Daily Archives: Jun 29, 2020

    Stocks climbed broadly higher on Wall Street Monday, as the market clawed back more than a third of its losses from last week.

    The S&P 500 was up 1% in afternoon trading after a much healthier-than-expected report on the housing market shook the market from its wobbly start. European stocks had similar fluctuations before pushing higher. Treasury yields were mixed. Oil prices rose.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 475 points, or 1.9%, to 25,490, while the Nasdaq composite was up 0.7%.

    Gains for Boeing and Apple in particular helped to lift Wall Street indexes. Boeing jumped 12.4% as its troubled 737 Max jet looks set to begin test flights soon, while Apple added 1.7% as customers keep buying its products regardless of whether they’re quarantined.

    Stocks of smaller companies also jumped more than the rest of the market, which often happens when investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was up 2.5% to recover nearly all of its loss from last week.

    They’re the latest choppy moves for markets around the world, which have been swinging back and forth in recent weeks. A rise in infections of the new coronavirus, including in the U.S. South and West, has dented the optimism that earlier sent the S&P 500 screaming nearly all the way back to the record it reached in February

    The worry is that the worsening levels could choke off the budding improvements the economy has shown recently as states and other governments ease up on lockdown orders, even with the Federal Reserve and other central banks pumping unprecedented amounts of aid into the economy.

    Florida and Texas put new restrictions on bars to slow the spread of the virus, for example, which helped drive the S&P 500 to a loss of 2.9% last week. Other government around the world are likewise backtracking on efforts to reopen their economies following widespread lockdowns that sent the global economy into a sudden, severe recession.

    To see how sharply the economy is swinging, consider Monday’s report on the housing market. It showed that the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose a record 44.3% in May from a month earlier. That was more than double the 17% rise that economists were expecting. It was also a whiplash reversal from the record-breaking plunge of nearly 22% that came in April as the pandemic froze the housing market.

    The encouraging housing report is likely a sign of pent up demand, considering that spring is the key season for home sales and it was delayed mostly until summer, said Mark Litzerman, head of global portfolio management at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

    “It is good to see that people are out there buying again,” he said. “The biggest thing is how quickly the consumer comes back and how do they come back.”

    The S&P 500 had been flipping between small gains and losses in the first hour of trading, down 0.3% at one point, before charging higher following the release of the housing report.

    The market’s gains were widespread, with industrial companies and raw-material producers jumping the highest. Homebuilders also helped lift the market. Hovnanian Enterprises surged 12.2%.

    Simon Property Group, an owner of shopping malls, has seen its shares rise and fall for months with expectations of whether people will be able to get closer to “normal” activity. It was up 8% for one of the largest gains in the S&P 500.

    Stocks of airlines, whose profits are also excruciatingly tied to a reopening economy, were also strong. Southwest Airlines gained 8.9%, American Airlines Group climbed 6.5% and Alaska Air Group added 6.3%.

    Facebook rose 1.2% after shaking off a loss earlier in the morning. It’s facing a defection of advertisers tired of the racist and violent posts spreading through the social network. Starbucks on Sunday joined the list of big companies saying it will pause its advertising on social media.

    Given all the uncertainty about the path for the economy and corporate profits, many professional investors say the only sure thing for markets is that upcoming movements will likely be volatile. The second quarter of the year is set to close out Tuesday, and the S&P 500 is on pace for a gain of more than 17%, which would be its best since late 1998. Of course, that follows the U.S. stock market’s loss of nearly 20% in the first quarter, which was its worst since the bottom of the 2008 financial crisis.

    The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.64% from 0.63% late Friday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

    Oil prices rose. Benchmark U.S. crude oil for August delivery was up 3.1% to $39.70 a barrel. Brent crude oil for August delivery rose 1.7% to $41.71 a barrel.

    In Europe, the French CAC 40 was up 0.7% after recovering from an earlier dip. Germany’s DAX returned 1.2%, and the FTSE 100 in London was up 1.1%. Many Asian markets finished with losses.

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    AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Colin Kaepernick is joining with Emmy-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay on a Netflix drama series about the teenage roots of the former NFL player’s activism.

    “Colin in Black & White” will examine Kaepernick’s high school years to illuminate the experiences that shaped his advocacy, Netflix said Monday.

    “Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens,” Kaepernick said in a statement. “We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years.

    Kaepernick, born to a white mother and Black father, was adopted in Wisconsin by a white couple who moved to California when he was a child.

    In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality, drawing both support and criticism, with his detractors including President Donald Trump. Kaepernick became a free agent in 2017 but went unsigned.

    Writing on the six-episode series was completed in May, the streaming service said. DuVernay, writer Michael Starrbury and Kaepernick are the executive producers. Kaepernick will appear as himself as the limited series’ narrator, Netflix said.

    Further casting details and a release date were not immediately announced.

    Kaepernick called it an honor to collaborate with DuVernay, whose credits include the award-winning “When They See Us,” which dramatized the Central Park Five case, and the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.”

    “With his act of protest, Colin Kaepernick ignited a national conversation about race and justice with far-reaching consequences for football, culture and for him, personally,” DuVernay said in a statement. “Colin’s story has much to say about identity, sports and the enduring spirit of protest and resilience.”

    Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, filed a grievance against the league in 2017, contending teams colluded to keep him out. The sides reached an undisclosed settlement in 2019.

    The 32-year-old Kaepernick still wants an opportunity to play. A workout in Atlanta last November that was organized by the NFL turned chaotic and resulted in no job offers.

    In the aftermath of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to players for not listening to them earlier and encouraged them to protest peacefully. Goodell says he’s encouraged teams to sign Kaepernick.

    “This young man is talented enough to play in the National Football League,” league executive Troy Vincent said recently.

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    More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

     

      HOUSTON (AP) — Health departments around the U.S. that are using contact tracers to contain coronavirus outbreaks are scrambling to bolster their ranks amid a surge of cases and resistance to cooperation from those infected or exposed.

      With too few trained contact tracers to handle soaring caseloads, one hard-hit Arizona county is relying on National Guard members to pitch in. In Louisiana, people who have tested positive typically wait more than two days to respond to health officials — giving the disease crucial time to spread. Many tracers are finding it hard to break through suspicion and apathy to convince people that compliance is crucial

      Contact tracing — tracking people who test positive and anyone they’ve come in contact with — was challenging even when stay-at-home orders were in place. Tracers say it’s exponentially more difficult now that many restaurants, bars and gyms are full, and people are gathering with family and friends.

      “People are probably letting their guard down a little … they think there is no longer a threat,” said Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Health Officer Wendy Hirschenberger, who was alerted by health officials in another part of the state that infected tourists had visited vineyards and bars in her area.

      Her health department was then able to urge local residents who had visited those businesses to self-quarantine.

      Hirschenberger was lucky she received that information — only made possible because the tourists had cooperated with contact tracers. But that’s often not the case.

      Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday that contact tracing simply isn’t working in the U.S.

      Some who test positive don’t cooperate because they don’t feel sick. Others refuse testing even after being exposed. Some never call back contact tracers. And still others simply object to sharing any information.

      Another new challenge: More young people are getting infected, and they’re less likely to feel sick or believe that they’re a danger to others.

      While older adults were more likely to be diagnosed with the virus early in the pandemic, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the picture flipped almost as soon as states began reopening. Now, people 18 to 49 years old are most likely to be diagnosed.

      On Monday, the United States reported 38,800 newly confirmed infections, with the total surpassing 2.5 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. For a few days now, daily reported cases in the U.S. have broken the record set in April. That partially reflects increased testing.

      Some states were caught off guard by the surge and are trying to quickly bolster the number of contact tracers.

      “Right now we have an insufficient capacity to do the job we need to,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said recently, announcing he wanted to use federal coronavirus relief funds to increase the number of contact tracers to 900.

      Arkansas already has 200 doing the job, but infections have risen more than 230% and hospitalizations nearly 170% since Memorial Day. Businesses that had closed because of the virus were allowed to reopen in early May, and the state further eased its restrictions this month.

      In addition to needing more staff to handle rising case numbers, contact-tracing teams also must build trust with people who might be uneasy or scared, said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director for Harris County Public Health in Houston, where an outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

      That’s difficult to do if infected people don’t return calls.

      In Louisiana, only 59% of those who have tested positive since mid-May have responded to phone calls from contact tracers, according to the latest data from the state health department. Just one-third answered within the crucial first 24 hours after the test results. Tracers there get an answered phone call, on average, more than two days after receiving information about the positive test.

      Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said COVID-19 spreads so fast that contact tracers need to get in touch with 75% of the potentially exposed people within 24 hours of their exposure to successfully combat the spread.

      “Is it as good as we would like? Well, obviously not,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana’s state health officer. “It’s better than not having it.”

      Contact tracers around Utah’s capital of Salt Lake City have seen caseloads double and cooperation wane since the economy reopened, said health investigator Mackenzie Bray. One person who wasn’t answering calls told Bray they didn’t want to waste her time because they and their contacts weren’t high-risk — a dangerous assessment because the person might not know the health history of their contacts, Bray said.

      Getting people to act on tracers’ advice also is a challenge. In the Seattle area, only 21% of infected people say they went into isolation on the day they developed symptoms. People, on average, are going three days from the time they develop symptoms until they test, said Dr. Matt Golden, a University of Washington doctor who is leading case investigations for King County Public Health Department.

      Since people are infectious for two days before symptoms, that means many are spreading the virus for five days, he said.

      In hard-hit Maricopa County, Arizona, officials hired 82 people to bolster contact tracing, allowing them to reach 600 people a day, said Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

      But the daily average of confirmed infections has soared, to 1,800 a day from 200 in May, county figures show. That means the county must leave the rest of the cases to be handled by colleges, health agencies and the Arizona National Guard, Flanagan said.

      All of them must triage: Each infected person is asked in an automated text to fill out a survey to assess their risk level, and tracers only contact by phone those who appear to be high risk or work in settings that could trigger a dangerous outbreak, such as an assisted living facility.

      Contact tracing is key to avoiding worst-case outcomes, said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and current president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit that works to prevent epidemics. But the explosion of U.S. cases has made it nearly impossible for even the most well-staffed health departments to keep up, he said.

      Contact tracing is “a tried and true public health function,” Frieden said. “If the health department calls, pick up the phone.”

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      Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan, and McCombs from Salt Lake City. Associated Press journalists Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Carla K. Johnson in Seattle; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Terry Chea in San Francisco contributed.

       

        WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

        Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

        The outcome is not the last word on the decades-long fight over abortion with dozens of state-imposed restrictions winding their way through the courts. But the decision was a surprising defeat for abortion opponents, who thought that a new conservative majority with two of President Donald Trump’s appointees on board would start chipping away at abortion access.

        The key vote belonged to Roberts, who had always voted against abortion rights before, including in a 2016 case in which the court struck down a Texas law that was virtually identical to the one in Louisiana.

        The chief justice explained that he continues to think the Texas case was wrongly decided, but believes it’s important for the court to stand by its prior decisions.

        “The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law,” Roberts wrote. He did not join the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals in Monday’s decision, and his position left abortion-rights supporters more relieved than elated.

        The case was the third in two weeks in which Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, joined the court’s liberals in the majority. One of the earlier decisions preserved the legal protections and work authorization for 650,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The other extended federal employment-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans, a decision that Justice Neil Gorsuch also joined and wrote.

        In dissent on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”

        President Trump’s two appointees, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were in dissent, along with Samuel Alito. The presence of the new justices is what fueled hopes among abortion opponents, and fears on the other side, that the Supreme Court would be more likely to uphold restrictions.

        The Trump administration had sided with Louisiana in urging the court to uphold the law. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized the decision. “In an unfortunate ruling today, the Supreme Court devalued both the health of mothers and the lives of unborn children by gutting Louisiana’s policy that required all abortion procedures be performed by individuals with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital,” McEnany said.

        Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Monday’s decision by no means ends the struggle over abortion rights in legislatures and the courts.

        “We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” Northup said.

        Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said, “Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment. It demonstrates once again the failure of the Supreme Court to allow the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry.

        A trial judge had said the law would not provide health benefits to women and would leave only one clinic open in Louisiana, in New Orleans. That would make it too hard for women to get abortions, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

        But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected the judge’s findings and upheld the law in 2018, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying that doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

        The clinics filed an emergency appeal at the Supreme Court, asking that the law be blocked while the justices evaluated the case.

        Early last year, Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the court to grant that request and keep the law on hold.

        Roberts’ vote was a bit of a surprise because he voted in the Texas case to uphold the clinic restrictions. It may have reflected his new role since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as the court’s swing justice, his concern about the court being perceived as a partisan institution and his respect for a prior decision of the court, even one he disagreed with. Roberts didn’t write anything explaining his position at the time of the Texas case.

        The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. Those include bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks, and the almost total ban passed in Alabama.

         

         

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