The U.S. Sought Passenger Data, but Airlines Said No: Live Business Updates

For 15 years, the U.S. government has been pressing airlines to prepare for a possible pandemic by collecting passengers’ contact information so that public health authorities could track down people exposed to a contagious virus.

The airlines have repeatedly refused, even this month as the coronavirus proliferated across the United States. Now the country is paying a price.

As the coronavirus spread into the United States earlier this year, the federal government was not able to get in touch with or monitor airline passengers who might have been exposed to the disease or were bringing it into new communities.

Airline executives and lobbyists have protested that it would be expensive and time-consuming for them to start collecting basic information like email addresses and phone numbers for all passengers.

March was a month of head-snapping turns in financial markets: The S&P 500 suffered its worst one-day drop since 1987 before later recording its best three-day run since 1933, oil prices crashed, interest rates plunged and Wall Street’s more esoteric markets seized up.

The roller coaster came as investors found themselves overwhelmed by a shutdown of the world economy. Early in the month, the record-breaking, 11-year bull market ended, and trading was halted more than once to prevent a crash.

An enormous fiscal and policy response at the end of the month helped undo some of the worst of the damage. The S&P 500 recouped more than half of its losses in the final week of the month after lawmakers passed a $2 trillion spending package and the Federal Reserve said it would buy an unlimited amount of government-backed debt to keep markets functioning.

But even as stocks rebounded well off their lowest point, March was the worst month for the S&P 500 since October 2008, when investors feared a collapse of the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis. The S&P 500 fell 12.5 percent this month. The index is down 20 percent so far this year.

On Tuesday, stocks fell 1.6 percent.

Calmer markets do not mean the worst is over. As consumers stay home and factories shut down, millions of workers have lost their jobs. Economic data showing the scale of the damage has only just begun to roll in, and Wall Street analysts continue to downgrade expectations for the economy.

Goldman Sachs, for example, now expects U.S. economic output to plunge at an annualized rate of 34 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate will hit 15 percent, the bank said in a research note on Tuesday.

But the worst of the recent swings in asset prices seem to have ended, and investors are trying to find a footing.

“We appear to be seeing improved sentiment,” Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL FCStone, a financial services and brokerage firm, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. “When sentiment does start to improve around the virus and its ultimate economic impact — the market will find it difficult to ignore the size and scope of the fiscal and monetary stimulus that has been undertaken.”

The economic impact of the pandemic in the United States will be different from the 2008 crash of the markets in at least one way: It is likely to lead to more job losses for women than men, at least in the short term, according to a new paper by researchers at three universities.

“In all major recessions, including the financial recession 10 years ago, many more men lose their jobs,” said Matthias Doepke, an economics professor at Northwestern University and one of the authors of the research paper. “This has to do with two things: Usually the most-affected sectors are things like construction and manufacturing, which are male-dominated. And the second thing is this notion of ‘insurance in the family’ — that some married women decide to actually work more during a recession to make up for the job loss of the husband.”

But in this downturn, the sectors that are going to be most affected — hospitality, retail, travel — have fairly high female employment, Mr. Doepke said.

However, the paper suggests that the new work-from-home policies may also promote gender equality in the long run.

“We expect that this added flexibility is going to stay — not completely — but to a large extent after the crisis,” Mr. Doepke said.

With the coronavirus pandemic all but eliminating travel, demand for energy is tumbling, and oil companies from Algeria to West Texas are slashing budgets. Refineries are cutting production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and oil companies are dropping rigs, dismissing fracking crews and beginning to shutter wells.

As much as 20 percent, or 20 million barrels a day, of oil demand may be lost as the global economy slows, according to the International Energy Agency. That is roughly equivalent to eliminating all U.S. consumption. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing oil production to regain market share from American oil companies that increased production and exports in recent years.

The Trump administration has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia and Russia that they should cut production to help stabilize the oil market; President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia discussed energy markets in a call on Monday. But the energy demand destroyed by the virus now overshadows anything that Saudi Arabia or Russia could do to reduce exports.

Global oil benchmark prices hover around $20 a barrel — levels not seen in a generation — and regional prices in West Texas and North Dakota have fallen even further, to around $10 a barrel. That is about a quarter of the price that shale operators typically need to cover the costs of pulling oil out of the ground. If these prices persist, a big wave of bankruptcies is inevitable by the end of the year, experts say.

The economic recovery package that was signed by President Trump last week created a new inspector general to monitor how a $500 billion pot of relief money is being allocated. The law specified that the inspector general, who will be selected by Mr. Trump and placed in the Treasury Department, must alert Congress if requests for information are blocked.

Mr. Trump, however, suggested in a signing statement on Friday that he had the power to decide what information the inspector general could share with Congress.

In a letter, Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin not to allow the president to restrict the inspector general. Mr. Schumer is the minority leader and Mr. Brown and Mr. Wyden are the top Democrats on the Senate’s banking and finance committees.

The senators went on to remind Mr. Mnuchin that he personally negotiated with lawmakers the terms of the legislation that created the inspector general’s role and that lawmakers agreed to the $500 billion fund on the condition that there would be sufficient oversight.

Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor and younger brother of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is quarantining at his home, the network said on Tuesday.

Mr. Cuomo is “feeling well,” according to a memo distributed to CNN staff members, and he plans to continue hosting his prime-time program from a studio at his home. Mr. Cuomo confirmed the news himself on Twitter.

Mr. Cuomo, 49, is one of the most prominent members of the American news media so far to test positive for the coronavirus. His illness is also notable in part because of the outsize role his brother, Governor Cuomo, has played in leading the response to the virus in the hard-hit state of New York.

Governor Cuomo, when asked about his brother on Tuesday, said “he is going to be fine.”

“He’s young, in good shape, strong, not as strong as he thinks, but he will be fine. But there’s a lesson in this,” he said. “He’s an essential worker, a member of the press, so he’s been out there. If you go out there, the chance that you get infected is very high.”

The number of hours Americans are devoting to streaming shows and movies has skyrocketed in the weeks since much of the country was given stay-at-home orders, according to a new study released by Nielsen.

Total streaming viewership has gone up 35 percent in recent weeks, and the size of the audience is more than double what it was this time a year ago, Nielsen said.

Americans watched a total of 156 billions of minutes of streaming shows and movies on televisions during the week of March 16, according to Nielsen, which does not measure what people watch on phone screens or tablets. In a comparable week last year, Americans streamed 71 billions minutes. All of the major streaming services — Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu — had increases, the research firm said.

Netflix had the largest share of streaming minutes, with YouTube in second place. Netflix’s viewership has jumped 28 percent in the United States in the last few weeks, and the platform has many of the most-streamed shows, including originals like “Love is Blind” and standbys like “The Office.” The Netflix documentary series “Tiger King” was released March 20 and has been the No. 1 program on the platform in the United States for more than a week.

Much of television has had rating surges, including cable news and the evening news programs. But the streaming statistics are evidence that people are looking for distractions.

  • Brooks Brothers said on Tuesday that it would use its manufacturing facilities in New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts to make masks and gowns for health care workers.

  • Tyson Foods said it would pay approximately $60 million in bonuses to 116,000 front-line workers and truckers in the United States. Eligible employees will receive a $500 bonus, payable in the first week of July.

  • JCPenney became the latest retailer to furlough many of its workers, saying on Tuesday that it was making the move to protect the “future of our company.” The retailer did not say exactly how many of its 90,000 workers would be furloughed, but said it would affect the majority of its store employees.

  • The Conference Board’s measurement of consumer confidence fell sharply this month, according to figures released Tuesday. It was the steepest one-month drop since August 2011. The data was collected through March 19, before many of the job losses from the coronavirus outbreak hit.

  • Walmart said it would start providing masks and gloves to workers. The company will also begin taking the temperatures of employees as they show up to work at stores and distribution centers. Any employee with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home and cannot return to work until they are fever free for at least three days.

Reporting was contributed by Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Natalie Kitroeff, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael M. Grynbaum, Clifford Krauss, Carlos Tejada, Ben Casselman, Alan Rappeport, Michael Corkery, John Koblin, Elizabeth Paton, Niraj Chokshi, Raymond Zhong, Peter Eavis, Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Kevin McKenna, Mohammed Hadi, Geneva Abdul, Jonah Bromwich, Kate Conger, Ernesto Londono and Daniel Victor.

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