Day: April 9, 2020

CityWatch: NYC trying to account for New Yorkers who may have died from undiagnosed coronavirus

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The number of New Yorkers dying at home has surged, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday, but unless they have received a positive diagnosis, their numbers are not yet being included in the official COVID-19 tally, even though it is believed that the virus may be responsible for the vast majority of their deaths.

“There’s no question in my mind, the driver of this huge uptick in deaths at home is COVID-19,” de Blasio said. “Some people are dying directly of it and some people are dying indirectly of it, but it is the tragic X factor here.”

Currently every person with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis is counted in the number of fatalities whether they died at home or in a hospital, according to a statement from the city health department.

Meanwhile, the number of city residents dying at home each day has now reached 200, according to Gothamist, compared with a total of 20 to 25 each day before the pandemic. An untold number of them are not confirmed coronavirus cases, the publication said. 

The Office of Chief Medical Examiner could not provide data on the number of daily at-home deaths.

Read: Stories of the lives lost to COVID-19

The city said that it is now working to include into their reports at-home deaths that may be linked to COVID-19 but were not lab-confirmed.

COVID-19 fatalities might not be classified as such for a couple of reasons, according to Dr. Robyn Gershon, a professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health.

A death “might be deemed as coronary or pneumonia, when, in fact, it may have been caused by this virus—all of the clinical presentations of this disease are still not that well delineated,” Gershon said in an email statement. “These cases would not even be autopsied,” and therefore not tested for COVID-19. 

Don’t miss:These 21 companies are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines — here’s where things stand

“Another way we can get underreporting is because the state does not have enough tests to give to their medical examiners for the remains that they do get, so they cannot test the decedent for COVID,” she said.

If someone dies from an unknown cause, then the medical examiner has to do an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death, and at that time they can take a sample to test for COVID-19, Gershon said.

In New York City, 87,725 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 4,778 of those have died as a result, according to the city’s department of health.

Also see: New Yorkers may be looking at a shutdown into much of May, NYC mayor says

“We are first and foremost focused on ensuring that every New Yorker who dies because of COVID-19 gets counted,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Thursday in the mayor’s news conference. “I think that as a city, it is part of the healing process to be able to grieve and mourn for all of those that have passed because of COVID-19. And to date, we have only been reporting on people who have had the test.”

An exact date for the inclusion of the data was not given.

“It may take months and maybe years before the true estimates of fatalities are reached,” Gershon said. “But that happens with every epidemic, and this is a pandemic, so the world-wide counts may be inaccurate. But at this point, it is too difficult to know exactly or to even estimate how many deaths are—and were—going under reported.”

The Wall Street Journal: State Farm to slash $2 billion in car-insurance premiums amid pandemic

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The nation’s biggest car insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., is slashing $2 billion of premiums owed on 40 million vehicles, making it the latest carrier to offer a financial-relief program for consumers as auto claims have plunged under shelter-at-home restrictions.

State Farm’s total brings the amount pledged by the top 10 sellers of personal car insurance to more than $7 billion as U.S. carriers are beginning to experience a financial windfall tied to Americans parking their cars to help fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Personal Finance Daily: More than half of renters say they lost jobs due to coronavirus and this tech CEO is paying restaurants to deliver meals to people in need

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Hope you’re staying well, MarketWatchers. Don’t miss these top stories:

Personal Finance
‘Housekeeping services are nonexistent. My quarantine in a 4-star hotel in Singapore: I’m not permitted to leave my 220-square-foot hotel room for 14 days’

The country’s government reportedly booked out about 7,500 rooms, many of which typically go for upwards of $150 a night.

More than half of renters say they lost jobs due to coronavirus: ‘They could face housing situations that spiral out of control’

‘Low-income renters, especially those who lose employment during the crisis, will have a hard time paying back rent.’

As jobless claims hit nearly 17 million, more older Americans and Republicans say coronavirus is less likely to hurt their finances

Almost half of Republicans say COVID-19 is not a major financial threat, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Can President Trump save the U.S. economy from coronavirus and save lives?

‘It’s appalling to attach a dollar number to a human life — for noneconomists,’ said Colin Camerer, a professor of behavioral finance and economics.

Letter from New York: ‘It’s a surreal experience living in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. But I love my adopted city, and I’m not leaving’

‘When I hear an ambulance, I wonder if there’s a coronavirus patient inside. Are there more 911 calls, or do I notice every distant siren?’

‘Coronavirus doesn’t care who you’ll vote for in November.’ My boss says the virus is a conspiracy and told me to work — even though I was just tested

‘I’m falling through the cracks. I worry that if I do get COVID-19 and die, my husband and children will have no recourse against this employer.’

10 ways to get a coronavirus skeptic to take the pandemic seriously: ‘Anecdotes are much more convincing than statistics’

What if someone in your life is part of the small sliver of the population that isn’t taking the threat of the pandemic seriously?

These U.S. housing markets are most vulnerable to a coronavirus downturn

Having a high number of coronavirus cases doesn’t necessarily make a housing market more likely to be impacted by the disease outbreak.

I kicked my roommate out as she works with adolescents, a group more likely to pass on coronavirus. Can I stop her coming home?

‘I gave her an ultimatum to isolate at home or move out for the protection of me, my sister and herself.’

This tech CEO is paying restaurants hit by the coronavirus to make food and deliver meals to people in need

Support small businesses and food service workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Twitch CEO Emmett Shear.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
How many people have lost jobs in your state from the coronavirus? Here’s the toll

California and Pennsylvania have lodged the most applications for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic staggered the economy, but New York is likely to catch up once it fixes its overloaded system for processing jobless claims.

Anthony Scaramucci: The American people need a lot more stimulus cash

Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge Capital founder and former White House communications chief, tells CNBC what he thinks the government needs to do to get the reeling economy back on track.

Powell expects ‘robust’ recovery once coronavirus is under control

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday said there is every reason to expect a robust recovery once the coronavirus is under control

Stocks will revisit their coronavirus crash low, and here’s when to expect it

U.S. market history points to a final bottom in August, writes Mark Hulbert.

I’m nearing retirement but was just laid off. What should I do?

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Nearly 17 million people have become unemployed in the last month as a result of coronavirus-linked shutdowns and slowdowns. It’s a scenario that could be detrimental to anyone’s finances, especially if they’re nearing retirement.

At least 1.2 million people age 55 and older were unemployed in March, up from just about 1 million in February, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate, which is the number of people in the workforce divided by the number of those who are unemployed, for this demographic was 3.3, up from 2.6 the month before. But these figures are preliminary — the numbers are based on the BLS Current Population Survey of households, which is based on a monthly survey of 60,000 households conducted until the middle of each month.

“It’s very hard for people to lose their jobs when it’s not on their own terms,” said Nate Wenner, principal and a senior financial adviser at Wipfli Financial Advisors. “People have this idea of how they’d like to end their career and under what circumstances.” Not everyone can afford to exit from the workforce entirely when they’re just a few years out from retirement either, he said.

Losing a job is always a stressful situation, especially during a health crisis, but it can be particularly devastating for individuals close to retirement. This demographic is more likely to suffer age discrimination when looking for a new position, they may still need health care coverage after being unexpectedly separated from their employer and they may still have years to go until they have saved enough for their retirement.

The coronavirus has caused companies across the country to shutter, including concert venues, sporting events, restaurants and retail stores. Initial jobless claims have increased 3.3 million, then 6.8 million, followed by another 6.6 million in the last three weeks, beginning in the middle of March.

Weekly statistics show how dire the situation may be for many more Americans.

According to the weekly updates, about 1.5 million more people were jobless for less than five weeks, bringing the total up to 3.5 million in March for that group. Another 1.4 million worked part time, instead of full-time as they would have preferred, for a total of 5.8 million last month. They were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they couldn’t find full-time positions, the BLS said.

See: Here’s what happens when someone is forced to retire because they’re ‘old’

Here’s what financial advisers suggest Americans do if they’ve lost their jobs but aren’t ready to retire:

Figure out your financial situation

Workers need to assess where they stand financially, so that they can know what it takes to retire. Thomas Duffy, a financial adviser at Jersey Shore Financial Advisors, suggested asking a few questions, the first of which is: Can you maintain your lifestyle without working?

If the answer is yes, determine all sources of income, what health insurance will be used until Medicare kicks in, any major expenses coming up (like a wedding, trip or home renovation) and how inflation may impact cash flow in the next five to 20 years. Also, what are the unexpected expenses that may arise, like a broken down car or a roof that needs to be replaced?

If the answer is no, individuals should still figure out what their cash flow needs are, but also research benefits they’re entitled to and determine expenses that can be eliminated for the moment. Workers of all ages should also consider how much in salary they’d be willing to accept at a new job, he said.

The government’s recently passed stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, expanded unemployment benefits. Under the $2 trillion package, part-time and self-employed workers, including gig workers, are eligible for unemployment benefits, and state benefits are boosted with an additional $600 a week. Anyone whose workplace was closed due to the coronavirus crisis, who had to quit their job because of the disease, or who were supposed to start working but the job fell through because of the crisis are covered. Family caregivers also qualify.

Analyze your money

Now is the time to get financially organized, said Evan Beach, director of wealth advisory at Campbell Wealth Management. “Financial lives are scattered and it makes it hard to take stock of where you are,” he said. Individuals may want to consolidate banking and investment accounts, but if they’re happy having numerous accounts, they should use software that aggregates all their information so they can see the numbers in one place. Mint and Personal Capital are two examples.

Even near-retirees who are relatively well-off may want to consider working in some capacity. “What happens a lot of the time is they think ‘My money will last,’ but they don’t think of the 20-plus years in retirement,” said Niv Persaud, managing director and founder of Transition Planning and Guidance. “That’s a long time to go without an income.” Social Security benefits can help, but most Americans can’t rely on those checks alone.

People with substantial savings may overestimate how long their money will last. Someone five years away from retirement might think they have enough money after all to retire if they’ve suddenly lost their job, but they should stick with their financial plans and look for another source of income if they’re in this situation, Wenner said. “Five years can make a huge difference,” he said. “By starting retirement five years sooner and having five years less of building that nest egg to be a more sizable amount, that can have a tremendous impact that they don’t see until they run the numbers.”

Weigh severance options

Some employers may offer a severance package, which is typically based on how long an employee has been with the company. Employees may be able to negotiate what the package offers, including bonuses or restricted stock awards as well as health insurance if it’s not covered.

“Make sure you’re getting the same benefits with the forced retirement as if you retired early,” Persaud said.

Employees should also ask if there are any opportunities to make final retirement plan contributions, which could include company matched contributions, said Rob Greenman, a financial planner at Vista Capital Partners.

Also see:This CFO couldn’t get hired at 61, so he started his own business

Confirm you still get health care coverage

Losing a job could mean loss of health insurance. Individuals may need to purchase a plan from a private insurer or they could consider health care coverage under COBRA, short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA requires businesses with 20 or more employees to continue health care coverage for separated workers and their families, but there are limitations for how long coverage lasts. COBRA is also expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Beneficiaries must pay their portion of the premium, as well as their employers’ portions and a 2% administrative fee.

Brush up on your skills

Older Americans experience age discrimination in the workforce, and it’s even harder to fight in the hiring process. Still, it’s possible to overcome these challenges.

Applicants should build a web-based skill set, and create an online presence, such as having a full and updated LinkedIn profile. They should also accentuate skills they’ve learned throughout their careers, and highlight how their experiences are relevant and aligned with the position they want. It’s important to stay positive, and be wary of job postings that signal any sort of discrimination.

Losing a job right now doesn’t necessarily mean working with that employer is over for good, either, Persaud said. Some companies may not have the financial ability to keep everyone on payroll during this crisis, but they may come back to former employees in the future. “Don’t burn bridges,” she said. “When they lay off or offer early retirement, sometimes they turn around and rehire them because they need that knowledge.”

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Climbs Higher After Halving Event

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Bitcoin cash

One of the most crucial events in the lifetime of most cryptocurrencies is its halving event. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) had its much-anticipated halving on Wednesday. BCH had its first block reward halving yesterday, and the event resulted in a rally in the cryptocurrency. After the halving, BCH soared by 15% over the past 24 hours, and it will likely be in focus over the course of the coming days.

Is Halving a Bullish Sign?

A halving measure generally involves providing miners with half the rewards they used to get for mining one block. In theory, it should lessen the number of tokens in circulation in the long-term. That often leads to the rise in the price of tokens that were halved.

During the same period, Bitcoin SV managed to record gains of 19.4%, so it could be worthwhile for traders and digital asset investors to keep an eye on. BCH experienced a rapid surge, climbing from $249.23 per token to $277.22 per token in the last 24 hours.

However, the halving may not be particularly great news for Bitcoin Cash miners. It should be noted that BCH is the fifth biggest cryptocurrency in the world by market cap, and the rewards are considerable for the miners. However, the reduction of the block rewards by half could hit miners particularly hard.

>> Ethereum (ETH) Gains Momentum Ahead of ETH 2.0 Upgrade

The halving of the rewards will eventually result in gross margins dropping to almost zero once other costs are factored in. This is a situation that is certainly going to be in the minds of traders and investors as they go about figuring out the Bitcoin Cash halving. It remains to be seen how the miners react to the news.

What do you think about the Bitcoin Cash halving? Do you agree with the process?

Featured image: DepositPhotos © amanalang

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Outside the Box: Use these 7 facts of financial life to make it through any market decline

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The plot, the script and the characters may have changed. But we’ve seen this movie before.

The current stock market swoon strikes many folks as unprecedented: It’s the frantic financial sideshow to a devastating global tragedy—one that’s seen 1.1 million people fall ill and 60,000 die, with every expectation that the numbers will be many multiples worse before the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Yet, on closer inspection, 2020s bear market doesn’t seem so different from earlier market declines. Once again, we’re being reminded of some crucial facts of financial life. Here are seven of them:

1. Our risk tolerance isn’t stable.

Rising share prices turn us into fearless stock jockeys, while tumbling prices reduce us to cash-loving cowards. What about “buy low, sell high”? At times like this, investors toss such basic commandments out the window.

Indeed, I’ve been fielding panicked emails from readers for the past month. I tell folks to think about what sort of portfolio they would feel comfortable holding today and then, once the stock market recovers, they should build that portfolio. But guess what? It’s advice I’m 100% confident will be ignored. Many of these folks will sell stocks now, only to renew their embrace of risk when the market is hitting new highs.

2. Losses wreak havoc with compounding.

If you had invested $100 on Feb. 19, when the S&P 500 SPX, +2.31% notched its all-time high, you’d have been down 34% to $66.08 by March 23. That’s when the S&P 500 hit its recent low. What will it take to recoup that 34% loss? To go from $66.08 to $100, you need a 51% gain. As of yesterday’s market close, we’ve clawed back 11%. I’m confident we’ll eventually recoup the rest.

Still, this highlights the brutal impact of losses on investment compounding. Don’t want it to be so brutal? You can avoid far steeper losses by diversifying broadly and keeping at least some money in bonds and cash investments. You can also speed your portfolio’s recovery by rebalancing during the market decline and by adding fresh savings to your stock portfolio.

3. In Treasurys, we should trust.

During 2008’s financial crisis, Treasury bonds posted gains, while almost everything else lost ground. It was yet another lesson many folks failed to learn. Indeed, in the hunt for something that’ll post gains when stocks are suffering, many investors stubbornly ignore Treasurys, while embracing all manner of costly, complicated and unreliable alternatives.

Among them: hedge funds, “liquid alt” mutual funds, real-estate funds and bitcoin. I’ve largely soured on alternative investments, with the exception of gold stock funds. And even gold stocks require a remarkably strong stomach for volatility. Still, they have once again proven their mettle (pun intended) at a time of market mayhem.

4. Bonds are less risky than stocks—except when we go to trade.

Many investors are scratching their head over the recent bond market weakness, which saw steep short-term losses among municipal and corporate bonds. What went wrong? A key problem: The bond market is far more fragmented than the stock market.

For instance, Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund VTSMX, +3.59% tracks the CRSP U.S. Total Market Index VBMFX, -0.08%, which contains 3,500 stocks. By contrast, Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Index Fund tracks the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Float-Adjusted Index, which includes more than 11,000 bond issues.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: There are an estimated 30,000 U.S. corporate bond issues outstanding and a million different municipal bonds. With so many issues on offer, it’s hardly surprising that—when investors and market makers get spooked and become reluctant to buy or sell—the bond market doesn’t function so well.

5. If we wait for stocks to get cheap before buying, we’ll likely wait an awfully long time.

After 2020s brutal first quarter, you might imagine that U.S. stocks would appear cheap based on yardsticks like dividend yield, price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples and cyclically adjusted P/E multiples. And shares are indeed cheaper, but they’re hardly bargain priced by historical standards.

Of course, we may get there yet, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even if share prices fall further, we’re likely to see disappointing corporate earnings and cuts in dividends, which may conspire to make stocks look more expensive, not less. On top of that, stock market valuations have been trending higher over the past four decades. That trend, I suspect, won’t ever reverse.

6. To earn handsome long-run returns, we must run the risk of severe short-term losses—and those losses occur with brutal regularity.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve had the 1973-1974 stock market crash that accompanied the OPEC oil embargo, 1977’s market decline, the early 1980s stock market swoon born of skyrocketing inflation and a double dip U.S. recession, 1987’s harrowing market crash, the 1990 slide triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, 1997’s Asian Contagion, the 2000-02 slump unleashed by the dot-com bust and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2007-2009 crash driven by the Great Recession, 2018’s losing year and 2020s coronavirus crash.

The bottom line: Big market declines happen at least once a decade, and yet we’re shocked—shocked!—every time. To grasp the stock market’s turbulence, check out the annual returns for the S&P 500. The frequent losses may strike some as unnerving, but I’m comforted by looking at the year-by-year results. I remember so many of these declines, including the anguished declarations of doom, and yet every one of them proved fleeting.

7. If an investment offers high expected returns, there must be high risk—even if we can’t figure out what that risk is.

When the S&P 500 was at its all-time high just over six weeks ago, I suspect the vast majority of investors knew that owning stocks was risky, even if they didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of that risk. After all, even when stocks are rising, it’s hard not to notice the day-to-day turmoil.

Instead, I suspect today’s most surprised investors were those who loaded up on rental real estate. In particular, I think about the folks who took out large mortgages to buy apartments and houses, and then aimed to cover their borrowing costs with short-term rental income from customers of Airbnb, Vrbo and similar services.

It might have looked like easy money (or somewhat easy, given the work involved in cleaning up after short-term tenants) and less risky than being the landlord of a single tenant, who might fail to pay the rent and prove difficult to evict. But as we’ve discovered, there was a serious risk—the risk that the entire world would hunker down at home and stop traveling.

This column originally appeared on Humble Dollar. It was republished with permission.

Deep Dive: Three stocks to buy at ‘the most attractive entry point’ since 2009 from an index-beating hedge-fund manager

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Investors have a golden opportunity to grow their “buying power” by scooping up high-quality companies.

That’s according to Dev Kantesaria, who founded hedge fund company Valley Forge Capital Management in 2007.

“The best protection in a downdraft like this is to own the highest-quality businesses on the planet,” he said in an interview. “The idea that ‘safe-haven assets,’ such as bonds, real estate, gold, bitcoin and art are the best way to protect yourself is a fallacy.”

Valley Forge, based in Wayne, Pa., has $550 million in assets under management. According to Hedge Fund Alert, Valley Forge had an average annualized return of 14.8%, after expenses, in the 12 years through 2019, compared with 8.6% for the benchmark S&P 500 Index SPX, +2.27%.

Kantesaria provided three examples of companies he believes are excellent buys for “patient and disciplined“ investors who “should be handsomely rewarded when the recovery takes hold:”

Company Total return – 2020 through April 8 Total return – 2019 Total return – 5 years
Moody’s Corp. -4% 71% 128%
Fair Isaac Corp. -20% 100% 225%
Visa Inc. Class A -7% 43% 172%
Source: FactSet

For comparison, the S&P 500 is down 14.4% this year after returning 31.5% in 2019; its five-year return through April 8 was 46%. Those returns include reinvested dividends.

“We want to own monopolies or companies that are part of oligopolies. They have dominant positions, and provide essential product and services,” and have “pricing power to offset industry volume declines through a period like this,” Kantesaria said.

Moody’s

Kantesaria called Moody’s MCO, +7.39% “a compounding machine that can increase its intrinsic value year after year.” Moody’s is essentially in a duopoly with Standard & Poor’s, a unit of S&P Global SPGI, +7.52%, in the bond-ratings business, because about 90% of new bonds are rated by both companies.

Moody’s is the purer play, with about two-thirds of its revenue coming from the traditional bond-ratings business, while S&P Global is a more diversified company, according to Kantesaria.

Moody’s reaffirmed its 2020 earnings guidance March 11, and Kantesaria believes it is likely the company’s 2020 earnings will match those of 2019 or even “show some modest growth.”

“That will be an outstanding result for a company operating through an economic dislocation we have not seen since the Great Depression,” he said. “It is a company that doesn’t require a significant amount of R&D or capital expenditures. So it can use almost all of its free cash flow to buy back the stock, raise its dividend or make tuck-in acquisitions,” he added.

Fair Isaac

Fair Isaac’s FICO, +1.77% consumer-credit scores are known as FICO scores. This has been the worst-performing stock this year among the three Kantesaria discussed.

Kantesaria said “there may be some softness in the number of scores that will be pulled” and paid for by lenders. However, he continues to believe in Fair Isaac as a long-term investment because of its dominance in the consumer space. “The company has tremendous pricing power. It meets our criteria for capital efficiency — they buy back stock and improve gross margins over time,” he said.

On April 2, Fair Isaac announced new services to help lenders process “payment holiday” requests from borrowers.

Visa

Here’s a year-to-date chart showing the fluctuation of Visa’s V, -0.05% share price:

FactSet

The stock’s decline since the S&P 500 hit its closing record Feb. 19 reflected the indiscriminate selling by index-fund managers who track the index, as some of their shareholders bailed. But the stock’s recovery and index-beating year-to-date performance shows that many investors understand Visa’s advantage over other financial-services companies: Visa doesn’t lend money, so it doesn’t have credit risk. The company gets fees for processing card transactions.

“It is a perfect example of a great business that is being severely discounted because of a tremendous drop in transaction volume. This is a phenomenal entry point for someone with a long-term horizon to get into a payment processor like Visa, Kantesaria said.

When asked about Visa’s rival Mastercard MA, +0.48%, he said: “We like them as well. They operate essentially in a duopoly.”

Kantesaria couldn’t comment further about his current buying and selling, but said “historically there have been times when one is more attractive than the other.”

Increasing ‘buying power’

Considering the incredible scale of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying and other efforts to help U.S. residents and businesses over the unprecedented economic shutdown, the value of the dollar has to be a concern of long-term investors. Such an increase in the money supply, on top of a world awash with cash before the COVID-19 crisis, could mean an eventual problem with inflation.

“In a low-growth, low interest rate environment, equities represent the best opportunity to grow your buying power,” Kantesaria said.

Their Stories: Chicago sisters Patricia Frieson and Wanda Bailey die from the coronavirus

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Patricia Frieson and her older sister Wanda Bailey were a gregarious pair who loved singing with friends and members of their tightknit family at Progressive Beulah Pentecostal Church, near Frieson’s home in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. 

Though retired, Frieson, who had devoted her life to caring for others as a floor nurse and traveling nurse, continued to express care and concern for those around her. “Take care everyone,” she said in a Facebook message posted on Feb. 28. “May the world recover from coronavirus soon. May all be well and happy.” 

Less than three weeks later, on March 16, a day after she tested positive for COVID-19, the 61-year-old Frieson became the first person in Illinois to die of an infection from the virus. 

Around that time, Bailey, who lived nearby in Crete, Ill., had begun experiencing breathing problems. On the night of her younger sister’s death, at the urging of her family, Bailey checked into the emergency room at St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields, Ill. Soon thereafter, she was listed in critical condition and placed in intensive care. On the morning of March 25, nine days after her sister’s death, Bailey, 63, died. The Cook County medical examiner’s office listed Bailey’s cause of death as pneumonia due to a COVID-19 infection, with heart disease, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) detailed as contributing factors. 

“Pat and Wanda loved their family and more importantly loved their Lord,” wrote their younger brother, Anthony Frieson, on social media. “In a blink of an eye, life can change. Please continue to pray for our family.”

After learning of Frieson’s diagnosis, the sisters’ family had already been quarantining under the assumption they might be carrying the virus. Since their deaths, the sisters’ loved ones have been mourning while in isolation, joining billions around the world who have been quarantining indoors to reduce the spread of the pandemic that has now infected more than 1.3 million people globally, killing more than 70,000. 

Also see: On the COVID-19 front lines in Minnesota: A full E.R., low supplies and fear

Published reports indicated that Frieson, who had a history of respiratory issues, including severe asthma and lymphedema, was admitted to urgent care at the University of Chicago Medical Center on March 12 following days of breathing problems. (Family members later stated they thought Frieson was merely suffering from an asthma attack.) She was diagnosed with pneumonia and, after hospital staff red-flagged her because of her underlying condition, tested for COVID-19; a day after her diagnosis, she had died.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Frieson’s death on March 17, a date that set a since-broken record for the state’s largest one-day rise in cases. The governor and other officials used that press conference to remind the public that those with underlying health conditions and older people are most vulnerable when contracting the virus.

According to the sisters’ family, it’s unclear how Frieson, who had been dealing with mobility issues, and Bailey, who was mostly homebound due to her health problems, contracted the virus.  

Read more stories of the lives lost to COVID-19

The sisters were two of nine siblings; their survivors are planning a memorial service for a time when everyone will be able to congregate. While the CDC has claimed there is no chance of transmitting the virus from the deceased, funerals are discouraged due to social distancing advisories, leaving families to make do with delayed memorials or live-streamed funerals.

Frieson has no known immediate survivors, while Bailey is survived by her husband and at least one son, according to published reports. 

Mortgage rates are near record lows, but home buyers may face an uphill battle in securing them

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Mortgage rates largely remained unchanged over the past week, but their ups and downs since the beginning of the year have created challenges for those looking to get a loan to buy a home.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remained flat at an average of 3.33% during the week ending April 9, Freddie Mac FMCC, +2.09% reported Thursday. A year ago, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.12%.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgage also stayed the same over this last week, averaging 3.4%. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage, meanwhile, fell five basis points to an average of 2.77%.

Freddie Mac’s report is based on a survey of lenders, including a mix of thrifts, credit unions, commercial banks and mortgage lending companies. The number of each type of lender surveyed is roughly proportional to the share of the mortgage industry they represent.

Don’t miss: More than half of renters say they lost jobs due to coronavirus: ‘They could face housing situations that spiral out of control’

Additionally, the survey results each week are weighted based on the most recent data regarding the dollar volume of conventional loans, meaning loans eligible for purchase by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae FNMA, +2.56% . The survey therefore does not reflect movements in rates for loans backed by other agencies, such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also doesn’t include rates for jumbo loans.

‘I would recommend trying to compare rates in as short a period of time as possible. So that you’re really comparing apples to apples.’

— Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com

Therefore, the averages Freddie Mac publishes may not fully align with what a home buyer sees on the ground if that buyer is getting one of these other types of mortages. “The type of loan you’re getting is going to lead to different rates,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told MarketWatch.

But other factors are also influencing loan pricing at the ground level. “There’s a lot of volatility in markets in general,” Hale said. “People see that in the stock market, which swings up and down depending on the time of day, and that’s also true in the mortgage market.”

(Realtor.com is operated by News Corp NWSA, +5.19% subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, which is also a News Corp subsidiary.)

Mortgage-backed securities have been volatile in particular, and the yields on these help to drive the rates lenders set for the loans they offer.

Lenders are also facing major workflow issues that could impact the pricing and availability of loans. On the origination side of the mortgage business, record-low interest rates have meant that lenders have had to grapple with a massive demand for refinancing at a time when they must also adapt to performing their work remotely.

Also see:These are the U.S. housing markets that are most vulnerable to a coronavirus downturn

Meanwhile, on the loan servicing front, mortgage companies are dealing with a huge influx of requests from borrowers seeking forbearance, or a temporary halt on making payments. The most $2.2 trillion stimulus bill guaranteed that any homeowner with a federally-backed mortgage could delay payments on their loan by up to a year.

Mortgage servicers are facing a major cash crunch as a result, Hale said, because they must continue to may payments each month to the investors who own those loans.

“The threat of missed payments also introduces the potential for greater risk for lenders, resulting in tighter lending restrictions and a less-active market for non-agency and less conventional loans,” Zillow ZG, +6.31% economist Matthew Speakman wrote in a research note Wednesday. “Taken together, even though average rates have appeared to stabilize, volatility remains throughout much of the market.”

For those who are still in the market to buy a home right now and looking for mortgage financing, securing the lowest rate possible has become more challenging as a result. Americans in that position definitely should compare rates given how much they can differ from lender to lender. But time is of the essence, because a given lender could move their rates higher or lower, even within a given day.

“I would recommend trying to compare rates in as short a period of time as possible,” Hale said. “So that you’re really comparing apples to apples.”

Looking ahead to the future, there is still the possibility that rates could fall even lower. Historically, mortgage rates have roughly tracked the direction of the yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 0.717%. As the coronavirus outbreak worsened, the 10-year yield dropped below 1%, and it has remained below that level since mid-March.

Mortgage rates haven’t followed the 10-year note’s yield as closely because of the upheaval the industry has seen in recent weeks. Should things stabilize within the mortgage industry though, mortgage rates are poised to move lower.

“There is room for rates to move down,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist, said in the weekly rates report. “As financial markets continue to heal, we expect mortgage rates will drift lower in the second half of 2020.”

Read more:America’s housing market is showing the first signs of trouble from the coronavirus pandemic

Key Words: Stephen King is ‘sorry’ if you feel like you’re living in ‘The Stand’ right now

This post was originally published on this site

Maybe Stephen King has a touch of the “shining”?

A flu-like pandemic has spread across the globe, killing tens of thousands, overrunning hospitals and turning iconic tourist destinations like Times Square and St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City into ghost towns.

These daily headlines and news reports following the COVID-19 outbreak could have been torn directly from the pages of Stephen King’s iconic work, “The Stand,” which was first published in 1978 and then updated in 1990. The post-apocalyptic tale features a superflu that kills more than 99% of the world’s population, and the early chapters following the virus’ spread — hidden behind innocuous symptoms such as a cough and fever that closely resemble the common cold or flu — are eerily similar to the way the novel coronavirus managed to spread under much of the world’s nose early on.

The survivors in King’s dark, twisted fantasy even start having vivid dreams — something people have actually experienced during this pandemic.

King addressed the parallels between his fictional plague and this real one in a recent NPR interview.

“I keep having people say, ‘Gee, it’s like we’re living in a Stephen King story.’ And my only response to that is, ‘I’m sorry.’”

The master of horror, 72, also said that a pandemic like the novel coronavirus was “bound to happen” eventually.

“There was never any question that in our society, where travel is a staple of daily life, that sooner or later, there was going to be a virus that was going to communicate to the public at large,” he said.

King mused that the outbreak will probably leave a lasting impression on the current generation, the same way that the Great Depression long influenced his late mother. (Indeed, as coronavirus layoffs swell to almost 17 million, that parallel also hits too close to home.)

“It made a scar. It left trauma behind,” he said. “And I think that…my granddaughter — who can’t see her friends, can only Skype them once in a while. She’s stuck in the house…when [she’s grown and] her children say, ‘Oh my God, I’m so bored, I can’t go out!’…[my granddaughter] is going to say, ‘You should have been around in 2020, because we were stuck in the house for months at a time! We couldn’t go out. We were scared of germs!’”

So how is the prolific author of more than 60 books and 200-plus short stories staying sane during his coronavirus confinement — as opposed to suffering cabin fever like Jack Torrance in one of his other most famous works, “The Shining”? By writing, of course.

“But to be in the house day after day, all I can say is I’ve made wonderful progress on a novel, because there’s really not too much to do and it’s a good way to get away from the fear,” he said.

Rather than escaping reality, however, the current atmosphere has actually got some people dusting off “The Stand” again, or reading it for the first time. Sales of the trade paperback were up 25% in the first eight weeks of 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported, while purchases of the hardcover more than tripled, according to NPD BookScan. “The Stand” has also become an Amazon AMZN, -1.05% bestseller, ranking No. 1 under “post-apocalyptic science fiction” and in the top 20 under “science fiction and fantasy” as of press time Thursday. There have also been reports of people streaming more pandemic movies like “Outbreak” on Netflix NFLX, -1.75%, or “Contagion” on Amazon Prime Video, as well. And earlier this year, a virus-themed online game called “Plague” was also trending.

“The Stand” was adapted into a four-part TV miniseries in the 90s starring Gary Sinese, Molly Ringwald and Ruby Dee. It’s being remade for the CBS All Access streaming service starring Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden and Alexander Skarsgard. A CBS rep told MarketWatch that production wrapped just before the real-life pandemic struck, and the series is still slated to hit at the end of this year.

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