September 20, 2020

Business Updates: Stocks Rise as Firms Reveal Quarterly Earnings

An electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 in Tokyo on Monday.  
Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

U.S. stock futures followed global markets higher on Monday, as investors looked ahead to corporate earnings reports for the latest clues on how businesses are coping through the pandemic.

Wall Street futures were pointing to an upswing when trading begins in New York. European markets were about 1 percent higher, following an Asian trading session where indexes finished were broadly higher. In other markets, oil futures were lower, beginning a week when major producers are meeting to consider market trends; OPEC+, the group that includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, is likely to increase their output in August, as coronavirus lockdowns ease and demand begins to rise again.

U.S. Treasuries were higher, and gold gained about 0.6 percent.

Major banks in the United States will begin reporting their second quarter earnings this week, with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo kicking it off on Tuesday. A range of other companies will also report later in the week, including Netflix and Delta Air Lines. Many companies, rocked by uncertainties caused by the spread of the coronavirus, have stopped giving guidance on profit projections through the year, so traders will be looking especially closely at the quarterly numbers.

In many parts of the world the spread of the virus is unrelenting. Florida on Sunday reported more than 15,000 new cases, the highest single-day total by any state since the start of the pandemic. The economic crisis is prompting a growing coalition in the United States — including Democrats and Republicans, labor and business — to push for a new training effort to upgrade the skills of American workers, creating what one proponent called “a Marshall Plan for ourselves.”

An infrared image last year of an MDC Energy well pad leaking methane (which is invisible to the naked eye). This month, the site has continued to leak gases, government violations show.
Credit…Jonah Kessel/The New York Times

The plunge in oil prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic is forcing American oil and gas companies into bankruptcy. That is bad news for the environment — and for employees of those companies who were injured on the job.

Some companies are claiming in court filings that they are so broke they can no longer afford to clean up the environmental messes they caused while in operation: methane leaks, oil spills and other chemical contaminations. At least one bankrupt firm, Chesapeake Energy, also said it could no longer pay to engage in a lawsuit brought by injured employees.

Only one group has remained protected: the exiting chief executives. Impending financial ruin did not stop the companies from paying their top executives millions of dollars during their final days. — Hiroko Tabuchi

🏦 America’s biggest banks report second-quarter earnings this week, with analysts expecting loan-loss provisions to eat into profits in a major way. Trading and fee income will help those with strong investment banking divisions, but the probable drop in earnings could put pressure on dividends. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo report on Tuesday, Goldman Sachs is up on Wednesday, and Bank of America and Morgan Stanley round things out on Thursday.

🗣 Other companies reporting earnings this week: Delta Air Lines on Tuesday, kicking off what’s expected to be the worst quarter ever for airlines; Netflix on Thursday, giving an update on how lockdowns have lifted subscriptions; and Johnson & Johnson, also on Thursday, providing news on its coronavirus vaccine. BlackRock, Burberry, Charles Schwab, Domino’s Pizza and UnitedHealth are also due to release results.

🛢 OPEC members and Russia will hold a virtual meeting on Wednesday, in which the major oil-producing states are expected to reverse production cuts. But a resurgence in coronavirus infections may scuttle those plans.

💰 Officials at central banks around the world will debate economic stimulus. The Bank of Canada and Bank of Japan are to announce their latest moves on Wednesday, and the European Central Bank on Thursday.

🛍 Key gauges of U.S. consumers will come on Thursday, with the data on retail sales, and Friday, with a reading of consumer confidence. Both are expected to improve, but not by as much as last month. — Jason Karaian

Credit…Brian Britigan

Now that Independence Day is behind us, tax day is fast approaching.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Treasury Department postponed the traditional April 15 federal tax filing deadline until July 15. And this time, there’s no wiggle room. Last month, the Internal Revenue Service announced that there would not be another blanket filing delay.

So if you haven’t filed your return yet — or if you’ve filed but haven’t yet paid the taxes you owe for 2019 — the deadline is Wednesday.

“It’s just like April 15, but in July,” said Cindy Hockenberry, director of tax research and government relations for the National Association of Tax Professionals, a trade group.

About 142 million taxpayers had filed returns as of July 3, according to I.R.S. statistics, but the agency has struggled to process returns because of reduced staffing during the pandemic. The agency had processed about 131 million returns as of July 3 — 10 percent fewer than the same time last year.

And some taxpayers are facing long delays in getting the refunds they’re owed, according to a report from Erin Collins, the new national taxpayer advocate, who represents filers. — Ann Carrns

Students at Per Scholas in the Bronx in February. Programs like this that help prepare low-income adults for higher-paying careers have recently turned to remote teaching.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Economists, business leaders and labor experts have warned for years that a coming wave of automation and digital technology would upend the work force, destroying some jobs while altering how and where work is done for nearly everyone.

In the past four months, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed some of those predictions into reality. By May, half of Americans were working from home, tethered to their employers via laptops and Wi-Fi, up from 15 percent pre-pandemic, according to a recent study.

The rapid change is leading to mounting demands for training programs for millions of workers. On their own, some of the proposals are modest. But combined they could cost tens of billions of dollars, in what would be one of the most ambitious retraining efforts in generations.

A group of mainly corporate executives and educators advising the Trump administration on work force policy called for “immediate and unprecedented investments in American workers,” both for training and help in finding jobs. And even before the pandemic, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had proposed investing $50 billion in work force training.

In Congress, there is bipartisan support for giving jobless workers a $4,000 training credit.

“This is the moment when we should make a significant public investment,” said David Autor, a labor economist at M.I.T., “when we should have a Marshall Plan for ourselves.” — Steve Lohr

Storage tanks behind the oil refinery in Omsk, Russia. In April, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other producers agreed to cut production by a record 9.7 million barrels a day.
Credit…Alexey Malgavko/Reuters

After agreeing this spring to drastically cut back on oil production to keep prices stable in the face of widespread lockdowns imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, are considering reversing some of the cuts.

Representatives for the oil-exporting countries will meet to discuss the plan on Wednesday. Their decision is being complicated by the surge in cases of the Covid-19 virus in the United States and Brazil.

Even if they do loosen up production somewhat in August, the new output will be far lower than it was before the coronavirus crisis struck. In April, the producers agreed to cut production by 9.7 million barrels a day, a level that was set to last to the end of July. The new output level will still represent a reduction of 7.7 million barrels a day. — Stanley Reed

Credit…Robert Neubecker

If you have a mortgage and can’t afford to pay it because of fallout from the coronavirus, you may be able to push off your payments for several months, or even into next year. But if you’re struggling to pay your rent, your options are probably much more limited.

Local, state and federal governments have laid out a patchwork of programs to pause certain eviction proceedings, but some of those have already expired — and one eviction protection component set out in the CARES Act is scheduled to expire by July 25.

If you’re having trouble paying your rent, your situation might feel hopeless. It may not be — and experts have these suggestions for what to know and what to do.

Act First If you’ve lost your job or part of your income, your instinct may be to avoid your landlord. But it’s probably better to make contact and explain what’s going on.

Don’t Just Leave In most areas, you don’t have to move until there has been some sort of legal finding against you and an officer of the law arrives to carry out any order of eviction.

Get Legal Help Contacting your local Legal Aid office is a good start.

Consider the Landlord They have to pay utilities, taxes, maintenance and insurance, too.

Review the Rules Depending where you live and the details of the mortgage for the property you occupy, you might be protected from eviction. — Ron Lieber

  • REI, the outdoor equipment chain, confirmed on Friday that it would lay off 400 retail employees by Wednesday as the industry continues to struggle through the pandemic. The company’s cuts follow the elimination of 25 percent, or 300 employees, at its headquarters in Kent, Wash., in April.

  • Three Democratic lawmakers from Massachusetts asked Brooks Brothers on Friday to offer severance and health care benefits to more than 400 workers at the retailer’s factory in Haverhill, Mass., after it closes on July 20. The lawmakers — Representative Lori Trahan and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey — said in a letter that although they recognized the closure was “due to financial challenges exacerbated by Covid-19, it would be an extraordinary betrayal of the company’s loyal employees to deny any severance or extension of health care coverage.” Some worked at the factory for decades and recently sewed face masks.