Chipotle, fast food brands set for new wave of hiring By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Chipotle Mexican Grill is seen at the Chipotle Next Kitchen in Manhattan

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (NYSE:) wants to hire another 10,000 employees in coming months as its sales rebound, an official said, one of several big restaurant chains looking to add staff in an economy otherwise dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fast-casual brand, known for its Mexican-inspired bowls and burritos, has already added about 8,000 of the 10,000 employees it targeted when it launched its last major hiring spree in May.

“As we go back into this next hiring season, we’d love to hire another 10,000 because of the growth that’s occurring in the company,” Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer Marissa Andrada told Reuters on Thursday. Chipotle, which employs more than 85,000 people globally, has not announced the hiring expansion.

The company, whose shares are up more than 30% from the start of the year, will also launch a revamped career website by Wednesday, which it planned before the pandemic hit, she said.

Chipotle is not alone. As the economy shows signs of stalling and jobless rolls are growing, McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:), Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:) and Taco Bell parent Yum Brands Inc are seeing sales recover, and that could leave them needing to hire more cooks and cashiers.

Dunkin Brands Group Inc wants to hire 25,000 new restaurant employees, from front counter staff to managers – even as it plans to close underperforming units, the company said on an earnings call on Thursday.

The moves would follow the expiration of enhanced U.S. unemployment benefits on Friday in the absence of action by Congress.

A March federal aid plan laid out the extra $600-per-week in payments as millions of Americans lost their jobs because of the crisis.

Since then, the country has begun to reopen, but economic progress may have stalled as the outbreak spreads in new areas and many companies slow rehiring. Jobless rolls grew by 867,000, to 17,018,000, during the week ended July 18, the first increase since late May.

Roughly half the of the 12.3 million restaurant and bar workers employed in February lost their jobs in March and April, making the industry among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Average weekly earnings for restaurant and bar workers was around $400 in May versus about $1,000 for all private sector U.S. workers.

Flynn Restaurant Group, which owns more than 1,250 Applebee’s, Taco Bell, Panera and Arby’s restaurants, struggled to recruit new employees during the pandemic.

But by mid-July, applicants for manager-level positions surged back, a change that founder Greg Flynn attributed in part to the looming end of enhanced unemployment benefits.

“You are never not looking for people” to hire in fast food, said Barry Friends, a partner at food industry consultant Pentallect. “In the short term, the labor pool is going to be better.”

Papa Johns said last week that it wanted to add another 10,000 workers – after already bringing on 20,000 earlier in the crisis as demand for pizza soared.

Papa Johns needs delivery drivers in particular, said Chief People and Diversity Officer Marvin Boakye in an interview. The company and its franchisees are also hiring truck drivers, as well as workers at restaurants and at quality control centers where the brand’s pizza dough is produced.

The pizza chain has even improved retention versus 2019, though Boakye would not disclose numbers. He said that was because of increased health and safety measures, free online doctors visits during the pandemic and expanded subsidized online college courses – especially as students are not sure whether they will be able to return to campuses in the fall.





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Samsung crafts India comeback as anti-China wave surges By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A journalist uses a mobile phone as he works outside the Samsung Electronics smartphone manufacturing facility in Noida

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Heekyong Yang

NEW DELHI/SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics (OTC:) Co Ltd is forging a comeback in India’s smartphone market with a new range of budget devices and a ramped-up online presence, aiming to recoup ground ceded to Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi (OTC:) Corp.

Samsung (KS:), the only major non-Chinese player in the country, has already begun to gain ground, and a surge in anti-China sentiment in India following a border clash in June is expected to provide a fresh boost.

Samsung jumped to the No. 2 spot with 26% market share in the second quarter behind Xiaomi’s 29%, according to tech researcher Counterpoint, as the South Korean company’s diverse and inhouse supply chain helped it avoid product delays suffered by rivals during coronavirus lockdowns.

It was in third position with a 16% share in the previous quarter.

Once the unrivalled leader in the world’s second-biggest smartphone market, Samsung has over the past three years lost Indian customers to Chinese brands, whose devices are perceived as better value.

But India still accounts for some $7.5 billion in annual retail smartphone revenues for Samsung, according to Counterpoint, making it the company’s biggest market outside the United States.

It has built what it has described as the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturing plant on the outskirts of New Delhi, where it tests new devices and often assembles them for export.

That manufacturing power, and Samsung’s ability to source many components internally, is helping it gain ground amid the pandemic. Chinese smartphone brands Xiaomi and Oppo suffered local production hiccups and product delays due to COVID-19, but Samsung was able to keep delivering phones smoothly.

Now it is building on the momentum. Samsung has launched seven new smartphones since June, three of them under 10,000 rupees ($133.63) including its cheapest Android offering at $75.

“The COVID crisis has pushed people to use smartphones for everything from online education to digital payments to even connecting with friends on video calls. That’s why these budget phones are focused on the mass market,” said a source familiar with Samsung’s strategy in India.

In May, Samsung partnered with Facebook (NASDAQ:) to train some 200,000 brick and mortar stores selling its phones to use social media for sales and marketing. It has also launched instalment-payment plans for customers and new incentive schemes, including one that gives student discounts on select devices.

A spokesman for Samsung said the company was seeing high demand for its devices in India and expected its revenues to increase from last year. The company does not provide a breakdown of revenues from individual countries.

TOUGH COMPETITION

Competition from rivals such as Xiaomi, which is banking on a ‘Made in India’ image to beat the anti-China sentiment, remains stiff. A deal between India’s Reliance Industries Ltd and Google (NASDAQ:) to make a cheap Android phone could also pose a threat to Samsung’s sales of lower-end devices.

Anti-China sentiment is nothing new in India, where the Chinese have a reputation for cheaper products. Samsung, despite a better brand reputation, has struggled to woo price-sensitive Indian customers.

But better low-end offerings and the new anti-China tide -New Delhi has banned 59 Chinese apps since the border skirmish and traders have called for a boycott of imported Chinese products – could help shift the market dynamics.

“Samsung is India’s No.2 smartphone brand after Apple (NASDAQ:) by image,” brand strategist Harish Bijoor said. “So a phone priced between 6,000 rupees to 15,000 rupees from Samsung is very well placed today to capture market share from Chinese rivals.”

The cheapest iPhone in India costs around 31,500 rupees, while the cheapest Xiaomi phone costs around 7,500 rupees.

Ganesh Salvi, a private sector employee from Satara town in western Maharashtra state said he had bought a Chinese branded phone for his 16 year-old son’s online classes last month, even though he dislikes buying Chinese products.

“I believe Samsung mobiles are more durable than Chinese phones and I’d certainly prefer them if they had more smartphones below 10,000 rupees,” Salvi said.





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Job trouble? Wave of rehiring after economy reopened to fade in July after viral spiral


The engine of the U.S. economy may have gotten clogged again — no thanks to the recent acceleration in coronavirus cases. That’s bad news for Americans hoping to return to their old jobs.

Just how much damage has been done will become more evident this week, especially from the U.S. employment report for July due next Friday. The number of jobs regained last month is unlikely to match the huge increases in May and June that totaled a combined 7.5 million.

Wall Street
DJIA,
+0.43%

economists predict the U.S. added about 1.5 million jobs in July.

Even that estimate may be inflated though by seasonal changes in educational employment at the state and local level, Morgan Stanley contends. Private-sector jobs could increase by less than one million, the investment bank calculated.

See: MarketWatch Economic Calendar

Whatever the case, a much smaller increase in hiring or rehiring in July would bode ill for the U.S. recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The government last week reported that gross domestic product sank a whopping 32.9% in the second quarter on an annualized basis, the biggest decline since World War Two.

Read: Economy suffers titanic 32.9% plunge in 2nd quarter, points to drawn-out recovery

Also:‘A massive welfare economy’ – federal aid prevents even steeper GDP collapse

“The big question hovering over next week’s employment report is whether the two-month surge in job gains stopped in July,” says David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth Management. He thinks that’s exactly what happened.

It will be hard for the economy to make up a lot of lost ground in the third quarter unless hiring snaps back even faster.

See:MarketWatch Coronavirus Recovery Tracker

The U.S. lost a record 22 million jobs in March and April, according to Labor Department data. So far the economy has recovered less than one-third of those jobs.

The weekly tally of jobless claims, meanwhile, showed an even higher 30 million unemployed people were collecting benefits as of mid-July, representing about one in five Americans who said they were working before the pandemic, according to a Labor Department survey of households.

Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, said many people who expect to return to work are going to find they have no jobs or businesses to which they can return, a “grim reminder” of how much long-term damage the pandemic has caused.

“In the long run we are going to see a sobering slowdown in job growth,” he said.

The still-high level of unemployment, the viral spiral, and the uncertainty over whether Washington will provide more financial aid has understandably made Americans feel less confidence. On Friday Congressional lawmakers were still at odds on the next relief package with many benefits set to expire at the end of July.

A variety of measures that monitor consumer attitudes show a clear deterioration in July that’s likely to bleed over into August. That will make a recovery even harder.

Read:Consumer confidence wanes in July and points to rockier economic recovery

And:Consumer sentiment falls as coronavirus cases rise and federal aid set to expire

The news might not all be negative next week, however.

Manufacturers — auto makers in particular — have shown more resilience than the service side of the economy. The closely followed ISM manufacturing survey could show improvement for the third straight month.

The housing industry has also snapped back faster than expected amid a surge in home sales. Prospective buyers with secure jobs are taking advantage of record-low interest rates to buy new homes, a trend that may have been fueled by people fleeing the closed spaces of cities with a high number of coronavirus cases.

Even that potential bit of good news, however, has been overshadowed by the broader damage to the economy from the latest spike in coronavirus cases in many American states.

A full recovery can’t take root and blossom, economists say, until the disease is brought under control.

See: Pandemic will continue for some time, experts tell Congress as U.S. case tally nears 4.5 million



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Coronavirus update: U.S. COVID-19 cases climb above 2.9 million; ‘We’re still knee-deep in the first wave,’ Dr. Fauci warns


The number of U.S. cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 2.9 million on Tuesday, data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University showed, as Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Americans the country is “still knee-deep in the first wave,” and reiterated his message to young people that they are not invulnerable.

In an interview livestreamed on Twitter and Facebook with the head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, Fauci said that unlike Europe, U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up.”

His warning came after the July 4 holiday weekend featured widely shared images of young people partying and drinking without wearing face masks or attempting to socially distance, measures that health experts say are key to containing the spread.

While President Donald Trump said over the weekend that 99% of coronavirus cases are “harmless,” many states are still reporting climbing and alarming hospitalization rates. Arizona reached 89% capacity for intensive care unit beds on Monday, and other states, including Texas and California were expressing concerns about their hospitals rapidly filling.

See:Here’s one ‘remarkable’ difference between COVID-19 and the 1918 Spanish flu

In Florida’s Miami-Dade Country, Mayor Carlos Gimenez rolled back a reopening plan with an executive order shutting down restaurants and gyms, along with ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues and short-term rentals.

“We are still tracking the spike in the number of cases involving 18- to 34-year-olds that began in mid-June, which the County’s medical experts say was caused by a number of factors, including young people going to congested places — indoors and outside — without taking precautions such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing,” Gimenez said in the order.

Doctors said graduation parties, gatherings at restaurants that turned into packed parties in violation of the rules, and street protests where people could not maintain social distancing and where not everyone was wearing facial coverings were behind the spike, he said.

Fauci said a much hoped for vaccine for COVID-19 may not be the home run people are expecting.

It’s not going to be like a measles vaccine,” he said in the interview. “So there’s going to be follow-up in those cases to see if we might need a boost. We might need a boost to continue the protection, but right now we do not know how long it lasts.”

Vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, human papillomavirus and even influenza all require boosters to remain effective.

The virus has killed 130,312 Americans, the highest death toll in the world.

See:Your boss wants you back at work — An employment law expert explains your rights

A New York Times tracker shows that 40 states and territories have recorded increasing cases over the last 14 days, while just two, Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire, are reporting a decline in new cases and 12 are unchanged. And while the number of deaths is stable, that number is expected to rise in the coming weeks given deaths lag the infection rate and there will likely be a cluster of fresh cases within five days of the holiday weekend.

Latest tallies

There are now 11.65 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 world-wide, according to the Johns Hopkins data, and at least 539,058 people have died. At least 6.3 million people have recovered.

Brazil has the second highest case tally at 1.6 million and the second highest death toll at 65,487.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, a virus skeptic who has been widely criticized for his blasé approach to dealing with the crisis, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Guardian. Bolsanaro also had his lungs scanned after he had symptoms, including a high fever.

See:How is coronavirus changing us? 12 life lessons we are learning

The right-wing populist has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the disease, has refused to wear a mask in public and attended several events, including a July 4 lunch with the U.S. ambassador at which he was photographed unmasked and posing close to a group of eight men.

India has the next highest case toll at 719,664, followed by Russia with 693,214, Peru with 305,703 and Chile with 298,557.

The U.K. has 287,291 cases and 44,321 deaths, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world.

China, where the first cases were reported late last year, has 84,889 cases and 4,641 deaths.

In Australia, the city of Melbourne has reimposed a strict stay-at-home order for six weeks, after reporting 191 new cases in a single day, the Guardian reported.

Australia has 8,755 confirmed cases and 106 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

What’s the latest medical news?

Novavax Inc.
US:NVAX
has received $1.6 billion in funding from the federal government’s accelerated COVID-19 vaccine development program dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.” The Gathersburg, Md.-based biotech said the funds will be used to complete late-stage clinical development of its vaccine candidate called NVX-CoV2373, including a Phase 3 trial, and to scale up manufacturing.

The company is aiming to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine, as early as late 2020. The trial will comprise up to 30,000 subjects and will start in the fall.

A Phase 1/2 trial in 130 healthy participants was launched in Australia in May with initial immunogenicity and safety results are expected to be available at the end of July. A Phase 2 trial is expected to start after that.

The Phase 1/2 trial is being supported by up to $388 million in funding from international entity the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, an Oslo-based group. Novavax shares soared 38% premarket on the news. The news sent shares of Novavax up 25%.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.
US:REGN
it received $450 million from the federal government to manufacture and supply its still investigational COVID-19 treatment, as MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. The agreement is with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the Department of Defense.

The news comes a day after Regeneron said that the antibody cocktail candidate is being tested in two Phase 2/3 clinical studies as a treatment for COVID-19; the therapy is also in a Phase 3 trial evaluating whether or not it can prevent someone who has been exposed by a close contact from getting infected with the virus.

The company said that if the Food and Drug Administration grants the experimental therapy an emergency use authorization or an approval, “the government has committed to making doses from these lots available to the American people at no cost and would be responsible for their distribution.”

There was a setback for Becton Dickinson & Co.
US:BDX
when the FDA issued an alert about an increased risk of false-positive results for one of the company’s COVID-19 diagnostic tests. In one study, 3% of the results were false positive for the BD Max System test, which received an emergency use authorization from the regulator in April.

“Consider any positive result presumptive from tests using the BD SARS-CoV-2 Reagents for the BD Max System,” the FDA said. “Consider confirming with an alternate authorized test.”

A spokesperson confirmed that BD had received reports of the false-positive results, saying that “the elevated rates represent a small subset of the positive results” and that the company is in discussions with the FDA about the issue. The news comes a day after Becton Dickinson said it would launch a test that can detect the virus within 15 minutes.

Finally, Corvus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
US:CRVS
soared 137%, after the company said it has launched an open-label Phase 1 clinical trial testing an experimental monoclonal antibody as a treatment for COVID-19.

The U.S.-based study plans to enroll up to 30 participants with mild to moderate symptoms. The company is also testing this investigational therapy in cancer patients.

“Our B cell activating monoclonal antibody may be a potential immunotherapy for COVID-19 based on its ability to stimulate the production of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies,” CEO Richard Miller said in a news release. The company expects to release data from the study sometime this year.

What are companies saying?

Shake Shack Inc.
US:SHAK
warned that its second-quarter sales would miss estimates, hurt by restaurant closures and reduced hours due to the virus, protests and curfews. Dales totaled $91.8 million for the quarter ending June 24, below the FactSet consensus for $101.0 million.

The burger chain said same-restaurant sales sank 49%, compared with a FactSet consensus for a 43.6% decline. Shake Shack is scheduled to announced second-quarter earnings on August 11. Same-restaurant sales are “acutely impacted” by a slow recovery in New York City, one of the company’s most important regions and the early epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

New York City accounted for 20% of the company’s sales in the first quarter before the pandemic.

Elsewhere, companies continued to raise capital and to cut costs to combat the impact of falling sales and lost business.

Here’s the latest news about companies and COVID-19:

• With demand for bicycles soaring due to the coronavirus, Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc.
US:DKS
is Bank of America’s “solitary leisure” pick. With consumers shifting their dollars from entertainment like movies and amusement parks, analysts note a 103% year-over-year spike in dollars spent on bicycles in May, based on debit card activity. Despite states beginning to reopen, June sales remain up 68% compared with last year. Bank of America also notes a rise in downloads for the Strava app, which offers GPS tracing to cyclists and runners. Dick’s offers a variety of bike brands and a large percentage of its bikes are priced less than $500.

• Mesa Air Group Inc.’s
US:MESA
block hours, a measure of aircraft utilization, fell 75.8% in June because of reduced schedules during the pandemic. Block hours are counted from the moment an aircraft door closes at departure until the moment the aircraft door opens at the arrival gate on landing. The Phoenix, Az.-based regional airline has partnerships with American Airlines Group Inc.
US:AAL
and United Airlines Holdings Inc.
US:UAL.
It said block hours for American Airlines fell 81.9% in June, while hours for United fell 71.2%. Departures for both airlines were down 75.8%.

• Nielsen Holdings PLC
US:NLSN
is accelerating a previously announced transformation plan and will exit smaller, underperforming markets and noncore businesses in the second half. The market research and audience measurement company expects to substantially complete the program in 2020 and to generate about $250 million in pretax annual run-rate savings. New York-based Nielsen will cut 3,500 jobs world-wide and expects to book pretax restructuring charges of $150 million to $170 million, up from a prior range of $120 million to $140 million. “As discussed on our earnings call in April, we have increased our focus on platform consolidations, further automation, optimizing our global footprint, and ensuring that our resource allocation aligns with high-margin essential services,” Chief Executive David Kenny said in a statement. “Today’s plan encompasses, accelerates, and expands on those initiatives.” The exits are expected to shave no more than 100 basis points off 2020 revenue growth. The company expects to book $40 million to $50 million of noncash, pretax impairment charges in the second quarter. The company will release second-quarter earnings on Aug. 5.

• Paychex Inc.
US:PAYX
estimates for its fiscal fourth quarter, despite the pressure of the pandemic. “In this changing work environment, our human capital management solutions and mobility applications have enabled our clients to function and maintain their businesses while working remotely,” Chief Executive Martin Mucci said in a statement. The company ended the quarter with $1.0 billion in cash and $801.9 million in debt. “We currently anticipate that cash, restricted cash, and total corporate investments as of May 31, 2020, along with projected operating cash flows and available short-term financing, will support our business operations, capital purchases, share repurchases, and dividend payments for the foreseeable future,” said the statement. The company is now expecting fiscal 2021 revenue to fall 2% to 5% and for adjusted EPS to fall 6% to 10%.

• Tripadvisor Inc.
US:TRIP
is planning to offer $500 million of new senior notes that mature in 2025, joining the many companies raising capital during the pandemic. Proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.

Coronavirus in North Korea: What We Know



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Five things to know about Leicester: the U.K. city that’s key to preventing a second wave of coronavirus


The U.K. imposed its first local lockdown on Tuesday, as part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a “whack-a-mole” strategy to control the spread of coronavirus.

Leicester, a city in England’s East Midlands region, saw a recent rise in the number of cases, with almost a third of all of its cases reported in the two weeks to June 23.

It comes after several U.S. states have reimposed some lockdown measures after seeing a resurgence of coronavirus cases, while a German region, Gütersloh, was placed back into lockdown after more than 1,500 people tested positive at a slaughterhouse in the area.

Read:Germany imposes lockdown on slaughterhouse outbreak region

Where is it?

Leicester is 100 miles from London and is the 10th largest city in the U.K.

What’s it famous for?

It is famous for its foods, particularly the geographically protected Melton Mowbray pork pie and Stilton cheese. It is also home to the 2016 English Premier League soccer champions Leicester City.

Why does it matter?

The country is just coming out of a national lockdown but due to the outbreak in this city, England is imposing special restrictions on a small area in what it has called a “local lockdown.” The lockdown being imposed in Leicester is the first localized action and could be the model for future measures as the disease pops up around the country, and the world.

“We need to have local lockdowns and local ‘whack-a-mole strategies where that is necessary,” Johnson told reporters on Monday.

Important questions will be addressed by the Leicester lockdown, such as how to enforce it, what the geographic boundary should be, and how strict any reimposition of measures needs to be.

What is the government doing?

The government is reimposing the shutdown of nonessential retail shops, which opened earlier in June after months of lockdown. It is also closing schools from Thursday, and Leicester will stay behind for at least two weeks as the rest of England is allowed back into hairdressers, pubs and restaurants.

Read:Wuhan tests 10 million people, finds just 300 coronavirus infections

What does it mean for the U.S. and the world?

If successful, the local lockdown strategy could be followed by U.S. states and countries around the world, as it would allow the broad easing of restrictions with the option of tailored action to control regional flare ups.

The measures will be reviewed in two weeks.



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