Jobless Americans More Pessimistic About Prospects, Survey Says: Live Updates

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Robinhood has raised more than $1 billion since it was founded seven years ago.
Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Robinhood, a stock trading app whose popularity has surged in the pandemic, has raised another $200 million in funding, the company said on Monday, bringing its funding total to $800 million in recent months, and more than $1 billion since it was founded seven years ago.

The new round of funding, led by the hedge fund D1 Capital Partners, values the start-up at $11.2 billion.

Use of Robinhood’s app has exploded in recent months as people have been bored during the pandemic and stock market volatility has made day trading into an exciting hobby. In May, the company announced it had 13 million accounts.

But the company’s growth has also attracted critics. In March, the company’s service crashed several times in one week, leaving customers unable to transact as the stock market plummeted.

And traders who have lost money point to features in the app that make stock trading feel like a game. Ashton Kutcher, one of Robinhood’s investors, has even compared it to gambling, The New York Times previously reported. (Mr. Kutcher said he was not insinuating Robinhood was a gambling platform.)

In recent months, Robinhood has emphasized its education materials for responsible investing. The company said it planned to use the new money to expand its customer service team by hiring hundreds of people. (It does not have a phone number for customers to call.)

Robinhood has been a disruptive force in the investment world. It does not charge its users any fees for trading; rather, it makes money by selling the transaction to larger Wall Street firms. Last year, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and E*Trade dropped their trading fees to compete.

President Trump directed F.E.M.A to use federal disaster assistance funds to increase the benefits of unemployed workers.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Most American workers expecting $300 or $400 in extra weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government are unlikely to see it until the end of August, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Monday.

President Trump signed an executive order earlier this month, saying he was bypassing Congress to deliver emergency pandemic aid by directing F.E.M.A to use federal disaster assistance funds in order to increase the benefits of workers left unemployed by the pandemic recession.

On Monday, F.E.M.A. officials said seven states had thus far been approved to receive the money: Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri and Utah. They also laid out the timetable for those funds in a new “frequently asked questions” guidance about the program.

The guidance, citing the Labor Department, estimates that states will need an average of three weeks from the date of Mr. Trump’s order, Aug. 8, to adjust their unemployment systems in order to be eligible for the grants, which will supply $300 per week of federal funds per worker, with an option for states to kick in an additional $100 per week. States that win approval, it says, will see money flow after one business day.

Initial grants will provide only three weeks worth of benefits per state, the guidance said, and additional funds will be provided on a week-to-week basis “in order to ensure that funding remains available for the states who apply for the grant assistance.”

Some state leaders have expressed reservations about applying for the money. South Dakota’s governor has opted not to join the program.

As the pandemic-induced economic crisis drags on, jobless Americans are becoming more pessimistic about their prospects for getting back to work.

Nearly six in 10 Americans who are out of work because of the pandemic say they do not expect to return to their old jobs, according to a survey this month for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey. That’s up from half who said the same a month ago.

Of those who are still out of work, 13 percent anticipate returning to their old jobs in the next month, down from 22 percent a month earlier.

The growing pessimism comes as hiring has slowed and other measures of economic activity have lost momentum. The Times survey adds to the evidence of a stall: The share of those surveyed who reported that they had returned to work fell slightly in August, perhaps reflecting the new wave of business closures in response to the virus. And overall consumer confidence dipped. Only 24 percent of Americans now say they are better off than a year ago, the lowest share in the survey’s three and a half years.

Economists say that if a large share of Americans are unable to return to their old jobs, the recovery will be slower. The longer the crisis lasts, the more likely that becomes: More than half of job seekers in the Times survey report having been out of work for five months or longer, consistent with other data showing rising levels of long-term unemployment.

Wall Street continued to tread water just below a record, with technology stocks again leading the gains but the market’s cautious tone continuing to keep the rally limited.

The S&P 500 rose about a quarter of a percent. European stocks were also modestly higher.

For days, the S&P 500 has toyed with — but failed to close above — its February record of 3,386.15. The index did cross above that threshold for a short time on Monday, but again failed to hold onto the high.

As they often have in recent days, technology stocks fared better than the broader market, with the Nasdaq composite rising 1 percent.

Earlier Monday, Japanese authorities reported that the economy fell 7.8 percent in the second quarter, an annualized drop of 27.8 percent. It was the third straight quarter of contraction for Japan, the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China. Even before the pandemic, Japan’s economy was weakened by a tax increase, slowing demand from China and a series of natural disasters last fall.

But there are signs the worst may be over. By late in the second quarter, analysts said, the full effects of Japan’s economic stimulus package, including cash handouts and zero-interest loans, began to be felt, keeping joblessness and bankruptcies low.

The prospect of an economic recovery — in Japan, China or the United States — has helped lift share prices around the world, after they suffered a staggering decline earlier this year. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 is up about 50 percent since the depths of the market slump in March, despite the millions unemployed and thousands of businesses still shuttered.

That recovery has also been fueled by trillions of dollars pumped into the financial markets by the Federal Reserve and spending by the government to cushion the worst of the downturn. And though the virus continues to exact a toll on the American economy, and cases are surging in many states, investors have largely looked the other way in recent weeks.

Royal Dutch Shell is getting into the electric-car charging business. 
Credit…Mary Turner/Reuters

This may turn out to be the year that oil giants, especially in Europe, started looking more like electric companies.

Late last month, Royal Dutch Shell won a deal to build a vast wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands. Earlier in the year, France’s Total, which owns a battery maker, agreed to make several large investments in solar power in Spain and a wind farm off Scotland. Total also bought an electric and natural gas utility in Spain and is joining Shell and BP in expanding its electric vehicle charging business.

At the same time, the companies are ditching plans to drill more wells as they chop back capital budgets. Shell recently said it would delay new fields in the Gulf of Mexico and in the North Sea, while BP has promised not to hunt for oil in any new countries.

Prodded by governments and investors to address climate change concerns about their products, Europe’s oil companies are accelerating their production of cleaner energy — usually electricity, sometimes hydrogen — and promoting natural gas, which they argue can be a cleaner transition fuel from coal and oil to renewables.

For some executives, the sudden plunge in demand for oil caused by the pandemic — and the accompanying collapse in earnings — is another warning that unless they change the composition of their businesses, they risk being dinosaurs headed for extinction.

“What the world wants from energy is changing,” said Bernard Looney, a 29-year BP veteran who became chief executive in February, “and so we need to change, quite frankly, what we offer the world.”

? The Democratic National Convention will take place mostly virtually, spread out over four nights, starting tonight. Speakers include former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, will speak on Wednesday, and Joe Biden will wrap it up on Thursday. The Times has a guide for how to watch, and will offer live analysis throughout.

? Retail earnings are in the spotlight this week, with Home Depot, Kohl’s and Walmart reporting on Tuesday; Lowe’s and Target on Wednesday; and TJX on Thursday.

? Other noteworthy reports include Norway’s sovereign wealth fund on Tuesday; the shipping giant A. P. Moller-Maersk and the chip maker Nvidia on Wednesday; and the heavy machinery manufacturer Deere & Company on Friday.

? Investors will have a chance to scrutinize the latest minutes of recent meetings at the U.S. Federal Reserve, released on Wednesday, and the European Central Bank, due on Thursday, for clues as to what monetary policymakers are thinking about whether more stimulus is needed.

The Giant bicycle factory near Taichung, Taiwan.
Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times

The pandemic has caused a surge in bicycle sales around the world, resulting in an international bike shortage. And the world’s largest bike maker, Giant, expects its supplies to remain tight for some time to come.

After President Trump started his trade war with China in 2018, Giant moved some of its manufacturing for the American market from China to the company’s home base in Taiwan to avoid the added tariffs. The following year, the European Union imposed antidumping duties on electric bikes from China, so Giant began making those in Taiwan, too.

But when the pandemic caused demand for bikes to jump, Giant needed to reverse course. With its Taiwan facility already under strain, the company had little choice but to crank up production in China, even it meant bearing the extra cost of tariffs.

“There’s nowhere else in the world that can go like China from zero to 100 in an instant, like a sports car. Shyeew!” Giant’s chairwoman, Bonnie Tu, said in an interview.

The Trump administration this year temporarily lifted tariffs on a variety of Chinese-made goods that are deemed strategically unimportant. Bicycles made the list, which made it easier for Giant to go back to producing some of its bikes for the U.S. market in China.

But the tariff pause for certain types of bikes expired this month, meaning Giant may need to adjust its supply arrangements yet again.

Today all of Giant’s factories are running nearly at full steam. Despite the rush of first-time bike buyers, Ms. Tu does not plan to “blindly” invest in new manufacturing capacity.

“Every boom ends someday,” she said. “It’s just a question of whether it ends quickly or slowly.”

Garvey Mortley, 12, with her mother, Amber Coleman-Mortley. Garvey is spending a lot more time in the pandemic playing on the gaming site Roblox.
Credit…Andrew Mangum for The New York Times

The coronavirus has created some pandemic winners, as people shop in droves onAmazon, buy Peloton bikes to exercise at home and head to drive-in movies. For children, there are pandemic victors, too — and chief among them is Roblox, a 14-year-old online gaming site and app with Lego-like characters and millions of virtual worlds to explore.

Since February, the number of active players on Roblox has jumped about 35 percent, reaching 164 million in July, according to RTrack, a site that tracks Roblox data. About three-quarters of American children ages 9 to 12 are now on the platform, according to Roblox. And players spent three billion hours on the site and app in July, twice as much as they did in February, the company said.

With so much time at home starting in March, Garvey Mortley began logging more hours in the online universe, building virtual houses, adopting digital pets and racing other players in obstacle courses. She said she now plays Roblox on her laptop for up to five hours a day while chatting with friends on her phone, up from an hour or two before the pandemic. “It’s like my main passion,” said Garvey, 12. “It’s pretty diverse, and you can meet people around the world.”

Roblox is free to play, but gamers pay real money — often $5 or $10 at a time — to become premium members and to buy an in-game currency called Robux, which lets them buy clothing, weapons and even hot air balloons for their characters.

“At a time like this, where people are housebound, being able to escape into the digital world and have these kinds of fun, imaginative experiences with a friend, is very, very relevant,” said Craig Donato, Roblox’s chief business officer.

The LifeCare Center of Kirkland in Washington State had the country’s first coronavirus outbreak in March.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Nursing homes have been the center of America’s coronavirus pandemic, with more than 62,000 residents and staff dying from Covid-19 at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 40 percent of the country’s Covid-19 fatalities.

Now, the lightly regulated industry is campaigning in Washington for federal help that could increase its profits.

Some of the country’s largest nursing-home companies — including those with long histories of safety violations and misusing public funds — have assembled a fleet of lobbyists, many with close ties to the Trump administration.

  • Eliezer Scheiner, a nursing-home owner and major donor to President Trump, recently retained Brian Ballard, a friend of the president who used to lobby on behalf of Mr. Trump’s business.

  • Genesis Healthcare, the largest nursing-home chain in the United States, hired two former top White House aides, including Jim Schultz, a former special assistant to Mr. Trump.

  • LifeCare Centers of America, whose Kirkland, Wash., facility had the country’s first coronavirus outbreak in March, brought on four former Republican Senate aides.

  • The industry’s main trade group enlisted Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republic National Committee.

It is hardly unusual for embattled industries to seek help from Washington. But the fact that individual nursing-home companies are hiring lobbyists, not just relying on trade associations, reflects the ambitious nature of the industry’s mobilization.

Nursing homes — many of which were in deep financial trouble even before the pandemic — are also on the hunt for government cash infusions through the federal economic rescue that became law in March, as well as any future stimulus bills.

Among the industry’s biggest goals, though, is for the federal government to block residents and their families from suing nursing homes for wrongful deaths and other malpractice claims — even those that have nothing to do with Covid-19.

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