Apr 30, 2020

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Twitter, Comcast, McDonald's, Tapestry & more

Peter Schacknow

Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Twitter (TWTR) – Twitter reported quarterly profit of 11 cents per share, a penny a share above estimates. Revenue and the number of monetizable daily active users beating forecasts as well. Twitter is not giving any guidance for the current quarter or the full year due to uncertainty surrounding the current business environment.
Comcast (CMCSA) – The NBCUniversal and CNBC parent beat estimates by 3 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 71 cents per share. Revenue came in below Wall Street forecasts. The company added 477,000 high-speed internet customers during the quarter, the most in 12 years, while NBCUniversal and Sky experienced pressure during the quarter from the cancellations of sports events due to the coronavirus outbreak.
McDonald's (MCD) – McDonald's fell 10 cents a share short of estimates, with profit of $1.47 per share. Revenue beat forecasts however. McDonald's had strong sales prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, but like many other restaurant chains it suffered a sizeable decline once the pandemic hit.
Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) – The restaurant chain beat estimates by 5 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 67 cents per share. Revenue also topped estimates. Sales fell, however, as the coronavirus outbreak spread, with comparable sales down more than 19% in the final three weeks of the quarter. The company has now suspended its dividend and it withdrew its 2020 outlook.
Tapestry (TPR) – The company formerly known as Coach lost 27 cents per share for its latest quarter, wider than the 12 cents a share loss Wall Street was expecting. Revenue was above forecasts. Tapestry withdrew its full-year forecast after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close stores, and the company has suspended dividends and share repurchases.
Kraft Heinz (KHC) – The food maker reported quarterly profit of 58 cents per share, 3 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also topped expectations. Organic sales rose 6.2%, as Kraft Heinz benefited from increased consumer demand related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cigna (CI) – The insurance company earned $4.69 per share for the first quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $4.35 a share. Revenue was above estimates as well. Cigna said it is meeting the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak and said it remains confident in the strength of its various business units.
Microsoft (MSFT) – Microsoft reported quarterly profit of $1.40 per share, 14 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also beat forecasts. Microsoft said the Covid-19 outbreak had minimal impact on revenue and it saw increased business in a number of its cloud-based segments.
Facebook (FB) – Facebook fell 4 cents a share shy of estimates, with quarterly earnings of $1.71 per share. The social media giant's revenue exceeded Street projections. Facebook said that ad sales have stabilized in recent weeks, following a significant reduction in demand.
Tesla (TSLA) – Tesla posted an unexpected profit for the first quarter, with the automaker's revenue slightly above estimates despite shutdowns at its U.S. and China factories. Deliveries during the quarter came in slightly below estimates.
Qualcomm (QCOM) – Qualcomm beat estimates by 10 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 88 cents per share. The chip maker's revenue beat consensus as well. Its current-quarter revenue forecast is in line with Street expectations, as the company signs more contracts for production of 5G phones which use more expensive chips.
EBay (EBAY) – EBay reported quarterly earnings of 77 cents per share, 5 cents a share above estimates. The online marketplace operator's revenue topped estimates as well. The company said its marketplace business has been helped by worldwide shelter-in-place orders, and it gave stronger-than-expected guidance for full-year earnings and revenue.
ServiceNow (NOW) – ServiceNow earned $1.05 per share for its latest quarter, 10 cents a share above estimates. The enterprise cloud computing company's revenue was also above forecasts, however it anticipates the most significant challenges stemming from the coronavirus outbreak to occur during the second and third quarters.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) – Exxon Mobil maintained its quarterly dividend at 87 cents per share, at a time when many energy companies are cutting or eliminating their dividend. Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) did just that this morning, slashing its dividend by two thirds after reporting a 46% drop in first-quarter profit. It was the company's first dividend cut since World War II.
Boeing (BA) – The jet maker's debt rating was cut by rating agency Standard and Poor's to BBB-, one notch above junk status. The move stems from the expected impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Boeing's profits and cash flow over the next several years.
Align Technology (ALGN) – Align earned 73 cents per share for its latest quarter, well below the consensus estimate of $1.00 a share. The maker of Invisalign dental braces also saw revenue come in below forecasts. Align was impacted by the shutdown of most dental practices in mid-March, and withdrew 2020 guidance due to pandemic-related uncertainty.

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: State election officials warn that federal strings on stimulus cash stand in way of using it

By Joseph Marks

with Tonya Riley

State officials are pushing Congress to reverse restrictions they say are too burdensome on $400 million aimed at protecting elections during the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress approved that payout last month as part of a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill but also required states match 20 percent of it out of their own budgets. Coming up with that money would be tough for some states in normal times and may be simply impossible with every spare dollar going to pandemic response and economic recovery, the officials say.
State revenues are plummeting across the country and this means some states will not be able to utilize that money,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) said during a call with reporters.
The dispute highlights the cash crunch state and county election offices are facing as they prepare for a general election unlike any they’ve ever run — challenged by possible hacking and disinformation from Russia and a public health crisis that could make in-person voting perilous.
Some election officials also need approval for those matches from state legislatures that aren’t meeting or are busy responding to the pandemic. And each day the states can’t get their hands on the money is a day lost in preparing for elections.
The officials are also bristling because the relief bill included far larger cash packages for industries including airlines and agriculture with far fewer strings attached.
“I don't see a 20 percent match for the business community, so I'm not sure why all the sudden we have to have a 20 percent match,” said Condos, who was formerly president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and serves on its executive board.

Voters masked against coronavirus line up at Riverside High School for Wisconsin's primary election. (Morry Gash/AP)
Getting any of the provisions rolled back will be a long shot in the Senate. 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has consistently pushed back on pleas for election funding and agreed to the $400 million payout only after Democrats consented to the 20 percent match, said an aide for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who championed the funding. McConnell’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
That deal came after Democrats in the House had initially pushed for up to $4 billion for elections in the stimulus bill.
Senate Democrats also tried to reverse the provisions in a bill last week aimed at shoring up small businesses during the pandemic. But they were rebuffed again, said the Klobuchar aide, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak for attribution.
There is some Republican support for such a move, however. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a letter to Senate and House leadership that urged rolling back the requirements for states facing economic distress.

A poll worker receives an absentee ballot from a voter. (Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch/AP)
State officials are also keeping up steady pressure. 
The 11-member NASS executive board sent a letter to Senate leaders earlier this month urging them to reverse the match in future legislation. “Legislatures across the country are … dealing with depleted surpluses, lower tax revenues, increased healthcare costs and other financial challenges in response to the pandemic,” the officials write.
Secretaries of state are also sending similar pleas to members of Congress from their home states, Condos told me.
But the fight is also likely to be subsumed by a cavalcade of other election challenges.

A mail carrier of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) wearing a protective face mask. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

States are preparing for a surge in voting by mail in November that could overwhelm their systems for such voting — especially in places used to only a small percentage of absentee ballots.
There’s growing concern that a shortfall in U.S. Postal Service funding during the pandemic could handicap the service’s ability to deliver a crush of ballots and ballot requests, especially if voters request ballots close to Election Day.
The impact of the loss of the U.S. Postal Service in this election would be devastating for our democracy,” Washington state Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R) said during the call.
Wyman and Condos are calling on Congress to ensure the Postal Service gets a $10 billion line of credit aimed at supporting it through the pandemic.
That loan was included in the stimulus bill, but President Trump has threatened to block it unless officials there agree to raise postage rates.
If the Post Office has to reduce services, Wyman and Condos say, that raises the chances that ballots will arrive too late for some voters, forcing them to risk their health by voting in person and diminishing faith in the electoral process.
Trump has also been highly critical of voting by mail, claiming without evidence that it creates widespread voter fraud — even though he voted by mail himself in Florida this year.
American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein took a swipe at that fact during the call, saying, “We were happy to move the president's absentee mail ballots through the mail. He trusted us to do that. Tens of millions of people trust us to do that … and we look forward to doing that on a nonpartisan basis for generations to come.”
The keys
An American extremist seeking to spread conspiracy theories probably was responsible for sharing 25,000 credentials from the WHO and other institutions leading pandemic response efforts.

The logo of the World Health Organization. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Researchers don’t know the real-world identity of the culprit but deduced the person was probably inspired by conspiracy theories popular on far-right websites, including that governments are exaggerating coronavirus deaths, Souad Mekhennet and Craig Timberg report
The individual probably wanted others to help him hack the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation and other institutions using those emails for evidence of his theories, the researchers from SITE Intelligence Group concluded. Most of the credentials, which came from an older breach, didn't work. 
“The user framed the email credentials as a sort of gold mine of information and urged users to log on and save as much as they could, said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE.
A separate review this week found the World Bank and WHO may have cybersecurity weaknesses that could lead to another password leak. The cybersecurity firm Prevallion found malware inside both organizations' networks that’s about a decade old but still sending signals to an outside computer. There’s no evidence at this point the malware was used to steal emails or other credentials.
WHO said in a statement that an internal investigation found no traces nor evidence” of the malware.  The World Bank declined to comment, saying it does not discuss cybersecurity issues.
Some apps to track the coronavirus’s spread are launching with serious security vulnerabilities.

A photo illustration shows a new COVIDSafe app by the Australian government. (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)
One Android app called Quarantine Watch, used by the Indian state of Karnataka, “lacked common security measures." Another, the Android version of an app introduced by India's central government, leaked user location data to YouTube, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer and Aaron Krolik at the New York Times found.  
The early red flags underscore how a rush to find digital solutions to the pandemic has outpaced privacy and security concerns.
Members of Congress have pressed Apple and Google about the privacy features of their new contact-tracing technology, but state tracking efforts have endured less scrutiny and some have been put together in a rush. A North Dakota app, for example, was retrofitted from an existing app used by football fans to stay in touch on the way to out-of-state games and stores data in the developer’s private server.
A Senate panel plans to mull proposals for remote congressional voting in a videoconference today. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)  and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.). (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg News)
A memo released in advance of the meeting lists a series of remote voting options including using end-to-end encrypted and Blockchain-based voting systems.
The online gathering of the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s investigations panel comes amid numerous proposals for how senators could vote and debate bills remotely during the pandemic, but they’ve all met staunch opposition from McConnell who favors senators voting in person. The panel's chair, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-sponsored a proposal with Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), which would basically task the chamber’s tech adviser with approving a remote voting system. It has won support from 15 senators.
The Senate is scheduled to resume business in Washington next week despite concerns that returning before the pandemic subsides could endanger lawmakers, their staffs and other Capitol employees. The House, meanwhile, is delaying its return. 

Chat room

One big problem with remote voting plans: Low levels of tech savvy among some members. NBC News's Stephanie Ruhle spoke with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.):
Asked by @SRuhle about resistance to remote voting technology in Congress, @RepKatiePorter refers to the "flip phone caucus" as primary obstacle
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) April 29, 2020

Cyber insecurity

"Zoombombing isn't the only cybersecurity threat plaguing educators.

A student of landscape architecture. (Darek Delmanowicz/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
  • Virtual learning systems at the University of Michigan and other higher-ed institutions contained vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to steal personal information from students and teachers, researchers at Check Point found. The vulnerabilities could have also allowed hackers to swipe funds from educators and change grades. The bugs were in components offered by three companies    LearnPress, LearnDash and LiferLMS   that are used by 100,000 other virtual learning platforms. All three companies have patched the bugs.
  • Scammers are also finding new ways to exploit economic anxieties prompted by the virus. They're using fake Zoom invitations that pose as meetings with human resources managers to try to swipe employees’ personal information, SophosLabs found.
More in hacks and breaches:

The NYPD is on alert over a twisted coronavirus blackmail scheme by cybercriminals looking to profit off the pandemic and people’s anxiety.
The Daily Beast

Exclusive: The education company said hackers made off with employee records, including Social Security numbers.
At least 400 apps in Google’s Play Store are feeding malicious ads into apps through abuse of a mobile advertising firm's SDK.

Industry report

Microsoft's cloud computing business is raking in cash during the coronavirus pandemic.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)
The company recorded huge revenue gains, pushing stocks up nearly 12 percent since the beginning of the year, Jay Greene reports.
The pandemic could actually help Microsoft consolidate power during a rocky economy, analysts say. “The big get bigger. Scale wins,” Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Brad Reback said. “These guys have all the right products in place."


Send your cybersecurity related events to tonya.riley@washpost.com

Companings Earnings: Twitter reports strong first-quarter results, despite expected downturn from coronavirus

Lauren Feiner

GP: Twitter CEO Dorsey And Facebook COO Sandberg Testify Before Senate Intelligence Committee 1
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Twitter reported first-quarter 2020 earnings Thursday that beat estimates despite an expected hit to its ads business due to the coronavirus pandemic. The stock was up more than 11% during premarket trading.
Here’s what Twitter reported:
  • Earnings per share (EPS): 11 cents
  • Revenue: $808 million
  • Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs): 166 million
Wall Street had been anticipating earnings per share of 10 cents on revenue of $776 million, based on Refinitiv consensus estimates. Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) was expected to come in at 164 million, based on StreetAccount estimates. However, it’s difficult to compare reported earnings to analyst estimates for Twitter’s first quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit global economies and makes earnings impact difficult to assess.
Twitter did not provide guidance for the second quarter and is still suspending full year guidance, but it noted that its plans to build a new data center will likely be delayed, impacting capex spend in the 2020 fiscal year. It still expects stock-based compensation to grow sequentially in the second quarter by at least 25%.
The company pulled its guidance for the current quarter at the end of March, blaming the coronavirus for a slowdown in advertising revenue that made it hard to pin down its results.
The company said its mDAU growth represented the strongest ever year-over-year at 24%. It saw double digit growth in its top 10 markets, according to the shareholder letter. By the end of March, Twitter said, “The absolute number of mDAUs stabilized ... as many people around the world settled into new routines.”
Twitter said in the letter that its revenue growth of 3% was due to “a strong start to the quarter that was impacted by widespread economic disruption related to COVID-19 in March.”
Total advertising revenue was $682 million, up about $3 million compared to last year. But the company said its ad revenue should be viewed as two distinct periods, with January through the beginning of March performing as expected and the end of March taking a hit.
“As an indication of the rapid change in advertising behavior, from March 11 (when many events around the world began to be canceled and we made working from home mandatory for nearly all our employees globally) until March 31, our total advertising revenue declined approximately 27% year over year,” the company wrote in its shareholder letter. “The downturn we saw in March was particularly pronounced in the US, and advertising weakness in Asia began to subside as work and travel restrictions were gradually lifted.”
To weather the pandemic, Twitter is shifting resources to focus on revenue products including its Mobile App Promotion (MAP) product. It’s also lowering hiring and non-labor expense plans while continuing to invest in engineering, product and trust and safety.
Prior to the pandemic, Jack Dorsey’s role as CEO was challenged by activist investment firm Elliott Management. The firm wanted Dorsey removed in part because of his split responsibility as chief executive of both Twitter and Square and his previous plans to move to Africa for several months. As the coronavirus spread throughout the world, Dorsey said he was reconsidering the move to Africa and Twitter struck a deal with Elliott and Silver Lake, leaving Dorsey in place for the time being.
Analysts at Bernstein said earlier this month that the involvement of Elliott and Silver Lake will help catalyze innovation at Twitter, especially in ad products. The deal included a $1 billion investment in the company by Silver Lake.
But in the near term, the analysts said, Twitter, like other digital ad platforms, will likely suffer from lower ad revenue even as engagement climbs since many brands are wary of advertising on coronavirus-related content.

Business News | Scotland: Lockdown could cripple builders firms 'in months'

4-5 minutes - Source: BBC

closed building site
Image caption Sites in Scotland have been closed for more than five weeks
Many construction firms in Scotland face the prospect of financial collapse within months unless the lockdown can be eased, an industry body has said.
All but essential construction sites in Scotland have been closed for more than five weeks since the coronavirus restrictions were introduced.
From next week, three of the UK's biggest housebuilders will reopen their sites in England.
The Federation of Master Builders wants the same rules for Scottish firms.
And it has warned that many smaller builders will go bust if they are not allowed to follow suit.
The group is now asking the Scottish government for a timeline - and updated guidance - to allow them to get safely back to work.

'We are adaptable'

FMB Scotland director Gordon Nelson said that financial problems were mounting as each week goes by.
He said: "There's evidence that about two thirds of small and medium-sized construction firms may only have the cash to survive another two to three months if the present circumstances continue.
"We're pleased about the job retention scheme from the UK government for furloughed workers.
"But we're also asking for small grants for more building companies around the country so that they can survive."
"Our members are very keen that we don't unintentionally rush back to work too soon in a way that may lead to a spike in new infections of the coronavirus.
"We're keeping a close eye on, and are in dialogue with, construction firms in England to see what evidence they can demonstrate for safe operating. We want to use that evidence and take it to the Scottish government.
"We are determined to get back to work as quickly as possible so our members can generate work and survive and thrive in the medium to longer term."

'Open the door slightly and get us back to work'

Andrew Haldane's construction firm had to temporarily shut down on 23 March and all its employees are currently furloughed.
He has plenty of orders in his books for when work does resume but says, like all builders, he has serious concerns about the future.
And he believes the Scottish government must "open the door slightly" by agreeing to new working practices that would comply with social distancing instructions.

Staggered breaks

Mr Haldane said: "Only essential works are being done in Scotland, which is understandable given the current situation.
"Down in England they have a different format where contractors are going back to work in the near future.
"I think we just need a collaborative effort from everyone in the business to agree that there is a way we can to go back to work.
"Whether that be our people travelling to work on their own, not using public transport, working in phases with staggered breaks and PPE where that's necessary."

Business News: Shell cuts dividend for first time since WW2

2minutes - Source: BBC

Shell logo Image copyright Getty Images
Royal Dutch Shell has cut its dividend for the first time since World War Two following the collapse in global oil demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The energy giant also suspended the next tranche of its share buyback programme.
The move came as it announced a 46% fall in first-quarter net income to $2.9bn (£2.3bn).
Chief executive Ben van Beurden warned of "continued deterioration in the macroeconomic outlook".
He said Shell was taking "further prudent steps to bolster our resilience" and "underpin the strength of our balance sheet".
Shell is cutting its quarterly dividend by two-thirds, from 47 cents to 16 cents, starting in the first quarter of this year.
The company said it had also cut activity at its refining business by up to 40% in response to the sharp fall in demand for oil.
David Barclay, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: "Royal Dutch Shell's decision to cut its dividend for the first time since World War Two reflects the unprecedented economic impact of Covid-19.
"There was a great deal of speculation about what the energy company would do leading up to these results and the market was braced for bad news.
"On the face of it, the dividend cut and cancellation of share buybacks may be seen by some shareholders as a negative move in the short term. However, looking further ahead it could well prove to be the right step, as Shell looks to strengthen its financial position and cut costs during a very difficult time."

US Market | Futures Indicator: US stock futures rise after solid tech earnings, Facebook up more than 10%

Thomas Franck

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes were higher in the overnight session Wednesday evening after both Facebook and Microsoft issued better-than-expected revenue projections in their earnings reports.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 116 points, implying an opening gain of around 155 points. S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures also pointed to Thursday opening gains.
Both Facebook and Microsoft equity climbed in after-hours trading Wednesday evening after each reported promising revenue figures despite the global coronavirus outbreak.
Facebook soared more than 10% in the overnight session after it reported that, after an initial “significant” pullback in advertising revenues in March thanks to Covid-19, it’s seen sales stabilize in the first three weeks of April. It reported first-quarter per-share earnings of $1.71 and revenues of $17.74 billion.
Microsoft rose about 2.15% in after-hours trading after the company reported fiscal third-quarter sales growth of 15% thanks to growth in its cloud business. The software giant said in a statement that the disease “had minimal net impact on the total company revenue” in the three months ended March 31, but cautioned that “effects of COVID-19 may not be fully reflected in the financial results until future periods.” 
The overnight moves followed a bounce in U.S. equities during normal trading hours on Wednesday that put the S&P 500 up more than 13% for the month and on track for its biggest one-month gain since 1974.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 532.31 points, or 2.2%, to 24,633.86 during Wednesday’s session. The S&P 500 gained 2.66% to 2,939.51 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 3.57% higher at 8,914.71.
Investors cited developments at Gilead Sciences for the market’s pop during Wednesday’s session after the biotech company reported positive results from two tests that showed its drug remdesivir could be a Covid-19 treatment. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said remdesivir shows a “clear-cut” positive effect when treating the virus.
U.S. traders will on Thursday pore over the Labor Department’s latest report on jobless claims. Another 3.5 million workers are expected to have filed for benefits last week, which would bring the total number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the last six weeks to about 30 million.
The Labor Department’s prior jobless claims report — released April 23 — showed the number of Americans who had filed for unemployment insurance benefits over the previous five weeks was 26.45 million.
That number exceeded the 22.442 million positions added to the American economy since November 2009, when the U.S. economy began to add jobs back to the economy after the Great Recession.
Click here for the latest news on the coronavirus.

Apr 29, 2020

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Boeing, GE, ADP, Hasbro, LabCorp, Spotify & more

Peter Schacknow

Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Boeing (BA) – Boeing lost $1.70 per share, larger than the $1.61 per share predicted by Wall Street analysts, with revenue also below estimates. Boeing also announced plans to cut commercial jet production rates as well as reduce payroll.
General Electric (GE) – GE reported quarterly profit of 5 cents per share, below the consensus estimate of 8 cents a share. Revenue came in above forecasts. CEO Larry Culp said the coronavirus outbreak materially challenged first-quarter results, with an impact of $700 million on operating profit.
ADP (ADP) – The payroll processing company came in 3 cents a share ahead of estimates, with quarterly earnings $1.92 per share. Revenue beat forecasts as well, however the company lowered its earnings and revenue outlook for the year.
Anthem (ANTM) – The health insurer matched analysts’ forecasts, with quarterly earnings of $6.48 per share. Revenue topped expectations. Overall results were hurt by weaker sales for its employer-sponsored health plans, although it benefited overall from higher premiums. Anthem is also standing by its prior full-year forecast.
Garmin (GRMN) – The maker of GPS devices beat estimates by 7 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 91 cents per share. Revenue came in above projections as well. The company said it had strong momentum during the quarter ahead of the coronavirus outbreak, but is withdrawing 2020 guidance due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Hasbro (HAS) – The toymaker came in a penny a share short of estimates, with quarterly earnings of 57 cents per share. Revenue was just below forecasts. The toymaker saw a 40 percent jump in games category sales during the quarter, but expects sales of its toys and games to fall in the current quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Yum Brands (YUM) – The restaurant operator’s profit fell 68% from a year earlier, falling one cent a share shy of estimates with profit of 64 cents per share. Global same-store sales for the operator of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut fell 7% during the quarter as many restaurants closed due to the pandemic.
LabCorp (LH) – The medical lab operator reported better-than-expected revenue and profit, and expects to deliver solid earnings and free cash flow this year. The company is withdrawing 2020 guidance due to the pandemic, however, and taking other actions including furloughing workers, delaying hiring, and suspending 401(k) contributions.
Spotify (SPOT) – The music streaming service reported a smaller-than-expected loss, with revenue essentially in line with forecasts. The company added more users in both the paying and ad-supported categories, however it lowered its revenue guidance for the year as ad sales fall due to the pandemic.
Alphabet (GOOGL) – Alphabet reported quarterly earnings of $9.87 per share, missing the consensus estimate of $10.33. The Google parent’s revenue beat Street forecasts. The company said the current quarter would be a difficult one for Google’s advertising business due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Starbucks (SBUX) – Starbucks missed estimates by 2 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 32 cents per share. The coffee chain’s revenue beat consensus. Global same-store sales fell a greater-than-expected 10% during the quarter, as the virus outbreak closed stores.
Mondelez (MDLZ) – Mondelez came in 3 cents a share ahead of estimates, with the snack maker reporting quarterly earnings of 69 cents per share. Revenue beat estimates, as the maker of Oreo cookies saw consumers stockpile food items as the Covid-19 pandemic spread. The company withdrew its 2020 forecast due to uncertainty surrounding the impact of the virus.
Ford (F) – Ford lost 23 cents per share for the first quarter, nearly double the 12 cents a share loss that analysts were anticipating for the automaker. Revenue also fell short of forecasts, and Ford warned that its $2 billion loss would more than double during the current quarter. Ford also said it had enough money to weather the pandemic through the end of 2020.
FireEye (FEYE) – FireEye lost 2 cents per share for its latest quarter, better than the 4 cents a share loss that Wall Street had projected. The cybersecurity company’s revenue also topped estimates. FireEye gave a weaker-than-expected forecast and announced it was laying off workers.
iRobot (IRBT) – iRobot reported a quarterly loss of 32 cents per share, smaller than the consensus forecast of a 47 cents a share loss. The maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner’s revenue beat Street forecasts, although it also said the current economic environment will weigh heavily on a consumer’s decision to buy its products.
Uber Technologies (UBER) – Uber said Chief Technology Officer Thuan Pham – the ride-hailing company’s longest-serving executive – is resigning effective May 17. Separately, Uber is reportedly considering laying off as much as 20% of its workforce, or about 5,400 workers. In response, the company said it is looking at “every possible scenario” to weather the current crisis.
AMC Entertainment (AMC) – The world’s largest theater operator said it would no longer show movies produced by Comcast’s (CMCSA) Universal Pictures unit in its theaters. That comes in response to the NBCUniversal and CNBC parent’s plans for future releases, which include digital releases when “that distribution outlet makes sense.” Universal recently released its “Trolls: World Tour” movie directly to streaming platforms, with movie theaters closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
WW (WW) – WW lost an adjusted 4 cents per share for the first quarter, smaller than the 23 cents a share loss predicted by analysts. The Weight Watchers parent’s revenue came in very slightly above estimates, and saw subscriber rolls jump by 9%.

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Americans are wary of the coronavirus tracking apps being produced by big tech

By Joseph Marks

with Tonya Riley

Companies’ rush to develop technologies to track coronavirus infections is outpacing citizens’ willingness to use them.
About half of Americans with smartphones say they’re probably or definitely unwilling to download apps being developed by Google and Apple to alert those nearby they came into contact with someone who is infected, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released this morning finds.
That’s primarily because they don’t trust the tech companies to treat their data securely and privately, as my colleagues Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Alauna Safarpour report.
Add in people who can’t use the apps because they don’t own smartphones, and only about 40 percent of Americans are on board with using the tracking apps. That’s far lower than the approximately 60 percent of Americans who researchers say would need to use such apps to make a significant difference in slowing infections and allow states to ease restrictions on business and travel.
The results demonstrate a long road ahead for both governments and tech firms if they want digital contact tracing to play a major role in combating the novel coronavirus's spread. They also show how years of security and privacy debacles have soured Americans’ trust in big tech firms — even in the midst of a crisis.
I don’t feel like they have a good track record of taking care of people's privacy and data. And I don’t want to give them more if I don’t trust them,” Brent Weight, a survey respondent from Rigby, Idaho, told my colleagues.

A man wearing a protective face mask checks his mobile phone during a lockdown. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)
The public wariness comes despite a surge of efforts by tech companies to market coronavirus surveillance tools. 
Numerous companies are already working on apps that will piggyback on the Bluetooth-based software Apple and Google expect to release as early as this week — and which is designed to provide some measure of privacy to the users. That software will power apps built by state and local public health agencies.
It's designed to log any time two people who have consented to be tracked are in proximity using anonymous signals that don't identify the individuals themselves. If someone reports being diagnosed with the coronavirus, the app will alert everyone he or she was in contact with they should consider getting tested or self-quarantining.
An app that plans to incorporate the Bluetooth technology is already available in North Dakota and another is in the works in Utah.
Other companies are pushing more invasive tools, including several offered by well-known vendors of surveillance products, as Reuters’s Joel Schechtman, Christopher Big and Jack Stubbs report.
The Israeli surveillance firm Cellebrite, for example, already offers a tool allowing law enforcement to crack through the security protections in suspects’ phones and trace their contacts. It’s now pitching the same tool to police in India as a way to track the contacts of someone diagnosed with coronavirus.
“This would usually be done with consent. … But in legally justified cases, such as when a patient violates a law against public gatherings, police could use the tools to break into a confiscated device, Cellebrite advised,” according to the Reuters report.
Cellebrite is among at least eight surveillance companies repurposing their tools for virus-tracking, Reuters reported.
That list also includes the controversial Israeli firm NSO Group, which is helping the Israeli Ministry of Defense build a tracking platform. NSO has come under fire for allegedly helping government clients hack and spy on journalists and dissidents. The company is embroiled in a lawsuit with Facebook over allegedly helping clients hack into its WhatsApp messaging service.
In another blow yesterday, Vice reported a former NSO employee allegedly abused access to the firm’s technology to track a love interest. NSO fired the employee, Vice reported. The company declined to comment for the story.

A health-care worker. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
The American wariness about digital virus trackers mirrors comparatively low download rates for similar apps in other countries. 
Australia released a nationwide tool Sunday that has been downloaded about 2.8 million times. That accounts for about 11 percent of the nation’s 25 million people. Singapore’s TraceTogether app has been downloaded by about one-fifth of the population.
Apple and Google have even begun to describe the apps as exposure notification tools rather than “contact tracing” apps as a way to stress their benefits, as my colleagues report.
“After a call last week with Apple chief Tim Cook, Thierry Breton, a member of the European Union's executive branch, went one step further, calling them ‘deconfinement apps,’ a term that stressed their potential to relieve the economically devastating movement restrictions imposed by government officials worldwide as they try to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” my colleagues report.
Wariness about the apps is also higher among Republicans than Democrats. 
Among Democrats who own smartphones, 61 percent said they’d probably or definitely use the Apple and Google tool compared to just 48 percent of Republicans.
That could mean there will be greater difficulty tracing virus spread in Republican-led states — some of which are moving faster to ease pandemic-related restrictions — than in Democratic-led states. South Carolina, for example, has begun reopening some retailers and Georgia is even opening gyms and nail salons.
Citizens who were especially fearful of becoming infected with the virus were alsos more likely to say they’d use the apps.
The keys
Republicans are skeptical of voting by mail, a new Pew survey finds.

Empty envelopes of opened vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary in King County in Renton, Wash. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

The findings come as President Trump and some of his GOP allies in Congress have assailed voting by mail as untrustworthy and prone to fraud but as Republican state officials are looking to it as a way to ensure safe voting during the pandemic. Notably, Ohio, which has a Republican governor and secretary of state, conducted a primary almost entirely by mail yesterday without any evident problems.
Just about 3 in 10 Republican-leaning voters support handling all elections by mail compared to about 7 in 10 Democratic-leaning voters, as Aaron Blake reports. The percentage of Republicans who support voting by mail increases, however, in states where a significant number of people already vote that way, Aaron notes.
“In other words, conservatives who live in states where it’s easier or more prevalent to vote by mail overwhelmingly favor it. The ones with the most experience with this method are quite happy with it,” he writes.
Just 49 percent of Republicans favor allowing anyone to vote by mail who wants to compared with 87 percent of Democrats.
China is imposing harsh new cybersecurity rules that could disadvantage foreign products.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The new rules require companies operating “critical infrastructure” to go through a cybersecurity review when they order goods and services that affect national security, the Wall Street Journal reports. They come as the U.S. government is increasingly cracking down on Chinese goods in U.S. critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications, citing national security concerns.
Worrisome for American businesses is wordingretained from the draft published last yearthat companies must assess risks of supply-chain disruption due to ‘politics, diplomacy and trade,’ ” the Journal reports. “The wording was seen as a direct response to the U.S. move last year to add Huawei Technologies Co. and several other Chinese tech firms to its trade blacklist that effectively banned suppliers from selling parts and technologies with a U.S. origin to those firms.”
The federal agency disbursing small-business loans during the pandemic has persistent cybersecurity problems.

“For Sale By Owner” and “Closed Due to Virus” signs are displayed in the window of a store in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Paul Sancya/AP)
A government watchdog highlighted the Small Business Administration’s cybersecurity risks in an updated list of “priority open recommendations” along with other thins, including improving the agency’s disaster response capabilities.
The Government Accountability Office report comes a day after an SBA web portal designed to disburse $310 billion in small-business loans during the pandemic sputtered and crashed, frustrating bankers and loan seekers That wasn’t because of cybersecurity problems but it highlights the agency’s technological challenges.
The SBA has not conducted an organization-wide assessment of all of its cybersecurity risks, which leaves its computer systems and data more vulnerable to hacking, the GAO found.

Government scan

Government cybersecurity officials are turning to industry Slack channels during the pandemic.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray speaks during the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Slack groups dubbed the Cyber Threat Coalition and the CTI League were created by private-sector digital threat hunters, but they’ve drawn a cavalcade of law enforcement agents and other government cybersecurity pros among their thousands of members, NBC News reports.
That’s due to the surge in coronavirus-related digital scams and hacking efforts, and the difficulty of keeping up with them. 
“The FBI, which normally sees around a thousand complaints a day to its Internet Crime Complaint Center, has been receiving three to four times that number, Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, said in a recent talk. Google said it has been seeing 18 million coronavirus-themed phishing emails a day,” the story notes.
Other government news:

The Justice Department argues disclosure in the case involving the calling feature on Facebook’s Messenger app could harm an ongoing prosecution.
Ellen Nakashima

Industry report

Facebook is restructuring its cybersecurity operations and moving some security pros to other divisions.

Mark Zuckerberg Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

The move is part of a broad shift in the social media giant’s security operations over the past two years, including eliminating the position of chief information security officer, the New York Times reports. The latest changes were also “spurred by infighting and long-running issues within the department,” the Times reports.
“To stay ahead of evolving security threats, we’re investing more in automated detection and bringing in new skills as we continue to grow our security team over all,” a company spokeswoman told the Times. “This also means we are restructuring a portion of our team and helping the people affected by this change find other roles at Facebook.”
More industry news:

Amazon.com Inc has bought cameras to take temperatures of workers during the coronavirus pandemic from a firm the United States blacklisted over allegations it helped China detain and monitor the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FireEye Inc. undefined shares slipped in the extended session Tuesday after the cybersecurity company said it was laying off staff and forecast an outlook...

Global cyberspace

Vietnam-linked hackers have been using the Google Play store to spread malicious software.

Hanoi. (Luong Thai Linh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) 

The hacking campaign has gone on for four years and targeted victims in Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Algeria, South Africa, Nepal, Myanmar and Malaysia, CyberScoop reports citing research from Kaspersky Lab.
More news about digital threats:

Check Point said Tuesday crooks encrypting data on Android phones, accusing the victims of possessing illegal pornographic material.


  • Auburn University's McCrary Institute and the Cyberspace Solarium Commission will host an event discussing if deterrence is possible in cyberspace today at 1 p.m.

Business News | Company´s Revenue: GE says first-quarter revenue declined 8%, expects this quarter to be worse because of pandemic

Fred Imbert

General Electric reported Wednesday a steep decline in first-quarter revenue as the industrial giant took a hit amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The company posted total revenue of $20.524 billion, which represents a year-over-year decline of 8%. On an adjusted per-share basis, the company earned 5 cents. That’s below a Refinitiv estimate of 8 cents per share.
“The impact from COVID-19 materially challenged our first-quarter results, especially in Aviation, where we saw a dramatic decline in commercial aerospace as the virus spread globally in March,” CEO Larry Culp said in a statement.
As global travel screeched to a halt, General Electric’s aviation business saw revenue fall by 13% to $6.892 billion on a year-over-year basis in the quarter, with profit tumbling 39% to $1.005 billion from $1.66 billion in the division. Orders also declined by 14%. The company’s power and renewable energy businesses also saw revenues decline in the first quarter.
Larry Culp, CEO, General Electric
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
GE’s health care segment, however, saw revenues expand by 7% to $5.292 billion and profit grow to $896 million from $781 million in the year-earlier period. The company cited “surge demand for products used in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.”
Culp said the company is eyeing cost cuts of more than $2 billion along with $3 billion in cash preservation to cushion the coronavirus blow. GE’s earnings release also indicated the industrial giant expects this quarter to be worse than the first.
“The second quarter will be the first full quarter with pressure from COVID-19, and GE expects that its financial results will decline sequentially,” GE said.
Shares of General Electric traded 2.2% lower in the premarket. GE shares have lost about 40% of their value this year through Tuesday.
The company announced earlier this month that it was withdrawing its 2020 forecast. The company also said its cash and cash-equivalent holdings topped more than $47 billion along with a revolving debt facility of $15 billion to ride out the virus-induced downturn.

Europe | Italy's Economy:Italy's credit rating downgraded to one notch above junk by Fitch

Holly Ellyatt

Premium: Colisseum
Elias Kordelakos photography | Flickr | Getty Images

Italy’s credit rating has been downgraded to one notch above junk level by Fitch ratings agency as the coronavirus hurts Italy’s already fragile economy further.
Fitch downgraded Italy’s credit rating from ‘BBB’ to ‘BBB-’, just one level above its junk rating, reflecting increasing doubts around Italy’s credit-worthiness as it tries to recover from the economic and societal damage inflicted by the coronavirus.
The ratings agency said the downgrade reflects “the significant impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on Italy’s economy and the sovereign’s fiscal position.”
Fitch forecast that Italy’s economy will contract by 8% in 2020 and said the risks to this baseline forecast are tilted to the downside, as it assumes that the coronavirus can be contained in the second half of the year, leading to a relatively strong economic recovery in 2021.
But “in the event of a second wave of infections and the widespread resumption of lockdown measures, economic outturns would be weaker for 2020 and 2021,” Fitch warned.
The ratings agency believes that Italy’s debt to GDP ratio will increase by around 20 percentage points this year to 156% of GDP by at the end of 2020. Italy is one of the most indebted nations in the world after Japan and Greece.
According to Fitch’s baseline debt dynamics scenario, the debt-to-GDP ratio “will only stabilize at this very high level over the medium term, underlining debt sustainability risks.”
Fitch’s appraisal of Italy’s creditworthiness was not scheduled (its next review is due in July) but was taken, Fitch said, because “situations where there is a material change in the creditworthiness of the issuer ... we believe makes it inappropriate for us to wait until the next scheduled review date.”
The Italian economy was already in a weak position when the COVID-19 shock hit the country hard in February, making it the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. Real GDP grew by only 0.3% in 2019, Fitch noted, adding that the economy has effectively stagnated over the past two years.
The ratings agency put a stable outlook on its latest Italy rating, saying that it partly reflects its view that the European Central Bank’s net asset purchases will facilitate Italy’s substantial fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ease refinancing risks by keeping borrowing costs at very low levels at least over the near term.
“Nevertheless, downward pressure on the rating could resume if the government does not implement a credible economic growth and fiscal strategy that enhances confidence that general government debt/GDP will be placed on a downward path over time,” the ratings agency said.
Italy has recorded the highest death toll from the coronavirus so far in Europe, with 27,359 fatalities as of Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It has over 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus but it has tentatively started to lift its lockdown with some smaller stores, such as stationers and booksellers, already allowed to reopen although generally the quarantine and travel restrictions, first imposed in early March, remain in place until May 3.
On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined further steps, or its “phase 2” for lifting the lockdown, saying that parks, companies and factories will be allowed to reopen from May 4 as long as social distancing measures are in place; bars and restaurants can also provide a takeaway service from then and on May 18, museums could re-open. Schools will stay closed until September, however.

Business News | Money | Use of Cash: Coronavirus 'will hasten the decline of cash'

By Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter

Three people standing at cashpoints Image copyright Getty Images
Coronavirus will hasten the decline in the use of cash as people make a long-term switch to digital payments, experts say.
The lockdown has led to a 60% fall in the number of withdrawals from cash machines, although people are taking out bigger sums.
Payment card use has risen with online shopping, particularly for groceries.
Experts say the long-term future of cash could be at risk, before the UK is ready to cope with the change.
This could leave behind an estimated 20% of the population who rely on cash, they say.
About 11 million cash withdrawals are still being made each week, with £1bn taken out, according to Link, which oversees the UK's cash machine network.
Yet, with many shops as well as bars, cafes and restaurants closed, there is less demand for regular cash withdrawals. People are going out less, but potentially hoarding more cash.
The average ATM withdrawal has risen from £65 last year, to £82 now.

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'We can process cash in a couple of seconds'

Established more than 100 years ago, Webb's Ironmongery Store has seen locals through many a crisis.
In the current emergency the hardware shop at Tenterden, Kent, is serving items such as garden and home equipment, and paint, from a counter set up in the doorway of the shop.
In order to ensure customers do not have to wait, given social distancing, it has put a sign up pointing out that cash is still accepted.

"We are trying to serve as many people as possible, so they can get it done and we can send them on their way," said co-owner Nigel Webb.

"We take cards, but they may have to wait for the machine. We can process cash in a couple of seconds."

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Cash use falling

Following a survey of consumers, Link suggested that 75% of people were using less cash, and 54% of those asked said they were avoiding cash.
There were reports early in the coronavirus outbreak about the spread of the virus on banknotes and coins. However, the Bank of England and World Health Organization have stressed that the risk is no greater than on any other items, and repeated the advice on regular hand washing.
Some 76% of people asked in the survey said they expected to use cash less and move instead to other forms of payment, or online shopping more in the next six months.
Natalie Ceeney, who authored a major report on access to cash, said that an estimated 30% of UK residents liked having cash as an option but, as a result of lockdown, may now be comfortable using other methods of payment. She described this as a "sticky habit", which they could stay with in the future.
With 50% of the population already operating predominantly cashless, that left only 20% who relied on notes and coins, many of whom were vulnerable.
Their demand risked being insufficient for the providers of cash infrastructure, such as delivery and ATM services, to be profitable enough to survive. "The cash infrastructure could collapse before we are ready," she said.
But Martin Smith, from cash in transit company Pivotal, said: "It will be hard to judge the true impact of Covid-19 until businesses have reopened. The pandemic has certainly has not changed many of the key reasons why people use cash, including convenience and lack of access to bank accounts."

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Will this be seen in future years as the crisis which finally ended our love affair with cash? Many shoppers are suspicious of handling it, worried about anything another person might have touched.
Traders who used to wince if you showed them your plastic are happily bringing out their card readers from the back of the stall. These findings do also show that in uncertain times some cling to their notes and coins even more tightly.
And they may be struggling to get hold of cash because they can't leave their homes. But right now there seems little doubt the virus is speeding up the switch to electronic payments.

Central Banks: The Fed's four radical moves to save the economy

8-10 minute - Source: BBC

Fed Chair Jerome Powell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is grappling with the worst economic crisis since the 1930
As policymakers from America's central bank prepare to meet - virtually - this week, they will be looking to see if the extraordinary steps they have taken to confront the world's most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression are working.
Since March, the Federal Reserve has pledged to pump more than $4tn (£3.2tn) into the financial system, slashing interest rates, relaxing banking rules, and dramatically expanding its lending.
The Fed's moves, which have increased its balance sheet by more than $2.2tn so far, have been replicated to some degree by many other central banks, including the Bank of England.
The responses, which typically complement massive new government spending packages, are an effort to keep money flowing despite the near-freeze on business activity during the pandemic.
"They've taken basically what they did in the global financial crisis and now it's on steroids," says Frederic Mishkin, a professor of banking and financial institutions at Columbia Business School.

1. The Fed rushed dollars to foreign countries and financial firms

The financial system was under strain this spring, as investors pulled funds out of a collapsing stock market, companies tapped credit lines in anticipation of lockdown losses and people in other countries looked to hold dollars for stability.
Responding to the rush, the Fed used emergency powers to advance funds to major financial institutions. It also made it easier for foreign central banks to exchange their own currencies for dollars through so-called "swap lines".
The Fed was able to respond quickly, since it had developed the programmes during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, says Alan Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. But at that time, the Fed was trying to shield the wider economy from risky bank behaviour, whereas now the Fed is working to protect the financial system from the bigger economic crisis.
"That's not because they care about the bankers," Prof Blinder says. "It's because if the financial system started to implode, which it had started to do, that's going to reverberate back onto the real economy and make things that much worse."

2. The Fed offered to buy debt from big companies

But the Fed has gone beyond simply shoring up the financial system.
Fearing a wave of bankruptcies, as shutdowns create holes in company budgets and worried banks refuse to lend, the Fed in March said it would work directly with big companies on loans and bond offerings. It pledged up to $100bn to the effort, and within weeks had expanded its potential commitment to $750bn.
It has also said it would buy up to $100bn of other kinds of debt, including credit card debt, car financing loans, student loans, commercial mortgages and "leveraged" loans. The list is so extensive, some financial industry commentators on Twitter joked the bank would be buying baseball cards next.
The US Treasury is backing the programmes with $85bn - a sign that unlike most of its actions in 2008, the Fed is worried about losses.
Others have warned the bank's actions could encourage future risky borrowing. "Markets work best when participants have a healthy fear of loss," Oaktree Capital Management co-founder Howard Marks wrote. "It shouldn't be the role of the Fed or the government to eradicate it."
Many economists say those kinds of fears are overblown, given the unique nature of the current coronavirus-triggered crisis - which has created cash-flow problems even for firms on a solid financial footing.
"I think this is such a large external shock, that I think it is appropriate for the central bank to come in to provide liquidity and try to prevent some of the costs [to society]," says economist Nellie Liang, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former director of financial stability at the Fed.

3. The Fed is also lending to small businesses directly

The Fed has announced it would launch its own "Main Street" lending operation, dedicating up to $600bn to fund low-cost four-year loans worth $1m-$25m for mid-sized firms - something it has never done before. The Treasury Department has put $75bn to the plans, which were announced after the government's small business aid programme was overwhelmed by demand.
"It's a big step for the Fed, but I think this crisis is unusual," says Ms Liang. "The issues are not just market liquidity they're also liquidity for smaller firms that don't often have access to the market so to the extent that the Fed can provide some support here, it seems important."
But, she adds: "The Fed has to think really carefully about how to design the Main Street programme to help borrowers and not just increase their debt load."
Indeed, many of the current economic problems can't be solved by lending, Prof Blinder warns, pointing to the need for the government to increase spending on items like healthcare and unemployment benefits.
"Will these activities help the economy weather the storm? The answer is yes, but the operative word in that sentence is help - the Fed cannot do this by itself," he says.

4. The Fed is also helping local governments.

The increased costs of healthcare and social programmes, combined with plunging tax revenue, have created huge problems for local governments. Ordinarily, they could borrow money by issuing bonds. But that market seized up earlier this year, as the enormity of the crisis made investors wary about repayment.
So, the Fed said it would buy up to $500bn in new bonds issued by states, cities and counties of a certain size - something else it has never done before. The Treasury Department is backing the effort with $35bn.
The Fed's promise alone has appeared to re-set demand and help bring down the cost of borrowing, says Michael Belsky, executive director of the Center for Municipal Finance at Chicago University's Harris School of Public Policy. "This is a godsend," he says. "For the most part, I think it's a very creative and appropriate thing to be doing."
But the Fed must guard against creating the expectation that it will be there to backstop cash-strapped local governments in the future, encouraging imbalanced budgets even in ordinary times, says Frederic Mishkin, professor of banking and financial institutions at Columbia Business School.
"Although providing fiscal stimulus was the right thing to do, they've got to make very clear how unusual this is," he says.
After all, the Fed has had difficulty dialling back its activity after the 2008 financial crisis. While many hope the current economic shock will be short-lived, the powers the Fed has assumed may well prove long-lasting.

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News | Business: China's Ant Group plans revamp amid regulator pressure - WSJ

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