Category Archives: Finance News

Morgan Stanley is planning to bring traders back to New York headquarters next month, sources say

Signage is displayed outside Morgan Stanley & Co. headquarters in the Times Square neighborhood of New York.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Morgan Stanley is planning to kick off the return of trading personnel to its New York headquarters in mid to late June, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The firm expects that, at least at first, only a small number of traders and workers in other departments will make use of the option, said the people, who declined to be identified speaking about the bank’s internal goals.

Morgan Stanley’s plans make it one of the first Wall Street firms to bring more employees back to the trading floor after months of working from home. Rival Goldman Sachs has also said it would bring some trading personnel back to offices in the next several weeks, and together the firms will provide an early test of whether the financial capital of the world can safely reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Morgan Stanley managers have been plotting for weeks on how to bring employees back to its Times Square headquarters, helped in part by what they’ve learned by reopening their Asia offices, according to the people.

The bank is part of an informal consortium of financial firms, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, UBS and Macquarie that share information on how the industry will reconfigure its physical spaces, the people said. While the industry’s plans have mostly been kept under wraps, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said this week that the bank is reopening to employees as early as July.

The news comes as New York City officials are planning to reopen parts of the city next month as deaths and new coronavirus cases have abated.

When workers do return to Morgan Stanley, they will find an office that’s very different from the one they left: Employees will have to queue up to get their temperatures checked before entering the building.

Inside, signage will direct people where to walk so they don’t bump into each other. Only two or three people will be allowed in an elevator at a time. Employees will get welcome kits with masks and hand sanitizer, and will be required to wear masks in most situations except when sitting at desks, the people said.

Most meeting rooms will be shuttered, and the corporate cafeteria will likely only offer boxed meals that can be ordered via app, said the people. These plans could change and are contingent on guidance from local and national authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sources said. Workers who don’t feel comfortable returning won’t be forced to, they said.

James Gorman, chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley, appears on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 22nd, 2020.

Adam Galici | Getty Images

While CEO James Gorman said last week at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting that he expected no more than 50% of workers to return by year-end, internal planning groups expect far fewer workers will return at first, perhaps 20% in most businesses, as the shift to remote work has generally gone better than expected.

In March, the coronavirus ushered in unprecedented volatility in stocks and record activity in debt markets, but trading desks have mostly met the challenge. That has led executives to declare that, for the first time in Wall Street’s history, some employees may be able to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Gorman himself marveled at his bank’s first-quarter results in an interview last month, which coincided with ten of the highest-volume days for stocks on record.

“If you told me three months ago we could have 90% of employees out of the office and be functioning with the volumes we have had,” Gorman told CNBC, “I would’ve said the probability of that being pulled off is close to zero, but it happened.”

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Women are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus job losses, costing global economy $1 trillion, says Citi

Residents wait in line for free groceries from a pop-up food pantry amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Chelsea, Massachusetts, May 19, 2020.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The historic job losses suffered around the world are disproportionately affecting women, Citi said in a new research report. On top of being an inequality issue, there are real economic consequences.

The firm said that 44 million people globally, excluding China, could wind up losing their job in the six sectors most impacted by the coronavirus-induced slowdown. Citi believes that around 31 million of those people will be women, compared with 13 million men.

“The loss of 31 million equates to a decline in global GDP of ~$1 trillion,” the firm said. “This represents 1.2 percentage points of the 3.2 percentage point drop in GDP we’re expecting for 2020.”

Part of the disparity stems from the fact that women are more represented in industries that are the most vulnerable to job losses stemming from the pandemic. This includes areas like retail, leisure and hospitality, as well as education and health. Citi said that women in the Americas and Europe are at greatest risk.

Looking at jobless claims data in the U.S. between March and April, when a net 21.3 million jobs were lost, Citi said that 11.7 million of filers were women, while 9.6 million were men. 

“In other words, 15 percent of female employees who were employed as of January this year lost their jobs,” the firm said, adding that the data was starker at the industry level.

Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, nearly 41 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment. Last week first-time filers totaled 2.1 million, which was the lowest number since the crisis began, but is still high by historical standards. Continuing claims, or those who have been filing for at least two weeks, dropped 3.86 million week-over-week to 21.05 million. 

While this indicates that the outlook is beginning to improve, Citi said that once the pandemic abates women will likely face additional challenges when seeking re-employment given the typically larger share of child and family care that they undertake. 

Since women in the work force are a key generator of global growth, the firm said that looking forward decision makers need to factor this into policy responses.

“Covid-19 may erode many positive gains towards closing gender gaps and the potential for women to be sources of significant global growth generation,” Citi said. “In order to mitigate those losses, decision-makers must take women into account in policies intended to address Covid-19 economic disruptions.”

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom and Jeff Cox contributed reporting. 

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Expanded unemployment benefits could bump people from welfare, other assistance

Reading, PA – May 8: Major Joy Mudge, left, and Kristy Kushner, right the Director of Social Services, helps to organize boxes ready for distribution. During a food distribution at the Salvation Army location on South 5th Street in Reading, PA Friday afternoon May 8, 2020. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Expanded unemployment benefits have been a lifeline for millions of Americans who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That lifeline, however, may reduce or eliminate the financial aid some get through other safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and welfare.

That’s because unemployment benefits generally count as income for individuals in such programs, according to Jennifer Wagner, a senior policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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These assistance programs, which provide aid for lower-income Americans, typically carry some sort of means testing to determine eligibility and aid amount.

Some aid recipients may be unaware of the potential interplay between expanded unemployment benefits and the social assistance they receive, especially since the one-time economic stimulus checks millions of Americans have received from the federal government don’t count as income toward these means-tested programs. 

However, the expanded unemployment benefits may count as income in some circumstances and some states have different rules, Wagner said.

Expanded unemployment benefits

The CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief law enacted in March, expanded unemployment benefits, namely by increasing weekly pay by $600, increasing benefit duration and expanding eligibility to the self-employed and other workers.

Nearly 41 million Americans have applied for jobless benefits since mid-March. Unemployment levels in the U.S. are their worst since the Great Depression.

The situation has hit lower-income households hardest.

Nearly 40% of people with household income below $40,000 lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, according to a Federal Reserve report published earlier this month. That’s true for just 13% of Americans with income exceeding $100,000.

Medicaid, food stamps and more

Social assistance programs differ in terms of how they measure eligibility and aid. Medicaid, for example, examines monthly household income.

States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act generally set their income threshold at 138% of the poverty level — $1,436 a month for a single adult and $2,453 for a family of three, for example, Wagner said. Being just $1 over the threshold typically renders people ineligible.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program calculation factors in several things, like household size and daycare and medical expenses, Wagner said.

But unlike with Medicaid, Wagner said, eligibility for SNAP doesn’t fall off a cliff over a certain threshold — there’s a wide range of benefits.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is generally available to some of the poorest households, those with income below 50% of the poverty line, Wagner said. This program — which is commonly known as “welfare” and offers temporary cash assistance — varies greatly, however, between states, she said.

Unemployment benefits could increase an individual’s income to such a degree that aid through these programs is either reduced or eliminated entirely.

But the $600 a week in extra federal unemployment stimulus, created by the CARES Act and available through July 31, doesn’t count as income in determining Medicaid eligibility.

However, it is taken into consideration for SNAP. It may also be for TANF, depending on the state, though most states do count the $600 federal supplement as income, Wagner said.

Of course, households may ultimately reap a greater financial benefit from the additional $600 week. They also may be able to re-enter the social programs or have prior aid reinstated in August, when the $600 stimulus payments are scheduled to end. 

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Stock market live updates: Futures slide, Trump China news conference looms, April spending plunges

View of New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street on March 23, 2020 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

9:25 am: Kudlow says in an interview that the U.S. government is ‘furious’ with China

President Donald Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said in an interview Friday morning that the U.S. government is “furious” with the way China has behaved in recent weeks in its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its interference with the autonomy of Hong Kong. “Regarding Hong Kong, China is now violating a 50-year-old treaty,” Kudlow told the Fox News Channel from the White House. “Frankly, the U.S. government is … I’ll use the word furious at what China has done in recent days, weeks and months. They have not behaved well and they have lost the trust, I think, of the whole Western world.”

Trump is expected to host a press conference later Friday to condemn Beijing’s recent behavior. — Franck

9:23 am: U.S. savings rate hits record high amid coronavirus crisis

Americans are saving more than ever before in history as the coronavirus has the U.S. fearing about the future of the economy. The personal savings rate hit a historic 33% in April, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday. The rate represents how much people save as a percentage of their disposable income. April’s print is by far the highest since the department started tracking in the 1960’s, and surpasses consumer savings when the U.S. was embroiled in the financial crisis. The increase in savings came as spending declined by a record 13.6% for the month. The deadly virus, which has caused more than 40 million Americans to file for unemployment, has paralyzed consumer spending habits. – Fitzgerald

8:48 am: Corporation raise $1 trillion in debt issuance

Corporate debt issuance has surpassed $1 trillion as companies borrow money at double the pace of last year as the Federal Reserve moves to backstop the corporate credit market amid the coronavirus pandemic. Of the $1.038 trillion in new issuance, over $700 billion of new debt rolled out since the Fed announced it would support the corporate bond market. —Imbert, Domm

8:43 am: U.S. personal spending plummets 13.6% in April

8:30 am: Citi: Stock market rally has been driven by short covering

The S&P 500 has surged more than 30% since hitting an intraday low on March 23. However, strategists at Citi think those gains are a byproduct of investors covering short positions. The strategists point out that equity prices have been soaring despite $120 billion in redemptions from stock funds. “From here, a move higher will need new longs and inflows,” they said in a note. —Imbert, Bloom

8:09 am: Powell slated for a talk with former Fed vice chair Alan Blinder

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak Friday to The Griswold Center for Economic Policy Studies at Princeton University. The event, taking place virtually at 11 a.m. ET, will be moderated by Alan Blinder, former Fed vice chairman under Bill Clinton. The focus of the talk will likely be on the economy and the central bank’s stimulus measures during the coronavirus crisis. Powell will also take part in a moderated audience question and answer session. Earlier this month, Powell said policymakers may have to use additional tools to pull the country out of an economic downturn that has caused “a level of pain that is hard to capture in words.” —Li

8:02 am: Raymond James becomes the biggest bull on Lululemon

Shares of the athletic retailer ticked up in premarket trading on Friday after Raymond James hiked its price target to the highest on Wall Street. Raymond James, which has a buy rating on Lululemon, raised its 12-month target to $335 per share from $250 per share. The new target implies a near 18% rally from Thursday’s closing price of $284.42 per share. The firm said the yoga-pants maker remains of its top ideas for long-term, secular winners in a retail landscape that is characterized by a widening gap between winners and losers. “We believe LULU’s dominance in the growing athletic apparel market will continue to increase as its innovation machine continues to deliver exciting and unique product to its loyal customer base,” Raymond James retail analyst Matthew McClintock said in a note to clients. Raymond James increased its fiscal first quarter earnings estimates for 2020, but the numbers still represent large declines from 2019. “The central takeaway here is that near-term earnings declines are transitory and that, more importantly, the current crisis only accelerates LULU’s favorable positioning as a leader in the athletic apparel market,” McClintock added. Shares of Lululemon rose 0.6% in early trading. – Fitzgerald

8 am: Oil on track for best month on record after gaining more than 70%

Oil moved lower on Friday, but for the month West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, is on track to register a more than 70% gain for its best month on record. After falling to record lows in April, an uptick in demand as well as historic supply cuts have driven prices higher. But prices are still far from recent highs. On Friday, WTI traded around $33 per barrel, or about 50% below its January high of $65.65 per barrel. “It certainly doesn’t feel like it was oil’s best month ever,” said Regina Mayor, KPMG’s global head of energy. “Low $30s for WTI is clearly better than where we were at the end of April, but it’s not sufficient enough to bring the bulk of production back online,” she added. —Stevens

7:23 am: Stock futures fall as Trump news conference looms

Stock futures fell slightly on Friday morning as traders awaited a news conference from President Donald Trump regarding China. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dipped 70 points, or 0.3%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures both fell 0.1%. Trump announced he would hold the news conference late during Thursday’s session, sending equity prices lower for the day. The news conference comes after China approved a controversial national security bill earlier this week.Despite the decline in futures, Wall Street was headed for solid weekly gains. The Dow and S&P 500 are both up 3.8% and 2.5%, respectively, for the week while the Nasdaq Composite has gained 0.5%. —Imbert

— With reporting from Yun Li, Thomas Franck, Michael Bloom and Patti Domm. 

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