Live Stock Market News During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told employees Monday that they would not be expected back in the office until mid-2021.

The company’s work force, which has been working remotely since March, had previously been told to expect a return to the office in January 2021.

A Google spokesman said: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”

Technology companies moved quickly with work from home policies from the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and have been reluctant to bring workers back too early. In May, Facebook said it would allow many employees to work from home permanently.

The moves reflect the reality that no one can be sure how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, as new outbreaks emerge across the United States even as the spread of the virus has slowed in early hot zones like New York City.

Credit…Pool photo by Swen Pfoertner

Germany is bouncing back quickly from the pandemic, according to a survey of businesses that is a reliable weather vane of the direction of Europe’s largest economy. But economists cautioned that a return to normal is still a long way off.

The business climate index compiled by the Ifo Institute in Munich, which measures levels of optimism among business executives, rose more than expected in July after suffering record declines earlier in the year. There was a particularly strong rebound in services, a category that includes professions such as housecleaning, brain surgery and management consulting. The manufacturing, construction and retail sectors also recovered.

“Businesses believe that the worst is over,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said in a note to clients.

Several factors continue to weigh on growth. Consumers are likely to be cautious about spending because they are worried about keeping their jobs. Businesses have taken on debt to get through the crisis, and may cut back on investment in new equipment. The number of new coronavirus cases is rising in Germany, France and other countries as residents return from holidays abroad, threatening a second wave of the pandemic and renewed lockdowns.

“Expectations regarding the recovery in the German economy should not be overstated,” Marco Wagner, senior economist at Commerzbank, said in a note.

Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Gold reached a record high on Monday, continuing its rise as nervous investors sought out a safe place to put their money.

The price for spot gold, which has been climbing steadily since March, reached a record high of $1,944 per ounce on Monday.

The price of gold usually rises amid financial uncertainty, and its recent climb reflected a number of factors, including concern over U.S.-China relations, the decline of the U.S. dollar amid the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts, and rock-bottom interest rates. The last time gold reached this level was following the 2008 financial crisis, another time when the Fed flooded the economy with dollars to generate economic activity.

Stock markets, meanwhile, were mixed on Monday, with shares in the United States slightly higher while those in Europe and Asia were mostly lower. The S&P 500 rose about half a percent, as shares of large technology companies like Apple and Microsoft rebounded from a decline last week. Reflecting the rally in tech stocks, the Nasdaq composite rose more than 1 percent.

Monday saw some encouraging news on the coronavirus vaccine front. Shares of the biotech company Moderna rose nearly 8 percent after it said that it had received another $472 million in funding from the U.S. government. Moderna’s experimental vaccine will go into a Phase 3 test on Monday involving 30,000 people.

The British government’s abrupt decision over the weekend to order travelers arriving from Spain to self-isolate for 14 days, citing a spurt in coronavirus cases in that country, added to uncertainty over travel restrictions and caused shares of travel-related companies to dive. The British low-cost airline EasyJet and the European travel company Tui each lost more than 10 percent on Monday; IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, fell more than 7 percent.

🏛 On Wednesday, the chief executives of four tech giants — Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — will testify virtually at a congressional hearing addressing the companies’ market power. The companies have a combined market cap of $4.8 trillion, and the executives themselves are collectively worth $280 billion.

🤝 Enhanced unemployment benefits for American workers will expire at the end of the week, and Republicans are poised to unveil a narrow coronavirus relief bill focused mostly on extending those benefits. Democrats are demanding a comprehensive, multitrillion-dollar aid package. Getting a deal done in time looks tricky.

📉 The Federal Reserve may announce more stimulus measures at its policy-setting meeting on Wednesday, followed by the first reading of America’s second-quarter G.D.P. on Thursday. Analysts predict an annualized drop of more than 30 percent, with similarly ugly second-quarter reports expected from Hong Kong (Wednesday), Mexico (Thursday) and the E.U. (Friday).

🗣 More than 190 companies in the S&P 500 report earnings this week, along with other blue-chip firms around the world:

  • Fresh from their congressional grilling, Facebook will announce results on Wednesday; and Alphabet, Amazon and Apple on Thursday.

  • Investors will quiz pharma executives on the progress of their Covid-19 treatments on earnings calls for Amgen and Pfizer on Tuesday; GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday; AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Gilead Sciences on Thursday; and AbbVie and Merck on Friday.

  • The damage done by restaurant closures will loom over results for McDonald’s and Starbucks, which report on Tuesday; and Shake Shack and Yum Brands on Thursday.

  • Others releasing earnings this week include Barclays, Boeing, Caterpillar, Comcast, Credit Suisse, Ford, G.E., G.M., Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, Procter & Gamble and Qualcomm.

🏀 The N.B.A. resumes its pandemic-shortened season on Thursday, with all games played at a sealed-off complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The N.H.L. season resumes on Saturday, with an expanded playoff tournament split between arenas in Edmonton, Canada; and Toronto. Now that there are more sports back on, will the gamblers who turned to day trading during the lockdown go back to betting on games instead of on stocks?

Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Tesla has been riding high lately, and so has its billionaire chief executive, Elon Musk. But in recent days, notes today’s DealBook newsletter, Mr. Musk has gotten into a few public scrapes, including briefly with his partner, the musician Grimes.

  • Last week, Tesla sued an upstart carmaker, Rivian, accusing its of hiring four former Tesla employees and ordering them to take confidential information before joining.

  • On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, criticized Mr. Musk for opposing further coronavirus stimulus. In response to a tweet in which Mr. Musk said that more stimulus is “not in the best interests of the people,” the former Democratic presidential candidate called the auto executive a “hypocrite.”

  • The next day, Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, admonished Mr. Musk for a tweet in which he wrote, “Pronouns suck.” Critics on Twitter saw his message as mocking the use of gender-neutral pronouns by transgender and nonbinary individuals. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Grimes wrote, “I cannot support hate. Please stop this. I know this isn’t your heart.”

Otherwise, Mr. Musk appears to be doing fine. In a wide-ranging interview with The Times’s Maureen Dowd, he opened up on domestic life with Grimes and their two-month-old son, shared his thoughts on his Twitter account being hacked and aired more of his contentious views on politics and the pandemic.

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19.

After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.

The sudden windfalls highlight the powerful financial incentives for company officials to generate positive headlines in the race for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, even if the drugs might never pan out.

Well-timed stock transactions are generally legal. But investors and corporate governance experts say they can create the appearance that executives are profiting from inside information, and could erode public confidence in the pharmaceutical industry when the world is looking to these companies to cure Covid-19.

Some officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have grown concerned about whether companies are trying to inflate their stock prices by exaggerating their roles in Operation Warp Speed, the flagship federal initiative to quickly develop drugs to combat Covid-19, a senior Trump administration official said.

In some cases, company insiders are profiting from regularly scheduled compensation or automatic stock trades. But in other situations, senior officials appear to be pouncing on opportunities to cash out while their stock prices are sky high. And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before market-moving announcements about their vaccine progress.

“It is inappropriate for drug company executives to cash in on a crisis,” said Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Every day, Americans wake up and make sacrifices during this pandemic. Drug companies see this as a payday.”

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Top Trump administration officials proposed on Sunday potentially short-circuiting free-ranging stimulus talks with Democrats to rush through a much narrower bill prioritizing an extension of federal unemployment benefits that are set to expire this week for millions of Americans.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said he would now like to see lawmakers act this week to extend and alter the unemployment program, give tax credits to businesses to help ease reopening costs and grant employers new liability protections — while setting aside a long list of other objectives, including Democrats’ priorities.

“Perhaps we put that forward, get that passed, as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come,” Mr. Meadows said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The proposal, echoed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in his own Sunday morning interview, was a last-ditch effort by Republicans to prevent the program from lapsing as signs mounted that the nation’s economy was once again weakening amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

With Democrats already on record in opposition to a piecemeal approach, a narrow fix is almost certainly dead on arrival. Republicans know that, suggesting their Sunday proposal may in part be a negotiating tactic laying the groundwork to blame the opposition party when the funds ultimately expire.

Democrats passed their own $3 trillion proposal — which also includes money to bail out states and cities, fully fund the $600 additional federal jobless benefit and infuse billions more into the nation’s health care system — in May and view the time pinch now as a problem of Republicans’ making that only gives them more leverage in shaping a final bill.

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

As countries around the world tighten rules on mask-wearing, consumers are demanding more from their face coverings. And companies are responding.

Inventors have dreamed up masks with motorized air purifiers, Bluetooth speakers and even sanitizers that kill germs by heating the face covering (but hopefully not the face) to over 200 degrees. In South Korea, the electronics giant LG has created a mask powered with fans that make it easier to breathe.

In boutiques, patterned masks are showing up on mannequins, exquisitely paired with designer dresses. An Indian businessman said he spent $4,000 on a custom mask made of gold. And a French costume designer has filled Instagram with phantasmagoric designs featuring everything from pterodactyls to doll legs.

The urge to innovate has been great in Japan, where masks were widespread even before the pandemic. On Takeshita Street in Harajuku, the youth fashion mecca, storefronts are lined with masks ranging from the playful (plush animal faces) to the punk-inspired (leather straps studded with spikes and safety pins).

But while these masks may be fashionable, buyers should beware, said Kazunari Onishi, an expert on infectious diseases at the Graduate School of Public Health at St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo.

“If your priority is reliably preventing infection, these masks will not protect your life,” he said, adding that even if you wear a mask, “you must maintain a safe social distance.”

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

When new visa restrictions confirmed that new au pairs preparing to come to the United States wouldn’t be able to enter the country, the American families expecting them were left scrambling to find replacements.

The current shortage of in-country au pairs has further highlighted the lack of affordable child care in America, to the point where young foreigners expecting a year or two of cultural exchange have become lifelines, often unintentionally, for two-earner couples hoping to keep both their jobs.

“Pretty much everyone is saying it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get an au pair,” said Erin Burkhart, a high-school teacher and two-time host mom in the Seattle area whose most recent au pair was set to join her family this summer from Germany. “The search process itself is a full-time job. Right now I will email everyone, I will reach out to everyone. I’ve had about 15 video chats in the last week.”

On the other end, while au pairs entering the program might speak with only two or three families in the initial interview process, in-country candidates are now hearing from 10, 20, sometimes closer to 50 prospective families. Even male au pairs, who often find it harder to match, are having an easy time. “Because they know they don’t have options, they are accepting males for their families too,” said an au pair from Brazil. “It’s not a big deal anymore.”

Many in-country au pairs are now telling interested hosts that they are only willing to match in exchange for certain assurances, such as a personal car or payment upward of $400 a week. The minimum stipend for au pairs is $195.75 a week for a maximum of 45 hours of work, which is set by the State Department.

Host families have taken note of the new dynamic, too: Perusing some Facebook groups in mid-June, I found posts announcing benefits like unlimited public transportation passes, new cars, access to beach houses and skydiving trips, and double the pay. “We’re offering a 2000 USD sign-on bonus,” one parent wrote.

Credit…Shirley Yu for The New York Times

As the shift to remote and contract work accelerates, some workers could see an increase in disposable income and flexibility, but others could be pushed into contracting arrangements that lower their wages and make their livelihoods more precarious. Even highly skilled workers may find it harder to band together to improve their pay and working conditions.

The ease of working as a freelancer can be a boon to many skilled workers, who can command high hourly rates through Upwork and other freelancing marketplaces.

But for lower-skilled workers, such as those in customer service or data entry, working as a contractor tends to reduce wages and increase insecurity. Companies often pay low-skilled employees above-market wages because they have internal pay scales, but pay only the market price for a contractor or freelancer.

Sandy Pope, the bargaining director for the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents workers at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter as well as university and clerical staff members elsewhere, said remote work could create inequality among workers performing the same job because it was harder for them to share information discreetly outside an office.

“There’s a lack of transparency,” Ms. Pope said. “The lack of ability to even track what’s going on.”

She said this lack of transparency could also make it easier for companies to outsource work without employees’ knowledge.

  • Target said Monday that it would close its stores on Thanksgiving Day this year as part of the safety measures it has rolled out in the wake of the coronavirus. The announcement comes after Walmart said last week that it would close for the holiday as a show of appreciation for its workers. “We want you to enjoy the day at home with your loved ones,” John Furner, the head of Walmart’s U.S. operations, said in a memo to employees.

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