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Walmart sees stockpiling again as Covid cases rise—but this time it's localized

  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer is seeing some customers load up on items like paper goods, cleaning supplies and dry food again in some parts of the country.
  • "It really does have everything to do with what's happening with Covid cases in any particular community," McMillon said on an earnings call. "I was in stores last week, and I saw variance from one state to the other, one location to the other — just depends on how people are feeling in that moment."
  • The seven-day average of daily new Covid infections in the U.S. surpassed 150,000 for the first time on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillion said Tuesday that customers are loading up on items like toilet paper again as coronavirus cases rise — but he said the retail giant is better prepared to keep up.

"It feels to me like we'll work through this period of time better than we did in the first wave," he told investors on an earnings call. He said the company's supply chain is "still stressed in some places" with out of stocks.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have shot up across the U.S. The seven-day average of daily new Covid infections in the U.S. surpassed 150,000 for the first time on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. It marked the 10th day in a row of an at least 30% increase in that seven-day trend.

In some parts of the country, the outbreaks have gotten especially severe and prompted new government restrictions or curfews. In El Paso, Texas, hospitals have run out of beds for sick patients, freezer trucks have become temporary mortuaries and doctors have been forced to make tough calls about who receives care. Other cities and states are looking to reimpose restrictions on gatherings and activities such as indoor dining to prevent the virus' spread.

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With the latest surge, retailers have adjusted their policies. On Saturday, Walmart resumed counting the number of customers in stores to make sure they had more room to socially distance. Some grocers, including Kroger, Wegmans and Publix, have reinstated purchasing limits on toilet paper, disinfecting spray and hand sanitizer.

"The recent rise in Covid cases throughout the country reminds us we must remain vigilant," McMillon said. "As we've done since the beginning of the outbreak, we'll continue being disciplined about the safety protocols throughout our stores, clubs, distribution, and fulfillment centers."

He said the pantry-loading varies widely in different states and regions, depending on the number of cases, local restrictions and consumers' mindset.

"It really does have everything to do with what's happening with Covid cases in any particular community," he said. "I was in stores last week, and I saw variance from one state to the other, one location to the other — just depends on how people are feeling in that moment."

This time around, retailers face an additional hurdle. They must keep shelves stocked, stores cleaned and customers spread apart during the all-important holiday shopping season.

McMillon said he anticipates customers will still fill up their grocery carts or virtual baskets with festive foods to eat and gifts to exchange — and said its sales patterns will likely reflect that in the winter months.

"People are at home more," he said. "They're eating at home more, and they've all been through a difficult year. So just emotionally, I don't know what you're thinking, but in my family — while it will be a smaller group — we're really looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's and some sense of joy and normalcy."  

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Housing stocks see split reaction on coronavirus vaccine news, as mortgage rates jump

  • Stocks of the biggest builders like DR Horton, Lennar, Pulte and luxury builder Toll Brothers, are down after positive news on a coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.
  • Part of that also has to do with mortgage rates, which set yet another record low last week but appeared to be turning around Monday with a sell-off in the bond market.

Homebuilder stocks are taking a hit, while apartment REITs are finally crawling out of the basement amid a massive market rally sparked by Pfizer's announcement Monday that early trial data show its coronavirus vaccine to be highly effective.

As investors digest the news, suddenly the pandemic housing picture looks a little different.

The nation's homebuilders have been benefiting from the stay-at-home culture of Covid, as people looked for larger, more high-tech homes in the suburbs. Working and schooling from home had been top of mind, but an effective vaccine could reverse that.

Stocks of the biggest builders like DR Horton, Lennar, Pulte and luxury builder Toll Brothers, were down at midday Monday. The iShares U.S. Homebuilding ETF, which includes home improvement retailers like Home Depot, Sherwin Williams and Masco, was also taking a hit.

Part of that also has to do with mortgage rates, which set yet another record low last week but appeared to be turning around Monday with a sell-off in the bond market. Mortgage rates follow loosely the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury, which surged to the highest level since March.

"Bond weakness is starting to snowball in a way we haven't seen since the crazy volatility in March, and this time around there are no concerns about liquidity and smooth market functioning," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily. "That makes the current move very serious."

All this, however, looks like good news for the big apartment REITs, like Equity Residential, Avalonbay, and UDR. Apartments not only benefit when the cost of housing goes up, but there is clearly a feeling that a vaccine will get people back to work, back to the nation's downtowns and turn urban flight around.

"Clearly there is enthusiasm, but it doesn't take away from the fact that rents are down over 20% in many of the major urban gateway markets, with companies still letting employees work from home into middle of 2021," said Alexander Goldfarb, a REIT analyst with Piper Sandler. "There is a lot more earnings pressure to come."

Goldfarb is also concerned that there are other social and economic ramifications that could keep people from rushing back to the urban core, especially on the coasts, where Covid restrictions have been tighter and local economies have suffered more.

 

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Pelosi on White House coronavirus talks: 'One step forward, two steps back'

McConnell faces uphill battle to convince GOP senators to approve stimulus deal: Gasparino

Sources tell FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino many Republican senators worry about the deficit while some past stimulus money hasn’t been spent.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday dismissed the White House's latest $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief offer as "insufficient" and said the Trump administration's proposal on state and local aid, unemployment benefits and measures to fight the virus still falls short. 

"This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back," Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic colleagues Saturday.

But in a sign of hope Pelosi said she's still communicating with the White House on finding a breakthrough deal to help American workers and businesses still reeling from the pandemic.

"At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue," Pelosi wrote.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday made the biggest offer yet to Pelosi, at between $1.8 and $1.9 trillion, according to Tyler Goodspeed, acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

It included a reload of the Paycheck Protection Program, an employee retention tax credit, a second round of direct stimulus payments, and support for the airlines and school reopenings, Goodspeed told Fox Business Friday. 

It marks an increase from the $1.6 trillion the administration had previously proposed.

"We think that this was a very solid offer, and it's up to the speaker to be reasonable," Goodspeed said. 

Pelosi outlined in her letter the faults with the White House's latest offer:

  • “absence of any response on a strategic plan to crush the virus”
  • funding for state and local governments “remains sadly inadequate”
  • $200 billion less than what Democrats want for expanded unemployment benefits
  • the inclusion of coronavirus lawsuit liability protections for businesses and not including stronger new worker safety standards 
  • plan doesn’t include additional refundable tax credits: Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Child Dependent Care Tax Credit
  • a $25 billion offer on child case assistance when Democrats want $57 billion 

"At this point, the Trump proposal is insufficient in meeting families’ needs, in stark contrast to the Heroes Act, which secured tens of billions for direct relief and refundable credits," Pelosi wrote in reference to the $2.2 trillion legislation the House passed.

 FED'S POWELL URGES MORE FEDERAL STIMULUS TO HELP ECONOMY RECOVER FROM PANDEMIC

For months, Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on additional stimulus. Negotiations first collapsed in early August, prompting Trump to sign four executive measures intended to provide relief to families still reeling from the virus-induced crisis, including temporarily extending supplemental jobless aid at $300 a week.

But that aid is beginning to expire, and lifelines that propped up the economy in the early weeks of the pandemic — like the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check and sweetened unemployment benefits — lapsed weeks ago.

PELOSI REJECTS STAND-ALONE AIRLINE VIRUS RELIEF BILL WITHOUT BROADER AID DEAL

Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it. House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion aid package last week, and the Trump administration countered with a $1.6 trillion plan. Pelosi rejected that as "inadequate" before the White House came back with the higher offer.

Talks appeared to hit a dead end on Tuesday when Trump tweeted that he had instructed Republicans to halt negotiations until after the election, jolting Wall Street and sending stocks tumbling. But he swiftly reversed course, initially calling for piecemeal legislation, then renewing a push for a broader deal.

"The president wants to do a deal," Kudlow said during an interview with FOX Business' Stuart Varney.

Any bill still needs to get through the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have expressed concern about another massive spending initiative amid the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

TRUMP REJECTS DEMS' CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PROPOSAL, CALLS OFF NEGOTIATIONS 'UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION'

Fox Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report. 

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Nancy Pelosi said she won't back a standalone aid deal for airlines without a broader pandemic relief package

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not support a standalone aid package for airlines unless it accompanied a broader pandemic relief program.
  • Pelosi's comments come days after President Trump abruptly halted, then restarted, negotiations over a new pandemic stimulus bill.
  • More than 32,000 airline workers are in the process of being furloughed, with tens of thousands more taking unpaid leaves.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Days after President Donald Trump abruptly halted negotiations over a new COVID-19 aid package, only to change course and suggest he would support several smaller standalone measures, the likelihood of an individual aid program for airline workers has hit a new snag.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Thursday that she would not support a standalone bill for airline aid unless it accompanied a larger support package.

Airlines last week began the process of furloughing over 32,000 workers, with tens of thousands more taking voluntary long-term unpaid leaves of absence. More furloughs are expected in the coming months, and next year.

Carriers were prohibited from furloughing or laying off workers until October 1 under terms of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program (PSP). The $25 billion PSP offered aid for airline workers — passed down through airline payroll — as travel demand fell as much as 97% earlier in the pandemic compared to 2019 levels.

The six-month program was meant to help airlines through the worst of the pandemic, but a large-scale recovery in demand has not happened. Demand remains stagnant, down by roughly 70% compared to 2019 levels.

Despite bipartisan support for extending airline aid, House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Trump administration have been unable to reach an agreement over a larger pandemic relief package.

Democrats have been generally opposed to passing stand-alone bills, arguing that such an approach would leave out relief in some needed areas, including childcare and funding for state and local governments.

Some House Democrats, led by House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), did try to push a standalone airline support bill on the House floor on Friday, but were blocked by Republican objections.

The Trump administration has pushed a $1.6 trillion aid offer. House Democrats initially insisted on a $3.5 billion package, before passing a lower $2.2 trillion aid bill last week, which included airline aid.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of a weak US recovery without sufficient government relief, and argued that there would be no problems created by providing too much aid.

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How the White House coronavirus outbreak unfolded from a possible superspreader event in the Rose Garden

  • On September 26, President Donald Trump hosted an event at the White House Rose Garden to honor his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
  • In the days since, the president and a number of people close to him have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
  • Trump left Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Monday evening, where he had been hospitalized since Friday.
  • Here's a timeline of the White House coronavirus outbreak, which involves a number of people who include two GOP senators, the first lady, several close advisers, and the White House press secretary.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump early Friday announced he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19, and hours later he was admitted to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he was treated with at least three different therapeutic drugs. 

Trump's diagnosis came shortly after that of his adviser and former communications director Hope Hicks and not long before two GOP senators and others close to him announced they, too, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Here's how the apparent COVID-19 outbreak at the White House began, from a possible superspreader event on September 26 to Trump's release from the hospital on Monday evening. 

Saturday, September 26: President Trump hosts an event in the Rose Garden to formally announce his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Prominent Republicans attended the event to honor Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court at the White House on September 26. Attendees were seen not practicing social distancing or wearing face masks. The affair appears to have been a COVID-19 superspreader event.

Tuesday, September 29: Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden face off at the first 2020 presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace

According to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate, Trump arrived at the debate too late to be tested for COVID-19. Trump's family had been pictured in the audience during the debate without face masks, and reportedly neglected to wear them at a Cleveland hotel prior to the debate.

Thursday, October 1: Hope Hicks announces she tested positive for the coronavirus

Hicks, a White House adviser and former communications director, was the first White House official to announce a positive test. Hicks reportedly traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One to and from the first presidential debate on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 1: Trump attends a fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey

At the fundraiser, hosted at his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort, Trump told guests "the end of the pandemic is in sight," just hours before he announced he tested positive for the disease. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said Trump's choice to go ahead with the fundraiser after Hicks tested positive "put lives at risk." 

Murphy said the state is working to monitor some 206 attendees and 19 workers to prevent an outbreak. 

Friday, October 2: Trump announces in an early morning tweet that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19

In a tweet sent around 1 a.m. on Friday, the president announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

"We will get through this TOGETHER!" he wrote.

Friday, October 2: GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina announce they tested positive for COVID-19

Lee and Tillis, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced on Friday they tested positive for the virus. Both GOP senators attended the president's Rose Garden ceremony.

 

Friday, October 2: University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins announced he tested positive for COVID-19

Jenkins announced Friday he tested positive for COVID-19. He has since said he regretted not wearing a mask during the entirety of the September 26 event.

Friday, October 2: Trump is transported by helicopter to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

Less than 24 hours after he tweeted that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, Trump via helicopter departed the White House for the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to be treated "out of an abundance of caution," the White House said in a statement.  

Friday: October 2: Kellyanne Conway, the former counselor to President Trump, announces she tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Conway announced her positive result on Friday after her 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, posted to TikTok about her mother's diagnosis. Conway was at the September 26 Rose Garden event and was pictured socializing with Attorney General Bill Barr.  

Conway said she had a "light cough" and was "feeling fine."

Saturday, October 3: White House physician Dr. Sean Conley dodges questions about Trump's health at a press conference outside Walter Reed

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley on Saturday delivered the first update on Trump's health since he was hospitalized. Conely said Trump was in good spirits and doing well, but dodged specific questions about his health.

At another press briefing the following day, Conley confirmed that Trump had at some point required supplemental oxygen as part of his treatment for COVID-19.

Saturday, October 3: Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, announced he was positive and hospitalized with COVID-19

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a tweet on Saturday announced he tested positive for COVID-19, was experiencing mild symptoms, and had checked himself into a hospital as a precaution due to his having asthma. Christie attended debate-preparation sessions with Trump and attended the September 26 White House Rose Garden event.

 

Sunday, October 4: Attorney General William Barr announces he's going to self-quarantine

The US Justice Department announced on Sunday that Attorney General William Barr would self-quarantine after Trump and other people he had come in contact with had since tested positive for the virus, according to the Associated Press. 

Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for the Justice Department said Sunday that Barr has had four negative COVID-19 tests since Friday and was quarantining "out of an abundance of caution." 

Sunday: October 4: Trump takes a joyride outside of Walter Reed Medical Center to wave to his supporters

Prior to his controversial trip around the hospital, Trump announced in a Twitter video that he was going to "surprise" his supporters who were camped outside Walter Reed. A doctor at the hospital later accused Trump in a tweet of putting the lives of his Secret Service agents at risk.

Monday, October 5: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany announces she tested positive for the virus

In the days leading up to her testing positive for the disease, McEnany on multiple occasions briefed the media without wearing a face mask. In her tweet announcing her positive test, McEnany said she had no symptoms had had repeatedly tested negative before testing positive on Monday. Two of McEnany's deputies, Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, also tested positive for the disease, according to CNN. 

Monday, October 5: Trump downplays COVID-19 and announces he's leaving the hospital to return to the White House medical unit where he would continue his treatment

"Don't be afraid of Covid," the president tweeted, despite more than 200,000 deaths from the virus in the US. "Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!"

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Ron Howard: The movie theater industry is 'not going away'

  • Director Ron Howard doesn't think the movie theater industry is going away.
  • On Wednesday, dozens of filmmakers joined the National Association of Theater Owners, the Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association to urge Congress to provide assistance to struggling theater owners that have been impacted by Covid-19.
  • In 2019, the domestic box office reported $11.4 billion in ticket sales, the second-highest haul in industry history. So far in 2020, the U.S. and Canada have only tallied $2.05 billion.

The future of the movie theater industry may seem bleak in the U.S., as audiences are slow to return to cinemas and blockbuster features get postponed into 2021, but director Ron Howard doesn't think this 100-year-old business is going away.

"I just don't believe that the theatrical experience is going away entirely," Howard told CNBC's Julia Boorstin on "Squawk Alley" Thursday. "We're seeing it in Europe and Asia. People want to get back out to the movies. You know, it's still serving a tremendous function."

The majority of theater chains, big and small, have sustained massive losses in the last six months as the pandemic forced theaters to close and prompted studios to reschedule movie releases. With the number of Covid-19 cases still rising, many Americans are still avoiding public indoor spaces.

In 2019, the domestic box office reported $11.4 billion in ticket sales, the second-highest haul in industry history. So far in 2020, the U.S. and Canada have only tallied $2.05 billion. At the same point last year, the domestic box office had generated more than $8.4 billion in sales. That's more than a 75% drop.

While more than half of movie theaters in the U.S. have reopened, Hollywood continues to delay major releases and audiences are not showing signs of being comfortable returning until there is a vaccine. 

The National Association of Theater Owners warned that if this continues, 69% of small- and mid-sized theaters could be forced to file for bankruptcy or close permanently. This would result in 66% of all theater jobs being lost.

On Wednesday, dozens of filmmakers joined NATO, the Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association to urge Congress to provide assistance to struggling theater owners that have been impacted by Covid-19.

"As Covid continues in the country, it was important for theater owners, the [directors guild] and producers guild to make this request," Howard said.

Howard was joined on "Squawk Alley" Thursday by producer Brian Glazer. The pair shared details about Imagine Impact, an offshoot of their production company Imagine Entertainment that seeks to better source new talent in the entertainment industry. Imagine Impact recently closed its Series A financing round.

Howard and Glazer both agreed that streaming was gaining steam even before the pandemic, but has become more popular as people have been forced to stay home.

"Streaming is here to stay," Glazer said. "It is the center of the life force of storytelling right now."

Still neither filmmaker sees the pandemic as being the death knell for cinemas. 

"Formats are changing, there's no question about it, audience interests are changing and Covid is accelerating that to some extent," Howard said of audiences shifting more heavily towards streaming during the pandemic. "But, you know, that is an important aspect of the industry still and it's not going away, it's not only currently significant, but it has real economic impact."

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