Daily Archives: May 18, 2020

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 hit more than a two-month high on Wednesday as signs of additional economic stimulus raised hopes of a swift recovery from a coronavirus-driven slump

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was trading at its highest level in three months and was about 5% below record levels, supported by a surge in shares of Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc to their all-time highs.

Gains were broad-based, with technology and communication services providing the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P. The small-cap Russell 2000 index was up 2.5%.

A day earlier, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured investors that policymakers were ready with more aid for ailing sectors.

Massive stimulus actions and the easing of virus-led restrictions have fueled hopes of an economic recovery and helped the three main indexes climb about 35% from their March lows.

“You have the S&P 500, Nasdaq and small caps all rallying – you have a widening breadth of strength that is giving investors encouragement,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

“In general Wall Street is saying ‘I factored in a worst case scenario and now it appears as if things are not as bad as they might be’”.

At 13:10 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 287.23 points, or 1.19%, at 24,494.09, the S&P 500 was up 41.54 points, or 1.42%, at 2,964.48. The Nasdaq Composite was up 155.35 points, or 1.69%, at 9,340.46.

The S&P 500 rose above its 100-day moving average, a closely watched technical indicator.

“If we can break through the 3,000 level (on the S&P 500) with some conviction, that’s going to be a positive sign, and it’s probably going to draw more money off the sidelines,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Slatestone Wealth Llc in New York.

Target Corp slipped 2.9% after the big box retailer reported a 64% plunge in quarterly profit, pummeled by costs to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

S&P 1500 airlines index gained about 3.7% as Delta Air Lines Inc chief executive officer said he was confident travel will return in the next 12 to 18 months.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.92-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 3.36-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 69 new highs and nine new lows.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Anil D’Silva

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Western New York, including the city of Buffalo, has met coronavirus containment goals and can begin to reopen its economy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Hospitals will be able to schedule elective surgeries as the region enters the first phase of reopening on Tuesday, but gatherings such as church services and sports events will still be banned, Cuomo said.

“Personal disclosure — I want to watch the Buffalo Bills,” said Cuomo, who held Monday’s briefing in Buffalo. “But I’m still objective, I’m acting as governor.”

Most of upstate New York will have started reopening by the end of this week, but it will likely be weeks before New York City and its suburbs meet metrics for reopening including the availability of hospital beds and the hiring of enough contact tracers to contain the spread of the virus.

As part of the reopening, judges and staff members will return courthouses in 30 upstate counties starting this week, Cuomo said.

The governor said 106 people died of COVID-19 statewide on Sunday, the lowest number since March 26.

Cuomo’s own COVID-19 test, taken at his daily briefing on Sunday, was negative, he said.

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TEST KITS MADE IN NEW YORK

New York City is ramping up its ability to test for the coronavirus, with testing available at more than 150 sites citywide and test kits made in the city now in use at city-run health clinics, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

The partnership between the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and local businesses Print Parts and Collab will be producing 60,000 test kits weekly by the week of June 1, de Blasio said, adding, “We’ll keep going as far as we have to go to make sure that every New Yorker who needs a test gets one.”

De Blasio announced Sunday that urgent care provider CityMD would offer tests for the virus at its 123 locations, raising the number of test sites in the city to more than 150.

The mayor said the city is continuing to hire public health workers to trace the contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19.

“All of the pieces — the test kids, the test sites, the labs, the tracers — all of these pieces are coming together to give us the huge, robust test and trace program we need to push back this disease and move forward in this city,” he said.

JERUSALEM (AP) — An evangelical broadcaster who boasted of miraculously securing a TV license in Israel now risks being taken off the air over suspicions of trying to convert Jews to Christianity.

The controversy over “GOD TV” has put both Israel and its evangelical Christian supporters in an awkward position, exposing tensions the two sides have long papered over.

Evangelical Christians, particularly in the United States, are among the strongest supporters of Israel, viewing it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, with some seeing it as the harbinger of a second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of days.

Israel has long welcomed evangelicals’ political and financial support, especially as their influence over the White House has risen during the Trump era, and it has largely shrugged off concerns about any hidden religious agenda.

But most Jews view any effort to convert them to Christianity as deeply offensive, a legacy of centuries of persecution and forced conversion at the hands of Christian rulers. In part because of those sensitivities, evangelical Christians, who generally believe salvation can only come through Jesus and preach the Gospel worldwide, rarely target Jews.

When “GOD TV,” an international Christian broadcaster, reached a seven-year contract earlier this year with HOT, Israel’s main cable provider, it presented itself as producing content for Christians.

But in a video message that has since been taken down, GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson suggested its real aim was to convince Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah. The channel, known as “Shelanu,” broadcast in Hebrew even though most Christians in the Holy Land speak Arabic.

“God has supernaturally opened the door for us to take the Gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of his Jewish people,” Simpson said in the video.

“They’ll watch secretly, they’ll watch quietly,” he added. “God is restoring his people, God is removing the blindness from their eyes.”

In a subsequent video, Simpson acknowledged that the channel was under investigation by Israeli authorities, saying that preaching about Jesus in Israel is a “very touchy subject.” He apologized for any offensive remarks and said GOD TV would comply with all regulations.

Freedom of religion is enshrined in Israeli law, and proselytizing is allowed as long as missionary activities are not directed at minors and do not involve economic coercion.

The Communications Ministry said it was investigating a “discrepancy” between the application for the license that was granted in March, which said the channel was focused on the Christian community, and its actual content, which appears to “target Jews and convince them that Jesus is the messiah.”

HOT said in a statement that it was not responsible for the channel’s content and has been “fully transparent” with authorities.

GOD TV was founded in the U.K. in 1995 and eventually grew into a 24-hour network with offices in several countries. Its international broadcasting licenses are held by a Florida-based non-profit. It claims to reach 300 million households worldwide, and Simpson was among the participants at a high-level Christian media summit hosted by Israel last year.

Simpson denied trying to convert Jews to Christianity. He said Jews who accept Jesus as the messiah can continue to practice their faith, a reference to Messianic Jews, popularly known as Jews for Jesus.

The Messianic movement, which emerged in its modern form in the 1970s, incorporates Jewish symbols and practices — including referring to Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua — but is widely seen as a form of Christianity. All major Jewish denominations reject it, and Israel considers Messianic Jews to be converts to another faith.

“There’s no such thing really as the Messianic movement,” said Rabbi Tovia Singer, who leads an organization devoted to countering missionary activity aimed at Jews. “It’s a dog whistle, it’s a name that’s used by evangelical Christian Protestants.”

He said Simpson’s willingness to speak openly about conversion reflects the growing influence of evangelical Christians in both Israel and the United States.

“They feel bulletproof to say these kinds of things and what their real agenda is,” he said.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the former executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, an umbrella group for Christian Zionists, said Christians only share their faith when asked, and denied they have any secret agenda.

“Evangelical support for Israel is not based on prophecies but on promises that God gave to Abraham 4,000 years ago,” he said. “We cannot, and should not, let the arrival of a TV channel in Israel impact negatively on the well-being of a movement that for decades now has brought about a new day in Jewish Christian relationships.”

At least one prominent evangelical supporter of Israel has criticized GOD TV for airing missionary content aimed at Jews, saying it encourages anti-Semitism.

“In recent decades, millions of Christians have felt the call to stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people with no hidden agenda,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Tennessee-based evangelical who hosts a program called “Focus on Israel” that previously aired on GOD TV.

“Any attempts to convert Jews or downgrade their religion will only sow undue hatred at a time when we should unite in the face of darkness,” Cardoza-Moore said.

Daniel Hummel, the author of a book on evangelicals and Israel, says Christian Zionists have “more or less learned” that Messianic Judaism’s presence in the movement is “politically unwise.”

“The issue always continues to simmer, but the precedent was set (in the 1970s) and grew stronger that any Christian organization wishing to work in Israel or be at all close to the center of political action in the (Christian Zionist movement) would need to publicly disavow at minimum coercive evangelization.”

Simpson says GOD TV has hired lawyers to resolve the issue and is determined to stay on the air.

“The last thing we want to do is to cause division over there,” he said. “We love Israel.”

An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers

Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, which was being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far.

The vaccine seems safe, the company said, but much more extensive testing is needed to see if it remains so. A high dose version is being dropped after spurring some short-term side effects.

The results have not been published and are only from the first of three stages of testing that vaccines and drugs normally undergo. U.S. government officials have launched a project called “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine and hopefully have 300 million doses by January.

Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the first stages of testing or nearing it. Health officials have said that if all goes well, studies of a potential vaccine might wrap up by very late this year or early next year.

More than 4.7 million infections and 315,000 deaths from the coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide since it emerged in China late last year. There are no specific approved treatments, although several are being used on an emergency basis after showing some promise in preliminary testing.

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