By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
• India had another record day for new cases at 95,735, according to its health ministry, as Reuters reported. The country of 1.4 billion people counted 1,172 fatalities, the news agency reported, the highest single-day mortality rate in more than a month. Infections are climbing faster in India than anywhere else and the country is second to the U.S. by case numbers, the Johns Hopkins data shows.
• There was some good news for New York City, one of the hardest-hit areas of the U.S. by COVID-19. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said indoor dining can resume at the end of the month, albeit at greatly reduced capacity and with safeguards in place. Restaurants will be allowed to serve guests indoors at 25% of their usual capacity, the governor said. Diners will be required to wear face coverings when not seated; at least one member of each party must provide information for contact tracing; temperature checks will be given at the door; no bar seating will be permitted; and restaurants will close at midnight. Businesses will also be required to operate with enhanced air filtration systems, a requirement similar to one of the stipulations used for gym reopenings.
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• The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first reported late last year, will resume international flights on Sept. 16, the New York Times reported. The first flight will take passenger to South Korean capital Seoul, according to Chinese state-run media on Thursday. A number of airlines are applying to restart direct flights to Wuhan and cities such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Singapore, the paper reported.
There are now 27.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the Johns Hopkins data show. At least 905,470 people have died and at least 18.8 million people have recovered.
Brazil has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 128,539. Mexico is fourth with 69,049 deaths and 647,321 cases. The U.K. has 41 697 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 360,533 cases.
China has 90,112 confirmed cases and 4,733 deaths, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits through state and federal programs rose in early September for the third week in a row, signaling that a gradual improvement in the labor market during the summer has stalled, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Initial jobless claims filed traditionally through state employment offices were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 884,000 in the week of Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast new claims to fall to 840,000.
Yet new claims rose when including self-employed workers who applied for benefits under a separate federal program. Some 838,916 people filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act. That put the number of actual or unadjusted new claims at 1.69 million, compared to 1.59 million in the prior week. Federal filings have risen four weeks in a row.
The increase could be due to the end of federal assistance for small businesses. It could also reflect a fresh wave of layoffs in hard-hit businesses such as airlines and hotels. Major companies such as American Airlines Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -3.72% and MGM Resorts International /zigman2/quotes/209932643/composite MGM -0.40% said earlier this month they would cut more jobs permanently because demand is still in a slump and federal aid has dried up.
“It is especially concerning that the pace of layoffs has not slowed more materially even though the economy has reopened more fully, and more and more businesses have come back online,’ said chief economist Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics.
What are companies saying?
• Century 21, the off-price retailer with 13 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, will shut down operations due to the impact of COVID-19. The company says its insurers have failed to pay on policies that protect against business interruption. The payments total about $175 million. “While insurance money helped us to rebuild after suffering the devastating impact of 9/11, we now have no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we have paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, have turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” said Century 21 co-Chief Executive Raymond Gindi in a statement. Century 21 has been in business for 60 years. Going out of business sales will take place at store locations and online.
• GameStop Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203755179/composite GME +4.07% reported fiscal second-quarter results that missed Wall Street estimates, with revenue plunging during the pandemic. GameStop reported a loss of $111.3 million, or $1.17 a share, compared with a loss of $415.3 million, or $4.15 a share, in the year-ago quarter. The adjusted loss of $91.2 million, or $1.40 per share, was significantly higher than the $32 million shortfall, or 32 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue fell 27% to $942 million from $1.29 billion a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected an adjusted loss of $1.13 a share on revenue of $1.019 billion.
• JetBlue Airways Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207639051/composite JBLU -1.01% will launch 24 new routes later this year, aimed at “immediately generating cash” and capturing traffic amid an expected increase in demand for leisure travel. The airline will introduce new nonstop flights from four “focus cities,” including Newark, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. Separately, JetBlue said it extend its initiative in which change fees are waived for new booking made through Feb. 28, 2021. The extension comes after a number of airlines, starting with United Airlines Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -2.94% , that they will permanently waive change fees, as they work to get people to travel again following a steep decline in air travel during the pandemic.
• Philip Morris International Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201611010/composite PM +1.83% revised its net full-year profit outlook higher, citing better-than-expected industry volume trends and pricing during the pandemic. The company revised its net earnings-per-share guidance range to $4.92 to $4.99 from $4.84 to $4.99. Excluding non-recurring items, such as asset impairment costs and fair value adjustments for equity security investments, the adjusted EPS outlook if $5.00 to $5.07, compared with the FactSet consensus of $5.08. Excluding the negative impact of currency translation, the company said its adjusted EPS outlook would be $5.31 to $5.38. .
• Quest Diagnostics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201001842/composite DGX +0.58% raised its full-year outlook for profit and revenue, citing a faster-than-anticipated recovery in testing volumes from the pandemic through the end of August. The company now expects net 2020 earnings per share of $7.42 to $8.92, up from previous expectations of $5.66 to $7.66, while the adjusted EPS guidance range was raised to $7.50 to $9.00 from $6.60 to $8.60. The FactSet consensus is $8.28. The company raised its 2020 guidance range for revenue to $8.4 billion to $8.8 billion from $8.0 billion to $8.6 billion, compared with the FactSet consensus of $8.69 billion. Quest said it now expects cash provided by operations to be at least $1.45 billion, up from previous expectations of at least $1.25 billion.
• Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/207536075/composite RRGB +6.69% latest business update showed improved comp sales at company-owned locations. For the week ending September 6, comparable-store sales at Red Robin’s company-owned restaurants were down 21.9%, up from the week prior when comp sales were down 22.1%. Comparable-store sales were down more than 30% each of the weeks ending in August. Average net sales per restaurant dipped slightly to $39,593 in the most recent week due to the Labor Day holiday, which the company said hurt comparable revenue by 3% to 5%. Paul Murphy III, Red Robin’s chief executive officer, said the improvement coincides with the addition of seating, primarily outside. “Looking ahead, we expect to build further momentum from the implementation and related seating expansion of all-weather tents and booth partitions by early in the fourth quarter along with indoor dining rooms beginning to re-open in California,” he said in a statement. As of September 6, Red Robin had $104 million in cash and equivalents and its credit facility.