Day: May 5, 2020

CityWatch: New York teams up with Bill & Melinda Gates to ‘reimagine education’

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New York will work alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine education” in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Though the coronavirus pandemic is a “devastating and costly moment in history,” Cuomo said, there are lessons to be learned and opportunities for betterment across many sectors.

New York should “take this experience and really learn how we can do differently and better with our education system in terms of technology and virtual education,” Cuomo said. “It’s not about just reopening schools. When we reopen schools, let’s open a better school and let’s open a smarter education system.”

The state’s 4.2 million students have been absent from their classrooms and learning remotely since March 18—when schools and colleges shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic—and are set to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Cuomo announced last Friday that schools statewide would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, at least. 

Don’t miss: Your genes could determine whether coronavirus puts you in the hospital — and we’re starting to unravel which ones matter

The state’s technology-focused approach to developing a new education “blueprint” includes investigating: 

  • Using technology to provide more opportunities to students regardless of their location, including immersive cloud virtual classrooms to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments 

  • Providing shared education among schools and colleges using technology

  • Reducing educational inequality using technology

  • Meeting the needs of students with disabilities using technology


But a potential pivot to a more technology-based education system, as Cuomo suggested, would not be able to replace a traditional classroom environment, according to Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, a state teachers union. 

“Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process,” he said in a statement. That “is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls and socially distant in-person meetings.”

Homebound students greet teachers from their elementary school in Islip, New York, as the teachers drive by during a “Wave Parade” May 5.

Getty Images

Reimagined education, Pallotta said, should begin with “addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state.”

“Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs,” he said, adding that educators should be involved in discussions about improving the system.

Though ordinarily focused on a diverse scope of topics, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pivoted almost exclusively to addressing the pandemic and has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in capital to the efforts.

Also see: Army medic to COVID heroes: You’ve got to take care of yourselves

The foundation, headed by the Microsoft MSFT, +1.07% co-founder, has an extensive repertoire in education both domestically and world-wide. They pledge to expand opportunity for all students, particularly for students in low-income communities and students of color, and to ensure that all students receive a K-12 education that equips them to succeed in a career or higher education path. 

The philanthropic organization said in an email statement that they have “committed to work with New York state on its efforts to ensure equitable access to education for its students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” noting that further details would be provided as they become available.

Other New York coronavirus developments Tuesday:  

Nursing Homes: New statistics released by the state include another 1,600 presumed coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. As of May 3, 4,813 people had died at nursing homes and adult care facilities in the state as a result of confirmed or presumed coronavirus. 

Antibody Testing: By next week, New York City will start giving 140,000 free antibody tests to health care workers and first responders, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced. 

Personal Finance Daily: The coronavirus had a surprising effect on bankruptcy filings and Mother’s Day gifts to stay connected

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

Personal Finance
The coronavirus has rocked America’s economy — but it’s had a surprising effect on bankruptcy filings

New data on April bankruptcy filings for both businesses and individuals comes a day after J.Crew filed for bankruptcy.

My son is staying with me, but my financially irresponsible ex-husband received the $500 stimulus check for our child. Is he right to keep it?

The combination of ethics, divorce agreements, the law and the IRS leads to a long and winding road filled with pot holes, sharp turns and speed bumps.

Cuomo asks: ‘How much is a human life worth?’ As states reopen for business, question hangs in air: Can the economy be saved without sacrificing lives?

‘What government does today will literally determine how many people live and how many people die,’ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

How the coronavirus pandemic could forever change home buying and mortgage lending

Borrowers and lenders will face these 3 new and unfamiliar ways of doing business, writes Sanjiv Das.

Wacky Mother’s Day gifts to stay connected — vibrating bracelets, virtual classes with top chefs and Wi-Fi ‘friendship lamps’

If you are looking to splurge on mom, consider one of these five social distance friendly gifts.

‘Where else am I gonna find a $145 sun dress with grapefruits on it?’ J.Crew will have to slash prices to get people to buy their clothes, analysts say

Websites for J.Crew, J.Crew Factory and Madewell will continue to operate, and brick-and-mortar stores will reopen in accordance with CDC guidelines, the company said.

Some are calling for a revival of the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program that paid up to $4,500 for old cars

The federal government gave cash vouchers to owners with old cars if they’d scrap them to buy a new one.

‘I was told I could never work remotely’: Before coronavirus, workers with disabilities say they implored employers to allow them to work from home

‘I have been trying for years in tech to get to a place where I could permanently work from home.’

Coronavirus cases plummet by 44% due to shelter-in-place orders, according to this study drawing on CDC data

People spent 5% to 10% more time at home in states where shelter-in-place orders were put into effect.

How to improve your chances of getting a refund on your flight, hotel or cruise if you cancel your summer vacation plans

Half of Americans are canceling vacation plans, and many have lost money on nonrefundable travel expenses because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
Repairing ventilators that can save coronavirus patients shouldn’t be a business decision

Medical device companies often make it difficult for independent technicians to do their work.

Trump complains women White House reporters aren’t like Donna Reed — but she wasn’t like the housewife she played, either

The real Donna Reed was an anti-war activist known as a ‘troublemaker’ in Hollywood.

Disney earnings plummet more than 90% as coronavirus wipes out more than $1 billion

Walt Disney Co. profit dove more than 90% in the second quarter, an example of the drastic effects on the company from the COVID-19 pandemic, which executives said cost the media giant more than $1 billion in sales just in its theme-parks division.

Schwab’s plan to offer fractional shares starting in June is a shot across the bow at Robinhood, Stash

Discount-brokerage giant Charles Schwab on Tuesday announced that it will offer trading in fractional shares of individual stocks as soon as June, delivering on a promise made by its founder back in October, while providing competition for micro-brokerages like Robinhood and Stash who have drawn an increasingly younger demographic.

The coronavirus has rocked America’s economy — but it’s had a surprising effect on bankruptcy filings

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With unemployment surging and businesses under financial pressure during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s only a matter of time before many declare bankruptcy to handle their debts and get a new start, some observers say.

But if bankruptcy courts are about to be awash in new cases, the flood didn’t start in April.

There were 47% fewer consumer bankruptcies in April 2020, compared to April 2019, according to statistics released Tuesday by the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI).

That’s 36,150 new consumer cases last month, as opposed 67,802 in the same month last year, according to ABI, a professional association for lawyers and judges involved in the bankruptcy process.

The number of commercial bankruptcy filings in April, 2,278, was a 35% drop from a year ago. That’s even while businesses filed 26% more Chapter 11 filings, compared to a year ago. (J.Crew, the upscale clothing company, filed a Chapter 11 case on Monday.)

Meanwhile, more than 30 million people filed jobless claims by the end of April while one business-activity index on the economy’s service sector hit an all-time low during the month.

So what gives?

There are differing theories behind the drop in bankruptcy filings.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill played a role, according to Amy Quackenboss, ABI’s executive director.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act authorized $1,200 payments to qualifying individuals, $2,400 to married couples and $500 per child. The bill also set aside $349 billion in potential forgivable loans to small businesses. (Legislators authorized another $320 billion for the loan program after the first pot of loan money ran out.)

‘The extraordinary measures taken by Congress and the Administration to assist individuals and businesses weather the initial economic shock caused by the pandemic have likely staved off bankruptcy filings to date.’

— Amy Quackenboss, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute

“The extraordinary measures taken by Congress and the Administration to assist individuals and businesses weather the initial economic shock caused by the pandemic have likely staved off bankruptcy filings to date,” Quackenboss said in a statement.

Still, she added, bankruptcy could offer a “financial safe harbor” going forward.

The IRS had sent out nearly 90 million checks as of mid-April, but some say the one-off payments won’t suffice.

When people are suddenly facing financial woes, many don’t immediately resort of bankruptcy, said John Colwell, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Right now, “people are in a state of shock, they can’t think straight,” he said.

But as states end shutdown orders and many furloughed and laid off workers try to find work, Colwell said, “it’s clear the filings are going to go back up. There’s no question about it.”

‘It’s clear the filings are going to go back up. There’s no question about.’

— John Colwell, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

It can also be too expensive for some consumers to file for bankruptcy, Colwell noted. Someone filing a Chapter 7 case , which liquidates a person’s non-protected assets, typically has to pay around $2,000 to $3,000 upfront — and that’s no small expense, especially for someone seeking bankruptcy protection, Colwell said.

In the San Diego, Calif. area where Colwell works, a Chapter 13 case where debtors pay their creditors through installments, can cost upwards of $3,900. Those legal fees can be incorporated into the payment plan, he noted.

Another possible reason for the dip in bankruptcies is that many courts have shut down in-person meetings for the time being, said Ben Iverson, a professor at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business. “It might actually be difficult for someone to file for bankruptcy if they don’t know how to file electronically,” Iverson told MarketWatch.

Another factor: Many companies and consumers still don’t know how their finances will shake out, Iverson noted. Certain landlords, credit card companies and student loan lenders are not demanding payment right now, he said.

“Those immediate triggers to file for bankruptcy have been put on hold for a period of time, leading to a short-term decline in bankruptcy filings,” said Iverson. He thinks the lull could end in two to three months. “Eventually, lenders will start to require payment and that should lead to a wave of bankruptcies at that time.”

Tezos, Chainlink Jump After a Key Partnership News

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Tezos

The crypto sphere has been buzzing over the past few days owing to the Bitcoin halving event, but that does not mean that other cryptocurrencies have not been making waves as well. Chainlink (LINK) and Tezos (XTZ) may be two of the smaller cryptocurrencies when it comes to market cap, but both have made noticeable gains in recent days.

Key Details

The two projects entered into a partnership recently, and since then, the cryptocurrency tokens have been in lockstep. Both cryptocurrencies seemed to be in the dumps not long ago, but both LINK and XTZ have managed to make remarkable recoveries recently.

That being said, it is also important to keep in mind that both these tokens have been among the best performers so far this year. Both LINK and XTZ have generated gains of 100% this year.

The partnership between the two projects will help smart contract developers who work on Tezos to get access to the decentralized oracle network that is managed by Chainlink. The availability of an advanced decentralized network is expected to be a major boost to all the developers who work on the Tezos project.

In addition to that, it also opens up a range of possibilities for the developers in terms of use cases, so it is not really a surprise that Tezos has enjoyed a rally in the past few days. Experts believe that both projects are expected to see the benefits of this collaboration in the long run. As the blockchain space grows, and the demand for smart contracts rises, the possibilities of the dual effort will become clearer.

>> Bitcoin Soars Above $K Mark with Strong Momentum

At this point in time, the collaboration between LINK and XTZ has triggered a lot of interest in the crypto space. It remains to be seen how long the rally is sustained in both these tokens.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © Piter2121

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Banks are facing huge credit losses as their customers suffer through the coronavirus pandemic, S&P warns

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S&P Global Ratings revised its outlook on the ratings of 13 U.S. banks to negative from stable and said the coronavirus pandemic will hit hardest those lenders that are most exposed to industries such as commercial real estate and consumer lending that are already being slammed by virus-driven stress.

Even with the unprecedented measures being taken by the federal government and Federal Reserve, bank asset quality, net interest margins and earnings are coming under massive pressure and banks are facing credit losses and capital declines if the crisis lasts a long time and the recovery isn’t strong enough, S&P credit analysts wrote in a note.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated sharp contraction in the U.S. economy have abruptly ended a long period of good fortune for U.S. banks and created their greatest challenge since the 2008-2009 financial crisis,” said the note. “The widespread halting of much business activity and the surge in unemployment is weighing on their revenue streams and earnings, weakening the creditworthiness of their borrowers, and forcing them to sharply increase the allowances they set aside for future losses on their loans.”

S&P economists are expecting U.S. GDP to shrink at a 35% annualized rate in the second quarter and to contract by 5.2% for all of 2020. That is expected to be followed by a gradual recovery that will bring the economy back to prerecession levels in the third quarter of 2021. Economists are expecting unemployment to peak at 19% in May and end 2020 at 8.8%, before falling to 6.7% in 2021.

See now: Coronavirus update: Death tally tops 250,000; reports say internal projections show government expects surge in COVID-19 cases

Banks have come into this crisis in better shape than they were in 2008, after they were forced to boost capital and liquidity levels, said the note. But banks that aren’t well diversified in loan portfolios or business lines could be especially challenged if conditions in the areas they are most concentrated in were to deteriorate badly, S&P analysts wrote.

See also:Warren Buffett’s company sits on huge pile of cash after Berkshire reported a nearly $50 billion loss

The nation’s eight biggest banks are best positioned during the crisis because of their greater diversification, said the note. These include the eight institutions deemed to be systemically important financial institutions, the likes of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM, +0.48% and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS, +2.42%, along with other U.S. banks that are under enhanced supervision.

“We believe the stricter regulations and supervision they operate under, the various measures they have taken to boost their creditworthiness since the financial crisis, and their often superior business and loan diversification give them protections that more concentrated banks do not have,” said S&P.

See now: S&P 500 earnings are beating estimates by the lowest rate in a decade amid COVID-19 despite earlier cuts to forecasts

However, the situation remains fluid and if the economy were to contract more than currently projected, S&P may take ratings actions.

S&P’s outlook revision applies to Ally Financial Inc. ALLY, -0.93%, Capital One Financial Corp COF, -0.45%, Discover Financial Services DFS, -0.58%, Synchrony Financial SYF, -1.13%, SLM Corp. SLM, -0.43%, American Savings Bank FSB, CIT Group Inc. CIT, -3.60%, East West Bancorp Inc. EWBC, -1.12%, Investors Bancorp Inc. ISBC, +0.22%, New York Community Bancorp Inc. NYCB, +0.33%, Synovus Financial Corp. SNV, -0.18%, Trustmark Corp. TRMK, -2.24%, and Valley National Bancorp. VNB, +0.71%

The agency affirmed ratings and maintained a stable outlook on American Express Co. AXP, +0.74%, while affirming ratings and maintaining a negative outlook on UMB Financial Corp. UMBF, -2.32%. S&P also revised the trend on its economic risk score to negative. That metric is an input to its Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment (BICRA) and an important input to bank ratings.

Banks have been taking measures to protect themselves from the worst of the crisis, increasing loan loss provisions, extending deferrals and making other accommodations to its borrowers. In the first quarter, the big banks posted profits even as they boosted reserves by billions of dollars. But the crisis didn’t really begin to hit until mid-March, giving lenders a cushion in the first few months of the year when activity was still at normal levels.

See now: ‘This is going to hurt’ — pain is on the way for the four big U.S. banks

“Whether borrowers are ultimately able to meet the terms of the loans once the period of accommodation ends will depend on the duration of the pandemic and how quickly the economy rebounds,’ said the note.

For now, S&P’s economic risk score for U.S. banks is a 3, but it could be revised to 4 if the economic rebound is more subdued than currently expected. That wouldn’t lead to immediate ratings downgrades, but a worsening from there would negatively affect its proprietary risk-adjusted capital ratio measure, said the note.

The Federal Reserve Unveils $2.3 Trillion in New Lending Programs

Market Extra: Schwab’s plan to offer fractional shares starting in June is a shot across the bow at Robinhood, Stash.

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Discount-brokerage giant Charles Schwab on Tuesday announced that it will offer trading in fractional shares of individual stocks as soon as June, delivering on a promise made by its founder back in October, while providing competition for micro-brokerages like Robinhood and Stash who have drawn an increasingly younger demographic.

Some analysts also believe the advent of fractional share trading could also pave the way eventually for exchange-traded funds to be used in retirement plans like 401(k) plans, typically the domain of mutual funds.

Schwab SCHW, -1.54% said it would allow investors on its platform to own partial shares for as little as $5 starting June 9, with investors able to buy a so-called “stock slice,” or up to 10 different slices at once for $0 commission.

A spokesman for Schwab, Michael Cianfrocca, described the program, known as “Schwab Stock Slices,” as “a significant development in the effort to make investing more accessible — in particular for people getting started with investing who might want to trade smaller dollar amounts of stocks regardless of their share price.”

The program will be currently only available for S&P 500 index stocks.

The moves by Schwab comes after its 82-year-old founder told the Wall Street Journal back in October that it wanted to attract a younger clientele who might be unable to, or are reluctant to, plow thousands of dollars into a single company.

Shares of some popular megacap companies on the Nasdaq-100 index NDX, +1.84%, for example, costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars per share to purchase, including Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +0.62%, which boasts a share price of about $2,334, Tesla Inc. TSLA, +2.44%, which is $777 a share, and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, +3.13% GOOGL, +3.13% which is more than $1,364 a share, as of midday Tuesday trade.

“We did develop the service with a focus on younger people looking to get started with investing in a more accessible way,” Cianfrocca told MarketWatch.

Jason Katz, a UBS managing director and star portfolio manager, says that the majority of his clients would not benefit from owning pieces of stocks, but he believes that fractional ownership does provide an opportunity to groom young investors who are just getting started in investing.

Katz said “my team does see fractional share sales as an opportunity to engage our next generation clients.”

“In other words, the children and grandchildren of our clients could start to get their foot in the water and learn about investing on a small dollar basis through the advent of fractional shares,” he explained.

Schwab’s offering comes months after Fidelity Investments announced real-time fractional share trading for stocks and ETFs back in January, and trendy trading platform Robinhood also launched a similar program.

Microinvesting app Stash, which was founded back in 2015, also offers fractional share trading in individual stocks and ETFs, and robo-advisory firm Betterment allows investors to purchase slices of ETFs.

Currently, Schwab is not allowing fractional purchases of ETFs, which have ballooned in interest since the 2008-09 financial crisis, but Dennis Nolte, a financial adviser at Seacoast Bank in Oviedo, Fla., told MarketWatch that fractional share programs could still provide investors with the ability to create a bespoke, diversified mini-portfolio for themselves at low to no cost.

“You could devise your own [ETF],” he said. “It just democratizes investing and I don’t think it is a bad thing,” Nolte said.

“Fractional shares could let [investors] get a taste of creating diversified equity portfolios but without putting up nearly as much money,” UBS’s Katz said.

Dave Nadig, managing director of ETF.com, told MarketWatch in an interview in January that fractional-share plans like Schwab’s could help to spotlight the advantages of ETFs over mutual funds which are currently the default investment vehicle for most traditional retirement plans.

Mutual funds blossomed in the age of individual 401(k) retirement plans because they are designed to allow for essentially partial ownership of an investment theme or group.

However, that could change as ETFs gain further attention, Nadig speculated earlier this year.

Schwab’s efforts to attract a younger audience comes as Robinhood, which boasts 13 million users, said on Monday that it has raised $280 million in a funding round that now values it at $8.3 billion, despite wild trading in March that saw the platform break down as the Dow Jones Industrial DJIA, +1.27% and the S&P 500 index SPX, +1.55% plunged amid a coronavirus-induced selloff. Robinhood boasts a median average user age of 30, according to news site Tech Crunch, as of February.

Millennials, which Schwab defines as those age 27-38, represented 13.3% of its participants, according to its report of self-directed brokerage accounts in the fourth quarter 2019.

Schwab shook up the brokerage world last year when it eliminated commissions on U.S. stocks, ETF and options trades. The move led to a string of mergers including Morgan Stanley agreeing to buy E-Trade Financial Corp. ETFC, +0.43% for $13 billion, coming after Schwab said it would buy rival TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. AMTD, -1.36% in a $26 billion tie-up.

Peter Palion, a certified financial planner at Master Plan Advisory, Inc. in East Meadow, N.Y., said that Schwab’s partial-sale program still comes down to execution.

“The devil is in the details.” he said. “I guess the main question is acceptance. In other words, you could put together something you believe is great and popular idea and it turns out it’s not,” he said.

“This is going to interesting to watch to see how it unfolds,” he said.

Deep Dive: These 10 S&P 500 companies increased sales faster than Amazon in a coronavirus-tainted quarter

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We’re right in the thick of first-quarter earnings season, and while it is looking bad as consumers and companies suffer from the coronavirus shutdown, there are still companies that are growing rapidly.

Through May 4, 273 companies among the S&P 500 SPX, +1.58% had reported earnings for their fiscal quarter ending March 21 or later; 147 of them, or 54%, reported declines in sales from a year earlier. Three months from now, we likely will be looking at even worse results, given that the U.S. economy has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 shutdown in the current quarter. The S&P 500 hit a record high on Feb. 19, and states began issuing stay-at-home orders in the third week of March that are only now beginning to be lifted.

What follows is a list of companies that reported the largest increases in quarterly sales from a year earlier among the 273 S&P 500 companies that reported results through May 4. The list is filtered to exclude companies whose revenue increased significantly because of transformative acquisitions. Those are listed below.

Here’s the filtered list of 12 companies that increased revenue the most:

Company Ticker Industry Increase in quarterly sales from a year earlier Total return – 2020 Total return – 2019
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. VRTX, +2.32% Biotechnology 76.9% 21% 32%
Cboe Global Markets Inc. CBOE, +4.41% Securities exchanges 52.9% -21% 24%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, +0.56% Semiconductors 40.4% 15% 148%
MarketAxess Holdings Inc. MKTX, +5.25% Securities exchanges 35.7% 21% 81%
ServiceNow Inc. NOW, +5.32% Information Technology Services 32.6% 26% 59%
Nasdaq Inc. NDAQ, +2.27% Securities exchanges 30.2% 0% 34%
CME Group Inc. Class A CME, +3.59% Securities exchanges 29.0% -14% 10%
Intercontinental Exchange Inc. ICE, +3.84% Securities exchanges 28.7% -3% 24%
Netflix Inc. NFLX, -0.38% Cable/Satellite TV 27.6% 32% 21%
Prologis Inc. PLD, +1.21% Real-estate investment Trusts 26.7% -2% 56%
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +0.23% Internet Retail 26.4% 25% 23%
Intel Corp. INTC, +1.73% Semiconductors 23.5% -3% 31%
 Source: FactSet

You can click on the tickers for more about each company.

You will need to scroll across the table to see all of the data.

It is no surprise to see Netflix NFLX, -0.38% and Amazon.com AMZN, +0.23% on the list of rapid first-quarter revenue growers at a time when most people are staying home and most retail businesses are closed.

The increase in securities trading activity starting in the second half of February led to five exchange operators appearing on the list of rapid revenue growers.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals VRTX, +2.32% topped the list on the strength of its new Trikafta medication for cystic fibrosis, partially offset by declines in other medications.

Prologis PLD, +1.21% and Intel INTC, +1.73% both benefited from the continued growth of the datacenter industry.

Read:Nvidia has become a power broker for the next wave of datacenter technology

Here are the companies excluded from the list because their revenue increases mainly resulted from large acquisitions:

• Truist Financial TFC, +1.11% is the new name for BB&T after it acquired SunTrust.

• Hasbro HAS, -2.14% completed its acquisition of Entertainment One in December.

• Centene Corp. CNC, +3.23% acquired WellCare Health Plans in January.

• Principal Financial Group PFG, +0.40% acquired Wells Fargo’s institutional retirement management and trust businesses in July 2019.

• Invesco IVZ, +0.18% acquired OppenheimerFunds in May 2019.

Don’t miss:Nine stocks that face dividend-cut risks from analysts who ‘restate’ the earnings reports of 32,000 companies

Outside the Box: Why COVID-19’s impact on the job market is far worse for older workers

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Stunning, staggering, mind-numbing, call it what you will, the COVID-19 pandemic’s crushing impact on the job market is inescapable.

Over 30 million Americans have now filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older is climbing, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

“Preretirees (approximately 50-65) are getting the wind kicked out of them right now,” said Ken Dychtwald, founder and chief executive of Age Wave, a consulting and research company, and author of “What Retirees Want: A Holistic View of Life’s Third Age,” in his presentation on the American Society of Aging broadcast, “Aging in the Time of COVID-19: Reflections on Life, Health, Family, Community and Purpose.”

The stressful smackdown is not just job losses, though, “it is also compounded by fear of job losses, having to fire and furlough people, kids at home, elder parents in distress, and market volatility,” he told me in a follow-up conversation.

Read: Why millions of older workers will pay a big price — forever — because of the coronavirus

“Remember, too, that folks in this stage of life are often managers and bosses,” Dychtwald said.

That takes its toll. But the job losses so far–and those to come–are particularly wrenching for this age cohort. “We are assuming that 20% of older workers (over 50) are going to lose their jobs,” said labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School for Social Research in New York, in her recent conversation with Mark Miller, editor of RetirementRevised.com.

What’s the difference between a 401(k) and a Roth 401(k)?

They “face very different risks than younger workers who are going to lose their jobs,” she said. “One is that they risk losing their jobs and never getting another job, so the scarring effects of the unemployment here are going to be much worse than for younger workers. Though hard for younger workers, they at least have time to catch up and switch industries, but older workers cannot and this can mean premature retirement.”

Consider this: half of people age 25 to 34 who lost their jobs during the last recession in 2008 were reemployed within six months, according to a report by The Urban Institute. “Age Disparities in Unemployment and Reemployment During the Great Recession and Recovery.” It took more than nine months, on average, for the unemployed ages 51 to 60.

This time the extraordinary hit to the economy is likely to be far deeper and take longer to bounce back, according to the economists I spoke to.

In a recent Market Watch column, I discussed why this might be a good time to think about a career change. And I wholeheartedly believe that.

But let’s be honest, the deeper more complex and perplexing problem is how to land a job if you’ve been laid off, and you’re over 50, period.

Ageism is alive and well in the hiring process. It has been for ages and hit its stride after the last recession. I constantly hear from older workers that hiring managers seem to look at them, during their interview, as if they are looking at a consumer good with an expiration date on their forehead.

There are lots of preconceived assumptions that linger in the subterranean blues here. Negative views persist about the financial cost of employing older workers — in terms of salary expectations and health coverage — whether they’re really up for the job in terms of energy and enthusiasm to be productive, whether they’re nimble with technology and willing to learn new ways of communicating and playing nicely with younger colleagues and possibly younger bosses. That’s hogwash, of course, for most older workers. Although, to be fair, some workers might flunk this test.

There is no skating around the ugliness of it all.

Younger applicants are often explicitly favored for open positions, particularly through illegally worded help-wanted ads that appear every day on online job boards, according to an AARP investigation published in December, that also shows that some large companies might have few concerns over their age-discriminatory practices because the laws that are supposed to protect workers from ageism are decidedly weaker than laws protecting against other forms of bias.

Nonetheless, have heart, confidence, and some chutzpah. It is feasible to meet this challenge.

One bright light for job seekers will be the surge in opportunities to work remotely. For many older workers, pursuing more flexible work options, particularly as they phase into retirement, or seek part-time contract projects working from home is a bona fide boon.

You save on the commute, not only financially but the stress of hustling to meet the train or driving home in the dark, and you quite possibly escape the front-and-center, but somewhat subliminal age contrast between your graying hair and your youthful and perhaps exuberant co-worker chuckling at something they’re peering at on their iPhone. Plus, who cares what your age is if you can deliver the goods?

There are a growing number of job boards to search for remote opportunities, including Flexjobs.com, Sidehusl and Work at Home Vintage Employers (WAHVE), a site for professionals 50+ who work from home for over 300 insurance and accounting firms.

For some smart job-hunting steps to take right now from the comfort of your own home, I reached out to two job search strategists who I follow: Hannah Morgan, also known as Career Sherpa and Susan P. Joyce, an online job search expert, and editor of Job-hunt.org.

Do an internal review. “For older job seekers, now is the best time to answer the following questions and help you decrease the time your search will take,” said Morgan.

How strong is your network? “Referred applicants are five times more likely than average to be hired, and 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants from a job board. If you’re in regular contact with your network, then it should be easier to hear about potential upcoming opportunities. If you’ve let your network grow dormant, begin reaching out to all the people you used to work with. Consider contacting past colleagues, vendors, suppliers including people who have retired. A strong network will help provide you with information, advice and referrals that you can use to improve how you position yourself for new opportunities.”

How much do you love the work you were doing? “If you didn’t love your job, then now is a good time to reassess what you’ll do next,” she said. “If you show a lack of genuine enthusiasm for your work, that is evident to everyone you talk with while interviewing and networking. Keep in mind, employers want to hire people who are motivated to do the work.”

How current are your skills? “You are likely to be looked over if you don’t have skills that younger candidates possess,” Morgan said. “If you can brush up on data analytics or a piece of software, use your time while unemployed to take online classes.”

Build a robust LinkedIn profile. “While unemployed, job seekers have nothing to lose by spending time updating and polishing their LinkedIn profile,” said Joyce. “LinkedIn gives members the opportunity to demonstrate that they are knowledgeable and experienced and could add value to an organization,” she said. “A solid LinkedIn profile and relevant/professional LinkedIn activities are the best “proof” of being up-to-date.”

When updating a LinkedIn profile, “the best strategy is to focus on a target job at a specific target employer,” Joyce said. “These are two essential pieces of information because they determine the best keywords to use in the LinkedIn profile. The most important keywords are job titles (used by the target employers for that job), the skills and education usually required for that job. When different employers use different job titles for the same job, become a “slash person” for example, Web Content Administrator/Web Content Manager/Web Content Writer.

The ‘Work Experience’ section of the profile “needs to focus on accomplishments, not just job titles and dates, and quantified when possible,” Joyce said. “Being endorsed for the LinkedIn skills appropriate and relevant for the target job also has a big impact on visibility. When you’re ready, under your settings, make sure that it’s open for ‘public’ viewing, and join the ‘Open to Job Opportunities’ feature.”

And one from me, through its Employers Pledge Program (EPP), AARP works with companies to help them understand the value of older, experienced workers. More than 1,000 employers have signed a pledge publicly affirming that they are committed to fighting age discrimination. AARP’s job board features work postings from companies that have taken pledge.

So while it can seem bleak for job seekers over 50, there are glimmers of hope.

The Tell: The stock market may get cut in half, but this ‘most undervalued’ asset is about to surge, billionaire investor says

This post was originally published on this site

Paul Singer, the hedge-fund billionaire behind Elliot Management, warned last month that the ultimate path of global stock markets is a drop of at least 50% from February highs.

What’s an investor to do in the face of such a grim outlook? Load up on gold, perhaps. After all, according to a report this week from the Financial Times, that’s what the smart money’s doing.

Gold, advised Singer, is “one of the most undervalued” assets available and it’s worth “multiples of its current price” due to the “fanatical debasement of money by all of the world’s central banks.” His fund gained about 2%, the FT reported, thanks primarily to profits from its gold position.

Andrew Law’s Caxton Associates and Danny Yong’s Dymon Asia Capital have joined Singer in seeking protection in their gold positions amid further loosening monetary policy.

“Gold is a hedge against unfettered fiat currency printing,” said Yong, whose fund is up 36%.

Caxton has also enjoyed double-digits gains, the FT reported, with its Global fund rallying some 15% and its Macro fund logging a 17% jump so far this year.

Read:Gold as an investment is made for times like these

On Tuesday, however, gold GC00, -0.26% was headed for its first loss in three sessions, amid optimism about the easing of business lockdowns in the U.S. and Europe.

“Risk appetite among investors improved with moves by major economies to ease lockdowns related to the coronavirus crisis,” analysts at ICICI Bank, wrote in a market update.

That hunger for risk was on display in the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.35% up more than 300 points. The S&P 500 SPX, +1.58% and Nasdaq Composite COMP, +1.82% were also firmly higher in Tuesday’s session.

The Moneyist: My son is staying with me, but my financially irresponsible ex-husband received the $500 stimulus check for our child. Is he right to keep it?

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Dear Moneyist,

My ex-husband and I are court-ordered to rotate the years we claim our child’s tax credits, even though my child lives with him for less than half of the year. He doesn’t pay any of our child’s expenses, such as sports and equipment and school lunches. I have to furnish everything for both houses.

‘I am the primary parent, the financially responsible party, and the one that’s trying to provide for our child during this pandemic.’

I have a much lower income then my ex-husband: I earn about $20,000 a year, compared to the $70,000 my husband pulls in. My ex-husband’s year for claiming tax credits was 2019. He had already filed his taxes for last year, so he received the $500 stimulus payment for our son.

It’s my year to claim our son on my taxes with the Internal Revenue Service in 2020, so any tax benefits associated with 2020 should go to me, right? It’s my understanding that it will be reported on my taxes when I claim him for that year, even though my ex-husband thinks he should keep that $500 payment.

Should he have to give the payment to me, or is he right to keep it? I am the primary parent, the financially responsible party, and the one who’s trying to provide for our child during this pandemic. He only has him for weekend visitation during this time, and he’s still working full-time.

Feeling Cheated

Dear Feeling Cheated,

The combination of ethics, divorce agreements, the law and the IRS leads to a long and winding road filled with pot holes, sharp turns, speed bumps, spaghetti roundabouts, broken traffic lights, police checkpoints, confusing signage, multiple-car pileups, rusty relics from past lives gathering moss in the ditch, and wide-eyed hitchhikers who should be avoided.

Also see: Mike Pence acknowledges he made a mistake by visiting patients without a mask, but health-care workers say Mayo Clinic has serious soul-searching to do

Financially, you are obviously in a more precarious situation than your ex. What he should do and what he is legally entitled to do are two very different things. I can lay out actions you can take to restore this $500 to you. But you ultimately have no control over what happens next, or your ex-husband’s actions. That’s why you divorced. After you take these actions, I implore you to move on.

Option 1: Ask your ex for the $500. The CARES Act stimulus check is an advance payment of a refundable credit on your 2020 return, designed to help people who have lost jobs and/or are dealing with the inevitable economic downturn. A member of the Moneyist Facebook FB, +1.94% group has another idea: “After consulting King Solomon, your husband should send you $250.”

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Option 2: Claim your child-tax credits next year in the hope the IRS recognizes that this $500 is due to you, gives you that money in your 2020 tax refund, and deducts the same amount from your ex-husband’s tax refund next year. However, whether or not you have bought furniture for your ex-husband’s home, this $500 should not be given to you twice, by him and also by the IRS.

If your ex-husband does give you the $500, and the IRS effectively moves the $500 from his 2019 taxes to your 2020 taxes, you will have a decision to make. Again, it’s an ethical one. Should you give the $500 to your ex, or should you keep it because of all the ways he has allegedly not acted appropriately or responsibly in the past? My suggestion: Give it back.

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The CARES Act was written hastily to deal with a public-health emergency and economic crisis that are still unfolding. No one knows how this will turn out. “It’s all brand new,” Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based family attorney, told me when I mentioned your case to him. “These checks are being sent to whichever parent most recently filed taxes claiming the child as a dependent for 2019.”

“How else would the government know who is considered the parent responsible financially for the child?” he added. “It’s probably the simplest way for the government to determine this on such a large scale, because otherwise the government would have to search all court orders relating to custody and child support to see which parent has which obligations.” It’s far from a perfect system.

The Moneyist: My state is reopening restaurants and movie theaters. Am I selfish if I go, or am I selfish if I stay home?

And afterwards? Take the next right turn, keep your eye on the road, and don’t get distracted by voices in your head or your iPhone telling you what you’re owed and how he has done you wrong. All of these can be detrimental to your health or, at the very least, spoil your day. You have this time with your son right here, right now. You may not get it back. For that reason, you win. You are the lucky one.

We are all that wide-eyed hitchhiker. I hope you and your son stay safe and healthy. Keep driving.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB, +1.94% group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.