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Invest Now To Head Off Another Great Depression

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Invest Now To Head Off Another Great Depression

President Donald Trump wants to restart the economy by ending the lockdowns and getting people back to work. However, based on U.S. spending, employment and consumption data, the economy started crashing well before lockdowns began in mid-March. Demand for transportation and other services began to collapse in mid-February and early March due to COVID-19’s dangers, and isn’t likely to naturally return to pre-crash levels until the risk of the virus recedes.

In late February through early March, COVID-19 deaths in the United States were about 20 to 30 per day. The daily U.S. death toll is now 1,000 to to 2,000 (and tens of thousands of Americans require hospitalization for severe symptoms). Polling data show that many Americans are reluctant to resume discretionary activities under the current circumstances. For example, 72% of fans in a recent survey said they wouldn’t attend a game at a stadium until a vaccine is available.

So even if all mandatory lockdown measures end, the economy won’t bounce back to January 2020 levels. The Economist described this scenario as a “90% Economy” -technically open, but (due to COVID-19 risks) operating at only about 90% of capacity, with high unemployment rates.

And this is the optimistic scenario.

If daily deaths and hospitalizations increase exponentially after mandatory lockdowns end, the economy will shut down again, either from renewed government-mandated lockdowns or chaotic spontaneous lockdowns as people fear leaving their homes. Economically, this could create an even more devastating downward economic spiral.

Perhaps COVID-19 will rapidly become less dangerous, maybe treatments will become more effective, a vaccine will quickly become available or some other deus ex machina will solve this crisis. However, we don’t prepare for war by assuming a best-case scenario about our enemies. We shouldn’t make policy based on best-case assumptions about COVID-19.

At the federal level, here’s how we should prepare:

Support state and local governments by replacing tax revenues they’ve lost due to COVID-19. Because they are the first responders, we must ensure they’re well-resourced. As we try to restart the economy, the last thing we need is large-scale layoffs that impact vital employees like teachers and police, fire and sanitation workers. Well-functioning and safe schools are vital to restarting the economy (if parents can’t send their children to school in the fall, it will be difficult for society to resume normal activities).

We should also provide generous support for our public colleges and universities. They’re where many middle-class Americans get their education, and where much of our cutting-edge basic research takes place. We can’t afford to lose a generation of talent if these universities collapse and have to be rebuilt. Also, as large local employers, they bring significant economic benefits to their communities.

Invest in public health and health care. Trump called Americans warriors in the fight against COVID-19. We send our soldiers into combat with the best protection possible, and a guarantee of the best health care available if they’re wounded. COVID-19 requires the same commitment to America’s workers and consumers. The best chance to get the economy back on track is to make the workplace and consumer environments as safe as possible. A national Test, Trace, Isolate and Treat program, is an urgent priority. Health care is our frontline and it must be well-funded. In this crisis, we can’t guarantee Americans’ safety against COVID-19, but we must guarantee they’ll have health care coverage to battle its effects.

Steven Strauss is a lecturer and visiting professor at Princeton University, an economic development specialist and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

© Copyright (c) 2020 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

Aircraft

As Airlines Suffer, American Most Likely To File Bankruptcy

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As Airlines Suffer, American Most Likely To File Bankruptcy

A few weeks ago, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun startled the airline sector when he said a major airline would go bankrupt by Halloween.

“I don’t want to get too predictive on that subject. But yes, most likely,” Calhoun said. “Something will happen when September comes around.”

Airline stocks plunged as investors and analysts scrambled to determine which airline became most vulnerable.

RapidRatings, a risk assessment firm, recently completed a comprehensive stress test on the major U.S. airlines. They used dozens of variables including debt loads, cash flow analysis, and a loss of at least 15% of revenue.

American Airlines To Suffer The Most?

We may never know which airline that Calhoun was alluding to. Although, RapidRatings’ analysis says that American Airlines is the most likely to go bankrupt in the coming months.

The company also looked at Delta, United and Southwest, but none of them are in such dire circumstances as American.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, RapidRatings CEO James Gellert said, “American is the most at risk and that’s it in every way you look at it. American stands out as the weakest of this cohort.”

The stress tests run by RapidRatings produce both a short term financial health rating (FHR) and long term core health score (CHS). According to RapidRatings, the FHR measures a company’s short-term resiliency and default risk. Meanwhile the CHS analyzes risk and company efficiency over a three year period. A score lower than 40 means a company is at risk of failing.

Gellert says the analysis has more than a decade of proven results. Also, “over 90% of companies that failed have been rated 40 and below on our scales.”

The stress tests found that American was the weakest U.S. airline going into the recent pandemic. It has a financial health rating of 59 and core health score of 66.

As the pandemic unfolded and air travel plunged 90%, American’s FHR score plunged to 29. Meanwhile, its CHS score fell to 27.
Gellert added that “I would be quite certain that is the airline in the crosshairs of the Boeing comment.”

The Future Of American

American, in response to the sub-40 stress test scores, said in a statement that it was “focused on rightsizing the airline for the current environment, and plan to reduce our 2020 operating and capital expenditures by more than $12 billion.”

Analysts, however, are starting to smell blood in the water. Cowen equity research analyst Helane Becker recently told Yahoo Finance, “American’s liquidity position is dependent on government aid, bucking the trends we’ve seen from other airlines. The company is receiving a total of $10.6 billion … [and] we expect another capital raise” in the 3rd quarter.”

Savanthi Syth, an equity analyst at Raymond James, also agrees American will need more capital to weather the storm. “I mean, if you look at the cash on hand that’s definitely the case,” Syth said. American has six months of cash on hand, United has 10 months, Delta has 12, and Southwest has almost 19 months, according to Raymond James.

Syth added, “I don’t think bankruptcy is a foregone conclusion… it’s just going to take longer for American to kind of dig themselves out of this kind of debt burden, and therefore equity could be challenged in the near term.”

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Sorry AOC, Billionaires Haven’t Made $434B During Pandemic

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Sorry AOC, Billionaires Haven’t Made $434B During Pandemic

Nation’s Billionaire’s See Net Worth Jump $434B in First Two Months of Pandemic

It was an eye-opening headline, and fairly drew the frustrations of a lot of us. This is especially true for the 38+ million Americans who have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic shut down. Our country has been at it a little more than two months ago.

How dare they get richer while we suffer?

Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality, the co-author of the report, expressed his piece. He said, “The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice.”

Meanwhile, Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness which co-authored the study, also shared his opinion. He said, “The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America’s yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality.”

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t want to miss the opportunity to inject her brand of socialism into the public discourse. “Really great system we got here. Can’t imagine why anyone would question how beneficial or sustainable it is for the working class,” she tweeted. This is in response to CNBC running the headline.

The Study’s Flaws

The top five US billionaires explicitly mentioned in the article are all Democrats. These include Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison. But setting that irony aside, the problem is that the article is simply dishonest, points out MarketWatch columnist Steve Goldstein.

“The study… examines billionaires’ wealth between March 18 — the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place — and May 19. It relied on the Forbes’ billionaire list, which itself is built around stock-market performance.”

The flaw, as Goldstein points out, is that the beginning and end dates used for the study are incorrect.

“Think about that in the market context. The pandemic did not start March 18 (nor, of course, had it ended on May 19), and certainly market concerns about the pandemic did not start March 18. Far from it.”

He says that to see a true picture of how much money the billionaires made – or lost – during the pandemic, they need to expand the date range.

“A more logical way to think about whether billionaires got richer, or not, is to think about the performance from the Feb. 19 peak in the market, after which more investors began to get concerned by the novel virus. You then get to see who got richer even in the face of the crippling economic blow.”

If you use this revised date range, Goldstein says the truth is that billionaires have actually lost money since the market peaked and the pandemic began

“Cumulatively, the top 50 billionaires lost $232 billion between the market’s peak and this Tuesday. If the remaining billionaires on the Forbes list lost wealth at the same roughly 12.5% rate that the top 50 experienced, that’s another $200 billion–plus wiped out.”

So while it’s easy to run a headline that bashes billionaires, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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Economy

Battle for 3000: Bulls and Bears Ready for “Dogfight”

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Battle for 3000: Bulls and Bears Ready for “Dogfight”

After climbing 33% since the late-March lows, the S&P 500 index closed at 2955 on Friday, putting the psychologically important 3000 level within reach.

In addition to the psychological importance of the 3000 level, that also happens to be where a key long-term technical indicator sits that is widely used to determine if we are in a bull or bear market.

The two most commonly used indicators are the 50-day and 200-day moving average. The 50-day is used by investors as a gauge of the short-term market trend, while the 200-day moving average indicates the long-term market trend.

“The fact that the S&P 500 is coming off a 35% rally and that this 200-day moving average lines up with a nice even 3,000 number seemingly makes this area especially important,” said Renaissance Macro Research analyst Kevin Dempter in a note on Friday. “A breakout is not likely to come easily and we expect a dogfight here around the 200-day.”

For 21-straight trading sessions, the S&P 500 index has bounced between the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Jason Goepfert, head of SentimenTrader and founder of independent investment research firm Sundial Capital Research, stocks are “trapped between time frames.”

While bulls anticipate the S&P breaking above 3000 – and simultaneously the 200-day moving average – will signify a new bull market and push stocks to record highs, history indicates that may not be the case.

Dempter says that since 1928, there have been 29 instances where the market traded between the 50-day and 200-day moving average for at least 20 days. In 21 of those 29 instances, the S&P 500 ended up falling below the 50-day average, while only eight ended with a push above the 200-day, he noted, making for a roughly 72% probability the index will break down.

Mark Arbeter, president of Arbeter Investments, said in a note to clients last week that as we approach the key 200-day indicator, “One would think that after a big correction or bear market, and then a retaking of this key average, the bulls would go wild, the bears would capitulate, and the stock market would go into outer space.”

He points back to previous times the S&P tried to climb above the 200-day, and says it won’t be easy.

“When the S&P first cleared the 200-day in June 2009 as we were coming out of that major bear market and the financial crises, the index stalled and then pulled back about 7%, riding on the top of the declining 200-day for about a month. The index retook the 200-day in June 2010, after a swift decline, paused, and then fell to new corrective lows.

The 200-day was overtaken in August 2010, and rolled over again. After the major correction in 2011, the “500” rose back above the 200-day for 2 days and then fell 9.8%. We saw similar price action in 2015 and 2016 as the late rally over the 200-day in October 2015 failed miserably.”

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