance, gets around restrictions placed on doctors and other health care providers. But it comes at a steep cost: Prices for services can be two to three times higher, and that comes on top of annual fees.
When more than 173,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus and millions of Americans remain out of work, the growing interest in concierge medical services may seem out of touch with the devastation the pandemic has inflicted.
But the concept is expanding in other areas. The affluent are able to pay a premium for a luxury pursuit that was relatively affordable before the coronavirus crisis, like pampering themselves with a private manicure or hiring a personal trainer for a home workout.
Doctors say they have had to expand their services or create new ones to meet the expectations of their wealthy patients.
“I’ve fixed people’s backs remotely,” said Kimberly Caspare, a physical therapist who is working with the National Basketball Association at Walt Disney World in Florida. She has made time for her patients back home in New York, guiding them through one-on-one virtual sessions to provide relief to their aching joints with techniques usually rendered by her well-trained hands.
Some of her patients were eager for in-person appointments again, but she said that her practice was going to evolve.
“We’ll never go back to just in-office,” she said. “We’re going to be more powerful in how we take care of others.”