Day: March 20, 2020

Borrowers can pause their student-loan debt payments for two months, Trump says

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Student loan borrowers will be allowed to pause their debt payments for at least two months as the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic threaten millions of Americans, the Department of Education announced Friday.

The option to suspend payments is intended to give borrowers “greater flexibility during the national emergency,” the Department of Education said Friday.

The suspension option is in addition to President Donald Trump’s decision last week to waive the collection of interest for all borrowers paying back federally-held student loans.

Americans have $1.5 trillion in student loan debt and the average monthly loan payment is between $200 and $299, according to Federal Reserve numbers.

The interest waiver is automatic and applies to all borrowers.

But borrowers who want the two-month suspension on making payments need to initiate the request. They’ll have to contact their loan servicer via phone or website to submit their request, the Department of Education said.

People who are at least 31 days behind on their loans will get an automatic suspension on payments, the department said.

Don’t miss: How to get help paying your mortgage, credit-card bills and student loans if you’re laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic

Trump announced the halted payments at Friday’s daily briefing on the coronavirus outbreak. “That’s a big thing, that’s going to make a lot of students very happy,” he said. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said a potential pause on student loan collections was one measure the administration was considering to soften the pandemic’s financial blow.

“Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Friday.

Some Democratic lawmakers want to take it a step further and cancel student debt altogether during the outbreak. A Senate bill would cancel at least $10,000 in debt obligations for all federal student loan borrowers.

Some borrower advocates are skeptical about the newly-announced suspension options because the administrative work falls on loan servicers.

“Pausing payments ultimately leaves borrowers worse off,” said Mike Pierce, policy director at the Student Borrower Protection Center. “Attempts to do so in the past only delayed turmoil and led to spikes in defaults. That’s because, even under the best circumstances, the student-loan industry is ill-equipped to navigate the transition back into repayment, particularly for the most economically vulnerable borrowers.”

Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said the government needs to cancel payments, not pause them. “Pausing payments simply kicks the can down the road. Struggling borrowers still burdened with historically high student loan debt will face a potentially devastated economy when payments resume,” Yu said.

One major loan servicer, Navient NAVI, -4.46%, said it is up for the job and has set up a website for borrowers in need of help.

“Navient is proactively encouraging customers impacted by coronavirus to get in touch if they need assistance,” the company said in a statement. “Customer service is available online and through the phone; approximately half of Navient’s loan servicing team is working remotely now, with hundreds more being deployed outside Navient offices in the coming days and weeks.”

The Margin: Is donating blood safe? Do blood drives test for coronavirus?

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Face masks and respirators aren’t the only vital medical resources in short supply — there is also a critical need for blood donations amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Blood banks across the country have seen donation drives scrapped and fewer people making or keeping appointments to give blood as the U.S. government and local jurisdictions have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by urging Americans to stay home. That’s included shutting down schools, restaurants and public venues in some states, and urging all nonessential employees to work from home in others.

Jessa Merrill, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, told MarketWatch that Red Cross Blood Services must collect 13,000 donations a day to meet the need of the hospitals and patients it serves. Indeed, the Red Cross supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood. Yet since March 1, some 5,000 drives have been canceled, mostly at workplaces and schools that are themselves closed. And, as a result, there have been 170,000 fewer donations than there would typically have been.

“We’re facing a severe shortage right now,” she said — a sentiment being echoed by local blood banks such as the New York Blood Center, the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Texas and the Central California Blood Center.

Related: 6 ways to help others during the coronavirus outbreak — ‘Everyone is a responder in this crisis’

While canceled blood drives have represented the biggest hit to many blood banks’ supply, the fear of contracting the coronavirus as one comes into contact with other people at a donation clinic or drive has also kept some from giving blood.

But U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.” Both the FDA and the CDC also released statements on Thursday encouraging healthy individuals to donate blood if they can. Even if you are sheltering in place, you can leave home to do “essential” things such as buy food, pick up medications — and donate blood.

‘One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health-care crisis on top of coronavirus is to give [blood] now.’

American Red Cross

There have, meanwhile, been rumors going around that volunteering to donate blood is a backdoor means of getting tested for COVID-19 at a time when tests are in high demand and short supply. (It’s not — you won’t be tested for the coronavirus when you donate.)

So here is everything you need to know about giving blood during this pandemic.

1. Blood-donation centers are cleaner than ever. Giving blood was already a highly sanitized procedure, but it’s become even more so during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, your temperature is always taken before you give blood to ensure that you don’t have a fever. Now, your temperature will be taken before you’re even allowed to enter the donation area. The Red Cross has also provided extra hand sanitizer, which is used before entering the donor center. Beds have been spaced further apart to practice social distancing, and blankets are being laundered after every use instead of being shared. “We just simply added mitigation steps to an already very careful process,” said Merrill. See more information here.

2. You cannot catch the novel coronavirus by donating blood. This is a respiratory infection, and there is no evidence that it is transmissible by blood transfusion. People acquire it through respiratory droplets in the air after someone coughs or sneezes and after touching contaminated objects.

3. You will not get tested for the coronavirus when giving blood. A popular myth that’s circulating is that blood centers are screening for COVID-19, which effectively would mean donating is a way to get tested. That is false. Because it is not transmitted by blood, there is no reason for a blood donation center to test for it. You don’t get a flu test before donating, either. “Not only is testing for COVID-19 not recommended by the FDA or any public health agency [before giving blood], but there is no test for it in blood donation,” said Merrill. You will be screened for any respiratory symptoms like a runny nose, cough or shortness of breath when you show up.

Related: Does ibuprofen make the coronavirus worse? Is it still safe to take aspirin?

4. Your blood isn’t needed for coronavirus patients, per se — but here’s whom it is helping. Donated blood is a lifeline for people including the victims of car crashes and other emergencies; those undergoing organ transplants; and cancer patients, who may need blood products to boost their immune systems. The FDA says that every two seconds, a patient needs a blood transfusion.

5. Do not donate if you feel sick. You should only give blood if you are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation. You must also be at least 16 years old in most states (17 in others), and weigh at least 110 pounds.

6. Definitely don’t donate if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. If you have a fever, and are experiencing cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, stay home — and call your local health department. If you’ve had close contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you also cannot donate. And if you have been diagnosed with or have been suspected of having COVID-19, you must wait 28 days after your illness has fully resolved before you can donate.

If you are interested in donating blood, the following organizations can connect you to a local blood-collection site to schedule an appointment. What’s more, centers can arrange to call your mobile phone when they’re ready for you to come in, to minimize your time in the waiting area.

AABB: aabb.org

America’s Blood Centers: americasblood.org

American Red Cross: redcrossblood.org

Armed Services Blood Program: militaryblood.dod.mil

Blood Centers of America: bca.coop

Have more questions about coronavirus? Stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news, including how it is affecting financial markets, jobs and everyday life, by following MarketWatch’s ongoing coronavirus coverage here.

Consumer interest on Yelp slumps 54% for restaurants and soars 344% for home-fitness equipment as Americans stay home

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Consumer interest in restaurants and nightlife has taken a nosedive in the new coronavirus economy, new Yelp data shows, as some state and local governments have forced temporary closures of bars and dine-in service in the name of social distancing.

The data, released Friday by Yelp YELP, +7.72%, revealed that consumer interest had declined 54% for restaurants and 69% for nightlife venues. Cafes, French restaurants and wineries decreased their share of daily consumer actions (down 66%, 47% and 44%, respectively) compared to a week earlier.

In contrast, grocery stores (up 102%), fruit and vegetable shops (up 102%), fast-food joints (up 64%) and pizzerias (up 44%) all had a greater share of daily consumer actions versus a week earlier.

Report author Carl Bialik, Yelp’s data-science editor, said “consumer interest” was measured by “daily U.S. counts of a selected set of the many actions people take to connect with businesses on Yelp, such as viewing their business page or posting reviews.”

“To pinpoint how the coronavirus is affecting the economy, we looked at which types of businesses (categories) have risen or fallen in interest relative to others in the same general line of business (root categories),” Bialik wrote. “So, for instance, we compare French restaurants, dim sum places, and pizzerias to each other, in terms of their share of all interest for restaurants.”

A study by J.P. Morgan Chase pegged the median cash buffer for a small business at just 27 days.

Consumer interest in bowling, yoga and martial arts, which tend to involve groups of people, declined by a respective 43%, 38% and 33%, according to the report. On the flip side, interest in home fitness equipment surged 344%, and interest in parks rose 53%. Interest was up 360% for buying guns and 166% up for buying water; breweries were down 61%.

Yelp announced a series of actions Friday aimed at boosting local businesses, including a $25 million relief effort for local restaurant and nightlife businesses “in the form of waived advertising fees, and free advertising, products and services.”

Lawmakers in a number of cities and states, including New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania, have ordered the temporary closure of restaurants and bars to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which had sickened at least 14,631 people and killed at least 210 in the U.S. as of Friday afternoon. Takeout and delivery services are generally still allowed for businesses that can offer them.

“The changes, like the pandemic that spawned them, haven’t hit all of the U.S. in the same way: California and New York, sites of two of the biggest outbreaks, have shifted in line with the national moves much more than Oklahoma and North Dakota,” Bialik wrote of the Yelp data. “Regionally, the impact is biggest near the coasts, particularly the Northeast, and more muted in the Midwest and Southeast.”

As public-health officials urge Americans to stay home as much as possible, small businesses have taken a substantial hit. A 2016 study by J.P. Morgan Chase JPM, -2.40%  pegged the median cash buffer for a small business at just 27 days.

Two Senators are under fire for selling stock before the coronavirus market crash — but do insider-trading laws apply?

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Two U.S. Senators are facing intense criticism — and accusations of potential insider trading — on reports that they sold stocks while allegedly having early access to information on the threats posed by the coronavirus.

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reportedly sold between $500,000 and $1.5 million in stock during February, according to reports from news sites Pro Publica and the Center for Responsive Politics. Ahead of the sales he co-wrote an opinion piece saying the country was “better prepared than ever before” for the virus.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican from Georgia, also allegedly sold off stock and made eye-raising purchases too, according to the Daily Beast. In mid-February, Loeffler bought between $100,000 and $250,000 on shares in Citrix CTXS, -3.28%, a company involved in remote work capabilities. Shares increased more than 12% year to date, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -3.71%  is down 30% in the same time.

The pair insist they’ve done nothing wrong, but that hasn’t stopped the calls for their resignation, as well as ethics investigations and even more.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson tore into Burr on Thursday.

“Maybe there’s an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with the rest of use immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading,” he said.

The STOCK Act of 2012 forbids lawmakers from using non-public, material information for their financial gain. There can be criminal and civil penalties for violating the act.

The acronym stands for “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” and Burr was one of three senators voting against it, reports pointed out Thursday.

The STOCK act’s fiduciary duty applies to all congress members, staffers and government employees, according to Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee.

‘Insider trading is only illegal when the information is ‘material,’ meaning that it would have caused a significant change in stock price. It is also only illegal when the information is known by the trader and is not public.’

Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor

The law “duplicates” the legal standards already in place barring corporate executives from using material, non-public information for their financial gain, said Coffee, an expert in securities law.

In other words, prosecutors filing a criminal case under the STOCK act would have to show the same evidence under a corporate insider-trading case, Coffee said. But they could bring a case against government employees trading on inside information in other ways too, like invoking mail and wire fraud.

The body of insider-trading case law has built up a couple key takeaways. First of all, don’t trade on non-public information about listed companies, don’t tell someone else to trade on it and don’t lie if authorities have questions on trades and investments.

Insider trading cases can get “complicated,” according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. The Democrat who once ran for Illinois’s Attorney General said on Twitter TWTR, -0.58%. “Insider trading is only illegal when the information is ‘material,’ meaning that it would have caused a significant change in stock price. It is also only illegal when the information is known by the trader and is not public.”

If the accused can show someone else made the trading and investment decisions, they can beat the case, Coffee said. It doesn’t count, however, if the government official told their broker or adviser what to do.

Burr, for his part, denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and said Friday he “relied solely on public news reports to guide [his] decision regarding the sale of stocks.”

Loeffler was once an executive at Intercontinental Exchange ICE, -4.28%, which owns the New York Stock Exchange. Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the company’s CEO.

Loeffler also denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and said neither she nor her husband made their investment decisions.

In a statement, Intercontinental Exchange said the couple “have made clear that those transactions were executed by their financial advisers without Mr. Sprecher’s or Senator Loeffler’s input or direction.” The transactions were not in ICE securities and complied with the company’s procedures.

The SEC can also bring cases against government officials

The SEC can also sue government official if the regulator thinks a government official or employee violated the STOCK act.

That would be civil case with a lower standard of proof, Coffee said. Regulators would have to convince a judge or jury that the accused official was “recklessly and consciously indifferent” to their fiduciary duties. The legal burden is a shown “by the preponderance of the evidence,” Coffee said. Without the legalese, that means “more likely than not,” he explained.

The case against former Rep. Chris Collins was ‘old fashioned corporate insider trading.’

Columbia Law Professor John Coffee

Former Rep. Chris Collins of New York is serving a 26-month sentence in an insider-trading case where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Collins was a board member of an Australian biotech company, and told his son about a clinical failure on a multiple sclerosis drug in development, prosecutors said.

The STOCK act didn’t apply, Coffee said, calling that case “old fashioned corporate insider trading.”

The questions about the Senators’ trading activities come at a point when the Justice Department is prosecuting very few white-collar cases, according to a Syracuse University report.

Even without criminal or civil charges though, Congress could still launch ethics investigations. In fact, Burr said he was requesting exactly that in the name of “full transparency.”

Coffee said the whole thing looked bad, even putting aside any legal liability. “We’ve got this coronavirus national crisis. It’s had everything except a classic Hollywood villain.” Federal lawmakers trading on information “are going to look like the worse villain we seen in this story,” he said.

More from MarketWatch

Retirement Weekly: Why this bear market isn’t all bad news

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Is this bear market really your worst nightmare?

Many of you are treating it that way, of course.

But a dispassionate analysis of the numbers suggests that you’re not fully appreciating the impact that a bear market can have on your retirement wealth.

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Retirement Weekly: How to plan for the unique financial challenges women face

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As we celebrate another Women’s History Month, I’ve been reflecting on the role of women in the financial ecosystem.

Women make up half the population but for so long have been treated like a niche demographic in financial services. Today, women are largely responsible for their families’ financial decision-making, and we hold the majority of consumer spending power. Certainly, we are anything but a niche.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Women are a true financial force, controlling over half of personal wealth in the United States, to the tune of $14 trillion. By 2030, we’re estimated to control two-thirds of it, thanks in large part to the coming wave of intergenerational wealth transfer from Baby Boomers to succeeding generations. That’s a lot of assets in female hands.

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Dispatches from a Pandemic: A small business struggles to open amid the coronavirus pandemic — ‘we have to focus on what’s in front of us’

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Julie Snell and Lisa McDonald Hanes had planned to open their native plant nursery in a Philadelphia suburb earlier this month.

The opening was pushed back when paperwork on a loan backed by the Small Business Administration delayed the date they bought Redbud Native Plant Nursery in Media, Pa. They changed opening day to this Saturday, just in time for the spring planting season.

But the fast-spreading coronavirus, and Pennsylvania’s ever-tightening efforts to control it, continue to blow up their plans. When Gov. Tom Wolf urged all nonessential businesses to close March 16 and others to move to pick up only, Snell, 53 years old, and Hanes, 43, pivoted to figuring out online sales and curbside pickup of everything from quart-size pots of perennial plants like coneflowers and coral bells to seven-gallon containers of winterberry holly and serviceberry shrubs.

Now they don’t even know if that is an option. On Thursday night, Wolf announced that all businesses that aren’t “life-sustaining” must close immediately. Nurseries are on the list of what’s allowed, but Snell and McDonald Hanes still needed to hire staff and get everything working. Earlier this week, they were still filling out applications for credit-card processing. The website is still being updated.

“We know how much money we have to make to make the rest of the year work,” Snell said. “March, April, May — that’s when the big season is. And then September, October, into early November.”

courtesy Julie Snell
Redbud Native Plant Nursery in Media, Pa.

Redbud, which operated for 17 years under its original owner before Snell and McDonald Hanes bought it this month, is one of millions of businesses across the U.S. suffering as state officials order closures to contain the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes. Layoffs are already soaring, and a Goldman Sachs economist warns that initial claims for unemployment benefits could shortly top 1 million for one week and even reach 2.25 million. That’s well over the peak of 655,000 claims during the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

But while officials in Washington, D.C., discuss bailouts for some big industries including airlines and sending checks to Americans, many small-business owners wonder how they will survive.

Snell spent part of Wednesday on a webinar put on by Temple University’s Small Business Development Center on what kind of help may be available. A lot seems to be for businesses that have been in place for more than a year; Redbud, with its new owners, wouldn’t qualify, she said. But she was told there may be more information about help for younger businesses soon.

‘Give us a grace period’

Snell and McDonald Hanes say they aren’t looking for a fresh loan — to them, that’s just a loan to pay back another loan. But they see how the Federal Reserve cut official rates to near 0% and contrast it with about 8.25% they are paying on a loan that is 50% guaranteed by the SBA.

“If they could reduce that interest rate, that would be a huge help,” Snell said. “Or give us a grace period.”

But they are disappointed by the federal government’s slow response overall to the health crisis. “It’s frustrating how they let three, four weeks go by without acknowledging” the reality of the coronavirus threat, McDonald Hanes said.

Read: Here’s the presidential tweet that caused one notable conservative commentator to urge Trump to ‘STOP’

Also: Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have changed their coronavirus tune in a big way

Dealing with the present

Snell and McDonald Hanes have been in business together since 2013, when they opened a Philadelphia landscape architecture business, Tend Landscape, which provides design services for projects often in the public realm. It can take a long time from bidding for work, to doing it, to getting paid.

When they heard the owner of a native plant nursery was selling, they bit. They figured they could add services such as garden design work for homeowners, garden coaching and more. And it could provide another source of income.

This week, even as the coronavirus kept undoing their business plan, they were awaiting more plants they’ve ordered from small propagators, primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Encouragingly, customers were calling, looking for plants. And Snell said she believes plants have the power to heal.

“It is scary. But we have to focus on what’s in front of us. And what’s in front of us is that the phones are ringing,” she said.

Read more dispatches from the front lines of the pandemic here.

Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers, 7-Eleven will hire up to 20,000 — here are the sectors adding jobs amid coronavirus

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Many employees in the U.S. are holding their breath, waiting to see if their jobs will be the next to disappear as authorities order businesses to close and residents to stay home in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But the good news is that layoffs aren’t occurring across the board. In fact a wave of unprecedented demand in certain sectors is sending some employers on hiring sprees.

Some 70,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits this week –– one of the biggest one-week increases ever. As more Americans practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, layoffs are occurring in sectors that rely on foot traffic, such as retail, hospitality, and restaurants and bars.

Earlier this week, Amazon AMZN, -0.96%  announced plans to hire 100,000 new employees to handle an influx of e-commerce orders and deliveries as more Americans stay home.

The openings are across the U.S. in fulfillment centers, transportation operations, Amazon Go Stores, Whole Foods stores, and in deliveries. “While most of the hires will stay with the company through at least April, we do anticipate there will be opportunities to stay with Amazon in a longer temporary or permanent role,” an Amazon spokeswoman said.

Beyond Amazon, here are the sectors that are ramping up hiring:

Food and convenience stores

As Americans flock to grocery stores to maintain their “pandemic pantries,” shelves are being stripped clean. In order to restock them in a timely manner grocery chains including Kroger KR, -5.50%  Safeway and Trader Joe’s have either increased hiring or offered bonuses to employees.

7-Eleven, an international convenience chain with more than 70,000 stores, announced Friday it will be hiring as many as 20,000 store employees.

“This will provide job opportunities and ensure 7-Eleven stores remain clean and in-stock with the goods our customers need during this critical time,” said 7-Eleven president and CEO, Joe DePinto. The company anticipates that the majority of the new hires will be used to fulfill orders on 7NOW, an on-demand delivery app.

Kroger is hiring 10,000 new associates nationwide across retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, Kristal Howard, a Kroger spokeswoman said. “Candidates may apply via jobs.kroger.com and could be placed for employment within several days of applying,” she said adding that “Kroger’s average hourly wage is $15 an hour.”

Safeway, a national grocery chain, is looking to fill 2,000 new jobs located mainly in California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. (The company didn’t respond to request for comment).

Trader Joe’s is paying bonuses to store employees amid an “unprecedented increase” in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, Business Insider reported. The company did not respond to request for comment on whether they are also increasing hiring and how much they are paying employees in bonuses.

Delivery services

Because more consumers are shopping online and having food delivered to them there is a need for more drivers and remote workers to coordinate delivery logistics, Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said.

That sector has grown the fastest over the past week, Zhao said, according to Glassdoor hiring data. Most of the job openings are for truck and delivery drivers as well as warehouse workers, he said.

While these types of jobs may be less appealing to people who are trying to limit face-to-face contact with others, there are also a variety of supply chain analysis jobs and delivery dispatch jobs that can be done remotely.

“Obviously there is high demand in health care,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, a New York-based fixed income securities brokerage firm, said. “But that isn’t something anyone off the street can do.” Stanley predicts restaurant workers will take on delivery roles.

Domino’s Pizza Inc. DPZ, +0.94%, said Thursday that it’s looking for full-time and part-time workers in a variety of roles, particularly drivers and pizza makers. This comes as many restaurants and quick-service chains have shifted to takeout, delivery, drive-thru and pick-up only.

Blue Apron APRN, -22.11%, a meal kit service that delivers to homes, also announced that it is increasing capacity and hiring workers to meet coronavirus-related demand.

Internet and telecommunications

While millions of Americans cannot work from home, many are doing so especially in cities like San Francisco, where there is currently a shelter-in-place order.

In order to communicate virtually over platforms like Slack WORK, +5.57%, Zoom ZOOM, +41.38%  and Google GOOG, -2.32% GOOGL, -2.47%  Hangouts, high-speed reliable internet is an absolute must.

Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic, a Northern California-based internet and telecommunications provider serving more than 100,000 customers, said his company has experienced a record surge in new customers. To meet the increased demand, he will likely be hiring an additional 15 employees a month to join his team of 520 employees, he said.

“With so many folks engaging in social distancing and distance learning, unlike many industries we are busier than ever before,” Jasper said. Employees of Sonic, like other telecommunication companies, are allowed to travel freely through regions that have shelter-in-place orders because their services are deemed essential, especial for emergency communication purposes, Jasper said.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association, which represents more than 200,000 veterinarians worldwide, is lobbying for the same status for vets.

“As part of our continuing responsibility to care for our animal patients and their owners, we call on governments to recognize all veterinary hospitals and clinics as essential businesses in any situation in which non-essential businesses are asked to close for COVID-19 risk mitigation,” WSAVA president Shane Ryan said.

Manufacturing

Increased demand in the U.S. for respiratory equipment such as ventilators could cause a surge in hiring in manufacturing.

“At some point certain manufacturers will want to increase hiring so that they can make more ventilators,” said Stanley of Amherst Pierpont. “It’s almost like a wartime operation,” he added. In addition to hospital beds and health professionals, there may be a ventilator shortage. The breathing machines are critical to saving the lives of patients with severe coronaviruses cases.

General Motors Co. GM, +1.24%   and Ford Motor Co. F, -1.90%   both said they are “exploring” making ventilators amid fears the life-saving devices might become scarce in the U.S. in the COVID-19 pandemic, MarketWatch reported.

Retirement Weekly: News and analysis for those planning for or living in retirement

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From MarketWatch:

Can I still afford to retire? The coronavirus has upended jobs, spurred a market downturn — what now?: There are numerous factors to consider before retiring in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, but it’s not impossible to exit the workforce.

‘I would rather him be lonely than dead’: How to manage when someone you love is in a nursing home: The health crisis overwhelming the globe is hard for many people, especially those who have loved ones in nursing homes, which are now restricting access of visitors to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Want to vote but trying to keep your ‘social distance’? Here’s how you can do it from home: Exercising your civic duty is still possible, even if Americans are being told to stay at home and away from others.

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Good news for the stock market would be any potential treatment against the coronavirus

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Investors, after facing huge losses amid the threat of the coronavirus, are grappling with what is next for the stock market.

In January, I warned that an external event could cause a major drop in the market. Now it has happened. Something investors need to be on the lookout for: potential treatments that could put a halt to this public health crisis, unfolding economic calamity and stock market rout.

We have been assessing potential treatments. It’s clear that a vaccine would take at least a year. The best hope is finding an antiviral that at least lessens the severity of the coronavirus, much like Tamiflu lowers the severity of the seasonal flu.

We are not infectious-disease experts. Based on our consultations and research, our conclusion has been that chloroquine may have the most potential of several drugs being tried. The data in this journal is helpful.

Read: Trump makes the case for chloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, though it has not been approved by the FDA for this illness

President Trump has touted chloroquine as a potential treatment; he did so again Friday. For that, he has come under criticism by some for giving false hope. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday, standing next to Trump, that chloroquine could potentially be used, though it’s not a prime candidate at the moment.

I won’t wade into the controversy but instead focus on implications for the stock market. Let’s explore with the help of a chart.

Chart

Please click here for an annotated chart of SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF DIA, -1.74%, which tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.80%.

Note the following:

• The chart shows the target zone if there is a positive development on an antiviral drug against COVID-19.

• The chart shows a small bounce in the stock market after the support zone was broken. This bounce mainly reflected a short squeeze and so-called quadruple witching. In quadruple witching, stock options, stock index futures, stock index options and single stock futures expire.

• To learn more about the support zones, please click here.

• Click here to learn about an objective way to call the bottom, as shown on the chart.

• It seems that chloroquine has in vitro activity against the novel coronavirus. In plain English, this means that chloroquine is effective in a test tube.

• There is anecdotal evidence that chloroquine helps with coronavirus.

• There are no rigorous clinical trial results at this time that show chloroquine being beneficial against coronavirus.

• Chloroquine is an inexpensive, old drug that is used against malaria and in certain cases of lupus and arthritis.

• German company Bayer BAYRY, +0.67% is donating three million tablets of chloroquine.

• Generic drug manufacturers such as Teva Pharmaceutical TEVA, +4.11%  and Mylan MYL, +4.37% appear to be gearing up for mass production of chloroquine.

• There are many other drugs with possibilities, notably Gilead Sciences’ GILD, -5.22% remdesivir, that are being tested.

What does it all mean?

In addition to watching the S&P 500 Index SPX, -1.94%, consider watching leaders in certain industries. Those include, among others, Apple AAPL, +0.17%,  Advanced Micro Devices AMD, +3.35%,  American Airlines AAL, +1.86% and J.P. Morgan Chase JPM, +0.73%.  

Consider covering short positions, reducing hedges and buying at the first sign of a positive drug result. We have published a 16-stock coronavirus portfolio that will benefit most.

Remember, under these circumstances, investors ought to pay attention to Arora’s Second Law of Investing and Trading: Nobody knows with certainty what is going to happen next in the markets.

Answers to your questions

Answers to some of your questions are in my previous writings. You can access them here.

Disclosure: Subscribers to The Arora Report may have positions in the securities mentioned in this article or may take positions at any time. Nigam Arora is an investor, engineer and nuclear physicist by background who has founded two Inc. 500 fastest-growing companies. He is the founder of The Arora Report, which publishes four newsletters. Nigam can be reached at Nigam@TheAroraReport.com.

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