Jobless Claims to Reveal the Toll of Rising Coronavirus Cases: Live Updates

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Credit…Tim Gruber for The New York Times

Government data on Thursday will provide the latest evidence of the toll that the coronavirus surge is taking on the economy.

Applications for state unemployment benefits fell at the end of November after two straight weekly increases. But some economists attributed the drop to the Thanksgiving holiday and expect the report from the Labor Department on Thursday to show that applications rose anew last week.

Unemployment filings have fallen greatly since last spring, when as many as six million people a week applied for benefits. But progress has stalled in recent months, and with Covid-19 cases soaring and states reimposing restrictions on consumers and businesses, economists fear that layoffs could surge again.

“Every month, we’re just seeing the pace of the recovery get slower and slower,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist with the job site Indeed. Now, she said, the question is, “Are we actually going to see it slide backward?”

The monthly jobs report released on Friday showed that hiring slowed sharply in early November and that some of the sectors most exposed to the pandemic, like restaurants and retailers, cut jobs for the first time since the spring. More up-to-date data from private sources suggests that the slowdown has continued or deepened since the November survey was conducted.

Many economists say the recovery will continue to slow if the government does not provide more aid to households and businesses. After months of gridlock in Washington, prospects for a new round of federal help have grown in recent days, with congressional leaders from both parties signaling their openness to a compromise and the White House proposing its own $916 billion spending plan on Tuesday. But the two sides remain far apart on key issues.

The stakes are particularly high for jobless workers depending on federal programs that have expanded and extended unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Those programs expire later this month, potentially leaving millions of families with no income during what epidemiologists warn could be some of the pandemic’s worst months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and the European Commission president, Ursula van der Leyen, met on Wednesday but failed to reach a breakthrough in Brexit trade talks. 
Credit…Aaron Chown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • European stocks reversed earlier gains and futures on Wall Street fluctuated on Thursday after the European Central Bank announced plans to expand stimulus measures that fell short of what some traders were expecting. Later in the day, weekly unemployment data will reveal the extent of the slowdown in the U.S. labor market.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.2 percent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 0.3 percent, parring earlier gains, the CAC in France was flat, and the DAX in Germany was 0.2 percent lower.

  • Indexes in Asia mostly ended the day lower. The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.2 percent and the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong dropped 0.4 percent.

  • The weekly tally of state claims for unemployment assistance fell at the end of November, but economists assume that this was because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Claims could rise again as virus cases and deaths continue unabated.

  • Spain sold 10-year government bonds with a negative yield for the first time ahead of E.C.B. meeting. The central bank has bought more than 600 billion euros’ worth of European bonds as part of its pandemic response, a way to keep government borrowing costs low and ensure banks are lending money. On Thursday, the central bank said it would increase its bond-buying plan by 500 billion euros and keep purchasing the debt until at least March 2022.

  • “Expectations have begun to run wild” ahead of the meeting, Katharine Neiss, chief European economist at PGIM Fixed Income wrote in a note. The markets could end up disappointed, she added.

  • The pound fell against all other major currencies, losing 0.9 percent against the euro and 0.6 percent against the dollar, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain returned from Brussels without a breakthrough on Brexit trade talks with the European Union. The two sides have set a new deadline of Sunday to secure a deal.

  • On Wednesday, Britain signed trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam. Britain has rushed to sign dozens of free-trade agreements with countries because come Jan. 1 it will be independent of the European Union customs union. The agreements essentially replicate the terms of the E.U. pacts with those countries.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pushing Congress to repurpose the funds he is clawing back for another stimulus package that would help households and businesses more directly.
Credit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

In one of his final acts as President Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin moved last month to pull the plug on five Federal Reserve lending programs and claw back the bulk of the money invested in them, saying he was following congressional intent and the law forced his hand — which several outside lawyers dispute.

The decision, which was not supported by the Fed, has ensnared Mr. Mnuchin in controversy, report Alan Rappeport and Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times. He is expected to face additional criticism for ending the programs when he testifies at 10 a.m. on Thursday about his management of stimulus funds before the Congressional Oversight Commission, a bipartisan panel tasked with overseeing how pandemic aid is distributed.

Democrats accuse him of being an economic saboteur intent on undercutting the incoming Biden administration by limiting its ability to use the programs amid continuing economic weakness.

Mr. Mnuchin insists the opposite, saying he was honoring congressional intent in ending the programs, and was trying to help the economy. He is pushing Congress to repurpose the funds he is clawing back for another stimulus package that would help households and businesses more directly.

The primary subject of the hearing will be the national security loan program that Mr. Mnuchin oversees as part of the economic relief legislation that Congress passed in March.

The Treasury secretary is also likely to face questions about a $700 million loan that was awarded to YRC Worldwide, a struggling trucking company that Treasury and the Department of Defense determined was critical to national security. Members of the commission have been scrutinizing the loan because the company was in financial trouble before the pandemic and because of a web of ties between the company and the White House.

General Electric will pay $200 million to settle charges that it failed to disclose important information to investors in its power and insurance businesses, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday.

G.E. misled investors in 2016 and 2017 about the source of its profits in its power business and failed to tell investors about the risks associated with G.E. Capital, its financial services business, the agency said.

“Investors are entitled to an accurate picture of a company’s material operating results,” Stephanie Avakian, director of the agency’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement. “G.E.’s repeated disclosure failures across multiple businesses materially misled investors about how it was generating reported earnings and cash growth as well as latent risks in its insurance business.”

In 2017 and 2018, G.E.’s stock price fell almost 75 percent as challenges in its power and insurance businesses were disclosed to the public, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

The agency and the Justice Department have been investigating G.E.’s accounting practices for two years. G.E. was once an industry titan but has struggled in recent years to turn itself around after it disclosed large write-downs to its insurance and power businesses. The company spun off its health care business and shed its multibillion-dollar stake in Baker Hughes, a major producer of oil field equipment, in 2018. That year, it was dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that puts the matter behind us,” the company said in a statement. “Under the current leadership team, we have significantly enhanced our disclosures and internal controls and are a stronger company today.”

Mellody Hobson, who has served on the board of Starbucks for 15 years, will assume the role of non-executive chair in March.
Credit…Mike Cohen for The New York Times
  • The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it was filing a challenge to measures that Canada uses to protect its dairy market, the first enforcement action taken under a new trade agreement that the countries agreed to last year. Under the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement this year, the United States and Canada will now enter consultations, and if the issue isn’t resolved the United States can request a special panel be formed to examine the matter.

  • Starbucks announced on Wednesday that Mellody Hobson will be the next non-executive chair of the company’s board, as the coffee chain moves closer to its goal of increasing diversity among its leadership. One of the most senior Black women in finance, Ms. Hobson has served on the board for 15 years and will step into the new role in March. She will replace Myron Ullman III, who has served as chair since 2018 and is retiring.

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