By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness COVID-19 headed toward 230,000 on Saturday and cases topped 9 million after more than 99,000 infections were counted in a record one-day tally, with infections climbing in all swing states just days before the presidential election.
At least 971 Americans died on Friday, according to a New York Times tracker. In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 79,833 cases a day, up 42% from the average two weeks ago.
With just three days until the U.S. presidential election, medical journal The Lancet joined other prestigious publications including the New England Journal of Medicine in urging Americans to vote for change. In an editorial, The Lancet editors outline the “disastrous” U.S. response to the virus that has made it the world leader in case numbers and death counts and the devastating impact it has had on the economy.
“The fraying social safety net, continual erosion of trust in the public sector, the perceived diminished responsibility of the federal government, and political interference with crucial public health apparatus (most markedly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have culminated in the disastrous US response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the authors wrote. “But the crucial acknowledgment that should be made is the absence of comprehensive health infrastructure. Without it the USA is at great risk.”
Despite that, conservatives are still pushing, “out of ideology and opposition,” to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it continues.
“Americans need equitable individual access to quality health care that is supported by efficient and autonomous public health governance, both as a matter of health security and as a matter of human rights,” the authors write.
The pandemic is racing across the U.S., even as President Donald Trump and his advisers seek to downplay its impact with Trump insisting several times this week that the U.S. has “rounded the corner” and the virus is contained. Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News on Thursday that deaths are at “almost nothing” on a day when more than 1,000 Americans died.
There more than 2,000 new infections in Colorado, more than 6,400 in Illinois and more than 1,000 new cases in New Mexico, the Times tracker shows, all fresh one-day records. And while deaths remain below their spring levels, they are rising and are expected to move higher as more patients are hospitalized.
There are currently 46,688 American COVID-19 patients in hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s the most since Aug. 13 and a 51% increase from a month ago.
“While we are not yet close to the hospitalization peaks of almost 60,000 that we saw in the spring and summer, the average number of people hospitalized this week rose to 42,621, a very substantial increase from the lows of around 30,000 that we saw just a month ago,” the COVID Tracking Project wrote in a weekly summary.
Twenty-five states have set a record for cases in the last two weeks, including 17 states with record highs since last Wednesday.
The traditional swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all seeing a steep uptick in new cases. “Beyond the large rises in cases since October 1, hospitalizations are up at least 96 percent in all four states. Ohio and Wisconsin have also surpassed their previous hospitalization records,” said the summary.
A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll published Friday found nearly six in 10 voters disapprove of Trump’s campaign rallies, which feature large crowds gathering closely with few face masks to prevent the virus spreading. Nearly 64% approve of rival Democrat Joe Biden’s decision to hold far smaller gatherings and encourage attendees to socially distance.
In other news:
• Russian officials in Moscow are preparing for mass vaccinations against COVID-19 as Russia’s daily tally climbed above 18,000 to set a record, Reuters reported. Moscow residents may be able to be vaccinated as early as next month if large volumes of doses are delivered in time, Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said on Friday. Russia registered the first COVID-19 vaccine but experts are concerned that is may not be safe as Phase 3 clinical trials were not completed.
• There was bad news on the medical front when Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NAS:REGN) said an independent data monitoring committee (IDMC) for the REGN-COV2 antibody cocktail treatment trials for COVID-19 recommended that the patient trial be “modified,” with the enrollment of some patients placed on hold. REGN-COV2 was one of the treatments prescribed to Trump after he tested positive for COVID-19. Based on a “potential safety signal and an unfavorable risk/benefit profile at this time,” the IDMC recommended that further enrollment of patients requiring high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation be placed on hold pending analysis of further data. The IDMC also recommends continuing enrollment of patients requiring no or low-flow oxygen and the continuation of the outpatient trial without modification. REGN-COV2 is currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for a potential Emergency Use Authorization in mild-to-moderate outpatients with high risk of poor outcomes.
• A study has found that a coronavirus variant that originated in Spain accounts for most cases in the U.K., the Guardian reported, suggesting the government’s travel policies during the summer were flawed. “In Wales and Scotland the variant was at 80% in mid-September, whereas frequencies in Switzerland and England were around 50% at that time,” said the authors of the study, which was conducted in Switzerland and has not yet been peer reviewed. The strain first showed up in July as quarantine-free travel to Spain was allowed for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has since spread to other European countries. The U.K. has the highest death toll of any European country at 46,319, and the fifth highest in the world, the Johns Hopkins data shows. It has 992,874 confirmed cases, or ninth highest tally in the world.
France, Germany Impose Lockdown Measures as Coronavirus Cases Rise
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced new lockdown measures Wednesday, as Europe sees mounting cases and deaths related to the coronavirus. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 45.7 million, the Johns Hopkins data show , and the death toll is 1.19 million. At least 29.7 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
The U.S. has 9 million confirmed cases and 229,711 fatalities, about a fifth of the global totals.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 159,477 and is third by cases at 5.5 million. India is second in cases with 8.1 million, and third in deaths at 121,641.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 91,389 and 10th highest case tally at 918,811.
China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has had 91,339 cases and 4,739 fatalities, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
Americans spent more in September on goods and services such as new cars, clothing and recreation, a fifth straight increase that underpinned a historic rebound in the economy during the third quarter, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Consumer spending rose 1.4% last month, the government said Friday . Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 1.1% advance.
The increase in spending capped off a record surge in gross domestic product over the summer. The government on Thursday reported that GDP, the official scorecard for the U.S. economy, leapt at a record 33% annual pace following a historic decline at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet GDP is mostly a look in the rearview mirror and it’s unclear if consumers can keep spending at current levels. The U.S. is suffering another major wave of coronavirus cases and most federal aid for the economy lapsed in July.
Millions of unemployed Americans could be cut off from unemployment benefits at the end of the year unless a deadlocked Congress approves another major package of emergency aid for struggling businesses and idled workers.
“Household spending provided a strong boost to growth [in the third quarter],” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “However, the outlook is less certain given rising virus cases that will restrict activity, close businesses and result in job losses.”
Separately, a measure of consumer confidence rose in late October to a new pandemic high, largely reflecting growing optimism among Democrats that Joe Biden will win the presidential election.
The final reading of consumer sentiment index edged up to 81.8 in October from an initial 81.2, the University of Michigan said Friday.
What are companies saying?
• AbbVie Inc. (NYS:ABBV) reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations, raised its full-year outlook and boosted its dividend by 10%. “Results from key growth products -- including Skyrizi, Rinvoq and Ubrelvy -- continue to track ahead of our expectations, our aesthetics portfolio is demonstrating a strong V-shaped recovery, our hematologic-oncology franchise is delivering double-digit growth and we’re advancing numerous attractive late-stage pipeline programs,” said Chief Executive Richard Gonzalez. The company cautioned that the impacts of the pandemic remain uncertain, but it raised its full-year adjusted EPS outlook to $10.47 to $10.49 from $10.35 to $10.45. AbbVie also raised its quarterly dividend to $1.30 a share from $1.18, with the new dividend payable Feb. 16 to shareholders of record on Jan. 15.
• Avis Budget Group Inc. (NAS:CAR) topped earnings estimates for the third quarter, even as profit and revenue slid sharply as travel slowed significantly during the pandemic. The company cut $1 billion of costs in the quarter, bringing the year-to-date total to $2 billion, and said it’s on track to cut $2.5 billion for the full year. “We remain focused on what we can control,” Chief Executive Joe Ferraro said in a statement. The company is expecting to see the normal seasonal effects in the fourth quarter, and expects the travel environment to remain challenged.
• Chevron Corp. (NYS:CVX) swung to a loss in the third quarter, hurt by low oil prices and weakened demand during the pandemic. The energy giant said revenue came to $24.451 billion, down from $36.116 billion a year ago, and below the $25.837 billion FactSet consensus. “The world’s economy continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels, impacting demand for our products which are closely linked to economic activity,” Chief Executive Michael K. Wirth said. he company’s U.S. upstream earnings fell to $116 million from $727 million. The company’s average sales price per barrel of crude oil fell to $31 from $47 a year ago. U.S. downstream operations posted earnings of $141 million, down from $389 million a year ago.
• Colgate-Palmolive Co. (NYS:CL) posted stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings during the pandemic. The company reported third-quarter net income of $698 million, or 81 cents per share, up from $578 million, or 67 cents per share, last year. Adjusted EPS of 79 cents exceeded the FactSet consensus for 70 cents per share. Sales of $4.15 billion were up from $3.93 billion last year and ahead of the FactSet consensus for $3.99 billion. Colgate’s global market share in toothpaste reached 39.9% for the year to date, and global market share for manual toothbrushes is at 31.1% for the year to date. For full-year 2020, Colgate expects net sales and organic sales to be up mid-single digits. The FactSet consensus is for $16.02 billion, suggesting 2.1% growth.
• El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (NAS:LOCO) beat profit estimates for the third quarter as sales fell slightly short. Revenue edged down to $111.0 million from $112.1 million, slightly below the $112.0 million FactSet consensus. Same-restaurant sales rose 1.8%, below the FactSet consensus for a rise of 2.2%. “While the COVID crisis will likely continue to present challenges, we remain excited about the progress we’ve made against our Transformation Agenda,” Chief Executive Bernard Acoca said in a statement. The company is now expecting its fourth-quarter same-restaurant sales yo rise 1% to 2%, compared with a FactSet consensus of up 2%.
• Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYS:XOM) swung to a loss and revenue fell nearly 30%, as the pandemic took a bite, but the results beat Wall Street expectations. The company reported a net loss of $680 million, or 15 cents a share, after net income of $3.17 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Excluding non-recurring items, the adjusted per-share loss was 18 cents, narrower than the FactSet loss consensus of 26 cents. Revenue dropped 29.0% to $46.20 billion, but was above the FactSet consensus of $45.37 billion. For the upstream business, realizations for crude oil “improved significantly” from the second quarter, as market prices increased. “Improved market conditions enabled full recovery of production impacted by economic curtailments,” the company stated. “Government mandated curtailments hurt third quarter results and are anticipated to continue in the fourth quarter.” For downstream, higher product sales due to increased demand and higher marketing margins offset lower fuels margins driven by market oversupply.
• Lear Corp. (NYS:LEA) reported a third-quarter adjusted profit and revenue that rose above expectations, as global vehicle production “recovered significantly” from the prior quarter’s pandemic-related slowdown, but remained below year-ago levels. earnings per share rose to $3.73 from $3.54, beating the FactSet consensus of $3.17. Sales grew 1.6% to $4.90 billion, above the FactSet consensus of $4.76 billion, although global vehicle production fell 4%. For 2020, the company expects sales of $16.35 billion to $16.65 billion, surrounding the FactSet consensus of $16.61 billion, and expects capital spending of $425 million and free cash flow of $125 million to $175 million. “I am very pleased with how quickly the industry recovered and our business rebounded after the second quarter shutdowns, and, barring any COVID-19-related disruptions or a significant change in industry demand, I am optimistic that our positive momentum will continue for the balance of the year,” said Chief Executive Ray Scott.
• Casino operator MGM Resorts International (NYS:MGM) reported a wider-than-expected third-quarter loss and revenue that fell more than forecast as the pandemic continued to hurt operations. Casino revenue fell 58%, rooms revenue declined 49%, food and beverage revenue was down 69% and entertainment, retail and other revenue fell 68%. Las Vegas Strip Resorts revenue dropped 68% while MGM China revenue tumbled 94%. The company said it saw signs of stability in the quarter, helped by sequential improvements in all of its markets.
• Plantronics Inc. (NYS:PLT) , the audio and videoconferencing products provider, blew past adjusted earnings estimates for its fiscal second quarter and offered upbeat guidance for the current quarter. The company, which operates under the brand name Poly, said revenue fell to $411 million from $462 million, but beat the $376 million FactSet consensus. “Poly’s products are ideally suited for the hybrid work-from-home and work-from-anywhere trends, and we are pivoting aggressively toward this opportunity,” CEO Dave Shull said in a statement, referring to the pandemic. The company is now expecting fiscal third-quarter revenue to range from $417 million to $447 million and for adjusted EPS to range from 85 cents to $1.05. The FactSet consensus is for EPS of 47 cents and revenue of $381 million.
• Shake Shack Inc. (NYS:SHAK) swung to a net loss of $6.1 million, or 15 cents a share, in the third quarter, after net income of $11.4 million, or 31 cents a share, in the year-earlier period, weighed down by the effects of the pandemic. The hamburger chain’s adjusted per-share loss and revenue beat estimates. “Since our last update at the end of July, forward momentum has continued and we’re encouraged to see significant improvement in both sales and profitability, with many Shacks returning to or exceeding last year’s result,” Chief Executive Randy Garutti said in a statement. The company has returned to its development schedule and opened 33 new restaurants in the year to date, he said. “Our pipeline for 2021 is strong, and we expect to open between 35 and 40 new company-operated Shacks, many of which will incorporate our new Shack Track and Drive Thru designs centered on the hospitality and experience Shake Shack has been known for, with an added focus on speed, convenience and the integration of our preordering digital capabilities.”
• Skechers USA Inc. (NYS:SKX) reported a third-quarter profit and revenue that fell less than expected, as direct-to-consumer same-stores sales dropped 22%. Sales slipped 3.9% to $1.30 billion, but were above the FactSet consensus of $1.20 billion, as domestic wholesale sales rose 6.3%, while international wholesale sales eased 0.5% and direct-to-consumer sales dropped 16.9%. The company did not provide financial guidance given the ongoing uncertainties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Under Armour Inc. (NYS:UA) (NYS:UAA) beat earnings estimates for the third quarter despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Revenue was flat at $1.4 billion, but beat the $1.2 billion FactSet consensus. “Due to ongoing uncertainty related to COVID-19 and its potential effect on global markets, the company expects material impacts on its business results for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021,” it said in a statement. Under Armour now expects fiscal 2020 revenue to fall at a high-teen percentage rate from 2019, and expects its adjusted loss per share to range from 47 cents to 49 cents. The FactSet consensus is for a loss of 71 cents. The company expects year-end timing impacts from COVID-19, including spring product deliveries that will come in early 2021 instead of late 2020. It also expects a substantial decline in licensing revenue due to lower contractual royalty minimums and contract settlements realized in 2019. Separately, the company said it’s selling its MyFitnessPal platform to private-equity firm Francisco Partners for $345 million in a deal expected to close in the fourth quarter.
• World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (NYS:WWE) reported a third-quarter profit that rose above expectations, but revenue came up a bit short, as media and live events revenue missed expectations to offset a beat by consumer products. The revenue increase was driven by growth of core content right fees, which were partially offset by the loss of ticket and merchandise sales resulting from the continued cancellation and relocation of live events as a result of the pandemic.