“This is a significant, historic investment,” Mr. Espinoza said. “But when you take into account the magnitude of the crisis in front of us, it’s clear that this is only a first step.”

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Jobless Claims Tick Up, Showing a Long Road to Recovery: Live Updates

filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was up modestly from the week before, but still among the lowest weekly totals since the pandemic began.

In addition, 237,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers people who don’t qualify for state benefits programs. That number, too, has been falling.

Jobless claims remain high by historical standards, and are far above the norm before the pandemic, when around 200,000 people a week were filing for benefits. Applications have improved only gradually — even after the recent declines, the weekly figure is modestly below where it was last fall.

But economists are optimistic that further improvement is ahead as the vaccine rollout accelerates and more states lift restrictions on business activity. Fewer companies are laying off workers, and hiring has picked up, meaning that people who lose their jobs are more likely to find new ones quickly.

“We could actually finally see the jobless claims numbers come down because there’s enough job creation to offset the layoffs,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the job site ZipRecruiter.

But Ms. Pollak cautioned that benefits applications would not return to normal overnight. Even as many companies resume normal operations, others are discovering that the pandemic has permanently disrupted their business model.

“There are still a lot of business closures and a lot of layoffs that have yet to happen,” she said. “The repercussions of this pandemic are still rippling through this economy.”

Shoppers in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Germany and other countries have cut their value-added taxes to encourage consumer spending.
Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

The European Central Bank’s chief economist argued on Thursday that fears of a big rise in inflation are overblown, a sign that the people who control interest rates in the eurozone are likely to keep them very low for some time to come.

The comments — by Philip Lane, an influential member of the central bank’s Governing Council whose job includes briefing other members on the economic outlook — are an attempt to calm bond investors who are nervous that the end of the pandemic will lead to high inflation.

Fueling their fears, inflation in the eurozone rose to an annual rate of 1.3 percent in March from 0.9 percent in February, according to official data released on Wednesday, the fastest increase in prices in more than a year.

Market-based interest rates have been rising because investors worry that President Biden’s $2 trillion stimulus program will provoke a broad increase in prices for years to come. The interest rates that prevail on bond markets ripple through the financial system and can make mortgages and other types of borrowing more expensive, creating a drag on economic growth.

Despite big monthly swings in inflation during the last year, the average had been remarkably stable at an annual rate of about 1 percent, Mr. Lane wrote in a blog post on the central bank’s website on Thursday. That is well below the European Central Bank’s target of 2 percent.

“The volatility in inflation over 2020 and 2021 can be attributed to a host of temporary factors that should not affect medium-term inflation dynamics,” Mr. Lane wrote.

That is another way of saying that the European Central Bank is not going to panic about short-lived fluctuations in inflation and put the brakes on the eurozone economy anytime soon.

On the contrary, Mr. Lane’s analysis suggests that the European Central Bank will continue trying to push inflation toward the 2 percent target. In March, the central bank said it would increase its purchases of government and corporate bonds to try to keep a lid on market-based interest rates.

Mr. Lane said it was no surprise to see “considerable volatility in inflation during the pandemic period.” He attributed the ups and downs to quirky factors that are not likely to recur.

Germany and some other countries cut their value-added taxes to encourage consumer spending, then raised them again later. The price of fuel fluctuated wildly. People spent almost nothing on travel, but increased spending on home exercise equipment or products that they needed to work from home. That affected the way inflation is calculated and made the annual rate look higher, Mr. Lane said.

“The medium-term outlook for inflation remains subdued,” he wrote, “and closing the gap to our inflation aim will set the agenda for the Governing Council in the coming years.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, has argued that increasing oil output too fast would be risky.
Credit…via Reuters

OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to meet by videoconference Thursday to discuss whether to ease production curbs on oil as countries around the world try to expand from pandemic lockdowns.

Analysts say recent events will support the views of Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, who has argued for caution in increasing supply, noting the risks of swamping the market. But other outcomes are possible at the meeting of the group known as OPEC Plus, including modest increases and even cuts in oil production,

France’s reimposition of a national lockdown, announced Wednesday, underlines persistent doubts about the pace of recovery from the pandemic, as have rising case numbers in the United States.

After modest increases when the Suez Canal was recently blocked by a cargo ship, oil prices were rising again on Thursday, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, about 1.6 percent higher, to $63.75 a barrel.

“All signs seemingly point to the group maintaining current production levels,” Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.

Yet pressure may also come to increase supply. Members of the OPEC Plus group are withholding an estimated eight million barrels of a day, or about 9 percent of current global consumption. As the global economy recovers, it will become increasingly difficult for the Saudis to persuade others to restrain supplies.

A ChargePoint charging station in Berkeley, Calif. Shares in ChargePoint rose 19 percent on Wednesday. President Biden’s infrastructure plan supports the use of electric vehicles.
Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday and tech stocks were set to extend their rally as traders focused on optimism about the economic recovery. Shares in Europe and Asia were also higher before the Labor Department’s latest weekly report on initial applications for state unemployment benefits.

Bond yields pulled back from their recent 14-month high. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 3 basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 1.71 percent.

Last week, jobless claims were at the lowest for the pandemic, but economists have warned against assuming this is the new trend because of measurement issues. New data released on Thursday showed a slight rise in claims for unemployment benefits, On Friday, the Labor Department will publish its monthly jobs report for March.

  • On Wednesday, President Biden laid out a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which included money for a range of activities, including repairing roads and bridges, building affordable housing and caregiving facilities, and expanding access to broadband. It would be paid for by an increase in corporate taxes, undoing some of the cut by his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump.

  • The infrastructure plan also includes spending about $50 billion on the semiconductor industry, where a global shortage in chips has disrupted car manufacturing. Shares in Micron Technology, an Idaho-based chip maker, rose nearly 5 percent in premarket trading.

  • The plan includes $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles. Tesla shares rose 2.7 percent in premarket trading and ChargePoint Holdings, which has a large network of electric-vehicle charing stations, rose 9 percent premarket, extending a 19 percent increase on Wednesday.

  • Most European stock indexes were higher even as more lockdowns were announced in the region. In France, restrictions have been expanded to more regions and schools will close for several weeks. In Italy, business closures will extend until the end of April. But a series of reports published on Thursday showed manufacturing activity picking up in Europe.

  • Oil prices rose ahead of a meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, at which they are set to decide production quotas for May. Brent Crude, the European benchmark, rose 1.23 percent to more than $63 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, climbed 1.5 percent to just above $60 a barrel.

  • QuantumScape, a California-based start-up working on a technology that could make batteries cheaper, said it had reached a technical requirement that would clear the way for a $100 million investment by Volkswagen. QuantumScape’s shares jumped 13 percent in premarket trading.

  • On Friday, markets will be closed in the United States, Europe and some other countries for Good Friday.

The occupancy rate in nursing homes in the fourth quarter of 2020 was down 11 percentage points from the first quarter, but there are hurdles to staying out of facilities.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The pandemic has intensified a spotlight on long-running questions about how communities can do a better job supporting seniors who need care but want to live outside a nursing home.

The coronavirus had taken the lives of 181,000 people in U.S. nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities through last weekend, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — 33 percent of the national toll.

The occupancy rate in nursing homes in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 75 percent, down 11 percentage points from the first quarter, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a research group. The shift may not be permanent, but this much is clear: As the aging of the nation accelerates, most communities need to do much more to become age-friendly, said Jennifer Molinsky, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

“It’s about all the services that people can access, whether that’s the accessibility and affordability of housing, or transportation and supports that can be delivered in the home,” she said.

But there are hurdles for those who wish to stay out of a facility, Mark Miller reports for The New York Times:

  • A major shortage of age-friendly housing in the United States will present problems for seniors who wish to stay in their homes. By 2034, 34 percent of households will be headed by someone over 65, according to the Harvard center. Yet in 2011, just 3.5 percent of homes had single-floor living, no-step entry and extra-wide halls and doors for wheelchair access, according to Harvard’s latest estimates.

  • Medicare does not pay for most long-term care services, regardless of where they happen; reimbursement is limited to a person’s first 100 days in a skilled nursing facility. Medicaid, which covers only people with very low incomes, has long been the nation’s largest funder of long-term care. From its inception, the program was required to cover care in nursing facilities but not at home or in a community setting. “There’s a bias toward institutions,” said Judith Solomon, a senior fellow specializing in health at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Marigold Lewi and Kimberley Vasquez outside their high school Baltimore City College this month in Baltimore, MD.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A year after the pandemic turned the nation’s digital divide into an education emergency, President Biden is making affordable broadband a top priority, comparing it to the effort to spread electricity across the country. His $2 trillion infrastructure plan, announced on Wednesday, includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home.

The money is meant to improve the economy by enabling all Americans to work, get medical care and take classes from wherever they live. Although the government has spent billions on the digital divide in the past, the efforts have failed to close it partly because people in different areas have different problems. Affordability is the main culprit in urban and suburban areas. In many rural areas, internet service isn’t available at all because of the high costs of installation.

“We’ll make sure every single American has access to high-quality, affordable, high speed internet,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Wednesday. “And when I say affordable, I mean it. Americans pay too much for internet. We will drive down the price for families who have service now.”

Longtime advocates of universal broadband say the plan, which requires congressional approval, may finally come close to fixing the digital divide, a stubborn problem first identified and named by regulators during the Clinton administration. The plight of unconnected students during the pandemic added urgency.

“This is a vision document that says every American needs access and should have access to affordable broadband,” said Blair Levin, who directed the 2010 National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission. “And I haven’t heard that before from a White House to date.”

Some advocates for expanded broadband access cautioned that Mr. Biden’s plan might not entirely solve the divide between the digital haves and have-nots.

The plan promises to give priority to municipal and nonprofit broadband providers but would still rely on private companies to install cables and erect cell towers to far reaches of the country. One concern is that the companies won’t consider the effort worth their time, even with all the money earmarked for those projects. During the electrification boom of the 1920s, private providers were reluctant to install poles and string lines hundreds of miles into sparsely populated areas.

Taxpayers who received unemployment benefits last year — but who filed their federal tax returns before a new tax break became available — could receive an automatic refund as early as May, the Internal Revenue Service said on Wednesday.

The latest pandemic relief legislation — signed into law on March 11, in the thick of tax season — made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax-free in 2020 for people with modified adjusted incomes of less than $150,000. (Married taxpayers filing jointly can exclude up to $20,400.)

But some Americans had already filed their tax returns by March and have been waiting for official agency guidance. Millions of U.S. workers filed for unemployment last year, but the I.R.S. said it was still determining how many workers affected by the tax change had already filed their tax returns.

On Wednesday, the I.R.S. confirmed that it would automatically recalculate the correct amount of benefits subject to taxation — and any overpayment will be refunded or applied to any other outstanding taxes owed. The first refunds are expected to be issued in May and will continue into the summer.

The I.R.S. said it would begin processing the simpler returns first, or those eligible for up to $10,200 in excluded benefits, and then would turn to returns for joint filers and others with more complex returns.

There is no need for those affected to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return, the agency said. Those taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well, the I.R.S. said.

People who still haven’t filed and expect to do so electronically can simply answer the questions asked by their online tax preparer, which will factor in the new tax break when they file. The agency provided an updated worksheet and additional guidance in March for taxpayers that prefer paper.

Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, demonstrated above in 2017, will equip soldiers with night vision, thermal vision and audio communication.
Credit…Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Microsoft said Wednesday that it would begin producing more than 120,000 augmented reality headsets for Army soldiers under a contract that could be worth up to $21.9 billion.

The HoloLens headsets use a technology called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which will equip soldiers wearing them with night vision, thermal vision and audio communication. The devices also have sensors that help soldiers target opponents in battle.

The deal is likely to create waves inside Microsoft, where some employees have objected to working with the Pentagon. Employees at other big tech companies, like Google, have also rejected what they say is the weaponization of their technology.

But Microsoft has long courted Defense Department work, including a $10 billion contract to build a cloud-computing system. Amazon had been seen as a front-runner to win the contract, but the Defense Department chose Microsoft.

Amazon claimed that President Donald J. Trump had interfered in the process because of his feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the owner of The Washington Post. A legal fight over the contract is still active.

Soldiers have tested the Microsoft headsets for two years, the company said. The Army said the devices would be used in combat and training.

Microsoft said its testing of the headsets had helped the Defense Department’s “efforts to modernize the U.S. military by taking advantage of advanced technology and new innovations not available to military.”

The devices will “provide the improved situational awareness, target engagement and informed decision-making necessary” to overcome current and future adversaries, the Army said in a news release.

In 2018, Microsoft won a $480 million bid to make prototypes of the headsets. The Army said Wednesday that the new contract to produce them on a larger scale was for five years, with the option to add up to five more years.

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The pandemic showed how broken nursing homes are. But the alternatives aren’t easy.

The pandemic has intensified a spotlight on long-running questions about how communities can do a better job supporting seniors who need care but want to live outside a nursing home.

The coronavirus had taken the lives of 181,000 people in U.S. nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities through last weekend, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — 33 percent of the national toll.

The occupancy rate in nursing homes in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 75 percent, down 11 percentage points from the first quarter, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a research group. The shift may not be permanent, but this much is clear: As the aging of the nation accelerates, most communities need to do much more to become age-friendly, said Jennifer Molinsky, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

“It’s about all the services that people can access, whether that’s the accessibility and affordability of housing, or transportation and supports that can be delivered in the home,” she said.

Mark Miller reports for The New York Times:

  • A major shortage of age-friendly housing in the United States will present problems for seniors who wish to stay in their homes. By 2034, 34 percent of households will be headed by someone over 65, according to the Harvard center. Yet in 2011, just 3.5 percent of homes had single-floor living, no-step entry and extra-wide halls and doors for wheelchair access, according to Harvard’s latest estimates.

  • Medicare does not pay for most long-term care services, regardless of where they happen; reimbursement is limited to a person’s first 100 days in a skilled nursing facility. Medicaid, which covers only people with very low incomes, has long been the nation’s largest funder of long-term care. From its inception, the program was required to cover care in nursing facilities but not at home or in a community setting. “There’s a bias toward institutions,” said Judith Solomon, a senior fellow specializing in health at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Turning Away From Nursing Homes, to What?

The PACE provider manages all of a person’s health care needs that are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. “It becomes your form of health care coverage,” said Peter Fitzgerald, executive vice president for policy and strategy at the National PACE Association, a membership and advocacy organization.

States decide whether to offer PACE programs; currently 30 have programs serving about 55,000 people, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Some states and regions are moving to address the needs of their aging citizens.

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom released a master plan for aging for California. It calls for creating, over the next decade, millions of housing units for older residents, one million high-quality caregiving jobs, and inclusion goals such as closing the digital divide and creating opportunities for work and volunteering. Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas have already established master plans, and a number of other states are working on them.

California’s plan also calls for a new state office focused on finding ways to innovate using Medicare funds, especially for low-income, chronically ill seniors who also participate in Medicaid.

“We think this can really help our state by bringing together medical and nonmedical services for people who want to live well in the place they call home,” said Gretchen E. Alkema, vice president of policy and communications at the SCAN Foundation, a nonprofit focused on elder care that has worked with California and other states on age-friendly models.

In the Atlanta metropolitan area, which began tackling these issues head-on in 2002, one in five residents will be 65 or older by 2050, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission, a planning organization. The group has responded by developing a “lifelong communities initiative” to raise awareness in local government of the need for housing that is affordable and convenient to sidewalks, shopping and transportation.

Atlanta and four suburbs have joined an AARP-sponsored network of age-friendly communities, and several city neighborhoods have created plans.

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Japan’s central bank will ease its support for the stock market.

about 17.2 million have HBO Max accounts. That suggests that of the company’s new subscriber target, not all of them will necessarily be streaming HBO Max.

The company has a complicated setup around HBO Max. People can sign up for the service directly, and those who already pay for the premium cable channel through their cable or satellite provider also have access, but not everyone has set up their streaming account. The service is also offered for free or at a reduced price to AT&T’s wireless customers.

The jump into international markets shows how aggressively AT&T needs to expand its streaming enterprise. The addition of an advertising-based service means the company sees an opportunity to capture the ad dollars that have started to move away from traditional television. It’s unclear if the ad-supported version will be free or whether it will only be available at a reduced price from HBO Max’s current $15 per month cost.

Jason Kilar, the chief executive of WarnerMedia, the unit that manages HBO, said the service is expected to start making money after 2025. It should generate about $15 billion in sales by that year, he added.

HBO Max has become a key part of AT&T’s overall strategy to keep and grow mobile customers, so losing money is less of an immediate concern if it helps AT&T retain its core wireless subscribers. Mr. Kilar emphasized HBO Max’s value to the phone business, citing that 25 percent of HBO Max customers have come via AT&T.

He ended his presentation with a cliché from the Warner Bros. film archives: “It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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Microsoft Executive Says Tech Consolidation Threatens Journalism

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told Congress he supports the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, which empowers news publishers to collectively bargain with online platforms like Facebook and Google.

I think that you all are on the right path. That’s why Microsoft is endorsing the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, the J.C.P.A., to give news organizations the ability to negotiate collectively, including with Microsoft, because as presently drafted, we will be subject to its terms. I hope that the subcommittee will continue its work to think more broadly about the fundamental lack of competition, especially in search and digital advertising, that are at the heart of not just the decline in journalism, but the decline and challenge in many sectors of the economy. What we’re finding is that the big publishers are not interested in negotiating collectively. The three largest news organizations in Australia are all negotiating separately. It is the small publishers that are negotiating collectively. If this bill is passed, that means that these news organizations would be able to negotiate collectively with us. I assume that they will negotiate effectively with us. It is far bigger than us. It is far bigger than technology. It is more important than any of the products that any of us produce today. And let’s hope that if a century from now people are not using iPhones or laptops or anything that we have today, journalism itself is still alive and well because our democracy depends on it.

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Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told Congress he supports the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, which empowers news publishers to collectively bargain with online platforms like Facebook and Google.CreditCredit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Lawmakers on Friday debated an antitrust bill that would give news publishers collective bargaining power with online platforms like Facebook and Google, putting the spotlight on a proposal aimed at chipping away at the power of Big Tech.

At a hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, emerged as a leading industry voice in favor of the law. He took a divergent path from his tech counterparts, pointing to an imbalance in power between publishers and tech platforms. Newspaper ad revenue plummeted to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005, he said, while ad revenue at Google jumped to $116 billion from $6.1 billion.

“Even though news helps fuel search engines, news organizations frequently are uncompensated or, at best, undercompensated for its use,” Mr. Smith said. “The problems that beset journalism today are caused in part by a fundamental lack of competition in the search and ad tech markets that are controlled by Google.”

The hearing was the second in a series planned by the subcommittee to set the stage for the creation of stronger antitrust laws. In October, the subcommittee, led by Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, released the results of a 16-month investigation into the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The report accused the companies of monopoly behavior.

This week, the committee’s two top leaders, Mr. Cicilline and Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, introduced the Journalism and Competition Preservation Act. The bill aims to give smaller news publishers the ability to band together to bargain with online platforms for higher fees for distributing their content. The bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of that chamber’s antitrust subcommittee.

Global concern is growing over the decline of local news organizations, which have become dependent on online platforms for distribution of their content. Australia recently proposed a law allowing news publishers to bargain with Google and Facebook, and lawmakers in Canada and Britain are considering similar steps.

Mr. Cicilline said, “While I do not view this legislation as a substitute for more meaningful competition online — including structural remedies to address the underlying problems in the market — it is clear that we must do something in the short term to save trustworthy journalism before it is lost forever.”

Google, though not a witness at the hearing, issued a statement in response to Mr. Smith’s planned testimony, defending its business practices and disparaging the motives of Microsoft, whose Bing search engine runs a very distant second place behind Google.

“Unfortunately, as competition in these areas intensifies, they are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests,” wrote Kent Walker, the senior vice president of policy for Google.

Union members canvassing at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala.
Credit…Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida became the most prominent Republican leader to weigh in on the unionization drive at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., with a surprising endorsement of the organizing effort on Friday.

“The days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over,” Mr. Rubio wrote in an opinion piece published in USA Today.

“Here’s my standard: When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy — I support the workers,” he continues. “And that’s why I stand with those at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse today.”

More than 5,800 workers at the Amazon warehouse, outside Birmingham, are voting by mail this month to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Last week, President Biden posted a video message on Twitter referring to the vote in Alabama and espousing on the importance of unions in helping build the middle class, while excoriating employers who interfere in unionization efforts. He did not mention Amazon by name, but his remarks followed reports that the online retailer was engaged in aggressive anti-union tactics.

“We welcome support from all quarters,” the union’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a statement. “Senator Rubio’s support demonstrates that the best way for working people to achieve dignity and respect in the workplace is through unionization. This should not be a partisan issue.”

The unionization drive has also continued to attract backing from Democrats. A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an email on Friday that she supported the workers in their effort.

Mr. Rubio, who recalls marching in a union picket line with his father, a hotel bartender, accused Amazon of expressing “woke” values, while bowing to Chinese censorship. And he warned the company not to expect Republicans to come to its rescue and condone its anti-union efforts.

“Its workers are right to suspect that its management doesn’t have their best interests in mind,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “Wealthy woke C.E.O.s instead view them as a cog in a machine that consistently prioritizes global profit margins and stoking cheap culture wars. The company’s workers deserve better.”

Simon Hu, the chief executive of Ant Group, at a conference in Shanghai in September. Mr. Hu asked to resign for personal reasons, the company said.
Credit…Cheng Leng/Reuters

The chief executive of Ant Group, the Chinese internet finance giant, has stepped down, the company said on Friday, a move that came in the middle of a business overhaul meant to address regulators’ concerns about its rapid growth.

Ant said its chief executive, Simon Hu, had asked to resign for personal reasons. The company’s chairman, Eric Jing, was named as Mr. Hu’s replacement, effective immediately. Mr. Jing, who will remain Ant’s chairman, previously served as chief executive until December 2019, when Mr. Hu took over the post.

Hundreds of millions of people in China use Ant’s Alipay app to make everyday payments, sock away savings and shop on credit. Ant, which was spun out of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has faced rising scrutiny from China’s government, and officials scuttled the company’s plans last year to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The company had been preparing to raise more than $34 billion by listing its shares in November, in what would have been the largest initial public offering on record. Instead, days before Ant’s shares were scheduled to begin trading, Chinese officials summoned company executives — namely, Mr. Hu, Mr. Jing and Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder — to discuss regulation. The I.P.O. was halted soon after, and financial watchdogs said Ant had taken advantage of gaps in China’s regulatory system and ordered it to revamp its business.

Mr. Hu joined Alibaba in 2005 and was president of its cloud division from 2014 to 2018. He joined Ant as president that year before becoming chief executive in 2019. Mr. Jing, also an Alibaba veteran, has been Ant’s executive chairman since April 2018. They are both members of the Alibaba Partnership, the company’s club of elite management partners.

Ford Motor said two members of the Ford family have been nominated to join the automaker’s board of directors, replacing one family member who is retiring and an independent director who has chosen not to seek re-election.

Alexandra Ford English, 33, daughter of Ford’s chairman, Bill Ford, and Henry Ford III, 40, son of Edsel B. Ford II, a current board member, are expected to be elected to the board by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on May 13. Both are great-great-grandchildren of Henry Ford, who founded the company in 1903.

Ms. English is a director in corporate strategy at the company. Henry Ford III is a director in investor relations.

They will replace Edsel Ford II, 72, who is retiring after being on the board since 1988, and John C. Lechleiter, 67, who joined Ford’s board in 2013 and is a former president of Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company.

Although the Ford family only owns a small portion of the company’s common stock, it retains effective control of the automaker though Class B shares with super-voting rights.

A banner for the South Korean retailer Coupang hung in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, the day the company’s shares began trading.
Credit…Courtney Crow/New York Stock Exchange, via Associated Press

The stock of Coupang, a start-up in South Korea that is sometimes called the Amazon of South Korea, drifted after trading publicly for the first time in New York on Thursday.

Coupang — the company’s name is a mix of the English word “coupon” and “pang,” the Korean sound for hitting the jackpot — was founded by a Harvard Business School dropout and has shaken up shopping in South Korea, an industry long dominated by huge, button-down conglomerates.

The initial public offering raised $4.6 billion and valued Coupang at about $85 billion, the second-largest American tally for an Asian company after Alibaba Group of China in 2014. Coupang’s shares rose 6.6 percent on Friday as trading began but ended the day down 2 percent.

Coupang is South Korea’s biggest e-commerce retailer, its status further cemented by people stuck at home during the pandemic and those in the country who crave faster delivery. In a country where people are obsessed with “ppalli ppalli,” or getting things done quickly, Coupang has become a household name by offering “next-day” and even “same-day” and “dawn” delivery of groceries and millions of other items at no extra charge.

The electric Endurance pickup truck made by Lordstown Motors. An investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks.
Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Shares of Lordstown Motors, an electric-vehicle start-up, fell more than 19 percent on Friday after an investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks and overstated its technological and production capabilities.

The revelations are the latest to call into question the promises made by an electric vehicle company that has gone public by merging with a shell company that has a stock market listing, cash and no operating business. Lordstown, which gained prominence by buying a former General Motors factory in Ohio to make electric trucks for commercial users, completed its merger with a shell company and started trading on the stock market in October 2020.

In a lengthy post on its website, the investment firm, Hindenburg Research, said that Lordstown’s claim of having 100,000 “pre-orders” for its electric pickup truck included tens of thousands from small companies that do not operate fleets, and others who merely agreed to consider buying trucks but made no commitment to do so. Hindenburg said it had bet against Lordstown’s stock by selling its shares short, a maneuver used by some professional investors when they believe a stock is overvalued and poised to fall.

“Our conversations with former employees, business partners and an extensive document review show that the company’s orders are largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy,” Hindenburg said.

A Lordstown spokesman said, “We will be sharing a full and thorough statement in the coming days, and when we do we will absolutely be refuting the Hindenburg Research report.”

One company that Lordstown said was prepared to buy 14,000 trucks, E Squared Energy, appears to be based in an apartment in Texas, have two employees and owns no vehicles. Hindenburg also unearthed a police report that showed a Lordstown prototype caught fire and burned to a shell during a test drive in January in Michigan.

On Friday morning, Lordstown shares were trading at just over $14 a share, down from their close the previous day of $17.71.

Former President Donald J. Trump hailed Lordstown in 2018 when it agreed to buy a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that General Motors had closed, and former Vice President Mike Pence participated in an unveiling of the company’s truck in June. In September, Mr. Trump hosted Lordstown’s chief executive, Steve Burns, at the White House and praised the company’s technology.

Hindenburg Research gained prominence last year when it released a report saying Nikola, an electric truck start-up, and its executive chairman, Trevor Milton, had mislead investors and exaggerated the capabilities of that company’s technology. The revelations resulted in Mr. Milton’s departure from Nikola, and prompted General Motors to scale back a partnership with the company.

Nikola denied some of Hindenburg’s claims but recently acknowledged to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Mr. Milton had made statements that were “inaccurate in whole or in part.”

Target will cease operations in the City Center building in downtown Minneapolis, relocating 3,500 employees.
Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Target, a fixture in downtown Minneapolis, is giving up space in a large office building there, becoming the latest company to permanently allow its staff to spend more time working from home.

The retailer told employees it would cease operations in the City Center building in downtown Minneapolis and that the 3,500 employees working there would relocate to other nearby offices, while also working from home part of the time. More than a quarter of Target’s corporate employees in the Minneapolis area work in the City Center building.

“This change is driven by Target’s longer-term headquarters environment that will include a hybrid model of remote and on-site work, allowing for flexibility and collaboration and ultimately, requiring less space,” the company said Thursday.

Office landlords across the country have been struggling to retain tenants as the pandemic drags on and companies realize their staff has been able to work effectively in a remote setting. Empty office buildings are putting a squeeze on city budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes.

Salesforce, the software company based in San Francisco, adopted a flex model in which most of its employees would be able to come into the office one to three days a week. In a bet that more people would work from home after the pandemic ends, Salesforce acquired the workplace software company Slack in December.

After the move, Target said it would still occupy about three million square feet of office space in the Minneapolis area.

“It’s not easy to say goodbye to City Center, but the Twin Cities is still our home after all these years,’’ Target’s chief human resources officer, Melissa Kremer, said in an email to employees.

Microsoft offices in Beijing. Microsoft owns LinkedIn, which has operated in China by conforming to the authoritarian government’s tight restrictions on the internet.
Credit…Wu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

LinkedIn has stopped allowing people in China to sign up for new member accounts while it works to ensure its service in the country remains in compliance with local law, the company said this week, without specifying what prompted the move. A company representative declined to comment further.

Unlike other global internet mainstays such as Facebook and Google, LinkedIn offers a version of its service in China, which it is able to do by hewing closely to the authoritarian government’s tight controls on cyberspace.

It censors its Chinese users in line with official mandates. It limits certain tools, such as the ability to create or join groups. It has given partial ownership of its Chinese operation to local investors.

In 2017, the company blocked individuals, but not companies, from advertising job openings on its site in China after it fell afoul of government rules requiring it to verify the identities of the people who post job listings.

The backdrop to the suspension of new user registrations is not clear. The government has previously blocked internet services that it believes to be breaking the law. In 2019, Microsoft’s Bing search engine was briefly inaccessible in China for unclear reasons. Microsoft also owns LinkedIn.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

Shoppers wait in line at an outlet mall in Southaven, Miss. on Saturday. Many Americans are set to benefit from the new economic relief plan.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

The economic relief plan that is headed to President Biden’s desk has been billed as the United States’ most ambitious antipoverty initiative in a generation. But inside the $1.9 trillion package, there are plenty of perks for the middle class, too.

An analysis by the Tax Policy Center published this week estimated that middle-income families — those making $51,000 to $91,000 per year — would see their after-tax income rise by 5.5 percent as a result of the tax changes and stimulus payments in the legislation. This is about twice what that income group received as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Here are some of the ways the bill will help the middle class.

Americans will receive stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per person, including dependents.

The size of the payments are scaled down for individuals making more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000. And they are cut off for individuals making $80,000 or more and couples earning more than $160,000. Those thresholds are lower than in the previous relief bills, but they will still be one of the biggest benefits enjoyed by those who are solidly in the middle class.

The most significant change is to the child tax credit, which will be increased to up to $3,600 for each child under 6, from $2,000 per child. The credit, which is refundable for people with low tax bills, is $3,000 per child for children ages 6 to 17.

The legislation also bolsters the tax credits that parents receive to subsidize the cost of child care this year. The current credit is worth 20 to 35 percent of eligible expenses, with a maximum value of $2,100 for two or more qualifying individuals. The stimulus bill increases that amount to $4,000 for one qualifying individual or $8,000 for two or more.

After four years of being on life support, the Affordable Care Act is expanding, a development that will largely reward middle-income individuals and families, since those on the lower end of the income spectrum generally qualify for Medicaid.

Because the relief legislation expands the subsidies for buying health insurance, a 64-year-old earning $58,000 would see monthly payments decline to $412 from $1,075 under current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

One of the more contentious provisions in the legislation is the $86 billion allotted to fixing failing multiemployer pensions. The money is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.

The legislation gives the weakest plans enough money to pay hundreds of thousands of retirees their full pensions for the next 30 years.

A drill ship contracted by ExxonMobil off the coast of Guayana in 2018. The temptation to produce more when prices rise has not disappeared completely, especially for countries like Guyana that want to pump as much oil as they can while oil is still valuable.
Credit…Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Even as they are making more money thanks to the higher oil and gasoline prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference.

Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas producer, predicted that American production would remain flat at 11 million barrels a day this year, compared with 12.8 million barrels immediately before the pandemic took hold.

Even the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers like Russia surprised many analysts this month by keeping several million barrels of oil off the market, The New York Times’s Clifford Krauss reports. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.

Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.

“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”

Shoppers in Southaven, Miss. Higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

While the Biden administration’s stimulus bill, which will funnel nearly $1.9 trillion to American households, made its way through Congress, some politicians and economists began to raise concerns that it would unshackle a long-vanquished monster: inflation.

The worries reflect expectations of a rapid economic expansion as businesses reopen and the pandemic recedes. Millions are still unemployed, and layoffs remain high, The New York Times’s Nelson Schwartz and Jeanna Smialek report. But for workers with secure jobs, higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings built up over the last year.

Healthy economies tend to have gentle price increases, which give businesses room to raise wages and leave the central bank with more room to cut interest rates during times of trouble.

Over the long term, inflation can be a concern because it hurts the value of many financial assets, especially stocks and bonds. It makes everything from milk and bread to gasoline more expensive for consumers, leaving them unable to keep up if salaries stall. And once inflation becomes entrenched, it can be hard to subdue.

Inflation is expected to increase in the coming months as prices are measured against weak readings from last year. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the Consumer Price Index to hit an annual rate of 2.9 percent from April through June, easing to 2.5 percent in the three months after that before easing gradually to year-over-year gains of 2.2 percent in 2022, based on the median projection.

But those numbers are nothing like the staggering price increases of the 1970s, and evidence of renewed inflation is paltry so far.

The headquarters of the Bank of Japan in Tokyo.
Credit…Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

The Bank of Japan said on Friday that it would scrap its annual minimum target for equity fund purchases, a decision that comes as Japan’s stock markets hit levels unseen since the collapse of the country’s economic bubble in the early 1990s.

The decision was announced as part of a three-month policy review meant to give the central bank more flexibility to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under its previous policy, the bank aimed to invest around $55 billion annually in exchange-traded funds — baskets of equities that can be bought and sold on the stock market. That was part of a policy of monetary easing intended to stimulate inflation to combat sagging prices, which sap corporate profits.

Since 2010, when the purchases began, the bank has become Japan’s single largest stockholder. Share prices are now at their highest point in over three decades. Friday’s decision will give the bank the flexibility to make future purchases at more favorable prices. It will also help to address concerns that the program has distorted Japanese stock markets.

The bank will continue to invest in equities that track Japan’s Topix stock index “as necessary,” it said. It will maintain the upper limit of $110 billion in purchases per year that was set earlier in the pandemic, as part of emergency measures to stimulate the economy.

The bank also said that it would maintain its current interest rate targets while allowing long-term rates slightly more room to breathe, increasing the band to 0.25 percent from 0.2 percent.

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In U.S. nursing homes, where Covid-19 killed scores, even reports of maggots and rape don’t dock five-star ratings.

Twelve years ago, the U.S. government introduced a powerful new tool to help people make a wrenching decision: which nursing home to choose for loved ones at their most vulnerable. Using a simple star rating — one being the worst, five the best — the system promised to distill reams of information and transform an emotional process into one based on objective, government-blessed metrics.

The star system quickly became ubiquitous, a popular way for consumers to educate themselves and for nursing homes to attract new customers. During the coronavirus pandemic, with many locked-down homes unavailable for prospective residents or their families to see firsthand, the ratings seemed indispensable.

But a New York Times investigation, based on the most comprehensive analysis of the data that powers the ratings program, found that it is broken.

The ratings program, which is run by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., relies on a mix of self-reported data from more than 15,000 nursing homes and on-site examinations by state health inspectors.

years of warnings, the system provided a badly distorted picture of the quality of care at the nation’s nursing homes. Many relied on sleight-of-hand maneuvers to improve their ratings and hide shortcomings that contributed to the damage when the pandemic struck.

More than 130,000 nursing-home residents have died of Covid-19, and The Times’s analysis found that people at five-star facilities were roughly as likely to die of the disease as those at one-star homes.

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How U.S. Ratings of Nursing Homes Mislead the Public

The pandemic laid bare the flaws in the government rating system.

The state health inspections do little to penalize homes with poor records of preventing and controlling infections. From 2017 to 2019, The Times found, inspectors cited nearly 60 percent — more than 2,000 — of the country’s five-star facilities at least once for not following basic safety precautions, like regular hand washing. Yet they earned top ratings.

In San Bernardino, Calif., inspectors wrote up Del Rosa Villa for four different infection-control violations. It kept its five stars. Ninety residents at the 104-bed facility have contracted the coronavirus, and 13 have died.

Del Rosa Villa officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Life Care Centers of Kirkland, Wash., the first nursing home in the United States to have documented coronavirus cases, was found in 2019 to have weak infection controls, despite its five stars. State inspectors wrote it up for failing to “consistently implement an effective infection control program.”

Thirty-nine of the facility’s residents have died from Covid-19. The home has 190 beds.

Leigh Atherton, a Life Care spokeswoman, said that citation was the only lapse in infection control that inspectors had identified over 32 previous visits. She said the home quickly fixed the problem.

If the rating system worked as intended, it would have offered clues as to which homes were most likely to have out-of-control outbreaks and which homes would probably muddle through.

That is not what happened.

The Times found that there was little if any correlation between star ratings and how homes fared during the pandemic. At five-star facilities, the death rate from Covid-19 was only half a percentage point lower than at facilities that received lower ratings. And the death rate was slightly lower at two-star facilities than at four-star homes.

A facility’s location, the infection rate of the surrounding community and the race of nursing home residents all were predictors of whether a nursing home would suffer an outbreak. The star ratings didn’t matter.

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