‘Coronavirus has ruined everything.’ My husband refuses to work. Is it too much to ask him to find a job when millions of people are now out of work?


Dear Moneyist,

I have been working since my now-husband and I have been together. He has bounced from job to job and finally landed on the couch. I’ve pushed him to go to school, take online courses for an information technology (IT) certificate, etc. We’re entering year two of our marriage, and I’m completely drained. What money I received from my inheritance is all but gone.

Dispatches from a pandemic: ‘Would you risk your life for a bagel?’ The Moneyist’s 5-point guide to surviving grocery stores without losing your mind during the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus has ruined everything. My IRA is a shambles due to the pandemic, and now I’m working from home. I see him every day relaxing and taking it easy while I work. I’ve suggested jobs with car services and food-delivery services, but to no avail. He simply refuses to work, and now he has good reason not to. What are my options? Bills need to be paid. I need him to start working soon.

Am I asking too much now that the threat of COVID-19 has shut down a lot of businesses?

Sincerely,

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

You can blame coronavirus for a lot of things. You can blame it for social distancing, long lines outside the grocery store, and the lack of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. You can blame it for the deaths of 5,148 people to date in the U.S., 49,236 deaths worldwide, and the 3,000% jump in jobless claims between March 7 and last week. You and I could debate how much blame lies with COVID-19, plus how the lack of ventilators and available testing in the U.S., and action or lack thereof by governments around the world, have contributed to this global health crisis. But let’s not do that.

Your husband was a job hopper and a couch surfer before the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed global economies, closed businesses and threatened the livelihoods and lives of millions of people. He is someone who appears to have no qualms about relying on his marriage as an ATM machine, providing him with free cable, a roof over his head and a comfortable armchair to settle into. While you see the contrasts in your lifestyles and work ethics, he appears to see a square box on the wall.

Dispatches from a pandemic: Dating during a global health crisis: This couple got coronavirus on a first date — and they’ve been quarantining (together) ever since

Unless he had a complete personality change when you got married, I’m guessing that you had a pretty good idea what you were getting before you got it. You read the description and you overlooked it. Perhaps you were convinced that the companionship and love you felt for each other would encourage him to be the best version of himself. Here’s the bad news: This could be the best version of himself — and if it’s not, he may not be willing to show it to you or, indeed, himself.

Love is not a feeling. Hollywood producers and 17th-century French romantic novelists wanted us to believe that romance is an antidote to life’s problems. Let’s hope we have a vaccine for coronavirus before next winter, assuming social distancing works, and together we burn this pandemic out. But there is no cure for what you are dealing with here. Do the opposite of what millions of people who are doing as they wait this crisis out: Take action. Because love is an action.

Your husband can tell you what you want to hear, or whisper sweet nothings in your ear to soften your resolve, or opine about the state of the world, and buy himself another week, month or year on the couch. But my guess is that when this pandemic has passed, you still won’t have to go to the store for potatoes, because you will already have one big uncooked potato sitting at home on the couch. Love is respect, first and foremost. A successful marriage requires that above all else.

The Moneyist: ‘Your boss is playing God’: My grocery store banned face masks for staff. How on earth can I stay safe from coronavirus now?

The good thing about extreme situations like death and divorce — and even a time such as this, when the world seems to come to a standstill — is that they force our hand. If we allow them to, they can bring us new strength and perspective, the knowledge that we deserve to be happy, and the motivation to ensure that we invite positivity and good things into our lives. This is an opportunity for you to do that. Tell your husband what you need to happen and, if it does not happen, you have your answer.

By all means, do everything you can to make this marriage work. But he must join you in that quest. He must bring solutions, not problems. If you put his excuses for not wanting to work above your needs, you could spend a lifetime trying to fix something that doesn’t really want to be fixed. Do not merge your finances, do not buy property together, and do not blink and do nothing. Because if you blink, it will be 22 years from now, and you will look back at this letter and wonder, “What if?”

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Dispatches from the front lines of a pandemic: ‘Replace the term social distancing with spatial distancing.’ A behavioral economist on the psychological toll of endless waiting during the coronavirus pandemic

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here

Do you have questions about how the coronavirus is impacting your life and finances? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used). By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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‘We are now experiencing the aftershock’: As Italy’s death toll exceeds 10,000, Italians wait for the coronavirus surge to finally peak


Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

A mural dedicated to all Italian medical workers depicting a nurse cradling Italy and reading ‘To All Of You… Thank You!’, on a wall of Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Italy. Bergamo is the epicenter of Italy’s hardest-hit region, Lombardy. The Italian government continues to enforce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

COMO, Italy — Our world has been turned outside in.

It’s now almost six weeks since the university in Milan has been closed, and three weeks since the official lockdown was announced. We have daily music lessons in the bedroom, English lessons in the kitchen and high-school classes in the living room.

As a language teacher, I have been literally run off my fingers. Moving courses online has been a mammoth task, and there have been barely enough hours in the day to get things done. But now, six weeks in, the workload is finally easing off.

In a few short weeks, everything has changed — people’s habits, their hobbies, their social life, their reality. School corridors lie empty. Paintings in art classes are left unfinished.

The number of coronavirus contagions here in Italy, on the other hand, is not.

My area of Lombardy is still the worst affected, accounting for over a third of the 97,689 nationwide cases to date, with 969 deaths reported in just one day. The peak we had been expecting two weeks ago has yet to arrive and, according to Silvio Brusaferro, Commissario Straordinario of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, warned Friday, “We have neither reached it, nor surpassed it.”

There are the faintest glimmers of hope. The number of confirmed cases reached 97,689 on Sunday, up from 92,472 the day before. That was the lowest increase in infections since last Wednesday. The rise in the number of deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, slowed on Sunday for the second consecutive day. As of Sunday, the virus has killed 10,779 people in Italy, accounting for one-third of the worldwide total number of fatalities (33,968), and is more than three times the number of deaths from the virus in the U.S. (2,489).

“The measures that were due to expire on April 3 inevitably will be extended,” Regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia told Sky TG24 television on Sunday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will ultimately make that decision, he said.

People are, for the most part, resigned to the fact that they have to wait the lockdown out. Some people who have relatives who tested positive or are in high-risk groups are going into extended quarantine, so still having to rely on friends and family to replenish their supplies.


Alison Fottrell: ‘The buzz of everyday life has been silenced and it feels like we have entered a new and unwelcome dimension.’

We are now experiencing the aftershock. In a few short weeks, everything has changed — people’s habits, their hobbies, their social life, their reality. School corridors lie empty. Paintings in art classes are left unfinished. The buzz of everyday life has been silenced and it feels like we have entered a new and unwelcome dimension.

The more affected a person or their family, the deeper the sense of distress and detachment. It’s like Russian roulette. Some have paid a heavier price and have lost people close to them. Others have been luckier and seem to be escaping with no casualties.

As the days have stretched into weeks and maybe even beyond, older people who are now cut off from their adult children and grandchildren are feeling the void. They are counting down the days until the lockdown is lifted, hoping for a return to normality or at least a family lunch, and worried this will continue to be put off.

A new decree is expected from the prime minister’s office in the coming week, which will likely confirm the measures currently in force until April 18. Although the state of emergency has been officially declared until July 31, the government is hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is basing that decisions on the epidemiological trend and government ministers have expressed their appreciation for the majority of Italians who are respecting the rules.

It’s like Russian roulette. Some have paid a heavier price and have lost people close to them. Others have been luckier and seem to be escaping with no casualties.

Despite the signs that the spread is slowing down, the government maintains that the real weapon against the virus is first and foremost how people behave in the face of this emergency. And to their credit, most Italians are abiding by the measures imposed by the government. Yet there will always be the defiant few who fight against it.

According to the Italian Home Office, of 183,578 people stopped by police recently in one day, 1,515 were reported for not respecting travel restrictions, 69 for making false statements to the authorities and 129 for violating quarantine.

Consequently, there are new and stiffer fines of up to 3,000 euros ($3,328) for those who continue to leave their house for an undocumented reason, and an extension of up to five years’ imprisonment for people who are infected and refuse to stay in isolation. The latter is considered a crime against public health — and will be punished as such.

And nobody, it appears, is exempt. There are 55,000 homeless people living on Italy’s streets, so obviously with no homes to go to. Not only are their problems accentuated by the closure or limitation of essential services, the President of the Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless People, Cristina Avonto, has felt it necessary to make an appeal against adding further to their humiliation by imposing charges or fines on them.

So for now, the only outing that most people have is to the supermarket. The queues outside have been getting longer as online shopping deliveries can take too long for many families, and better left to those who really have no other option. Security guards are now not only armed with sanitizing gel and plastic gloves, they also aim a thermometer at your forehead before allowing you to enter. If your body temperature is above the norm, you don’t go inside.

Dispatches from a pandemic: When the world turns upside-down, it sometimes helps to focus on the things that have not changed

Alison Fottrell

The Cathedral in Central Como.

Most people are wearing masks, although I still haven’t managed to get my hands on one. Although not officially necessary, the Lombardy region has recommended them for shopping, to avoid contaminating products on the shelves and the shopping cart. Apparently, the official green surgical masks are the best to get. Those with valves seemingly only protect the wearer.

Those in Bergamo feel like they have become the Italian Wuhan. So many have been affected there and it’s showing no signs of relenting just yet.

Snorkeling masks are being adapted to fill an eventual shortfall of respiratory equipment in sub-intensive care units, as are Cpap or “continuous positive airway pressure” masks used for sleep apnea. Adaptors for theses are being studied and patented with the aid of 3-D printers. For now, they remain non-certified medical equipment and would be used only in the case of extreme emergency and with the patient’s consent.

Many Italian firms have stepped up to the plate, along with fashion designer Georgio Armani who announced the conversion of his production plants to produce disposable gowns for the protection of health-care professionals. And those much sought-after masks are being produced by a consortium of Italian manufacturers to try to cover 50% of what’s needed. The priority is to protect health workers, of whom at least 6,414 have tested positive for COVID-19. Fifty-one doctors have died since the outbreak, ten of those in just one day.

The people of Bergamo feel like they have become the Italian Wuhan. So many have been affected there and it’s showing no signs of relenting just yet. To cope, hotels have been turned into convalescing homes and authorities there are building a new hospital. It will have an emergency team of 32 Russian military health workers specialized in intensive care. This should take some of the pressure off local hospitals which are at the limit of their capacity and manpower.

There have been complaints about a lack of testing in Bergamo and the city’s mayor, Giorgio Gori, has appealed for more testing equipment. He has acknowledged that the official figures of those who have tested positive with the virus are only the tip of the iceberg, given that many people who are asymptomatic or have light symptoms.

And then there’s the parallel epidemic of job loss and uncertainty. Companies have closed. Workers have been let go. There have been grim warnings of a long and profound economic depression, the very idea of which is sending shivers down the spine of the Licia Mattioli, vice president of Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.

Also see: Will coronavirus survive airborne? Are young people safe? Do face masks protect me? Are men more likely to die? Burning questions on COVID-19

Admittedly, health comes before the economy, but she has also turned her thoughts to what could be described as a “post-war” reconstruction, which will be very much dependent on businesses and workers pulling together. Better again if it were to involve the whole of Europe.

Even if a return to the classroom is hypothetically possible, it is realistically unlikely, even after the Easter vacation. The Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala has also been surmising on social media about possible scenarios when the city gradually gets back to business as usual — from remodeling infrastructures to changing how we access public spaces like stadiums, cinemas and theatres.

However premature his predictions might be, there’s no doubt that until a vaccine is found, restrictive measures will be ongoing.

There is no escaping the fact that we are all in this for the long haul and those who get to stay at home, and continue to work, can consider themselves fortunate. Conte has said that when the restrictions are eventually lifted, it will be a gradual process, to ensure that all of the efforts made so far won’t have been in vain.

Alison Fottrell is a teacher and writer living in Como, Italy.

This essay is part of a MarketWatch series, ‘Dispatches from a pandemic.’

MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto



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Bill Gates on Trump call for quick end to lockdown: It’s tough to tell people ‘keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner’


‘There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people, “Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, [and] ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.” ’


Bill Gates

That’s billionaire Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft

MSFT, -4.11%

and noted philanthropist, sharing in a TED interview as described by the Vox Media site Recode his view on the drumbeat, notably from President Donald Trump, for an earlier end to public health policies aiming to mitigate the spread of a deadly pandemic that has brought much of the world’s business activity to a screeching halt.

Most of the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, are under rules that limit movement and travel. Those efforts to dull the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 are putting the U.S. economy into a recession and have tanked U.S. equity markets that were just a month ago at record highs.

See: Governors reject Trump’s timeline to reopen economy; ‘Job one has to be save lives,’ Cuomo says

The illness that is carried by the novel strain of coronavirus first identified in China in December has been contracted by some 622 ,000 people and killed more than 28,000 across the globe, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as of Saturday late morning.

In the U.S., where the epidemic is likely still in its nascence, more than 105,000 have been infected and 1,710 killed.

Trump, however, said on Tuesday during a Fox News interview in the White House Rose Garden that he hopes to have the country reopened as early as Easter on April 12, though most countries have taken months to achieve some semblance of managing the infection.

Trump has argued that a longer U.S. shutdown would make it more difficult for the economy to rebound from a recession. “The longer it takes, the longer we stay out, the longer that is to do,” he explained.

Read: Do you need to change and wash your clothes after visiting the grocery store?

An early end to the lockdown in the U.S. has been viewed as ill-advised by many experts and politicians who fear that lives would be sacrificed in the bid to resume business-as-usual, and achieve a stock-market rebound, before the virus subsides.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose updates on the virus’s impact on the Empire State have been closely followed, expressed views similar to those of Gates on Tuesday. “No American is going to say, accelerate the economy at the cost of human life, because no American is going to say how much a life is worth. Job [No. 1] has to be save lives,” the governor said.

See: ‘You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die’: New York’s Cuomo, in plea to Trump administration for ventilators

Gates told TED, according to Recode, that “it’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds,” referring to mitigating the impact of the deadly pathogen on human lives and keeping the economy whirring.

U.S., and global, stock markets have been in turmoil due to the viral outbreak, with some at least partly attributing Tuesday’s biggest percentage gain since 1933 by the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -4.06%

, up 11.4%, to a belief that Trump’s administration may push forward with reopening the U.S. economy, despite public health experts indicating that such a move would likely be premature. Noted infectious-diseases specialist Anthony Fauci suggested at a late-afternoon news conference at the White House that it might be worth exploring an idea floated by Trump that some sections of the country could have restrictions eased ahead of others.

The Dow surged 2,112 points on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 index

SPX, -3.37%

soared 9.4%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, -3.79%

finished Tuesday’s session up 8.1%. All three indexes finished out the week lower but booked strong weekly gains, as President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package into law.

Gates, who boasts a net worth of $94.6 billion, according to Forbes (making him the second wealthiest man in the world behind Amazon.com’s

AMZN, -2.83%

Jeff Bezos) is among a group of billionaire philanthropists who have said they would give away at least half their wealth to charities under terms of the Giving Pledge. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million to pandemics science and testing.

Check out: Man who scored big wins during the 2008 financial crisis says the stock market could be ‘near a bottom’ if U.S. gets a coronavirus recovery plan



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‘These dogs have been kissed and cuddled by their owners.’ How is our pet salon still open when human salons are closed?


Dear Moneyist,

I am a pet stylist. I feel most people would agree that my job definitely falls into the nonessential category and it is, in fact, on the list of nonessential businesses ordered closed by my state and by the town in which I work.

The problem is, I work in a corporate store that sells pet food, which is essential. Our CEO has made the determination that makes our grooming staff exempt from the order, and we are being required to work.

I believe this is a flagrant flouting of the mandate’s wording, and encourages people to violate stay-at-home orders, which have specifically stated that pet grooming is nonessential. I can understand the store being open; people do need their pet food and supplies.

However, the grooming department remaining open only adds to the number of people in the store, and seems to me an absurd risk for the sake of profit. We have already been warned twice by the city for being over the capacity we are allowed at this time, and grooming only adds to it.

Dispatches from a pandemic: ‘They’ve likened it to a war where the number of casualties just keep on coming’: Italians find solidarity, resilience and music during the coronavirus lockdown

We have no masks or gloves, and are required by the job to spend 15 to 20 minutes at a time interacting face-to-face with each client. We handle the dogs that the owners have been kissing and cuddling. I don’t know who to contact. I don’t know how they’re even being allowed to continue this.

Our CEO has proudly and adamantly declared that we will remain open throughout, and I am not sure what my rights are, if any at all.

I normally love my job, but I am very disturbed by the way this is being handled and am wondering why each individual business is being allowed to make the call independently of any governing body, and even in violation of stated rules. 

Pet Stylist Who Loves Her Job (Usually)

Dear Stylist,

Whatever way you cut it, giving a customer’s pooch a shampoo and blow dry, styling their hair into a cute bob, clipping their nails and finishing them off with a silk bow are not deemed “essential services” under the Essential Services Act of 2013. And I say that as a dog lover.

That act defines the term “essential employee” as an employee that “performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency.” In New York, for instance, all eat-in restaurants, clothing stores, cafes and gyms are closed.

The Moneyist in an age of coronavirus: ‘All they care about is making money.’ Can my supermarket manager force me to remove my face mask at work?

Here are just some of the businesses allowed to remain open: pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, hardware stores, supermarkets, trash and recycling collection, mail and shipping services, laundromats and animal shelters. I don’t see Poppy’s Puppy Playhouse on that list.

There is a reason why people have been encouraged to stay six feet apart. It helps slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. It has a serious name because it’s a serious disease. It should be taken seriously.

Unless your boss lives in a world where he envisions all the dogs in the neighborhood standing in line outside his store, while keeping a respectable six-feet distance from each other and resisting the temptation to sniff each other’s butts, I don’t see how in the name of Lassie he could remain open.

Unless your boss lives in a world where he envisions all the dogs in the neighborhood standing in line outside his store, while keeping a respectable six-foot distance from each other and resisting the temptation to sniff each other’s butts, I don’t see how in the name of Lassie he could remain open.

I’m sure he serves high-quality pet food and dogs come from afar to taste his wares. In the meantime, owners can improvise by cooking up a feast for their dogs from an array of ingredients in a supermarket, or buy pet food there. My childhood dog always got leftovers and he ate like the good boy he knew he was! But you’re right: enough is enough.

There are too many companies taking advantage of the lockdown in various states across the country to make an extra buck or two. Maybe your boss is afraid that he will lose his business or customers’ loyalty, and is forging ahead as if nothing happened. But something has happened.

Dogs need to be kept safe too. It’s rare for a dog to come down with coronavirus. A German shepherd living in the Pok Fu Lam area on Hong Kong Island was last week sent for quarantine along with another dog. They are the only known cases, but I agree that it’s all too cuddly-feely.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “general duty” clause states that an employer should provide a safe environment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Dispatches from the front lines of a pandemic: ‘The lack of an all-island response has also rattled communities on both sides of the Irish border.’ Pubs close due to coronavirus, government issues new strict rules for funerals

Your boss is putting himself, his customers and his staff at risk of catching this disease by flouting the rules. Dogs don’t buy their own pet food and they’re not usually fussy about what they eat, as long as it’s nutritious and meaty. They like something to chew on. Supermarkets fulfill that role.

In New York, State Attorney General Letitia James has asked consumers whose employers are violating labor laws related to COVID-19 to contact her office. Other states have made similar requests. The New Jersey hotline was so overloaded, it diverted calls to other emergency services.

It’s time to put an end to this “essential services” charade. I actually feel sad that the dogs are being used in this way. Their owners should know better, and their families should be concerned too. The last thing your dogs would want is for their owners to get sick. Who would look after them then?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Coronavirus had infected at least 94,238 people in the U.S. as of Friday afternoon and killed at least 1,380 people, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. New York State accounts for 45,000 cases or nearly 50% of the national total, and 8% of global cases. Worldwide, there were 566,269 positive diagnoses and 26,455 reported deaths.

Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here

Do you have questions about how the coronavirus is impacting your life and finances? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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European stocks slide as U.S. coronavirus cases surpass China and global spread intensifies


European stocks and U.S. equity futures fell on Friday, as U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed China and the global spread intensified.

The pan-European Stoxx 600

SXXP, -2.24%

 index declined 2.5% in early trading, while the FTSE 100

UKX, -3.65%

 slipped 3.8% lower. The German DAX

DAX, -1.89%

 dropped 2.1% and the French CAC

PX1, -2.69%

fell 3%. Stocks slipped back at the end of a good week as investors digested the increasing spread of the virus and the uncertainty ahead. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

YM00, -1.87%

 were down 2%, Nasdaq futures

NQ00, -1.84%

 fell 1.9% and S&P 500 futures

ES00, -1.90%

 were 2.1% lower ahead of the open.

What’s moving the market?

The U.S. has now surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus cases, rising above 85,500. The U.S. death toll climbed to just below 1,300 but sits far below Italy — 8,215 — and Spain — 4,365. Global infections grew by 13.6% in the past 24 hours — the seventh double-digit rise in 8 days. Cases have now tripled in Europe in a week, with Germany and France also among the worst affected.

The Dow entered a new bull-market phase on Thursday, driven by a $2 trillion stimulus package, bringing the 11-day-old bear market to an end, but was set to fall back on Friday. Asian markets followed Wall Street higher overnight but European stocks headed lower as the continent’s own equity rally came to an abrupt end.

OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said it made sense that investors were taking profit ahead of the weekend, given the fast-changing nature of the pandemic.

“We may have had a good run this week but the weekend can feel like a long time at moments like this and the numbers we’re getting from the U.S., which now has more cases than China or Italy, are getting uglier by the day. I fear a few more shocks lie ahead as we get closer to peak coronavirus in countries like the U.S., U.K. and more,” he said.

China’s industrial profits slumped 38% in January and February. As the first country impacted and locked down, global investors are closely following China’s economic fallout and recovery.

Stocks to watch

Cruise operator Carnival plunged 11% in early trading as the hard-hit industry was left out of the $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package.

As the U.K.’s national lockdown took hold and the economic impact began being felt across the country, shares in house builder Persimmon

PSN, -7.82%

 tumbled 9% and retail property company Hammerson

HMSO, -11.12%

 dropped 12%.



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