Many traders and investors have been asking that question over the past few weeks, but the moment has finally arrived. So far equities appear to be starting on a tepid note, with futures largely unchanged for most of the night following the best three months in more than 20 years (the massive rally has been fueled by the Fed’s aggressive support for financial markets and signs of an early recovery in economic activity). Later in today’s session we’ll get minutes of the FOMC’s most recent monetary policy meeting, when the central bank signaled plans to keep rates close to zero for years, as well as the latest monthly data on U.S. manufacturing.
The U.S. Treasury paid $108.5B in unemployment benefits in June, the highest amount for a single month since the COVID-19 pandemic started. For the government’s fiscal YTD, it has paid out $267.2B. The average weekly claim amounts to a little less than $1,000, which includes a temporary $600 pandemic benefit that is set to expire on July 31. If the benefit is extended, payouts could continue to climb into August and beyond.
Taking a different path compared to most European countries, Sweden has kept much of its society open by recommending social distancing and self-isolation rather than imposing a lockdown. The strategy has resulted in a much higher death rate than in neighboring countries, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Sweden’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has defended the strategy, arguing that it’s the only practical way to handle the pandemic in the long run, and that lockdowns come at an avoidable cost and won’t prevent the virus from returning.
Go deeper: Sweden holds rates at 0% and expands QE program.
“You must self-quarantine for 14 days,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told prospective travelers to the Empire State. The list of those so-warned now includes California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee. New U.S. coronavirus cases rose by more than 47,000 on Tuesday according to a Reuters tally, the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic, while Dr. Anthony Fauci warned lawmakers that daily COVID-19 infections could climb to 100,000.
Gold’s rally continued yesterday as the yellow metal changed hands above $1,800 an ounce. The safe haven asset last traded above that level in 2011, and bulls are hoping history doesn’t repeat (the cross over $1,800 then was roughly the peak of a major, multi-year run higher – four years later it fell to just above $1,100). Demand appears to be driven by fresh coronavirus outbreaks, as well as a need for inflation hedges due to expansionary monetary policy.
“#BREAKING: A man was arrested for holding a #HKIndependence flag in #CausewayBay, Hong Kong, violating the #NationalSecurityLaw. This is the first arrest made since the law has come into force,” according to a tweet from the Hong Kong Police Force. The new law stipulates that a person who “undermines national unification” of Hong Kong with the mainland will face punishment of up to life in prison, depending on the severity of the offense. The development is likely to add to the recent tensions seen between the U.S. and China. Overnight, the FCC officially designated Huawei and ZTE (OTCPK:ZTCOY) as national security threats to “America’s communications networks – and to our 5G future.”
Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) is entering grocery stores in mainland China through a partnership with Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), which will begin selling the meatless burger patties at its innovation-driven Freshippo chain. The company already entered the mainland via a restaurant deal with Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) back in April and has expanded its products to Yum China’s (NYSE:YUMC) KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. The news may go some way in helping shares of Beyond Meat, which have slipped about 10% over the past week after McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) ended a trial of its meatless burger in Canada.
“Mrs. Butterworth’s was really architected to resemble a loving grandmother, but we can understand how some people may view it differently, may find it offensive,” Conagra Brands (NYSE:CAG) CEO Sean Connolly told CNBC, explaining the company’s brand review. “The horrific violence, the racial justice, we and other companies have to up our game when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and that starts with listening and it starts with being more aware and sensitive.” Aunt Jemima (NASDAQ:PEP), Uncle Ben’s and Cream of Wheat (NYSE:BGS) have also revealed plans to rebrand in recent weeks, while several companies have either pulled or said they will alter the names of their skin-lightening creams.