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Live Stock Market Updates During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic largely shut down the country’s hotels and golf courses, the Trump Organization asked its longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, for a break on its monthly loan payments. President Trump’s company owed the German bank a total of more than $300 million, most of which was on loans related to the Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida and the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Deutsche Bank executives recently made an offer to the Trump Organization: The company could skip a number of payments on some of its loans, but the loans would eventually need to be repaid in full, according to people familiar with the matter. The offer was similar to what Deutsche Bank was proposing to other struggling clients.

The Trump Organization rejected the proposal, which officials concluded was not worth taking, the people said.

Deutsche Bank officials — which were wary of doing a financial favor for a president whose administration oversees the bank — were surprised that the Trump Organization did not accept the offered relief, however modest it might have been.

This is not the first time that the Trump Organization has sought to rework its debts to Deutsche Bank. In 2008, during the global financial crisis, the Trump company was due to repay a loan that had financed the construction of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. After Deutsche Bank refused to extend the loan’s due date, the Trump Organization sued the bank, blaming Deutsche Bank for causing the financial crisis and arguing that it constituted a contract-voiding act of God.

That lawsuit was eventually settled, but Deutsche Bank stopped working with Mr. Trump for a few years. The relationship was restarted in 2012 when the bank agreed to make a number of loans to the Trump company, including $125 million to finance the Doral golf resort.

A ‘not welcome’ sign won’t help: Companies react with anger to visa restrictions.

President Trump on Monday suspended new work visas through at least the end of the year. The sweeping order denies employment permits for hundreds of thousands of skilled foreign workers, like programmers. Seasonal hospitality workers and work-study students are also affected.

The president cited the pandemic, saying that the visa programs “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”

The business world reacted with anger. “Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” said Thomas Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Technology firms, which account for the bulk of H-1B visas, were particularly aghast.

Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, was “disappointed” by the decision:

In a statement, Amazon said that “preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk.”

Facebook said “highly-skilled visa holders play a critical role in driving innovation — at Facebook and at organizations across the country — and that’s something we should encourage, not restrict.”

The chairman of Twitter, Patrick Pichette (who is Canadian), suggested an alternative: “A message to all you H-1B seekers; just look to the North, where we welcome you (and your family) with open arms.”

Over the past several years, hospitals began to play innkeeper to open the door to more elective surgery, which is the lifeblood of their revenue.

They developed hotels near their operating rooms where patients, who often came from overseas for specialized treatments, could recover comfortably. Expanding into the hospitality business also allowed health care providers to avoid the high costs of being hosts themselves.

But as with so much else, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated medical tourism. To allow doctors to focus on emergencies, hospitals have canceled hip replacements and tummy tucks, while flight bans have grounded many foreign visitors.

“Unfortunately, the future looks bleak,” said Trey Hulsey, a co-founder of Hayakoum, a three-year-old service that handles travel arrangements for patients from the Middle East bound for hospitals in Boston, Houston and Philadelphia. “It’s just been one blow after another.”

Yet hospitals, whose costs have mounted as the pandemic dragged on, may have little choice but to revive the sector, according to some developers, who are forging ahead despite the uncertainty.

“We want to be focused on the entire patient experience,” said Ana Lopez-Blázquez, an executive vice president at Baptist Health South Florida, which owns the Miami hospital.

The Walt Disney Company has decided to close Disney English, a 12-year-old chain of 25 language schools in China, ending a once-promising business that, at times, prompted questions about education as brand building.

The learning centers, in six cities and using Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and the Little Mermaid in their curriculum, have been closed since late January, when the Chinese government began to take aggressive efforts to contain the coronavirus. Traditional schools have been allowed to slowly reopen, but some supplemental education centers, including Disney English, have remained closed.

Mahesh Samat, Disney’s executive vice president of consumer products commercialization in the Asia-Pacific region, told parents in a letter on Monday that Disney English had made the “difficult decision” not to reopen. The chain was founded in 2008, when China’s fast-growing middle class had created increased demand for English-language learning. Disney developed the curriculum in partnership with Columbia University.

He added that Disney was “taking care of each and every” teacher affected by the decision but did not specify how. Advance-paid tuition will be refunded. The learning centers, aimed at children ages 2 to 12, charged roughly $2,000 annually for about 100 hours of instruction.

The coronavirus recession is pushing many companies into bankruptcy, a painful process that has led to layoffs, wiped out some investors and hurt the economy.

But the chief executives of some of these businesses are doing just fine.

Companies that are struggling to pay creditors and suppliers are managing to find millions of dollars to pay bonuses to their bosses. The payments, which are made just before a bankruptcy filing, appear to be legal and have been made by several companies.

J.C. Penney, which is closing 154 stores, paid its chief executive, Jill Soltau, $4.5 million. The chief executive of Whiting Petroleum, which sought bankruptcy protection in April, received $6.4 million and Chesapeake Energy is paying bonuses ahead of an expected bankruptcy filing. Executives at Hertz also got payments before the rental-car giant sought bankruptcy protection.

Companies have said the payments are meant to help them retain qualified executives through the recession and bankruptcy. But critics counter that the money would be better spent on rank-and-file employees.

Walmart said on Tuesday that it was removing all Mississippi state flags from its stores, saying the decision was consistent with the company’s positions not to sell “merchandise with the confederate flag.”

With the move, the nation’s largest retailer joins universities, businesses and athletic organizations that are putting pressure on officials in Mississippi to change the state flag’s design.

“We believe it’s the right thing to do, and is consistent with Walmart’s position to not sell merchandise with the confederate flag from stores and online sites, as part of our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all of our customers in the communities we serve,’’ the company said in a statement.

It is part of a broader effort to root out symbols of the confederacy including statues of confederate generals and other monuments from public parks and government property.

The battle flag of the Confederacy is on vivid display at the heart of Mississippi’s flag, but previous efforts to alter the design have faltered. All eight of Mississippi’s public universities have stopped flying the flag, along with cities across the state.

Walmart stopped selling merchandise that displayed the confederate flag in 2015, following the murder of nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church.

Sanofi accelerates the timeline for its coronavirus vaccine development.

After lagging behind its competitors in starting clinical trials, the French drugmaker Sanofi plans to speed a vaccine development timeline that could yield approval from regulatory authorities sometime next year, perhaps in the first half of 2021, the company said on Tuesday.

The company and its partner in the endeavor, GlaxoSmithKline, originally projected that a vaccine would be available in the later half of next year at the earliest.

Like other contenders in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, Sanofi is eager to push forward. Still, “such fast-tracking and intense scale of vaccine production is totally unprecedented,” and the future unknown, said Padmini Pillai, an immunologist at M.I.T.

The Sanofi-GSK vaccine contains a laboratory-synthesized version of the coronavirus’s “spike” protein, which decorates the surface of the virus and is crucial to its ability to enter host cells. This so-called recombinant vaccine is also formulated with one of GSK’s proprietary adjuvants, compounds that can enhance the body’s immune response to a foreign onslaught, in theory strengthening the staying power of a given vaccine.

A combined Phase I/II clinical trial for the vaccine, originally scheduled for December 2020, will now begin in September. The goal is to have the recombinant vaccine fully licensed by June 2021.

In news briefings on Tuesday, both companies expressed confidence in their collaboration and its potential to deliver a successful vaccine. Sanofi’s history with vaccine development runs deep: Its production lines are responsible for hundreds of millions of doses of the flu vaccine each year.

“As all eyes are on prevention of infectious disease through vaccines, this is a pointed moment in time where we are called upon to seek innovative ways to protect public health,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president of Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccines global business unit, said in a statement.

Stocks on Wall Street rose along with global markets, as investors zeroed in on signs of economic recovery and the prospect for another round of stimulus spending by the government.

The S&P 500 rose less than half a percent. As they have done for several days recently, technology stocks fared even better than the broader market, with the Nasdaq composite returning to a record.

The gains came after a turbulent night for financial markets around the world, after one of President Trump’s advisers seemed to suggest that a trade deal between the United States and China had been scrapped. But after Mr. Trump took to Twitter, and his surrogates appeared on television to clarify the statement, stocks quickly recovered.

Lifting sentiment were initial surveys of corporate purchasing managers that echoed other signals of a rebound underway in the United States, Britain and Europe. The IHS Markit composite purchasing managers index for the United States rose to 46.8 in June, up from 37 in May. A reading under 50 still signals economic contraction.

“The second quarter started with an alarming rate of collapse but output and jobs are now falling at far more modest rates in both the manufacturing and service sectors,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said in a statement accompanying the data. “The improvement will fuel hopes that the economy can return to growth in the third quarter.”

Investors were also emboldened by expectations for another round of stimulus spending by Washington. A White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that it could include “tax rebates and direct mail checks,” even as he cautioned that nothing had been settled. The trading day began on a more volatile note.

On Monday evening, Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, said “it’s over” when asked in an interview on Fox News about the trade war pact that was reached between the United States and China in January. The pact had eased trade tensions between the two countries but has since become a source of investor concern. China pledged to increase purchases of American agricultural products and other goods under the pact, but its struggles with the coronavirus pandemic put those promises into doubt.

Later on Monday, Mr. Trump confirmed that the pact was still in force. “The China Trade Deal is fully intact,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!”

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • New York Times Company executives announced 68 layoffs Tuesday, saying the cuts were coming largely in the advertising department and not among the journalists in the newsroom. “The eliminations are taking place in parts of the company that have seen a significant immediate impact from the virus,” Mark Thompson, the chief executive, and Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in an internal email, “but they also reflect long-term trends in our business and are fully consistent with the company’s strategy.” During last month’s quarterly earnings call, Mr. Thompson forecast a steep drop in advertising revenue because of the pandemic.

  • Spirit Aerosystems, a key Boeing supplier, said in a securities filing that Boeing had slashed an order for fuselage parts because of the effect the pandemic has had on global aviation. Boeing now wants only 72 shipsets, down from 125. (The aerospace giant had already cut its order from 216 earlier this year.)

  • Airlines continue to amass emergency funds to get them through the pandemic. United Airlines on Tuesday said it would raise $3 billion in a bond offering backed by its loyalty program, while American Airlines on Sunday said it would raise $3.5 billion in varied financing.

Reporting was contributed by Brooks Barnes, Katherine J. Wu, Michael Corkery, C.J. Hughes, Peter Eavis, Alan Rappeport, David Gelles, Nathaniel Popper, Michael Corkery, Mohammed Hadi, Edmund Lee, Natasha Singer, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Julie Creswell, Niraj Chokshi, Katie Robertson, Mary Williams Walsh and Brooks Barnes.



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Millionaires’ financial decisions are different in a few surprising ways, study finds

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The Canadian Press

Canadian cyclist Michael Woods wins Stage 7 of Spanish Vuelta

MADRID — Ottawa cyclist Michael Woods won the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Tuesday, finishing the hilly 159.7-kilometre route from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Valdegovía in three hours 48 minutes 16 seconds.
Woods, who finished second in Sunday’s sixth stage, improved to 48th overall with the win.
The EF Pro Cycling rider made his move to the front entering the final kilometre and finished four seconds in front of Spanish cyclists Omar Fraile (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to take his second La Vuelta stage win.
“It was a special day,” Woods said. “I had a bit of luck, I had the legs and managed to get the win. I’m going to savour this one.”
Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz maintained the overall lead by finishing in the peloton, which crossed the line almost a minute later. The Ecuadorian kept an 18-second lead over Hugh Carthy, with Dan Martin and defending champion Primoz Roglic close behind. Roglic finished the stage in 19th place.
“I think we kept the situation under control,” Carapaz said. “We tried to stay calm and we knew things were not too dangerous with the finale. We tried to keep the breakaway under control and I think we finished with a good gap.”
Woods was the seventh different stage winner at the Vuelta this year.
“He played his cards and it worked well,” Fraile said of Woods.
Woods also won a stage in the 2018 edition of the race, when he joined Ryder Hesjedal as the only Canadians to claim a stage in the Vuelta, traditionally the third Grand Tour race on the calendar.
An emotional Woods outlasted the field in a demanding 157-kilometre Stage 17 of the 2018 Vuelta, dedicating the win to his stillborn son, who died earlier in the year when his wife was 37 weeks pregnant. They have since celebrated the birth of daughter Max (Maxine).
Hesjedal won stages in 2009 and 2014. He also won the Giro d’Italia in 2012, the only Canadian to win a Grand Tour event.
Woods has been on a good run of late. He finished third at the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic on Sept. 30.
Woods’ cycling resume also includes a victory in the 2019 Milano-Torino one-day race, a bronze medal in the road race at the 2018 world championships and a second place at the historic Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day race in Belgium in 2018.
On Wednesday, riders will face a mountain stage of 164 kilometres (102 miles) from Logroño to the Alto de Moncalvillo.
The Vuelta is taking place amid tight health restrictions as Spain endures a surge in coronavirus cases. The race was postponed from earlier in the year because of the pandemic.
—With files from The Associated Press.
 
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.
 

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North Cowichan council members face financial ding for bad behaviour – Cowichan Valley Citizen

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Council members in North Cowichan will now have to pay a financial price if found guilty of contravening the municipality’s new standards of conduct policy.

In 2018, the municipality adopted the policy which set out the expectation for council members to adhere to when carrying out their duties and functions on behalf of North Cowichan.

If a council member is accused of harassment, bullying, intimidation, violence, and/or discrimination during these times, the municipality is mandated under the policy to hire a third-party investigator to determine the validity of the accusations.

The hiring of an investigator can be a significant expense, and council decided at its meeting on Oct. 21 that when a member of council has been found to have breached the policy, he or she must contribute towards the costs of the investigation.

For the first offence, council members will receive a 10 per cent pay reduction for 12 months, which is approximately $3,000 for a councillor and $8,000 for the mayor.

A second offence will result in a 15 per cent pay reduction, but if there is any overlap between the first offence and second offence, the offending council member will see a pay reduction of 25 per cent while those periods coincide.

Council members will face a 25 per cent reduction in pay for 12 months for the third and subsequent offences, and overlapping offences within those 12 months could result in reductions of 50 per cent where there are three concurrent offences, 75 per cent for four concurrent offences, or even 100 per cent if there are five or more concurrent offences.

Mayor Al Siebring said some may say that the financial penalties are overkill, but they are a good deterrent to bad behaviour of council members.

“Without this, our code of conduct would be just symbolic, but this will add some enforcement to it,” he said.

Coun. Kate Marsh said she was impressed with the repercussions council members could face when exhibiting bad behaviour.

“One of the challenging things about the code of conduct is consequences, and a cut in pay will add teeth to it,” she said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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HSBC considers paying 2020 dividend as profits beat estimates

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HSBC said it would consider paying a “conservative” 2020 dividend after Europe’s largest bank unveiled a better-than-expected third-quarter profit on lower provisions for bad loans.

The lender on Tuesday reported a 36 per cent year-on-year drop in pre-tax profits to $3.1bn for the three months to September, which was above bank-compiled analyst forecasts of $2.1bn. Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, labelled the results “promising”.

HSBC shares rose as much as 5.3 per cent in Hong Kong on Tuesday after the results were released, hitting their highest level in about two months.

HSBC cancelled its payout for the first time in 74 years earlier this year following pressure from the Bank of England, infuriating its Hong Kong shareholders. It said a 2020 payout would depend on the bank’s forecasts for 2021 and its consultations with regulators. “We will seek to pay a conservative dividend if circumstances allow,” Mr Quinn said.

Provisions for bad loans dropped to $785m in the third quarter compared with $3.8bn in the previous quarter. The average analyst forecast was for $2bn in provisions for the third quarter.

The lender said it expected total loan losses to be closer to the lower end of the $8-13bn range it had earlier forecast for the whole year.

“This latest guidance, which continues to be subject to a high degree of uncertainty due to Covid-19 and geopolitical tensions, assumes that the likelihood of further significant deterioration in the current economic outlook is low,” the bank said.

The slower rate of new provisions in the third quarter came as the global economy tentatively reopened from strict lockdowns prompted by the pandemic.

This matched the trend last week at Barclays, which set aside an additional £608m, substantially lower than the £3.7bn reserved in the first six months of the year.

HSBC revenue fell by 11 per cent year on year to $11.9bn in the third quarter.

HSBC’s shares have plunged by more than 40 per cent this year as the lender struggles with the combined challenges of coronavirus, a UK regulatory ban on dividends, ultra-low interest rates and a confrontation between China and the west over Hong Kong, its most important market.

The bank said it expected to further cut costs. It would look to lower its original $31bn target for its annual cost base for 2022, adding it would release a “detailed and updated” transformation plan when it published its full-year results.

Mark Tucker, chairman, and Mr Quinn are re-evaluating a strategy unveiled only in February, preparing deeper cuts and exploring the sale of persistently underperforming businesses, such as its US retail arm, the FT has reported.

Mr Quinn said on Tuesday that the smaller fall in profits before tax for the quarter was in part due to the lower expected loan losses and “continued good cost management”. 

HSBC said it expected to increase investment in Asia due to the region’s economies “rebounding strongly” from the pandemic. The bank said it would provide an update on the future of its French and US operations in February 2021.

The bank highlighted the passage of a national security law and US sanctions on 11 Hong Kong officials under a list of risks to its operations. The US has threatened secondary sanctions on financial institutions which fail to cut ties with the officials.

“The financial impact to the group of geopolitical risks in Asia is heightened due to the strategic importance of the region, and Hong Kong in particular, in terms of profitability and prospects for growth,” HSBC said.

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