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Saturday, April 4, 2020

week ending Apr 4

Fed's Balance Sheet Hits $6 Trillion- Up $1.6 Trillion In 3 Weeks - "We're going to need a bigger chart." That's all one can say when seeing what happened to the Fed's balance sheet in the past week. According to the Fed's latest weekly H.4.1 (i.e., balance sheet) update, as of April 1 the Fed's balance sheet hit a record $5.811 trillion, an increase of $557 billion in just one week. And when one adds the $88.5BN in TSY and MBS securities bought by the Fed today... ... we can calculate that as of close of business Thursday, the Fed's balance sheet was an unprecedented $5.91 trillion, an increase of $1.6 trillion since the start of the Fed's unprecedented bailout of everything on March 13 when the Fed officially restarted QE. And since we know that tomorrow the Fed will buy another $90 billion, we can conclude that as of Friday's close, the Fed's balance sheet will be a nice, round $6 trillion. Finally, here is what the Fed's balance sheet looks like over a longer timeframe: it shows that in just the past 3 weeks, the Fed's balance sheet has increased by a ridiculous $1.6 trillion - the same amount as all of QE3 did over 15 months - and equivalent to an insane 7.5% of US GDP. One more insane statistic: the Fed's balance sheet was $3.8 trillion in August 2019 when the shrinkage in reserves supposedly triggered the repo crisis. Fast forward, 6 months, when the Fed's balance sheet is now 60% higher. Last Saturday we said that according to former NY Fed staffer, the Fed's balance sheet will double to $9 trillion by the end of the year. Just three weeks after the Fed restarted its "all in" gamble, the balance sheet is already one third of the way there.

The Federal Reserve Now Owns 15 Percent of the U.S. Treasury Market; At Its Current Rate, It Could Own the Whole Market in Less than Two Years -  Pam Martens - According to the U.S. Treasury, as of February 29, 2020, there was $16.9 trillion in marketable U.S. Treasury securities outstanding. Of that amount, at the end of February, the Federal Reserve held $2.47 trillion or 14.6 percent – making it, by far, the largest single holder of U.S. Treasuries anywhere in the world .By this past Friday, the Fed’s ownership of the Treasury market had increased to $3.12 trillion. It had grown by an unprecedented $650 billion in one month’s time. And on March 23, the Fed announced that it would buy unlimited amounts of both Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities “to support smooth market functioning.”  But exactly how can a so-called “free market” function smoothly if the country’s own central bank is cornering the market. Salomon Brothers paid a $290 million fine and came close to getting slapped with criminal charges by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1992 for manipulating prices in the Treasury market. And make no mistake about it, the Fed’s massive purchases are having a demonstrative impact on driving up prices in the Treasury market while driving down yields – meaning the income that determines if senior citizens in America can buy real groceries or have to live on one pot of soup for the week.At the end of 2007, before the Wall Street crash in 2008, a senior citizen could invest $10,000 in a 10-year Treasury note and get $400 a year in income, or 4 percent. Today,that same $10,000 generates just 0.67 percent or $67. Seniors who were living on their Treasury income have experienced an 83 percent drop in income while food costs and pharmaceutical costs have soared.If the Fed keeps up this pace of Treasury buying, it will own the entire Treasury market in about 22 months. If you look at the New York Fed’s list of the Treasury securities that are being submitted to it for sale by Wall Street’s trading houses versus the amounts the New York Fed is buying, you will see that Wall Street is puking up Treasuries in something akin to projectile vomiting.

The Federal Reserve's One Last Hail Mary - Over the last few weeks, the Federal Reserve has been in utter desperation mode to try to revive and keep the American economy on life support. What many in the mainstream media have failed to include in this recent coronavirus economic narrative is that the virus was just the pin of one the biggest bubbles ever created, which we call the central bank bubble revolving around U.S sovereign bonds. Before we dive deep into this, let’s start with what the Fed has been doing to combat against the coronavirus and to keep markets alive for the time being. To begin, welcome back to the era of the printing press, but this time they have made it clear they will conduct “QE infinity” if this is a prolonged depression, which it will be.   For some prospective, previous QE programs were:

  • QE1: $1.7 Trillion
  • QE2: $600 Billion
  • QE3: $1.6 Trillion

With this latest being:

  • QE4:$1.6 Trillion

An overwhelming number in such a short period, making previous QE programs look like peanuts in comparison. In fact, the Fed printed roughly $970,000 every second last week to keep the market afloat. To validate that the Fed is artificially keeping the market alive, just look at this next chart: This chart showcases that while the Fed balance sheet has shot up ($5.2 Trillion), corporate earnings have plummeted. The market is clearly on life support with the Federal Reserve as its temporary backstop. Presently, the aviation, hotel, and automotive industries, to name a few, are in a major crisis. This applies to all businesses, but since 2008 companies have taken advantage of prolonged zero interest rates and have gone on a total debt binge, with the majority of this debt going strictly to share buybacks and dividends to shareholders.It is expected the Federal government will bail some of these companies out with the unprecedented stimulus package passed last week. Which displays we don’t live in a real capitalistic society, wealth effects have been the primary mandate for the Federal Reserve for the past three decades (beginning with Greenspan).But we now face a severe issue, which resides in the bond markets. The Fed has made it very clear that they will conduct QE forever if needed to normalize things; however, the more and more they print, and as more stimulus gets announced from the U.S government, the confidence in the U.S dollar will begin to dwindle.Many prominent investors are calling for a significant dollar rally, as they believe the USD will forever be the world’s most sought out currency given its reserve currency status. However, they fail to realize this is a much different world we are navigating through then the 2008 financial crisis.

Fed Launches New Lending Facility for Foreign Central Banks - —The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it would launch a temporary lending facility that for the first time will allow foreign central banks to convert their holdings of Treasury securities into dollars, its latest bid to alleviate strains in global markets. The program is designed to alleviate stresses in currency markets that had prompted more foreign central banks to sell their holdings of Treasurys. The Fed has been aggressively purchasing Treasury and mortgage securities to reduce market strains, and the latest move could reduce the supply of those securities hitting the market if foreign central banks can more easily exchange them for dollars. The program could allow around 170 foreign central banks and other international monetary authorities that maintain accounts at the New York Fed and aren’t subject to U.S. sanctions to enter a lending arrangement called a repurchase agreement, or repo, in which borrowers temporarily exchange their Treasury securities for dollars. “This facility should help support the smooth functioning of the U.S. Treasury market by providing an alternative temporary source U.S. dollars other than sales of securities in the open market,” the Fed said in a statement. The repo facility for foreign central banks will be available beginning April 6 for at least six months. The latest dollar-lending programs will complement separate tools the Fed has launched to lend dollars to 14 other central banks in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Brazil and Australia to ensure markets don’t run short of currency outside of the U.S. Many business transactions abroad take place in dollars and foreign institutions also lend in the currency. The Fed used these “swap” lines aggressively in 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis. But the latest lending program goes beyond what the Fed employed during the financial crisis or the 2011-12 eurozone crisis by making available dollar funding to a far broader cohort of emerging-market reserve banks. It underscores the growing primacy of the dollar in global finance and the demands that has placed on the Fed to serve as a central bank to the world. The new lending facility is likely to reach a much broader set of foreign central banks, especially those with acute dollar demands that don’t have Fed swap lines, including in India, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Fed Blows Biggest Bond Bubble Ever- March IG Bond Issuance Hits $271BN, An Absolute Record -  When the Fed broke the last frontier of moral hazard - at least until it starts openly purchasing ETFs and single stocks after the next market crash, thereby fully nationalizing the market - and announced it, or rather Blackrock, would not only expand its QE to "unlimited" but also buy investment grade bonds and the IG ETF, LQD, it effectively tore the bond market into two categories: that backstopped by the Fed, and that which isn't (something we described in "Bond Market Tears In Two: Distressed Debt Is Cratering, As Fed Buying Of Investment Grade Sends LQD NAV Soaring"). It also unleashed the biggest debt bubble of all time. Why? Because by explicitly guaranteeing investment grade debt, the Fed - by making BBB and higher rated debt effectively risk-free - not only precipitated the biggest one-day surge and inflow into LQD, but unleashed an unprecedented free for all as every single investment grade company - especially those soon to be fallen angels who will be downgraded to junk - have rushed into the bond market to issue debt and raise cash while they can at artificially low yields.  And the data confirms it: according to BofA, after the IG market was largely shut down in the two weeks ahead of the Fed's March 23 bond buying announcement, US new issuance reached a new monthly record of $260.7 billion in March 2020, bringing YtD to $509.7 billion - the fastest ever start to a year and 47% ahead of 2019's pace.   Looking at the use of proceeds, BofA observes that refinancings continued at a strong $79.8bn, but as the commercial paper market froze $51.8bn was specifically earmarked for terming that out. In addition, there was roughly $69bn of COVID-19 liquidity-related issuance from banks and companies that drew credit lines or mentioned liquidity in the use of proceeds language. What is more remarkable is that is that another $57bn was for frontloaded issuance for capex, M&A as well as - drumroll - share buybacks and dividends. Yes, even at this moment, having seen the Boeing blowback which repurchased over $50BN in stock pushing its debt load to record highs and now demands a $60BN bailout, companies have the gall to issue debt and buyback stock!

$9,000,000,000,000- Former Fed Strategist Now Expects Fed's Balance Sheet To Double This Year - Late on Thursday, we calculated that as of the end of this turbulent week, the Fed will have added a record $625 billion to its balance sheet, bringing the total to $5.5 trillion, an increase of $1.3 trillion in two weeks (6% of GDP), which was the amount the Fed monetized during all of QE1 in response to the financial crisis, but which took place over a period of almost 2 years. That's just the start of what will soon become the most aggressive expansion in Fed balance sheet history because according to BofA's Fed guru Mark Cabana, who was a former officer in the New York Fed's Markets Group, the Fed's balance sheet is now set to double to $9 trillion by the end of the year, to wit: We acknowledge there is elevated uncertainty around the outlook for the balance sheet, but anticipate it will approximately double in size from end '19 to end '20. The estimates for the Fed's balance sheet "after unlimited QE and new programs" currently imply that between end '19 & end '20:

  • Fed balance sheet to US GDP will rise from 20% to 40%, in the process unleashing an unprecedented liquidity tsunami that will send asset prices soaring once the pandemic is over yet the Fed refuses to shrink its balance sheet (Chart 2)
  • Fed UST as percentage of marketable debt will rise from 20% to 50%, in other words the Fed will now monetize all US Treasury issuance and then some (Chart 4)
  • Fed UST holdings will increase by $1.8tn and agency MBS by $700+bn
  • Reserves will increase three- to four-fold

All of the above in table format: To arrive at these estimates, Cabana make the following assumptions about Fed purchases and use of the Fed's facilities: UST and MBS purchases: expect two phases:

  • (1) initial bazooka to support market functioning. The Fed has purchased $75bn/day of USTs and $50bn/day of MBS. Through next week Cabana anticipates an average of $60bn/day of USTs and $40bn/day of MBS, which is fascinating because Cabana published this report in the early morning hours of Friday, and just a few hours later the Fed announced that it would follow precisely this schedule, tapering TSY QE from $75BN to $60BN and MBS from $50BN to $40, which announcement sent stocks sharply lower in the last 30 minutes of trading on Friday.
  • (2) standard QE from April through December with $75bn/month of USTs and $50bn/month of MBS; this would help with the glut of upcoming UST supply.

Fed facilities - The Fed has announced five facilities: CPFF, MMLF, PMCCF, SMCCF and TALF. Treasury made an initial investment of $10bn in these facilities, which can be 10x levered. Congress is set to allocate another $454bn to the Fed facilities, which can be 10x levered. This implies the max size of these facilities is roughly $5tn, and BofA anticipates 50% takeup spread across three months. In '08, TALF saw 35% takeup, so assume about 1.5x takeup of facilities now vs '08 levels. Discount window and PDFC - Assume discount window and PDCF use peaks at around $120bn in the near term then gradually declines. FX swap lines - Assume FX swap line use peaks around $200bn, and current 84 day operations roll off in June.While the former NY Fed staffer acknowledges that there is an elevated uncertainty around these estimates, he sees the risks to his estimates "as skewed to the high side."In short, once you start helicopter money you never stop.

A Global Conundrum: How to Pause the Economy and Avoid Ruin - The coronavirus has produced something new in economic history. Never before have governments tried to put swaths of national economies in an induced coma, artificially maintain their vital organs, and awaken them gradually.  Some past societies, such as medieval Europe, abandoned economic activities as people tried to escape plagues, and suffered heavy disruptions to their social order. In other pandemics,such as the flu of 1918, economic interactions continued with only limited quarantine measures, as authorities accepted contagion and deaths as the price of continuity. Today, many nations are more willing—or feel more able—to try to have it both ways. Their hope is to press pause on the economy, save lives, and then press play again. If it works cleanly, it will be a testament to the flexibility of modern capitalism and the ingenuity of modern government. More likely, much will go wrong. “We’re in unknown territory. Inevitably there’s a lot of guesswork,”   The problem is that the economy has no pause button. Social-distancing measures, such as telling people to stay home and businesses to close unless essential, can suspend the buying and selling of most goods and services. But many costs keep on running. Households have rent or mortgages to pay, as well as bills for food and other necessities. Businesses have payrolls, debts and other fixed overheads. Banks owe money and so must collect it. The conundrum of how to pay wages, rents and interest in the absence of sales has three kinds of answer. People and businesses could live off their savings until the restrictions end. But many don’t have enough reserves. The longer the health emergency lasts, the more people will run out of money.  The private sector could cut its outlays to match the commerce that is still permitted. But that raises the specter of mass unemployment and bankruptcies, the destruction of countless normally viable businesses, the scattering of workforces, and perhaps a lasting depression. To avoid such armageddon, the government can substitute for sales for a while, sending or lending enough money to cover wages, interest and other fixed costs. In theory, the state could preserve today’s companies and jobs for months on end, provided it can borrow or print enough money and target the aid perfectly, and that people trust normality will return. But politics has inevitably meant disagreement about how to target the aid, and how far to go in subsidizing the private sector. The U.S.’s aid package came too late to avoid a sudden jump in job losses last week. “We’re seeing unprecedented liquidity support in many countries, but the collapse of private consumption is so big that many firms will go under,” In the U.S. and Europe, there is debate over which sectors and companies deserve handouts, which parts of the private sector should be asked to absorb some of the cost themselves, and how to avoid pumping money into ailing companies that would have gone bust anyway. There is also reluctance in some countries to borrow too much, only a decade after the global financial crisis pushed up public debts.

CBO Reveals Apocalyptic Forecast- Expects -28% GDP, 10% Unemployment Rate - One of the many side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that it has thrown out all recent economic forecasts right out of the window, certainly those of the perpetually cheerful CBO. In a publication released on Thursday afternoon, the CBO said that it now expects the economy to contract sharply during the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the continued disruption of commerce stemming from the spread of the novel coronavirus. What it expects now is, at least in the short-run, nothing short of a depression, with Q2 GDP expected to plunge to -28% as unemployment soars to 10%.  The following are CBO’s latest preliminary estimates, based on information about the economy that was available through this morning and which include the effects of an economic boost from recently enacted legislation.

  • Gross domestic product is expected to decline by more than 7 percent during the second quarter. If that happened, the decline in the annualized growth rate reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis would be about four times larger and would exceed 28 percent. Those declines could be much larger, however.
  • The unemployment rate is expected to exceed 10 percent during the second quarter, in part reflecting the 3.3 million new unemployment insurance claims reported on March 26 and the 6.6 million new claims reported this morning. (The number of new claims was about 10 times larger this morning than it had been in any single week during the recession from 2007 to 2009.)
  • Interest rates on 10-year Treasury notes are expected to be below 1% during the second quarter as a result of the Federal Reserve’s actions and market conditions. This is hardly a surprise, and the real question is when will rates turn negative.

And visually: That's about as far as the CBO will go. As it admits, its "economic projections, especially for later periods, are highly uncertain at this time." Below are some details on what specific updates are incorporated in Today’s Cost Estimate:To estimate the costs of legislation that is especially sensitive to economic conditions, such as provisions affecting unemployment insurance benefits, CBO is taking into account as much economic information as possible. Later today, CBO will publish a preliminary estimate of the costs of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was enacted as Public Law 116-127 on March 18. The estimate incorporates an updated projection of the unemployment rate that was based on information that was available about the economy through March 27. It was not based on all information available as of this morning because of the time needed to process new information about economic developments and incorporate it into cost estimates. (Also, following the conventions of cost estimating, the economic projections used for the estimate do not include the effects of the act itself or the larger effects of P.L. 116-136, the subsequently enacted CARES Act.)The unemployment rate underlying the cost estimate for H.R. 6201 was 12 percent in the second quarter of 2020. The extent of social distancing was a key factor in that projection. The analysis incorporated an expectation that the current extent of social distancing across the country would continue—on average, and with local variation—for the next three months. That expectation was broadly consistent with the projections of the virus’s spread that have been reported by the Administration’s coronavirus task force.CBO’s projections also included the possibility of later outbreaks of the virus. To account for that possibility, social distancing was projected to diminish by only three-quarters, on average, during the second half of the year. And CBO expected the effects of job losses and business closures to be felt for some time; the unemployment rate underlying the cost estimate was 9 percent at the end of 2021.

 Extra $2 Trillion Looted from Public Coffer to Replenish US Treasury's Murky Exchange Stabilization Fund - The massive emergency relief bill (aka the hara-kiri bill) passed on Capitol Hill last week and approved by Trump on Friday provides for “replenishment” of the U.S. Treasury Department’s murky and secretive Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF). This is what Trumpian mucky muck Lawrence Kudlow said at the press conference: “And finally, I want to mention the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund. That will be replenished. It’s important because that fund opens the door for Federal Reserve fire power to deal in a broad-based way through the economy for distressed industries, for small businesses, for financial turbulence.You’ve already seen the Fed take action. They intend to take more action. And in order to get this we have to replenish the Treasury’s emergency fund. It’s very, very important. Not everybody understands that.That fund, by the way, will be overseen by an oversight board and an Inspector General. It will be completely transparent.So, the total package here comes to roughly $6 trillion — $2 trillion direct assistance, roughly $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power.”Constitutionally, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury can only spend money that has been appropriated by Congress. But with the consent of the president, the secretary has substantial leeway to use the money in the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) that Congress created in the Gold Reserve Act in 1934. The act initially established the ESF as a reserve to stabilize the U.S. dollar in case of turmoil in foreign currency markets after the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. But the U.S. Treasury has mostly used it to provide loans to other economies on the brink of default. For example, it was used to stabilize Mexican government debt in the 1994 peso crisis.

After Three Coronavirus Stimulus Packages, Congress Is Already Prepping Phase Four – WSJ - As lawmakers last week completed a record-shattering economic-rescue package estimated at $2 trillion, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) predicted: “This is certainly not the end of our work here in Congress—rather the end of the beginning.” Legislators from both parties, administration officials, economists, think tanks and lobbyists are already roughing out the contours of yet another emergency-spending package—perhaps larger than the last—to try to keep the coronavirus crisis from turning into a 21st-century Great Depression. Many expect the debate to begin in earnest by late April. “There’s talk of a multi-trillion-dollar program, given the size of the shutdown,” says Stephen Moore, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There’s a general recognition that we need something big to get some juice into the economy,” adds Mr. Moore, an outside economic consultant to the Trump administration and some congressional Republicans. The ideas being floated include extending last week’s package to make the benefits last longer, as well as plugging in likely holes in the hastily assembled bill. One item in particular cited by both President Trump and Democratic leaders is a desire for more money to shore up state government budgets collapsing under lost tax revenues and new spending demands. A common theme from economists and legislators across the political spectrum: The latest measure was mainly about keeping U.S. commerce on life support while it endures a medically induced coma. That is, paying businesses and workers revenues and wages lost during the shutdown. A next phase would likely pivot from stabilization to stimulus—providing the patient a robust regimen of physical therapy in an attempt to get the economy back to full health. Action so far has been “about mitigation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said at a Thursday press conference. “Next, we’ll go from emergency mitigation to recovery…to grow the economy and create more jobs.” She later called the new law “a very big down payment.”

Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill - Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday suggested that a controversial portion of President Trump's 2017 tax law could be retroactively rolled back in the next coronavirus relief bill. In an interview with The New York Times, Pelosi suggested that reversing the tax law's $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction for 2018 and 2019 could be a way to provide individuals with more money. “They’d have more disposable income, which is the lifeblood of our economy, a consumer economy that we are,” Pelosi told the Times. The cap on the SALT deduction has been strongly disliked by politicians in high-tax, Democratic-leaning states such as New York, New Jersey and California, who argue that it has punished their residents and makes it harder for their states to provide public services. But most Republicans support the SALT deduction cap, arguing that it helps to prevent the tax code from subsidizing higher state taxes. Tax-policy experts across the ideological spectrum criticized Pelosi's idea late Monday, arguing that repealing the SALT deduction cap would largely benefit high-income taxpayers. Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly said in a statement to The Hill that "action on SALT would be tailored to focus the benefits on middle class earners and include limitations on the high-end." Legislation that repeals the SALT deduction cap would struggle to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and it could also face some resistance in the House. In December, the House passed legislation to temporarily repeal the SALT deduction cap on a near party-line vote, but only after Democrats agreed to accept a Republican motion to amend the measure to prevent the repeal of the cap from applying to taxpayers with income of more $100 million. Sixteen Democrats voted against the bill.

McConnell hits brakes on next economic stimulus package - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hit the brakes Tuesday on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) plan to move ahead with a fourth stimulus package that would include major infrastructure spending and other Democratic priorities. “I think we need to wait a few days here, a few weeks, and see how things are working out,” McConnell said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” “Let’s see how things are going and respond accordingly,” he added. “I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass.” McConnell's remarks came the same day that President Trump encouraged Congress to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill as the next piece of coronavirus legislation. "With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill," Trump tweeted. Pelosi on Monday told reporters in a conference call that she is already looking a new round of coronavirus relief legislation and that it would likely include a major infrastructure component. "There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus," Pelosi told reporters. "And we would like to see in what comes next something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future." House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) on the same call argued that infrastructure projects like expanded broadband access could help fight the pandemic. "If you don't have access to the internet, you can't do telemedicine and you can't learn when you're not going to school in person," he said. But McConnell on Tuesday noted that the Senate and House are not expected to return to work in Washington until April 20 at the earliest. “First, we need to see what the effect of the current bill is. The Treasury, of course, is wrestling with all this complicated effort to speed checks to individuals and small businesses to get us through this period until the health care pandemic begins to subside,” he said. The GOP leader said the Senate will resume confirming Trump’s judicial nominees when it reconvenes later next month. Confirming federal judges was McConnell's top priority on the Senate floor before it was interrupted by Trump’s impeachment trial and debate on coronavirus legislation. “We will go back to judges,” he said. “My motto for the rest of the year is leave no vacancy behind.”

Trump Calls for New $2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill - —President Trump on Tuesday said a significant investment in infrastructure should be part of a fourth congressional coronavirus relief package, citing an opportunity in low interest rates.“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!”Asked at a press briefing later Tuesday how he proposes to pay for the plan, Mr. Trump said, “we’re going to borrow the money at zero-percent interest.”He added: “Our interest payments would be almost zero and we can borrow long term. People want to be in the United States. They want to be invested in the United States.”In a reference to a possible fourth round of legislation responding to the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people in the U.S., Mr. Trump tweeted: “Phase 4.” The divided Congress has already passed three major pieces of legislation to address the pandemic: a roughly $2 trillion stimulus bill that includes checks to households, bailouts for airlines and other distressed industries, and loans and grants for small business; an earlier package of tax credits and increases for unemployment benefits and food assistance; and fresh funds for health agencies and virus testing.

McConnell says there will be a fourth coronavirus bill - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that there will be a fourth coronavirus bill and that health care should be a top priority as lawmakers draft the legislation.McConnell, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that "there will be a next measure." "[It] should be more a targeted response to what we got wrong and what we didn’t do enough for — and at the top of the list there would have to be the health care part of it," he said. The comments from the GOP leader, who remains in Washington, D.C., during the Senate's three-week break, are the firmest he has offered yet about the possibility for additional legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats have held near-daily conference calls with reporters as they've raced to outline their ideas for another coronavirus package that would include infrastructure, free coronavirus treatment and other issues like improved worker protections and expanded family and sick leave. McConnell acknowledged that he and Pelosi have a "little different point of view" on the timing of the next coronavirus bill, and that he is still "not in favor of rushing" additional legislation. The GOP leader indicated in a separate tweet that Senate Republicans are focused, for now, on implementing the $2.2 trillion package passed by Congress late last week, which includes direct cash assistance for individuals and hundreds of billions for small businesses and hard-hit industries like airlines. "Senate Republicans are closely tracking the implementation of our historic CARES Act as the Administration puts it into effect for the American people. We are committed to supporting American workers, families, and small businesses as our nation confronts this historic emergency," he tweeted.

The stimulus bill includes a tax break for the 1% - CNN - We face a frightening pandemic. More than 100,000 American have been infected with Covid-19, while tens of millions more continue to shelter at home. Meanwhile, the markets are crashing. And yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.While health care workers and local governments frantically race against the clock to keep up with the escalating medical caseloads while trying to keep themselves and their families safe, Congress was still able to find the time to give money away to rich people.Thanks to a stunning new report from the New York Times, which has been relentless on the tax beat during the Trump administration, we've learned that a provision has been included in the 880-page coronavirus stimulus bill to help the very wealthy in a way that is breathtaking in its scope and detail.It is worth taking a minute -- many of us have more of those now in our quarantined states -- to explain. When individuals buy real estate, even if they do so using loans or other people's money, they can "depreciate" -- or write off, over time -- the cost of the physical property on their taxes. Suppose, for example, that a taxpayer bought a $2 million building as an investment. He would be able to deduct, or subtract from his taxes, something like $100,000 a year for 20 years to defray the costs of buying and improving the property. The taxpayer would be able to take these deductions even if the building were going up in value. This is why Donald Trump loves depreciation, as he told the nation during a presidential debate in 2016 -- it's one of many ways he avoided paying millions in taxes. Such love seems to runs in the family: Jared Kushner has utilized tax depreciation, too.  Now here is what changed in the historic $2 trillion stimulus bill. Previously, if a married couple had depreciation deductions that exceeded their real estate business income, the couple could claim that "loss" to write off taxes on a maximum of $500,000 in income from other sources, like wages from a day job. Under the change, our rich taxpayer couple -- and this applies only for individuals, not corporations -- can now deduct an unlimited amount of "excess losses" in real estate against income from other sources. So now real estate moguls with lucrative day jobs or bountiful capital gains from other investments can go back to living tax-free, the Kushner way, before limits were put in place as part of the 2017 tax reform bill.

Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us - For the second time in a generation, the President and Congress are creating an economy under the guise of ‘saving the economy.’ Through bailouts for the executives of corporations and institutions whose coffers have been emptied for their own personal enrichment, a corporate kleptocracy is having its class power secured. And through token payments and pandemic profiteering for the masses, the American precariat is being deepened and broadened to solidify its place as desperate and expendable.With Donald Trump’s threat to ‘get America working again’ by Easter (April12th), the same tactic that turned Italy’s pandemic from tragedy to catastrophe is being repeated on a much larger scale here. And for what? In an economy where the richest 1% takes all the gains while the poor and working class haven’t seen a raise in four decades, it is the rich who will reap the benefits while workers get sick and die. It is finance capitalism that is being bailed out when it should have suffocated under its own weight in 2009. Graph: in times of crisis the powers that be call for solidarity through national unity. However, there is little solidarity shown in who owns the economy. The rich own the economy, represented here in shares of stock. Since the Fall of 2019— long before the coronavirus arrived, the Federal Reserve has been once again bailing out Wall Street to the tune of several trillion dollars (graph below). There aren’t enough virus test kits, ventilators or protective equipment, but at least the rich don’t have to worry about not being rich anymore. Source: Edward Wolff / NBER.Where are the bailouts for the people? $1,200 checks against $30,000 bills for being treated for coronavirus? Why isn’t providing healthcare for all of the people the primary objective of the bailouts? Mr. Trump says he will send workers back to work while Democrats leave them no alternative but to work or starve. Without providing them the means— assured by meager bailouts, Democrats are every bit as guilty as Donald Trump of sending working people to die in a pandemic to add a few more dollars to the bank accounts of the rich.More to the point, where are the virus test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health care workers and the rest of us? Nick Turse of The Intercept puts a lie to the claim that the need for these couldn’t have been foreseen. For decades epidemiologists and health care professionals have been shouting from the rooftops about the need to prepare for a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus. Successive neoliberal governments dismissed the warnings and here we are to suffer the consequences.

Bigger Unemployment Payments to Reach States This Week, Labor Secretary Says—The federal government will this week release funds from a coronavirus stimulus package to boost jobless benefits, but how quickly those payments reach laid-off workers depends on overburdened state unemployment systems, the head of the U.S. Labor Department said in an interview. A record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits two weeks ago as a result of U.S. shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Economists forecast weekly data to be released Thursday will show another 3.1 million sought assistance last week. The recent levels of people seeking jobless claims are more than four-times previous records, causing delays in applications and putting pressure on state benefit systems. Laid-off workers have reported waiting on the phone for hours and websites crashing, leaving them unable to apply. Those who do successfully file are waiting for the additional $600 a week in jobless payments, approved by Congress and President Trump last week. “What we’re focused on now is making the system that we have in place function as effectively as possible,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said. He said funds to increase jobless payments by $600 a week—more than double the existing maximum in some states—will be distributed to states this week, but he doesn’t know when states will make such payments to individuals. The enhanced benefits were included in the roughly $2 trillion stimulus package that was recently signed into law. Mr. Scalia urged businesses to use federal loans in the stimulus plan to keep workers on payrolls, rather than lay them off. “People taking unemployment assistance is not our first choice,” Mr. Scalia said. Instead, he said businesses should seek out federal loans that can be forgiven if they maintain their workforce. Such loans will be a “powerful incentive for small businesses” to retain workers, putting companies in a better position to ramp up operations when the virus is contained.

Who’s Left Out of Coronavirus Stimulus Payments? Many College Students, Adult Dependents – WSJ —The government is preparing to send one-time payments to most Americans to help them cope with the coronavirus outbreak, but that is little comfort for many college students and adult dependents who are left out. The economic-relief law signed by President Trump on Friday provides $1,200 to most adults and $500 for children under age 17. That money—$292 billion—will start flowing within weeks from the Internal Revenue Service into bank accounts. People with little or no income can qualify, which means money will flow to retired people and people who don’t normally file tax returns. The benefit phases out for individuals with income above $75,000 and married couples with income above $150,000. However, the plan excludes anyone who isn’t a child and who can be claimed as someone else’s dependent. Who is in that group? Some high-school students, college students and some disabled and elderly people, many of whom show up on the tax returns of the people they live with who provide most of their support. They won’t get money directly, and no one will get money for them. In all, that is about 21 million Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center. Immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers also aren’t eligible. “That [$500] could be a month’s worth of food,” said Fern Maklin, 71 years old, who is a dependent of her daughter and son-in-law in Palm Harbor, Fla., and contributes her Social Security payments to the household. “The stress and the anxiety, we try to keep it low key, but it’s there.” Parents and adults who have those dependents will still be able to claim the $1,200 for themselves. They just won’t get an additional $500 for each of those dependents. “Dependents, by definition, aren’t responsible for a majority of their financial support,” said Michael Zona, a spokesman for the Senate Finance Committee, which wrote the legislation. “The goal of the recovery rebates is to provide support for Americans who are responsible for their own financial well-being or that of another during this pandemic.”

The CARES Act: Stimulus and Unemployment Checks - Lambert Strether -I am sure the hilariously named CARES (“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security”) Act isjust as horried as the 2008 bailouts, if not moreso — if only because the people in charge are even more greedy and venal than 2008’s crew[1] — but in this post, I’ll focus exclusively concrete material benefits for the working class — sadly, not universal — as opposed to whatever meagre benefits will “trickle down” from however our betters reconfigure “the economy.” this time. (There will, apparently, be more stimulus to come, when our lawmakers return from their vacation[2]. The unemployment provisions should be beefed up as well.)The key point of the CARES that means-testing and complex eligibility requirements will only be pried from the cold, dead hands of the political class. As Peggy Noonan wrote (Links, this morning):Eight days in I entered the living hell of attempting to find my results through websites and patient portals. I downloaded unnavigable apps, was pressed for passwords I’d not been given, followed dead-end prompts. The whole system is built to winnow out the weak, to make you stop bothering them. This is what it’s like, in a robot voice: “How to get out of the forest: There will be trees. If you aren’t rescued in three to seven days, please try screaming into the void.”I’ve been considering filing material like this under “Failed State,” but it also seems to me that our State is doing exactly what it is designed to do. If you think about it, one of the most remarkable features of this whole ongoing debacle is that even after the last Crash, the Federal Government still does not have a simple, universal way to send every eligible resident in the country money. In Canada, by contrast:Trudeau says new federal benefits for those losing income due to COVID-19 will be in people’s pockets within 10 days of their applications. He says the government has redeployed thousands of civil servants to work on the benefits package so the funds can flow to people as soon as possible. Who gets a stimulus check? Here is a handy chart of the eligibility requirements (source; qualifications): Owing back taxes or other debt to the government is not a problem, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Finance Committee and a key author of the bill. The legislation “turns off nearly all administrative offsets that ordinarily may reduce tax refunds for individuals who have past tax debts, or who are behind on other payments to federal or state governments, including student loan payments,” Grassley wrote in a post.

These workers won’t qualify for beefed-up unemployment in the coronavirus relief package - The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package President Donald Trump signed into law Friday significantly expands unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. The law pays laid-off and furloughed workers an extra $600 a week, for up to four months, and extends existing state benefits by 13 weeks. It also offers jobless benefits to previously ineligible groups, such as gig workers and freelancers. Nearly 3.3 million people filed first-time claims for unemployment last week — shattering the previous record, set in 1982, by around 2.6 million people, according to the Labor Department. “It truly is, in a lot of ways, a very generous package,” said Chris Moran, a partner in the labor and employment practice group at law firm Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia. Yet, some could receive smaller payments than others or miss out entirely. Here are some of those groups. Workers who derive a big chunk of their paychecks from tips, like waiters and bartenders, may get smaller unemployment checks than they hope to. It largely depends on whether an employer reports those tips as income. Tips are considered part of compensation for unemployment benefits. But some employers underreport that tip income. The state, without a record of tips, would pay a smaller unemployment check — one based off of nontip income. In some extreme cases, such a worker may not have enough income to qualify for unemployment, according to a House Ways and Means Committee document. However, it’s likely these workers would still qualify for a smaller federal payment, depending on the state, it said.

 Trump's Labor Department Takes A Hacksaw To Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave  - What started out as a valiant effort to provide Americans with paid sick leave during an unprecedented health care crisis has ended with a paltry measure that will barely cover anyone who is still working in the COVID-19 economy.On Thursday, the Department of Labor published guidelines on the new paid sick leave and family leave provisions enacted last month as part of Congress’s second coronavirus relief act.The measures in the law were already a watered-down version of what Democrats and advocates wanted: real paid time off for all workers who get sick, are quarantined, or have to care long-term for a family member who is sick or a child home due to a school closure. Instead, the law made 10 days of paid sick time and 10 weeks more of longer-term leave available to those working at companies with fewer than 500 employees. Millions were left out.Now the Department of Labor has further hollowed out those provisions. It’s totally exempting the estimated 9 million people who work in the health care industry ― from a doctor to a pharmacy clerk to a janitor in a hospital. These are workers who are most likely to be in contact with infected patients, at high risk of getting sick. And under the new law, they can’t get a guaranteed sick day.“Thanks to Republican opposition, the steps we’ve taken on paid leave are inadequate in light of the crisis, and now, the Trump Administration is twisting the law to allow employers to shirk their responsibility and is significantly narrowing which workers are eligible for paid leave. This simply can’t stand,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a statement slamming the “gratuitous loopholes.”The new regulations give wide leeway to very small businesses, who can pretty much automatically bow out of providing longer-term leave to parents with kids at home from school. Bottom line: Millions of more people ― including the workers who are most likely to come into contact with the coronavirus ― will be unable to do what the law intended to encourage: stay home if they’re sick and not be penalized for it.

Trump officials: $1.8B in small business loans processed on first day of program - The Trump administration said Friday that more than $1.8 billion in loans have already been processed under a new program aimed at helping small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, but not all banks have started accepting applications. Small Business Administration (SBA) chief Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted around 2 p.m. Friday, the first day of the program, that more than 5,000 loan applications had been filed, valued at more than $1.8 billion.The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, created under the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package President Trump signed last week, allows businesses with 500 or fewer employees to apply for loans to cover eight weeks of payroll and other expenses. The loans will be forgiven if businesses that receive them retain or hire back their employees.The Treasury Department and SBA raced to get guidance out to applicants and banks prior to Friday, issuing interim rules on the program and the final application form Thursday evening. Businesses and banks have been expressing interest in the program, but there have been concerns about whether its launch will be successful.  Bank of America on Friday morning became the first of the large U.S. banks to be ready to accept online applications, according to CNBC. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, expressed frustration about reports that banks were restricting applications.  “I’m reading that some of the big banks, not all, but some, are creating all these crazy restrictions about you don’t just have to have a small business account with them, you might also have to have a credit card,” he said in avideo message posted on Twitter. “So, let me just say this as nicely as I possibly can: Please don’t be a bunch of jerks, OK. When you needed the country to help you, they did. Now, the country needs you to help them, and we’re paying you to do it.”

Bank executives sought guidance on small business loan program from Ivanka Trump: report - Bank executives who were concerned about the $349 billion emergency small business program created in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed last week reached out to President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump as they tried to negotiate higher interest rates, according to Bloomberg. The calls came from multiple major bank executives, including from Bank of America Corp., who questioned the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides generous loans to small businesses with the caveat that they use at least 75 percent to pay their employees. As a result of those negotiations, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials requested to increase the interest rates on the forgivable, government-backed loans, and worked to encourage smaller banks to participate, as well. Mnuchin announced Thursday that the Treasury Department would cut interest rates in half in an effort to convince those smaller banks to participate and alleviate the load from major lenders. “I’ve told these bankers they should take all their traders and put them in the branches. There’ll never be another opportunity to earn five points on a 90-day fully government-guaranteed loan,” Mnuchin said on Thursday. “To make this attractive for community banks, we’ve agreed to raise the interest rate.” The new program was off to a rough start this week as banks and other lenders said the $349 billion program lacks clear guidelines to handle a looming wave of loan applications that could overwhelm the system while leaving some firms in the lurch.

Treasury makes coronavirus loan terms less favorable for small businesses - The Treasury Department changed the terms on some loans it’s offering to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, making them less favorable for borrowers, experts say. The loans at issue are being made through the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers up to $10 million in forgivable loans to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. The program, which officially opened for many borrowers on Friday morning, will dole out up to $349 billion to ailing small businesses to help cover costs like payroll, rent and utilities. The loans are made through lenders approved by the Small Business Administration and other institutions. It’s worse than was initially laid out [for borrowers]. In initial guidance, the Treasury Department had said banks would charge a 0.5% fixed interest rate and that a loan’s unforgiven portion could be repaid over 10 years. However, loans now carry a higher interest rate — 1% — and come due in a much shorter period — two years — than originally stipulated, according to Treasury guidance released Thursday. Banks were loath to offer loans under the initial terms and pressured federal officials to change them, according to Roger DaSilva, founder of Realm Startup Advisory, which serves as an outsourced chief financial officer for small businesses.

Wall Street Wins Again- Banks Force Treasury To Double Rate On Small Business Rescue Loan -After we warned earlier that the SBA's $350BN Paycheck Protection Program, which is expected to be launched at midnight tonight and is meant to bailout America's small and medium business (<500 employees), may never even get off the ground because the proposed interest rate on the loan of 0.5% is too low lender banks (alongside with various other considerations as listed below) with JPM saying it “will most likely not be able to start accepting applications on Friday, April 3rd as we had hoped", in a press conference late on Thursday, Steven Mnuchin said that he will double the interest rate on the SBA loan from 0.50% to 1.00% in order to appease banks seeking higher interest rates to participate in the Treasury's bailout program and lend money to the same taxpayers who bailed them out 12 years ago. These are same banks, mind you, that just sold all $1.6 trillion in securities to the Fed to expand their balance sheets capacity in the past three weeks, and which also just benefited from the Fed's decision to remove Treasurys and deposits from the Fed's SLR test, freeing up another $1.6 trillion in liquidity.Furthermore, these loans are guaranteed by the federal government and don’t require collateral, and will be forgiven if funds are used for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utility payments for two months and if businesses retain and rehire employees. So bank don't take any risk - why are they charging any interest at all, or rather why do they have any say in what the rate should be?And yet, despite all this, these banks - which include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Citigroup, Truist Bank and PNC - which were bailed out in 2008 and again bailed out 3 weeks ago with the Fed's various alphabet soup programs, couldn't agree to give Main Street a helping hand, and instead of offering loans at a modest 0.5%, demanded no less than 1%, which is 75-100 bps above where they can borrow cash from the Fed. Because charging America's middle class a record 17% credit card interest rate is not enough, and anything less than 1.0% on a loan that is explicitly backstopped by the Treasury would be uneconomical.

Millions Of Small Businesses Stunned To Learn They Are Not Eligible For Bailout Loans - It's the first day that America's small businesses can apply for the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program, i.e., the $350BN program that is part of the bigger $2 trillion bailout package designed to provide small businesses access to capital for payroll and other overhead costs to the tune of 2.5 months of average payroll and which must be accessed via an existing banking relationship - and the rollout is predictably a mess, with some banks such as BofA already accepting loans (which convert to grants if used exclusively for payrolls and business continuity purposes), while others like JPM delaying the roll out to 1pm; a third group of banks such as Wells Fargo has conspicuously failed to provide its rollout plans - perhaps it is scheming how to cross-sell bailout loans with auto insurance or engage in some other typically Wellsfargoian fraud.$WFC will not be ready to take applications for #PaycheckProtectionPlan today. They’re doing all the can and testing constantly. When you and running you will have to have a checking account and be an online banking customer to qualify. No previous loan requirement.— Wilfred Frost (@WilfredFrost) April 3, 2020But a recurring shock as millions of small business owners head to these bank websites to apply for the PPP funds is that contrary to the SBA's guidance that any small business with 500 or less employees can apply, going to lender portals shows that only a very narrow subset of America's millions in small businesses are be eligible. In fact, only those companies that already have a lending relationship, i.e., an outstanding loan with a given bank are - at least as of this moment - able to apply for the rescue funds. Moynihan making clear on @SquawkStreet that small businesses should not only apply to their existing bank - but primarily to their existing LENDER. Just having a small business checking account will not suffice initially - you need to have borrowed from $BAC in recent past.— Wilfred Frost (@WilfredFrost) April 3, 2020  Bank of America's website confirms as much, stating on its eligibility page that only "clients with a business lending and a business deposit relationship at Bank of America are eligible to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program through our bank." In other words, any business that only has a deposit account and no loan or business card is out of luck.

Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves -- Oil giants gathered at the White House Friday, meeting with President Trump in the hopes of securing aid as crude prices have plummeted amid the coronavirus outbreak and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oil prices have skydived under the twin threats, dropping to prices in the mid-20s for a barrel of oil, down from more than $50 a barrel in February. As stresses on the industry magnify, there have been growing calls from Republicans to assist oil producers. “We’ll get our energy back,” Trump said at the meeting. “I’m with you 1,000 percent. It’s a great business, it’s a very vital business and honestly, you’ve been very fair. You’ve kept energy prices reasonable for a long period of time.” The meeting appeared to renew administration efforts to fill the nation’s oil reserves after the initial $3 billion request was left out of the coronavirus package. “At these prices you’d think we’d want to fill up every cavity,” Trump told the lawmakers and oil executives present at the meeting, a reference to the 77 million gallons of space in the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Among those in attendance at the meeting were representatives from Exxon, Phillips 66, Chevron, and oil tycoon Harold Hamm as well as Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. The meeting marks a shift for the oil industry, with the American Petroleum Industry previously stressing that it would not seek direct assistance. But the administration has continued to float other forms of assistance, with Trump announcing Thursday his hopes that Saudi Arabia and Russia may begin to scale back their production, a move that could dent the oversupply of oil on the market as the pandemic leads to dwindling demand. Meanwhile the Department of Energy has looked for other ways to fill the petroleum reserve, offering to rent space to oil producers that are running out of storage space for their goods — a service the government would be paid for in oil. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Friday they would buy oil through an “alternative financing mechanism” but provided no additional details. Lawmakers at the meeting echoed interest in filling the petroleum reserve, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) calling it “inexcusable” that Democrats opposed the measure's inclusion in the coronavirus stimulus package. “Now I think Congress needs to go back and address it,” he said.

The Mankiw CV Plan - Greg Mankiw has posted a suggestion for delivering money to people that targets the benefit to those who need it the most.  The idea is clever:

  • 1. Pay people the benefit B.  (This could be spread over many weeks or months.)  Everyone gets the same B.
  • 2. Next year at tax time, compute the ratio r Y(2020)/Y(2019), the ratio of each filer’s 2020 income, net of B, to their 2019 income and capped at 1.  Impose a surcharge of rB on tax liability.  This way people would pay back a proportion of B based on how much they needed it.  If their 2020 income was greater than or equal to 2019, r = 1 and they would repay B in its entirety.  If their 2020 income was zero, r = 0 and there is no surcharge.  (And no tax at all for that matter.)  Partial income losses would lie in between.

Clever and well-intended, but there are problems.First, what’s income?  Does it include capital gains and losses?  If so, everyone who has a substantial chunk of financial assets will be able to claim zero income in 2020.  What about business losses?  Clearly, if income is defined expansively, as it should be for tax purposes, those who derive income from capital will come out ahead of those who rely on labor.Second, how will repayment work?  For low to moderate income people who keep their jobs, tax liability for 2020 may be immense—a large proportion of their annual income.  Yes, if such people save all their B they can just apply it to next year’s payment, but how likely is that?  In practical terms, if the country is facing a wave of enforcement actions and bankruptcies a year from now, the repayment mechanism is likely to be abandoned. Third, what are the incentives?  Mankiw predictably worries about labor supply, but I think the bigger problem is the immense incentive to work off the books.  Instead of saving only your fractional tax rate when you transact in cash, now you will add the savings on your surcharge.  No one who can escape official scrutiny will report any payments or receipts.  If your goal was to drive as much of the economy underground as quickly as possible, you would have succeeded.  I appreciate Mankiw’s attempt to tie provision of government support to the level of need.  One of the virtues of universal, untargeted social insurance, however, is that it requires a smaller enforcement apparatus and doesn’t turn people who play by the rules into suckers.

Fauci says US could have 'millions' of coronavirus cases and over 100,000 deaths -Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the faces of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, on Sunday warned that the novel coronavirus could infect millions of people in the United States and account for more than 100,000 deaths. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci said that, based on what he's seeing, the U.S. could experience between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. "We're going to have millions of cases," Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, noting that projections are subject to change, given that the disease's outbreak is "such a moving target." The novel coronavirus, which first appeared in China in December, has infected more than 124,000 people in the U.S. and accounted for more than 2,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The U.S. has reported the most confirmed cases of the virus worldwide. The outbreak has upended everyday life, resulting in a mass closure of businesses and schools as federal and state officials enforce measures designed to slow the spread of the disease. The New York metropolitan area has been hit particularly hard, leading to concerns about a surge in patients overwhelming its health care system. Fauci has repeatedly called for social distancing requirements to remain in place for an extended period of time. He said Sunday that lifting those restrictions would depend on the availability of testing kits that will be able to confirm a diagnosis within about 15 minutes. "It’s going to be a matter of weeks. It’s not going to be tomorrow, and it’s certainly not going to be next week," he said. Fauci added that he wanted to to see a substantial flattening of the curve in terms of cases before curbing social distancing restrictions. "As I have said before, it's true the virus itself determines that timetable. You can try and influence that timetable by mitigating against the virus, but, ultimately, it's what the virus does," he said. 

Trump now urging U.S. to hunker down through April - President Donald Trump announced Sunday evening that he was extending social distancing guidelines through the end of April rather than easing them as early as this week, and took credit for avoiding a worst-case scenario death toll that could have exceeded 2 million. The president, who had considered getting the economy restarted by Easter, now said that timeline had been “aspirational.” He said he expected the country to be on its way to recovery by June 1. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” he said at the daily White House task force briefing, in which he again overstated the U.S. record in fighting the pandemic, questioned whether hospitals really needed all the protective gear and ventilators they were begging for, and sparred with a reporter who asked him how life-saving equipment was being apportioned among the states. Trump in a Rose Garden appearance referred several times to earlier projections showing as many as 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. — a worst case scenario if the country did not take any steps to fight the coronavirus. The current forecasts, cited by leading members of the White House task force, still go as high as 200,000 deaths — though continued efforts to keep people at home and limit social interaction could bring that number down. “Now we're looking at numbers that are going to be much much much lower than that, and it makes everything we're doing feel much better to me,” Trump said of the 2.2 million scenario. Numerous governors had already declared they would keep enforcing social distancing policies, even if Trump had lifted them. As of Sunday evening, the U.S. has more than 142,000 confirmed cases and 2,479 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Despite improvements in testing, some people with symptoms are still reporting being unable to get the diagnosis confirmed. Trump also said he wanted to restore tax breaks so that businesses could write off more of the cost of meals, which he said would help restaurants recover. Congress would have to enact that, reversing a provision in the 2017 overhaul that Trump signed. It's unclear how many restaurants, particularly smaller ones, would benefit from such a change in the code.

 Fauci says April 30 extension is 'a wise and prudent decision' - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is also helping lead the White House's coronavirus task force, called President Trump’s decision to keep the government’s current social distancing guidelines in place through the end of April a “wise” one. “We feel that the mitigation that we’re doing right now is having an effect. It’s very difficult to quantitate it because you have two dynamic things going on at the same time,” Fauci said a press conference outside the White House on Sunday. “You have the virus going up, and you have the mitigation trying to push it down,” he continued. But Fauci added that Trump’s decision “to extend this mitigation process until the end of end April ... was a wise and prudent decision.” “Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over the all the data, why we felt this was a best choice of us, and the president accepted it,” Fauci continued, referring to White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. Fauci, who warned earlier on Sunday that millions in the U.S. could be infected by the virus in the coming weeks given the rapid pace of the COVID-19 outbreak, added that the possibility of the number of cases ballooning in the country played “a role in our decision in trying to makes sure that we don’t do something prematurely and pull back when we should be pushing.” Trump drew headlines last week after he floated the idea of lifting restrictions in certain areas of the country in efforts to boost the economy, as a number of states have ordered nonessential business to close in recent weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Brace Yourselves: The US Is Setting Up a Ghastly “Natural Experiment” -- When I began my “Coronavirus Dashboard,” I was hopeful that it would document the slow progress towards turning a bad situation around, and the ultimate tamping down of the pandemic. Surely increasingly intense and overwhelming public pressure would force a critical mass of government officials to do what was necessary? Now I am not so sure. The number of cases continue to climb at a double-digit exponential rate, if a less aggressive one than earlier in March.  Most importantly, GOP governors in the Confederacy and in the High Plains, plus Arizona, have completely put the brakes on any statewide “stay in place” orders.And even in those States which have taken relatively aggressive efforts at containment, the level of testing, let alone isolation and quarantine of identified cases, is running far below what is necessary. In fact it looks like it is falling further and further behind. In short, I suspect that my dashboard is instead going to document the catastrophe of a deadly pandemic allowed to get completely out of control. The US has 3 regions of coronavirus response:

  • 1. Every State in the Mountain and Pacific West, plus Alaska and Hawaii, is under statewide or nearly statewide lockdown, with the exception of Wyoming, Nevada, and Arizona.
  • 2. Every State in the old Union, except for Iowa, Maine, and Maryland, plus North Carolina, is under statewide lockdowns (and really wtf is up with Governor Northam of Virginia, who is a physician?!?)
  • 3. No State in the old Confederacy run by a GOP governor, with the exception of Louisiana, or in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi, except for Kansas, is under a lockdown.

The “natural experiment” that is going to take place over the next few weeks is the rate of spread in the first two regions vs. the third region.Most likely, over the next two weeks the rate of increase in – and possibly the actual number of – infections in the locked down regions will decrease, while number of infections in the region not locked down will likely continue to grow at an exponential rate, albeit perhaps at a slower one.  Brace yourselves. What has happened in March with regard to the effects of this pandemic is akin to only the first inning of a baseball game. This is almost certainly going to get a lot worse.

White House Projects 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. Coronavirus Deaths - The White House projected the U.S. could face 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, as President Trump warned Americans to brace for an unprecedented crisis in the days ahead. “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks,” Mr. Trump said during a briefing at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, then quickly expanded upon his own dire assessment: “This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before.” The president’s comments on Tuesday marked his starkest warning to date about the pandemic that is coursing its way across the country, with a peak of infections in the U.S. still projected to be at least two weeks away. Mr. Trump, appearing at the briefing with two of his top medical advisers, repeatedly urged Americans to follow federal social-distancing guidelines, which have now been extended through the end of April.“We’ve got to brace ourselves,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force. But Dr. Fauci said that continued protective social-distancing measures could help prevent the worst-case scenario. “In the next several days to a week or so, we’re going to continue to see things go up,” Dr. Fauci said. “We cannot be discouraged by that. Because the mitigation is actually working, and will work.” The U.S. has more confirmed cases than any other country, with more than 189,000 infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll, now greater than China’s, passed 4,000. That is still far less than Italy, where fatalities rose to 12,428 Tuesday, or Spain, which has reported 8,464 deaths.Projections from the University of Washington show the illness could result in nearly 84,000 deaths in the U.S. by early August, with 2,214 deaths a day at the nation’s peak in two weeks. Nearly half of the 50 states have now reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. And much of America is expected to experience extended closures of schools, offices, restaurants and other venues as concerns about a coming surge in patients have pushed mayors and governors to take steps unprecedented in modern times to fight the contagion.

Trump boasts holding US pandemic deaths to 200,000 would be “a good job”  - In a press briefing held Monday in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump declared that a death toll of 100,000 to 200,000 in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would represent “a good job” by his administration.Trump’s self-congratulating indifference to death on such a massive scale followed by several hours the statement of the coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump White House that 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths was a “best case” outcome of the pandemic, and that the death toll could rise substantially above that figure—into the millions—unless “we do things almost perfectly.”The comments by Dr. Deborah Birx shocked her interviewer, Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s “Today” show, to the point where she declared that “you kind of take my breath away.”The exchange is worth quoting:

    • Birx: The worst-case scenario is between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths if you do nothing. If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don’t even want to see that…
    • Guthrie: I know, but you kind of take my breath away with that, when I hear you say that’s sort of the best-case scenario. If everything works and people do the things you’re asking them to do, maybe you can hold the deaths to one to two hundred thousand, in this country.
    • Birx: The best-case scenario would be 100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required, but we’re not sure, based on the data you’re sharing from around the world, and seeing these pictures [of people on beaches and at church services] that all of America is responding in a uniform way and protecting one another. So we also have to factor that in.

The estimate put forward by Dr. Birx is a considerably more ominous projection than that advanced by Dr. Tony Fauci, the top federal infectious disease scientist, in television interviews the day before. Fauci presented the figure of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths as a middle-range outcome that could still be reduced significantly if the correct actions were taken. Birx presented the same number as the best-case scenario, the lowest possible number, and one likely to be surpassed significantly. The projected minimum death toll of 100,000 to 200,000 people in the United States is more than combined American deaths in the imperialist wars of the past 75 years—the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is more than the official death toll of 116,500 from World War I, and could quickly approach, as Birx indicated, the US death toll of 405,000 in World War II.

 Pentagon Orders Essential Staff To Deep Underground Mountain Bunker As Pandemic Prep Escalates - North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) & the US' Northern Command (NORTHCOM) held a Facebook Live town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 24, informing the public how their essential teams in charge of homeland security are isolating at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker in Colorado amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who commands NORAD and NORTHCOM, told reporters on Facebook Live last Tuesday that essential staff is being moved from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to the underground bunker complex that is 24 miles away in Cheyenne Mountain. The facility is more than 2,000 feet underground and can survive a 30 megaton nuclear explosion."To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well," O'Shaughnessy said. "Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland."It's certainly not optimal, but it's absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation."NORAD and NORTHCOM have already used up about 30% of the underground facility, according to The Drive. O'Shaughnessy said with the increased personnel, his "primary concern was … are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I'm not at liberty to discuss who's moving in there."If the staff at Cheyenne are infected, there is a third team of higher-ranking military officials operating at another facility that can remotely assume command.

Trump and Fauci discuss likelihood of second outbreak in the fall - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters on Monday that it is likely there will be another coronavirus outbreak in the fall. “In fact, I would anticipate that that would actually happen,” said Fauci, who is a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force. President Trump said he hopes "it doesn't happen" when asked about a second outbreak. Trump said the administration was prepared in the event the virus returns after a period of fading over the summer, after social distancing measures. Fauci echoed that sentiment, saying if the virus returns “in the fall, it would be a totally different ball game.” He said the differences would include greater testing ability at the beginning of the outbreak as well as better contact tracing when individuals fall ill. Fauci said the administration’s abilities would be “orders of magnitude better.” “We have a vaccine that’s on track” for development on an accelerated timeline, Fauci noted. Watch: 

Fauci Says Lockdown Will Continue Until There Are No New Cases Of COVID-19 - Dr. Anthony S. Fauci says that the United States will not come out of lockdown until there are no “new cases” of coronavirus, prompting some to question precisely how long that will be.  During yesterday’s White House briefing, Fauci, who has become the face of America’s response to the coronavirus, was asked by a reporter whether social distancing measures will be imposed until there is a drug or vaccine to treat COVID-19.“I think if we get to the part of the curve that Dr. Birx showed yesterday when it goes down to essentially no new cases, no new deaths at a period of time. I think it makes sense that you will have to relax social distancing,” Fauci said. “The one thing we hopefully would have in place, and I believe we will have in place, is a much more robust system to be able to identify someone who was infected, isolate them and then do contact tracing,” he added.The prospect of there ever being zero new coronavirus cases appears to be a very long way off, leading some to question if Fauci was asking Americans to adopt social distancing indefinitely, or at least until a vaccine is available. “Fauci said that we can start to “relax” social distancing once there are “no new cases, no deaths.” Is it just me or is that completely batshit insane?” asked Matt Walsh. “That would keep us in a lockdown for many months or years. And if the virus becomes endemic, forever. How can that be the plan?”

Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' --President Trump said Wednesday that officials are considering temporarily limiting flights to and from “hot spots” in the United States that have seen significant numbers of coronavirus cases. “I am looking at hot spots. I am looking at where flights are going into hot spots. Some of those flights I didn’t like from the beginning, but closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very, very rough decision,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday evening. Trump then suggested restricting travel between hot spots in the country, adding that the administration would be “late in the process” if it took such a step because domestic cases of COVID-19 will likely peak in two weeks. “We’re thinking about hot spots where you go from spot to spot, both hot. We’ll let you know fairly soon,” Trump said. Trump was asked repeatedly at Wednesday’s briefing whether he was considering restrictions on domestic travel as his administration seeks to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus across the U.S. The New York metro area has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and health officials have warned of spikes in cases in areas such as Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. The White House on Tuesday released estimates projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even if individuals adhere to the 30-day social distancing guidelines recommended by the administration. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s key Capitol Hill allies, tweeted late Tuesday that the Trump administration should consider limiting or banning domestic and international air travel over the next 30 days as part of its mitigation strategy. “We’re thinking about doing that. At the same time, to start these airlines, to start this whole thing over again is very tough,” Trump told reporters Wednesday when asked about Graham’s suggestion. Trump said domestic travel restrictions could deeply hurt the airline industry, which has already suffered amid the coronavirus outbreak as the administration has recommended Americans avoid nonessential travel and restricted international travel from China and most of Europe. “We’re certainly looking at it, but once you do that you really are clamping down an industry that is desperately needed,” Trump continued.

Coronavirus live updates: US braces for 'horrific' weeks as deaths top 5,100; unemployment claims soar; Dr. Fauci gets security - Jobless numbers soared and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's preeminent coronavirus expert, required a security detail Thursday as the nation braced for what President Donald Trump predicted would be a "horrific" couple of weeks. More than 1,000 people died of the coronavirus in the United States on Wednesday alone, raising the death toll over 5,000. A week ago the total was less than 1,300. Trump and federal health officials predicted a “very painful” period in the country's fight against the public health emergency.Jobless numbers released Thursday were stunning. New unemployment claims doubled to 6.6 million from last week's record-setting 3.3 million. “This is eye watering and we are still only at the beginning of the layoffs spurred by the lockdowns throughout the country," said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. "Unemployment could well rocket in coming months to more than 10%, comfortably a post-war record.” Meanwhile, several states joined the stay-at-home movement. In Los Angeles, the mayor has urged residents to wear masks. In New York, a former police commissioner was brought back to serve as the medical supplies czar.  The U.S. death toll was at 5,137 early Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 48,000 and infected more than 956,000.

How deadly is the coronavirus? - How deadly is the coronavirus? It is a simple but vital question that we don’t know the answer to right now. With American lives and livelihoods on the line, we need a science-based baseline from which to make public policy decisions. Hopefully those answers come sooner than later as the White House looks to do random sampling, something I recently reported. To be clear, every single life has value, and the overburdening of hospitals in places such as New York City is real and devastating. The toll on our doctors and nurses, many of whom have contracted the coronavirus by selflessly putting their own lives on the line to save others, is also real. We mourn the loss of each precious life and are in debt to the heroes on the front line. The economic toll of shutting down nonessential businesses across the country is also real. A record-shattering 10 million Americans filing for unemployment in just two weeks and the largest bailout in United States history — $2.2 trillion — are sobering numbers that reflect the economic calamity we are facing. As government and public health officials make decisions of enormous magnitude, shouldn’t we know how infectious and lethal the coronavirus is?    That is why random sampling is important. John Ioannidis, a Stanford epidemiologist who is famous fordebunking bad research, has been pushing for it. He told me that random sampling is needed and could be done with a couple of thousand tests. “Random representative testing is like polling. We run thousands of opinion polls in this country. We should similarly get a representative sample of the population and get them tested. It is just so easy.” A recent television interview with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, underscores the need. After estimating that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die of the coronavirus, he said that projections are a “moving target” and that models are “only as good and as accurate as your assumptions.” But how good are models if the data is insufficient?

The Uncertain Path of the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Its Own Risk – WSJ - The monthly jobs report is usually a moment of maximum economic clarity. It’s a rich and timely snapshot that calibrates assessments of where the economy is and where it’s headed. Not this time. Bad as Friday’s report is—showing more than 700,000 jobs lost in March—it shows us conditions before the worst of the coronavirus-related layoffs hit. Even Thursday’s jaw-dropping tally of more than 6 million initial claims for unemployment insurance filed last week doesn’t tell us how deep the job loss will be or how long it will last. It isn’t just the magnitude of this shock that is unprecedented but the uncertainty surrounding almost every facet of it—uncertainty that is corrosive in its own right.In normal times, we know enough about the historical probabilities of certain things, whether mortality rates, recessions or bear markets, to quantify the risks around the future. Today we are struggling not with risk but what the late economist Frank Knight defined as uncertainty: we don’t know enough about the underlying nature of our circumstances to meaningfully measure risk. It’s been described as calculating the odds of rolling a seven without knowing whether the die is fair or how many sides it has.Today, there are at least four distinct sources of uncertainty: first, the severity and spread of the pandemic; second, the breadth and duration of social-distancing measures; third, the economic and financial impact of those measures; and fourth, the policy response. Moreover, they all interact: the more infectious the disease proves to be, the tougher the social-distancing measures must be and the greater the economic fallout and the more aggressive a policy response is needed.Humans hate uncertainty and gravitate to those with the most confidence in their predictions, but these days, excessive confidence should be greeted with skepticism. In a moving blog post, Gordon Dougan, a Cambridge University professor who has spent his career researching vaccines and disease, recently wrote: “What is the value of experts like me? I likely know more about infection, epidemics and vaccines than most. I have studied epidemics across the world. I have made and designed vaccines. Do I know what will happen next with this epidemic? Which of the experts are right? The World Health Organisation (WHO)? The politicians and their teams of scientists and modellers? In reality, we are all trying to take informed guesses.”The same goes for the economists. On Thursday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected the unemployment rate would triple to 12% this quarter and still stand at 9% by the end of next year. The CBO devoted an entire section of the accompanying letter to the “extraordinary degree” of uncertainty around its assumptions: “The policies implemented in the United States and around the world in response to the virus are varied and still evolving, in part because understanding of the potential scale and duration of the pandemic…remains incomplete.” Uncertainty has real world consequences. In a study recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Guglielmo Briscese of the University of Chicago and three co-authors found locked-down Italians were more likely to comply with self-isolation instructions if they thought the lockdown was short and finite. The longer the deadline was extended past what they expected, the less willing they were to comply.

Trump gets help from Kushner and rails against new 'witch-hunt' at coronavirus briefing - Donald Trump sparked fresh criticism on Thursday by deploying his son-in-law at a White House coronavirus taskforce briefing and accusing Democrats of launching a fresh “witch-hunt”. Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the US president who is married to his daughter, Ivanka, made a surprise appearance on the podium and said Trump had instructed him to “break down every barrier needed to make sure the teams can succeed”. He added: “The president also wanted us to make sure that we think outside the box, make sure we’re finding all the best thinkers in the country, making sure we’re getting all the best ideas.” But by way of example, Kushner said Trump became concerned about supply shortages after hearing about them “just this morning” from “friends of his in New York” – implying the president responds to anecdotes rather than the state governor or public health officials. “We went to the president today,” Kushner continued. “And earlier today, the president called Mayor [Bill] de Blasio to inform him that we are going to send a month of supply to New York public hospital system.” The vice-president, Mike Pence, later said there would 200,000 masks sent to New York. Kushner said: “We’ll be doing similar things with all the different public hospitals that are in the hotspot zones and making sure that we’re constantly in communications with the local communities.” Media reports have suggested that Kushner, a property developer with no medical expertise, is running a “shadow taskforce” – a rival power base that conflicts with the official task force led by Pence. Earlier on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, announced a new House committee would oversee “all aspects” of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and did not rule out an investigation in the style of the commission on the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Such a prospect clearly stung Trump, who compared it to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the congressional hearings into his dealings with Ukraine that led to his impeachment.

 Bill Gates calls for nationwide shutdown: 'Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere'  - Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday, arguing it would be the most effective way to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Gates wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that he has spoken with experts through his work with his charity who said a national policy would be more effective over having a hodgepodge of states issue stay-at-home orders while others remain more open. He argued that the country needs a "consistent nationwide approach to shutting down." “Despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven’t shut down completely. In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals,” Gates wrote. “This is a recipe for disaster. Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The country’s leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere,” he added. “Until the case numbers start to go down across America — which could take 10 weeks or more — no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown.” Gates also noted that while a potential vaccine for the coronavirus could come within 18 months, "creating a vaccine is only half the battle" and production of the vaccine would need to be ramped up dramatically to meet demand for those impacted around the world. "We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made," Gates wrote. "Because many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment, we’ll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won’t get used." "Private companies can’t take that kind of risk, but the federal government can. It’s a great sign that the administration made deals this week with at least two companies to prepare for vaccine manufacturing. I hope more deals will follow," he added. The remarks come as states like New York, New Jersey and Washington, which have been particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, force residents to shelter in place, while other states with fewer cases impose more lax guidelines. Over 189,000 people have been infected in the U.S. with the coronavirus, while roughly 3,900 have died.

Dr. Ron Paul On COVID-19 Panic: The Real Danger "Is The Government's Overreaction" - In a recent interview, Dr. Ron Paul opined on his son Rand, who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Dr. Paul said that the dangers of the coronavirus have been “blown way out of proportion” and some people benefit from crises, like politicians who want more power.Dr. Paul begins his interview with Lior Gantz of the Wealth Research Group saying Rand Paul had no symptoms of the virus and is feeling fine, like the majority of people who have gotten. Many are already immune and have been exposed without showing any signs. “I think millions of people have probably had the infection and still do,” says Dr. Paul. “But it’s used by an excuse by those who have a special interest…and I think that is sad.” The problem is that this crisis was blown up so some people (the ruling class) could expand and broaden their power over the public, and Dr. Paul says hopefully, the masses will “wake up soon” to what the government is doing to them and their future.“Somebody is making political use out of this and it’s [the political usage of the coronavirus] is out of control,” Dr. Paul (an OBYN) added. Just look at who has been hurt the most so far: the poorest Americans in service industries that the ruling class demanded to shut down. Dr. Paul says the only real danger is the government’s expansion of power and the already sick or elderly who will get the coronavirus.  But that danger to our susceptible population already exists and has for years in the form of colds and several strains of the flu, so the panic and shut down is unwarranted. Unless you want more power and totalitarian control.

US regulator gives anti-malaria drugs emergency approval to treat coronavirus  - In a statement published Sunday, the US Department of Health and Human Services detailed recent donations of medicine to a national stockpile – including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, both being investigated as potential COVID-19 treatments.It said the FDA had allowed them "to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible."Trump said last week that the two drugs could be a "gift from God," despite scientists warning against the dangers of overhyping unproven treatments.Many researchers including Anthony Fauci, the United States' leading infectious disease expert, have urged the public to remain cautious until larger clinical trials validate smaller studies.Two US medical bodies – the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority – are currently working to plan such trials. Some in the scientific community fear Trump's endorsement of the medicines could create shortages for patients who need them to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases for which they are approved.

Administration says it will reimburse hospitals for treating uninsured coronavirus patients - The Trump administration announced Friday that the federal government will reimburse hospitals treating uninsured patients for the novel coronavirus using funds allocated in a the recent relief package passed by Congress. “Today, I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the fed government using funds from the economic relief packed Congress passed last month,” President Trump said at a White House briefing. “This should alleviate any concerns uninsured Americans may have seeking the coronavirus treatment,” he added. The announcement came after the administration said it would not reopen ObamaCare enrollment in order for uninsured Americans to purchase health care on federally run exchanges. After being pressed on the decision, Trump indicated Thursday that he was considering a plan to cover costs of medical care for uninsured Americans. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday that the administration would use a portion of the $100 billion allocated for health care providers in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which Congress passed and Trump signed last week, to cover the costs. “We will use a portion of that funding to cover providers costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured,” Azar said, noting that the department would soon release more specific information about how the rest of the money would be spent.

Never Built To Fight A 50-State Pandemic - DHS Medical Emergency Stockpile Nearly Depleted -  In yet more dire outbreak-induced medical supplies shortage news, the federal government's own emergency stockpile of respirator masks, gloves, and ventilators is already nearly depleted. Two Homeland Security Department officials told the Washington Post that crucial supplies kept in the Health and Human Services Department’s Strategic National Stockpile are woefully low and will run out amid the pandemic. “The stockpile was designed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic,” one official said. “This is not only a U.S. government problem. The supply chain for PPE worldwide has broken down, and there is a lot of price gouging happening.” Image source: NPR via Strategic National Stockpile/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services The national supply chain has already broken down, indicated by what now seems like daily stories of hospital staff in hard-hit major cities having to reuse protective gear, and in other instances actually attempt to make their own out of things like trash bags and household items. Though in reporting on the federal emergency stockpile crisis The Washington Post and others are emphasizing rampant price gouging as driving it, creating "a Wild-West-style online marketplace for bulk medical supplies dominated by intermediaries and hoarders who are selling N95 respirator masks and other gear at huge markups" — as the Post put it, it remains that the national shortages are rooted in over-reliance on Chinese manufacturing, which itself in the opening months of this year was ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak, causing the shuttering of factories and disruption of ports. The resultant huge drop in medical supply imports into the the US (a drop in up to over half normal numbers in the case of crucial supplies like the N95 mask), led to the emergence of instances such as what the AP earlier alarmingly detailed: "Doctors, nurses and first responders in the U.S. are resorting to spraying their masks with bleach at the end of each day and hanging them up at home to dry to use for another day, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians." 

 Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas. — Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile.Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.“We sell to whoever calls,” said a saleswoman at a small medical-supply company on Staten Island that bought 50 Trilogy Evo ventilators from Philips in early March and last week hiked its online price from $12,495 to $17,154. “We have hundreds of orders to fill. I think America didn’t take this seriously at first, and now everyone’s frantic.” Last Friday, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to begin mass-producing another company’s ventilator under a federal contract. But neither Trump nor other senior officials made any mention of the Trilogy Evo Universal. Nor did HHS officials explain why they did not force Philips to accelerate delivery of these ventilators earlier this year, when it became clear that the virus was overwhelming medical facilities around the world.An HHS spokeswoman told ProPublica that Philips had agreed to make the Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator “as soon as possible.” However, a Philips spokesman said the company has no plan to even begin production anytime this year. Instead, Philips is negotiating with a White House team led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to build 43,000 more complex and expensive hospital ventilators for Americans stricken by the virus.

 3M warns Trump: Halting exports under DPA would reduce number of masks available to US - company to stop exporting respirator masks could actually make the protective gear less available in the United States. The Minnesota manufacturing giant issued the warning a day after President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force 3M to step up its production of desperately needed respirator masks for front-line health workers to use in the fight against the coronavirus. The text of Trump’s order issued Thursday night directs acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to “use any and all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate.” In its statement, the company said the Trump administration “also requested that 3M cease exporting respirators that we currently manufacture in the United States to the Canadian and Latin American markets.” It added that “there are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies” to health care workers in those countries, where 3M is a “critical supplier of respirators.” “In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done,” 3M added. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.” “That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.”

ICE under pressure to release detainees threatened by coronavirus - The Trump administration is facing calls to release thousands of nonviolent detainees amid growing fears of coronavirus breakouts at immigrant detention centers. Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates clamoring for a release order got something of a boost this week when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., warned officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that the agency had a week to demonstrate adequate sanitary conditions in three family detention centers. But advocates and lawmakers say that doesn't go far enough, arguing a detention center outbreak would ultimately spill over to regional health care facilities and put even more people at risk. "There are at least four confirmed cases of immigrants in custody who have coronavirus, and five ICE facility employees who had tested positive -- that was as of yesterday," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), said in a press call Tuesday. "Immigrants are staging peaceful protests and hunger strikes to be released on concern for their life and subpar detention conditions," he added. A federal judge in Pennsylvania this week ordered a local detention center to release 11 detainees with underlying conditions making them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. "We know that as our medical experts have said, it's not a question of if, but when COVID actually reaches the facility. And the danger is what happens once a COVID is inside of the facility. I think we all can see the danger that would happen in that case -- people are in congregate environments in these detention centers," said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Prison Project, who has been leading the group's litigation to release at-risk detainees.

Media Silent as Poll Workers Contract Covid-19 at Primaries That DNC, Biden Campaign Claimed Were Safe - Donald Trump is the single individual in US society most responsible for spreading dangerous misinformation about Covid-19 in the midst of a global pandemic. Anyone who echoes him, or his administration’s entreaties to not take going out in public too seriously, is engaging in public endangerment. Anyone who actively encourages people to gather in mass, and in close proximity, is doing so at a mass scale. So why, in contravention of CDC guidelines and health experts’ urgings, did the DNC and Joe Biden’s campaign do just that at immense scale earlier this month, as major cities were already closing up public spaces?  And why have media that have deservedly taken Trump and his administration to task for their fatal failures not done the same with Democratic leadership? If  a senior adviser to President Donald Trump falsely claimed on national television that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had declared that it was safe to vote in person, despite its actual recommendation to the contrary, the adviser and the president would be rightly condemned by much of corporate media as, at best, incompetent and ignorant, and, at worst, dishonest and reckless in encouraging people to put their lives at risk.  And if poll workers had contracted Covid-19 at locations which violated CDC recommendations, the adviser and the president would be rightly blamed for exposing them to the virus. Yet after the CDC on March 15 advised the public to cancel all gatherings of more than 50 people, a senior adviser to Joe Biden, the current frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate, went on CNN (3/15/20) and claimed the CDC had deemed in-person voting safe. And not a single major media outlet reported on it.Nor did they report on the actual dangerous conditions at multiple primary voting sites, and the exposure of trusting citizens to the coronavirus that the adviser’s reckless advice had encouraged. And it wasn’t just one irresponsible adviser that put people at risk: Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez made misleading statements, downplayed the dangers and exaggerated the preparedness of voting sites, and criticized and threatened states which wanted to postpone their primaries. The Biden campaign as well as the DNC put politics over people, exposing countless voters to a fatal virus. We now know that at least two poll workers at locations described as safe by Perez and the Biden campaign have contracted Covid-19. It’s unknown how many more poll workers, voters and the people they came into contact with will also contract the virus.

Study indicates majority of young Americans support universal basic income, public healthcare -A majority of younger Americans now support both a universal basic income established by the federal government as well as some sort of public healthcare option, according to a new survey.The poll from University of Chicago's GenForward center indicates that 51 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-36 support a federally-funded basic income of $1,000 per month for all Americans, a plan touted by businessman Andrew Yang (D) during his 2020 presidential campaign.Younger Americans also want to see the current U.S. healthcare system expanded at the federal level, the poll finds, with 35 percent supporting the creation of a so-called "public option," or a public healthcare plan that would compete with private insurers. Another 17 percent said that the U.S. healthcare system should be replaced with a single-payer medicare-for-all system.  In comparison, just 21 percent said that they supported keeping the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and building off it while 17 percent supported repealing that plan entirely. Economic anxiety remains a serious concern for younger Americans, which may contribute to their support for expansions of the social safety net. According to the survey, 59 percent of young adults said that they were at least somewhat worried about their ability to afford a surprise $1,000 expense in their personal lives, while only 30 percent said they were not worried about such a possibility. The University of Chicago study was completed by 3,257 Americans aged 18-36 between April 26 and May 8, 2019. The survey's margin of error is 2.45 percentage points.

DOJ probing stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of coronavirus crisis: report - The Justice Department is reportedly probing decisions made by at least one lawmaker to sell stock in the days before the market turned downward as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. CNN reported Sunday that the inquiry, which was launched in cooperation with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), is still in its early stages, according to two people familiar with the matter. However, at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), has been contacted by investigators, according to CNN. Burr is one of four senators who sold thousands of dollars' worth of stock in the days before the stock market began a historical downturn amid nationwide travel and work restrictions implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus, as well as reports of jobless claims jumping to historic levels due to the crisis. A spokeswoman for the North Carolina senator insisted that Burr used no nonpublic information when making his financial decisions, as is required by the STOCK Act, and pointed to the Senate ethics inquiry Burr had requested upon news of the trades becoming public in a comment to CNN. "The law is clear that any American -- including a Senator -- may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did. When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry," said Alice Fisher, Burr's lawyer.

Icahn Called BlackRock “An Extremely Dangerous Company”; the Fed Has Chosen It to Manage Its Corporate Bond Bailout Programs -  Pam Martens - In 2015, the legendary Wall Street investor, Carl Icahn, called BlackRock “an extremely dangerous company.” (See video clip below.) Icahn was specifically talking about BlackRock’s packaging of junk bonds into Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and calling them “High Yield,” which the average American doesn’t understand is a junk-rated bond. The ETFs trade during market hours on the New York Stock Exchange, giving them the aura of liquidity when one needs it. Icahn said: “I used to laugh with some of these guys…I used to say, you know, the mafia has a better code of ethics than you guys. You know you’re selling this crap.” Icahn warned that “if and when there’s a real problem in the economy, there’s going to be a rush for the exits like in a movie theatre, and people want to sell those bonds, and think they can sell them, there is no market for them.” BlackRock not only sells junk-rated bond ETFs under the brand name iShares, but it has some of the largest investment grade corporate bond ETFs, including one that trades under the stock symbol LQD, which was experiencing serious losses and seeing major outflows of money until the Federal Reserve announced recently that it was creating three facilities to buy investment grade corporate debt from the primary and secondary markets, as well as investment grade corporate bond ETFs, along with agency commercial mortgage-backed securities.And just who is going to be running these facilities for the Federal Reserve? None other than BlackRock – posing an enormous conflict of interest which was readily observable in the market as BlackRock’s investment grade ETFs rallied dramatically on the news.According to the “Terms of Assignment” the New York Fed released,  BlackRock will be allowed to buy up its own corporate bond ETFs as well as those of its competitors. The only caveat in the contract is this concerning the Fed’s Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF):“BlackRock will treat BlackRock-sponsored ETFs on the same neutral footing as third-party ETFs. All ETF transactions will be effected through intermediaries at market prices on a best execution basis, whether in the secondary market or via primary creations and redemptions. If the share of the SMCCF’s holding of BlackRock-sponsored ETFs exceeds or is expected to exceed the then-current market share of BlackRock-sponsored ETFs in the corporate bond ETF market on average over a given calendar month, BlackRock will notify the New York Fed for review and consultation.  The New York Fed may direct portfolio adjustments at any time.”This document labeled “Terms of Assignment” does not appear to be the full contract between the Fed and BlackRock for purchasing, selling and managing the Fed’s corporate bond portfolios.A much more detailed contract appears on the New York Fed’s website for BlackRock’s management of the agency commercial mortgage-backed securities facility.

Does FSOC have a role to play in coronavirus response?— Following the last upheaval in the financial markets, policymakers created an interagency body to serve as an early-warning system to identify future threats before the next crisis.Yet with the coronavirus now wreaking havoc on the economy, observers are questioning if the Financial Stability Oversight Council is up to the job.The FSOC was established in essence as regulators' vehicle to address turmoil like that brought on by the pandemic. But the council has been largely silent as the Federal Reserve Board along with the bank regulatory agencies have played a more visible role in responding to the economic fallout from the virus. “We have a highly fragmented financial regulatory architecture here in the United States and FSOC was designed to provide a place where all of these regulators could better coordinate with one another, manage a crisis response, and they haven't done that,” said Gregg Gelzinis, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. Gelzinis and others say efforts earlier during the Trump administration to cut the FSOC's budget and staff, and shift the council's focus away from its most tangible job under the Dodd-Frank Act — subjecting systemically risky nonbanks to stricter supervision — have blunted its mission.“In the middle of an economic crisis, it's hard to go from having really downplayed or ignored the importance of an agency to turning around on a dime,” said Michael Barr, a former Treasury official in the Obama administration and a law professor at the University of Michigan.

Coronavirus phishing scams proliferate - It’s no surprise to see hackers taking advantage of the confusion around the coronavirus pandemic to do their worst, including preying on the estimated 75 million people suddenly working from home.But the numbers are nonetheless hair-raising.Researchers at Barracuda Networks, which provides network security to 220,000 corporate customers, reported Thursday that the number of coronavirus-related email attacks began increasing in January. Then, in the first three weeks of March, it exploded. The volume of such attacks spiked 667% from February to more than 9,000 incidents. The company has not seen anything on this scale since the 2008 financial crisis. “This is all fear driven,” said Fleming Shi, chief technology officer at Barracuda Networks. “People are scared or learning about the truth every day on the news, and the bad guys are weaponizing it. They see it as an opportunity.” Between March 1 and March 23, Barracuda detected 467,825 spear-phishing email attacks, and 9,116 of those detections were related to COVID-19. In comparison, the company detected 1,188 coronavirus-related email attacks in February and just 137 in January.“A lot of times [phishing attacks are] seasonal,” said. “This time of the year, usually it's tax-related scams.”Of the coronavirus-related attacks detected by the company through March 23, 54% were scams, 34% were brand-impersonation attacks, 11% were blackmail, and 1% percent were business email compromise. Only a couple of years ago, business email compromise was a top concern for bank chief information security officers, because hackers were using it to successfully carry out fraudulent wire transfers.In the scams, some cybercriminals are looking to sell coronavirus cures or face masks or asking for investments in fake companies that claim to be developing vaccines. Others are asking for donations to fake charities.

 As Coronavirus Spreads, Community Banks Brace for Fallout - Mike Estes, the president of Fisher National Bank in Fisher, Ill., population 1,900. knows the agricultural community well, including the handful of small businesses that dot the road. In recent days, he has worried about their fate. The state has shut down nonessential business as the coronavirus spreads. “We’ve got some small restaurants here, and it could be devastating for them,” Mr. Estes said. “I’m not sure if they would be able to come back.” The economic fallout of the novel coronavirus poses a new challenge for small banks across the country. Most of America’s banks are like Fisher National—woven into the local economy and a key source of credit for small businesses. As the downturn squeezes more industries, community banks must balance helping these businesses with protecting their own bottom lines. Some community bankers say they have already started getting calls from businesses and individuals who say their cash flow might be tight for a while. At Stephenson National Bank and Trust in Marinette, Wis., business customers have expressed interest in short-term loans and additional lines of credit. The seven-branch bank decided this month to offer three-month payment deferrals on all loans. It is reaching out to customers, encouraging them to communicate any problems. The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting the global economy. WSJ’s Greg Ip explains what the Federal Reserve can do to stem the damage. Illustration: Carlos Waters/WSJ “We are ready, willing and able to help borrowers or businesses,” said Chief Executive Daniel Peterson. Stephenson lists on its website the trials it has weathered since its 1874 founding: wars, panics and the Great Depression. Management plans to add the current crisis to the list. But the coronavirus, unlike previous emergencies, is forcing millions of people to stay home and avoid contact with others. That is depriving community banks of one of their hallmarks—face-to-face interactions. Both Stephenson and Fisher, like many larger banks, have limited their branch access to drive-throughs and appointments, meaning they have to dole out personal attention largely over the phone. Community banks, often categorized as those with less than $10 billion in assets, were already challenged before the coronavirus pandemic. They increasingly have to compete with big banks that are attracting young customers more interested in flashy apps than a friendly branch.

Anatomy of an Outbreak: How Coronavirus Swept Through JPMorgan’s Trading Floor – WSJ - March 9 was supposed to be the start of a new routine for JPMorgan Chase & Co. employees. With coronavirus spreading, the bank had told the staff in its stock-trading operation to head to three separate sites around New York City. Hours before the workday began, with global markets plunging, technology at the sites wasn’t ready. JPMorgan top brass reversed the order and told many traders to report for duty, as usual, to the firm’s Manhattan headquarters, employees said. An employee who wasn’t feeling well came to the office. JPMorgan traded more shares that Monday than any day in the bank’s history. The sick employee turned out to have Covid-19, and over the past three weeks, about 20 employees on a single floor at the bank’s headquarters have tested positive for the virus, with another 65 quarantined as a result. Wall Street is used to making tough choices in seconds, but the coronavirus pandemic has added a dimension of life or death. Amid the wildest trading conditions in more than a decade, banks are loath to fully allow the thousands of traders and salespeople who keep the markets humming to work from home. Setups in home offices lack the multibillion-dollar technology infrastructure of the trading floor. Even slight delays in speed could cost money. Wall Street trading has been deemed an “essential service” by New York authorities, and though the New York Stock Exchange has shut its floor, the major banks continue to have some employees report to work. For JPMorgan, the consequences of keeping employees in the office have been swift and painful. The outbreak has rattled rank-and-file employees, who said they feel the bank took a gamble with their health to protect a prized business. Traders and salespeople said they feel pressure to come in. Managers, many of whom have stayed in the office themselves, have reminded staff that their compensation may be tied to their performance in recent weeks. On Thursday, head of global equities Jason Sippel told subordinates they had a responsibility to come into the office, according to a person on the call. “There are risks to personal health, there are risks to public health,” Mr. Sippel said. “We are called upon to balance.” JPMorgan’s coronavirus outbreak is concentrated on the fifth floor of the bank’s Madison Avenue headquarters, a tight web of desks for those who buy and sell stocks and pitch clients on trades.

Jefferies' CFO Dies From Coronavirus --In a shocking and tragic development, the deadly Coronavirus has struck at the epicenter of Wall Street: moments ago, investment bank Jefferies announced that its CFO Peg Broadbent, has passed away from coronavirus complications, making him the first top financial executive to pass away from the deadly pandemic.   The full press release is below:

March 2020: Unofficial Problem Bank list Increased to 65 Institutions --The FDIC's official problem bank list is comprised of banks with a CAMELS rating of 4 or 5, and the list is not made public (just the number of banks and assets every quarter). Note: Bank CAMELS ratings are also not made public.CAMELS is the FDIC rating system, and stands for Capital adequacy, Asset quality, Management, Earnings, Liquidity and Sensitivity to market risk. The scale is from 1 to 5, with 1 being the strongest.As a substitute for the CAMELS ratings, surferdude808 is using publicly announced formal enforcement actions, and also media reports and company announcements that suggest to us an enforcement action is likely, to compile a list of possible problem banks in the public interest. Here is the unofficial problem bank list for March 2020.Here are the monthly changes and a few comments from surferdude808:Update on the Unofficial Problem Bank List for March 2020. During the month, the list increased by two to 65 institutions two additions. Assets increased by $93 million to $48.6 billion. A year ago, the list held 72 institutions with assets of $51.6 billion. Added this month was Mutual Savings Bank, Hartsville, SC ($52 million) and Ford County State Bank, Spearville, KS ($41 million). Also, the FDIC updated actions against Southwest Capital Bank, Albuquerque, NM ($339 million) and California Business Bank, Irvine, CA ($83 million).With the conclusion of the first quarter, we bring an updated transition matrix to detail how banks are transitioning off the Unofficial Problem Bank List. Since the Unofficial Problem Bank List was first published on August 7, 2009 with 389 institutions, 1,760 institutions have appeared on a weekly or monthly list since the start of publication. Only 3.7 percent of the banks that have appeared on a list remain today as 1,695 institutions have transitioned through the list. Departure methods include 1,000 action terminations, 409 failures, 267 mergers, and 19 voluntary liquidations. Of the 389 institutions on the first published list, only 5 or 1.3 percent, are still designated as being in a troubled status more than ten years later. The 409 failures represent 23.2 percent of the 1,760 institutions that have made an appearance on the list. This failure rate is well above the 10-12 percent rate frequently cited in media reports on the failure rate of banks on the FDIC's official list.

The Dark Secrets in the Fed’s Last Wall Street Bailout Are Getting a Devious Makeover in Today’s Bailout -  Pam Martens - From December 2007 to November 10, 2011, the Federal Reserve, secretly and without the awareness of Congress, funneled $19.6 trillion in cumulative loans to bail out the trading houses on Wall Street. Just 14 global financial institutions received 83.9 percent of those loans or $16.41 trillion. (See chart above.) A number of those banks were insolvent at the time and did not, under the law, qualify for these Fed loans. Significant amounts of these loans were collateralized with junk bonds and stocks, at a time when both markets were in freefall. Under the law, the Fed is only allowed to make loans against “good” collateral. Six of the institutions receiving massive loans from the Fed were not even U.S. banks but global foreign banks that had to be saved because they were heavily interconnected to the Wall Street banks through unregulated derivatives.  These same banks, as we write this, are currently receiving the next round of bailouts from the New York Fed, using many of the identical programs that the New York Fed used the last time around, like the Commercial Paper Funding Facility(CPFF), the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF), and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) along with a host of others. The goal of the New York Fed in using so many programs with so many alphabet-soup acronyms is to make it mind-numbingly difficult to keep track of the trillions of dollars it is spewing to Wall Street banks and their foreign peers. It took almost four years after the onset of the last unaccountable Fed money spigot to get accurate reports to the public about what it had done. The Fed spent more than two years in court battling to keep the public from learning the details. How do we know that the same banks are receiving the new bailout funds? Because the New York Fed publishes a list of its 24 “primary dealers,” the Wall Street trading houses with which it conducts its open market trading operations and are eligible for its loans. (Yes, the New York Fed has its own trading floor – the only one of the 12 regional Fed banks to have one.) With the exception of AIG, which is an insurance company, Bear Stearns, which was taken over by JPMorgan Chase, and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), every bank listed in the chart above is currently eligible for the trillions of dollars in Fed loans that have been spewing out of the New York Fed since September 17, 2019 – four months before the first reported death from coronavirus in China and five months before the first reported death in the United States. What makes the New York Fed’s bailout of Wall Street so much more dangerous this time around is that it has decided to use a different structure for its loans to Wall Street – one that will force losses on taxpayers and, it hopes, will provide an ironclad secrecy curtain around how much it spends and where the money goes. The New York Fed plans to use Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for many of its funding facilities again this time around. (It should provide no comfort to the American people that Enron used SPVs to hide the true state of its finances and blow itself up.) But last time around, the New York Fed put up the equity interest in the SPV and thus was on the hook for any losses.  This time around, the New York Fed is forcing the U.S. Treasury to put up $454 billion from the taxpayer to fund the equity stakes in its SPVs, which it plans to then leverage up to at least $4 trillion, according to White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow. But the New York Fed is then signing a private contract with a private Wall Street firm to allow it to be the manager of the SPV, handling the purchasing of toxic waste from Wall Street’s trading houses while funneling clean cash out to them.

Fed Unlikely to Order Big U.S. Banks to Suspend Dividends – WSJ - U.S. banks will likely be allowed to keep paying dividends to shareholders, according to people familiar with the matter, even as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to create a mountain of bad loans that could eventually weaken the lenders. Some former U.S. regulators have said the Federal Reserve should order the largest banks to suspend payouts to preserve capital at a time of soaring unemployment and business disruption that may eclipse the 2008 financial crisis. “If things work out well, banks can distribute income later on,” said Janet Yellen, a former Fed chairwoman. “If not, they’ll have a buffer that will be needed to support the credit needs of the economy.” The European Central Bank and the Bank of England have pressured banks to stop using their capital to make dividend payments to shareholders, raising questions about whether the Fed would follow suit in the U.S. But Fed officials are unlikely to do so, at least in the short term. They see key differences in how lenders distribute capital on the two continents, and they plan to conduct a more deliberate analysis of the U.S. banking system’s health,the people said. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said she prefers to await the results of the next set of the banks’ “stress tests” in June before deciding whether to limit dividend payments. The tests are used to assess banks’ ability to continue lending in a crisis. Banks are required to submit plans showing how they would weather a deep recession and maintain sufficient capital by Monday. The central bank will announce the results of the tests by the end of June. “Our stress test can give us insight into where capital should be needed,” said Ms. Mester in an interview Thursday. “My preference would be to wait for the stress tests, but different people can have different opinions about that.”Any decision to halt dividends lies with the five members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; Fed bank presidents don’t have a vote. U.S. central bankers may fear that halting dividends now would send a signal that they are worried about the solvency of the banking system. And because dividends are paid quarterly in the U.S. instead of annually as in Europe, the Fed has the ability to reassess the situation in the coming weeks and months. Ordering banks to suspend dividend payments would be tantamount to “kicking them in the shins” at a time when the government is relying on them to continue lending through the downturn, said Christopher Marinac, director of research for Janney Montgomery Scott LLC. “It’s telling the banks they did something wrong when in fact they did a lot right by building capital and strong earnings,” Mr. Marinac said. “If we learn later that bank earnings and bank capital is not as strong as we thought, that’s a different matter.”

 BofA offers emergency loans to borrowers first, freezing out depositors - Bank of America is initially taking applications for a government-backed emergency loan program only from its existing small-business borrowers, shutting out customers that have checking accounts but not loans. The Charlotte, N.C., company's decision could freeze many small businesses out of a $349 billion program that is meant to provide relief from the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. If other banks follow Bank of America’s lead, the number of small businesses that are eligible to apply for loans in the program’s early days will shrink even further. Many small-business owners are concerned that if they cannot apply for relief soon, they will not receive funding because the program operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and application volume is expected to be enormous. As of Friday morning, which was when the program was scheduled to open, many banks were not yet taking any applications. BofA Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan said in a CNBC interview on Friday that the bank has 1 million business customers with borrowing relationships, and that its first priority is getting those customers through the system. The bank said that small-business customers will qualify to apply if they have a corporate credit card or another business borrowing product at BofA. Moynihan said that Bank of America is encouraging business customers that have lending relationships with other banks to apply through those institutions. “If you borrow with another bank, please, go back and work with them,” Moynihan said. “They’re your core bank, and they know you the best and can process you the fastest.”

Wall Street Had Cut 68,000 Jobs and Received Trillions in Emergency Loans Prior to COVID-19 Anywhere in the World  Pam Martens - On March 26 Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell went on theToday show to deliver one message: “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy.” Recently U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has appeared on the White House lawn to tell reporters that this is nothing like the last financial crisis. Fed regional bank presidents have appeared on cable news asserting that the Wall Street banks have plenty of capital and today’s economic distress is caused solely by the coronavirus. Even New York Times columnist and perpetual Wall Street cheerleader, Paul Krugman, was on CNBC this week reassuring viewers that today’s problem was not like the last financial crisis.And yet – the facts keep getting in the way of this “official” narrative.The first coronavirus COVID-19 case was discovered in China in December 2019 and didn’t become a major issue in the United States until February 2020. But on October 7, 2019 we reported that Wall Street banks had announced a staggering 68,000 job cuts as the Fed pumped $310 billion more in unprecedented loans to Wall Street. That doesn’t sound like there was “nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy,” the narrative that Powell is pushing.On October 9 we reported that Powell had appeared at a speaking event in Denver at the National Association of Business Economists and acknowledged that a larger, long-term bailout of Wall Street was on its way. That also doesn’t sound like everything was fine in the financial world before the coronavirus hit. On January 27, 2020, again before any reported death from coronavirus in the U.S., we reported that Fed Repos Have Plowed $6.6 Trillion to Wall Street in Four Months; That’s 34% of Its Feeding Tube During Epic Financial Crash. Again, that doesn’t sound like there was nothing fundamentally wrong before the coronavirus hit. Now the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the federal regulator of national banks, has finally released its quarterly “Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activities” for the last quarter of 2019. The new report shows just how highly-leveraged the biggest Wall Street banks are if you include their exposure to derivatives. The chart above is based on data from that report (see Table 4 in the Appendix).

CFTC Quietly Bails Out Capital One - Last Friday, around the time of the quad-witching collapse which sent the S&P to levels not seen since Trump's inauguration, amid the flurry of headlines bombarding shell-shocked traders, was one that was particularly ominous if bizarrely incomplete. Shortly after the close, Bloomberg blasted the following headline:There was little additional information to go with the report, aside from the CFTC saying it would temporarily exempt a U.S. bank from a requirement to register as a “Major Swap Participant” even though its growing energy swaps exposure would technically require it to do so by the end of the next quarter, and since the bank was not named, traders' attention quickly shifted to whatever the next crisis du jour, or rather du minute was. However, late last week, Reuters reported citing two sources, that the bank in question was Virginia-based Capital One, best known for questionable retail lending and cheesy credit card commercials starting Samuel L Jackson.So what exactly happened? According to a spokesman for the CFTC, the commodities regulator issued a waiver to protect the bank and its energy clients from "undue disruption," given the unprecedented market conditions over the past month amid the coronavirus outbreak.“We have actively encouraged all market participants to identify regulatory relief or other assistance that may be needed to help support robust, orderly and liquid markets in the face of this pandemic,” the spokesman said, implicitly admitting that the CFTC intervention amounted to what was an effective bailout of the bank.At the core of the issue were plunging oil prices, which ended up having a margin call effect on the bank's swaps exposure; and since Capital One’s waiver lasts until Sept. 30, if energy prices remain low or the bank’s exposure remains above the threshold, it will register as a swap participant or make business adjustments, the CFTC said on Friday.

Ag lenders were already stressed. Then came the coronavirus.- Across the Midwest, the coronavirus outbreak threatens to pack years’ worth of frustration and hardship into a single growing season.Farmers across the region are becoming increasingly nervous as the disease expands beyond early hot spots in coastal markets. That anxiety is also being felt by their lenders.“Just weeks ago, a lot of people were thinking this was a New York problem, that it wouldn’t be much of an issue here,” said Shan Hanes, president and CEO of the $122 million-asset Heartland Tri-State Bank in Elkhart, Kan. “But reality has set in, and it’s serious,” Hanes added. “It’s sucked the energy out of our community just like it has almost everywhere.” Concern is building that the economic freeze imposed by the pandemic will inflict harsh tolls on farmers and their rural communities — and lead to elevated loan losses at a number of community banks.Ag lenders note that they have already weathered a multitude of challenges in recent years.Robust harvests produced excess supply that drove down crop prices and farm profits, and the U.S.-China trade war further weakened demand for American soybeans and other crops.Adjusting for inflation, the Agriculture Department projected in February that 2020 net cash farm income would decline by 10.7% from a year earlier, to $13.1 billion. It also forecast that farm debt would rise by $10 billion, to a record $425 billion.Many farmers have borrowed more to offset lower income to make sure they can afford seed, supplies and equipment. The pandemic has exposed new vulnerabilities and pressures on crop and livestock prices, and is creating challenges for businesses that sell into the farm sector, industry experts said.Restrictions on worker density to ward off spread of the virus hinders productivity at meatpacking plants. Depressed oil prices — resulting from the pandemic and an international price war — have also hurt ethanol values.Social distancing measures have also cut into sales at farm equipment dealers and other businesses that round out the agricultural sector.

Dodd-Frank didn’t build stress testing for coronavirus - Anyone who experienced the 2008 financial crisis knew it was only a matter of time before there was another disruption that tested the system. Still, it was difficult to imagine exactly when and how it would materialize. Like the mortgage crisis, the coronavirus pandemic comes at a time when corporate profits were high, unemployment was low and growth was steady. But unlike the last crisis, the triggering event originated outside the financial system. The recession accompanying this pandemic will further test the resilience of the financial sector, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act reforms along with it. Some lessons are already coming into focus. The first, and perhaps most striking takeaway at the moment, is that there are vulnerabilities in some of the very same markets as 2008. It very much feels like déjà vu all over again, with short-term funding markets like repo and money market funds requiring Federal Reserve intervention. It is frankly difficult to view this state of affairs as anything other than an indictment of the Dodd-Frank created Financial Stability Oversight Council. That many of these markets and entities are back in the soup indicates that meaningful reforms took too long; came up short when they eventually happened; and were rolled back too quickly. It is unclear how FSOC will evolve from here — former regulators are already saying that they have more work to do. But using it as a forum for regulators to get together and talk, with little meaningful action, simply will not get the job done. In response to the turmoil in credit markets, the limitations on the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authorities have also taken center stage. A number of the former regulators that presided over the last crisis have argued that those reforms would unduly constrain the central bank during a new panic. But by all indications that hasn’t been the case. The Fed has reopened a number of the same facilities that were around in 2008 — an alphabet soup of acronyms like CPFF, MMLF and PDCF — to backstop commercial paper, money market funds and investment-grade corporate debt. The centrality of the stress-testing regime, what Professor Mehrsa Baradaran calls “regulation by hypothetical,” has become one of the most touted elements of macroprudential regulation. Yet the actual conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have quickly eclipsed some of the worst-case hypotheticals of supervisory stress tests, with warnings of potentially even worse things to come. Stress testing deserves significant attention in this moment, followed by a reckoning with whether it is a useful predictive tool, or merely a time-intensive check-the-box exercise. Stress testing is critical because it’s not only meant to be an intellectual exercise; it influences capital regulation — another area that will surely be tested again.

Regulators extend comment deadline for Volcker Rule changes -- — Regulators are giving the industry more time to comment on proposed revisions to the Volcker Rule dealing with banks' stakes in certain investment funds. The proposal — which was put forth in January by five agencies including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. — would revise the definition of a so-called covered fund. The plan would allow financial institutions to invest in funds that many stakeholders say were not meant to be the target of the Volcker Rule.The comment period on that proposal was set to expire on Wednesday, but the regulators said Thursday they would welcome comments until May 1. “The agencies will continue to consider comments to provide interested persons more time to analyze the issues and prepare their comments in light of potential disruptions resulting from the coronavirus,” the regulators said in a press release. The original 2013 Volcker Rule — first proposed as an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker — not only banned proprietary trading but also limited bank stakes in private-equity and hedge funds to prevent the type of short-term risky bets that helped precipitate the financial crisis.But banking agencies sought to revamp the Volcker Rule last year, finalizing a rule in August that changed the “rebuttable presumption” and implemented a three-tiered approach meant to tailor compliance requirements. The January proposal focused on the covered funds portion of the rule suggested that banks be allowed to invest in instruments such as credit funds, venture capital funds, customer facilitation funds and family wealth management vehicles — even if those funds contained multiple investments.Regulators argued that allowing banks to invest in a fund structure rather than taking more direct stakes in companies would help them to diversify risk, which could in turn bolster safety and soundness.Big banks get Fed's blessing to extend leverage amid market stress

 Calls to cease non-coronavirus rulemaking grow louder— Community bankers are calling for a six-month halt in rulemaking except for regulations dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.In a March 30 letter, Independent Community Bankers of America CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey urged the heads of several financial regulators to suspend non-COVID-19-related rules to allow banks to focus on the fallout from the pandemic.“Combating the COVID-19 crisis demands the full attention and all available resources from the public, from state, local, and federal government entities, as well as all industries, including the vital financial services industry,” Rainey wrote to seven agencies. “Not only are financial institutions impacted, but the voices of those institutions are also engaged in this all hands-on deck reality.” The trade group joined community groups and lawmakers who have made similar requests.Last week, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations separately called on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to suspend their rulemaking process for proposed reforms to the Community Reinvestment Act. Public comments for that proposal are due April 8.“This grave pandemic demands a comprehensive and all-encompassing response. The health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens and residents are at stake,” the NCRC wrote. “The undersigned organizations must immediately drop all policy-related matters and help their clients and communities with basic survival.” In its letter, the economic development group alliance wrote that “as our networks begin to address the dire public health and economic situations playing out in our communities nationwide, we felt an urgent need to double down on our request that you immediately suspend the rulemaking process.” Similarly, the California Reinvestment Coalition is preparing to submit a letter to the OCC and FDIC signed by its members arguing that enforcing the April 8 deadline for comments on the CRA proposal "will not at all reflect the unknown needs of low and moderate income communities in a new post COVID-19 America."

 Fed delays effective date of bank control rule due to coronavirus — The Federal Reserve is postponing the effective date of a rule dealing with regulatory requirements for investors who own less than a quarter of a bank.The central bank said Tuesday it will delay implementation by six months, to Sept. 30, of a January rule clarifying standards under the Fed's bank control framework. The extension is meant to allow banks to focus on effects of the coronavirus pandemic.The rule, first proposed in April 2019, sought to standardize how those owning less than a quarter of a bank can determine if they hold a "controlling" stake, and therefore must register as a bank holding company. For wealth managers to make smarter business decisions, get to market faster, and connect more effectively with their clients, data is the key. The framework was originally supposed to go into effect April 1, but the Fed said it was pushing back the deadline in order to limit operational burden.   “The Board recognizes that, as a result of COVID-19, there have been recent dislocations in the U.S. economy,” the Fed said. “Many companies, including regulated financial institutions, have also expressed a desire to consult with Board staff about the effect of the new control rule on various existing investments and relationships.”The extended time frame “should provide companies affected by the new control rule additional time to analyze the impact of the rule on existing investments and relationships,” the agency said.

Big banks get Fed's blessing to extend leverage amid market stress - The Federal Reserve will let Wall Street banks take on more leverage so they can absorb a severe lack of liquidity for Treasuries and a surge in customer deposits amid the coronavirus pandemic.A key limit on big banks’ indebtedness — the so-called leverage ratio — will be temporarily relaxed with lenders getting “significant inflows of customer deposits,” the Fed said in a Wednesday statement. For one year, the biggest U.S. banks will no longer have to add their Treasuries and reserves into the basket of assets they’re required to maintain capital for — significantly reducing capital requirements.In its statement, the Fed was clear that the move was meant for banks “to expand their balance sheets as appropriate to continue to serve as financial intermediaries, rather than to allow banking organizations to increase capital distributions.” The Fed added that it made the decision because “liquidity conditions in Treasury markets have deteriorated rapidly.”The change — effective immediately — will reduce capital demands by about 2% overall, the Fed estimated, and will be open for a 45-day comment period. The unanimous decision got the backing of Fed Gov. Lael Brainard, who hasn’t supported other recent agency decisions to overhaul regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis.The leverage ratio is one of the most fundamental limits implemented in response to the last meltdown. It’s meant to be a very simple calculation of each bank’s capital against all its assets. The requirement functions in tandem with the other big capital constraint on banks — a cushion based on the riskiness of the lender’s assets.The disruption in Treasury markets threatened to prevent Wall Street banks from executing transactions the Fed wants them to amid the current tumult, including funding short-term borrowing arrangements known as repurchase agreements. By not counting Treasuries in their leverage ratios, banks should have more ability to provide such financing.

 Card brands delay spring swipe-fee update to July, citing coronavirus' effect on retail - With the semiannual interchange update from the major card brands due in April, acquirers began notifying merchants late last week that those changes — which in some cases represent higher rates for certain types of businesses and cards — have been postponed until July.With coronavirus presenting significant challenges for retailers and the technical challenges of imposing interchange fee changes in the networks, Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are holding off on the updates.The so-called spring update on April 17 has been moved to July 17, in a move to support business continuity at a time when payment habits are dramatically shifting to digital channels. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many people to shelter at home, leading many brick-and-mortar stores to shut down temporarily or permanently. "With so many resources working from home and having reduced capabilities to deal with unforeseen challenges and the changes, the card networks felt it was in everyone's best interest to hold off," said John Drechny, CEO of the Merchant Advisory Group. Normally, during the release of new interchange rates, the networks monitor transaction traffic and data quality so that any irregularities that occur can be fixed quickly, said Drechny, who noted all four card brands had notified his organization of their intentions. Mastercard confirmed its intention to institute a delay in a note to PaymentsSource, saying it is "pausing updates to some systems while delivering the same level of security and service they receive every day … this is one way we can help them focus on their core systems operations and resiliency efforts to meet the needs of consumers and business." Meanwhile, Visa said it is "committed to partnering with our clients during this difficult time. We are actively implementing and considering a number of ways we can proactively support our clients to ensure the stability, security, reliability and resiliency of the digital payments ecosystem.” In confirming its intentions to delay its spring interchange release until July 17, Discover noted it was taking the necessary steps to "maintain our commitment to our clients and customers."

CFPB urged to take more active role in coronavirus response - Pressure is building on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take more aggressive steps to directly benefit consumers who are hurting financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.The bureau has joined other regulators in encouraging financial institutions to work with struggling borrowers and other consumers with financial services needs, but critics say the agency's response has been tepid at best.They point to the lack of specific guidance protecting consumers in the mortgage servicing process, restricting debt collectors from contacting consumers during the crisis, or requiring credit reporting agencies to factor in pandemic-related hardships on credit reports.     “In this time of national emergency, the CFPB needs to be thinking hard about what consumers need right now,” said Diane Thompson, of counsel at the National Consumer Law Center and a former CFPB deputy assistant director of regulations.Industry lawyers are also speaking up, saying mortgage servicers need better direction from the agency on how to deal with the flood of incoming calls from borrowers with forbearance requests and on how servicers can prepare for a potential wave of defaults.

CFPB clarifies credit reporting procedures in light of coronavirus - Lenders should avoid reporting delinquent payments to credit bureaus for consumers who seek mortgage relief, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday.The agency provided several recommendations in new guidance on the credit reporting process in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bureau said it will now allow lenders 45 days to investigate credit disputes, increasing the duration by 15 days. In the policy statement, the CFPB said it supports lenders’ “voluntary efforts” to provide payment relief to consumers. The CFPB said it will not take enforcement actions against or cite in examinations any company that provides information to credit reporting agencies that accurately reflects payment relief measures or makes a good-faith effort to investigate disputes as quickly as possible.“During this time of uncertainty, we are providing clarity to ensure the consumer reporting industry can continue to function,” CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger said in a press release. “Consumers rely on their credit report to purchase a new car, their new home, or to finance their college education. An effective consumer reporting system is critical in promoting fair and efficient access to credit in the consumer financial services market.”The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that Congress passed last week requires lenders to report to credit bureaus that consumers are current on their loans if their payments are adjusted through a loan modification.A section of the CARES Act also amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which generally requires that credit bureaus and furnishers of information investigate disputes within 30 days of being notified by a consumer.  The CFPB said it is extending the investigation period to 45 days as a result of the pandemic, but with a caveat that “the consumer provides additional information that is relevant to the investigation during the 30-day period.”

Congress mulls further coronavirus relief for consumers —— Although the $2 trillion economic rescue plan passed by Congress included key consumer protections, Democrats are not done seeking help for those struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.With many expecting Congress to mull yet another round of stimulus, analysts expect House and Senate Democratic leaders to be even more aggressive in pushing for temporary measures such as a ban on bank overdraft fees, a national cap on consumer loan interest rates and a broader moratorium on negative information being posted to consumer credit reports.The sweeping package signed into law last week includes direct payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, as well as some relief for borrowers of federally backed mortgages. But observers said Congress could face more pressure to give consumers relief if those payments do not arrive in time for consumers to make their monthly bills. “The longer Treasury delays in getting money into peoples’ hands, the stronger the argument comes for providing people temporary relief,” said Aaron Klein, policy director at the Brookings Institution’s Center on Regulation and Markets. “I think the longer this pandemic goes on, the more consumers will need relief.” House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, both supported the stimulus effort but said more still needs to be done to protect families hurting economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. “I am pleased that this legislation includes important provisions that Democrats fought for to support individuals, families, workers, small businesses and communities, and support the bill’s passage,” Waters said in a press release Tuesday. “But, the legislation is far from sufficient to fully support our nation through this crisis.”Waters had called for a measure to prevent lenders from reporting missed or late payments to credit bureaus, a temporary ban on debt collection, and a nationwide ban on all evictions and foreclosures, among other things. Brown introduced a temporary ban on overdraft fees, a 36% cap on consumer loan interest rates, and free digital wallets for consumers to receive coronavirus relief funds. But none of those proposals were included in the legislation.

Banks may get boost from loan program; Trouble for mortgages not backed by U.S --American banks “stand to collect billions of dollars in fees on the $350 billion in loans that are being offered to U.S. small businesses as part of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the Financial Times says. “Banks will receive processing fees, paid by the federal government, for making the loans. The fees will vary with loan size: 5% for loans under $350,000, 3% for loans under $2 million and 1% for loans greater than $2 million.” The loans, which will be forgiven if the business doesn’t lay off workers, will not incur a capital charge.Banks are likely to be swamped with applications for the loans when they begin taking applications on Friday, the Washington Post says. But “many bankers say they lack the detailed guidance needed to administer the loans. Some lenders that are new to working with the SBA could struggle with staffing and software problems once they are approved to join the program.”"While fintech lenders are seeking to participate in the program as direct lenders, none of those companies are currently authorized to participate in the 7(a) program," American Banker reports.. Dividends, buybacks haltedFollowing the lead of the European Central Bank, the European Banking Authority, the euro zone’s banking regulator, “demanded that all EU lenders stop their planned dividend payments and share buybacks,” the Financial Times reports. A group of the largest U.S. banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup, said they would suspend share buybacks, but are expected to pay previously announced dividends,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Switzerland’s Credit Suisse and UBS have indicated they will pay out 2019 dividends as planned.”  The Federal Reserve rescued the government-backed mortgage market, “but the market for loans in which the government doesn’t shoulder the risk is coming undone," the paper says. "Investors are abandoning that market, starving the lenders that extend mortgages to borrowers who don’t qualify for conventional loans. Those lenders are halting operations, bracing for a sharp rise in missed mortgage payments during the coronavirus shutdown.” Big Wall Street banks “have quietly joined” with the Mortgage Bankers Association “in calling for regulatory action to prevent the Federal Reserve’s emergency purchases of mortgage-backed securities from unintentionally upending the hedging strategies of mortgage originators.” On Sunday the MBA asked the Securities and Exchange Commission “to discourage securities firms from making margin calls on mortgage lenders for hedges they bought to protect themselves from a fall in the value of their loans." In its appeal to the SEC, the MBA warned mass enforcement of those margin calls could have a “destabilizing” impact on mortgage originators.

MBA: Mortgage Refinance Applications Increased, Purchase Applications down 24% YoY - From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey: Mortgage applications increased 15.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending March 27, 2020. ... The Refinance Index increased 26 percent from the previous week and was 168 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 11 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 10 percent compared with the previous week and was 24 percent lower than the same week one year ago. ... “Mortgage rates and applications continue to experience significant volatility from the economic and financial market uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis. After two weeks of sizeable increases, mortgage rates dropped back to the lowest level in MBA’s survey, which in turn led to a 25 percent jump in refinance applications,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The bleaker economic outlook, along with the first wave of realized job losses reported in last week’s unemployment claims numbers, likely caused potential homebuyers to pull back. Purchase applications were down over 10 percent, and after double-digit annual growth to start 2020, activity has fallen off last year’s pace for two straight weeks.” Added Kan, “Buyer and seller traffic – and ultimately home purchases – will also likely be slowed this spring by the restrictions ordered in several states on in-person activities.” .. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($510,400 or less) decreased to 3.47 percent from 3.82 percent, with points decreasing to 0.33 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.  The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990. With record lower rates, we saw a huge increase in refinance activity in the survey over the last two weeks.

Fannie Mae: Mortgage Serious Delinquency Rate Declined in February, Lowest Since 2007 --Fannie Mae reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency was declined to 0.65% in February, from 0.66% in January. The serious delinquency rate is down from 0.76% in February 2019.These are mortgage loans that are "three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure".  This is the lowest serious delinquency rate for Fannie Mae since June 2007.The Fannie Mae serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59%. By vintage, for loans made in 2004 or earlier (2% of portfolio), 2.46% are seriously delinquent. For loans made in 2005 through 2008 (4% of portfolio), 4.07% are seriously delinquent, For recent loans, originated in 2009 through 2018 (94% of portfolio), only 0.35% are seriously delinquent. So Fannie is still working through a few poor performing loans from the bubble years. I expect the serious delinquency rate will increase in a few months due to COVID-19.

 U.S. Home-Price Growth Accelerated Before Pandemic - Home-price growth accelerated in January, the latest indication that the U.S. housing market was poised for a strong year of sales before the coronavirus pandemic struck. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 3.9% in the year that ended in January, up from a 3.7% annual rate the prior month. Economists and real-estate executives had expected robust home sales this year due to a strong job market and low mortgage rates. U.S. existing-home sales rose to a 13-year high in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. But with the pandemic now keeping potential buyers and sellers on the sidelines, experts expect the pace of home sales to sharply decelerate. Capital Economics forecast in March that home sales would drop 35% in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. The Case-Shiller 10-city index gained 2.6% over the year ended in January, up from a 2.3% annual change in December. The 20-city index gained 3.1%, after an annual gain of 2.8% in December. Prices rose in all 20 cities. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected the 20-city index to gain 3.2%. Phoenix had the fastest home-price growth in the country, at 6.9%. Seattle, Tampa and Seattle all posted the second-fastest price growth, at 5.1% each. A separate measure of home price growth by the Federal Housing Finance Agency released last week found a 5.2% increase in home prices in January from a year earlier.

Case-Shiller: National House Price Index increased 3.9% year-over-year in January - S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for January ("January" is a 3 month average of November, December and January prices).This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the monthly National index. Note: Case-Shiller reports Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA), I use the SA data for the graphs. From S&P: S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index Shows Continued Growth In Annual Home Price Gains To Start 2020 The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 3.9% annual gain in January, up from 3.7% in the previous month. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 2.6%, up from 2.3% in the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a 3.1% year-over-year gain, up from 2.8% in the previous month.Phoenix, Seattle and Tampa reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities. In January, Phoenix led the way with a 6.9% year-over-year price increase, followed by 5.1% increases in Seattle and Tampa. Fourteen of the 20 cities reported higher price increases in the year ending January 2020 versus the year ending December 2019.The National Index and 20-City Composite were flat month-over-month, while the 10-City Composite posted a 0.1% decrease before seasonal adjustment in January. After seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month increase of 0.5%, while the 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted 0.3% increases. In January, 10 of 20 cities reported increases before seasonal adjustment while 18 of 20 cities reported increases after seasonal adjustment. “It is important to bear in mind that today’s report covers real estate transactions closed during the month of January. The COVID-19 pandemic did not begin to take hold in the U.S. until late February, and thus whatever impact it will have on housing prices is not reflected in today’s data.”  The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10, Composite 20 and National indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000). The Composite 10 index is up 2.9% from the bubble peak, and up 0.3% in January (SA) from December.The Composite 20 index is 6.8% above the bubble peak, and up 0.3% (SA) in January.The National index is 16% above the bubble peak (SA), and up 0.5% (SA) in January.  The National index is up 57% from the post-bubble low set in December 2011 (SA). The second graph shows the Year over year change in all three indices.The Composite 10 SA is up 2.5% compared to January 2019.  The Composite 20 SA is up 3.1% year-over-year.The National index SA is up 3.9% year-over-year.Note: According to the data, prices increased in 18 of 20 cities month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

NAR: "Pending Home Sales Increase 2.4% in February" - From the NAR: Pending Home Sales Increase 2.4% in February Pending home sales rose in February, climbing for the second consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major regions saw an increase in month-over-month contract activity, as well as growth in year-over-year pending home sales transactions compared to one year ago. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings,grew 2.4% to 111.5 in February. Year-over-year contract signings increased 9.4%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.... The Northeast PHSI rose 2.8% to 96.3 in February, 5.9% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 4.5% to 110.1 last month, 14.9% higher than in February 2019.
Pending home sales in the South inched up 0.1% to an index of 129.2 in February, a 7.1% increase from February 2019. The index in the West grew 4.6% in February 2020 to 97.1, a jump of 10.8% from a year ago.
This was well above expectations for this index. Note: Contract signings usually lead sales by about 45 to 60 days, so this would usually be for closed sales in March and April. Some of these sales will be cancelled or delayed due to COVID-19.

Construction Spending Decreased in February - From the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending increased in February: Construction spending during February 2020 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,366.7 billion, 1.3 percent below the revised January estimate of $1,384.5 billion. The February figure is 6.0 percent above the February 2019 estimate of $1,289.0 billion. Both private and public spending decreased:Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,025.8 billion, 1.2 percent below the revised January estimate of $1,038.5 billion. ... In February, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $340.9 billion, 1.5 percent below the revised January estimate of $345.9 billion. This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted. Private residential spending had been increasing - but turned down in the 2nd half of 2018. It started increasing again, but will slow due to the pandemic. Residential spending is 17% below the previous peak. Non-residential spending is 11% above the previous peak in January 2008 (nominal dollars). Public construction spending is 5% above the previous peak in March 2009, and 30% above the austerity low in February 2014. Year-over-year Construction SpendingThe second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is up 11.3%. Non-residential spending is down slightly year-over-year. Public spending is up 7.4% year-over-year. This was well below consensus expectations of a 0.6% increase in spending, however construction spending for December and January were revised up. Construction spending will decline due to COVID-19, although construction is considered an essential service in most areas.

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Declined 67% Year-over-year to All Time Record Low - From STR: US hotel results for week ending 28 March Reflecting the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. hotel industry reported significant year-over-year declines in the three key performance metrics during the week of 22-28 March 2020, according to data from STR. In comparison with the week of 24-30 March 2019, the industry recorded the following:
• Occupancy: -67.5% to 22.6%
• Average daily rate (ADR): -39.4% to US$79.92
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): -80.3% to US$18.05
“Year-over-year declines of this magnitude will unfortunately be the ‘new normal’ until the number of new COVID-19 cases slows significantly,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior VP of lodging insights. “Occupancy continues to fall to unprecedented lows, with more than 75% of rooms empty around the nation last week. As projected in our U.S. forecast revision, 2020 will be the worst year on record for occupancy. We do, however, expect the industry to begin to recover once the economy reignites and travel resumes.”
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average. The red line is for 2020, dash light blue is 2019, blue is the median, and black is for 2009 (the worst year probably since the Great Depression for hotels).2020 was off to a solid start, however, COVID-19 has crushed hotel occupancy. This is the lowest weekly occupancy on record, even considering seasonality.  Note the graph is a 4-week average.

 Half of Small Businesses Haven’t Paid Full April Rent, Early Poll Suggests – WSJ - About half of U.S. small businesses haven’t paid their full rent or mortgage yet this month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey suggests. In the poll, conducted on Thursday and Friday by Alignable, a small business social networking company, about 30% of the more than 1,000 respondents reported making no rent or mortgage payment in April, while 20% said they had made only a partial payment. The remaining half reported paying their entire rent on time. Only a quarter of respondents said their landlord or bank offered a reduction or deferral on what they owed. The survey was of companies with up to 50 employees, including retail, restaurant, auto-repair and other small businesses. The preliminary findings illustrate the crisis affecting small businesses and how their troubles could set off a financial chain reaction that could inflict heavy damage on landlords and lenders across the U.S. “I think this shows the time-sensitive need for the policy response to get liquidity in the hands of small businesses,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan. “Half of all small businesses have only 15 days or less worth of cash buffers, and with shelter-in-place orders likely to persist they will need to replace lost revenue in a hurry.”

Consumer Confidence "Declined Sharply in March - "The headline number of 120.0 was a decrease from the final reading of 132.6 for February. Today's number was above consensus of 110.0. “Consumer confidence declined sharply in March due to a deterioration in the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of E- conomic Indicators at The Conference Board. “The Present Situation Index remained relatively strong, reflective of an economy that was on solid footing, and prior to the recent surge in unemployment claims. However, the intensification of COVID-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs. March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow.” Read more The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end, we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference.

Fitch Downgrades 9 Retailers In One Day, Including Macy's, Nordstrom And J.C. Penney - Ratings agency Fitch has downgraded 11 consumer and retail companies because of the financial disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  On Wednesday alone, Fitch downgraded credit ratings for nine retailers, according to emailed client notes. Among them were J.C. Penney, Macy's, Nordstrom, Kohl's, Dillard's, Capri, Tapestry, Levi's and Signet.As COVID-19 rips through the country, retailers have shuttered stores, furloughed employees, dipped into their credit lines and made other painful decisions about what costs to pay. As though the halt to physical sales wasn't difficult enough, across the economy layoffs have surged into the millions and some economists say that the U.S. has already entered a recession.  Many of the department stores downgraded Thursday by Fitch had struggled to maintain or grow sales even in a booming economy. Now they are trying to manage their operations through an unprecedented market shock. In modeling for the retailers, Fitch analysts assumed discretionary retailers would stay closed through mid-May as the country tries to slow COVID-19's spread. Revenue could fall up to 90% for those retailers, even if some sales shift online. Even by 2021, sales for some retailers could down double digits, according to Fitch. Morgan Stanley analysts said this week that apparel retailers they cover have not signaled any material e-commerce sales growth to offset the collapse of store revenue. Moreover, they found retailers were discounting products online to drive traffic to their sites, which is likely to eat into their margins.As retailers manage the closures, the key to survival is cash. Cowen analysts found that department stores, as a group, have enough cash to stay afloat for five to eight months. Some, like Macy's, have even less.  And even once stores re-open, retailers face an uncertain selling environment. Will consumers feel safe returning to stores? Will the economy support discretionary spending? For now, nobody can answer these questions with certainty.

Walmart to limit number of customers, creates in-store social distancing measures -- Walmart announced on Friday that it would begin implementing new social distancing measures this weekend as it seeks to protect shoppers and employees from the spread of coronavirus. Starting Saturday, April 4, the major retailer will begin limiting customers allowed into its store to no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet of store space. Customers will then be admitted on a "1-out-1-in" basis when the store is full. "While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people," Walmart's Executive Vice President and COO Dacona Smith said in a press release. "We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines." Walmart said that other measures are being taken inside the store to encourage social distancing. One of those measures is the creation of one-way aisles, which will be guided through arrows on the floor. "We expect this to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop," the press release reads. "We’ll continue to put signage inside our stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing – especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other." Walmart said it has already taken actions to expand paid leave, increase the frequency of cleaning within stores and install sneeze guards. Gloves and masks are also being made available to employees.

Pandemic Widens Divide Between Online, Traditional Businesses - The new coronavirus pandemic is deepening a national digital divide, amplifying gains for businesses that cater to customers online, while businesses reliant on more traditional models fight for survival. The process is accelerating shifts already underway in parts of the U.S. economy in ways that could last long after the health crisis has passed, some analysts say. “What we’re in right now is a sudden and extreme version of what had been a much longer, slower-moving trend,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed. Many bricks-and-mortar retailers, which had seen falling foot traffic for years due to online competition, have now shuttered their stores while online merchants watch sales boom. And sectors that had long resisted the move online are now joining in: Doctors and therapists offer telemedicine appointments while their offices sit nearly empty; yoga studios and other fitness providers are offering remote sessions; schools and universities have moved classes online. The news media is also seeing a longtime trend gain momentum. While the coronavirus pandemic is driving reader traffic to news sites, the crisis is delivering a punishing blow to already-struggling local publishers hit by declining advertising revenue. The transition is also driving labor force upheaval, with those who can work online still drawing paychecks while workers who depend on face-to-face contact suffer. A record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 21 as widening swaths of American commerce were shut down, and economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predict data out Thursday will show 3.1 million more filed claims in the week ended March 28. The big question, economists say, is whether the changes created by this sudden, forced experiment will prove permanent after the coronavirus pandemic eases. If so, that could transform the U.S. economy and open the way to new types of businesses and providers. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the retail industry, one of the largest employment sectors in the country, with 15.7 million workers in February. As state and local authorities have ordered nonessential businesses to close to stem the spread of the virus, bricks-and-mortar stores are reeling and online sellers are accelerating their dominance. Macy’s Inc., Gap Inc. and other retailers will furlough tens of thousands of employees beginning this week. Meantime, Walmart Inc., Inc. and CVS Health Corp. are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks—many of them in delivery and online fulfillment positions—to manage a shopping surge sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. As shoppers stayed away from stores, U.S. e-commerce sales rose 24% from March 1-17, compared to the same period a year ago, according to Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks electronic receipts. General-merchandise retailers have seen major increases, with, Target Corp. and Walmart all growing share as people stock up on household mainstays.

3% of restaurants have already closed permanently, NRA survey finds - Three percent of restaurants have already permanently closed due to the coronavirus crisis, according to research from the National Restaurant Association. Forty-four percent of operators have temporarily closed their restaurants, and 11% anticipate they will permanently close within 30 days.   Restaurant sales dropped 47% across the U.S. from March 1 to March 22, and 54% of operators now offer off-premise services only, according to an NRA survey of more than 4,000 restaurant operators.  Seventy percent of restaurants surveyed have had to lay off employees and reduce workers' hours, and about half of restaurants expect further layoffs and hourly reductions in the next 30 days. More than 60% of restaurants have had to reduce their operating hours. The association's research spotlights just how gutting the coronavirus crisis has been for the restaurant industry — and many market experts worry the damage done so far is just the tip of the iceberg. "This is uncharted territory," Hudson Riehle, NRA SVP of research, said in a statement. "The industry has never experienced anything like this before."Eighty-eight percent of restaurant operators also reported that total sales volumes between March 1 and March 22 this year was lower than it was during the year-ago period, per NRA research.The NRA requested more than $400 billion in financial relief, loans and insurance options for the industry from the government. On Wednesday, the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package that included $350 billion in small business loans, $500 billion in loans for distressed companies and $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits. This safety net could help some restaurant operators keep their heads above water, but the question is, for how long?And even though these loans will also offer forgivable debt if small- and medium-sized businesses continue to pay their employees, the stimulus package doesn't address the NRA's request of $100 billion in business interruption insurance.  Major restaurant chains have already suffered fatal blows to their businesses in just a few weeks time. Punch Bowl Social, the growing eatertainment chain looking to expand into hotels and cruises, now faces foreclosure. The Cheesecake Factory has furloughed 41,000 employees,CraftWorks has closed all of its restaurants and Union Square Hospitality Group has laid of 80% of its employees. If deep-pocketed brands with strong operations and decades of experience are folding under coronavirus pressure, the future is especially grim for independent restaurants — especially with Moody's predicting restaurant sales could slip 20% over the next 12 months.

 Transportation Dept. warns airlines they must refund passengers on flights canceled over coronavirus - The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a warning to airlines Friday telling them they must refund passengers for flights canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. DOT said it has received an influx of complaints from passengers whose nonrefundable tickets were completely canceled or significantly delayed after airlines saw a sudden drop in passengers as public health officials began issuing travel advisories in March. The notice said DOT will refrain from enforcing the notice so long as airlines make refunds to affected customers in a timely fashion. “Because the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office will exercise its enforcement discretion and provide carriers with an opportunity to become compliant before taking further action,” the warning said. On Tuesday, nine Democratic senators called on domestic airline carriers to provide cash reimbursements for canceled flights, noting “Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities, not temporary credits towards future travel." Officials noted that airlines were compliant with such standards during other crises that led to a reduction in air travel, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. However, airlines have repeatedly said that the sudden loss in sales they've seen in the past month is unprecedented. Though airlines were allocated $25 billion in bailouts in the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed last week, Delta said in a Friday memo that “those funds alone are not nearly enough,” adding they project their revenues in the second quarter will drop 90 percent. Most major airlines are expected to get a cut of the $25 billion in federal grants, though the money comes under the condition that they don’t lay off or furlough employees, which some have committed to.

US Auto Sales Plunge To Lowest In A Decade, But The Worst Is Yet To Come In Q2 - As we predicted in a a report we published just days ago, the U.S. auto industry is on the verge of total collapse. Numbers out of major automakers on Wednesday this week confirmed a worst case scenario: that the global pandemic is doing severe (and potentially irreversible) damage to an industry that was in ugly shape even before the coronavirus outbreak began.GM saw sales plunge 7.1% and Fiat saw sales drop 10% for the first quarter of 2020, both larger than expected declines, according to Bloomberg. It's also worth noting that the industry didn't quite grind to a halt until March, and so Q2 numbers could wind up being far worse. Toyota's sales fell 37% in March, with even its best-selling RAV4 dropping 25%. Nissan had the weakest quarterly results, posting a 30% drop in sales for the first three months of the year. More than 25% of Nissan's dealers are being negatively affected by state ordinances limiting sales.  David Kershaw, division vice president of the Nissan brand in North America, said: “We obviously saw quite a big tail-off in business. We’re feeling it in arguably one of our best regions, which is the northeast. They are obviously significantly impacted.”Names like Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai and Mazda all saw drops of over 40% for March. If automakers that report quarterly continue to follow this trend, Q2 numbers may be a sight to behold.The things that were barely holding the industry up to start 2020, namely low rates and modest consumer confidence, don't matter. Businesses are closed, would-be buyers are strapped for cash and the country's economy has simply been turned off.The industry's annualized selling rate has slowed to just 11.4 million, marking its lowest point since April 2010.

 Coronavirus concerns delay restart of Ford's North American production -  (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday it was postponing its plan to restart production at its North America plants due to safety concerns for its workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. To generate cash, the No. 2 U.S. automaker had said last week it was poised to restart production at some plants in North America as early as April 6, bringing back such profitable vehicles as its top-selling F-150 full-sized pickup, the Transit commercial van and SUVs. But on Tuesday, Ford said that although it had been aiming to resume production at several key U.S. plants on April 14, it would now do so at dates to be announced later on. “The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford’s North American operations, said in a statement. Still, the automaker will open a plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during the week of April 20, that will make ventilators to treat patients afflicted by the coronavirus. Michigan, which is home to a large portion of the U.S. automotive industry, has also become a hot spot in the pandemic. Schools and all but essential businesses have been ordered closed through at least April 13 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Galhotra said Ford was working closely with the United Auto Workers union to “develop additional health and safety procedures” to help keep hourly workers healthy.

Ford Is Delaying North American Production Indefinitely - With what are sure to be ugly March sales numbers looming, Ford has now decided it is cancelling plans to re-start production in the U.S. and Mexico over the next two weeks. Citing risks associated with the coronavirus, the automaker has said the the suspension is "indefinite" and has not set a timeline to bring its facilities back online, according to Bloomberg. The company is currently working with the UAW to establish new guidelines for safety procedures before re-opening. The union announced the death of two Ford plant workers on March 28 as a result of the coronavirus. UAW President Rory Gamble said on Tuesday: “Today’s decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation. Would I send my family member -- my own son or daughter -- into that plant and be 100% certain they are safe?”The shutdowns continue to cost Ford billions of dollars. Despite this, there is no rush to re-open as demand will likely be "depressed for months". Meanwhile, Ford's plans to produce ventilators during the week of April 20, in conjunction with GE, remains on schedule.

U.S. factory orders unchanged in February - (Reuters) - New orders for U.S.-made goods were unexpectedly flat in February, and could remain weak as a global coronavirus outbreak strains supply chains and undercuts the manufacturing sector. The Commerce Department said on Thursday the unchanged reading in factory orders followed a 0.5% decline in January. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders would increase 0.2% in February. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported on Wednesday that its index of national factory activity fell to a reading of 49.1 in March from 50.1 in February. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for 11% of the U.S. economy. As well as causing disruptions in supply chains, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down demand, with the transportation industry almost crawling to a halt, and restaurants, bars and other social venues shutting. The government also reported that orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, fell 0.9% in February instead of declining 0.8% as reported last month. Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, decreased 0.8 in February, rather than falling 0.7% as previously reported.

ISM Manufacturing index Decreased to 49.1 in March --The ISM manufacturing index indicated contraction in March.  The PMI was at 49.1% in March, down from 50.1% in February. The employment index was at 43.8%, down from 46.9% last month, and the new orders index was at 42.2%, down from 49.8%. From the Institute for Supply Management: March 2020 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®: “The March PMI® registered 49.1 percent, down 1 percentage point from the February reading of 50.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 42.2 percent, a decrease of 7.6 percentage points from the February reading of 49.8 percent. The Production Index registered 47.7 percent, down 2.6 percentage points compared to the February reading of 50.3 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 45.9 percent, a decrease of 4.4 percentage points compared to the February reading of 50.3 percent. The Employment Index registered 43.8 percent, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points from the February reading of 46.9 percent.

Markit Manufacturing: "Output declines at fastest pace since August 2009..." -  The March US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 48.5, down 2.2 from the 50.7 final February figure. Markit's Manufacturing PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction.  Here is an excerpt from Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit in their latest press release:“The final PMI data for March are even worse than the initial flash estimate, with manufacturing output slumping to the greatest extent since the height of the global financial crisis in 2009. "Growing numbers of company closures and lockdowns as the nation fights the COVID-19 outbreak mean business levels have collapsed. While some producers reported being busier as a result of stockpiling and anti-virus activities, notably in the food and healthcare sectors, these are very much the minority, and most sectors reported a rapid deterioration in demand and production."Orders for capital equipment have deteriorated at a rate not seen since data were first available in 2009 as firms stopped investing in machinery. Companies have meanwhile reined-in spending on inputs and households have pulled back sharply on many forms of spending, especially for non-essential and big ticket items. With export sales also sliding, factories are facing a broad-based slide in demand which is already resulting in the largest job losses recorded since the global financial crisis. Worse is likely to come as consumer spending falls further in coming months as lockdowns intensify and unemployment spikes higher." [Press Release]Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012.

US Manufacturing Slumps To Biggest Contraction Since Financial Crisis - After a bloodbath in European PMIs (and a 'surprise' surge back to growth in China), and following some serious collapses in regional Fed surveys (and this morning's tumble in Canadian PMIs), today's US manufacturing survey data was expected to slide further into contraction (though not as much as the Services surveys collapsed).

  • Markit's US Manufacturing PMI fell modestly from 49.2 to 48.5 in March (modestly better than the 48.0 flash print) - a considerably smaller drop than many expected.
  • ISM's US Manufacturing survey fell modestly from 50.1 to 49.1 in March (far better than the 44.5 print expected)

Charts Source: Bloomberg  This move follows the carnage seen in US Services PMI and shows very little relative declines (perhaps the survey was premature)... Once again, the driver of this relatively positive print is the same as has caused problems with surveys since the crisis began - supplier delivery times rising at the fastest pace since 2005 - typically seen as a sign of expansion.

Dallas Fed: "Texas Manufacturing Activity Contracts Suddenly, Outlook Worsens", Record Low Activity Index -  From the Dallas Fed: Texas Manufacturing Expansion Continues Texas factory activity declined sharply in March, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, plummeted from 16.4 to -35.3, suggesting a notable contraction in output since last month. Other measures of manufacturing activity also point to a sudden decline in March. The new orders index dropped to -41.3, its lowest reading since March 2009 during the Great Recession. Similarly, the growth rate of orders index fell to -44.9. The capacity utilization and shipments indexes fell to -33.4 and -33.8, respectively, also the lowest readings since the Great Recession. Capital expenditures declined sharply, with the index dropping from 6.9 to -34.3. Perceptions of broader business conditions turned quite pessimistic in March. The general business activity index plunged from 1.2 to -70.0, and the company outlook index fell from 3.6 to -65.6. Both March readings are the lowest since the survey began in June 2004. The index measuring uncertainty regarding companies’ outlooks surged from 11.0 to 62.6. Labor market measures indicate employment declines and shorter workweeks this month. The employment index fell to -23.0 from its near-zero reading in February. This was the last of the regional Fed surveys for March. Here is a graph comparing the regional Fed surveys and the ISM manufacturing index:  The New York and Philly Fed surveys are averaged together (yellow, through March), and five Fed surveys are averaged (blue, through March) including New York, Philly, Richmond, Dallas and Kansas City. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) PMI (red) is through February (right axis).

Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey Crashes To Lowest Level Ever- In a stunning miss to expectations, March's Dallas Fed Manufacturing Outlook survey crashed like never before (from +1.2 in February to -70.0 - massively below the -10.0 expectation).  Source: Bloomberg.  As you can see, this is the weakest level ever and the most aggressive collapse ever. As one trader mocked when the data hit, " that a bad print?"The measures production and new orders both were lowest since 2009.The figures are consistent with severe declines in other regional gauges as unprecedented shutdowns freeze large parts of the industrial economy. Regional Fed bank measures of manufacturing in New York, the Philadelphia area, and Kansas City district all showed record monthly declines.

Chicago PMI: Drop in March --The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index, is similar to the national ISM Manufacturing indicator but at a regional level and is seen by many as an indicator of the larger US economy. It is a composite diffusion indicator, made up of production, new orders, order backlogs, employment, and supplier deliveries compiled through surveys. Values above 50.0 indicate expanding manufacturing activity.The latest Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index, or the Chicago Business Barometer, fell to 47.8 in March from 49.0 in February, which is in contraction territory. Values above 50.0 indicate expanding manufacturing activity.Here is an excerpt from the press release:The Chicago Business BarometerTM, produced with MNI, declined by 1.1 points in March, marking a ninth consecutive sub-50 reading. However, business sentiment rose marginally by 0.2 points to 46.6 in Q1. [Source] Let's take a look at the Chicago PMI since its inception.

Instead Of Firing Everyone, Boeing Offers Voluntary Buyouts To Its Entire Workforce Of 161,000When Boeing requested a $60 billion bailout from the US government a few weeks ago, the implicit assumption was that the company may get some of this funding as long as the chronic stock repurchaser did not engage in layoffs. That, however, did not stop the brilliant financial alchemists at the aerospace giant who for the past 7 years turned debt lead into buyback gold, and instead of issuing a record amount of pink slips, Boeing generously offered voluntary buyouts to its entire staff of 161,000, in a bid to shed costs and adapt the massive manufacturer to a coronavirus crisis that could depress the aircraft market for years. “When the world emerges from the pandemic, the size of the commercial market and the types of products and services our customers want and need will likely be different,” Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun said in a message to employees Thursday. “It’s important we start adjusting to our new reality now.” According to Bloomberg which first reported about the offer, the buyout is being present companywide to all eligible employees of the Chicago-based company. Boeing will provide information on the terms within four weeks. “This move aims to reduce the need for other workforce actions,” Calhoun said. The move from the company which hopes to receive tens of billions whether or not it still employes workers or not, should preserve much-needed cash at Boeing, which is facing a sharp contraction in demand along with its European nemesis Airbus. About 44% of aircraft across the globe are in storage due to the coronavirus lockdown according to an estimate by Cirium, and with virus cases approaching 1 million worldwide, there’s no telling when carriers will return to normal schedules, no less buying planes.

GE Aviation Lays Off 50% Of Engine Manufacturing Staff - Unlike Boeing, which offered all of its 160,000 employees "voluntary buyouts" just so it can still keep its bailout option alive which would certainly be snuffed if the company were to announce mass layoffs, General Electric has no such qualms and moments ago the company told CNBC that it is planning to furlough half of its aviation unit’s engine-manufacturing staff as the coronavirus roils the industry.“Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on the commercial aviation industry, GE Aviation is implementing a temporary reduction in commercial engine assembly and some component manufacturing operations for up to four weeks,” a GE spokesperson said. “We appreciate the commitment of all our employees during this difficult time, and we regret having to take this action. We will continue to deliver for our customers and preserve our capability to respond when the industry recovers.”  The move will involve thousands of jobs in the key unit - which has seen a total collapse in demand as a result of the shuttering of virtually all flight - and last for four weeks. The additional reductions come less than a month after the company said it would cut 10% of its aviation unit, affecting roughly 2,600 workers. But as the coronavirus’ devastating toll on travel demand has increased, airlines are parking hundreds of planes while deferring orders of new aircraft.

Toilet Paper Producers Roll'ing In The Dough --Because not only food, but – most importantly – toilet paper is being stockpiled during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, producers of precious TP are on a roll. Sales of toilet paper in the U.S. rose by an estimated 60 percent in March compared to the same month last year. As Statista's Katharina Buchholz notes, the increase was more than double that in Italy, which was hit by the outbreak earlier than the U.S. There, revenues generated with bathroom tissue rose by 140 percent.The Statista Consumer Market Outlook compared data and calculated estimates for 16 countries to show that revenues had risen most in Italy, followed by Vietnam and Australia. In other countries hit hard by the virus, for example Spain and France, the sale of toilet paper rose by 82 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The toilet paper shortage is more complicated than you think - There was a time before the coronavirus pandemic when toilet paper was plentiful. Not anymore. Empty or sparsely stocked grocery store shelves are the new normal, and shoppers are left wondering: Where did all the toilet paper go? And when will it be widely available again? Toilet paper has become the definitive pandemic product that Americans thought to stock up on; not only is it a basic necessity, it’s relatively cheap to buy in bulk and will certainly be used at a later date. For the average customer, it’s much easier to assume that the lack of 4-packs at stores lies with some neighborhood panic-buyer who got their hands on multiple TP rolls before everyone else. Yet, the ongoing shortage isn’t entirely the result of hoarding. There are major problems in the supply chain: Demand is way up, and suppliers have experienced serious disruptions. This isn’t just true for toilet paper. As Hilary George-Parkin previously reported for The Goods, “the coronavirus outbreak has created an unlucky confluence of spiking demand and widespread supplier delays” since the crisis isn’t contained in a single state or country. To put it simply, many American companies are heavily reliant on overseas suppliers, primarily from China, for raw materials or finished products. Any delay overseas can create a domino effect in terms of product availability. For toilet paper suppliers like Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific, that means significantly ramping up the speed at which business is done. A Kimberly-Clark representative said the supplier has “plans in place to address the increased demand for our products to the extent possible, including accelerating production and reallocating inventory to help meet these needs.” In a statement on its website, Georgia-Pacific, a major toilet paper supplier based in Atlanta, admitted that “the timing is uncertain” as to when store shelves will be fully restocked with TP. “We are working hard to maximize the number of deliveries we can load and ship out of our facilities; you can just load and unload so fast,” a spokesperson told The Goods, adding that the company’s mills and distribution centers have increased 20 percent from normal capacity. “We are also working with customers to have direct shipments when possible to reduce distribution time.”

U.S. Service-Sector Index Suffers Record Decline – WSJ - The U.S. services sector suffered a record fall in activity in March amid efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus—and analysts warned that subsequent months could show further declines. Private data firm IHS Markit said on Friday its U.S. services index—a survey-based measure of activity in industries such as communications, finance and transportation—saw its steepest one-month decline since the survey began a decade ago. The index fell to a seasonally adjusted 39.8 in March, down from 49.4 in February. The survey data was collected between March 12 and March 27, before some state-lockdown orders were in place. Data in the coming months could be worse, said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. “With more measures to fight the virus outbreak being taken, this decline will likely be eclipsed by what we see in the second quarter,” he said. “More nonessential businesses are being forced to close, some are going bust, and lockdowns are leading to vastly reduced consumer spending.” A separate index released by the Institute for Supply Management showed several measures of service-sector activity slowed sharply in March. The index for business activity slowed to 48 from 57.8 in February, the lowest reading since July 2009. And the index for employment in the services sector for to 47 from 55.6 in February. A reading below 50 indicates a decline in activity in both indexes. The overall service sector index, however, showed continued growth, at 52.5 in March, slowing from 57.3 in February. But that figure largely reflects the unusual situation around an index for supplier deliveries. In normal times, when businesses are having a hard time getting supplies, it reflects strong demand, which pushes an index of supplier deliveries into positive territory. Now, with supply chains disrupted by the virus and consumers hoarding goods, that index is rising, even though it doesn’t reflect consumer strength. In March, the supplier delivery index rose to 62.1 from 52.4 in February, which helped pull the overall index into positive territory. “Because of the anomaly of what’s going on in the world, this is not something that’s typical in economic activity,”

U.S. weekly jobless claims blow past six million as coronavirus lockdowns spread - (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot to a record high of more than 6 million last week as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which economists say has pushed the economy into recession. Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, reinforced economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March. With a majority of Americans now under some form of lockdown, claims are expected to rise further. Economists said worsening job losses underscored the need for additional fiscal and monetary stimulus. President Donald Trump last week signed a historic $2.3 trillion package, with provisions for companies and unemployed workers. The Federal Reserve has also undertaken extraordinary measures to help companies weather the highly contagious virus, which has brought the country to a halt. “These data underscore the magnitude of the stop-work order that has been imposed on the economy,” said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York. “The scale of the increase should also focus policymakers on getting the cash into the economy with possibly a fourth fiscal package and additional Fed lending programs.”

’No words for this’: 10 million workers file jobless claims in just two weeks - Unemployment claims soared to a record-smashing 6.6 million last week, the Labor Department reported, more than double the previous week, signaling more economic pain from the coronavirus pandemic. The rush to claim unemployment benefits occurred as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus rose above 200,000 and government measures to contain the epidemic shut down increasing swaths of the U.S. economy, with residents in 37 states now ordered to stay at home. The total job losses in just two weeks — almost 10 million Americans — amounts to a staggering, sudden blow to American workers never seen before in the U.S. economy. The labor market in the coming weeks could blow past the 15 million jobs lost at the peak of the 18-month Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. An official U.S. jobless rate that sat at 3.5% in February is poised to top 10% in April alone, eclipsing the peak of the last recession.“In one line: No words for this,” Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson wrote in reaction to the numbers.“What we are going through now dwarfs anything we’ve ever seen, including the worst weeks of the great recession,” tweeted Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it.”The new figure, which represents unemployment claims filed the week that ended March 28, marks the largest number of weekly claims ever recorded since the government began collecting such data in 1967. The second-highest number of claims were the 3.3 million filed the week before, and the third-highest about 700,000 claims filed one week in 1982. The new unemployment claims figure was seasonally adjusted, but the raw numerical increase was still a record-breaking 5.8 million claims.  Reports from state unemployment offices, which are still struggling to meet the high volume of requests for unemployment benefits, continue to suggest DOL's weekly claims figure significantly understates the real number of Americans seeking help.

ADP: Private Employment decreased 27,000 in March -- From ADP: ADP National Employment Report: Private Sector Employment Decreased by 27,000 Jobs in March; the March NER Utilizes Data Through March 12 and Does Not Reflect the Full Impact of COVID-19 on the Overall Employment Situation Private sector employment decreased by 27,000 jobs from February to March according to the March ADP National Employment Report®. ... The report utilizes data through the 12th of the month. The NER uses the same time period the Bureau of Labor and Statistics uses for their survey. As such, the March NER does not reflect the full impact of COVID-19 on the overall employment situation... “It is important to note that the ADP National Employment Report is based on the total number of payroll records for employees who were active on a company’s payroll through the 12th of the month. This is the same time period the Bureau of Labor and Statistics uses for their survey,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “As such, the March NER does not fully reflect the most recent impact of COVID-19 on the employment situation, including unemployment claims reported on March 26, 2020.”This was above the consensus forecast for 154,000 private sector jobs lost in the ADP report (the job losses will be in the April report due to timing).

US companies cut 27,000 jobs before the worst of the coronavirus shutdown, millions more coming, ADP says - Companies reduced payrolls by 27,000 in early March before the worst of the coronavirus-induced economic freeze, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics. Actual losses for the month were far worse as indicated by the millions of people who already have filed unemployment claims. Wednesday’s report covers the period through March 12. It was the first time the private payroll count had contracted in 10 years, and total job losses probably will total 10 million to 15 million, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s. “It’s been 10 straight years of consistent, solid job growth, and the virus has put an end to that,” Zandi said on a media conference call. “Much bigger job losses are coming,” he added. Just 6% of companies indicated they are hiring, a level worse than during the financial crisis and comparable to about 40% for a typical month, Zandi said. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had forecast a loss of 125,000 jobs. However, the March ADP count as well as Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report cover periods before the government instituted social distancing measures that have shut down large parts of the U.S. economy. The March ADP number comes after a February gain of 179,000, revised lower from the initially reported 183,000. The only employment numbers that are measuring the coronavirus impact in somewhat real time are the weekly initial jobless claims counts. Last week, first-time claims numbered nearly 3.3 million and are expected to show another 3.1 million when that number comes out Thursday. The ADP count does show, however, that companies already were beginning to cut in a labor market that had been roaring. Small businesses accounted for all of the reductions, slicing 90,000 from payrolls, with 66,000 of those reductions coming from companies that employ 25 people or less. Medium-sized businesses, with between 50 and 499 employees, added 7,000 while big companies hired 56,000. The biggest job reductions came from trade, transportation and utilities (-37,000), followed by construction (-16,000) and administrative and support services (-12,000). Professional and technical services added 11,000 positions while manufacturing rose by 6,000. In broad terms, service-related industries saw losses of 18,000 while goods producers dropped 9,000.

A Closer Look at Today's ADP Employment Report - In this morning's ADP employment report we got the March estimate of 27K nonfarm private employment jobs lost from ADP, a decrease over February's revised 183K. The popular spin on this indicator is as a preview to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here is a snapshot of the monthly change in the ADP headline number since the company's earliest published data in April 2002. This is quite a volatile series, so we've plotted the monthly data points as dots along with a six-month moving average, which gives us a clearer sense of the trend. As we see in the chart above, the trend peaked 20 months before the last recession and went negative around the time that the NBER subsequently declared as the recession start. ADP also gives us a breakdown of Total Nonfarm Private Employment into two categories: Goods Producing and Services. Here is the same chart style illustrating the two. The US is predominantly a services economy, so it comes as no surprise that Services employment has shown stronger jobs growth. The trend in Goods Producing jobs went negative over a year before the last recession. For a sense of the relative size of Services over Goods Producing employment, the next chart shows the percentage of Services Jobs across the entire series. The latest data point is below the record high. There are a number of factors behind this trend. In addition to our increasing dependence of Services, Goods Production employment continues to be impacted by automation and offshoring. For a better sense of the components of the two Goods Producing and Service Providing cohorts, here is a snapshot of the five select industries tracked by ADP. The two things to note here are the relative sizes of the industries and the relative trends. Note that Construction and Manufacturing are Production industries whereas the other three are Service Providing. Another view of the relative trends of the five select industries is an overlay of the year-over-year comparison. For a longer-term perspective on the Goods Producing and Service Providing employment, see our monthly analysis, Secular Trends in Employment: Goods Producing Versus Services Providing, which is based on data from the Department of Labor's monthly jobs report reaching back to 1939.

U.S. Employers Cut 701,000 Jobs in March – WSJ - U.S. employers shed more jobs in March than in any month since the darkest days of the 2007-09 recession—the start of a much deeper labor-market collapse under way due to the coronavirus pandemic. Payrolls decreased by 701,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday, as efforts to contain the virus disrupted the U.S. economy. Job losses were widespread—from corner restaurants to manufacturing plants to international tourism—inflicting damage to the labor market that economists say dwarfs the most significant economic downturns of the post-World War II era. The payrolls decline was the largest monthly decline since March 2009, the worst month for job losses during the last recession.The unemployment rate for March rose to 4.4% from 3.5% in February, the largest one-month increase in the rate since January 1975. Stock markets fell as investors took in the jobs-market disruption caused by the virus. If shutdowns continue, the April jobs report, due out May 8, could show the largest ever one-month decline in the labor market. In March, more than half of the jobs lost, 417,000, were at restaurants and bars, among the first businesses to close because of efforts to contain the pandemic. The amount offset all the jobs added in the sector over the past two years. Hotels and other tourism and hospitality businesses—industries also hit early in the crisis—cut 42,000 jobs. Air-transportation jobs rose very slightly. In early March, airlines sought to avoid job cuts and instead asked employees to take voluntary leave. Retailers cut 46,000 jobs, including at clothing, furniture and general-merchandise stores. There are signs job loss is spreading across the economy. Health-care employment declined by 43,000, with jobs lost at dentists and physicians offices; and 19,000 day-care jobs were cut. Employment in temporary-help services fell by 50,000. Manufacturing employment was down 18,000. Employment in construction decreased by 29,000. Due to the timing of surveys, Friday’s figures don’t fully reveal the millions of unemployment-insurance claims individuals filed in the last two weeks of March. Jobs lost in recent weeks and additional expected losses this spring could push the U.S. unemployment rate to record highs. Forecasting firm Oxford Economics projects that by May, the U.S. will have lost 27.9 million jobs and have a 16% unemployment rate, erasing all the jobs gained since 2010 during the record-setting 113-month stretch, which ended in March. That job loss would be more than double the 8.7 million positions cut from payrolls during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath. And those jobs were lost over 25 months. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that the unemployment rate would exceed 10% in the second quarter. The highest monthly unemployment rate on record, going back to 1948, is 10.8%, set in late 1982 during the deep recession under President Reagan.

March Jobs Disaster- 701,000 Jobs Lost, Unemployment Rate Soars Most In 45 Years As US Slides Into Depression - Just like that the 113 record straight months of employment growth is over with a bang.  While today's payrolls report was expected to be not quite as terrible as the recent initial claims suggested, especially since the March survey week took place around March 13 or ahead of the big shutdown and layoff announcements, it ended up being catastrophic nonetheless, with the BLS reporting moments ago that a whopping 701K jobs were lost in March, 7x more than the 100K expected, and just shy of the worst payrolls prints recorded during the financial crisis. That this happened well before the worst of the cronavirus induced coma hit, suggests that what comes next will be truly biblical.   Not like it matters, but there were also revisions: the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised down by 59,000 from +273,000 to +214,000, and the change for February was revised up by 2,000 from +273,000 to +275,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 57,000 lower than previously reported.Private sector jobs dropped by 713K (vs Exp. 163K), with almost all the drop the result of a record collapse in service-providing jobs. And of all service jobs, leisure and hospitality were hardest hit: The unemployment rate soared from 3.5% to 4.3%, led by a record surge in Hispanic unemployment. In March, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent. This is the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975, when the increase was also 0.9 percentage point. The number of unemployed persons rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March. The sharp increases in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it.  The participation rate plunged from a 7-year-high to tie the lowest level in 5 years.While hardly relevant at a time when the US economy slides into depression, the average hourly earnings actually rose as most of the jobs lost were low paying; that and a favorable base-effect helped push the average hourly earnings by 0.4% sequentially and 3.1% on an annual basis. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 11 cents to $28.62. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 10 cents to $24.07 in March.The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls fell by 0.2 hour to 34.2 hours in March. The decline in the average workweek was most pronounced in leisure and hospitality, where average weekly hours dropped by 1.4 hours. In manufacturing, the workweek declined by 0.3 hour to 40.4 hours, and overtime declined by 0.2 hour to 3.0 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.3 hour to 33.4 hours. Finally, a look at the various job sectors:

  • March, employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000. Most of the decline occurred in food services and drinking places (-417,000); this employment decline nearly offset gains over the previous 2 years. Employment in the accommodation industry also declined in March (-29,000).
  • Employment in health care and social assistance fell by 61,000 in March. Health care employment declined by 43,000, with job losses in offices of dentists (-17,000), offices of physicians (-12,000), and offices of other health care practitioners (-7,000). Over the prior 12 months, health care employment had grown by 374,000. In March, social assistance saw an employment decline of 19,000, reflecting a job loss in child day care services (-19,000). Over the prior 12 months, social assistance added 193,000 jobs.
  • Employment in professional and business services decreased by 52,000 in March, with the decline concentrated in temporary help services (-50,000). Employment also decreased in travel arrangement and reservation services (-7,000).In March, employment in retail trade declined by 46,000. Job losses occurred in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-16,000); furniture stores (-10,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000). General merchandise stores gained 10,000 jobs.
  • Employment decreased over the month in construction (-29,000). In March, nonresidential building (-11,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-10,000) lost jobs. Construction employment had increased by 211,000 over the prior 12 months.
  • Employment in the other services industry declined by 24,000 in March, with about half of the loss occurring in personal and laundry services (-13,000). Over the prior 12 months, other services had added 89,000 jobs.
  • Mining lost 6,000 jobs in March, with much of the decline occurring in support activities for mining (-5,000). Since a recent peak in January 2019, mining employment has declined by 42,000.
  • In March, manufacturing employment edged down (-18,000). Over the past 12 months, employment in the industry has shown little net change.
  • Federal government employment rose by 18,000 in March, reflecting the hiring of 17,000 workers for the 2020 Census.
  • Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, changed little over the month.

And now we brace for April, when the really ugly number will be revealed, and when according to some, the US economy may lose as many as 10 million jobs.

March jobs report: the leading edge of the catastrophe - HEADLINES:

  • -701,000 jobs lost
  • U3 unemployment rate up 0.9% to 4.4%
  • U6 underemployment rate rose 1.7% to 8.7%
  • January was revised downward, while February was revised slightly upward, but the net was a decline of -57,000 jobs from previous reports.
  • the average manufacturing workweek fell -0.3 hours to 40.4 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI and will be a big negative.
  • Manufacturing jobs fell by -18,000. Manufacturing nevertheless gained 12,000 jobs in the past 12 months.
  • Coal: in 2016, Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back mining jobs. But they declined by -600, and an average of -200 jobs/month in the past year vs. the last seven years of Obama's presidency in which an average of -300 jobs were lost each month.
  • construction jobs fell by -29,000. In the past 12 months construction jobs still gained 162,000.
  • Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 2200.
  • temporary jobs declined by -49,500. 
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less rose by 1,529,000 from 2,013,000 to 3,542,000. Just last month was a new expansion low.
  • Average Hourly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: rose $.10 from $23.97 to $24.07, and is up +3.4% YoY. This is a deceleration from last fall.
  • the index of aggregate hours worked for non-managerial workers fell by -1.8%
  • the index of aggregate payrolls for non-managerial workers fell by -1.4% 

SUMMARY: This report was generated from data during the week of March 13, when layoffs due to coronavirus were just starting. As a result, not only is it likely that the April report will show a loss in excess of 1,000,000 jobs, it might show a loss in excess of -10,000,000 jobs.All of the leading components but one were down, most of them sharply. Only residential construction remained positive as a reminder of what might have been in store for the rest of the year absent coronavirus.The huge loss in payrolls will not be compensated for by $1200 checks. A big concern going forward will be to watch for any signs of actual wage cuts. Remember that wage deflation was the driver of the vicious 1929-32 cycle.  This an incipient economic catastrophe, and I expect that it will have an enormous impact on the November elections.

Comments on March Employment Report --The March report was much worse than expected (due to uncertainty about the timing of layoffs), but the report is already "stale". The April report will be much worse with job losses in the millions (The April report will show the most job losses ever). The headline number for March was 701 thousand jobs lost, and the previous two months were revised down 57 thousand, combined. The unemployment rate increased to 4.4%. The BLS noted many issues with the employment report this month (see Frequently asked questions: The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on The Employment Situation for March 2020) and it appears the unemployment rate might be a percentage point higher (but that will seem like a small error next month). In March, the year-over-year employment change was 1.504 million jobs including Census hires. The year-over-year change will turn negative next month. During the Great Recession, I posted a graph each month comparing the percentage job losses to previous recessions. This became known as the "scariest job chart". Here is an updated version of the scariest chart. The 2020 Sudden Stop is in Red (just one month) - next month will be stunning. The Great Recession is in blue. What made the 2007 recession so scary, was both the depth and duration of the job losses. The 2020 recession will have the sharpest decline in jobs, but we don't know about the duration of the losses. Duration will depend on the battle against the virus. Average Hourly Earnings Wage growth was at expectations. From the BLS: "In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 11 cents to $28.62. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1 percent." The graph shows the nominal year-over-year change in "Average Hourly Earnings" for all private employees. Nominal wage growth was at 3.1% YoY in March. Since the overall participation rate has declined due to cyclical (recession) and demographic (aging population, younger people staying in school) reasons, here is the employment-population ratio for the key working age group: 25 to 54 years old. In the earlier period the participation rate for this group was trending up as women joined the labor force. Since the early '90s, the participation rate moved more sideways, with a downward drift starting around '00 - and with ups and downs related to the business cycle. The 25 to 54 participation rate decreased in March to 82.6%, and the 25 to 54 employment population ratio decreased to 79.6%. The number of persons working part time for economic reasons increased sharply in March to 5.765 million from 4.318 million in February. These workers are included in the alternate measure of labor underutilization (U-6) that increased to 8.7% in March. This graph shows the number of workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more. According to the BLS, there are 1.164 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job. This was up from 1.102 million in February. Summary: The headline jobs number was well below expectations, and the previous two months were revised down. The headline unemployment rate increased to 4.4%. These are horrible numbers, but the report for April will be much worse.

The March Jobs Report in Charts – WSJ - U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate jumped to 4.4%, its highest level since August 2017, the Labor Department reported Friday. Economists expect more pain to come in April as many workplaces remain closed due to measures aimed at stemming the spread of the new coronavirus. Here are some of the key takeaways from the March report in charts: March’s job losses were concentrated in the hospitality and retail sectors—which include museums, coffee shops, sporting goods stores and automobile dealerships—as more Americans stayed home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rate most cited counts only those who say they are actively looking for work. Broader measures of so-called underemployment, which include discouraged workers who have given up searching for work, rose sharply in March. The broadest measure of underemployment, which also includes part-time workers who would like full-time work, hit a three-year high. The share of the population in the U.S. labor force—those who hold or are actively seeking jobs—dropped sharply in March. The share of the population that works also took a hit after trending upward in recent years. Labor-force participation dropped sharply in March even for so-called prime-aged workers—ages 25 to 54—a group less likely to be out of the labor force due to retirement or education. Economists expect this rate to drop further next month as the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdowns spread. Workers with lower education levels bore the brunt of rising unemployment. Those without a high-school degree saw their unemployment rate jump to 6.8% while college graduates’ unemployment rate rose less, and to just 2.5%, well below the broader rate. Unemployment rates trended up for workers of all races and for both men and women in March. That is a particularly painful setback for groups that had only recently begun to see their rates drop to record lows. Average weekly wages ticked slightly lower—likely because many workers saw their hours cut, which would lower weekly totals. Average hourly wages rose slightly. Economists say wages tend to lag recessions and recoveries, however, so expect the April jobs report to give a bleaker picture of wage developments. The total number of nonfarm payroll jobs was up 1% in March from a year earlier because the one month’s losses were exceeded by the gains over the prior 11 months. Still that gain marked a slowdown from the year-over-year pace in previous months.

Coronavirus Pandemic Deepens Labor Divide Between Online, Offline Workers – WSJ - The severe job losses reported this week provide a split-screen snapshot of a labor force increasingly divided between the can and can-nots—based in part on the ability to work online. The employment report released Friday showed employers slashed 701,000 U.S. jobs last month. About two-thirds of the drop occurred in leisure and hospitality, mainly in food services and drinking places—which includes restaurants and bars. Those who can work remotely—typically in more high-skilled, higher-income jobs such as information and financial activities—saw little change in payrolls last month. Employers in sectors such as computer systems design, management consulting, and scientific research even added jobs in March. The gap mirrors the divergent fortunes of thriving businesses that can easily cater to customers online compared with those struggling because they rely on bricks-and-mortar locations and in-person services, where the coronavirus pandemic appears to have accelerated trends already underway. “Work-from-home and telework are now seen as a privileged activity and for a privileged class,” said Amy Liu, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Roughly a third of American jobs can be done from home, according to a recent University of Chicago study. More than 77% of professional, scientific and technical service jobs can be performed remotely, compared with just 3% of lodging and food services. Among the companies announcing recently they will boost employee compensation are Facebook Inc. and insurer Aflac Inc., both of which have many employees teleworking. Those furloughing staff include hotel giant Marriott International Inc. and food service provider Sysco Corp. Another sector with a relatively low share of jobs that can be performed remotely is retail—including department stores and automobile dealerships—which shed 46,200 jobs in March, according to the report.Friday’s employment report showed the unemployment rate for workers in management, business, and financial operations in March was just 2.2%. That compares with 6.3% for service occupations, 8.3% for construction workers and 7.1% for transportation occupations.

Coronavirus job losses could total 47 million, unemployment rate may hit 32%, Fed estimates - Millions of Americans already have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and the worst of the damage is yet to come, according to a Federal Reserve estimate. Economists at the Fed’s St. Louis district project total employment reductions of 47 million, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to a recent analysis of how bad things could get. The projections are even worse than St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s much-publicized estimate of 30%. They reflect the high nature of at-risk jobs that ultimately could be lost to a government-induced economic freeze aimed at halting the coronavirus spread. “These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper posted last week. There are a couple of important caveats to what Faria-e-Castro calls “back-of-the-envelope” calculations: They don’t account for workers who may drop out of the labor force, thus bringing down the headline unemployment rate, and they do not estimate the impact of recently passed government stimulus, which will extend unemployment benefits and subsidize companies for not cutting staff. However, the jobless picture already looks bleak. A record 3.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims for the week ended March 21. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect another 2.65 million to join them this week. Friday’s nonfarm payrolls count for March is expected to show a decline of just 56,000, but that’s largely due to a statistical distortion because of the sampling period for the count happening before the government implemented social distancing practices. The central part of Faria-e-Castro’s compilations comes from previous Fed research showing 66.8 million workers in “occupations with high risk of layoff.” They are sales, production, food preparation and services. Other research also identified 27.3 million people working in “high contact-intensive” jobs such as barbers and stylists, airline attendants, and food and beverage service. The paper then took an average of those workers and estimated a loss of just over 47 million positions. That would bring the U.S. unemployment rolls to 52.8 million, or more than three times worse than the peak of the Great Recession. The 30% unemployment rate would top the Great Depression peak of 24.9%.

St. Louis Fed says 50 million Americans could be unemployed by July - An estimate by St. Louis Federal Reserve economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro posted last week on the bank’s Web site predicts that 52.81 million Americans will be unemployed by the beginning of July. This would result in an official unemployment rate of 32.1 percent, exceeding the record 24.9 percent jobless rate recorded at the height of the Great Depression.Faria-e-Castro made his forecast by averaging a more pessimistic prognosis (40 percent unemployment) and a more optimistic one (10 percent). The estimate excludes those who give up looking for work and does not calculate the impact of whatever support may be given to small businesses.Meanwhile, as the public health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic grows at an exponential rate, fueled by government delay, indifference and incompetence, and the ruling class’s focus on propping up the financial markets, major corporations in the United States are announcing massive furloughs and wage cuts.

  • * Macy’s, which owns Bloomingdale’s, announced it will furlough the majority of its 125,000 employees this week, citing the collapse of sales. All of the chain’s stores are closed. Its stock is down 68 percent since January.
  • * Gap, which owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, will furlough 80,000 of its 129,000 employees.
  • * Kohl’s will furlough 85,000 of its 120,000 employees.
  • * Landry’s Inc., which owns Del Frisco’s, Golden Nugget Casinos and Bubba Gump Shrimp, will furlough 40,000 of its workers.
  • * The parent-company of shoe giant DSW will furlough 80 percent of its workforce.
  • * Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, is laying off tens of thousands of its 130,000-strong US workforce.
  • * Leaked documents from Delta show that airlines are making plans to reduce all workers’ pay by 20 to 35 percent. Currently, 21,000 Delta workers have been placed on unpaid leave.

These companies are only the largest that have announced layoffs. Hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses across the country and millions around the world have either laid workers off or placed them on indefinite paid leave. Hotels, airlines, restaurants, bars, casinos, resorts, coffee shops, airports, rental car services, museums, cinemas, conference venues and retailers have all shut down or significantly reduced operations, leaving workers without pay.Goldman Sachs now predicts that between April and June, the US economy will contract at an annualized rate of 34 percent—one of the biggest contractions in history. During the week ending March 21, a record 3.28 million people in the US applied for unemployment benefits. Goldman Sachs expects that this week’s Labor Department report will show that during the week ending March 28, another 5.5 million people applied. The investment bank upwardly revised its estimate of unemployment from 9 percent to 15 percent by July.

Airlines, auto companies cut pay even as US government bails out corporations - Citing the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, major employers in the US are announcing significant pay reductions and other cost-cutting measures despite the billions corporations are slated to receive from the recently enacted stimulus package. Workers at major US-based airlines are having their hours and pay reduced and pay cuts and pay deferments are spreading to other sections of industry as well as state and local governments. The loans and grants provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) stipulate that to be eligible businesses must not reduce their workforce before September 30, 2020. The CARES Act earmarks $58 billion for airlines; $29 billion in loans and $29 billion in grants, which is essentially free money. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that one-third of Americans reported a job loss by themselves or a family member and one half experienced a pay cut or reduction of hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Further, the poll found a higher impact of job losses or pay cuts on lower income workers. At United Airlines flight attendants will be paid the minimum required under the terms of their union contract, normally 71-78 hours a month. Typically, a flight attendant would work 85-110 hours or more. Management is therefore, in effect, cutting pay by 20-35 percent. In a letter to employees, United CEO Oscar Munoz said staff cuts would likely be imposed after September 30. Delta is imposing a cut in the workweek to three or four days instead of the normal five. CEO Ed Bastian told employees the cuts would impact ground employees. Invoking demagogy about “shared sacrifice,” Bastian—who made $15 million in total compensation last year—said he would take a 100 percent cut in his base pay, although he will not forgo stock awards, option awards, and other types of compensation. Some 21,000 of 91,000 Delta employees have reportedly taken voluntary short-term unpaid leaves. While Bastian framed the reduction in hours as “voluntary,” managers were reportedly telling employees the cuts were mandatory. In effect the company is furloughing workers, despite preparing to accept federal bailout money stipulating no job reductions. Southwest Airlines has imposed similar measures and American Airlines is expected to follow the lead of United and Delta.

Food Fight - BY NOW, the sight of ravaged grocery store shelves across the United States has become grimly familiar—and those right-wing memes about food shopping in Venezuela are suddenly as scarce as hen’s teeth—as the country struggles to contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic. Grocery stores have become ground zero in the battle over social distancing and the site of endless disheartening displays of misguided resource hoarding. Worse, millions of underpaid and overworked grocery store workers are now on the receiving end of the public’s panic over the pandemic—as well as their germs. Not only does the nature of their work put all grocery store employees—from cashiers to floor workers to those in the warehouse—at high risk of exposure to the virus, they’re also forced to deal with customers’ increasingly nasty attitudes, as supplies run out and shelves sit empty. This added emotional labor is, of course, unpaid, and many hourly workers are braving such conditions without the protection of a union or a living wage, to say nothing of paid sick leave or hazard pay. Through it all, there’s continued pressure coming from above for them to stay smiling as the world around them crumbles. These essential workers are being treated as disposable. As one told me yesterday, “It’s hard to feel like an essential worker when you don’t have health care.” Even people who work at supposedly more progressive chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (at least until its Amazon takeover) are anxious, tired, and afraid, and they certainly aren’t being paid enough to deal with these extraordinary circumstances—especially when the hand sanitizer runs out, and emotions at the cash register run high. “None of us ever expected to be emergency workers; the idea of an ‘essential worker’ is a totally new concept that no grocery store bag boy considers when they drop off an application,” a current Whole Foods worker who prefers to stay anonymous told me. “There’s all of this rhetoric around how we’re just as important as the doctors, and yes, that’s true, but we’re getting paid way less, and medical workers have a little bit more of an idea of the risks that they are setting themselves up for. . . . We’re not used to this shit.”

People are panic-buying chicks ‘like they did toilet paper’ in coronavirus pandemic --Jessica Pryor of Missouri says she’d been planning to raise chickens before the coronavirus pandemic drove her to buy 11 chicks, The Missourian reported. “If the stores close down, at least we can still feed the kids,” Pryor said, according to the publication. Coronavirus fears, scarce eggs and lockdown boredom are driving sales of live chickens, especially baby chicks, across the United States, The New York Times reports. “People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper,” said Tom Watkins, vice president of Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster, Iowa, according to the publication. In Utah, the Ogden Intermountain Farmers Association store sold 1,000 chicks in one day, and a Dallas Green Farm and Home store in West Haven sold 350 chicks at a one-day sales event, the Deseret News reported. Katy Cox, whose family has raised chickens as a hobby for four years, came to a Riverton IFA store planning to buy four chicks, but discovered long lines and sign-in sheets for buyers. She took home six new chicks — the per-customer limit, according to the publication. “I think there is kind of a herd mentality,” Cox said, the Deseret News reported. “If one person does it then everyone does it ... it is definitely different times. People have never gone through anything like this. There was how life looked before COVID-19 and then life after COVID-19.” Feed stores across the nation report selling out of live chicks almost as fast as they come in, The New York Times reports. “I didn’t know I was jumping on a bandwagon,” said Erin Scheessele of Corvallis, Oregon, who bought chicks to give her two children “something to do” while they are out of school, according to the publication. And it’s not just in the United States. Self-isolating in the United Kingdom, actor Tom Holland of the “Spider-Man” films bought three chickens after being unable to find eggs in the supermarket, Metro reports. Between stress-baking and stockpiling, eggs have become scarce on supermarket shelves, The Washington Post reported. “The reality is we don’t have twice as many eggs as we did in January,” said Russell Diez-Canseco, chief executive of Vital Farms, the largest U.S. supplier of naturally raised eggs, according to the publication. Suppliers are working on increasing their flocks, but it takes about 22 weeks for a chick to start laying eggs, The Washington Post reported. Of course, that goes for newly purchased backyard chicks, too.

Cleveland, Ohio residents wait hours in food bank drive-thru line as unemployment skyrockets - On Tuesday, March 24, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank held its second drive-thru food giveaway to support individuals and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aided by volunteers and soldiers from the Ohio National Guard, the food bank served roughly 4,000 people from 1,500 households.Since the initiation of Ohio’s shelter in place order, the anti-hunger group has seen a significant increase in need. The food bank has also switched its regular scheduled walk-in hours to appointment-only and established weekly drive-thrus.  The line for last week’s event snaked through surrounding city streets, with some individuals reporting a two-hour wait. Others parked their cars and walked to avoid the wait as well as out of fear that the food bank would run out of donations. As the event neared closing hours, many were turned away by police officers. Two-thirds of the individuals at Tuesday’s drive-in had never before sought assistance from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and one-third have never before sought assistance from any food bank or emergency food assistance program.

 Hundreds wait in mile-long line at Pittsburgh area food bank - Hundreds of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area residents waited for hours in a mile-long line up of cars Monday to receive two boxes of food being given out by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.Workers began lining up in their cars at 7 a.m., hours before the noon start of the drive-thru food bank, demonstrating the surge of need as thousands in the Pittsburgh region have been thrown out of their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold.  Since March 23, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has been gradually expanding a county by county stay at home order which initially only applied to seven counties and now encompasses nearly half of them, closing all non-essential businesses—hitting workers in the retail, restaurant and service industries especially hard.  Residents of these counties, including the Pittsburgh metro area, have been directed to remain in their homes as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, the coronavirus has killed 63 people in Pennsylvania and 4,843 infections have been confirmed across the state.When Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank volunteers began passing out the food parcels over 300 cars were already waiting. Police set up port-a-johns along the line so that people wouldn’t have to give up their place in line.Video taken by Andrew Rush, a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, of the line and posted on his Twitter account shows the double-lane line of cars snaking more than a mile as people waited hours for their turn. Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank volunteers had put together packages for 1,700 families. Each car received two boxes, one filed with canned and dry goods, the other with frozen meat. Foodbank officials hoped that the food could last a small family for five days. Last week, over 350,000 people signed up for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania as retail, restaurants, offices and many factories sent their workers home. Many workers in the tenuous “gig economy” such as Uber and Lyft drivers suddenly found themselves with no work.

As 150,000 hotel rooms remain empty, Las Vegas government forces 500 homeless residents to sleep outside on asphalt parking lot -- Following the closure of one of the largest homeless shelters in the Las Vegas valley on Wednesday, after someone staying there tested positive for COVID-19, government and civic leaders have consigned over 500 men to a fenced-in potion of a concrete parking lot, where they may stay from 6 p.m. through 8 a.m.Luxury hotel properties such as the MGM Grand, with over 5,000 rooms, including 1250-foot penthouse suites complete with “a king bed and a wet bar for four,” as well as convention centers, lay empty due to the belated shutdown of the casino industry for less than two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile the men have been allocated one thin white blanket and are allowed to sleep within freshly painted white squares on the pavement. The squares are less than six feet apart from each other, in violation of Centers for Disease Control guidelines on social distancing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. After photos of the deplorable conditions began circulating online, city of Las Vegas officials sought to literally cover up their inhumane practices by rolling out 25,000 feet of “blue carpet” over the squares so that residents of the parking lot would have a soft surface to sleep on. However when this reporter visited the elevated parking lot no “blue carpet” was found, nor any shade from the desert sun. The fenced-off portion of the parking lot is expected to serve as a “shelter” for the men until the Catholic Charities homeless shelter reopens on April 3.

Why COVID-19 Will Strain the Safety Net for Homeless Vets to the Breaking Point - Under normal circumstances, Jerry Porter would be spending his time helping the veterans he finds in tent camps and run-down housing. But the escalating threat of COVID-19 forces the community activist and retired Steelworker to remain at home for now, even though vulnerable vets need him more than ever. As the coronavirus spreads across America, the poor bear the brunt of a pandemic that’s exposed the deep class lines in U.S. society. The rich have big savings accounts and quality health care. They’ll emerge from the crisis just fine. But Americans at the margins, including homeless vets who rely on a frayed safety net stretched to the breaking point by COVID-19, now face an even greater struggle to survive. “I don’t know where they end up,” Porter and a group of friends work together to help veterans in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois. But now, they’re heeding the request of public health officials. They stay home to help their community slow the spread of COVID-19. That prevents them from helping veterans like the one Porter found sleeping on a squalid mattress in a “junky” house. He got the man into a clean apartment and—thanks to a friend who owned a bedding store—a new mattress and box spring for just $180. Just as alarming, COVID-19 halted the fund-raising supporting that kind of intervention. Local veterans groups just canceled a taco dinner and a poppy sale that together raise about $6,000 each year. For some veterans, that money is the difference between sleeping indoors or on the street. Porter and his friends use some of the funds to provide life’s basics to the homeless vets they move into government-subsidized housing with little but the clothes on their backs. “There’s nothing,” Porter explained. “There’s no bedding, silverware, dishes, glassware, towels, sheets.”

She Begged For Mercy. The Utility Cut Her Elderly Parents’ Power Anyway. --Angela Haislip begged the power company not to cut off service to her elderly mother and stepfather, both stroke victims who depend on oxygen machines and nebulizers to breathe. In more than 20 years, her parents had “never, ever, ever missed a payment” to the Halifax Electric Membership Corporation, the power co-operative that serves rural Warren County, North Carolina, she said. Haislip’s 70-year-old mother had actually overpaid last year by so much, she built up enough credit that she hadn’t had to pay for the first two months of 2020. But amid the chaos of the novel coronavirus pandemic, her mother fell behind. Haislip’s 61-year-old stepfather only recently moved back into the couple’s mobile home after spending time in a nursing home recovering from a stroke. His disability checks were still being sent to the home, and Haislip, who is unemployed, didn’t have the $303 owed on the account. She called the utility and promised to “give them my whole stimulus check to pay the bill” if they’d only give her a few more days. She lined up a family friend to loan them the money once the friend’s paycheck went through. “I even told them they were stroke victims, and the lady on the phone pretty much called me a liar,” said Haislip, 46, choking back tears. “It’s heartbreaking. It seems like there’s no trust in the world. People don’t care like they used to.” On March 23, the utility sent a notice warning that service would be shut off in four days. At the couple’s mobile home, which is 14 feet by 80 feet, the lights went out at 10 a.m. last Friday. “They still kicked them to the curb like they were nothing,” Haislip said. “It’s all about money to them. They don’t care who dies during this.”

North Carolina utilities ordered not to disconnect during coronavirus outbreak, governor orders -North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday ordered utility companies to give residential customers more time to pay their bills before disconnection during the coronavirus outbreak.Cooper held a news conference to discuss the latest coronavirus cases and the state's response. Cooper's latest order prohibits utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic.The order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days.It directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment. Telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow these same rules.“This action is particularly important since tomorrow is the first of the month, and I know that’s a date many families fear when they can’t make ends meet,” said Governor Cooper. “These protections will help families stay in their homes and keep vital services like electricity, water, and communications going as we Stay at Home.” The order also encourages banks not to charge customers for overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties.

 Nunes claims it would be 'way overkill' to cancel school year in California due to coronavirus  - Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) late Tuesday claimed that it would be "overkill" for California to cancel the rest of its school year over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, even as the Trump administration warned that the month of April could be "painful" for the U.S. Speaking on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle," Nunes said that he was optimistic that the U.S. could contain the spread and reopen the economy and the nation's schools within two to four weeks. "The schools were just canceled out here in California, which is way overkill," he said, apparently referencing new comments from a state official about the likelihood of schools remaining closed. "It’s possible schools could’ve gone back to school in two to four weeks." California has yet to officially cancel the rest of its school year. Though superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, said earlier Tuesday that it was likely students would not return to the classroom before the end of the school year because of the current social-distancing restrictions. The Republican congressman went on to tout a pair of anti-malaria drugs approved for emergency use by Federal Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week. Nunes said that there was "a lot of optimism" about those treatments, though health officials have warned that not enough is known about the drugs' effects to draw a definitive conclusion. “If we don’t start to get people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks, I don’t believe we can wait until the end of April," Nunes said. "I just don’t know of any economy that’s survived where you’ve unplugged the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal." The comments from Nunes arrived the same day that the Trump administration projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the U.S. could die of COVID-19 even with social-distancing requirements in place. President Trump said during a White House briefing that Americans should also prepare for a "very, very painful" two weeks. The U.S. had reported nearly 190,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 4,000 deaths stemming from it as of Wednesday morning, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. California is one of many states to issue a shelter-in-place order to help stem the spread of the disease. 

Liberty University students report symptoms that suggest coronavirus: report - Around a dozen students at Virginia's Liberty University have reported being sick with symptoms that are consistent with the coronavirus. The school's director of student health services told The New York Times in an interview that nearly a dozen students had reported symptoms similar to those experienced in confirmed coronavirus cases, with three of those students later being sent to hospitals for testing. No cases of the virus have been confirmed on the school's campus.Liberty was in the news this week after students began returning to the Virginia campus despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases across the nation.Students returning to campus are now reportedly being directed to self-quarantine for two weeks, while Liberty's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., told the Times that around 800 of the 1,900 students who initially returned to on-campus housing for spring semester had voluntarily gone home. It was unclear, Falwell said, how many remained in off-campus housing.The director of student health services, Dr. Thomas Eppes Jr., told Falwell that the school had "lost the ability" to control how many students would be infected should classes resume on campus.“We’ve lost the ability to corral this thing,” Eppes said he told Falwell, according to the Times.But he stopped short of telling Falwell to send students home. "I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, 'This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do,'" Eppes said. Falwell, a public ally of President Trump, has publicly derided concern over the coronavirus outbreak and criticized other universities that have sent students home or moved to online classes to avoid in-person gatherings.

Thousands of Liberty University students expected to return to campus amid coronavirus outbreak - As the coronavirus threatens to spread across the Lynchburg region, Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students from spring break this week. Defying a national trend of campus closures, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has invited students to return to residence halls and has directed faculty members to continue to report to campus even as most classes move online. In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms. Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours. “I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” Falwell said. Falwell’s decision leaves Liberty as an outlier among the scores of colleges and universities across the country that have shut down to help limit the spread of the disease known as COVID-19. The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died. In response to the pandemic, several nearby institutions have instructed faculty to work remotely and have limited dorms to students unable to return home.  Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center remain open. The university has taken some steps to help slow the virus’ spread. Gatherings in campus buildings, including a handful of classes still holding in-person meetings, are capped at 10 people in accordance with an order by Gov. Ralph Northam. Similarly, dining halls are only providing take-out service, and campus visits have been suspended.  Falwell, who has publicly downplayed the threat of the virus in recent weeks, said he is confident the school has taken the proper steps to prepare for a campus outbreak. He said Liberty officials have identified an old hotel owned by the university as a place to quarantine students who fall ill. “I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”

Dozens Of Spring Breakers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus -  Two weeks ago, around 70 spring breakers from the University of Texas at Austin went against the advice of the White House and chartered a plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to party. Now, 44 of them have tested positive for coronavirus according to a university spokesman. Perhaps even more alarming is that some of the students took commercial flights home, according to CNN, citing the Austin Public Health Department. Those who tested positive are now in self-isolation (or at least they're supposed to be)."Quit being an a**," Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told CNN affiliate KXAN, adding "Get over yourselves. Whether you think this is an issue or not, it is. Whether you think it could affect you or not, it does. The reality of it is, if I'm a college kid who's going to spring break in Mexico, you're affecting a lot of people. Grow up." Dozens of other passengers from the chartered flight are being monitored, public health officials said."The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said in a statement. "While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19."The local public health department and UT Health UT Health Austin and University Health Services have contacted all of the passengers on the plane using flight manifests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The University of Texas at Austin is working to help public health officials. –CNN  University officials are now scrambling to assist Austin Public Health to trace the students' contacts, according to university spokesman J.B. Bird, who added "The incident is a reminder of the vital importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others."

 Record low oil prices could cost Texas universities $300 million - Record-low oil prices could cost a fund that supports the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems at least $300 million in revenue. State-operated University Lands, a company that oversees oil leases on land owned by Texas, expects to send $700 million to the Permanent University Fund this fiscal year, down from $1 billion in 2019 after oil prices plunged to about $20 per barrel this year during a price war and the coronavirus pandemic.With prices that low, University Lands is not issuing new leases on the 2 million acres in the Permian Basin it manages and is telling the roughly 250 oil companies operating on state leases to delay drilling and wait for higher prices, if they can.“Our primary strategy right now is to work with operators and, where prudent, to delay new activity,” University Lands CEO Mark Houser said. “We encourage them to delay new activity right now. In our mind, there’s no sense in selling these hydrocarbons at such a low price.” Created by the Legislature in 1876, the Permanent University Fund provides the state’s portion of the budgets for the 21 schools that make up the UT and A&M systems. The fund, which had an estimated $23.3 billion at the beginning of March, is managed by the Austin-based University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Co., or UTIMCO. Karen Adler, a spokeswoman for the UT System and UTIMCO, said the money the funds distributes to universities is not tied to mineral investments. Although taking a temporary hit on oil and natural gas royalties, the fund is still expected to distribute more than $1.3 billion to the two university systems this fiscal year and an additional $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021.Combined, the two university systems have nearly 400,000 students. The drop in oil prices will not affect a program that provides free tuition to thousands of UT-Austin students, Adler said. The $160 million used to create that program, she said, was already distributed and used to create an endowment last summer.“Our distribution policy is designed to insulate the institutions we serve from short- and medium-term volatility in the financial markets and energy markets,” Adler said.

Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is the nation’s federal special education law. It provides funding, technical assistance and monitoring to ensure students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education. With the new COVID-19 stimulus package, the U.S. Congress will provide Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with the right to provide waivers to states for the IDEA implementation.   If DeVos’ past behavior has any predictive value for her future decisions related to equitable educational policies, then families of children with disabilities across the country should also be highly concerned. During DeVos’ Senate confirmation hearings three years ago, she struggled to respond to basic questions posed by Sen. Tim Kaine about special education. She was asked whether schools that receive tax dollars should be required to meet IDEA requirements, to which she replied, “I think that is a matter that’s best left for states.” Under federal law, the Department of Education is responsible for monitoring IDEA compliance, Just last year, a federal judge ruled that the Department of Education’s delay of a rule that required states to address racial disproportionally in special education was illegal.  The Department of Education also planned to eliminate 29 programs and slash $17.6 million in funding for Special Olympics in the 2020 budget. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan asked whether she knew how many students would be affected. DeVos replied, “I don’t know the number of kids.” The budget also included millions of dollars in cuts to the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, the American Printing House for the Blind, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Congress needs to reconsider providing DeVos with the power to grant waivers for IDEA implementation. Families need to join in solidarity with disability advocates and educators to demand special education remain intact and that stimulus money is directed toward preventing disruption of services.

Those living in rural areas, uninsured or on Medicaid less likely to receive recommended lung cancer treatment - Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-associated deaths in the United States. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a group of lung cancers named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer, constitutes more than 80% of all lung cancer cases. In NSCLC patients where the cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes close to the lung, a condition known as pathologic N1 (pN1) disease, current guidelines recommend a two-part protocol: the surgical removal of the cancerous tissue (resection) followed by a chemotherapy regimen that contains a cocktail of cancer-fighting drugs. However, not all pN1 patients are receiving the second part of the protocol. In a Keck Medicine of USC retrospective study of the National Cancer Database published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, of almost 15,000 patients who underwent resection for pN1 disease, only slightly more than half (54.1%) received any chemotherapy. Patients were less likely to receive chemotherapy if they lived in rural areas or were on Medicaid or uninsured.  The study also revealed that the benefit of receiving chemotherapy in this patient population is higher than generally thought. Previous research has shown that patients with pN1 disease treated with both surgery and chemotherapy increase their five-year cancer survival rate by 5.4% over those who receive only surgery. David and her colleagues found that the survival rate actually increases by 14% - almost triple the accepted number.

 Blood Test Detects More Than 50 Types of Cancer - A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.  Researchers say the method — which can spot cancerous mutations before symptoms even appear — could spot particularly dangerous tumors that would otherwise go unnoticed. The test looks for tell-tale changes to the DNA of dead cancer cells that leak into the blood as diseased tissues break down. In their findings, reported in the Annals of Oncology, experts said the procedure was best suited to detecting cancers at a later stage of development. However, the authors said further work could result in testing that would diagnose cancers at a far earlier stage than they would be otherwise. The test, developed by the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic, looks for molecules known as methyl groups that cause mutations in otherwise healthy cells, making them cancerous. It marks a change from more traditional methods that involve the sequencing of DNA. "Our previous work indicated that methylation-based tests outperform traditional DNA-sequencing approaches to detecting multiple forms of cancer in blood samples," said Dana-Farber's Geoffrey Oxnard, a co-author of the study."The results of this study suggest that such assays could be a feasible way of screening people for a wide variety of cancers."  The research involved taking samples from almost 7,000 participants. In 96% of the tests, the samples correctly identified the tissue that the cancer had come from.  "Our results show that this approach to testing cell-free DNA in blood can detect a broad range of cancer types at virtually any stage of the disease, with specificity and sensitivity approaching the level needed for population-level screening,"

 Philadelphia Hospital to Stay Closed After Owner Requests Nearly $1 Million a Month -- A hospital with room for nearly 500 beds has been closed for months in the center of Philadelphia, a city bracing for the spread of the coronavirus and a crush of sick patients.  But the facility will remain empty, city officials said, because they cannot accept the owner’s offer: buy the hospital or lease it for almost $1 million a month, including utilities and other costs.“We don’t have the need to own it nor the resources to buy it. So we are done and we are moving on,” Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters on Thursday during the city’s daily briefing.The next day, he said that Temple University would let the city use a music and sports venue for free. The city would no longer pursue the closed facility, Hahnemann University Hospital.The owner of the hospital, Joel Freedman of Broad Street Healthcare Properties, a real estate company, said he had offered to sell the facility to the city well below market price, or to lease it for $60 a bed a day, far less than what two other hospitals in California agreed to charge to lease their facilities. Since last fall, the hospital has sat empty and fallen into disrepair, Mayor Kenney said on Thursday. “It has no beds and would require extensive work to make it usable again,” he said. Mr. Kenney said the city had offered to lease the hospital for a “nominal” amount and pay for its maintenance and expenses, a deal that would have meant “hundreds of thousands of dollars a month” for Mr. Freedman and made the property more marketable in the future.

Nursing and rest homes hit hard by coronavirus; one Maryland home reports 66 cases - More than five dozen residents of Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, Maryland, have tested positive for coronavirus, according to health officials there.Eleven of the residents are hospitalized. One resident with the virus, a man who was in his 90s and had underlying health conditions, died Saturday night, Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said during a news conference Sunday.Singer said the facility, with 104 beds, reported two positive cases on March 27. The next day, the case count had risen to 66."Pleasant View Mt. Airy had previously implemented multiple prevention measures according to state and federal guidance," but the virus spread rapidly regardless, according to the Carroll County Health Department.Nursing and rest homes across the country, which house some of those most vulnerable to suffer severe COVID-19 complications, are becoming hot spots for the virus. Many of the facilities are on lockdown, allowing only staff and residents inside, to try to slow the spread, leaving loved ones to worry from afar.A nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, was the site of the first major U.S. coronavirus cluster, and since then nursing homes, assisted care facilities and other places that house the elderly and sick have faced similar outbreaks.Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 147 nursing homes in 27 states had patients with COVID-19, and the problem has only worsened since. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the virus spreading "like fire through dry grass" in such facilities."I don't think it's extremely unusual to see something like this, when it's unknown, to spread through a nursing home in this way," Singer said of the Maryland outbreak. He added that Pleasant View Nursing Home was continuing to comply with infection control guidance, and all staff was wearing personal protective equipment since some of the residents who tested positive were asymptomatic.And "multiple state agencies are on the scene and working closely with the local health department and the facility as they take urgent steps to protect additional residents and staff who may have been exposed," Gov. Larry Hogan said.  Visitors were not allowed inside the home, but residents' nursing home staff was keeping families updated constantly, Singer said.

More than 400 long-term care facilities report coronavirus cases -- Hundreds of long-term care facilities across the U.S. have confirmed cases of the coronavirus among their residents, with the number of facilities growing rapidly.NBC News reported Monday that more than 400 facilities have reported cases of the virus, a 172 percent increase from the number of facilities that had reported cases this time last week, which was 146.The alarming surge represents a challenge for state health officials, as residents of long-term care facilities tend to be older and suffer from long-term illnesses or conditions – both of which place them at greater risk – at a higher rate than the general population. Many facilities also have residents living or interacting in close quarters on a daily basis.About 150 of the facilities reporting residents with symptoms were in New York state, which has become the epicenter of coronavirus in the United States. More than 66,000 cases have been confirmed in the state, while deaths from the disease have risen past 1,200. A spokesperson for an industry trade group told NBC News that they had not issued specific guidance for facilities past urging them to keep patients and their family members informed about the latest measures taken to stop the disease from spreading.

Hospitals Have Left Many COVID-19 Patients Who Don’t Speak English Alone, Confused and Without Proper Care — When a woman who didn’t speak English arrived at the overrun emergency room of a Brooklyn hospital last week, she was initially placed in a unit for patients who didn’t have the coronavirus.But on Thursday, a doctor realized she had a cough and fever and should be treated for COVID-19. The doctor brought her over to the coronavirus unit with a warning: “Good luck. She speaks Hungarian.”She died the following night.A medical resident who treated her believes she would have gotten better care if she spoke English. In the ER, where no one has enough time, particularly now, the resident said he could tell that no one wanted to work with an interpreter to take down the woman’s medical history. He placed his phone on the woman’s shoulder and dialed the interpreter service on speakerphone. Between the N95 mask covering his mouth and the helmet covering his ears, it was difficult to speak clearly and to hear.  “When they asked what language,” he said, “I spent five minutes just yelling: ‘Hungarian! Hungarian!’ And they were like, ‘Spanish?’” The woman may have died even if she spoke English, but the episode and others like it demonstrate how those who speak a foreign language are at a disadvantage in New York City’s chaotic and crowded hospitals. “It takes 10 minutes of sitting on the phone to get an interpreter, and that’s valuable time when you’re inundated,” the resident said. “So this utilitarian calculus kicks in. And the patients that are most mainstream get the best care.”

People With Intellectual Disabilities May Be Denied Lifesaving Care Under These Plans as Coronavirus Spreads - Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are concerned that those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other such conditions will be denied access to lifesaving medical treatment as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the country.Several disability advocacy organizations filed complaints this week with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the federal government to clarify provisions of the disaster preparedness plans for the states of Washington and Alabama.The advocates say the plans discriminate against people with intellectual disabilities by deprioritizing this group in the event of rationing of medical care — specifically, access to ventilators, which are in high demand in treating COVID-19 cases. More than 7 million people in the U.S. have some form of cognitive disability. Some state plans make clear that people with cognitive issues are a lower priority for lifesaving treatment. For instance, Alabama’s plan says that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.” Another part says that “persons with severe or profound mental retardation, moderate to severe dementia, or catastrophic neurological complications such as persistent vegetative state are unlikely candidates for ventilator support.” Medical triage always forces hard decisions about who lives and dies. For instance, older people with shorter life expectancy or those with severe dementia are often deemed less deserving of scarce medical resources than younger, healthier individuals. The state plans make clear that the fate of those with intellectual disabilities is part of the wrenching debate.

A Major Medical Staffing Company Just Slashed Benefits for Doctors and Nurses Fighting Coronavirus —Emergency room doctors and nurses many of whom are dealing with an onslaught of coronavirus patients and shortages of protective equipment — are now finding out that their compensation is getting cut. Most ER providers in the U.S. work for staffing companies that have contracts with hospitals. Those staffing companies are losing revenue as hospitals postpone elective procedures and non-coronavirus patients avoid emergency rooms. Health insurers are processing claims more slowly as they adapt to a remote workforce. “Despite the risks our providers are facing, and the great work being done by our teams, the economic challenges brought forth by COVID-19 have not spared our industry,” Steve Holtzclaw, the CEO of Alteon Health, one of the largest staffing companies, wrote in a memo to employees on Monday. The memo announced that the company would be reducing hours for clinicians, cutting pay for administrative employees by 20%, and suspending 401(k) matches, bonuses and paid time off. Holtzclaw indicated that the measures were temporary but didn’t know how long they would last. In a follow-up memo sent to salaried physicians on Tuesday night, Alteon said it would convert them to an hourly rate, implying that they would start earning less money since the company had already said it would reduce their hours. The memo asked employees to accept the change or else contact the human resources department within five days “to discuss alternatives,” without saying what those might be. The memo said Alteon was trying to avoid laying anyone off. “It’s completely demoralizing,” said an Alteon clinician who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “At this time, of all times, we’re putting ourselves at risk but also putting our families at risk.”

Hospitals Tell Doctors They’ll Be Fired If They Speak Out About Lack of Gear - Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic -- and have in some cases followed through. Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in Washington state, said he was told Friday he was out of a job because he’d given an interview to a newspaper about a Facebook post detailing what he believed to be inadequate protective equipment and testing. In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues that she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty. In New York, the NYU Langone Health system has warned employees they could be terminated if they talk to the media without authorization.“Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other health-care workers in an attempt to preserve their image,” said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association. “It is outrageous.”Hospitals have traditionally had strict media guidelines to protect patient privacy, urging staff to talk with journalists only through official public relations offices. But the pandemic has ushered in a new era, Schubert said.Health-care workers “must have the ability to tell the public what is really going on inside the facilities where they are caring for Covid-19 patients,” she said. In China, one of the earliest alarms about the mysterious new illness was raised by a doctor in an online chatroom in late December. He was reprimanded and forced to sign a police statement that the post was illegal. He later contracted the disease from a patient and died.

Trump Says Keeping U.S. Coronavirus Deaths to 100,000 Would Be a 'Good Job' - Just over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job." Speaking as the death toll from the novel coronavirus climbed above 2,300 in the U.S. — which has the most confirmed cases of the virus in the world — Trump cited recent research warning that 2.2 million people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19 if the nation's government and population take no action to mitigate the threat."You're talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this," the president said. "And so, if we can hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000 — that's a horrible number — maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100- and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job."  Watch:   Critics condemned Trump's remarks as remarkably cruel and callous, particularly coming from someone who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus — at one point suggesting it was a "new hoax" perpetrated by the Democratic Party — and urged Americans to get back to work despite warnings from medical professionals. "There really are no words for this level of insensitivity and inhumanity. A serial killer would be jealous," said Charles Idelson of National Nurses United in response to Trump's comments.

Fauci warns there's no 'strong' evidence anti-malaria drug works on coronavirus - Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Friday that there isn't any "strong" evidence that an anti-malaria drug has proven effective in the coronavirus fight. “We’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug. We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitely prove whether any intervention is truly safe and effective," Fauci, who is also a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said during an interview on "Fox & Friends." Fauci's comments came in response to a question about a recent poll of more than 6,700 doctors in 30 countries, with 37 percent of physicians saying they “felt” that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was the most effective for treating COVID-19 as cases. “We don’t operate on how you feel, we operate on what evidence and data is,” Fauci said, adding that it was "not a very robust study" or "overwhelmingly strong." “But when you don’t have that information, it’s understandable why people will want to take at any slightest hint that it’s effective, and I have no problem with that," he added. Hydroxychloroquine is primarily used to treat lupus and arthritis. "Obviously this is a good drug for the many diseases you mentioned. What we don’t want to happen is individuals who truly need the drug with a proven indication don’t have it available," Fauci said. President Trump previously touted hydroxychloroquine, combined with azithromycin, as a potential game changer.

March 30 Update: US COVID-19 Tests per Day #TestAndTrace -Test-and-trace is a key criteria in starting to reopen the country.   My current guess is test-and-trace will require around 300,000 tests per day.When I first started posting this data (thanks to the COVID Tracking Project), testing was so low, that just tracking the number of tests made sense.
The percentage positive is also critical. Unfortunately some states and labs don't report all negative tests, although that is supposed to change soon.The real key is to have enough tests that the US can test all people with symptoms (even mild), all close contacts of those testing positive (aka Test-and-Trace), healthcare workers and first responders fairly regularly (upon request), staff at retirement communities and nursing homes, and those people that regularly visit those facilities (it is a burden on older people not see their families).Notes: Data for the previous couple of days is updated and revised, so graphs might change.Also, I include all tests in the total including pending.The percent positive excludes the pending tests.There were 113,336 tests reported over the last 24 hours.  This data is from the COVID Tracking Project.  The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 19%.Testing must continue to be expanded until the percent positive declines to 5% or lower.   This is based on results from South Korea. Test. Test. Test. Protect healthcare workers first!

 Would everyone wearing face masks help us slow the pandemic? -  Science - As cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ballooned last month, people in Europe and North America scrambled to get their hands on surgical masks to protect themselves. Health officials jumped in to discourage them, worried about the limited supply of masks for health care personnel. “Seriously people-STOP BUYING MASKS!” began a 29 February tweet from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both said that only people with COVID-19 symptoms and those caring for them should wear masks.But some health experts, including the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, think that’s a mistake. Health authorities in parts of Asia have encouraged all citizens to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of whether they have symptoms. And the Czech Republic took the uncommon step last week of making nose and mouth coverings mandatory in public spaces, prompting a grassroots drive to hand make masks.  Even experts who favor masking the masses say their impact on the spread of disease is likely to be modest. Many are also afraid to promote mask buying amid dire shortages at hospitals. But as the pandemic wears on, some public health experts think government messages discouraging mask wearing should shift.“It’s really a perfectly good public health intervention that’s not used,” argues KK Cheng, a public health expert at the University of Birmingham. “It’s not to protect yourself. It’s to protect people against the droplets coming out of your respiratory tract.” Cheng and others stress that however masks are used, people must practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. When people do venture out and interact, they’re likely to spew some saliva. “I don’t want to frighten you, but when people speak and breathe and sing—you don’t have to sneeze or cough—these droplets are coming out,” he says.

  US prisons begin release of inmates after COVID-19 pandemic engulfs system -On Monday the official total of positive COVID-19 cases in New York City prisons rose to 167 prisoners, 114 staff and 23 prison healthcare workers. The infamous Rikers Island, with a population of 4,740, now has the highest infection rate of any defined population globally, at almost 3 percent. Rikers’ infection rate is almost 10 times more than New York City as a whole, which has an infection rate of 0.357 percent, according to the Legal Aid Society.Given the scarcity of testing, the true case numbers are undoubtedly much higher. At least two prison workers have died in New York. COVID-19 has spread throughout the prisons nationally. Cook County Jail in Illinois, as of March 29, had 101 cases among inmates and 12 among staff. March 29 also saw the first confirmed death of a federal prisoner from the disease, a 49-year-old inmate in Louisiana.The spread of the virus and the first deaths within the prison system have prompted the release of prisoners across the United States. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City has released over 1,000 prisoners, lowering the number of incarcerated people in the city to fewer than 5,000 for the first time since 1949. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose state has 78 COVID-19 positive inmates at the time of this writing, signed an executive order calling for the immediate release of nonviolent prisoners. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s office has ordered similar measures and California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered a stop to new prison admissions. New Jersey has also released over 1,000 inmates. Prisoners who are being released are not being tested for the virus.These measures are haphazard and, in most cases, too little, too late. An acute outbreak of COVID-19 across US prisons is already taking place. Hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners and prison staff will die as the result of the incompetence and negligence of the ruling class. Kelsey Kauffman, the director of education at Indiana Women’s Prison, stated that the failure to release inmates earlier “may be considered one of the great public health tragedies of our time.”Although the New York City prison system is the epicenter of the crisis, the highly infectious nature of the disease and its uncontrolled spread through the national prison system, with its population of over 2 million people, mean this will become a national catastrophe.

U.S. poised for hellish month as coronavirus surges - Tens of thousands of doctors, academics and nurses were scheduled to descend Monday on McCormick Place, Chicago's giant convention center that was supposed to host the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific sessions. Instead, McCormick Place will open this week as a field hospital, eventually expanding to accommodate as many as 3,000 people in need of care from the deadly coronavirus exploding inside the United States. Officials across the country are bracing for the worst public health crisis in a century, a crisis that will become starkly severe this week. Beginning this week, some hospitals are expected to reach their maximum capacity, case counts will rise exponentially, and the number of available ventilators and beds in ICUs will plummet. Models and projections show the month of April will be a public health catastrophe unlike anything in modern memory. Tens of thousands of Americans are likely to die from the coronavirus in the coming weeks, a consequence of American leaders failing to heed the lessons learned in other countries about the value and success of taking drastic steps. New York already has more than 50,000 cases, and officials worry they will soon see new clusters explode in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. “No state, no metro area will be spared, and the sooner we react and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they put in full mitigation, at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Birx is coordinating a response that began too late and has acted too slowly, months after President Trump, who on Sunday extended the federal government's social distancing guidelines after talking up the idea of reopening parts of the economy by Easter Sunday, downplayed the seriousness of the threat, a tone that sent the wrong signal to the rest of the administration. Trump continued to play down the threat throughout February and early March, despite increasingly agitated warnings from the administration's own public health officials and from outside experts. The U.S. now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other nation, and the number is growing more rapidly than anywhere else. The number of confirmed cases has grown by almost 20,000 per day in the last three days alone. The number of new cases will rise even more quickly in the next few weeks, as will the number of deaths.

People Get Ready! - Kunstler -  The cable news announced the other day that Covid-19 patients placed in critical care may have to be on ventilators for 21 days. Only a few years ago, I went in for an ordinary hip replacement. A month or so later, I got the hospital billing statement. One of the line-items went like this: Room and board: 36 hours…$23,482.79. I am not jiving you. That was just for the hospital bed and maybe four lousy hospital meals, not the surgery or the meds or anything else. All that was billed extra. Say, what…?  Now imagine you have the stupendous good fortune to survive a Covid-19 infection after 21 days on a ventilator and go home. What is that billing statement going to look like? Will the survivors wish they’d never made out of the hospital alive? Right now, we’re in the heroic phase of the battle against a modern age plague. The doctors, nurses, and their helpers are like the trembling soldiers in an amphibious landing craft churning toward the Normandy beach where the enemy is dug in and waiting for them, with sweaty fingers on their machine guns and a stink in the pillbox. Some of the doctors and nurses will go down in the battle. The fabled fog-of-war will conceal what is happening to the health care system itself, while the battle rages. After that, what?  One thing will be pretty clear: That the folks in charge of things gave trillions of dollars to Wall Street while tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 survivors got wiped out financially with gargantuan medical bills. Do you think the Chargemaster part of the hospital routine will just stop doing its thing during this emergency? The billings will continue – just as the proverbial beatings will continue until morale improves! In the aftermath, I can’t even imagine the ‘splainin’ that will entail. The rage may be too intense to even get to that. For some, it may be time to lubricate the guillotines?  Meantime, of course, the global economy has shut down which suggests to me, anyway, that any prior frame of reference you may have had about money and business and social normality goes out the window. The world is still here. We’re just going to have to learn to live in differently. The American portion of the world is in need of a severe retrofit and reprogramming. We waited too long to face this in a spell of tragic complacency and the virus has forced the issue. Here are the main things we have to attend to:

New York State Exceeds 1,000 Coronavirus Deaths - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday offered a grim assessment of the coronavirus pandemic engulfing the state, as he reported that 237 people had died since the day before, the largest one-day increase since the coronavirus outbreak began.And the projections, he added, suggests that the crisis facing New York could grow even worse.“I don’t think there’s any way to look at those numbers,” Mr. Cuomo said, “without seeing thousands of people pass away.” The total number of deaths in the state stood at 965 on Sunday morning, before New York City reported its most recent count. The number of confirmed cases jumped by 7,200 in one day, putting the total of confirmed cases at 59,513 cases as of Sunday. More than half of the cases, or 33,768, are in New York City, according to the latest figures from the city and state.  About 8,500 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 16 percent from Saturday to Sunday. Of those, 2,037 are in intensive care units, which are equipped with ventilators. In New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Sunday afternoon that the state had recorded 21 coronavirus deaths since the previous day, bringing the statewide total to 161. The state also recorded an additional 2,316 confirmed cases, raising the total to 13,386, the second highest in the country.The number of coronavirus deaths in New York City increased by 161 from Saturday night to Sunday morning, pushing the statewide total to over 1,000 fatalities, according to the latest figures from the city and state, and county-level data compiled by The New York Times. The city also recorded its first death of a patient under 18. City officials said the patient had underlying health conditions, but no other details were immediately available.  As of Sunday night, the city’s death toll from the infection stood at 776, while the number of cases jumped to nearly 33,500, from about 30,000 the day before. Earlier on Sunday, the state said it had recorded 965 deaths, but that figure did not include the new fatality numbers provided by the mayor later in the day.  Among other developments reported by Mr. Cuomo:

  • The governor extended his order for all nonessential workers to stay home until April 15.
  • Mr. Cuomo said he would ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to devise a plan for the city’s 11 public hospitals to coordinate how patients and resources are distributed. He also wants public and private hospitals to work together throughout the state. “There is an artificial wall between those two systems right now. That wall has to come down,” Mr. Cuomo said.
  • More than 76,000 health care workers, many of them retirees, have volunteered to work in hospitals should the facilities become strained.
  • Mr. Cuomo said he supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel advisory for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, urging residents to refrain from nonessential domestic travel for 14 days. “It’s nothing we haven’t been doing,” Mr. Cuomo said.

New Yorkers who break social distancing rules subject to fines of up to $500 - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Sunday that New Yorkers who violate orders from police to disperse public gatherings will be fined up to $500 amid the coronavirus outbreak. Politico reported that the mayor made the announcement at a press conference, while stressing that fines would be only issued as a last resort to those truly intent on violating his order. “They’re going to give people every chance to listen, and if anyone doesn’t listen, then they deserve a fine at this point,” de Blasio said, according to the news outlet. “I don’t want to fine people when so many folks are going through economic distress, but if they haven’t gotten the message by now, and they don’t get the message when an enforcement officer’s staring them in the face ... that person then deserves the fine, so we’re going to proceed with that.” “You’ve been warned and warned and warned again," he reportedly added, stating that fines would be issued in increments of $250, up to $500 for violations of social distancing guidelines. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) instituted a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in the state earlier this month, following previous action from de Blasio banning gatherings of more than 500. Non-essential businesses have shuttered in the city as officials attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 30,000 in the city. More than 40 deaths have also been reported citywide due to the virus. Also among the efforts announced Sunday by the city was a move to set up a field hospital in the city's famous Central Park, directed by Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization. “We’re going to be using every place we need to use,” de Blasio said Sunday, according to Politico. “This is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops and deepens.”

Inside the start of the great virus airlift  -A plane from Shanghai arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Sunday morning carrying an extraordinary load: 12 million gloves, 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 50,000 gowns, 130,000 hand sanitizer units, and 36,000 thermometers.The flight is the start of what might end up being the largest government-led airlift of emergency medical supplies into the United States. That's according to Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who runs the coronavirus supply chain task force at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He spoke to Axios on Saturday night.  The airlift is the most dramatic part of the Trump administration's frantic attempts to catch up with a nationwide medical equipment crisis.Polowczyk told Axios that he's already booked 22 similar flights over the next two weeks. Starting with this weekend's airlift, he said, "We have essentially a flight a day, mostly from Asia" to expedite the transport of medical equipment that distributors already plan to sell into the U.S.  "This first one is kind of a proof of concept," he said. Distributors "can generate product. We can get an airplane there, and as we build muscle memory with these distributors, these numbers will grow." This weekend's first load of medical supplies will go into the New York tri-state area, Polowczyk said, and subsequent flights will distribute supplies to other parts of the country.

  • The federal government bought 60% of the total load and all of the N95 masks carried on the plane from Shanghai, according to Devin O'Malley, an official on the White House's coronavirus task force.
  • Of 60% the government bought, roughly half the supplies are going to New York, a third to New Jersey and one-fifth to Connecticut, he said. O'Malley said it's up to the governors to distribute the supplies they receive. The remaining 40% from the flight is going to the private market in the tri-state area, where the distributor had already lined up buyers, he added.
  • Under normal circumstances, the distributor would have put these supplies on a ship, which would have taken 37 days, Polowczyk said.
  • FEMA is expediting this process — chartering flights from around the world to move the equipment to the U.S. in a day.
  • Asked whether an airlift of the scale he has in mind has been done before in the U.S., Polowczyk said, "Frankly, I don't know if on the scale that I think we're going to have to do it to get enough here soon enough. ... I'm hoping this is only a two-, three-week effort, but it may be a month's worth ... but I don't know of another effort like this."
  • Major U.S. health care distributors are involved in the effort, per Reuters, which first reported on the plane's touchdown as part of the effort.

Local officials are crying out for ventilators and personal protective equipment. A survey of mayors in more than 200 U.S. cities found that more than 90% of the cities "do not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders (including police, fire, and EMTs) and medical personnel." These supply shortages have been made far worse, experts say, by the administration's slow and dysfunctional early efforts to prepare for the virus' explosion through the U.S. The U.S. government is paying for the flight. The distributor is paying for the product, which it will sell to buyers in the U.S. And the State Department is coordinating with countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia to speed up diplomatic clearances.

Coronavirus NY: 1,200 dead and worst is yet to come, Cuomo Says - - As the death toll in New York surged over 1,200 people, Governor Cuomo warned the virus has been ahead of us since day one, and the worst of it is still coming. "We have been playing catch up from day one. You never win playing catch up. Get ahead of the problem, don't fight today's fight," Cuomo said. "Plan for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks from now when you are going to have the apex and make sure that we are in a position to win the battle when the battle is truly drawn which is going to be at the apex." Officials say 1,218 people have now died in the state - 253 deaths in 24 hours. New York also reported almost 7,000 new cases bringing the total to more than 67,000.

Coronavirus deaths in the US top 3,000, as New York remains US epicenter - The U.S. hit a grim milestone on Monday after health officials announced the 3,000thcoronavirus-related death in the country, with about 900 from New York City alone, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.New York is currently the U.S. epicenter of the virus and has over 67,000 cases. Over a third of all deaths in the country have occurred in the state. USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms, arrived in New York harbor earlier in the day. The floating hospital could be ready to take in patients as soon as Tuesday amid a growing strain on healthcare workers in the city. New York’s Empire State Building was lit up on Monday night and will stay up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to honor medical workers and first responders."We’ll never stop shining for you," it said.Gov. Andrew Cuomo D-N.Y., has requested relief for healthcare professionals currently working on the front lines. He said roughly 14,000 people were tested for the virus yesterday and nearly 10,000 are currently hospitalized.“In this battle, the troops are our healthcare professionals,” Cuomo said at the Javits Center, a convention hall in New York City that was turned into an emergency hospital, USA Today reported. “We need relief. We need relief for nurses working 12-hour shifts. We need relief for doctors. Help us now and we will return the favor.”He spoke as the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York City rose to 914 on Monday afternoon. An additional 253 people died in the state in a 24-hour period. He said only one county in New York does not have a case of the virus.“If you wait to prepare for a storm to hit, it is too late,” the governor said, according to the New York Times. “You have to prepare before the storm hits. And in this case the storm is when you hit that high point, when you hit that apex. How do you know when you’re going to get there? You don’t.”  New York reported an over 11 percent increase in patients who tested positive for coronavirus, amounting to 6,751 cases solely on Monday. Cuomo said that anyone who believes the coronavirus is only a New York City situation is in "a state of denial."

New York Gov. Cuomo issues nationwide call for doctors and nurses in coronavirus fight - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday called on health-care workers across the United States to travel to New York to help the state battle the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation. “Help New York. We are the ones who are hit now,” Cuomo said at a press conference from New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Center, which was converted into a temporary hospital by the Army Corps of Engineers last week. The Javits Center will be used for non-COVID-19 patients to free up beds and medical supplies in other hospitals, he said. Cuomo said the outbreak in New York isn’t an anomaly and will hit every part of the U.S. “We’re the ones who are hit now. That’s today, but tomorrow it’s going to somewhere else, whether it’s Detroit, whether it’s New Orleans. It will work it’s way across the country,” the governor said. “Anyone who says this situation is a ‘New York City only situation’ is in a state of denial. You see this virus move across the state, you see this virus move across the nation, there is no American who is immune to this virus. I don’t care if you live in Kansas. I don’t care if you live in Texas,” Cuomo said. As of Sunday night, local health officials confirmed more than 33,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City alone — half the state’s 66,487 cases and almost a quarter of all cases in the U.S. He said the state was dealing with the pandemic at a “level, intensity and density” that hasn’t been seen elsewhere and that lessons learned in New York can be applied elsewhere in the nation.

NY Prisoners Say They're Re-Packaging Hand Sanitizer, Not Making It From Scratch, Under Cuomo's Program  - Who can forget Governor Andrew Cuomo's presser weeks ago where he exclaimed that he would be putting New York state prisoners to work making hand sanitizer? The goal was to produce 100,000 gallons of it every week to be distributed, for free, to schools, government agencies and other needy institutions. Well, that doesn't appear to actually be what's happening. Instead, prisoners are apparently taking hand sanitizer from elsewhere and just re-packaging it and re-branding it as "NYS Clean" sanitizer, according to a new expose from Vice. At the time, Cuomo boasted that the NYS Sanitizer would be better than Purell's due to its 75% alcohol content and its floral scent. He also bragged about the economics: “This is also much less expensive than anything the government could buy—a gallon bottle is $6.10, the 7-ounce bottle is $1.12 our cost, and then there’s a very small size… which is 84 cents. So it’s much cheaper for us to make it ourselves than to buy it on the open market.”“We are problem solvers, state of New York, Empire State, progressive capital of the nation,” he proudly stated after revealing NYS-Clean branded sanitizer.  But a New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision source says that the sanitizer itself is being produced at an outside vendor and that the prisoners are only bottling it and labeling it.An inmate, who said that the rollout began on March 7, also said that people are bottling the sanitizer 24 hours a day in three 8 hour shifts. He also said that there's as many hours as people are willing to take on: “There's one guy who worked 116 hours in one week, and just stays there. They ask people if they want overtime, but a lot of people refuse it. It's not actually overtime, it's just more hours but you still get paid the same amount.” He said the work mainly consists of "turning a nozzle" and filling gallon sized bottles. Inmates have been instructed to bottle 6,000 gallons of the sanitizer, he says, which is brought in by truck from an outside vendor for every shift.   He said they make $2 per hour for their work, and that's why the price of the sanitizer at the end of the day is so cheap. The inmate said he hasn't been to the prison's commissary in more than a month due to the strenuous work hours he has been forced to put in. “We're completely overworked. They treat us like shit," he concluded.Here's video of Cuomo's initial press conference introducing the sanitizer:

Dad hid coronavirus symptoms to visit maternity ward after wife gave birth - A man who had been exposed to the coronavirus and who was himself feeling sick hid his symptoms from staff at Strong Memorial Hospital so he could join his expectant wife in the maternity center. He confessed only when his wife began to show symptoms of COVID-19 shortly after giving birth. The incident, which occurred in the last week, is a fresh example of the need for extreme caution — and honesty — when it comes to the highly communicable virus. The incident helped motivate a UR Medicine announcement Monday that it would begin taking the temperatures of the relatively small number of visitors being allowed into Strong, Highland and three other affiliated hospitals with maternity services. The change is the second announced Monday. UR Medicine, along with Rochester Regional Health, said it would require staff, patients and visitors to wear surgical masks in public, patient-care areas of their facilities. The universal-masking new policy is not related to the incident at Strong. Like other hospital operators in New York, UR Medicine began blocking most visitors two weeks ago in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19 to highly vulnerable patients and to sorely needed hospital staff. The exceptions are parents whose child is hospitalized; a person whose loved one is near the end of life, and one spouse, partner or doula to assist a woman giving birth and support her afterward. Upon arriving, those visitors were asked if they'd been in proximity to anyone who might have COVID-19 and if their own health was good. If they attested that all was well, the visitors were allowed in. 

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo says he's tested positive for the coronavirus - Cuomo said he is quarantined in his basement at his home and will continue working from there. “I just hope I didn’t give it to the kids and Cristina. That would make me feel worse than this illness!” he said. The governor announced his brother's diagnosis at his daily briefing Tuesday. He seemed confident of his recovery, saying his brother is "not as strong as he thinks, but he will be fine.” According to CNN, he was last at the network's Hudson Yards headquarters in New York City last Friday. Cuomo is the third case of coronavirus at CNN's New York offices after employees were notified of another case in mid-March. CNN, as well as other major networks such as MSNBC and Fox News, have had several cases pop up in their New York offices as they navigate remote broadcasting. As of Tuesday afternoon, New York City has over 38,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 914 deaths, according to a count by Johns Hopkins.

US coronavirus death toll eclipses China's official count - The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surged past 3,500 on Tuesday – passing China’s official count, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, over 800,000 people have been infected and more than 39,000 people have died, according to the tally. In the US, about 3,550 people have died, about 250 more than China’s official number. Italy and Spain, meanwhile, accounted for half the deaths. On Tuesday, China reported just one new death from COVID-19 and 48 new cases, claiming that all new infections came from abroad. In Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus first emerged, people were ready to “revenge shop.” The Johns Hopkins figures supplied by government health authorities around the world are regarded with skepticism by public health experts because of varying counting practices, a lack of testing in places, the many mild cases that have been missed — and perhaps government efforts to downplay the numbers. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession "that probably has no parallel in the recent past." There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to "enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict," the UN chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

Coronavirus update: Surpassing 9/11; 240,000 projected deaths; Dow dip - The coronavirus death toll surged past 3,900 on Tuesday, eclipsing the total from the 9/11 terror attacks as New York City traded "Ground Zero" for "epicenter."  Near where the World Trade Center towers collapsed more than 18 years ago, Wall Street capped a debacle of its own in the month after reaching dizzying heights.  More than 900 people have died from COVID-19 in Manhattan alone, and the city was opening temporary hospitals in a convention center, a Navy ship and Central Park. Refrigeration trucks were serving as temporary morgues. Still, the nation's top health expert found some reason for hope, saying social distancing was working and that the rate of increase of New York City cases might be starting to slow.More than 500 deaths were reported nationwide Monday, the highest daily total since the first American died six weeks ago. The U.S. death toll has now surpassed China, where the pandemic began late last year.Cities and states tightened stay-at-home restrictions. Thousands of retailers across the nation, large and small, closed their doors, and many furloughed employees. Gun shops in Los Angeles won a reprieve, however, when authorities retracted an order to close them. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he’s heeding a federal Department of Homeland Security advisory issued that listed gun and ammunition dealers as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”The United States had more than 186,000 confirmed cases Tuesday afternoon, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, more than 855,000 people have been infected with the virus and more than 42,000 have died.

New York, 'Still In Search Of The Apex,' Sees Another Spike In Coronavirus Cases - New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus' spread in the U.S., has reported yet another sizable leap in confirmed cases. With more than 9,200 new cases, the state's grand total is more than 75,000 as of midday Tuesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning that the rise in the number of New York's confirmed cases is only going to get steeper as testing increases and more time passes. "We're all in search of the apex and the other side of the mountain," he told a news conference Tuesday. "That's where the main battle is going to be, the apex of the curve," he added, referring to graphs projecting the number of COVID-19 cases over time. The top of the curve, in other words, reflects the moment at which the volume of cases reaches its peak. "And then we come down the other side of the mountain. We are planning now for the battle at the top of the mountain." New York has reported nearly five times as many confirmed cases of the coronavirus as any other state — a gap that may grow larger as the state ramps up testing. Of the more than 18,000 tests undertaken there since Monday, Cuomo said that roughly half returned a coronavirus diagnosis. Even as New York grapples with the biggest outbreak in the U.S., Cuomo said the state is struggling to get the respirators it needs — partly because of federal intervention, which he said has been hindering rather than supporting the state's efforts. "Look at the bizarre situation we wind up in: Every state does its own purchasing, so New York is purchasing, California's purchasing, Illinois is purchasing — we're all trying to buy literally the same exact item," he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is involved in bidding — and Cuomo said that is driving up the price, as well.  "What sense does this make? The federal government should have been the purchasing agent — buy everything and then allocate it by need to the states," he said. "Why would you create a situation where the 50 states are competing with each other and then the federal government, FEMA, comes in and competes with the rest of it?"

New York Deaths Top 2k as Tri-State Cases Surpass 100k -New York has reported more COVID-19 cases than China's Hubei province, where the pandemic started more than three months ago; many on the front lines are getting infected, some have already died. Nearly 110,000 in the tri-state area have now tested positive for COVID-19; more than 2,300 have died, including first responders Nearly 2,000 people have died in the Empire State alone.  To date, the state has 1,941 deaths, up nearly 400 in 24 hours, with 83,712 infections. One projection from the Gates Foundation-funded IHME suggests New York could lose a total 16,000 through July, meaning the crisis would extend well into the summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily briefing Wednesday. New York City, impaired by the density that makes it one of the world's most vibrant places, is the nation's epicenter. As of Wednesday, the city had 47,439 cases and 1,139 dead, an increase of nearly four dozen fatalities overnight. Cuomo said Wednesday that all NYC playgrounds would be shut down, citing ongoing density issues. He said the state would leave open spaces available for people to move freely; the city's street closure plan is part of that. State consultants peg the peak of COVID-19 cases to hit New York at the end of April, with 75,000-110,000 COVID-only beds needed, the governor said Wednesday. Some models predict it could hit in seven days; others have it in six weeks. His team works to develop moderate projections to best plan for need. "The higher models, we don't have a chance at meeting that capacity anyway," Cuomo said. The city alone said it needs 65,000 beds by the end of the month. In order to help reach that number, field hospitals at locations like the Javits Center, Central Park, USTA tennis center and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will be able to house thousands of non-coronavirus patients. At least 20 hotels in NYC, which have seen business grind to a halt since the outbreak began, have been leased out by city hospitals to house 10,000 beds. The city hopes that in the next phase of leasing hotels and converting large venues, as many as 39,000 beds could be created, in addition to on-site and off-site hospital facilities.

New York governor says US won’t ‘get back to normal’ after coronavirus - New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said on Wednesday he thought Americans would be living with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for a long time to come.“I don’t think we get back to normal,” Cuomo said. “I think we get to a new normal.”He declared it was Americans’ responsibility to ensure the change brought about by the pandemic will be positive rather than negative.Cuomo also emphasized that all US states need to be better prepared for such crises because “something like this will happen again”.On Wednesday afternoon Florida issued a statewide stay-at-home order to its residents after days of resisting pressure from health officials and even Washington, as cases in the state surged towards 7,000.New Jersey is also reaching worrying levels of illness, with the small state coping with 18,000 cases and 267 deaths so far, Cuomo reported in his midday address, which discussed the situation in New York but also saw him expand to give information beyond his borders. New York state has confirmed 83,712 cases of coronavirus, marking an increase of 7,917 since Tuesday, Cuomo said, and the virus has claimed 1,941 lives in the state, up from 1,550 yesterday. Of those, about 1,000 deaths have occurred from coronavirus in New York City, now the center of the epidemic in the US. Cuomo noted many people are looking for answers about when this crisis will end, but he said it was currently impossible to say. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Cuomo said. In New York City, which is eerily quiet during a stay-home order by the authorities, bodies of those taken by coronavirus are now being loaded on to refrigerated morgue trucks by overwhelmed hospitals – in some cases in full view of passing motorists. Cuomo predicted that based on modeling projections, the worst time for deaths in New York will be the end of April and prompting the need for between 75,000 and 110,000 beds for Covid-19 patients and between 25,000 and 37,000 ventilators for extreme cases, depending on how effective stay-home and physical distancing orders are. By Wednesday midday the US had about 188,000 confirmed coronavirus casesand the death toll was 3,918.

MORE: Coronavirus live updates: More than 50,000 cases in NYC -  New York City's Health Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued new guidance to residents urging them to wear face coverings outside.The coverings can be as simple as a scarf or a bandana, but they must cover the mouth and nose, according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.De Blasio said the new guidelines, which are made to complement social distancing rules, were issued because of new data on the coronavirus. A man covers his face while walking on the streets in the Manhattan borough, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York, March 15, 2020. "I want to emphasize this … the reason for this guidance is studies show some asymptomatic people may be transmitting the disease," he said at his daily briefing. De Blasio said New Yorkers who aren't health workers or first responders should not use a surgical mask."Leave those alone, leave those to the people who need it to save lives," the mayor said.  Barbot advised that face coverings should be cleaned with soap and water and dried daily. The health department put further details about the face covering advisory on its website. Later in the evening, the city released new data on the number of cases. As of Thursday evening, there were 49,707 confirmed cases, and 1,562 COVID-19 related deaths. About 1,400 people have died in New York City, with tens of thousands more testing positive.

New York Records Largest Single-Day Death Toll From Coronavirus – WSJ - The pandemic’s toll on the U.S. intensified, as New York reported its highest daily rise in deaths from the new coronavirus and an abysmal March jobs report pointed to a deeper labor-market collapse. A continued surge in confirmed cases across America pushed the Trump administration to recommend Americans wear face masks when in public to reduce transmission.U.S. stocks and government bond yields fell after new data showed employers shed 701,000 jobs last month, the start of a labor-market slowdown that could push the unemployment rate to new highs. A record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. Ten weeks after its first reported case of the new coronavirus, the U.S. is at the center of the global pandemic with more than 270,400 reported infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.On Thursday, the country accounted for the largest portion of the world’s new cases, with nearly 30,100 new cases of the 80,600 total. And in a grim milestone, the official number of deaths rose by 1,169 in the 24 hours to Thursday evening—its highest daily toll.Between 8 p.m. Thursday and the same time Friday, the official count of people in the U.S. who died from Covid-19 rose by 1,161, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, which reported 32,133 new cases.New York, the worst-hit state, on Friday also saw its highest single increase in deaths since the outbreak started. A total of 2,935 people have now died in the state, up from 2,373 a day earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.   With the need for ventilators is becoming greater than ever, Mr. Cuomo said the state would require hospitals in areas less affected to make machines available.The Trump administration on Friday recommended that Americans wear “basic cloth or fabric” face masks when in public to reduce transmission. The new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to reduce the risk that people who are infected but asymptomatic will spread the virus.“The CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face coverings as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Mr. Trump said at a White House news briefing, adding “it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it.”

Rikers Island Prisoners Being Offered PPE and $6 an Hour to Dig Mass Graves - NEW YORK CITY is offering prisoners at Rikers Island jail $6 per hour — a fortune by prison labor standards — and personal protective equipment if they agree to help dig mass graves on Hart Island, according to sources with knowledge of the offer. Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the general arrangement, but said that it was not “Covid-specific,” noting that prisoners have been digging graves on Hart Island for years. The offer is only being made to those with convictions, not those jailed before trial, as is generally the case. A memo sent to prisoners, according to a source who reviewed it, does not specify what the work on Hart Island will be, but the reference to PPE leaves little doubt. The offer comes as New York City continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, with 38,000 people infected and more than 914 dead so far. New York City owns and operates a public cemetery on Hart Island, which has long been maintained by prison labor. The island was identified as a potential resting place for a surge of bodies in the event of a pandemic by a 2008 report put together by the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Hart Island, though, “has limited burial space,” the report noted, and “may not be able to accommodate a large influx of decedents requiring burial,” which the preparedness plan estimated at between 50,000 and 200,000 in a pandemic with a mortality rate of 2 percent in which 25 to 35 percent of the population is infected.The city document proposed employing the Department of Defense’s “temporary mass internment method,” which places caskets 10 in a row, head to foot, so as not to stack them on top of each other. Hart Island is located off City Island in the Bronx. In 2008, Rikers prisoners were burying roughly 20 to 25 bodies per week there, the report found. Prisoners may be safer in the fresh air of Hart Island, digging mass graves while wearing PPE, than sitting back in the unfolding human rights catastrophe that is Rikers, an overcrowded cesspool that has become widely infected with coronavirus. Prisoners who are involved in burials are routinely provided with PPE, Cohen said.

New Jersey reports 846 deaths from coronavirus, total cases over 34,000 -   New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Saturday that 200 people had died from the coronavirus in his state overnight and that 4,331 more people have tested positive. The state now has 34,124 cases and 846 deaths. New Jersey has the second-highest number of cases in the country, behind neighboring New York, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday now has 113,704 confirmed cases and more than 3,500 deaths. “We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did in the Sept. 11 attacks,” Murphy said at a press conference. “Let that sink in for just a moment. This pandemic is writing one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history.” Murphy called for a moment of silence during his press conference Saturday. He previously announced on Friday that all flags in the state must be lowered to half-staff “indefinitely” in honor of the lives lost during the pandemic. The governor also directed state police to allow municipalities to prohibit all rentals to transient guests or seasonal tenants for the duration of the crisis. The state's hospitals will also be receiving more than 70,000 N95 masks and 5,000 gloves from a personal protective equipment hoarding operation broken up by the FBI on Friday, he said.

Feds distribute thousands of surgical masks, gloves seized by FBI  — The federal government said Thursday that it is distributing tens of thousands of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to medical personnel in New York and New Jersey after seizing the materials earlier this week. The Justice Department said FBI agents discovered the stash during an operation by its Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. Among the items were 192,000 N-95 masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, as well as surgical gowns, hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant. Bing COVID-19 tracker: Latest numbers by country and state The Department of Health and Human Services said it will pay the owner of the materials fair market value for the supplies that were confiscated. Criminal hoarding charges cannot be filed, a Justice Department official explained, because the materials were stockpiled earlier, before the government announced a crackdown. Law enforcement officials said the materials were stored at a car repair shop in New Jersey and a residence in Brooklyn. On Monday, the FBI arrested the homeowner, Baruch Feldheim, on charges that he lied to agents about acquiring the materials. He was also charged with assaulting a federal officer by coughing on an agent while claiming that the was infected with COVID-19. Court documents said Feldheim offered to sell protective supplies to doctors and nurses, arranging to make one such sale through a WhatsApp chat group labeled "Virus2020!" Investigators said they watched people go to his house and walk away with boxes and bags that appeared to contain medical supplies. One doctor paid a markup of about 700 percent to buy masks and surgical gowns, according to prosecutors. Feldheim appeared in court Monday to face the charges. He was released on bail and required to surrender his passport.

‘Off the charts’: Virus hot spots grow in middle America   (AP) — The coronavirus continued its unrelenting spread across the United States with fatalities doubling in two days and authorities saying Saturday that an infant who tested positive had died. It pummeled big cities like New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago, and made its way, too, into rural America as hotspots erupted in small Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.Elsewhere, Russia announced a full border closure while in parts of Africa, pandemic prevention measures took a violent turn, with Kenyan police firing tear gas and officers elsewhere seen on video hitting people with batons.Worldwide infections surpassed the 660,000 mark with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases also stacked up quickly in Europe, according to a tallyby Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world in reported cases with more than 120,000. Confirmed deaths surpassed 2,000 on Saturday, twice the number just two days before, highlighting how quickly infections are escalating. Still, five countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Saturday that an infant with COVID-19 died in Chicago and the cause of death is under investigation. Officials didn’t release other information, including whether the child had other health issues. New York remained the worst-hit U.S. city. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks.” The U.N. donated 250,000 face masks to the city, and Cuomo delayed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

New Orleans Area Has Worst Coronavirus Death Rate in U.S. – WSJ - The coronavirus is killing residents in southeast Louisiana at higher rates than in other parts of the U.S., a new analysis shows, adding urgency to efforts to slow its spread through an already unhealthy population. Two Louisiana parishes, the state’s equivalent of counties, have the most virus-related deaths per capita nationwide, according to Gary Wagner, an economics professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who is tracking the epidemic for the state. St. John the Baptist Parish has the highest rate, followed by nearby Orleans Parish, which encompasses New Orleans. Statewide, Louisiana is second only to New York state in per-capita deaths. Mr. Wagner’s analysis is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and is limited to counties with at least five deaths. As of Friday, Louisiana reported 10,297 cases and 370 deaths. Gov. John Bel Edwards said a key challenge for Louisiana is its residents are generally sicker than Americans overall, with high levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease. The state ranked No. 49 in the United Health Foundation’s 2019 state-by-state health assessment. “We have more than our fair share of people who have the comorbidities that make them especially vulnerable,” said Mr. Edwards, a Democrat.

Why is New Orleans' coronavirus death rate twice New York's? Obesity is a factor - (Reuters) - The coronavirus has been a far deadlier threat in New Orleans than the rest of the United States, with a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City. Doctors, public health officials and available data say the Big Easy’s high levels of obesity and related ailments may be part of the problem. “We’re just sicker,” said Rebekah Gee, who until January was the health secretary for Louisiana and now heads Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division. “We already had tremendous healthcare disparities before this pandemic – one can only imagine they are being amplified now.” Along with New York and Seattle, New Orleans has emerged as one of the early U.S. hot spots for the coronavirus, making it a national test case for how to control and treat the disease it causes. Chief among the concerns raised by doctors working in the Louisiana city is the death rate, which is twice that of New York and over four times that of Seattle, based on Thursday’s publicly reported data. New Orleans residents suffer from obesity, diabetes and hypertension at rates higher than the national average, conditions that doctors and public health officials say can make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Michigan state lawmaker dies of suspected coronavirus infection - Michigan state Rep. Isaac Robinson (D) died on Sunday due to a suspected coronavirus infection, according to his family. His mother, former state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D), confirmed Robinson's death in a statement to 7 Action News, a local ABC affiliate. "I called EMS, they took him to Receiving at 6 a.m. and he was dead by 11," she added to local news affiliate Crain's Detroit Business. Robinson, 44, was unmarried and previously served as a political director for the Teamster's Union, according to Crain's. "Rep. Isaac Robinson had a huge heart, a quick wit, and a genuine passion for the people. I am very sad to hear of his passing. He was a fierce advocate for Detroiters and people across Southeast Michigan," tweeted Michigan's Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Sunday.

 Coronavirus death toll rising rapidly in Detroit - The number of deaths in Detroit from the coronavirus increased by 49 percent on Monday, with 27 new fatalities bringing the total from 35 to 52. The total number of confirmed cases in the city rose to 1,801, according to data published by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Michigan had the second largest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths, surpassed only by the state of New York, which reported 52. Of the total number of 182 deaths in Michigan, 158, or 87 percent, are from the three most populated counties in Southeast Michigan—Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The total number of coronavirus cases in the tricounty area is 5,288, or 81 percent of the state’s total of 6,498. On Monday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, mentioned the growth of the pandemic in Detroit on the ABC TV program Good Morning America. While discussing several areas in the country with accelerating infection rates, Fauci said, “We’re also worried about Detroit. Detroit is starting to show some signs that they’re going to take off.” Fauci’s statement came three days after US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Detroit is a national hotspot for the coronavirus and that the city “will have a worse week next week.” The New York Times published a report on the coronavirus in Detroit on Monday and quoted Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine and expert on epidemics at the University of Michigan. Markel said, “The city itself is underequipped. It’s a perfect storm of poverty and very rudimentary public health conditions.” While the coronavirus has been spreading rapidly in Michigan, the number of tests conducted so far is a miniscule 15,282. This is in a state with a population of 10 million. As medical experts have repeatedly explained, the lack of universal public testing is among the most significant factors in the spread of the pandemic because people who have the virus and are asymptomatic can give it to others without being aware of it. * Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said 493 police officers, 105 civilian employees and 109 members of the Detroit Fire Department were in quarantine as of Monday. Of these, 69 police officers, including Chief James Craig, and eight firefighters have tested positive. Two Detroit police officers have died from the coronavirus. City health officials believe the source of the infections in the department originated at a “Police and Pancakes” event in the Ninth Precinct on March 6 that drew about 100 people.

Michigan jumps to nearly 8,000 coronavirus cases with concentration in Detroit area --Michigan’s total confirmed coronavirus cases has jumped to 7,615 after the state counted 1,117 new cases on Tuesday. Michigan reported 75 additional deaths Tuesday, bringing the total fatalities to 259, according to the state’s daily updates. Confirmed cases have nearly quadrupled from a week ago, when Michigan had 1,791 cases and 24 deaths.The virus has been confirmed in 67 of the state’s 83 counties, with about 81 percent of cases in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, accordingto MLive. Metro Detroit has been a concentration area for the virus due to factors including population density, community spread and more aggressive testing. The three counties comprise about 39 percent of Michigan’s population.Of the current cases, 2,080 live within the city, whereas 1,655 live elsewhere in Wayne County, 1,591 live in Oakland County and 853 live in Macomb County. Nineteen counties have seen at least one death from the virus but the vast majority of deaths — 88 percent — have been in one of the three Detroit metro area counties.Deborah Birx, a physician and White House coronavirus response coordinator, has called Wayne County a potential emerging hotspot.Monday marked a week since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order asking residents to remain inside except for essential businesses. She has also ordered the closure of restaurants, bars and schools.Whitmer warned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the state would be “in dire straits again in a matter of days,” despite a recent shipment of N95 masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We're keeping up the pressure and working 24/7 at the state level and grateful that there are people who are doing that at the federal level as well,” Whitmer said Sunday. “But this is not something that we should be fighting each other on. It should be everyone fighting COVID-19, everyone versus COVID-19.” On Sunday, state Rep. Isaac Robinson (D) died of a suspected coronavirus infection. He is believed to be the first state or national lawmaker to succumb to the virus.

As Detroit surges past 2,000 cases, COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout Michigan - The epicenter of the coronavirus in Michigan continues to be the City of Detroit, as the number of confirmed cases surged to 2,080 and the number of deaths reached 75 on Tuesday. Wayne County, where Detroit is located, now has 3,735 confirmed cases and 120 deaths, which represents approximately half the total cases (7,615) and deaths (259) in the state.Michigan now has the third most cases and deaths from COVID-19 in the US, surpassing California on Tuesday and behind only New York and New Jersey.Oakland County, which is directly north of Wayne County and is separated from the northern border of Detroit at 8 Mile Road, has the second largest number of cases in the state at 1,591 and 70 who have died from the virus. Oakland County has 62 cities, townships and villages within it and a total population of 1.2 million.The Oakland County government has published an interactive map on its website showing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county by zip code. While there are cases in nearly every one of the more than 50 zip codes in the county, the communities with the greatest number of cases are located in the cities of Southfield, Oak Park and West Bloomfield.  Although there are no publicly available statistics on coronavirus cases in Pontiac, the interactive map indicates that the number of confirmed cases in the county seat of Oakland County is now at 73. Pontiac, like Detroit, is a city dominated by poverty and destruction of social conditions for the working class population, connected with the destruction of the auto industry over the past five decades. Significantly, the government of Pontiac—with a population of 60,000 people—is not providing residents with any updates on COVID-19 pandemic statistics on their city website. While the tricounty Detroit metropolitan area of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties has more than 80 percent of both the total confirmed cases and deaths in the state, there are many indications that the pandemic is spreading rapidly in other population centers in the state, such as Ann Arbor, Flint, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

Detroit hospitals 'getting crushed' as Michigan coronavirus cases surge - With rapidly increasing cases of the novel coronavirus in Michigan beginning to overwhelm the hospital system, one Detroit doctor says he's "not sure any level of preparedness would have been enough" to respond to the pandemic."I think it's fair to say that Detroit is getting crushed right now. … We were watching China and trying to anticipate how this would play out," Dr. Nick Gilpin, medical director for infection prevention at Beaumont Health, told ABC News. "But under the circumstances, this has been so fast and heavy." On Thursday, there were 10,791 people in Michigan who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 417 have died. The state reported its first two cases on March 10.  Nick Gilpin, system medical director for infection prevention at Beaumont Health in Michigan, says the state is "getting crushed" by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. A high concentration of those cases have been in the southeastern part of the state, in Detroit, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties. Gilpin, who said he represents the Beaumont system's hospitals in Wayne and Oakland, speculated that it's Detroit's high density and medically underserved population that has made them vulnerable to COVID-19. "I think the Detroit area, as many of us who have practiced here for years know, [has] greater per capita incidents of obesity [and] medical conditions like diabetes and lung disease built up over years," he said.

Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 14,225; Death toll now at 540 - The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 14,225 as of Saturday, including 540 deaths, state officials report. On Friday, April 3, the number of confirmed Michigan coronavirus cases climbed to 12,744 with the death toll at 479. On Saturday, Wayne State University announced one of its employees who was also a student at the college died from complications related to the coronavirus. More instant tests are in the hands of Detroit doctors fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. Wayne State University Physician Group has purchased four new devices that quickly deliver COVID-19 test results. The devices can process a total of 500 tests each day and provide results within an hour. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer repeated Thursday that cases and deaths are expected to continue rising in the coming weeks, but urged Michigan residents to continue to stay home and practice mitigation. “We’re a good month out from the apex right now," Whitmer said during her Thursday briefing. "Each of us responds differently to this disease and that's why we all must act as if we're carrying it and stay home."

U.S. Sees Coronavirus Peak in Some Cities Next Week as Global Toll Climbs – WSJ - Confirmed coronavirus cases shot past 1.1 million globally, as the U.S. braced for the most challenging days ahead for many of its hardest-hit cities. Modeling shows New York, Detroit and New Orleans—and areas around those cities—will likely reach the peak of their outbreaks in the next six to seven days, White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Saturday evening. “The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” Dr. Birx said at a White House news briefing. “This is the moment to do everything that you can on the presidential guidelines. This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe.” She declined to predict how many people could die in the hot spots, noting that each place is different. But she noted that New York has seen several hundred deaths a day, and officials there have said that number could increase into the range of 500 to 700 people daily. “There will be a lot of death unfortunately,” President Trump said at the briefing. But he added there would be less death than there would have been without the government’s response to stop the spread of the virus. The president in recent days has repeatedly urged Americans to follow federal social-distancing guidelines. The U.S. has more than 300,000 cases, and New York state is hardest hit with nearly 114,000 as of Saturday. Upward of 8,100 people in the U.S. have died from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data. Roughly half of those are in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “It is like a fire spreading,” Mr. Cuomo added on Saturday. Most states now have stay-at-home orders, with governors in Alabama and Missouri announcing such restrictions Friday.

Coronavirus Slowdown in Washington Suggests Social Distancing Is Working --Washington State has seen a slowdown in the infection rate of the novel coronavirus, for now, suggesting that early containment strategies have been effective, according to the Seattle NBC News affiliate. While Seattle was the early epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., the number of deaths and positive cases there has started to slow down. The number of positive COVID-19 cases continued to rise — however, slower than in other states — as there 568 new cases on Sunday, bringing the state's total to 4,896, with a death toll of 195, up six from Saturday, according to The Seattle Times.While 37 of the first 50 coronavirus deaths happened in Seattle, the state has kept its streets empty, its businesses shuttered, and its hospitals from being overwhelmed. Statistical models have shown state officials that the virus is decreasing its spread recently. The model showed that each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, but that number appears to have declined down 1.4, according to one projection, as The New York Times reported."It's a small reduction in the rate of increase, but a glimmer of hope," Gov. Jay Insee said, as the Seattle NBC News affiliate reported. "[I]f you look at the line you have some slight reduction in the rate of acceleration, the curve. And we've all heard about turning down the curve."The new data and new projections were put together by the Institute for Disease Modeling, a private research group in Bellevue, Wash., that has been watching a variety of data points since the onset of the outbreak. While the initial projections are positive, officials exercised an abundance of caution before expressing optimism, since the data is slightly uncertain, according to The New York Times. Expansive social distancing will continue for some time.Officials in Washington State first began to ask residents to keep their distance from one another at the end of February. That is when they learned several people had the virus in the Seattle area with no known exposure or history of foreign travel. That w as followed by an outbreak at a suburban nursing home, which led to dozens of deaths, according to The New York Times. "We made a huge impact — we slowed the transmission," Seattle's mayor, Jenny Durkan, said in an interview, as The New York Times reported. However, she was clear that lifting restrictions would cause the number of cases to rise quickly. She predicted that social distancing in one form or another will continue for several months.

 Florida Megachurch Packed with Worshipers ...  Pastor Shuns Social Distancing -  This is the clear and present danger ... people continuing to congregate -- squeezing into close quarters like sardines -- and that's exactly what happened Sunday at a Florida Church.The River Church in Tampa was packed to the gills with worshipers who clearly were looking for hope. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who presides over the megachurch and has been reportedly defiant over social distancing, has claimed he'll cure coronavirus just the way he did with Zika.He has vowed he will never close his church ... despite every doctor and scientist saying social distancing is the only thing that will prevent the disease from spreading even more. The Pastor boasted his place was white-glove clean, saying, “We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It'll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America.” Howard-Browne said on March 17, "We are not stopping anything. I've got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.”   The Pastor has peddled ridiculous theories in the past, but this takes the cake.   The scariest part ... all these people showed up elbow-to-elbow. If they contract the disease, they are the ones most likely to spread it, because they are clearly not practicing or understanding social distancing.

 Coronavirus is dividing blue cities from their red states --The struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic has opened a new front in the long-running conflict between blue cities and red states. Across a wide array of states with Republican governors, many of the largest cities and counties -- most of them led by Democrats -- moved aggressively to limit economic and social activity. State officials, meanwhile, refused to impose the strictest statewide standards to fight the virus..The fact that so many GOP governors tightened statewide restrictions immediately afterPresident Donald Trump finally admitted the virus' full risk from the White House podium underscores how much his earlier minimizing had contributed to the critical delays in those states. Robyn Tannehill, the mayor of Oxford, Mississippi (home of the University of Mississippi), told me in an interview that the absence of a statewide rule was undercutting their local efforts to control social interaction. "As we are a regional health care and shopping destination, we have people coming through from surrounding counties that are not [imposing] a stay at home order," she said. "When they come here, you don't know who you are passing in the Kroger or the Walmart. ... I think a statewide stay-at-home order is very necessary."The Republican governors most resisting statewide action almost all argued that smaller counties should not face the same restrictions as larger ones. "What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point in time for the" smaller counties with fewer cases, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week. While echoing that logic, other GOP governors resisting calls for action from large cities also cited more ideological arguments. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves last week painted extensive shut-down orders as an expression of overly intrusive government. "In times such as these, you always have experts who believe they know best for everybody," he said. "You have some folks who think that government ought to take over everything in times of crisis — that they, as government officials, know better than individual citizens." Similarly, Missouri's GOP governor, Mike Parson, argued that rather than government action "it is going to be personal responsibility" that wins the struggle against the virus.

1,933 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 39 deaths and 475 hospitalized - Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday announced Ohio schools will remain closed until May 1 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. That extends his school-shutdown order another three weeks, after which it will be evaluated again. A look at virus-related developments in Ohio on Monday: Confirmed cases as of March 30 *Reported by Ohio Department of Health’

  • 1,933 confirmed cases
  • 39 deaths
  • 475 hospitalized; 163 ICU admissions
  • Age range of all cases: Less than 1 year to 98 years old
  • 281 confirmed cases in Franklin County
  • Complete breakdown by county >>

WATCH: Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton hold daily briefing: After pushback from DeWine, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Columbus-based private research lab Battelle to deploy a system in Ohio, New York and Washington state that can sanitize 160,000 face masks a day. The FDA initially approved only 10,000 masks a day.In central Ohio, the Franklin County Public Health Department said it was accepting “home sewn masks” along with manufactured personal protective equipment.A prison employee at the Marion Correctional Institution tested positive for the coronavirus, officials reported, marking the first such occurrence in Ohio. Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court was considering a lawsuit by an inmate seeking release from Belmont Correctional Facility over fears of the virus. More than 1,900 cases are confirmed, with 39 deaths as of Monday and nearly 500 people hospitalized, officials reported. That doesn't reflect all cases in Ohio, because the state limits testing to those who are hospitalized and to health care workers.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Over 2,000 cases in Ohio, 55 deaths - There are now at least 2,199 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ohio with 55 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Six of the confirmed deaths are from the Miami County . In Ohio, 585 people suffering with COVID-19 have been admitted to hospitals. The state has a population of approximately 11.6 million people. Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference on the state’s response to coronavirus at 2 p.m.:  The following announcements were made:

  • Dr. Acton issuing an order to help the state keep track of where ventilators are, how many the state has access to, so if there is a shortage they can be moved around. The order requires weekly on-line reporting of these devices by any entity in the supply chain, from creation through end use. Examples are manufacturers, producers, wholesalers, transporters, distributors, retailers, physicians, clinics, hospitals, and medical facilities.
  • Along with mechanical ventilators, other devices to be reported are C-PAP and B-PAP machines commonly used to treat sleep apnea, as well as anesthetic machines and various treatment masks and tubing.
  • Battelle and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have jointly developed a new rapid, sensitive diagnotic COVID-19 test. The new test will allow for fast turnaround time on test results.
  • Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he is asking Ohio Jobs and Family Services and private vendors to increase capacity on unemployment website and also hire additional people to take phone calls. “Your voices are being heard and they are being acted on,” Husted said of the complaints they have received.
  • Ohio has tested 29,191 people for coronavirus.
  • 429 of the positive cases in Ohio are healthcare workers, which accounts for 20 percent of the positive cases in the state.
  • Acton said the state has empty hospital beds, but she called it the “calm before the storm.”
  • Battelle processed its first 3,500 N95 masks through the sterilization system it created to assist in reusing PPE, Husted said.
  • The state is expected to provide an outline to build out hospital capacity for each region in Ohio on Wednesday, DeWine said.
  • A projection curve used by the Ohio Department of Health from The Ohio State University projected Ohio to have 448 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. New state data shows Ohio came in under the COVID-19 projection with 266 new cases, according to data released at 2 p.m.

2,547 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, 65 deaths (WJW)-- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton held their daily news conference on the coronavirus outbreak at 2 p.m. Wednesday. As of Wednesday, there were 2,547 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, resulting in 65 deaths. The health department said of the 679 hospitalizations, 222 people are in the intensive care unit. There are confirmed cases of the virus in 72 of Ohio's 88 counties. On Wednesday, DeWine announced the state's eight regions were divided into three zones that will work together to deal with capacity and level of care. Zone 1 includes Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Toledo and Lima; Zone 2 includes Columbus and Zanesville; and Zone 3 includes Cincinnati and Dayton. The Ohio National Guard is in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati assessing buildings for the expected surge of hospital patients. Possible structures include the Columbus Convention Center and the Duke Energy Convention Center. DeWine said the state of Ohio worked with the U.S.D.A. Food and Nutrition Services to allow the most vulnerable to have access of food while keeping their potential exposure to a minimum. Those receiving SNAP benefits can now shop online and pick up their groceries from their cars using the "click and collect" option. DeWine announced an order from Acton that non-testing hospitals are required to send specimens to the following labs: Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals. The governor said they are much faster than private labs, calling the turnaround of private labs unacceptable for patients. Acton was asked about a timeline to return to normal after the peak.  "I wish I could give you hope about your summer, but the truth is if the curve peaks in May, it will be a slow process to get to the end of the curve," Acton said.

 Ohio's confirmed coronavirus cases near 3,000 - (WJW)– Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine held his daily new conference on the coronavirus outbreak at 2 p.m. Thursday. He was joined by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. As of Thursday, there were 2,902 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. The Ohio Department of Health said there were 81 deaths. Of the 802 hospitalizations, 260 people were in the intensive care unit. DeWine said a new order will kick in Monday night, extending the stay-at-home and essential work order through May 1. It requires retail businesses to set a number of people that can be inside at one time and sets up a panel to resolve disputes on what is an essential business. The governor asked people returning from outside of Ohio to self-quarantine for 14 days. That does not apply to people who work across state lines. DeWine said he’s been asked about weddings. The state is not regulating weddings, but receptions should have no more than 10 people and allow for proper social distancing.

Cuyahoga County releases updated map of COVID-19 cases by zip code  (WJW) — Cuyahoga County health officials have released a map of coronavirus cases by zip code. Dr. Heidi Gullett said there have been 513 lab-confirmed cases in Cuyahoga County, not counting Cleveland. There have been 10 deaths. There will be more and more green areas, Gullett said, as time goes on. She said there have also been 598 isolation orders and 831 quarantine orders. There have been 60 cleared cases, she said, meaning those who have recovered from infection or cleared from quarantine. 

Coronavirus cases grow to more than 3,700, deaths pass 100 in Ohio - News - The Columbus Dispatch -  Gov. Mike DeWine said during a press conference that he would wear a cloth mask in public and that Ohioans should appreciate those who are trying to stop the spread of germs. Ohio’s top leaders on Saturday sought to shoot down the stigma against wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus climbed another 13% to 3,739. Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton cautioned that wearing a mask does not stop the need for social distancing, but they said masks can help those who might be carrying the virus from infecting others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended that people begin wearing nonmedical masks in public. DeWine said during a news conference that he would wear a cloth mask in public and that Ohioans should appreciate those who are trying to stop the spread of germs. At the same time, the state is trying to acquire more N95 respirators for medical professionals.  The state is not requiring people to wear masks in public, DeWine said. “I think we should look at them as something we can do that should be socially acceptable,” DeWine said. “What we don’t want is people to think that this is a substitute for social distancing. It is not. But it is something certainly we can do and should be accepted.”  So far, 102 people have died from the coronavirus in Ohio. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Ohio. So far, 557 residents in Franklin County have tested positive, with 94 of them hospitalized. Seven have died. Only Cuyahoga County, with 781 cases, has had more than Franklin County.  A large portion of the most serious cases are among older Ohioans. About 63% of the hospitalizations and 94 of the 102 deaths were among those age 60 and older.. The state continues to suffer from a shortage of testing. Acton has said most Ohioans who are told they have coronavirus are not being tested. About 41,000 people have been tested in Ohio so far, Acton said Saturday. On Friday, DeWine said Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health would work together to produce swab test kits to distribute to smaller hospitals because they weren’t available from vendors. Ohio’s hospitals also were directed to send tests to labs that can analyze them faster, such as OSU’s Wexner Medical Center. The state is seeking personal protective equipment from a variety of sources, DeWine said Saturday, and the governor plans to update the public when new shipments arrive.

US coronavirus: More than 200,000 people have been infected. And carriers who don't feel sick are fueling the spread – CNN - The number of US coronavirus cases surged by more than 14,000 in just a few hours Wednesday as the death toll topped 4,400. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 203,000 people in the United States have been infected,and at least 4,473 have died.Now, more data showing people without symptoms are fueling the spread has top officialsrethinking whether the general public should be wearing masks.New data from Iceland shows 50% of those who tested positive said they were asymptomatic. In the US, an estimated 25% of coronavirus carriers have no symptoms, said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Help students stay informed during these unusual times. CNN 10 breaks down the day’s biggest stories in 10 minutes or less and provides a weekly news quiz. Sign up for the free newsletter.  "Information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic. That may be as many as 25%," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told NPR.To prevent further spread, the top infectious disease expert in the US says health officials are reconsidering guidance on face masks.Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would "lean towards" recommending that the general public wear face masks "if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them.""We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination," Fauci said. If federal officials recommend widespread use of face masks, it would be a stark reversal fromrecommendations by the World Health Organization and the CDC, who have said face masks should only be worn by health care workers, those who are sick, and those who are taking care of someone sick. "There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said Monday.

Coronavirus death toll tops 5,000 in US as officials warn it’s going to get worse - More than 5,000 people in the United States have died in the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 215,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States.The U.S. has more confirmed cases than any other country in the world. Globally, more than 935,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, Johns Hopkins reports.President Donald Trump this week extended federal safety guidelines asking people not to gather in groups and isolate as much as possible through at least  April 30. Many states have told restaurants, bars and other businesses to close, and some have ordered people to shelter in place in hopes of putting the brakes on the spread of the virus. The White House coronavirus task force released public health models that show between 100,000 and 240,000 people could die from the pandemic in the United States.“This is going to be a very, very painful two weeks,” the president said during a news briefing Tuesday.Public health officials from all levels of government have been urging people to isolate as they try to“flatten the curve” of the virus. They hope to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by a flood of new patients experiencing breathing difficulties from the disease.“In the next several days to a week or so, we’re going to continue to see things go up,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work.”Advisers on the White House task force said one model predicts almost 94,000 people in the United States could die from the virus by early August.The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine model forecasts a peak in deaths in the middle of April with more than 2,200 Americans dying per day.The president first announced the social distancing guidelines March 16, asking people to isolate for two weeks. He had said he hoped the country could reopen by Easter on April 12, but has since extended those guidelines through the end of the month.

Tennessee state officials recommend health care workers use swim goggles, diapers and garbage bags as protection from COVID-19 -  The Tennessee Department of Health is recommending the use of swim goggles, diapers, plastic garbage bags and even plastic grocery bags as a protective barrier for doctors and health care workers battling the spread of the COVID-19 virus when they run out of personal protective equipment (PPE). As of Monday, the state had reported 1,818 infections and ten deaths, with a shortfall of the intensive care units needed to treat the critically ill expected to come in the next two weeks. When health care workers find themselves without the necessary protective gowns, state health officials have suggested the use of contractor trash bags, a heavier style of trash bags used for debris. In the absence of standard rubber gloves and proper eye protection, state officials are recommending ubiquitous plastic grocery bags and swim goggles to be used, Nashville CBS affiliate NewsChannel 5 reported last week. A Tennessee Health Department webinar for health care professionals also included a slide which suggested as a means of conserving PPE that surgical masks could be replaced with “bandanas, diapers and even layers of tissue and gauze,” NewsChannel 5 also reported. Nonetheless, the television news program reported that Tennessee’s Republican governor Bill Lee “insisted” in remarks to its reporters that the supply of protective clothing and equipment in the state was sufficient. Lee’s patently false statement mirrors statements by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who has claimed that the city had enough PPE for hospital staff for another week even though health care workers are already reporting shortages. New York City is currently the nation’s epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak with 66,500 cases and 1,200 deaths as of Monday.

 California once had mobile hospitals and a ventilator stockpile. But it dismantled them -- They were ready to roll whenever disaster struck California: three 200-bed mobile hospitals that could be deployed to the scene of a crisis on flatbed trucks and provide advanced medical care to the injured and sick within 72 hours.Each hospital would be the size of a football field, with a surgery ward, intensive care unit and X-ray equipment. Medical response teams would also have access to a massive stockpile of emergency supplies: 50 million N95 respirators, 2,400 portable ventilators and kits to set up 21,000 additional patient beds wherever they were needed.In 2006, citing the threat of avian flu, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the state would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a powerful set of medical weapons to deploy in the case of large-scale emergencies and natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and pandemics.“In light of the pandemic flu risk, it is absolutely a critical investment,” he told anews conference. “I’m not willing to gamble with the people’s safety.”The state, flush with tax revenue, soon sank more than $200 million into the mobile hospital program and a related Health Surge Capacity Initiative to stockpile medicines and medical gear for use in outbreaks of infectious disease, according to former emergency management officials and state budget records.But the ambitious effort, which would have been vital as the state confronts the new coronavirus today, hit a wall: a brutal recession, a free fall in state revenues — and in 2011, the administration of a fiscally minded Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, who came into office facing a $26-billion deficit.And so, that year, the state cut off the money to store and maintain the stockpile of supplies and the mobile hospitals. The hospitals were defunded before they’d ever been used.Much of the medical equipment — including the ventilators, critical life-saving tools that are in short supply in the current pandemic — was given to local hospitals and health agencies, former health officials said. But the equipment was donated without any funding to maintain them. The respirators were allowed to expire without being replaced. Together, these two programs would have positioned California to more rapidly respond as its COVID-19 cases exploded. The annual savings for eliminating both programs? No more than $5.8 million per year, according to state budget records, a tiny fraction of the 2011 budget, which totaled $129 billion.

Trump issues major disaster declaration for DC over coronavirus President Trump on Sunday issued a major disaster declaration for Washington, D.C., as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in the city and the country. The declaration allows the city to access federal funds to help D.C.’s efforts in combating the coronavirus. The president’s declaration for D.C. marks the 22nd territory that has received a major disaster declaration and federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Nineteen states, Puerto Rico and Guam have received the other designations. The funding will be available to the city government and certain private nonprofit organizations for "emergency protective measures." The declaration follows city officials' concerns that the nation's capital did not receive adequate attention in the most recent stimulus package that was passed by Trump last week. It was included with the territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, which collectively received $3.3 billion in funding. Each state is set to get about $1.25 billion. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said Thursday that the money D.C. will receive amounts to about $700 per resident, compared to about $2,000 other states get per resident.

Maryland, Virginia, DC issue stay-at-home orders for all residents - Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have all issued stay-at-home orders for their residents as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the U.S. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) all urged residents to only leave their homes to buy food and carry out essential tasks. Hogan earlier in the day announced the order, saying nonessential businesses must remain closed, and essential businesses will have to scale down their operations and allow telework as much as possible. The Maryland order goes into effect at 8 p.m. Monday. The Virginia order goes into effect immediately. "Unfortunately we are only at the beginning of this crisis, and it will get considerably worse before it gets better," Hogan said. In addition, Hogan said any resident who has traveled outside the region in recent weeks should self-quarantine for 14 days. In two weeks time, Hogan said the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas could look like the New York tristate area, which is struggling with more than half the country's coronavirus cases and a death toll of more than 1,000. Despite repeated warnings, Hogan said people have been ignoring his executive orders and directives for more than three weeks. Those individuals are "endangering themselves, and their fellow citizens," Hogan said. Hogan said he is concerned about the virus spreading to “literally thousands” of facilities in Maryland. "We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders stay home, we are directing them to do so," Hogan said. Any person who violates the order will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Hogan clarified that Marylanders “are not locked in their homes," but said residents should use “common sense.” He said running, hiking, biking or walking are allowed, but congregating in a park with hundreds of others or shopping for home furnishings is not. Hogan acknowledged the order will be "devastating" to the state budget. "We're going to tap into, or perhaps drain the entire rainy-day fund. We've already asked for half of the next stimulus package from the federal government to the states," Hogan said. "We're talking about nationally, 25 percent unemployment. Revenues should be down dramatically." Northam made his announcement shortly after Hogan, imploring residents not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Maryland's GOP governor: 'Just not true' when Trump says coronavirus testing problems over - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) dismissed President Trump's claims that issues obtaining tests for the coronavirus had passed, telling an interviewer Tuesday that new tests developed in recent days had yet to be distributed to states around the country. In an interview with NPR, Hogan said that Trump's assertion that shortages of coronavirus testing kits no longer existed was "just not true." "President Trump is suggesting that the testing problems are over, they've been fixed. It's no longer an issue," NPR's Rachel Martin told Hogan. "Yeah, that's just not true," Hogan responded. "I mean, I know that they've taken some steps to create new tests, but they're not actually created and distributed out to the states. No state has enough testing." Hogan went on to praise members of the White House coronavirus task force, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease's Dr. Anthony Fauci, who Hogan said was giving accurate information in apparent contrast to information presented by Trump. "We think it's important to get the facts out there, and I think there are people in the administration who are talking about the facts every day," Hogan added. "Ambassador [Deborah] Birx, and Anthony Fauci, and people like that who are giving factual information on a daily basis." Hogan, along with the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam (D), and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) issued stay-at-home orders this week commanding residents to remain at home except for essential tasks such as grocery shopping.

 New Mexico's governor warns tribal nations could be 'wiped out' by coronavirus -  New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised alarms with President Donald Trump Monday about "incredible spikes" in coronavirus cases in Navajo Nation, warning that the virus could "wipe out" some tribal nations, according to a recording of a call between Trump and the nation's governors obtained by ABC News."I'm very worried, Mr. President," Governor Lujan Grisham said, as she followed up on a request she made to the Department of Defense last Wednesday for a 248-bed U.S. Army combat support hospital (CSH) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Grisham told Trump she had not yet received a response."We're seeing incredible spikes in the Navajo Nation, and this is going to be an issue where we're going to have to figure that out and think about maybe testing and surveillance opportunities," Grisham said.  "The rate of infection, at least on the New Mexico side — although we've got several Arizona residents in our hospitals — we're seeing a much higher hospital rate, a much younger hospital rate, a much quicker go-right-to-the-vent rate for this population. And we're seeing doubling in every day-and-a-half," she said.  Wow, that's something," the president replied.  She added: "And it could wipe out those tribal nations." Visitors enter and exit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on June 12, 2019 in Monument Valley, Ariz.George Frey/Getty Images, FILE  "We're gonna get you that hospital as quickly as we can," Trump said, while directing others in the Situation Room to look into the problem and rush work on the hospital. "Boy, that’s too bad for the Navajo nation – I've been hearing that."The outbreak of the virus in the reservation is believed to have spread at an evangelical church rally in Chilchinbeto, Arizona, on March 7, according to a Los Angeles Times report. At least two Navajos have already died, the report said.

Global coronavirus death toll passes 40,000: Live updates - The death toll in the United States from the new coronavirus outbreak has surpassed the official tally in China, with more than more 3,400 fatalities recorded, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University. That means the US now has the third highest death toll after Italy and Spain, and the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 175,000. Further restrictions on movement are being considered in the US to curb the spread of the virus, with the country now reporting twice the number of cases as China where the outbreak began late last year. Meanwhile, Spain, the United Kingdom and France each reported their biggest overnight jump in deaths since the start of the pandemic. Around the world, more than 820,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus, and at least 174,000 have recovered. More than 40,000 people have died.

Coronavirus update: 1.06 million cases, 55,781 deaths and U.S. health care workers clamor for masks and gloves - The U.S. labor market showed further signs of damage from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 on Friday as the global case tally extended beyond a million and the death toll passed 55,000.  Nearly four billion people around the world are now under some order restricting their movements, according to a New York Times tally.   Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who is a key member of the Task Force created to handle the pandemic, told a CNN panel that he can’t understand why there is still no U.S.-wide stay-at-home order. Only 40 states so far have introduced restrictions with the severity varying state by state.  President Donald Trump has resisted the calls for a nationwide lockdown, putting him at odds with public health experts, as well as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.  In Europe, Spain overtook Italy in the number of cases even after it recorded its first decline in daily fatalities, while Germany’s tally moved past official numbers provided by China. In the U.S., states are still clamoring for basic equipment, including face masks, gowns and gloves.  The U.S. case tally climbed to 257,773 on Friday with at least 6,585 deaths, according to data aggregated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.Another 9,311 people have recovered. The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of cases, with New York the epicenter of the outbreak.The number of cases in New York state rose to 102,863 on Friday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. There were 10,842 new cases overnight, roughly half of which were based in New York City. The city’s case toll now stands at 57,159, according to Cuomo. The global tally now stands at 1.06 million cases and 55, 781 fatalities. Another 221,595 patients have recovered.In Europe, Spain has 117,710 cases and 10,935 deaths. Italy has 115,242 cases and the worst fatality rate of any country at 13,915 deaths. Germany’s case tally has climbed to 89,451 and 1,208 deaths, and China has 82,509 cases and 3,326 deaths. France has 59,942 cases and 5,398 deaths.

 CDC recommends face coverings for people leaving home - President Trump announced on Friday that his administration would recommend Americans wear homemade masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — but he repeatedly emphasized that the guidance is “voluntary.”“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” Trump said during a White House briefing with reporters.“You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that's OK,” he said.The new recommendation, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a reversal for the agency. At the beginning of the outbreak, the CDC said that healthy people did not need to wear masks because it would not protect them from contracting the disease. But research released in recent weeks indicates people can have the virus, not show symptoms and unknowingly spread it to others. Wearing face coverings could help prevent that, the CDC stated in its recommendation. “In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” the guidance reads, listing grocery stores and pharmacies as examples. Coverings should “especially” be worn in areas with significant community-based transmission, the guidance states.However, the CDC said people should not wear or purchase the surgical masks or N95 respirators because they are in short supply and needed for medical professionals. The agency also stressed that wearing face coverings is not a replacement for social distancing measures, like staying at home when possible and staying six feet away from people outside of your household.

US Suffers Biggest Jump In New Cases, Deaths As Governors Battle For Ventilators- Live Updates -  Johns Hopkins University just updated its database of COVID-19 infections...and the death toll in the US has climbed north of 7k after US states reported 1,314 new deaths on Friday, the biggest one-day jump in the US since the outbreak began. The CDC also confirmed 31,160 new cases, the biggest one-day jump in cases, bringing the US total to 276,037.  If you squint really almost looks like the curve is flattening out... Terrified Americans can at least take solace in the fact that Congress - as Mitch McConnell just confirmed - is already working on coronavirus rescue bill No. 4...while most Americans are still waiting for the help from bills 1,2 and 3. Update (1740ET): As expected, President Trump said Friday that the CDC has reversed its position on face masks - it had previously recommended that Americans specifically not buy masks to alleviate supply shortages creating problems for hospitals and doctors offices - and is now officially recommending that all Americans wear masks when they venture out in public.As we noted earlier, circumstances vary widely across the US: there are still a dozen states who haven't issued mandatory 'stay at home' orders. But as supply shortages remain, the unfortunate truth - that masks really do help prevent the spread of COVID-19 - could no longer be ignored, as more empirical evidence suggested that people should wear masks, already a common practice in Asia.Presumably to try and prevent further shortages, President Trump pointed out that the administration was specifically recommending the usage of "non-medical" cloth reusable masks on a "voluntary" basis. Trump said he won't be wearing a mask, but "it might be good" to do so.Public officials in Asia - particularly in mainland China but also in Hong Kong - have faced public scorn for refusing to wear face masks during public briefings, or - as in a few notorious instances in Wuhan from the early days of the outbreak - failing to wear their masks correctly. Watch the rest of the coronavirus task force's daily press briefings below:

What the cruise-ship outbreaks reveal about COVID-19 - Nature - When COVID-19 was detected among passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the vessel offered a rare opportunity to understand features of the new coronavirus that are hard to investigate in the wider population. Some of the first studies from the ship — where some 700 people were infected — have revealed how easily the virus spreads, provided estimates of the disease’s severity and allowed researchers to investigate the share of infections with no symptoms. Information gleaned from such outbreaks is crucial for people making decisions on how to manage the epidemic, say researchers. “Cruise ships are like an ideal experiment of a closed population. You know exactly who is there and at risk and you can measure everyone,”  On 1 February, a passenger who had disembarked from the Diamond Princessdays earlier in Hong Kong tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The ship was quarantined immediately after it arrived in Japanese waters on 3 February, with 3,711 passengers and crew members on board. Over the next month, more than 700 people on board were infected — including a nurse — and for weeks the ship was the site of the largest outbreak outside China.. Since the Diamond Princess, at least 25 other cruise ships have confirmed COVID-19 cases — including 78 cases on the Grand Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of California. Returned passengers have also seeded outbreaks in countries including the United States. Japanese officials performed more than 3,000 tests on the Diamond Princess, starting with older passengers and those with symptoms. Some passengers were tested more than once, offering insight into the virus’s spread over time. Testing almost all of the passengers and crew helped researchers to understand a key blind spot in many infectious-disease outbreaks — how many people are actually infected, including those who have mild symptoms or none at all. These cases often go undetected in the general population.Using the Diamond Princess data, a team reports in Eurosurveillance1 that by 20 February, 18% of all infected people on the ship had no symptoms. “That is a substantial number,” says co-author Gerardo Chowell, a mathematical epidemiologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta. But the passengers included a large number of elderly people, who are most likely to develop severe disease if infected, so the share of asymptomatic people in the general population is likely to be higher, he says.

8 strains of the coronavirus are circling the globe. Here's what clues they're giving scientists. – At least eight strains of the coronavirusare making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientists are tracking by their genetic footprints. While much is unknown, hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanks to quarantine measures. Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal: tracking the current strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness COVID-19. We're sending daily coronavirus updates: Get USA TODAY's Daily Briefing in your inbox Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task of rapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken from people sick with COVID-19. The information is uploaded to a website called that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similar but new subtypes. While researchers caution they're only seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and that no one strain of the virus is more deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve. “The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other,” said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Italy Home Quarantine Repeats China’s Mistake, Doctors Say - Italy needs to shift to mass quarantining of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms instead of letting them isolate at home, according to a group of Chinese experts who traveled to the European nation to advise officials there. Doctors in Wuhan made the same error early on in the outbreak, said Liang Zong’An, head of the respiratory department at the West China Hospital at Sichuan University. While seriously ill patients were admitted to hospitals, doctors at the time recommended that those with mild symptoms isolate themselves at home, in part to reduce the strain on Wuhan’s overburdened health care system. Back then, it was not well understood how infectious the virus can be even in those who don’t seem very sick. But researchers now know that those with mild symptoms who are told to stay at home usually risked passing the virus to family members, as well as to others outside their homes as some still moved around freely. “Due to lockdown, most of the transmission that’s actually happening in many countries now is happening in the household at family level,” Mike Ryan, head of health emergencies at the World Health Organization, said in a briefing on Monday. “Now we need to go and look in families and find those people that may be sick and remove them and isolate them in a safe and dignified manner.”

Live updates: Italy has lowest daily virus infections in 2 weeks - The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Italy rose by 812 to 11,591, while the total number of infections surged past 100,000 with 4,050 new cases reported.More than 800 people died in Spain over the last 24 hours - reaching 7,340 - while  Iran's deaths went up by 117 to 2,757. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump extended federal guidelines on social distancing until April 30 after a top health official warned between 100,000 to 200,000 people could die from coronavirus in the United States. The US has over 159,000 confirmed infections, more than any other country in the world.Worldwide, the total number of infections recorded since the beginning of the outbreak reached more than 775,000. Some 160,000 people have recovered globally while nearly 37,000 have died. Trump said more than 1 million Americans had been tested for coronavirus and urged people to continue to follow social-distancing measures through April to prevent the virus from spreading. "Every one of us has a role to play in winning this war. Every citizen, family and business can make the difference in stopping the virus," the president said.House Democrats are urging Americans to join in solidarity with Asian Americans to push back against xenophobic attacks, which attempt to blame Asians for the new coronavirus.Since coronavirus infections started appearing in the United States, Asian Americans have shared stories of minor aggression to blatant attacks from people blaming them for the pandemic.Trump initally called COVID-19 the "Chinese virus," but then said he would stop using that term and defended Asian Americans publicly saying they should not be targeted for the virus' spread.

No Let-Up in Coronavirus Deaths in Italy, New Cases Steady - THE death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has climbed by 837 to 12,428, the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, with the daily tally rising, albeit slightly, for a second day running. The number of new cases was broadly steady, growing by 4,053 against 4,050 on Monday, and bringing total infections since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 to 105,792. Some 5,217 new cases were registered on Sunday and 5,974 on Saturday, suggesting the growth curve of new infections is flattening. The daily tally of deaths in Lombardy, the worst-affected region, declined sharply, and new infections were also down for at least the third day running, suggesting the situation is improving there faster than elsewhere in the country. In neighboring Piedmont, on the other hand, the daily death toll of 105 was up sharply from the day before. Of those originally infected nationwide, 15,729 had fully recovered on Tuesday, compared to 14,620 the day before. There were 4,023 people in intensive care, up from a previous 3,981. Italy has registered more deaths than anywhere else in the world and accounts for around 30% of all global fatalities from the virus. Italy's largest daily toll from the five-week-old epidemic was registered on Friday, when 919 people died. There were 889 deaths on Saturday, 756 on Sunday and 812 on Monday.

After more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths — the worst in the world — there are signs that Italy's lockdown is beginning to work after 3 weeks -- The numbers of new deaths, infections, and severe coronavirus cases in Italy are showing an optimistic trend — a very early sign that the country's strict lockdown is working.The number of new people being taken into intensive care with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, dropped to 50 on Sunday from 124 on Saturday, said Luca Richeldi, a government adviser, according to the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.New cases also dropped to 5,217 on Sunday from 5,974 the day before, according to the data website Statista. The number of new deaths dropped to 756 on Sunday from a record 919 on Friday,Reuters reported.Italy is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, recording 10,779 deaths as of Monday, or about one-third of the global death toll.The country's health system has struggled to battle the outbreak. Medical students have been fast-tracked to serve in coronavirus wards, and six patients were flown to Germany for treatment on Saturday, according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.Luca Richeldi, left, said at a press conference on Sunday that the positive trend in coronavirus cases was a reason to be "even stricter." Department for Civil Protection/YouTubeThe improving numbers in Italy are a sign that "through our behavior, we save lives," Richeldi told reporters on Sunday,according to Deutsche Welle.Italy's strict lockdown, which began on March 9, is due to be lifted on Friday. But the encouraging signs after three weeks of lockdown are "a reason for us to be even stricter," Richeldi said, adding, "We are in a very long battle."Francesco Boccia, Italy's regional-affairs minister, told the Sky TG24 TV channel that the lockdown "inevitably will be extended,"according to The Guardian. "We all want to go back to normal," he said. "But we will have to do it by turning on one switch at a time."

Nurse suicides rise in Europe amid stress of COVID-19 pandemic - Last week, 34-year-old nurse Daniella Trezzi, who worked in the COVID-19 intensive care ward of San Gerardo hospital at Monza, near Milan, learned that she had been infected with the disease. Distraught at the idea that she could have spread the coronavirus to others before she learned that she carried the disease, and facing the relentless working conditions at a hospital in the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, Trezzi tragically committed suicide. The National Federation of Italian Nurses (FNOPI) said in a brief statement about her death that Ms. Trezzi and many nurses treating quarantined patients showing COVID-19 symptoms feel “heavy stress for fear of having infected others.” The Federation noted the “pain and dismay” of its members “at the news of her death.” In the wake of Trezzi’s suicide, the FNOPI implored: “Each of us has chosen this profession for good and, unfortunately, also for bad: we are nurses. And nurses, all nurses, never leave anyone alone, even at risk—and this is evident—of their own lives. But that’s enough: we must not, we cannot, abandon the nurses.” This tragedy points to the terrible human cost not only of the COVID-19 pandemic, but of decades of social austerity policies that have left hospitals across Europe understaffed, overworked and without life-saving protection equipment like masks to shield medical staff from the contagion. Now, amid the greatest global pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918–1919, millions of nurses and medical professionals internationally are working around the clock with little or no protective gear. Across Europe tens of thousands of medical staff have contracted the disease, and health workers represent a staggering one in eight of Spain’s now 85,195 COVID-19 cases. They share images of exhausted colleagues, as hospitals buckle under the stress of treating thousands of COVID-19 intensive care patients each day. The stress is intensified by the contradictory messages and policies from European governments, which repeatedly made false comparisons of COVID-19 to seasonal flu to downplay the illness and try to force workers back to work to boost corporate profits in the middle of the pandemic. Monica Trombetta, a nurse working in Como, near Monza, told the press: “We’re very tired and afraid. Government decrees change every day. Personnel does not have clear guidelines for dealing with this new virus and feel a little abandoned—not by our hospital, but it’s just as a general feeling. Nurses are afraid to go home and potentially infect their relatives.” Nurse suicides have become a global epidemic, with US female and male nurses committing suicide at rates of 11.97 and 39.8 per 100,000 respectively last year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In their extremely high-pressure environment, demands for optimal performance are a decisive factor in intensifying feelings of distress and depression.

US, Italy and Spain have the most coronavirus cases. These charts show their infection curves - The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shown few signs of abating and is now one of the largest threats to the global economy and financial markets.The virus, first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has spread to 180 countries and territories, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, more than 850,000 infections have been reported, with over 42,000 deaths, the data showed.Here are seven charts that look at how the coronavirus disease, which has been formally named COVID-19, has spread in countries with the largest outbreaks.  The United States reported its first case of the coronavirus on Jan. 21 but cases only started surging in March after health authorities expanded testing for the virus.The U.S. now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases globally at nearly 190,000 — but officials said the reported figure likely underestimates the true number of infections in the country. The Trump administration, which has been criticized for its slow response to the outbreak, has warned that fatalities related to the disease could reach 100,000 to 240,000.  U.S. authorities have also made unprecedented moves to shield the economy — the largest in the world — from being severely hit by the pandemic. That includes a $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package that contains cash payments for individuals and relief for the aviation industry. The Federal Reserve also slashed interest rates close to zero while pledging to buy assets “in the amounts needed.” Still, there have been signs of economic troubles, and Goldman Sachs forecast the U.S. economy could shrink by 6.2% in 2020.Italy has reported the world’s highest number of deaths related to the coronavirus at more than 12,000, Hopkins data showed. The country has the second highest number of cases globally, second only to the U.S.  The coronavirus infections were first identified in Rome on Jan. 31, before a cluster of cases emerged in the northern region of Lombardy later in February. That led authorities to lock down the region along with 14 other provinces on March 7. The lockdown was subsequently extended nationwide, affecting 60 million residents.Restrictions on commercial activity during the lockdown are expected to shrink Italy’s economy in the first half of the year, even if some measures are lifted at the end of April, according to Capital Economics. The consultancy has forecast a contraction of 2% in annual GDP for 2020.By the end of February, Spain had reported only 45 cases of COVID-19, Hopkins data showed. But cumulative cases surged past 90,000 over the past month, while the death toll jumped from zero to more than 8,000 — the second highest globally behind Italy, according to Hopkins data. The rapid spread of the virus led the Spanish government to implement — and later extend — a nationwide lockdown.

Spain overtakes Italy in virus cases, though death rate slows - Spain overtook Italy for the first time on Friday for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, but the overnight death toll fell from the previous day, providing a small glimmer of hope. With a total 117,710 confirmed cases, Spain is now second in the number of infections only to the United States, which has a population some seven times larger. Spain's total death toll now stands at 10,935, second only to Italy's 13,915 fatalities. On a more hopeful note, Friday marked the first time in more than a week that the number of deaths fell from the previous day, to 932 fatalities from 950. "The increase in the number of cases today is seven percent, which confirms the reduction trend we've been observing," said Maria Jose Rallo, Spain's health-emergency deputy head. That is down from a 20 percent increase one week ago. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns, leaving only employees in essential sectors such as health free to travel to and from work. Restaurants, bars and shops are shuttered, and social gatherings are banned. Spaniards have been confined to home since March 14, with an initial 15-day period now extended until April 12. The government is now considering a second extension of the lockdown.

France documents highest daily coronavirus death toll - France recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll on Monday, with 418 new deaths bringing the total 3,024, as the pandemic continues to overwhelm hospital systems around the world France24 reported.A total of 4,376 new cases were also documented Monday, bringing the total to 44,550.As the death toll spiked, army helicopters were transporting critical patients overseas to Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg as hospitals try to free up hospital beds. Six patients were taken on three Caiman NH90 medicalized helicopters to Bern and Frankfurt. The Grand Est region is the first to be considered overwhelmed by the pandemic as it has traveled west to Paris, according to Reuters. The country has doubled the number of intensive care beds to 10,000 as it races against time to reach 14,500. The number of intensive cases reached 5,107 Monday, a 10 percent increase since March 1. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned citizens that the worst is still upcoming as hospitals reach their capacities. Experts told Reuters they expect the “growth phase” to last two weeks and then the virus will continue to spread but less quickly. France initiated a national lockdown on March 17. It currently has the sixth most cases in the world and the fourth most deaths, closely ahead of the U.S. that has risen to 3,030, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

France's coronavirus death toll jumps as nursing homes included - (Reuters) - The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data. The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day’s 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added. This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France - an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total - although data has not yet been collected from all of the country’s 7,400 nursing homes. “We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health,” Salomon told a news conference. The country’s broad lockdown is likely to be extended beyond April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a confinement order to try and deal with the crisis that began on March 17. The government was racing to try to ensure it can produce or procure itself certain medications needed to treat coronavirus patients as stocks were running low, Philippe told TF1 TV, echoing concerns across Europe as the pandemic places a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. More than two-thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in France’s Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany. It was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.

The Netherlands has recalled 600,000 coronavirus face masks it imported from China after discovering they were faulty The Dutch government has recalled over half a million face masks it imported from China after discovering that they were faulty. The Netherlands said on Saturday that it had asked its hospitals to return around 600,000 face masks which health professionals are using to treat patients of the coronavirus. The NOS reported that the faulty masks fail to meet safety requirements because they did not fit on the faces of doctors and nurses and were failing to prevent particles of the COVID-19 virus passing through. One hospital worker quoted by the NOS said: "When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks... If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them. ... It is not the only European country to report receiving faulty equipment from China. Microbiology experts in Spain this week said that rapid coronavirus tests that the country bought from the Chinese state are not consistently detecting positive cases. Studies on these tests found that they had only 30% sensitivity, meaning they correctly identified people with the virus only 30% of the time, according to the Spanish newspaper El País. Medical professionals in the Czech Republic have also said that rapid tests from China were not working properly.

UK Suffers Deadliest Day Yet As New Cases Drop Across Europe; Mortality Rate Jumps To Record 10.3%: Live Updates -As the scramble for ventilators & PPE continues across the country, President Trump last night finally invoked the DPA to ban "unscrupulous actors and profiteers" (an apparent reference to 3M, the pillar of American manufacturing that has become embroiled in a feud with the administration in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic) from exporting critical medical gear used to protect wearers from the coronavirus. Unfortunately, that won't do anything to increase the availability of badly needed ventilators as hospitals in NYC discover that an alarming number of ICU patients require ventilators. If the number of critical patients starts to overwhelm ICUs, without enough ventilators on hand, nurses and doctors will effectively be deciding who lives and who effectively suffocates to death on their own fluids. The issue of health-care workers becoming infected has become a major problem in the UK, and was infamously a huge problem in Wuhan during the early days of the epidemic (who can forget the martyrdom of Dr. Li Wenliang?). But now, it looks like it's becoming a growing problem in the US: More than 850 hospital employees in Massachusetts have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tally being kept by one journalist. Last night, the chair of the surgery department at New York Presbyterian’s Columbia University Irving Medical Center said 98% of ICU patients required ventilators.During a Friday morning interview on CNBC, 3M CEO Mike Roman said it was "absurd" to suggest his company wasn’t doing all it could to help the U.S. fight the pandemic, and that by banning export of critical gear, it could make it more difficult to acquire these products in the US as more companies start hoarding and banning export in response. But perhaps the biggest news overnight came out of the UK, where the Department of Health reported the biggest jump in deaths yet. The DoH said early Saturday that 708 patients had died across the UK on Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 4,313. Meanwhile, the 3,735 new cases of COVID-19 reported brought the UK's total above 40k to 41,903 . The drop in new cases combined with the jump in new deaths brought the UK's mortality rate to an all-time high of 10.3%.

Germany has a low coronavirus mortality rate: Here’s why - The world is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, and some countries are reeling more than others. But Germany seems to be taking the epidemic in its stride with a high number of cases but a low number of deaths, thanks to a number of factors. In Europe, while Italy and Spain are the worst hit countries with over 100,000 cases each, as of Friday, Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1%, is far below its neighboring European countries, and this has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected of having the virus, as opposed to Italy or the U.K.’s decision to only test symptomatic cases. Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne, and a politician in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany, told CNBC that Germany’s less severe experience of the pandemic so far was down to a handful of factors. “I think so far we’ve been lucky because we were hit by the wave of new infections later than many other European countries, for example Italy, Spain and France,” he told CNBC Thursday. “So we had a minor but important delay in the wave of infections coming to Germany. Secondly, the first people that got infected in Germany tended to be younger than the average of the population ... so we were hit later and with younger patients initially.” Lauterbach noted that a third factor that helped Germany was a slow increase in the number of infections, allowing those patients to be treated at the country’s top medical institutions, including some of the country’s best university hospitals (including those in Bonn, Dusseldorf, Aachen and Cologne) in the Heinsberg region where there was a cluster of infections at the start of the outbreak. “Number four, all things considered, the German health-care system and hospital system has been modernized by the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats over the last 20 years ... this meant we had more hospital beds, more ventilators, more ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and more hospital doctors, roughly speaking, than any other comparable country in Europe ... So our system is in a reasonable shape for such an epidemic.”

Russia To Close All Borders Monday After Banning International Flights - Though official numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases out of Russia have remained comparatively low to other large countries, there's alarming signals coming out of the country of some 150 million people that authorities understand the true numbers to in reality be much higher.Russia will “temporarily” initiate a complete shutdown of its borders staring Monday in order to curb the pandemic, impacting all automobile, railway, pedestrian and river checkpoints along all Russian border points.The total border closure looks to be among the most comprehensive measures any country has yet taken to halt the spread of the virus, even as China has belatedly closed its borders to all foreign passport-holders this week. This after on Friday it was announced all international flights in and out of the country are grounded by a government decree."The authorities said they so far had recorded 1,264 confirmed cases, an increase of 228 in 24 hours, and ordered that all vehicle, rail and pedestrian checkpoints, as well as the country's maritime borders, be closed from Monday," the independent Moscow Times reports.The only exemption to the drastic measure applies to diplomats and drivers of freight trucks, according to Russian media. Meanwhile, according to US state-funded Radio Free Europe, "a consumer watchdog reported on March 28 that more than 166,000 citizens were under medical supervision for signs of coronavirus infection."

Putin Self-Isolates After Shaking Hands With Infected Doctor At Moscow Hospital - On Tuesday it was revealed that Denis Protsenko, the head doctor at the infectious diseases hospital treating coronavirus patients in Moscow, tested positive for COVID-19.Just a week ago Dr. Protsenko was photographed shaking hands with President Vladimir Putin, during the Russian leader's visit to the hospital, where he donned a full protective Hazmat suit to visit patients. But during most of his interaction with Protenko, Putin wasn't wearing the protective gear. Putin's office now reports he'll conduct his duties remotely, in self-isolation after the exposure. "The president prefers these days to work remotely," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press just before Putin was due to hold a cabinet meeting by videoconference Wednesday. "We are taking all precautionary measures," Peskov said further. Joining a list of other leaders who have had to enter self-quarantine after potential exposure, most notably Justin Trudeau, and also Boris Johnson - who was actually confirmed for the virus - Putin will now work exclusively from his presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow. The Russian presidency's office also now says he'll no longer shake hands. "Of course everyone is now social distancing," Peskov said.

Coronavirus cases surge in Turkey as anger grows among workers at government response - According to the Ministry of Health, Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by 23 to 131 yesterday, as the number of confirmed cases rose 1,815 to 9,217. Anonymous health care professionals told the press media that the number of deaths and cases is much higher than the official figures due to insufficient testing. The government still refuses to give details about cases and deaths, such as their age and location. As a result, suspicion of official government statements is growing among workers. The government had to take new measures recently but it maintains its class-based response to pandemic, in line with other governments around the world: a policy of malign neglect, forcing the working class to stay at work to produce profit despite the surge of infections and deaths. On the evening of March 27, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced additional measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Travel between cities is now possible only with authorization from local authorities. Flights to foreign countries, already reduced, are to be suspended. There are also new restrictions on public transport, as passengers are to be seated separately in public service vehicles. However, workers continue to be exempted from these measures in the interests of big business. According to an Interior Ministry statement, shuttles carrying factory workers to work are exempted from restrictions on inter-city travel. In the name of halting the pandemic, the government spuriously calls for “stay at home” or “self-isolation.” While the big companies hypocritically praise workers’ sacrifices, celebrities share the government’s official “stay at home” postings on social media. Many companies in banking, insurance, technology, and R&D have switched to working from home, and many small businesses like cafés, restaurants, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers are temporarily suspended. Layoffs are mounting. In many key sectors such as metal, textile, construction, however, millions of workers who cannot work from home are still forced to go work. Supporters of the government’s “stay at home” policy maintain a two-faced silence on the fact that such workers are forced to risk illness and death in non-essential jobs. For his part, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, “Everyone can declare their own state of emergency, the state does not necessarily have to declare it.” That is, workers are forced to make an individual choice between endangering the lives of themselves and their families and staying at home in poverty.

'Need Our Help-' Iran's IRGC Mocks US For Now Leading World In COVID-19 Cases - On the same day the United States leveled yet more sanctions against the Islamic Republic, blacklisting 20 Iran- and Iraq-based companies, officials and individuals for supporting terrorism, leaders in Tehran took to publicly mocking the US for now being the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. As of Friday evening numbers of US confirmed cases have surpassed 100,000 - soaring past China and Italy. This prompted the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami, to mock the new situation, saying his country is fully capable of containing the virus on its own and even has enough healthcare capacities to help the American people fight the outbreak if called upon."We can help Americans fight coronavirus and don’t need their assistance," the IRGC chief said tauntingly, according to state media. Ironically the remarks also came reportedly on the sidelines of Iranian biological defense drills, and in response to prior statements from the US administration that it is willing to extend a helping humanitarian hand to assist the Iranian people through the crisis.“When Americans say they want to help the Iranian nation under these conditions, it is nothing but demagogy,” the IRGC chief commander said.General Salami added: “They are themselves plagued by this virus outbreak and their healthcare infrastructure cannot protect the American people against this phenomenon. If the American nation needs help, we can render assistance to them, but we do not need their help.”On Sunday Ayatollah Khamenei similarly condemned Washington's "offer" of assistance, dismissing the overture as "strange" given America's own health equipment shortages and exploding numbers of cases.  The White House's feigning to "help" appears but mere PR management more than anything else, given it's come under growing criticism from European allies and the media, including even the UK (which on principle has agreed with the 'maximum pressure' campaign), for an all-encompassing sanctions regimen which will surely result in more Covid-19 deaths inside Iran as a blockade of essential supplies and medicines continues.Iran's official confirmed cases soared past 30,000 this week, out of a population of some 80 million; however, true numbers are considered much higher, and the Trump administration has accused the Iranians of consistently suppressing i nformation throughout the crisis.

Vietnam orders Hanoi’s largest hospital locked down on coronavirus fears  - Vietnam officials ordered one of the nation's largest medical centres to be locked down and demanded thousands of employees and people who recently visited Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital be tested for Covid-19 after nurses and food workers contracted the disease.The South-east Asian country, which has 179 confirmed cases and no reported deaths from the virus, has tied most recent infections to people arriving from Europe and other countries.The government, which is aggressively isolating foreigners and Vietnamese citizens entering the country from abroad, has quarantined or placed under monitoring 75,085 people, according to the Ministry of Health.It has also suspended most international flights, restricted domestic travel and closed the majority of businesses across the country.The authorities are now working to avert an outbreak that would threaten the lives of many critically ill patients at the hospital as well as a sudden domestic spread of the virus.In the past 10 days, 14,000 people made outpatient visits to the hospital, Dan Tri news website reported, citing information from the Hanoi Centre for Disease Control.The health ministry is asking those who visited Bach Mai since March 12 to contact local authorities and self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Sixteen people connected with the hospital, including two nurses who took care of patients and seven food workers, have tested positive for the virus, according to the health ministry.

Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with coronavirus outbreak - The captain of a U.S. aircraft carrier stricken by the coronavirus is pleading with Navy officials for help to stem the spread of the disease aboard the ship, which is now docked in Guam. In a memo obtained and published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, warned of dire consequences if the majority of the crew is not taken off the ship and isolated. “This will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote about finding individualized lodging for crew members. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.” Asked by The Hill for comment on the memo, a Navy official said in a statement that Crozier “alerted leadership in the Pacific Fleet on Sunday evening of continuing challenges in isolating the virus.” “The ship’s commanding officer advocated for housing more members of the crew in facilities that allow for better isolation,” the statement said. “Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer.” The Navy first confirmed positive coronavirus cases aboard the Roosevelt a week ago, and on Thursday, officials announced the ship would dock in Guam while all 4,000-plus people aboard are tested for COVID-19. A senior officer on board the ship told the Chronicle that 150 to 200 sailors had tested positive as of Monday. The carrier was last in port in mid-March in Danang, Vietnam. At the time, Vietnam had 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Officials have previously said the coronavirus aboard the Roosevelt may not necessarily be tied to the port visit since aircraft regularly land on the ship, bringing in new people from outside the command. In his memo, Crozier warned that if the Navy focuses on being ready for a war over stopping the spread of the virus, “there will be losses.”

Navy fires captain who sought help for virus-stricken ship - (AP) — The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus on his ship was fired by Navy leaders who said he created a panic by sending his memo pleading for help to too many people. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis. He said the captain copied too many people on the memo, which was leaked to a California newspaper and quickly spread to many news outlets. Modly’s decision to remove Crozier as ship commander was immediately condemned by members of the House Armed Services Committee, who called it a “destabilizing move” that will “likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness.”

‘Seal All Borders’: Centre Decides to Stop Long Walk Home of Migrant Labourers -On Saturday, the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments pressed buses into service triggering an incredible swell of migrant labourers at bus stations, thereby defeating the purpose of the national lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A huge number of migrant labourers had set off for their native places on foot in the wake of curbs on public transport following the nationwide lockdown that resulted in closure of their places of work. However, the Centre has now urged all states to seal their borders and not allow any such movement. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the complete lockdown for stopping the spread of COVID-19, almost all industrial, commercial and construction units had stopped working. With no work, limited money and rations at their disposal, this led to panic among migrant labourers, many of whom began setting off on foot for their villages and town hundreds of kilometres away. As the media began streaming this mass exodus, which reminded many of the days of Partition, some states pressed public transport buses into service to ease the woes of these labourers. But with the country facing an impending threat of a massive spread of the coronavirus, these measures did not go down well with the medical experts who have been pressing for total ‘social distancing’, that has been found to be the most effective tool yet to slow down, if not completely stop the spread of the virus. Realising this, high level meetings were convened in which stress was laid on continuing with the lockdown and not relaxing the screening or quarantine norms – not even for the migrant labourers, who are on the move..

Panama is quarantining women and men on different days during its coronavirus lockdown - Officials in Panama have ratcheted up social-distancing measures, saying women and men must undergo quarantines on different days. Women can leave their homes to get necessities on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Men can go outside for the same on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Everyone must remain at home on Sundays. “The great quantity of people circulating outside their homes, despite the obligatory national quarantine, has led the national government to take more severe measures,” President Laurentino Cortizo said in a statement. “On Sundays, everyone will have to stay at home,” President Laurentino Cortizo announced. The restrictions, which are in effect for at least 15 days, come on top of a nationwide lockdown that went into effect March 25. Panama currently has 1,317 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 32 deaths from it.

Social distancing is not an option in the world’s poorest countries The coronavirus has begun to take hold in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands, threatening some of the most impoverished people on earth. Crucially, even sheltering at home and self-isolation are impossible under conditions where one seventh of humanity lives in so-called informal housing—shacks, tents and shanty towns, constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood. Most of the world’s urban poor occupy squalid, overcrowded slums, surrounded by pollution, excrement and decay, with limited or no access to sanitation, clean water and the basic amenities of modern urban life. The world’s most notorious slums include Ciudad Neza in Mexico City, with 1.2 million people; Dharavi in Mumbai, with 1 million people—the largest slum in Asia and location for the film Slum Dog Millionaire —Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela in Brazil with 200,000 people; Makoko, Lagos, with over 300,000 people, many of whose homes are built on stilts in a lagoon. Residents live in homes that were detrimental to their health and safety even before the onset of the coronavirus. Self-isolating or quarantining is a non-starter in a single room shack that serves as bedroom, kitchen and living space, often for an extended family, with no running water and a communal toilet shared with dozens of others. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world one message, it is that we are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us.” “Those who are unable to quarantine themselves or to get treatment endanger their own lives and the lives of others, and if one country cannot contain the virus, others are bound to be infected, or even re-infected. And yet, around the world, social-protection systems are failing miserably at safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable groups.” Medical treatment, let alone the intensive care required to treat those most severely affected by the coronavirus, is simply not available in the oppressed countries. Some 40 percent of the world’s population have no access to health insurance, whether public or private, or public health services.  . Many people simply cannot afford to get the treatment they need when they fall sick, under conditions where HIV/AIDS, malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis, to name but a few, are widespread. For those who can afford treatment, even in the best placed African cities, there are only two doctors for 10,000 compared with 41 doctors per 10,000 people in Italy. Without sick pay, the majority of workers cannot afford to take time off work to recover, jeopardising their own health and that of others.More than half the world’s 7 billion population have no social protection whatsoever. Those who are ill must choose between sacrificing their own health and feeding their families. Millions of people across the advanced countries have already been laid off or furloughed as a result of the closures of nonessential shops, cafes, restaurants and cultural and leisure facilities and the precipitous fall in demand for travel, tourism, hospitality and related business sectors.

Hungry rats swarm New Orleans streets as coronavirus closes restaurants, bars  -With French Quarter bars and restaurants shuttered by a coronavirus lockdown, rats emboldened by hunger are swarming deserted New Orleans streets at night, WHTM reports. “It’s driving our rodents crazy,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell, reported WWL-TV.. In Louisiana, which celebrated Mardi Gras as the pandemic took hold, more than 3,300 COVID-19 cases have been reported with more than 130 deaths, state officials say.The state has ordered people to remain in their homes, closing down restaurants and bars in the famed French Quarter of New Orleans.That makes it “a difficult time to be a rat,” since the rodents depend on dropped and discarded food to survive, said Claudia Regal, head of the local pest control board, CBS News reported.Tour guides and restaurateurs report seeing rats swarming the streets at night in search of something to eat, according to the network.“Unfortunately, with these businesses being shut down, these rats are hungry,” Regal said, WWL-TV reported. Pest control officers are using rat traps and bait to try to curtail the rat population.City leaders are asking people to properly dispose of trash and avoid throwing food into the streets, WHTM reported.City leaders also worry hungry rats could endanger the city’s homeless population, CBS News reported.”There are pathogens in these rodents,” Regal said, according to the network. “We don’t have very many disease cases that are actually related to rodents. But the potential is there.”

When humans are sheltered in place, wild animals will play - Goats in Wales; coyotes in San Francisco; rats, rats, everywhere: With much of the world staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, animals have ventured out where normally the presence of people would keep them away. Under the cover of night, in their feathered, silken, cream-colored coats, they trotted into Llandudno, a seaside town in Wales. On Thursday evening, a herd of Great Orme Kashmiri goats galloped through the desolate streets of the small town looking for food. Some goats got their fill from hedges, others climbed building walls.  “They seem a bit wary of humans, they wouldn’t go past me at one point and were very cautious.” Luckily for the goats, there weren’t many humans around. More than a billion people worldwide are staying at home under guidance from their governments, socially distancing themselves from one another to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed over 43,000 lives globally, including 2,300 in Britain. The goats live in Great Orme Country Park, in Conwy, Wales. They were a gift from Queen Victoria, from the royal herd, but their descendants are wild animals that roam and forage in the large park.  But with the country under lockdown because of the coronavirus, the goats saw an opportunity to get a whiff of their neighboring town and hopped right to it. In the video Mr. Stuart recorded, the goats can be seen running down the middle of a street.“They were just racing through the town,” said Mr. Stuart, who called a nonemergency police line. “They are in town because it is so quiet, because hardly anyone is about.”There is also hardly anyone outside in San Francisco — except for the coyotes. Residents in San Francisco have been under orders to practice social distancing for two weeks, leaving their homes only to buy groceries, go to pharmacies and participate in other essential tasks. The streets have been left to the coyotes, which seem to be venturing farther into the city because there are so few cars, according to Deb Campbell, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Animal Care and Control. Social distancing has not increased wild animals’ populations, but it does seem to have changed their behavior in seeking new food sources, said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association.“What we are also seeing is that they are looking for food in places they had not before,” he said. “The part of the equation that is missing right now is people.”Ever since Louisiana imposed a lockdown, causing restaurants to shut down, the rats in New Orleans are almost certainly wondering where the usual French Quarter crowds — and their trash — have gone.“Animals are opportunistic and feed off trash,” said Claudia Riegel, executive director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board. “The restaurants are producing a lot of trash, and right now, a lot of that is just gone.” This moment of desperation for the rodents can become an opportunity for communities trying to control the pest population, since rats are more likely to be lured by traps and baits, Dr. Fredericks said.

Chronic wasting disease is getting closer to Georgia. What should hunters know? - Deer season in the Peach State is upon us, but wildlife experts said they're concerned about a disease that's inching its way closer to Georgia. The US Geological Survey said that as of January 2019, there have been 251 counties across 24 states with reported cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in free-ranging deer. Wildlife experts have compared it to Mad Cow Disease, but it's known to affect deer and elk. Although it's not in Georgia, it's gotten closer. Scientists think CWD spreads between animals simply through contact with contaminated body fluids or indirectly through exposure to the disease in the environment. CWD affects many different species, but the one that Georgia Natural Resource experts said they're most concerned about are the free-ranging deer. "It's a slow and unpleasant death. The disease takes about 18 months to two years to incubate," Theron Menken, with the wildlife division of the DNR, said. Menken compared CWD to a type of cancer. "You know, you'll start seeing weight loss, listlessness, drooling, lack of coordination, various things like that. And it affects the nervous system," said Menken. Menken said that once the deer is infected, the changes in its behavior are the only way to differentiate it from a healthy deer. "When the disease prions are present, the body no longer has the correct enzymes to break them up and you basically end up with vacuolas, or holes in the brain matter, so literally the brain is turning to Swiss cheese," said Menken. He said the biggest concern he has for Georgia is hunters who go to another state and don't take precautions. "Folks going abroad to hunt because, those particular portions of the animal, if you're out in let's say Colorado or one of the states that has the disease, we don't allow you to bring back portions of those animals. You can only bring back boned out meat, hide," said Menken. "That's the thing with hunters going to infested areas and harvesting a deer that may look perfectly healthy, and then they transport a whole carcass back here, you know without that test, there's really no way of knowing whether or not that deer is infected."

Internal Monsanto Documents Show It Knew of Predicted Damage to U.S. Farms - Documents unearthed in a lawsuit brought by a Missouri farmer who claimed that Monsanto and German chemical maker BASF's dicamba herbicide ruined his peach orchard revealed that the two companies knew their new agricultural seed and chemical system would likely damage many U.S. farms, according to documents seen by The Guardian.The lawsuit, which awarded the Missouri farmer $265 million, showed that Monsanto intentionally hid the risks involved in its plans and calculated how to profit off farmers worried about damage to their crops. The documents also show Monsanto's efforts to stymie tests from third-party labs to make sure there was no data that concerned regulators.In fact, The Guardian reports that some BASF employees joked about their company sharing "voodoo science" and hoping that they stay out of jail.The issue revealed by the documents was about dicamba and a new crop system from the two companies that addressed farmers' growing concerns that weeds resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate weed-killer, Roundup, were taking over croplands.The new system allowed farmers to plant dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton. Then farmers could spray dicamba over their fields and kill everything that had developed a resistance to glyphosate, according to The Guardian.  The documents, which date back to 2009, show that Monsanto and BASF, despite assuring regulators that their system would prevent drift to neighboring farms, were aware that their system could have catastrophic consequences, as The Guardian reported. It seems the companies were aware that farmers would likely use older versions of dicamba, which easily turns into vapor and carries away to neighboring farms that were not protected, ruining thousands of acres of crops. Dicamba is particularly volatile and likely to carry away in hot weather.

Don't Look Now But The People Responsible For The World's Food Supply Are Starting To Get Sick - Sanderson Farms, a large poultry manufacturer and Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, have both reported their first couple of positive cases of coronavirus. This raises the obvious question: what happens when people critical to the world's food supply start to fall ill?As of now, there has been no such disruption - but it is beginning to morph into a massive threat, Bloomberg notes, with workers in close quarters preparing and processing food globally. Aside from the obvious threat of food not making it to consumers, things like fruits may also wind up rotting in fields if there aren't enough workers to pick and cultivate them. Al Stehly, who operates a farm-management business in California’s North San Diego County said: “If we can’t flatten the curve, then that is going to affect farmers and farm laborers -- and then we have to make choices about which crops we harvest and which ones we don’t. We hope no one gets sick. But I would expect some of us are going to get the virus.” And to clarify, it's not the food itself that causes the threat of the virus. It's the supply chain disruption that the virus can cause with workers.Sanderson was lucky in the sense that their one worker only worked at a small table by themselves. But other infections in the industry, where workers are closer together, could wreak more havoc. At some beef plants, workers are "elbow to elbow" and despite the employees wearing protective gear, there still remains risk of contagion. Dave MacLennan, chief executive officer of Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader said: “One of our beef plants feeds 22 million people per day, so it’s vital that these plants stay open.”Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401 said: “There’s underlying tension, there’s fear and there’s anxiety.”

U.S. dairy farmers dump milk as pandemic upends food markets - (Reuters) - Dairy farmer Jason Leedle felt his stomach churn when he got the call on Tuesday evening. “We need you to start dumping your milk,” said his contact from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest U.S. dairy cooperative. Despite strong demand for basic foods like dairy products amid the coronavirus pandemic, the milk supply chain has seen a host of disruptions that are preventing dairy farmers from getting their products to market. Mass closures of restaurants and schools have forced a sudden shift from those wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, creating logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese. Trucking companies that haul dairy products are scrambling to get enough drivers as some who fear the virus have stopped working. And sales to major dairy export markets have dried up as the food-service sector largely shuts down globally. The dairy industry’s woes signal broader problems in the global food supply chain, according to farmers, agricultural economists and food distributors. The dairy business got hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities because the products are highly perishable - milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain. Other food sectors, however, are also seeing disruptions worldwide as travel restrictions are limiting the workforce needed to plant, harvest and distribute fruits and vegetables, and a shortage of refrigerated containers and truck drivers have slowed the shipment of staples such as meat and grains in some places. Leedle could likely sell his milk if he could get it to market. Dairy products in grocery stores have been in high demand as consumers stay home during the pandemic, though panic buying may be slowing. Earlier this week, a local market told Leedle’s wife she could buy only two dairy products total per shopping trip as retailers nationwide ration many high-demand products.

Pittsburgh to Replace Thousands of Lead Drinking Water Pipes -  Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.  Under the settlement, which was recently approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, PWSA must prioritize replacement for residents in high-risk neighborhoods. It must also limit the practice of replacing only part of a lead service line, which can cause lead levels to substantially increase. PWSA will also expand its free tap water filter program to include low-income renters whose homes may have lead lines, homes with lead lines where PWSA replaces a water meter, and any customer whose tap water contains at least 10 parts per billion of lead."The aggressive steps to get the lead out of Pittsburgh outlined in the settlement are necessary to protect the health of children and families," said NRDC attorney Pete DeMarco. "The burdens of lead-contaminated water fall most heavily on low-income families and communities of color, which is why it is so important to prioritize lead service line replacements in those neighborhoods where residents are at greatest risk."Pittsburgh's drinking water has been contaminated with lead since at least 2016, with levels above the federal action limit in five out of the last eight testing periods. There is no safe level of lead exposure: The heavy metal can cause serious and irreversible damage to the body, affecting the nervous system, fertility and cognitive ability, among other functions, and posing a particularly high risk for children. Pittsburgh is just the latest in a growing list of cities facing drinking water crises, such as Flint, Michigan, andNewark, New Jersey. In 2016, NRDC analysis indicated that more than 18 million people were being served by 5,363 community water systems that violated the Lead and Copper Rule. But Pittsburgh United said that the settlement could now provide a model for other cities with lead-contaminated drinking water. "Safe water is a right, not a luxury," Kennedy says. "Although work remains to be done to ensure all customers have access to safe and affordable service, this settlement puts PWSA on a path to replacing all residential lead service lines."

 Secretary Of Interior Orders Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation ‘Disestablished,’ Tribe Says - WBUR - The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs told the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Friday that the tribe's reservation will be "disestablished" and its land taken out of trust, per an order from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell announced in a post on the tribe's website."Today's action was cruel and it was unnecessary. The Secretary is under no court order to take our land out of trust. He is fully aware that litigation to uphold our status as a tribe eligible for the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act is ongoing," Cromwell wrote. "It begs the question, what is driving our federal trustee's crusade against our reservation?" Having land "held in trust" by the federal government effectively affords a tribe special legal status and autonomy to decide how to tax, develop and manage a plot of land. The decision to take land into trust is typically made by the Department of the Interior, which had OK'd the trust status for the Mashpee land in 2015.But in February, the tribe suffered a legal defeat when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court decision declaring the federal government had not been authorized to take the land into trust. That ruling marked another major development in what has been a lengthy legal battle over the land. As The Associated Press reported:The case was a largely semantic debate centered on whether the tribe could be considered "Indian" under the 1934 [Indian Reorganization Act], which created the process for taking lands into trust for tribes, among other things.Despite the ruling, those 321 acres remained in trust because a separate federal court case was still pending, according to the AP.Benjamin Wish, an attorney for the tribe, said in a statement on Monday that the Department of the Interior's justification for disestablishing the tribe is based in a false reading of the court decision.“No court has ever ordered the Department to take the Tribe’s land out of trust," he said. "The District Court did not so order. The First Circuit did not so order. In fact, neither court ordered anyone to do anything.”

Largest US dam removal stirs debate over coveted West water — California’s second-largest river has sustained Native American tribes with plentiful salmon for millennia, provided upstream farmers with irrigation water for generations and served as a haven for retirees who built dream homes along its banks.With so many demands, the Klamath River has come to symbolize a larger struggle over the American West’s increasingly precious water resources, and who has claim to them. Now, plans to demolish four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath’s lower reaches — the largest such demolition project in U.S. history — have placed those competing interests in stark relief. Tribes, farmers, homeowners and conservationists all have a stake in the dams’ fate. “We are saving salmon country, and we’re doing it through reclaiming the West,” said Amy Cordalis, a Yurok tribal attorney fighting for dam removal.  The project, estimated at nearly $450 million, would reshape the Klamath River and empty giant reservoirs, and could revive plummeting salmon populations by reopening habitat that has been blocked for more than a century.The proposal fits into a trend in the U.S. toward dam demolition as these infrastructure projects age and become less economically viable. More than 1,700 dams have been dismantled nationwide since 2012.Backers of the Klamath Dam removal say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could vote this spring on whether to transfer the dams’ hydroelectric licenses from the current operator, PacifiCorp, to a nonprofit formed to oversee the demolition. Drawdown of the reservoirs behind the dams could begin as early as 2022, according the nonprofit, the Klamath River Renewal Corp.Opponents, including a group of residents who live around a reservoir, say without the dams, their waterfront properties will become mudflats and their homes will lose value. “If we get halfway through and they blow a hole in the dam just to let the water out — to say, ‘Yeah, we done this’ — they can walk away from it. And we have no recourse whatsoever,” said Herman Spannus, whose great-grandfather first ran a ranch in the area in 1856.

Idaho Rattled by Biggest Earthquake in 37 Years - Idaho residents were rattled Tuesday evening by the biggest earthquake to shake the state in almost 40 years. The 6.5 magnitude quake struck just before 6 p.m. local time 73 miles northeast of Meridian, The Associated Press reported. It caused no known damage or injuries, but plenty of surprise. "At first I thought it was thunder, weird thunder, but then the house was moving and I realized this is an earthquake — a really big earthquake," Boise resident Melissa Hawkins, 44, told USA Today. All told, more than two million people might have felt the earthquake, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) figures reported by The Associated Press. Reports of shaking came from as far as Spokane, Washington; Bozeman, Montana; and Salt Lake City, Utah, according to USA Today. Despite tweets warning of the apocalypse, Caltech seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones told The Associated Press that the Idaho region has an earthquake around this size every 30 to 40 years. The last was actually much worse: the 6.9 Borah Peak earthquake of 1983. That quake struck near the town of Challis and killed two school children when they were buried under rubble, CNN reported. It also cost the state $12.5 million in property damage. The 1983 quake was along a "normal fault," which causes vertical movement, Jones told The Associated Press. Tuesday's quake, on the other hand, was on an unmapped "strike-slip fault," which causes horizontal movement. Jones said it was not uncommon for faults in remote areas to go unmapped, since they are less likely to cause damage."This is one that wasn't obvious enough to be mapped before now," Jones told The Associated Press.But she further explained on Twitter why Idaho sees earthquakes."Idaho is part of the Basin and Range tectonic province. Everything west of the Wasatch Mtns. is getting slowly stretched out as a bit of North America tries to cling to the Pacific plate," she wrote. Jones said to expect aftershocks, and the USGS reported a 4.8 magnitude one about an hour after, according to USA Today. More, smaller tremors were felt throughout the evening.

Pollution Has Slowed Around The World. Scientists Wonder How That Will Affect Maine - Atmospheric and oceanographic scientists are just as concerned as anyone about helping their friends and family, the nation and the world make it through the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is also their job to pay attention to a kind of grand experiment that's underway — an unprecedented hiatus in human pressure on global ecosystems and what that hiatus could mean on the ground, and on the water, for Maine. Paul Mayewski is the director of the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute. He says that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the pause button on pollution worldwide. “Unfortunately, like 9/11, this is a situation in which there is a tremendous shutdown in activity, even more dramatically than 9/11 because it is happening all over the world,” he says. For scientists such as Mayewski, it's a chance to study phenomena that hearken back to the pre-industrial era and, some believe, could provide a snapshot of what a post-fossil future could look like. "We will see decreases in the emissions of carbon, potentially for many weeks, if not months. It will be important to see how much of a drop actually occurs in the atmosphere because that gives us a feeling of what kind of reductions might be helpful." Mayewski and other scientists say any reduction in the world's rate of carbon emissions attributable to the economic slowdown won't make much of a direct difference in long term global warming trends. Some say, though, it could help convince consumers that a faster transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is more doable than they thought. And in the short-term, there are likely to be marked effects on other pollutants. "We're learning what it would be like to live in a significantly less polluted, in terms of the atmosphere, significantly less polluted environment — and a situation in which air quality is much better than it normally is," says Mayewski.

Cleaner Air Should Not Require Sheltering in Place -  European Space Agency satellite images published in The New York Times on March 24 show dramatic reductions in air pollution in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle due to so many vehicles being off the road as people shelter in place. What a shame it took a pandemic. These images show us how much more livable and healthier our cities would be if we electrified transportation. What would it take to switch most vehicles used in cities to electric? It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Experience from world leaders in electrifying transportation, in countries such as Norway, tells us that it takes three things: subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles, creation of an extensive charging infrastructure—and then we need to connect vehicle electrification to renewable energy and an upgraded grid that can handle it. Renewable energy and electric vehicles mutually support each other. The next major economic-recovery package needs to restore the tax credit for developing renewable energy and continue subsidies for electric vehicles, which weren’t included in the stimulus that just passed. Specifically, Congress needs to expand the $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing electric vehicles. The old credit phased out after a producer has sold 200,000 EVs, which General Motors and Tesla have done. Without an expanded cap, car producers won’t convert more production to EVs.  Opponents of the subsidy, though usually not opposed to subsidies for the rich, cite 2016 data from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service revealing that 78 percent of the federal tax credits for EV purchases went to those with adjusted gross incomes of at least $100,000 and 7 percent to those earning a million or more. One solution is for the federal government to do what California did in 2016—put an income limit on rebate eligibility. California’s was lowered again at the end of 2019. Further, those with incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty level receive an additional $2,000 rebate. Oregon has a similar low-income program. Getting the rebates right is easy and should be part of a restoration of the federal credit. Then we have to address “range anxiety”—the concern people have over being stranded because there’s not enough charging infrastructure. With federal and state subsidies, cities have a big role to play here. In my new book, Greenovation: Urban Leadership on Climate Change, I tell of world leaders such as Oslo and London—places where there are few single-family homes with garages to house chargers—that are figuring out the details involved in building an urban charging infrastructure. London is overseeing a rapid transition of its iconic black cabs and buses to electric.

 Oceans can be restored to former glory within 30 years, say scientists - The glory of the world’s oceans could be restored within a generation, according to a major new scientific review. It reports rebounding sea life, from humpback whales off Australia to elephant seals in the US and green turtles in Japan. Through rampant overfishing, pollution and coastal destruction, humanity has inflicted severe damage on the oceans and its inhabitants for centuries. But conservation successes, while still isolated, demonstrate the remarkable resilience of the seas. The scientists say there is now the knowledge to create an ocean renaissance for wildlife by 2050 and with it bolster the services that the world’s people rely on, from food to coastal protection to climate stability. The measures needed, including protecting large swathes of ocean, sustainable fishing and pollution controls, would cost billions of dollars a year, the scientists say, but would bring benefits 10 times as high. However, the escalating climate crisis must also be tackled to protect the oceans from acidification, loss of oxygen and the devastation of coral reefs. The good news, the scientists say, is a growing awareness of the ability of oceans and coastal habitats such as mangroves and salt marshes to rapidly soak up carbon dioxide and bolster shorelines against rising sea levels. “We have a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a healthy ocean to our grandchildren, and we have the knowledge and tools to do so,” said Prof Carlos Duarte, of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, who led the review. “Failing to embrace this challenge, and in so doing condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean unable to support good livelihoods is not an option.” “Overfishing and climate change are tightening their grip, but there is hope in the science of restoration. “One of the overarching messages of the review is, if you stop killing sea life and protect it, then it does come back. We can turn the oceans around and we know it makes sense economically, for human wellbeing and, of course, for the environment.”

Researchers record 1st-ever heat wave in East Antarctica - This January, East Antarctica — an area that previously seemed to be spared from climate warming — experienced its first recorded heat wave.The heat wave was recorded at the Casey Research Station between Jan. 23 and 26, marking the area's highest temperature ever at 48.6 degrees Fahrenheit, while minimum temperatures stayed above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, according to research in Global Change Biology.A rarity in Antarctica, heat waves are known as "three consecutive days with both extreme maximum and minimum temperatures," according to the research.Meanwhile, Denman Glacier — a large glacier in East Antarctica — appears to be rapidly retreating. Its position above the world's deepest known canyon may be causing it to melt faster than it can recover, according to a letter in Geophysical Research Letters, Live Science reports.As the glacier retreats, warm water fills the canyon, which could cause a feedback loop that returns all of the glacier's ice to the ocean, leading to about 5 feet of global sea level rise, reports Live Science. Researchers concluded the retreating of the glacier should be a "wake-up call" to scientists who believed melting in East Antarctica to be less of a threat than that of west Antarctica. "Although it is too early for full reports, this warm summer will have impacted Antarctic biology in numerous ways," researchers wrote in their letter on Global Change Biology, noting disruption to ecosystem, community, and populations scales.

Antarctica Experiences First Known Heat Wave - Scientists have recorded Antarctica's first documented heat wave, warning that animal and plant life on the isolated continent could be drastically affected by climate change.Australian Antarctic Program researchers recorded the heat wave event at Casey research station in East Antarctica during the 2019-2020 southern hemisphere summer.Findings by the team were published in the Global Change Biology journal on Tuesday, with authors warning that the changes could affect global weather patterns.Between January 23 and 26, a research team at Casey — directly south of Perth in western Australia — recorded the highest maximum and minimum temperatures ever seen at the base.During the period, minimum temperatures were higher than zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) while the maximums peaked above 7.5 degrees.On January 24, the Casey team recorded a record high temperature of 9.2 degrees Celsius, 6.9 degrees higher than the station's mean maximum.Heat waves are classified as three consecutive days where very high maximum and minimum temperatures are recorded.At the same time, record high temperatures were also reported on the other side of the continent, on the Antarctic Peninsula. Last month, the highest ever temperature — 18.3 degrees — was recorded at the Argentinian research station Esperanza Base.The authors of the study said the local effects of climate change could have a global impact."Antarctica may be isolated from the rest of the continents by the Southern Ocean, but it has worldwide impacts," they said."It drives the global ocean conveyor belt, a constant system of deep-ocean circulation which transfers oceanic heat around the planet, and its melting ice sheet adds to global sea-level rise." Co-author Dana Bergstrom said the hot summer could affect local populations positively at first, but could also lead to drought and heat stress on species adapted for the cold.

Coronavirus could trigger biggest fall in carbon emissions since World War Two - (Reuters) - Carbon dioxide emissions could fall by the largest amount since World War Two this year as the coronavirus outbreak brings economies to a virtual standstill, according to the chair of a network of scientists providing benchmark emissions data. Rob Jackson, who chairs the Global Carbon Project, which produces widely-watched annual emissions estimates, said carbon output could fall by more than 5% year-on-year — the first dip since a 1.4% reduction after the 2008 financial crisis. “I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5% or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War Two,” Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California, told Reuters in an email. “Neither the fall of the Soviet Union nor the various oil or savings and loan crises of the past 50 years are likely to have affected emissions the way this crisis is,” he said. The prediction – among a range of new forecasts being produced by climate researchers - represents a tiny sliver of good news in the midst of crisis: Climate scientists had warned world governments that global emissions must start dropping by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The Climate Crisis Will Be Just as Shockingly Abrupt - While some argue that the oxygen in the climate debate should be taken up by the pandemic instead, the two issues aren’t mutually exclusive, experts say. In a warming climate, more diseases are likely to emerge and spread, making climate change action an important part of addressing future health crises. Moreover, the perception that climate change isn’t as urgent as other crises may rely on misunderstandings about how climate-related changes will happen. The rate isn’t constant: Instead, there’s reason to believe everything from Arctic melt to Amazon deforestation might experience what’s known as “tipping points,” where small changes in nature shift into rapid and irreversible damage. Greenland and Antarctica are melting six times faster than they were in the 1990s, according to a new study in the journal Nature. Between 1992 and 2017, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice. This falls under the worst-case scenario projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the effects are already being felt in many parts of the world. The IPCC predicts that by the end of the century, 400 million people around the globe could be at risk of coastal flooding every year from sea-level rise alone. Ice sheets “may already be in an irreversible retreat,” going past their tipping point, Timothy M. Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, told me. “The more we warm things up, the faster the ice melts and the sea rises.” Even if we take aggressive action to curb emissions and halt rapid change, he said, some of these effects are already locked in. And once ice begins to melt, it’s hard to re-form it without another Ice Age. Lenton recently sounded the alarm in Natureon how close we’re getting to altering the planet permanently—and how the timeline on saving lives on climate change may be tighter than many people realize.

Climate summit in Glasgow postponed to 2021 because of coronavirus pandemic - (Reuters) - A climate summit that had been due to take place in Glasgow in November has been postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on Wednesday, throwing new uncertainty into talks to tackle global warming. With the world currently on track for catastrophic temperature increases, the two-week summit had been meant to galvanise a renewed international commitment to an accord brokered in Paris in 2015 aimed at stabilising the Earth’s climate. But with the British hosts and other countries struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought large sections of the global economy to a standstill, officials decided to push the summit back to give governments more time to prepare. “We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference,” said British Business Minister Alok Sharma, who is due to serve as president of the conference, known as COP26. A parallel summit on preserving threatened species, which had been due to take place in Kunming, China, in October, was also being pushed back to next year, a U.N. official said.

Coronavirus Is Forcing the Climate Movement to Reimagine Itself - Earth Day was supposed to be part of a week of mass mobilizations in late April. Protestors were going to rally in the streets. Students were going to gather on their university campuses to demand they divest from fossil fuels. Those too young to vote were planning to knock on doors and educate voters about the reality that their future was at stake at the ballot box in November. They can’t do that anymore due to the risk of the covid-19 pandemic. Even if they wanted to get together, many governments have flat out banned gatherings to protect public health through at least April.Instead, participants will be taking similar actions online. And the plans for Earth Day are part of a larger gear change for the climate movement, which has traditionally relied on mass gatherings and strikes to build momentum, following in the footsteps of other successful movements, including women’s suffrage, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights. But the climate movement could pave a new way forward. Youth climate strikers have already begun digital striking, but revamped plans around Earth Day will take those efforts even further. Organizers have planned a 72-hour live stream where experts will give webinars, musicians will perform, and activists can gather to bring what they’re calling Earth Day Liveinto American homes. They’ll still be targeting banks that fund fossil fuel extraction and trying to register voters through texting. “We definitely are using this as an opportunity to really start to reimagine what social movements look like in the digital age,” Katie Eder, executive director of Future Coalition, a youth-led environmental group helping organize Earth Day Live, told Earther. “And that’s what I think is really cool about this. As horrible and painful and terrible as this time is, there are ways to find silver linings by understanding that there’s never been a social movement that’s utilized technology in a way that we’re going to have to in order to get our message heard and still bring people together in a digital way.”

Big Oil Takes Climate Litigation Back to Supreme Court - Major oil companies are urging the Supreme Court to reverse a recent ruling that allows Baltimore to pursue climate-related claims against the industry in state court. Baltimore’s case is one of several pending lawsuits that seeks damages from oil and gas producers for their role in climate change. Lawyers for BP Plc, Chevron Corp., and other companies on Tuesday filed a petition seeking review of a March 6 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that allows the Maryland city to make its case in state court, rather than federal court.

Oil Companies Appeal Baltimore Climate Case to Supreme Court -Attorneys for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP, along with nearly two dozen other fossil fuel companies named in a climate damages suit by the city of Baltimore, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a March decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the case in state court.Baltimore Acting City Solicitor Dana P. Moore said in a statement that she was "disappointed" that the oil and gas firms "continue to do or say anything to avoid accountability" for decades of misleading the public about climate change in order to delay climate action. "After raking in trillions of dollars in profits for themselves in just the past 30 years, they now expect Baltimore’s taxpayers to pay the enormous costs for the climate change damage the corporations knowingly caused." Her office has 30 days to respond to the appeal.The question of jurisdiction — whether the proper venue for a case is state or federal court — has been a hotly contested issue in climate liability suits. The outcome of this appeal could have widespread ramifications for communities across the country attempting to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for worsening climate change. Most of the suits have been filed in state courts, and allege violations of state law. But fossil fuel companies have typically tried to move them to federal court, where precedents set in an earlier wave of climate lawsuits found that the Clean Air Act took precedence over state or local liability claims. In March, the 4th Circuit became the first appellate court to weigh in directly on the jurisdiction question, ruling that Baltimore’s case belonged in state court, where it was originally filed in 2018. The 1st, 9th, and 10th Circuit Courts have also heard arguments about jurisdiction in cases filed by Rhode Island and by communities in California and Colorado, respectively. Decisions in those cases are pending. The 4th Circuit specifically rejected the defendants’ argument that the case is covered by the federal officer removal statute. The corporations say they have operated as federal officers because they have sold or extracted fossil fuels while under a government contract. Specifically, they maintain that because they held federal leases, operated on the Outer Continental Shelf, and had other contracts with the federal government, their actions were taken under the direction of the federal government and thus fall under the federal officer removal statute.In their Supreme Court appeal, filed Tuesday, attorneys for the fossil fuel firms contended that the 4th Circuit did not consider their other arguments for keeping the case in federal court. The rules governing jurisdiction permit “a court of appeals to review any issue encompassed in a district court’s remand order where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal-officer or civil-rights removal statute,” attorneys for the companies wrote in the petition.

Oil firms were confronting climate risks. Then the virus hit -- Before the coronavirus, oil companies were busy establishing commitments to address climate change. New goals were released regularly. BP PLC unveiled plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. So did the Spanish oil giant Repsol SA. Royal Dutch Shell PLC was forging ahead into renewable energy forays, and Occidental Petroleum Corp., a giant of the Texas shale patch, was dabbling with carbon capture and sequestration. Now those commitments are in question. Confronted with collapsing oil demand and plummeting prices, the causality of a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, oil companies are slashing budgets to weather the growing global crisis. It remains to be seen where that leaves their efforts to green the oil business. Companies with dwindling cash have a choice: Spend their remaining dollars on the traditional fossil fuel business or on their budding low-carbon enterprises. Many analysts said they expected the industry to continue its evolution, albeit at a slower pace. The factors that led companies to consider a shift in the first place — like increasing pressure from governments to tackle emissions, weak financial returns and the rise of technologies like electric cars — are likely to outlast the virus. But companies now must plan for a future with depleted balance sheets and the uncertainty prompted by a virus that has led to unprecedented lockdowns in much of the world. Near-term decisions could shape the oil industry's transformation for years to come. "My hunch is those companies rely on cash flow from primary business to support new lines of business that they are seeking to develop," said Daniel Raimi, a senior research associate at Resources for the Future. "If their balance sheet is suddenly in a much worse shape than it was a few months ago, I would expect that would decelerate their investment in new lines of business." Others were more sanguine. When crude prices were high, oil companies were reluctant to settle for lower returns from renewable energy projects. Now the script has flipped. Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm, estimates that 85% of new oil and gas projects would fail to make a return of 15% — a standard industry threshold for investment decisions — with crude prices of $35 a barrel. The U.S. benchmark for crude was hovering around $20 yesterday while international prices for Brent were about $22 a barrel. Suddenly, returns of 5%-10% generated by wind and solar look attractive, the consulting firm wrote in a note to clients. "In a sustained US$35/bbl oil price environment, the argument that 'investing in low-return renewable projects would leave value on the table' no longer holds," Wood Mackenzie wrote.

Exxon Must Allow Vote on Climate Denier's Resolution -- The Securities and Exchange Commission, for the second year running, has allowed Chevron and ExxonMobil to bar shareholder resolutions calling on the firms to fully disclose how they are working to curb their contributions to climate change. But in their March 23 announcement, federal financial regulators approved an Exxon shareholder resolution sponsored by a noted climate skeptic, which calls for the firm to do a “greenwashing audit”The shareholder behind the proposal is Steven J. Milloy, a longtime conservative lobbyist and political operative who publishes, a website that attacks established climate science. Following the 2016 election, Milloy — who authored a book that year titled "Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA" — worked on then-President-elect Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team.Milloy said he introduced the shareholder proposal in order to learn how much Exxon has spent on what he claims are “dishonest” public relations and advertising campaigns that portray the firm as “doing something on climate.” He has proposed similar resolutions in the past."Greenwashing is meant to protect management,” said Milloy. “They can go out in public and try to claim they're doing something. It’s all just posing, they're just posers, pretending they're doing something on climate.”  Milloy, who E&E News reporter Scott Waldman described in 2018 as consistently “taking discredited positions for two decades” on the science behind public health and environmental regulations regarding air pollution, secondhand smoke, and climate change, said that if Exxon believed climate change was real, it would have acted by now to curb the firm’s contributions to the problem.

EPA gives public more time to comment on 'secret science' rule - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced that it will extend the amount of time in which the public can comment on its latest changes to a proposal that would limit the agency’s use of studies that don’t make their underlying data public. The announcement comes as the coronavirus has prompted state lockdowns, limited travel and restricted gatherings to stem the spread of the disease. Critics argued that more time was needed to weigh in, as many public health officials who have serious concerns over the EPA's Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposal are busy in efforts to fight COVID-19. The public will now have about a month more to comment on the proposal, sometimes referred to as the secret science rule. Its comment period was previously slated to close on April 17 but will go until May 18. “EPA is committed to giving the public ample time to participate in the rulemaking process,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement obtained by The Hill. “By extending the comment period, we are listening to stakeholders and giving them more time to provide valuable input on how EPA can improve the science underlying its rules,” he added. The agency has argued that the rule is necessary for transparency, but opponents have said it could restrict the EPA’s use of science when making rules. Many studies do not make their underlying data public, particularly when personal information and medical data of confidential business information is involved. Critics worry the rule could prevent consideration of some landmark public health research, tipping EPA policy in favor of industry-funded studies. “Is there some clamoring from the public, anyone other than by industry for this? The answer is almost certainly not,” Andrew Rosenberg with the Union of Concerned Scientists previously told The Hill. Rosenberg said that even if the public wanted to review the scientific studies the department relies on, they wouldn’t need the underlying raw data.

Goldman on how the 'largest economic shock of our lifetimes' will permanently alter energy markets - The coronavirus pandemic will likely be a “game-changer” for energy markets, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs, with carbon-based industries such as oil thought to be sitting “in the cross-hairs.” A global health crisis has meant countries around the world have effectively had to shut down, with many governments placing massive restrictions on the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. To date, around 730,000 people have contracted COVID-19 worldwide, with 34,686 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has left many wondering when life might return to normal, amid heightened fears that a coronavirus lockdown could last several months. “With social distancing measures now impacting 92% of global GDP, the ultimate magnitude of these shut-ins which is still unknown will likely permanently alter the energy industry and its geopolitics, restrict demand as economic activity normalizes and shift the debate around climate change,” analysts at Goldman said in a research note published Monday. “Not only is this the largest economic shock of our lifetimes, but carbon-based industries like oil sit in the cross-hairs as they have historically served as the cornerstone of social interactions and globalization, the prevention of which are the main defense against the virus,” they added. Oil prices fell sharply Monday morning, as the outbreak continues to crush global demand for crude. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $22.68 a barrel, down more than 9%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $20.01, almost 7% lower. Brent futures fell to their lowest level in 18 years and WTI briefing dipped below $20 a barrel on Monday, before both benchmarks pared some of their losses. Analysts at Goldman Sachs said they believe the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak will be “extremely negative” for oil prices, given it is “impossible to shut down a vast amount of demand without large and persistent ramifications to supply.” “The one thing that separates energy from other commodities is that it must be contained within its production infrastructure, which for oil includes pipelines, ships, terminals, storage facilities, refineries, and distribution networks. All of which have relatively small and limited spare capacity.”

Trump could roll back Obama fuel-economy rules as soon as Tuesday — The Trump administration is expected to finalize its plan to roll back stringent gas-mileage rules enacted by the Obama administration as soon as Tuesday. The administration's plan is expected to call for reducing the required annual fleetwide average mpg increases for carmakers for model years 2021-2026 from the original 5% that would have required under the Obama-era rules, to a less-stringent 1.5%. The White House had initially proposed a freeze in gas mileage rates at 2020 levels until 2026, but it appears to be retrenching slightly to the current proposed 1.5% proposal for annual increases. Environmentalists and consumer advocacy groups argue the Trump proposal would be a far cry from the the large hikes enacted by the Obama administration. The White House could roll back Obama mpg rules as soon as Tuesday.Buy Photo The White House could roll back Obama mpg rules as soon as Tuesday. (Photo: Daniel Mears, The Detroit News) "Of all the bad things President Trump has done to the environment, this is the worst," Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said in a statement. "He is rolling back the biggest single step any nation has taken to fight global warming, cut oil use and save money at the pump. He is rejecting cleaner, efficient cars in favor of pollution-spewing, gas-guzzling Trump-mobiles for urban cowboys hauling lattes home from Starbucks." David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports, invoked the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic to argue that the Trump administration should not be rolling back mpg rules with the economy appearing to be heading for a recession. "At a time when many Americans are going without a paycheck, it’s unconscionable to approve a plan that will have consumers paying more for gas for years to come," he said. "The rollback of these consumer protections was a bad idea when it was proposed two years ago. Finalizing it now, as we are on the brink of a recession, ignores the long-term financial hardships this moment will have on millions of Americans.” The Trump administration has said the proposal to roll back stringent gas-mileage rules enacted by the Obama administration will reduce the price of a new car by $3,000. But there is little evidence to back up that claim, and consumer groups say motorists could save more than that in reduced fuel costs and vehicle maintenance if current rules are left in place.

Trump rolls back car mpg rules; critics call it irresponsible — Promising lower car prices, the White House finalized its plan Tuesday to roll back stringent gas-mileage rules enacted by the Obama administration, part of a years-long effort by President Donald Trump and his team to dismantle a critical part of his predecessor's climate agenda. The move, decried by climate activists as the biggest environmental setback of Trump's tenure, is part of a broader arc of environmental deregulation that has been a staple of his administration and supportive Republicans in Congress. Prior moves include reopening coal mines, rolling back power plant emissions, revoking California's power to set its own emission standards for cars. Several of the moves have triggered lawsuits. Trump administration officials presented the rollback as an effort to provide certainty to automakers who chafed under Obama's stringent mpg rules. Trump initially went further than most automakers were publicly seeking by proposing a freeze in rates after 2020, and even a slight retrenchment to a modest annual increase divided the industry. The new mileage plan calls for reducing the required annual fleetwide average mpg increases for automakers for model years 2021-26 — from the original 5% that would have required, to a less-stringent 1.5%. Automakers will be required to achieve a fleetwide average of 40.4 mpg by 2026 under the new requirements, down from an average of 46.7 mpg for cars and trucks by 2025 that was mandated in the existing regulations. The White House had initially proposed a complete freeze in gas mileage rates at 2020 levels until 2026. Environmentalists and consumer advocacy groups argue the edict will hurt air quality and cost consumers due to increased fuel costs and repairs. The Trump administration defended the move as an effort to lower the price of new cars at a time when drivers are hanging on to their vehicles for an average length of over a decade. "These standards are reasonable, realistic and achievable, and reflect the fact that times and technologies have changed since the original rules were enacted in 2012," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on a conference call with reporters in Washington, D.C. "Our estimates show that these changes will save consumers more than $1,000 in price tag alone, so this means that new vehicles will be more affordable for consumers, more will be sold and we’ll be safer overall," Chao continued. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler added: “All new vehicles will continue to be subject to strict pollution standards of the Clean Air Act, and new vehicles will be subject to higher pollution standards than the older vehicles they replace." Noting the average age of a car on U.S. roads has jumped to 12 years old from eight years old in 1990, Wheeler said: "Either consumers cannot afford the price of new vehicles or they are not interested in purchasing certain types of new vehicles."

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Clean cars rollback adds to EVs' pain -- Wednesday, April 1, 2020 --  The auto emissions rule announced yesterday by the Trump administration adds a darker tint to the outlook for electric vehicles, which already faced a stormy forecast because of the novel coronavirus crisis. t

'No One Is Being Spared.' Coronavirus Shutdowns Sap Demand for Residential Solar Power -  Large-scale solar and wind projects face possible coronavirus-related delays, but perhaps no part of the U.S. renewables industry has felt the outbreak's sting more quickly than home solar developers and installers.  The solar industry has pushed to retain its designation as an “essential” industry, allowing it to stand among the businesses that can continue operating during the pandemic. It's unclear, however, whether there will be much work to be had for companies that rely on selling solar systems door-to-door or signing on homeowners willing to enter a long-term contract.Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables expects to revise downward its 2020 residential forecast by 23 to 40 percent. For businesses and customers alike, the future looks exceedingly uncertain. The whole of the renewables industry is assessing the inevitable impacts of COVID-19. The residential sector is already smarting. “No one is being spared — everything is down across the board,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director at the California Solar and Storage Association, in an email this week.  John Berger, CEO of Houston, Texas-based Sunnova, said sales have been “herky-jerky” since COVID-19 began shutting down cities, counties and states across the U.S.“Some days are good; some days are not so good,” Berger told Greentech Media. “The sales are definitely down.”Less than 10 percent of residential solar companies responding last week to a survey conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group said business is continuing as usual. Instead, the majority of companies reported a severe curtailment in business. Layoffs have started in earnest. California, the country’s largest residential solar market by a wide margin, instituted a statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19 (six Northern California counties established additional restrictions. halting most construction as of March 31). That’s led some installers to close and put permitting processes on ice as local departments learn how to process paperwork electronically.

New York’s last coal-burning power plant closes on Lake Ontario shore – New York State's coal-burning era will end Tuesday, when Somerset Operating Co. officially retires its power plant on the shore of Lake Ontario in Niagara County. It means the share of the state's power generation coming from coal will fall to zero. "We were the last coal-fired plant in New York State," plant manager Brian Gregson said Monday. The 675-megawatt plant, opened by New York State Electric & Gas Corp. in 1983, last generated electricity on March 13, when it burned off the last of its coal. The process ended at 12:02 a.m. March 14. The plant sat idle more than it ran in recent years. It has been at least five years since the plant operated without interruption for as long as a month, Gregson said. The plant's 613-foot smokestack can be seen from as far away as Buffalo on clear days. So could the emissions from the stack, although the plant won awards for emission control before the state imposed new regulations which in effect made it illegal to burn coal to generate electricity. The business hasn't been healthy for years. In December 2011, AES Eastern Energy, which had bought the plant from NYSEG in May 1999, went bankrupt because it was unable to pay bondholders. The creditors formed Upstate New York Power Producers and took over the plant. Beowulf Energy of New York formed Somerset Operating Co. and bought the plant in 2016. The shutdown means 52 people will lose their jobs.

CORONAVIRUS: 'We have never done this before.' Inside N.Y.'s grid lockdown --  New York's historic decision to require workers to live at facilities operating the state's power grid during the novel coronavirus pandemic may be a test case for the rest of the nation. For the first time, the grid operator has asked more than three dozen workers to live 24 hours, seven days a week at two control centers in the suburbs of Albany, N.Y. As part of a multilayer plan to ensure the state's power remains flowing, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) says two crews can live at the sites in East Greenbush and Guilderland, N.Y., indefinitely. In the rare case that both operating rooms become infected at the same time, the local utilities — Consolidated Edison Inc. and National Grid PLC — would help operate the grid. "We have never done this before. We drilled for this stuff, we've had plans in place for different types of sequestration," Richard Dewey, NYISO's chief executive officer, told E&E News. "This is pretty unprecedented in our history." New York has emerged as the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, with more than 59,000 confirmed cases and 965 deaths, according to a briefing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave yesterday. President Trump told reporters over the weekend he was considering a short-term quarantine across New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. But the president later tweeted such a move was unnecessary and instead, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a travel advisory for the three states to implement, urging residents to refrain from nonessential domestic travel for the next 14 days. "I support what the president did because it affirmed what we've been doing," Cuomo said at the briefing yesterday. The crisis has rippled throughout the Empire State's economy and Legislature, shuttering businesses and prompting a delay of the state's presidential primary that was scheduled for next month. It's also thrown the state's climate goals into peril by delaying Cuomo's proposal to overhaul permitting for renewable projects. As the virus spreads, other U.S. grid operators say they are preparing for and monitoring New York's experience. NYISO shares information with other U.S. and Canadian grid operators, all of which have gone through similar steps to prepare, Dewey said. "We are the first grid operator to actually put the plan in motion, to move the operators on-site, and that's primarily because of the very high rate of infection that New York state is seeing, where it's much higher than in other parts of the country," Dewey said. "People are trying to gather information from us about what we did, what worked, what we think didn't work, sort of a lessons learned, so to the extent to this pandemic spreads more drastically across the country and they've got to take similar steps, they put those plans in place, as well."

FirstEnergy Solutions successor faces $500M in damages and a new hearing before FERC - The Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) is back in federal bankruptcy court this week with a demand for more than $500 million from Energy Harbor, the successor to FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), for damages it contends it has suffered and will suffer because the court allowed FES to break its long-term contract with OVEC. Created in the 1950s, OVEC is jointly owned and operated by utilities in Ohio and nearby states. It sells its power into the PJM market, often at a loss. FES inherited the contract from its parent FirstEnergy Corporation, and had been obligated to pay its share of expenses and buy a small portion of the electricity the company's 60-year-old coal-fired power plants generate. OVEC's $500 million claim came just as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order demanding that Energy Harbor explain whether breaking the OVEC contract was necessary for its survival. FERC also invited FES opponents to weigh in. It set a schedule for arguments to be filed and said it expected to rule on the matter within 180 days. FERC contended unsuccessfully in bankruptcy court that the OVEC contract could not be broken without considering the impact on the public. The agency, along with OVEC, said that there was a jurisdictional issue at hand as well. They argued that the bankruptcy court had to consider the public interest in forcing FES to keep the contract — which had been approved by FERC in the first place. They argued that the court could not treat the contract as just another business contract. The bankruptcy court disagreed and allowed FES to break the contract. FERC, OVEC and others with similar contracts appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appellate court ruled that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction but that it should have considered FERC's arguments rather than deciding the issue strictly as a business matter. The bankruptcy court has yet to set a new hearing and is expected to wait for the outcome of the new case FERC created this week.

Ohio coal giant Murray Energy, strapped for cash, is close to liquidation -Ohio coal giant Murray Energy Corp. is "close to liquidation," according tothis article in The Wall Street Journal. The company says its business has been walloped of late from "historically bad" coal markets and the coronavirus pandemic. To stay afloat, the nation's largest private coal company, which last October filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, sought permission on Monday, March 30, from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbus to stop paying roughly $6 million a month in retiree medical costs, The Journal reports. From the article: Murray said in court papers that unless it can suspend those health care obligations, it "may be faced with no choice" but to liquidate, likely costing roughly 4,900 employees their jobs. Lenders including Fidelity Management & Research Co. and Bain Capital Credit LP have been financing the company since it filed for chapter 11 protection in October, positioning themselves to acquire Murray in exchange for the forgiveness of $1.2 billion in debt. The lead bid, which requires court approval, covers Murray's thermal coal mines, its metallurgical coal operations and its stakes in coal supplier Foresight Energy LP and trading house Javelin Global Commodities Holdings LLP. The offer is meant to trim a significant amount of Murray's $2.7 billion in financial debt and ensure the survival of the St. Clairsville, Ohio company as a going concern outside of bankruptcy. In court papers, The Journal reports, "Murray said excess coal supply, a warm winter and the coronavirus pandemic's devastating impact on energy demand has upended business projections, draining roughly $180 million in liquidity from the company over the past two months." The company noted, "Forecasts once thought conservative were rewritten and then weeks later, rewritten again." It also is "concerned it may breach covenants in its bankruptcy loan and lose access to the financing needed to pay workers and suppliers," The Journal reports. But even with the financing, Murray "said it expects to have $30 million when it emerges from bankruptcy, too little to manage the business responsibly," according to the newspaper.

Murray Energy Seeks Relief From Retiree Health Care Obligations - Murray Energy Corp. wants the federal government to take over health care payments to its retirees as the company continues to navigate the bankruptcy process. The St. Clairsville-based company — the largest privately-owned coal producer in the nation — asked the federal judge overseeing its bankruptcy case to relieve it from its retiree health care obligations in a motion entered Monday. The company cited a lack of cash-on-hand and a potential default on payments to its lenders as reasons for making the request. According to the motion, Murray has about $6 million in available cash. Interim relief from the health care payments would save the company about $200,000 per day, it states. If the relief is not granted, the company states, it likely will be forced into “value-destructive enterprise-wide liquidation” that would leave “no business to restructure and no go-forward employment opportunities for thousands.” According to the filing, the company would transfer union retirees from the Murray Energy Corp. Individual Employer Plan to a 1993 Plan and would ensure there is no gap in benefits for retirees. Under legislation passed by Congress in December, the U.S. Treasury would take over those payments, meaning that retirees’ benefits would not be impacted. This move would increase liquidity for the company as it works to restructure and sell its assets to a “stalking horse” bidder, Murray NewCo, that was created for that purpose.

Justice Coal Companies Agree To Settle $5 Million In Delinquent Mine Safety Debts -- Coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice have agreed to pay more than $5 million in overdue mine health and safety fines and fees. According to a press release released Wednesday, a total of 24 coal companies owned by the Justice family agreed to settle millions of dollars in unpaid penalties and fines owed to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.  The fines stemmed from nearly 3,000 citations issued to Justice mine operators between May 2014 and May 2019 under the federal Mine Safety and Health Act. The settlement comes nearly one year after the U.S. Department of Justice sued the Justice companies in May 2019, following an Ohio Valley ReSource investigation thatshowed the Justice companies had the highest delinquent mine safety debt in the U.S. mining industry. The civil lawsuit, brought by U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen of the Western District of Virginia and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, alleged 23 Justice coal companies located in five states — Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky — owed more than $5 million in delinquent debts.  In the release, Cullen said the Justice-owned companies agreed to pay all outstanding debts and penalties associated with their mine safety violations.

Georgia Power:Plant Mitchell will turn stored coal ash into Portland cement - Georgia Power today announced a new beneficial reuse project for coal ash stored at Plant Mitchell, a retired coal-fired power station near Albany, Georgia. The project at Plant Mitchell marks the first time that stored ash from existing ash ponds at sites in Georgia will be excavated for beneficial reuse as part of an ash pond closure project. “As part of our ash pond closure efforts, Georgia Power is always looking for opportunities to reuse coal ash that are beneficial for our customers and communities,” said Dr. Mark Berry, vice president of Environmental & Natural Resources for Georgia Power. “The coal ash beneficial reuse project at Plant Mitchell will save space in landfills and ultimately serve to help produce a valuable product.” With the Plant Mitchell project, approximately two million tons of stored coal ash will be removed from the existing ash ponds for reuse in Portland cement manufacturing beginning this year. Today, the company already recycles more than 85 percent of all ash and gypsum, including more than 95 percent of fly ash, it produces from current operations for various beneficial reuses such as concrete production as well as other construction products.

Top head placed at Vogtle nuclear Unit 4 containment vessel - Georgia Power announced that the top heads are now placed on both units 3 and 4 in its major nuclear expansion project. The final major lifts inside the containment vessels are completed, the utility reported. The Unit 4 top head was placed earlier today (Friday). Vogtle units 3 and 4 are the first new nuclear power expansions in the U.S. in years. Georgia Power expects to have Unit 3 operational next year and Unit 4 in 2022. The $25 billion project has endured despite numerous setbacks, delays and cost overruns. Bechtel is heading up the engineering, procurement and construction effort. The containment vessel is a high-integrity steel structure that houses critical plant components. The top head is 130 feet in diameter, 37 feet tall, and weighs nearly 1.5 million pounds, more than two fully-loaded jumbo jets. It’s comprised of 58 large plates, welded together, each more than an inch and a half thick.

Coronavirus could disrupt normal refueling practices for nuclear facilities as staffing concerns grow - The nuclear sector has sprung into action to screen employees for signs of the novel coronavirus and prepare for potential disruptions to their typical refueling practices in light of pandemic-related travel restrictions. Nuclear generators have been enacting pandemic protocols for weeks to continue protecting their workforce. "We were prepared in advance for a range of challenges and some of those preparations are well-suited to this pandemic," Matt Wald, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) spokesperson, told Utility Dive. As competition for residential customers increases, utilities must become trusted solution providers to satisfy and keep customers. Learn how utilities can humanize customer interactions by deepening engagement strategies. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering changes to rules and requirements to help generators protect their workforce from the highly contagious respiratory virus. Meanwhile, the industry is trying to address a shortage of supplies needed to protect its essential employees. The nuclear industry "planned for this. I was not surprised to hear that they were at least three or four steps ahead of the federal government." Like most of the country, the nuclear energy industry is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, like plastic gloves, single-use sanitized wipes, dust masks and disposable thermometers. Several sites must also plan for an influx of 100 or more workers for the cyclical nuclear refueling process scheduled during the spring and fall when demand is lower. As travel is restricted or discouraged and more "non-essential" businesses close down or restrict their hours, utilities are considering the potential limitations of proceeding with refueling outages. The nuclear industry "planned for this. I was not surprised to hear that they were at least three or four steps ahead of the federal government" in responding to the novel coronavirus, Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, told Utility Dive. "All the nuclear power plant operators are ready to potentially sequester a number of operators for weeks at the site … so that there is that continuity of operations," Buongiorno said.

Sen. Muth seeks answers about coronavirus response plan at Limerick nuclear plant — A state senator who represents parts of Montgomery, Berks and Chester counties called upon Exelon to improve its commitment to worker and community safety during a refueling at the Limerick Generating Station amid the COVID-19 outbreak.“Thus far, Exelon has provided an inadequate pandemic response plan, withheld information from county and state officials, and failed to prioritize the safety of its employees, contract workers, community first responders, as well as all residents of the 44th senatorial district and entire region,” Senator Katie Muth (D-44th) wrote in an April 1 letter addressed to Exelon executives. “This is grossly irresponsible as Exelon has brought at least 1,400 workers to the epicenter of Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 pandemic.” On Wednesday, Exelon officials confirmed two cases of COVID-19 among the workforce at the Limerick plant, adding the full-time employees were sent home and were receiving care and that neither employee had been onsite since March 20. Company officials added that any employees who came in close contact with the affected persons or worked at that reporting location were notified, and that an additional deep cleaning occurred at all areas that potentially were exposed.

Brouillette intervenes in Pa. nuclear fight -- Friday, April 3, 2020 -- Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette has sided with operators of a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant in a fight with local officials over the need to enforce social distancing practices at the site.

 Spent-fuel transfer moves forward despite coronavirus concerns -  — Despite concern over the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, Holtec is forging ahead with plans to transfer radioactive spent fuel from a large pool above the reactor at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to steel-lined dry casks.Workers from other parts of the state as well as from around the country arrived in Plymouth earlier this week.Some plant employees and area residents say fuel transfer should be delayed until the threat of the virus passes.Pilgrim permanently shut down in May and was subsequently sold by Entergy Corporation to Holtec International for decommissioning.The company’s timetable calls for moving 3,000 spent-fuel assemblies now in the pool to dry casks by the end of 2021.Seventeen previously loaded casks sit on a cement pad outside the reactor building. The transfer this spring will result in 748 assemblies being moved from the pool into 11 more casks. Work is scheduled for April and May.Thirty new workers arrived at the site and began a two-week training period Monday.According to a Pilgrim employee who wished to remain anonymous, he and fellow plant workers are extremely concerned about the possibility of contracting the coronavirus from those newly arrived at the Plymouth site.Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien sent an email regarding the measures being taken: “We understand and appreciate the concerns raised by our employees, brought (to) us by local elected officials, and have worked to clarify a number of different rumors and help everyone understand the decisions being made, and the rules they fall under.”O’Brien said not all the new workers are from out of state. The group includes 16 from Massachusetts; four from Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire; three from Florida; two from Arkansas; and one each from North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan and the state of Washington.

Nuclear regulators ease some power reactor regs in response to COVID-19 | Utility Dive - In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its strain on available nuclear plant personnel, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is allowing power reactor operators to apply for temporary exemptions from regulations limiting the amount of hours workers can stay on the job, according to a letter released by the agency on Monday.  In addition, the NRC staff is also working on a separate memorandum that will guide nuclear plants as to which labor and time-intensive tasks they can temporarily waive, such as many of the inspections during refueling outages.  Nuclear reactors have already been enacting contingency plans designed to limit the amount of workers onsite in order to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. It is unknown how long nuclear reactors will need operate with these reductions in staff and maintenance tasks, and whether they can stay running as often as they do in normal times. In order to avoid "worker fatigue," the NRC has a number of rules about the maximum length of plant employee shifts, as well as requirements for breaks workers must take between long shifts. For example, shift may not exceed 16 hours in a 24-hour period, 26 hours in a 48-hour period and 72 hours in a 7-day period.But in light of the "unprecedented time for our country" created by the COVID-19 pandemic and in order to ensure that the regulations "do not unduly limit licensee flexibility in using personnel resources to most effectively manage the impacts" of the pandemic, the NRC is allowing plants who believe they cannot meet the work hour limits to apply for a 60-day exemption, according to the letter. In order to receive an exemption, however, plants must show that they will still maintain "alternative" controls on work hours, such as no more than 16 hours of work in a 24-hour period and no more than 86 hours in a 7-day period.

Stark County schools fight NEXUS, Rover tax appeals - Lake Local, Northwest Local and Green Local passed resolutions to join the Ohio School Pipeline Coalition. Local school districts have joined a coalition that is fighting attempts by two pipelines to reduce their tax bills. Rover Pipeline and NEXUS Gas Transmission have asked the Ohio Department of Taxation to reduce the taxable value of their respective natural gas pipelines by almost half. The precise terms of each tax appeal are confidential under state law. County auditors use the value set by the Department of Taxation to determine collections for school districts, townships, library districts and other entities. Last year, the Rover and NEXUS pipelines were projected to generate $20 million in extra revenue in Stark County and lower the rates on levies that raise a set amount of money. The pipelines carry natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shales to markets in the Midwest and Canada. Energy Transfer owns Rover and Enbridge owns NEXUS. The companies previously said they are seeking fair and accurate tax valuations of their property. Lake Local, Northwest Local and Green Local— three districts crossed by the NEXUS pipeline — passed resolutions in March to join the Ohio School Pipeline Coalition. Other districts, such as Marlington Local and Fairless Local, have discussed joining the coalition, but their boards haven’t yet taken action. Marlington was projected to get $3.7 million from NEXUS and the board wants to upgrade the district’s three elementary schools. Fairless, which has been planning to build a new high school, was set to get $3.9 million from Rover. “It really impacts us right now as schools, and I’m glad we’re getting together and we’re going to consolidate and fight this thing as one,” said Northwest Treasurer Dan Levengood, whose district was projected to get an additional $700,000 from NEXUS, which crosses the northern most part of the district in Summit County. “Hopefully, if we all come together, we’ll be able to have a stronger voice in it.”

Chesapeake, Total Prevail in Ohio Royalties Lawsuit - Affiliates of Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Total SA again have defeated a class action lawsuit in federal court that sought to recover millions of dollars for landowners who alleged the companies underpaid royalties on oil and gas produced from properties in Eastern Ohio.The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio agreed with the defendants’ interpretation of how royalty payments should be calculated and paid to the plaintiffs under the terms of their leases.The court found that the language of the leases was not ambiguous, and a result was “the beginning and the end of this case.” Judge Benita Y. Pearson also rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that they should receive royalties based on proceeds of sales at downstream locations, which carry a higher value.Pearson found that the netback method of determining royalties at the wellhead was appropriate given the companies’ contracts with landowners. The netback method calculates the wellhead price by determining the downstream value of oil, gas and natural gas liquids less post-production costs to market and process the products.The case pitted producers against three named plaintiffs, Zehentbauer Family Land LP, Hanover Farms LP and Robert Milton Young Revocable Trust. A broader class of landowners was certified in July 2018 that identified 224 members with interests in 295 leases with the producers that sought a minimum of $30 million.Chesapeake exited Ohio in 2018 with the $2 billion sale of its Utica Shale assets to Houston-based Encino Acquisition Partners. The company and other producers have battled similar claims over how royalties are calculated across the country, in some instances settling class action cases for millions of dollars.

Region receives some good news  - Area residents were minded last week that there will be life — and, in all probability, prosperity for many — after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. First, it was revealed that three local government entities will be receiving enormous amounts of revenue from PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Chemical USA. The companies are partners in the proposed ethane cracker plant that has been in the works for several years. Creation of an Ohio Enterprise Zone covering the area where the plant is to be built, near the Ohio River in southeastern Belmont County, exempts the companies from paying property taxes for 15 years. In exchange, the firms have pledged to make big payments to Mead Township, the Belmont County Commissioners and the Shadyside Board of Education. How big? Thirty-eight million dollars to the school district, spread across 15 years. Between $20 million and $24 million in sales tax revenue for the county. Another $9.5 million to Mead Township, also spread across a 15-year period. As county Auditor Anthony Rocchio noted, had property taxes been levied, the amount would have been “not nearly as high as what people think it is. It appears the amounts to be paid out are significantly higher than what the three local government entities would have received in property taxes. Neither company has formally committed to build the plant. It certainly seems that all is missing is signatures on the dotted line, however. That is wonderful news, especially when coupled with the recently announced plans of Orin Holdings LLC. The locally owned company is preparing to build a gas-to-liquids plant on property it has purchased in Saline Township in Northern Jefferson County. It could not have come at a better time — with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of area residents wondering about the region’s economic future. 

Downturn Increases Risk of Fossil Fuel Fraud – and Need for Whistleblowers  -  With the balance sheets of oil and gas companies in increasingly bad shape, the incentives for top managers to engage in fraud to keep up appearances for investors appear to be growing.  . One example is Gulfport Energy Corp., a fracking company with wells concentrated in Ohio and Oklahoma.The company disclosed in February that its previous statement, released in November 2019, failed to include leasehold costs in its depreciation, depletion, and amortization (DD&A) calculations. The omission of leasehold costs resulted in an overstatement of the company’s net income by half a billion dollars.  Fracking companies are increasingly coming under examination for tinkering with their accounting books. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Oklahoma explorer Alta Mesa Resources Inc. for faulty financial reporting. The company also faces several lawsuits by shareholders for lying about the company’s value and by landowners who claim the company violated lease agreements. Antero Resources Corp., a Colorado-based company that announced a $3 billion-dollar loss on its Utica shale production last year, failed to pay landowners in West Virginia landowners their full royalties, a federal court ruled. Aside from legal woes, what all these companies have in common are balance sheets showing a massive loss of value. That wasn’t part of their business plan: When new technologies emerged around 2008 that allowed companies to extract oil and gas from shale via hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the fossil fuel industry hailed the development as a “revolution.” The fact that natural gas produces less of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change also led industry boosters to bill it as a “bridge fuel” from oil or coal. But in recent years, depressed prices resulting from overproduction of natural gas meant companies spent more than they earned, leading to huge losses for shareholders. The oversupply of natural gas has led to increased carbon dioxide emissions: Increased natural gas consumption accounted for 60 percent of emission growth in recent years, according to a report by Stanford University’s Global Carbon Project.

 Utica and Marcellus Shale condensate prices plunge - Prices for Marcellus and Utica shale condensate fell below zero this week as collapsing demand for oil and gasoline pushed specialty grades out of the market.Ergon Oil Purchasing’s price for Marcellus and Utica condensate was a penny per barrel on Monday and Tuesday before dropping to -$0.69 on Wednesday. The price rebounded Thursday to $4.32, but it was still down 91% from the start of the year.Condensate is an ultra-light liquid hydrocarbon produced along with natural gas from some shale wells. It is not as valuable as oil, but prices for the two commodities tend to rise and fall together.Between 2012 and 2014 — when oil prices were high and gas prices were low — condensate and natural gas liquids buoyed producers focused on the liquids-rich areas of the Marcellus and Utica shales in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, said Tony Scott, managing director of analytics at BTU Analytics.Condensate at $50 a barrel, as it was before the recent collapse, “goes a long way to making those wells economic at the type of gas prices we are seeing today,” he said.  Now, regional natural gas prices are still “very weak” and the condensate premium has evaporated.Jesse Mercer, senior director of crude oil markets at Enverus, said it “makes sense that Utica condensate is pricing at next to nothing right now.”The condensate is mostly used in making gasoline. Demand for transportation fuels is down dramatically amid the global economic shutdown associated with COVID-19, as cars and airplanes sit parked.“Refiners are concerned about running out of storage capacity for all the unwanted gasoline, so they are shunning grades that make a lot of gasoline,” he said.“In this crisis, nobody wants a grade that makes none of the stuff you want and only the stuff you don’t have room to store.”  In December 2019, the most recent month available, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia produced 150,000 barrels of oil and condensate per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  All oil and condensate produced in the three states is light, but Ergon defines Marcellus and Utica condensate as the lightest in that range.   Condensate pricing is not as transparent as oil benchmarks like West Texas Intermediate, but “Ergon’s pricing tends to be a pretty good indicator of what producers will report as their condensate pricing,” Mr. Scott said.  Analysts say it is possible that natural gas-focused producers in Appalachia will benefit as oil producers in Texas begin to cut back. That is because oil wells in Texas are producing a significant amount of associated natural gas. When that supply is diminished, gas prices should rise.In that case, Appalachian operators may begin to move rigs out of “wet gas” areas into drier gas regions, such as northern Pennsylvania.

Why some financial analysts are questioning viability of the Appalachian plastics hub -- Two years ago, market analysts at IHS Markit were among those forecasting as many as five ethane crackers in the region, and the Trump administration, along with the chemical industry, were promoting the development of a new plastics manufacturing industry in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky region. This would include cracker plants and places to store the ethane underground. All of those projects jointly are sometimes referred to as the Appalachian petrochemical hub. The Shell plant outside of Pittsburgh has started construction, but it’s been reported that plans for an ethane cracker in West Virginia fell through last year.  In Ohio, a state permit for Mountaineer NGL Storage (also called the Powhatan Salt Company in permit application materials), expired recently. That permit is for an underground ethane storage facility and is related to another ethane cracker, a multi-billion dollar plant proposed five years ago along the Ohio River by PTT Global Chemical of Thailand. The company is now partnering with Daelim Chemical, of South Korea.  The PTTGC and Daelim have not made a final investment decision on whether to build the plant in Ohio. According to Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit think tank that works toward a sustainable energy economy, without the commitment from PTTGC, there’s no need for a storage facility yet.“They typically need an anchor tenant. Otherwise, you’re just building it for with no customer base And so there is no anchor tenant right now,” Sanzillo said. “There is a promise of PTTGC being the anchor tenant, but the company has delayed their decisions since 2016. And those delays now seem to be causing some problems.” Dan Williamson, spokesperson for PTTGC, said in an email that it is still the company’s goal to make a final investment decision this summer. According to an email sent by Matt Englehart, spokesperson for JobsOhio, a private economic development corporation that’s in discussions with the company, this is “very much an active project.”Local officials where the facility would be built just approved tax incentives to offer PTTGC and Daelim on March 26. The Times Leader newspaper reports that Belmont County Commissioners, Mead Township trustees and the Shadyside Board of Education all approved new tax agreements, which according to Williamson, were requested by the companies.The local government entities created an Ohio Enterprise Zone agreement, giving the project a 15-year property tax exemption. They’re expecting PTTGC and Daelim to pay $38 million to the school district, and $9.5 million to Mead Township, over the 15-year life of the agreement.

Nature Scores a Big Win Against Fracking in a Small Pennsylvania Town -An unlikely crew of environmentalists who took on the powerful Pennsylvania fracking industry in a David vs. Goliath battle to keep an injection well out of their community have notched an important victory in their fight. Using a novel strategy — seeking legal rights for nature itself — the rural western Pennsylvania community of Grant Township has been battling for seven years to stop the permit for the injection well, which would have brought a 24/7 parade of trucks carrying brine, a toxic byproduct of oil-and-gas drilling that would be shot down the well and into a rock layer deep beneath the farms and woods in the area.Earlier this month, in a stunning reversal, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which in 2017 sued Grant Township for interfering with the agency’s authority to administer state oil-and-gas policy, revoked the permit for the injection well.“This decision is soooooo delicious,” says Stacy Long, a graphic designer and township supervisor who together with her mother, Judy Wanchisn, a retired elementary-school teacher, helped lead the charge to stop the well. “I am hopeful that the haters and naysayers will take note, and that communities will be inspired with what’s just happened and run with it. Fights like ours should mushroom all around Pennsylvania.” Grant Township’s story, first covered by Rolling Stone in 2017, will also be featured in Invisible Hand, a documentary on “rights of nature” produced by Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo, slated to premiere at the 2020 Columbus International Film Festival in Ohio. “Grant Township has proven against all odds that a community is capable of stronger protections for the environment than state or federal governments,” says the film’s co-director Joshua Pribanic. “By taking a stand and winning, they’ve set a new precedent worldwide on what the rights of nature can accomplish.”

State environmental regulator cancels public hearings due to COVID-19   — The state Department of Environmental Protection canceled seven public hearings — some that were scheduled for earlier in March, and some set for the next few weeks — to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus. The hearings were to address construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline in southeastern Pennsylvania, proposed standards for cleaning up harmful chemicals known as PFAS, and two draft Air Quality Plan Approvals to Sunoco Partners for the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County. Neil Shader, DEP communications director, said they decided to cancel and not postpone because it’s unclear when the COVID-19 pandemic will be brought under control. On Wednesday, he said the department hadn’t looked into what would be needed to hold virtual public hearings, but said public comment periods are still open, and people can submit their comments online or through the mail. “Comments that we receive in public hearings are treated just the same as comments that are received through other means,” Shader said. While public comment is generally required by law for DEP procedures, public hearings are only required in certain cases, such as air quality regulations. On Friday, DEP announced a virtual hearing for a change to the state’s implementation plan under the federal Clean Air Act — an example of a required hearing. The revision certifies that enforceable measures in DEP permits address EPA requirements. That hearing is scheduled for April 28 at 1 p.m. DEP said if no one has signed up to testify by 12 p.m. on April 24, the hearing will be canceled. 

Democracy on hold: States are canceling public meetings amid coronavirus crisis - On April 14, Rosemary Fuller had planned to speak at a public hearing held by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about a natural gas pipeline that will run 150 feet from her home in the suburbs west of Philadelphia. It would be the first of three upcoming hearings to discuss new permits that Sunoco, the company that owns the pipeline, had applied for to modify its drilling technique and route in certain areas. Construction of the pipeline, which is called Mariner East II, has been riddled with problems since it began in 2017. Fuller hasn’t been able to drink water from her tap since July 2019, when she discovered the drilling had contaminated her well. She can no longer walk her dogs around the loop at a nearby park — part of it was closed off after drilling opened up four sinkholes there. To date, Sunoco has paidmore than $13 million in penalties for Mariner East–related construction violations, and the pipeline is the subject of three criminal investigations. Fuller and six others who live near the pipeline are involved in a lawsuit against Sunocoto try and halt the project entirely because of its threat to public safety. Some of these problems led Sunoco to request modifications to its permits. At the upcoming public hearings, Fuller and other residents whose lives have been upended by the construction hoped to ask about the risks associated with the new plan and get a clearer sense of Sunoco’s timeline. But now, because of COVID-19 safety measures, all three hearings have been canceled. “We all had questions that were never addressed or answered. In a public hearing, we would get up and raise those issues and concerns, and the DEP would be sitting there and have to respond,” Fuller told Grist. “It’s vitally important.” The DEP has not announced plans to reschedule the meetings or to prolong the permitting process. Meanwhile, even after Governor Tom Wolf ordered work on the pipeline to stop during the crisis because it’s not an essential business, Sunoco sought and won a waiver to continue construction. The same pattern is unfolding all over the country for state and federal decisions that impact public health and the environment as the coronavirus crisis shuts down public life. While the majority of Americans are obeying stay-at-home orders and worrying about their families, health, and jobs, the gears of government are grinding along, adhering to timelines that were laid out before the virus began to spread. In Pennsylvania, in addition to the Mariner East hearings, public meetings to discuss air pollution permits for a major expansion to a natural gas liquids facility were also canceled. So were three meetings about new statewide cleanup standards for industrial and commercial sites.

 Wolf vetoes natural gas tax-break bill - Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would offer tax breaks to companies that use Pennsylvania natural gas to produce fertilizers and other chemicals. The bill passed the legislature with a bipartisan majority and is based on a measure passed several years ago to lure Shell to build an ethane cracker in Beaver County. Both business and the building trades support the effort. He invoked the coronavirus pandemic, saying Pennsylvania needs “to promote job creation and to enact financial stimulus packages for the benefit of Pennsylvanians who are hurting as they struggle with the substantial economic fallout of COVID-19.” He also cited what he says are flaws in the bill, HB 1100, and indicated it is not a “responsible use of the Commonwealth’s limited resources.” He says the investment dollars and numbers of jobs required by the measure are not high enough to warrant the tax breaks. And given the economic impact of the new coronavirus pandemic, Wolf says more analysis is needed to enact any economic incentives right now. Environmentalists opposed the bill and praised Wolf’s veto. Mark Szybist, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state should be moving away from fossil fuel incentives, and push for renewable energy jobs. Like Wolf, Szybist criticized the bill’s labor standards, which he says leaves loopholes. “Under HB 1100, companies must make ‘good faith efforts’ to employ local workers, and show that ‘individuals employed… have been paid the prevailing minimum wage rate for each craft or classification as determined by the Department of Labor and Industry under the … Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act,'” he wrote. Supporters of the bill say they will attempt to override Wolf’s veto.

Opinion: Wolf correct on gas veto -  Pocono Record - With the state government certain to take a huge revenue hit from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it is extraordinary that many state legislators continue to demand that Pennsylvania taxpayers give up more money to the petrochemical industry. Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday properly vetoed a bill that would have created massive subsidies for petrochemical companies to build refineries in the state that would use Pennsylvania-produced fracked gas. The bill is inspired by an earlier giveaway to one of the world’s richest companies, Royal Dutch Shell. The company is nearing completion of a multi-billion-dollar refinery in Beaver County for which it will receive a record state tax subsidy of $1.7 billion. Shell had revenues of about $372 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, more than nine times the total Pennsylvania government budget. Under the vetoed bill, any company building a refinery worth $450 million and creating 800 jobs would be eligible for a new tax subsidy. According to the state Department of Revenue, a plant of that size would receive a state tax subsidy of $22 million a year for 10 years — $220 million or nearly 49% of the development cost. The original version of the bill pegged eligibility at a much higher level — a $1 billion plant with 1,000 employees — but lawmakers scaled it back to accommodate the industry. Connecticut-based Elis Energy reportedly is interested in building a plant in southern Luzerne County to produce methanol, a solvent that is used in antifreeze and to help break down other chemicals.

Energy Transfer Gets Partial Win in Pipeline Protest Lawsuit - Energy Transfer Partners LP won its bid to dismiss malicious prosecution, false arrest, and First Amendment claims in a lawsuit filed by protesters who were arrested at its Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania, according to a federal court ruling. Ellen and Elise Gerhart, Alex Lotorto, and Elizabeth Glunt alleged that the Pennsylvania State Police and Huntingdon County Sheriff’s Office had agreed with Energy Transfer and Sunoco Pipeline LP to “act as a private security force” and arrest anyone who approached the pipeline easement. All four were arrested during protests in March and April 2016 and charged with disorderly conduct.

NJ, Delaware and EPA Call on FERC for New Environmental Review of PennEast  -In the past week, a trio of regulatory agencies have raised new concerns about the latest iteration of the PennEast pipeline project, which the company now wants to build in two separate phases — first in Pennsylvania and then in New Jersey. In a series of letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dated March 30, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Delaware River Basin Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency all suggested the $1 billion project should be subject to rigorous environmental review. Earlier this year, PennEast Pipeline LLC filed amendments to what had been a 120-mile natural-gas pipeline to ship fuel from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. Its latest proposal called for initially building 68 miles where it has won most of the construction approval, targeting completion by November of next year. PennEast Phase 2 The other portion in New Jersey would be set to deliver gas in 2023, pending more complicated permit approvals in the state. Thus far, the DEP has refused to review needed permits for the project because of missing field surveys for threatened and endangered species, historical resources, drinking water and freshwater wetlands. The state agency asked FERC to order a new environmental impact statement for both phases of the project, as well as scrutinize the need for the new pipeline. Opponents of the pipeline have repeatedly argued there is no need to build new capacity, a stance taken by the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel and others. “FERC should therefore undertake a fresh analysis as to whether Phase 1 is a ‘stand-alone’ project and, should PennEast pursue a Phase 2 in the future, also undertake a new analysis as to whether Phase 2 is needed,’’ according to the DEP letter to the federal agency.

Supreme Court rules Citgo responsible for 2004 oil spill - Citgo is liable for a 2004 oil spill and must pay back cleanup costs, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday. In 2004, an oil tanker chartered by Citgo Asphalt Refining Company and others hit an anchor in the Delaware River, leading to the release of 264,000 gallons of heavy crude oil, according to court documents. At the time, Frescati Shipping Company, which owned the vessel, and the U.S. together paid a total of $133 million to clean up the spill. The court ruled 7-2 on Monday that Citgo and others are responsible for cleanup costs. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said a “safe-berth” clause in the charter contract should be interpreted as a safety warranty, meaning it was up to Citgo and others to make sure the tanker docked safely. Disagreeing with the majority were conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Thomas argued in the dissenting opinion that the text of the contract’s safe-berth clause does not include a safety guarantee. He wrote that there is a need for more information on whether industry standard establishes such a warranty. Citgo President and CEO Carlos Jordá expressed disappointment with the ruling, but said the company would abide by the court's decision. "While we obviously have different views regarding the merits of our case, we respect the Court’s interpretation and can finally close this chapter on the Athos case,” Jordá said in a statement, referring to the Athos I vessel

Citgo Must Pay $143M for a Delaware River Oil Spill, Supreme Court Orders - A case that has bounced around the lower courts for 13 years was finally settled yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision, finding oil giant Citgo liable for a clean up of a 2004 oil spill in the Delaware River, according to Reuters. The spill stemmed from a collision that the Athos I tanker had with an abandoned and submerged anchor as the ship was approaching a Philadelphia-area refinery in New Jersey. The collision pierced the hull, leading to the release of 264,000 gallons of heavy crude oil, according to court documents, as The Hill reported.When the spill happened, the owner of the boat Frescati Shipping Company, along with the U.S. government paid $133 million for the cleanup, but the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 allows the government to recoup funds from liable parties after the fact. That spurred a lawsuit over the language in the contract when Frescati and the government sued Citgo to recover what they spent, according to Courthouse News.The court ruled 7-2 yesterday that Citgo and others are responsible for cleanup costs. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said a "safe-berth" clause in the charter contract should be interpreted as a safety warranty, meaning Citgo and the others who commissioned the ship had to make sure the tanker docked safely, according to The Hill.The port in Paulsboro, New Jersey was controlled by three Citgo companies — Citgo Asphalt Refining Company, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, and Citgo East Coast Oil Corporation. The three companies chartered the oil tanker, according to Courthouse News.Citgo argued before the Supreme Court that it had done its due diligence by selecting a known safe harbor for the ship to dock. That became a sticking point during oral arguments as Justice Elena Kagan said the case should not be decided what CITGO thinks would be "sensible," according to Bloomberg Environment.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that many contracts between shipping companies and companies that charter their boats have very loose and vague language. However, this contract had much stricter language written into it, requiring CITGO to "designate and procure" a safe berth., "You either did or you didn't," Chief Justice John Roberts said in oral arguments, as Bloomberg Environment reported.

Pipeline opponents raise coronavirus concerns - Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline could resume this spring, but opponents of the project say crews from other states should not be coming to Virginia and West Virginia during a health emergency. Mountain Valley Pipeline suspended construction last year, and it still lacks key federal permits that would allow the work to resume, but the company says it still intends to complete the project by the end of this year. At a time when Virginians have been ordered to stay home, and many businesses have shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, opponents of the project are saying, not so fast. 'They're coming from states in many cases that have higher COVID-19 rates than we do, like Louisiana where a lot of pipeline workers come from," said pipeline opponent Diana Christopulos. In West Virginia, the group Preserve Monroe is asking Governor Jim Justice to issue a stay that would prevent transient pipeline construction crews from entering the state. In a news release, the group described the workers' return as a "recipe for disaster." "This issue is not about whether the pipeline should be finished or should not be finished," said activist and landowner Maury Johnson. "This issue is what risk are they bringing to our rural communities." A spokesperson for MVP said the project team is focusing on environmental activities, including erosion and sediment controls that are essential requirements. Natalie Cox said the company can balance the need for environmental protection while operating under COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Diana Christopulos says it's not the work that concerns her the most. "They would be living here. They would be eating here. They would be grocery shopping here. They would be getting their healthcare here," she said. "Why can't they fall under the same kind of rules that the rest of us do?" she asked.

Federal reviews delay Mountain Valley Pipeline yet again - A winter hiatus in construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will last well into the spring. The latest delay came this week, with word that two federal agencies will take another month to review one of several approvals — set aside by legal challenges from environmental groups — that must be restored before work can ramp up on the highly disputed natural gas pipeline. Thursday had been the deadline for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finish their reconsideration of the project’s impact on endangered or threatened species of fish and bats. But in a letter Wednesday to FERC, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the agencies and Mountain Valley had agreed to take another 32 days, pushing the completion date to April 27. It was the third such delay since December, when the review was originally set to be completed. Despite the slow process with that and two other sets of suspended permits, the joint venture of five energy companies says it still plans to finish the 303-mile pipeline by the end of this year. “Mountain Valley will continue to work diligently to obtain all necessary permits to complete construction of this vital infrastructure,” company attorney Matthew Eggerding wrote this week in a letter to FERC. Since work began two years ago on the $5.5 billion project, regulatory agencies in Virginia and West Virginia have cited Mountain Valley for repeatedly violating erosion and sediment control regulations along the pipeline’s 303-mile path. Other environmental problems, raised in legal challenges by the Sierra Club and other groups, have led to the suspension of three sets of permits: for the buried pipe to pass through the Jefferson National Forest, under more than 1,000 streams and wetlands in the two Virginias, and into the habitat of endangered species without causing them undue harm. Last October, FERC ordered that all active construction be halted pending a review of a biological opinion, issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017, that found the pipeline would not significantly jeopardize protected fish and bats. In asking for another delay this week, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that while “considerable progress” has been made, more time is needed for Mountain Valley to analyze the impact of construction sediment washed by rainfall into steams populated by the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter.

Price plunge, coronavirus pandemic affect all sectors of US natural gas industry — High natural gas storage volumes combined with effects of the coronavirus outbreak could suppress demand and prices through at least the end of the summer and likely into winter, according to the president of a top US gas marketing company. What's more, widespread cuts in capital expenditures and production outlooks by operators could exacerbate deliverability issues later this year. David Whitt, president of Tenaska Marketing Ventures, said these issues create challenges across the board, but the industry has always remained resilient. Tenaska ranked as the No. 3 North American gas marketer at 10.6 Bcf/d during the fourth quarter of 2019, according to a survey by Platts Analytics. Much of the volume marketed by Tenaska finds an end use in gas-fired power plants and residential and commercial demand. Steep declines in US natural gas demand have not yet materialized across all sectors from the stay-at-home orders issued throughout much of the nation. However, the pandemic continues to apply downside risks, worsened by elevated volumes of gas in storage. "As we look at this day to day, we've only seen a little impact to demand so far," Whitt said. "However, we expect a drop in demand this summer and even into the winter. It's been made worse by the mild winter, which led to high storage levels." "The industrial sector is one area you have to look at for demand destruction," he added. "Residential and commercial could also see a drop."

U.S. natgas edges up with big drop in rig count, forecasts for less output - Reuters(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures edged up on Monday on expectations production will decline in coming weeks and months after the rig count dropped last week. The small increase came despite a near 9% drop in oil prices and forecasts for milder weather and lower heating demand over the next two weeks than earlier expected. On its first day as the front-month, gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 1.9 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $1.690 per million British thermal units. That is still less than a dime over its $1.602 close on March 23, which was its lowest settle since September 1995. Global oil benchmark Brent crude plunged to its cheapest in almost 18 years on Monday, while U.S. crude briefly tumbled below $20 per barrel, on growing fears the global coronavirus shutdown could last months and demand for fuel will decline further. Looking ahead, gas prices in late 2020 and 2021 rose even more than the front-month on expectations demand will rise later in 2020 with the return of economic growth after governments loosen travel restrictions once the coronavirus spread slows. The premium of futures for November over October NGV20-X20, which traders use to bet on demand next winter, rose to its highest since August 2010 for a second day in a row. Analysts project gas stockpiles will hit an all-time high in 2020 as drillers keep producing record amounts of fuel even though demand is expected to slump. U.S. gas production is expected to decline through the rest of 2020, however, as energy firms cut rigs. Last week, drillers cut oil rigs by the most in a week since April 2015 due to the coronavirus-related slump in economic activity. A lot of gas comes out of oil rigs in shale basins.

U.S. natgas futures fall 3% as output rises, weather turns milder - (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures fell on Tuesday with an increase in output and on forecasts for milder weather and lower heating demand next week. Front-month gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 5.0 cents, or 3.0%, to settle at $1.640 per million British thermal units. That keeps the contract within a nickel of its $1.602 close on March 23, its lowest settle since September 1995. For the month, prices slipped about 2% in March, putting the contract down for a fifth month in a row for the first time since July 2019. During that time the contract has lost about 37%. For the quarter, prices were down about 25% in the first quarter of 2020 after falling about 6% last quarter. That was the contract's biggest quarterly loss since the fourth quarter of 2014. Looking ahead, gas prices in late 2020 and 2021 were trading at much higher levels than the front-month on expectations demand will rise later this year when economic growth is expected to return once governments loosen travel and work restrictions. Calendar 2021 has traded at a premium over calendar 2022 for 14 days and over 2025 for four days. Even before the coronavirus started to cut global economic growth and demand for energy, gas was trading near its lowest in years as record production and months of mild winter weather enabled utilities to leave more gas in storage, making fuel shortages and price spikes unlikely. With the coming of spring-like weather, data provider Refinitiv projected gas demand in the U.S. Lower 48 states, including exports, would slide from an average of 98.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 92.9 bcfd next week. That compares with Refinitiv's forecast on Monday of 97.9 bcfd this week and 94.9 bcfd next week. The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants eased to 9.1 bcfd on Monday from 9.3 bcfd on Sunday, according to Refinitiv.

U.S. natgas futures tumble to lowest since August 1995 (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures tumbled on Wednesday to their lowest close since August 1995 along with a drop in oil prices as the coronavirus has cut global demand for energy. Traders noted gas futures fell despite forecasts for slightly cooler U.S. weather boosting heating demand next week, as well as a decline in output. U.S. President Donald Trump warned Americans on Tuesday of a "painful" two weeks ahead in fighting the coronavirus, with a mounting U.S. death toll that could stretch into the hundreds of thousands even with strict social distancing measures. Front-month gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 5.3 cents, or 3.2%, to settle at $1.587 per million British thermal units, their lowest since August 1995. Oil prices fell on Wednesday after data showed U.S. crude inventories rose last week by the most since 2016 while gasoline demand notched its biggest weekly drop ever due to the pandemic. With the coming of spring-like weather, data provider Refinitiv projected gas demand in the U.S. Lower 48 states, including exports, would slide from an average of 98.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 93.1 bcfd next week. Still, next week's forecast was slightly higher than the 92.9 bcfd Refinitiv forecast on Tuesday. On a daily basis, gas production in the Lower 48 states slipped to 93.3 bcfd on Tuesday from 93.5 bcfd on Monday, according to Refinitiv. That compares with an average of 92.9 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 96.5 bcfd on Nov. 30..

US working natural gas in underground storage decreases by 19 Bcf: EIA -- US working gas volumes in storage fell by less than expected last week as prices continue to plummet and storage fields start to switch back to injections. Storage inventories fell by 19 Bcf to 1.986 Tcf for the week ended March 27, the US Energy Information Administration reported Thursday morning. The pull was less than an S&P Global Platts' survey of analysts calling for a 25 Bcf withdrawal. The EIA reported a 6 Bcf injection during the corresponding week in 2019 while the five-year average comes to a draw of 19 Bcf. Demand remained firm last week amid widespread closures of non-essential businesses and increased social distancing measures in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Power burn, and residential and commercial demand saw localized declines in the southwestern US, but they were offset by LNG feedgasramping up week over week, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. While the initial effects of coronavirus on supply and demand are mild so far, the risks to the already over-supplied gas market could linger well into the summer. Even without high heating load, this week's withdrawal matched the five-year average as a result of the strong exports. LNG feedgas deliveries picked up 1.3 Bcf/d week over week, averaging the highest levels since February at 9.2 Bcf/d. Storage volumes now stand 863 Bcf, or 77%, more than the year-ago level of 1.123 Tcf and 292 Bcf, or 17%, more than the five-year average of 1.694 Tcf. The NYMEX Henry Hub April contract slipped 5 cents to $1.53/MMBtu in trading following the release of the weekly storage report. The entire NYMEX Henry Hub balance of summer contract strip was trading lower Thursday. The market is gearing up for next week's likely start to the injection season. May through October have traded down 3 cents/MMBtu to an average $1.84, with the nearest $2 mark not showing up until October. Still, there remain wide intra-seasonal spreads this summer, particularly as the cooling season begins in July, which is priced roughly 17 cents higher than the month before in June. Next winter is also priced lower at $2.58, nearly 75 cents higher than the summer, creating a strong economic incentive to inject.

U.S. natgas falls to 24-yr low on small storage draw, rising oil output worries – (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures fell over 2% on Thursday to their lowest in 24 years for the second straight day on a smaller-than-expected weekly storage draw and concerns higher crude prices could boost gas production from U.S. shale oil fields. Crude prices soared on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to announce a major oil production cut. "This market’s negative response to today’s Trump tweet appeared related to the possibility that higher oil prices could boost U.S. oil production sustainably in the process of spitting out more associated gas output than had previously been expected," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois. Front-month gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 3.5 cents, or 2.2%, to settle at $1.552 per million British thermal units, their lowest since August 1995. The contract also closed at its lowest since August 1995 on Wednesday. That move lower came despite forecasts for more U.S. heating demand next week than previously expected. "Despite a move in weather forecasts to include some early spring chill in the eastern United States next week, the market remains unfazed," said Daniel Myers, market analyst at Gelber & Associates in Houston. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said utilities pulled 19 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended March 27. That was less than the 24-bcf draw analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and compares with an increase of 6 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2015-19) average reduction of 19 bcf for the period. The decrease for the week ended March 27 cut stockpiles to 1.986 trillion cubic feet (tcf), 17.2% above the five-year average of 1.694 tcf for this time of year.

U.S. natgas futures jump from 24-year low on cooler forecasts - (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures on Friday rose over 4% from a 24-year low in the prior session on forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand in mid April than earlier expected. That move higher came despite concerns that higher crude prices could boost gas production from U.S. shale oil fields. Front-month gas futures for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 6.9 cents, or 4.4%, to settle at $1.621 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). On Thursday, the contract closed at its lowest since August 1995 for a second straight day. For the week, the gas front-month was down about 1% after rising about 2% last week. Crude futures, meanwhile, surged for a second day on Friday, with benchmark Brent up 10% on hopes that a global deal to cut crude supply worldwide will emerge early next week. Even before the coronavirus started to cut global economic growth and energy demand, gas was already trading near its lowest in years as record production and months of mild winter weather enabled utilities to leave more fuel in storage, making shortages and price spikes unlikely. Gas prices, however, are trading much higher for the balance of 2020 and calendar 2021 on expectations demand will rise in coming months after governments loosen travel and work restrictions after slowing the spread of coronavirus. Calendar 2021 has traded at a premium over 2022 for 17 days and over 2025 for seven days. Data provider Refinitiv projected gas demand in the U.S. Lower 48 states, including exports, will slide from an average of 97.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 94.6 bcfd next week as the weather moderates before rising to 97.9 bcfd when temperatures are expected to drop again. That compares with Refinitiv's forecasts on Thursday of 97.8 bcfd this week and 94.6 bcfd next week. The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants eased to 9.0 bcfd on Thursday from 9.1 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv. That compares with an average of 9.1 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 9.5 bcfd on Jan. 31. Gas production in the Lower 48 states eased to 92.8 bcfd on Thursday from 93.0 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv. That compares with an average of 92.9 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 96.5 bcfd on Nov. 30.

Pipeline construction plows ahead as daily life is disrupted by coronavirus outbreak - A spokesperson for the pipeline company says construction is currently ongoing as scheduled. The new pipeline, called the Manassas Loop, is an expansion of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line’s mainline that transports natural gas from the gulf coast to New York City and other mid-Atlantic markets. The new pipeline will expand the amount of natural gas that flows along the Transco pipeline. The pipeline’s construction can be seen taking place in the Town of Catlett in Fauquier County along Route 28, where dirt is being moved to install the new 42-inch pipe. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has temporarily suspended all routine field activities during the coronavirus outbreak but is continuing to investigate significant pipeline concerns. The agency said daily monitoring, inspections and field activities of pipelines will continue through the agency's contract staff during this time. DEQ Communications Manager Ann Regn said the DEQ has performed routine erosion and sediment inspections on land-disturbing activities associated with the Manassas Loop pipeline project. “There have been no incidents or releases of sediment or other pollutants from the project. The project self-reports in accordance to their approved standards and specifications and these reports are submitted to DEQ weekly for review and verification,” Regn said.

 3 States Pass Anti-Pipeline Protest Bills in Two Weeks - In just two weeks, three states have passed laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.Between March 16 and March 25, the governors of Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia all signed laws designating oil and gas pipelines and facilities "critical" or "key" infrastructure and imposing new penalties for anyone caught tampering with them, HuffPost reported Friday. The laws came as much of the nation was absorbed by the spread of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S. so far."While we are all paying attention to COVID-19 and the congressional stimulus packages, state legislatures are quietly passing fossil-fuel-backed anti-protest laws," Greenpeace USA researcher Connor Gibson, who alerted HuffPost to the laws' passage, told the news site. "These laws do nothing new to protect communities. Instead they seek to crack down on the sort of nonviolent civil disobedience that has shaped much of our nation's greatest political and social victories."The push to criminalize anti-fossil fuel protests predates the coronavirus pandemic, however, and is part of a broader conservative movement to pass legislation that makes civil disobedience more difficult, asGreenpeace pointed out last year. Since 2015, bills have been introduced that target particular movement tactics like boycotts, strikes and traffic blockage and increase the penalties for already-illegal activities. In the case of anti-pipeline protests, the laws have sold themselves as protecting "critical infrastructure" but follow a very specific playbook, as Greenpeace explained: Generally, critical infrastructure bills share several common elements. (1) They create new criminal penalties for already illegal conduct — for example, turning misdemeanor trespass (a common charge for civil disobedience) into a felony. (2) They broadly redefine the term "critical infrastructure" to include everything from cell phone towers to trucking terminals; far greater than the fossil fuel pipelines the bills purport to protect. (3) The bills also seek to create liability for organizations that support protesters by treating such support as a criminal conspiracy. To date, 11 states have enacted similar "critical infrastructure" legislation, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law's U.S. Protest Law Tracker.

American Petroleum Institute to close 15 state offices in shift to regional fight against anti-fossil fuel policy - The American Petroleum Institute is pursuing a restructuring that will result in the closure of 15 state lobbying offices in favor of a regional approach, as policy fights fought by the largest U.S. oil and gas trade group have become nationalized across state lines.American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers announced the changes in an email to staff obtained Tuesday by the Washington Examiner. “The regional approach will extend API’s advocacy capabilities in a changing landscape using data targeting, campaign communications, and coalition building, and build on our partnerships with state oil and natural gas associations in key production states,” Sommers said. The changes, which had been considered and planned for over a year, will result in 25 employees in state offices losing their jobs. API intends to hire a lesser number of new employees for the eight new regional offices, including in coalition building, digital targeting, and communications. The regional offices will be based in Denver, Colorado; Springfield, Illinois; St. Paul, Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Tallahassee, Florida. State offices will close in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. API's transition to the regional office structure will occur over several months, from the end of July through the end of September. The changes come as API has become more active in opposing policies to limit fossil fuel use promoted by climate activists across an increasing number of states and localities, such as proposals to ban fracking for oil and gas, cities banning natural gas hookups in new homes, subsidies for renewable energy and nuclear plants, and laws encouraging electric vehicles purchases. API is also fighting to support pipelines, frequently opposed by climate activists, which often cross state lines.

How Fossil Fuel Might Use the COVID-19 Pandemic to Criminalize Pipeline Protests -  Last week we mentioned the pandemic wish list the American Petroleum Institute sent to President Trump as Congress negotiated the $2 trillion emergency stimulus bill. The first item on that list, critical infrastructure designations for the entire fossil fuel supply chain, may sound like standard Washington bureaucratese. The wording is significant, though, because it could set up oil and gas companies to tap into a $17 billion pot of COVID-19 relief money targeted at industries deemed essential to national security. But that’s just the beginning. If the Trump administration grants API, and the industry it represents, this favored designation, it may speed up the criminalization of protest against fossil fuel projects, a trend that’s been underway since long before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2017, following the previous year’s multi-month standoff between Indigenous and other opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline and a combination of North Dakota law enforcement and private security forces, an influential conservative activist group saw an opportunity to advance its pro-industry agenda. That group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), specializes in drafting model legislation that advances conservative political priorities, and then distributing these mock bills to state lawmakers to adapt and introduce to state legislatures. In the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, ALEC created a piece of model legislation entitled the “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” targeted at protestors against anything designated “critical infrastructure,” and began circulating it among sympathetic state legislators. The draft bill did two main things. First, it established criminal penalties for any person convicted of “willfully trespassing or entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility without permission by the owner.” Additionally, and importantly, ALEC’s proposed legislation also set “criminal penalties for organizations conspiring with persons who willfully trespass and/or damage critical infrastructure sites, holding such organizations responsible for any damages to personal or real property.”

Governor signs bill requiring owners to clean up closed oil storage tank sites - Gov. Janet Mills has signed two bills into law that will affect the operation and potential closure of petroleum terminals and storage facilities in Maine. L.D. 2033 requires the owners of petroleum terminals to remove tanks that are no longer in use and clean up the sites, which lawmakers hope will ensure that taxpayers are not left to foot costs associated with such cleanups. It was introduced by Rep. Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth). A spokeswoman for the Maine House Democrats said Mills signed the bill on March 26. Mills also signed L.D. 1915, which directs the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to study methods to measure and estimate air emissions from above-ground petroleum storage tanks. She signed that bill on March 18. L.D. 2033 will provide an environmentally safe and fiscally sound process for closing oil terminal facilities, Carney said in a statement on the House Democrats’ website. “An oil terminal facility can stand vacant and unused forever,” Carney said in her statement. “This bill will help make our environment clean and safe. It also protects the fiscal well being of our state, our municipalities and our residents.” The law will ensure the safe cleanup and removal of the state’s 10 petroleum terminals and their tank farms that stretch from South Portland to Searsport, should any of them shut down operations. At the terminal in South Portland, Citgo operates 10 massive fuel storage tanks and Global Partners LP, a Massachusetts company, operates 10 tanks at the other end of the terminal property. Carney, a member of the Labor and Housing Committee, said L.D. 2033 sets guidelines for how a storage facility should be closed based on Maine Department of Environmental Protection standards. The law requires owners to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and an ability to pay for closures. Carney said in her statement that without having the structure in place to make companies accountable for closure and remediation, the state is denying growth opportunities to communities affected by an oil terminal facility closure. She said such sites could potentially be converted into sites for housing, working waterfront, commercial development and other types of energy production.

Enbridge to move forward with tunnel permitting amid pandemic - Enbridge Energy will not delay submitting permits for its controversial Great Lakes Tunnel Project because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal governments that oppose the project want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to slow the process down. They say it’s impossible to prepare for public comment and official tribal consultations when most tribal staff are sheltering in place. “We continue to work on preparing our joint permit application,” said Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy in an email statement. “We are looking at submitting that this month. As part of our agreements with the state of Michigan we are working under a set timeline that has required deadlines for moving the tunnel project forward.” The planned tunnel would house a replacement for the twin 67-year-old pipelines that sit on the lakebed under the Straits of Mackinac. The pipelines are part of Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries light crude and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. EGLE must review and approve or deny Enbridge’s applications within a time frame that ranges from two to five months. The Michigan Public Service Commission must authorize the siting of the tunnel in a separate process that lasts about a year. Tribal governments in the region are opposed to the tunnel and the continued operation of Line 5. EGLE, the governor’s office, and the MPSC held a call with tribes on Wednesday afternoon, informing them of Enbridge’s plans. Kathleen Brosemer, the Environmental Director for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, was on the call. She said being asked to prepare for public comment and tribal consultation on a normal timeline right now is unbelievable. “To think about all of this clock starts ticking .... in the middle of a global pandemic, when most of us are working from home if we're working at all, when all the governments are in disarray, the state government as well as the tribal governments,” said Brosemer. “It's appalling.” She lives on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie and says she can’t cross the border to her office at the moment. “I couldn't get to my desk if I wanted to. I can't get my files,” said Brosemer.

Louisiana COVID-19 outbreak 'perfect storm' to hurt oil, gas industry - The oil and gas industry is facing one of its worst crises in the last 100 years, which adds to the economic uncertainty in oil-dependent areas like Acadiana that already are reeling from the financial impact of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. "Quite frankly, this is a very distressing situation for them and, as a result, for our state," Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. Crude oil prices went below $20 a barrel on Sunday, as the industry faces a heavy decrease in demand due to COVID-19 social distancing measures and massive increases in supply, largely due to a pricing battle between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The cheap oil, while great for consumers, can have devastating impacts for the industry. As of Wednesday morning, the price was just over $20. "We've got a global pandemic that is essentially shutting down the global economy," said Gifford Briggs, the president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. "We've seen maybe as much as 10 million barrel per day decrease in demand in March, and depending on who you listen to, they have 18 to 20 million (barrel) demand going down in April. "There's no indication that won't continue into May." Though the local industry is now a shadow of its former self, the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area — which includes much of Acadiana — is still heavily reliant on oil and gas. The Lafayette area had 13,300 workers in mining and logging related fields in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. While that number is 43% lower than the 23,500 jobs from 2014, it still represents a pretty heavy reliance on oil and gas.

Louisiana gets $155.7 million in offshore oil and gas money for coastal projects -- Louisiana is getting get a big boost this year in offshore oil revenue that is used to fund coastal restoration projects. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday that the state would receive $155.7 million for the current fiscal year, about $58 million more than the previous year. The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will get $124.6 million of the money for fiscal year 2019, which can be used for flood protection and coastal restoration projects. The state’s 19 coastal parishes will distribute about $31 million. The four oil-producing Gulf Coast states have been lobbying for a bigger cut of the royalties the federal government gets from drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. This year, the Interior Department disbursed a total of $353 million in energy revenues via the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Louisiana gets the largest share, followed by Texas ($95.3 million), Mississippi ($51.9 million) and Alabama ($50 million). The fiscal year’s total is a jump of more than 64% ($138 million) from the prior year. A state's allotment is determined its proximity to leased oil or gas tracts. Louisiana receives the greatest share because it is closest to the most lucrative extraction areas. 

Shell Pulls Out of Louisiana LNG Project  - Citing current market conditions, Shell reported Monday that it will not proceed with an equity interest – and thus exit – the proposed Lake Charles LNG project. Prior to Monday’s announcement, Shell and Energy Transfer had anticipated developing the project via a 50/50 joint venture. The proposal entails converting Energy Transfer’s existing import and regasification terminal in Lake Charles, La., into an LNG export facility with a liquefaction capacity of 16.45 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). Energy Transfer will now take over as the project’s developer, Shell stated. “This decision is consistent with the initiatives we announced last week to preserve cash and reinforce the resilience of our business,” commented Maarten Wetselaar, Shell’s director for Integrated Gas and New Energies, in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. On March 23, Shell unveiled plans to cut its operating and capital expenses by $8-9 billion. “Whilst we continue to believe in the long-term viability and advantages of the project, the time is not right for Shell to invest,” continued Wetselaar. “Through the transition, we will work closely with Energy Transfer.” Shell stated that it will continue to support Energy Transfer with the ongoing bidding process for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract and then plan a phased handover of remaining project-related activities. In a separate written statement, Energy Transfer noted that Shell has committed to support the process through the receipt of commercial EPC bids in the second quarter of this year. Given Shell’s exit from Lake Charles LNG, Energy Transfer stated that it will consider “various alternatives to advance the project.” Possibilities include bringing in one or more equity partners and scaling down the project’s size from three liquefaction trains (16.45 mtpa) to two (11 mtpa), Energy Transfer explained.

US LNG Giant Signaling It May Curb Production-- One of the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas exporters is signaling it may throttle back production. Cheniere Energy Inc. has tendered to buy six shipments for delivery to Europe later this year, a rare step for a company that’s fundamentally a seller of the fuel. The company could be testing the size of the current glut as it weighs output cuts, or even seeking cargoes for its customers that could be cheaper than producing and shipping its own from the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to a Bloomberg survey of traders. Traders are closely watching any indication that U.S. exporters will curb production as the coronavirus restrains demand and exacerbates an oversupply. Houston-based Cheniere declined to comment on the plan, and it isn’t clear if the tender has been awarded. “They may be trying to figure out how long the market really is and to make a judgment on whether they should shut down some production,” said Jason Feer, global head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners Inc. in Houston. The tender may just be “an indication of length in the market. It does not mean that they will award the tender or buy the cargoes.” Shipping LNG from the U.S. to Europe or Asia this summer will be unprofitable, BloombergNEF said in a Feb. 27 note. Spot prices have since declined further, while vessel rates have jumped, in a further indication that it may be cheaper to buy cargoes already available in the market than produce and ship it. Gas flows to Cheniere’s export terminals dropped 13% this month from February’s average as output was partly reduced because of fog-related shipping delays and plant maintenance. The facilities in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, and Corpus Christi, Texas, are taking in 18% more gas than last March. With the coronavirus pandemic expected to exacerbate the seasonal lull for gas around the world, “it’s reasonable” to expect customers won’t lift some cargoes while still paying tolling fees under their contracts, Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer for Cheniere, said last week during the Scotia Howard Weil investor webcast. The firm also closed a separate deal last week offering to sell a prompt cargo from its Sabine Pass facility, which traders said was likely one of its first ever tenders. The company boosted capacity at each of its seven liquefaction units to about 5 million tons a year from their planned nameplate of 4.5 million thanks to operational efficiencies. Cheniere has declined to comment on operations and whether any cargoes were canceled beyond two for April reported last month. Aside from a buyer with a 20-year contract opting to not lift a cargo, Cheniere had already cut the amount of cargoes that its marketing arm makes available, Feer said. “They had been producing additional cargoes for Cheniere Marketing, but they stopped that a while back,” he said.

We Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet - Outlook For Oil/Gas/NGL Supply, Demand And Prices: Completely Blown Away --Like everything else in the world, energy markets are undergoing totally unprecedented convulsions. It seems as if everything that was working before COVID-19 is now broken, and an entirely new rulebook has been thrust upon us. Of course, it is impossible to know how crude oil, natural gas and NGL markets will play out over the next few weeks, much less in the coming years. But if we make a few reasonable assumptions, extrapolate from what we know so far, and crunch through a bit of fundamental analysis, it is possible to imagine what energy markets will look like after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. One thing is for sure: things will not be anything like they were before. Where energy markets may be headed next is what we will conjure up in today’s blog.From New Year’s Day to March 5, the price of Cushing WTI dropped by about $15/bbl, which was a wakeup call for the industry. But it didn’t really prepare folks for what happened next. Following the spectacular collapse of the OPEC-Plus coalition on March 6, WTI started free-falling: within a week (on March 13), it was down by another~$15/bbl, to $31.73/bbl, and only five days after that (on March 18), it was off by another third, to $20.37/bbl. By then, the double-whammy demand hit from COVID and supply hit from increased Saudi and Russian production had really sunk in. Either the coronavirus pandemic or the OPEC-Plus breakdown on its own would have been enough to bring energy markets to their knees. The combination of the two at exactly the same time may be as close to a knock-out blow as the energy industry has ever seen. Therefore, we are going to set March 6, the date of the OPEC-Plus failure, as the demarcation point between what the market was BEFORE and what it is becoming AFTER. The market’s perception of reality has changed radically in the past three weeks, and events have been unfolding at lightning speed: capital expenditure cuts, infrastructure project cancellations, a collapse in gasoline prices, refinery run cuts. And we’re only at the very start of the new energy world. We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.

Keep your LNG feedstock supply clean in natural gas pipelines - The transmission of natural gas through high-pressure pipelines is not a new idea, but as the country's LNG exports grow to a world-leading level, the destination of the pipeline product and its associated requirements have changed dramatically. Traditionally, natural gas has been used to provide heat when burned, either in homes and businesses or as fuel to produce electrical power. The requirements were fairly simple, and if the gas fell within an acceptable energy range, it was considered a suitable pipeline product. Analysis of the gas for custody transfer was normally performed by an online gas chromatograph, with moisture and oxygen measurements when required. Today, the situation is different, as natural gas is destined for liquefaction facilities designed to produce LNG for export rather than for burning. LNG liquefaction facilities cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, and operational downtime is extremely expensive to the operators, making the acceptability of the feedstock critical. Contaminants within the natural gas that can either damage the equipment or render the liquefaction process less efficient are unacceptable. Of importance are mercury, sulfur compounds, aromatic compounds and all particulates. This article will highlight a few key differences from the perspective of gas quality and will use Freeport LNG as an example of the changing requirements within the natural gas pipeline industry.

U.S. EPA waives fuel requirements, extends biofuels deadline to help refineries - (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled measures to help oil refineries cope with fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, including waiving anti-smog requirements for gasoline and extending the deadline for small facilities to show compliance with the nation’s biofuels law. The outbreak has touched off a massive global decline in demand for motor fuels and forced companies to reduce staffing levels to slow infection rates. Typically U.S. fuel dealers are required to stop selling winter-grade gasoline on May 1 as summer anti-smog standards come into play. But marketers will now be allowed to sell the fuel until at least May 20, and possibly beyond. “The reason we have to do this is because people are driving fewer miles and the winter blends are stockpiled in all the tanks,” EPA chief Andrew Wheeler told Reuters in an interview. “There’s no place to put the summer blend.” The EPA, he said, will also extend the deadline for small oil refineries to prove their compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the law that requires refineries to blend billions of gallons of biofuels like ethanol into their fuel or buy credits from those that do. Refiners are typically required to prove their compliance by March 31, but facilities with less than 75,000 barrels of daily processing capacity will be given extensions.

How the oil price collapse could reduce methane emissions — or make them much worse | Grist - Last year, oil and gas companies in the country’s two largest shale fields either burned off or directly released almost 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the air. That figure is more than the total natural gas released nationwide the year prior — and it would be sufficient to heat about 6 million homes for a year, if it hadn’t been wasted.“Flaring” is the industry term for burning natural gas, and “venting” refers to simply letting the substance escape. Both are wasteful, bad for business, and dangerous for the climate and public health. Methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, is the main component of natural gas. When natural gas is flared, methane is converted to carbon dioxide. But if the flares are unlit or companies vent the natural gas instead, the methane escapes directly into the air. “What is coming out of these flares is toxic: It’s harmful to people, it’s harmful to local air quality, and it’s harmful to the climate,” said Sharon Wilson, a senior organizer at the environmental nonprofit Earthworks. Companies either flare or vent natural gas when there aren’t enough pipelines to carry gas to refineries, or when it is prohibitively expensive to do so. When companies drill for oil, they often find natural gas along with crude. Of the two, oil is a more lucrative product, and when pipeline space for natural gas is limited, it’s cheaper for companies to flare or vent the gas than it is to find alternative ways to capture and sell it.With oil prices hitting 18-year lows, industry-wide layoffs, and projections that operators are likely to halt new infrastructure investments and drastically scale back production, both opportunities and pitfalls await companies trying to reduce emissions from oilfields. On the one hand, low prices and the oil glut are expected to push companies to slash production, simultaneously driving down flaring.But those gains may be short lived. When oil prices eventually rise and operators rush to drill new wells, energy experts expect that flaring will likely spike again. Additionally, if low prices are sustained for long periods of time, more companies are expected to either go bankrupt or begin tightening their belts, which could mean fewer resources to monitor flares and fix faulty equipment that may be leaking natural gas into the atmosphere.Due to the current downturn, companies may delay pipeline projects. . If pipeline projects are put on hold, it may worsen the bottleneck in oil and gas fields when prices eventually rise and operators begin ramping up production — meaning that natural gas may ultimately be more likely to be flared or vented rather than diverted to a pipeline.If operators delay pipeline projects, “you get behind the curve again,” said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, in a monthly update in March. “In the long term, it creates even bigger problems as you come out of low oil prices.”Availability of pipeline capacity also doesn’t guarantee a decrease in flaring. In some cases, companies may choose to flare natural gas because it’s more costly to pay to transport it to market. Last year, Williams, a pipeline operator, sued Texas regulators after they allowed a natural gas company to flare gas even though existing pipelines would’ve allowed the company to move it to market. “Connecting to Williams’ pipeline would be uneconomic,” Exco Resources, the natural gas company, said in a court filing. Without a permit to flare, the company would have to stop operating 138 wells, which would result “in a waste” of oil and gas, the company stated.

New state coalition to examine flaring, methane emissions - Seven state oil and gas industry associations and approximately 40 Texas-based producing companies announced Tuesday the formation of a new coalition to address flaring and methane emissions. “The industry is always innovating,” said Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, in a telephone call with the media to discuss the new Texas Methane and Flaring Coalition. “The best way to advance is to invest in innovation and technology.” Staples said it is always important for the energy industry to demonstrate its commitment to improving the environment, even amid today’s economic woes. “This issue has been developing even before the downturn, and energy companies and our members want to demonstrate, even in a down cycle, a strong commitment to environmental progress and that they’re not backing away from seeking solutions to flaring and methane emissions,” he said. The Permian Basin Petroleum Association is among those that joined TXOGA in the coalition. “While we know these are unprecedented times in the Permian Basin, the PBPA continues to work on a broad range of issues important to industry,” Ben Shepperd, president of the PBPA, told the Reporter-Telegram by email. “While we are all working through conference calls at the moment like everyone else, PBPA remains committed to addressing all important issues and supporting our industry however we can.” Staples said that the approximately 40 producers that are part of the new coalition are responsible for some 80 percent of the state’s oil production.

U.S. oil industry pumps near record volumes even as demand and prices collapse - The U.S. continues to pump near record amounts of oil, but U.S gasoline demand continues to drop as the whole world sees less need for fuel. The latest weekly data from the Energy Information Administration showed the U.S. oil industry was still pumping 13 million barrels of crude oil per day, just under record production highs. At the same time, demand for gasoline fell to 6.7 million barrels a day from 8.8 million the week earlier. This time last year, drivers were using about 9.2 million barrels a day of gasoline. U.S. gasoline demand translates to the equivalent of 10% of global oil demand. “Right now, we have a supply problem and a demand problem. That is unprecedented,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodities strategy at RBC. RBC expects that U.S. gasoline demand could ultimately fall by 6.2 million barrels a day as more states require citizens to shelter in place and many U.S. drivers remain off the road through at least the end of April to fight the spread of coronavirus. In the past week, the U.S. also added another 13.8 million barrels of oil to inventories, a record amount, which only exacerbates the global struggle with a lack of storage space. U.S. gasoline inventories rose by 7.5 million barrels last week. West Texas Intermediate was down 1.3% Wednesday, at just over $20 per barrel.

Pipelines Ask U.S. Oil Drillers to Curb Output as Tanks Fill Up - - American pipeline operators have begun asking oil producers to voluntarily ratchet back their output in the clearest sign yet that a growing glut of crude is overwhelming storage capacity. Plains All American Pipeline LP, one of the biggest shippers of crude in the U.S., sent a letter this week asking its suppliers to scale back production. The notice came from the company’s marketing unit that buys and sells oil to customers. A Texas oil regulator said Saturday that drillers were getting similar notices from pipeline operators. The messages signal the oil market is fast approaching the moment traders have been warning about -- when crude supplies overflow storage tanks and pipelines as the coronavirus pandemic drags down oil demand by the most in history. “We are sending this proactive request to our suppliers to ask that you take steps to reduce oil production in response to the pandemic,” Houston-based Plains said in the letter obtained by Bloomberg. Plains didn’t immediately have comment on its request. The company sent a separate letter requiring customers to prove they have a buyer or place to offload the crude they’re shipping, according to people familiar with the matter. Enterprise Products Partners LP put out a similar call, one person said. The firm didn’t immediately have comment. The idea is to prevent anyone from parking oil in pipelines. On Saturday, Ryan Sitton, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission that regulates the state’s oil industry, said he’d heard that “some Texas producers are starting to get letters from shippers (pipelines) asking for oil production cuts because they are out of storage.” There were already signs that North America’s storage system was nearing its limit. On Friday, prices for physical delivery of several key crude grades in North America plunged to the lowest levels in decades. West Texas Intermediate crude in the heart of the Permian shale region plunged to $13.01 a barrel, the lowest since 1999. West Canada oil crude neared $5 a barrel. Trading house Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. bid just 95 cents for Wyoming Asphalt Sour, a dense oil used mostly to produce paving bitumen, and said the same barrel was bid at below zero earlier this month. U.S. oil refiners have been cutting back on the amount of crude they buy and process as lockdowns across the nation keep cars off the road, sending gasoline demand plummeting. Retail pump prices have, in some places, fallen below $1 a gallon.

Will Capping Oil Production Help Texas Companies? Experts Say No. –   Texas oil and gas companies are trying to figure out how to stay financially afloat as the Coronavirus crisis and international price disputes are keeping oil prices low. Many have already cut spending, some have furloughed workers, and most told the Dallas Fed Survey they wouldn’t be able to make a profit if they started new drilling activity. Some companies have even suggested to the state’s oil and gas regulators they should put a cap on production, arguing it would make prices go up and save jobs. But experts and industry trade groups don’t agree. “They’ve gone to the referee to ask for some sort of assistance in enforcing something that really is just nonsense on the rest of the Texas market,” said University of Houston Energy Fellow Ed Hirs. “Even if they were able to reduce production in Texas, it would not have the desired impact of raising prices.” “These companies could themselves shut down production and reduce production, to —in their view— help alleviate the supply overhang in the market,” Hirs said. “But they’re unwilling to do this alone.” The suggestion to regulators to cap oil production came from exploration companies Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy, according to a Reuters report. Parsley Energy told Reuters it wants a comprehensive solution that might also include tariffs on foreign oil in an effort to help domestic producers. It’s that foreign oil that Hirs said is hurting the Texas market the most. Saudi Arabia and Russia are in a price dispute, and it’s unknown when or if they will come to an agreement—and that’s something Texas state regulators have no control over. So far there’s no formal request to the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, to limit production — just informal suggestions. And most commissioners have publicly indicated they don’t like the idea. Major trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Oil and Gas Association also said they favor free market solutions over a mandatory limit on production. “The challenges we face today are unprecedented, but they are not an excuse to walk away from the free market principles that have guided this industry for more than a century,” API’s Frank Macchiarola said in a statement. “Make no mistake, production quotas would be a shortsighted, knee-jerk reaction with disastrous consequences for the future of U.S. energy leadership.” Hirs, from UH, agreed, and said limiting production would just put small producers at a greater risk. “There’s no question we were going to see bankruptcies over this season as the 2019 results came in and as banks pulled their lines of credit,” Hirs said. “Now, of course, everything’s going to be accelerated, and then if they were to limit production, it would just happen a heck of a lot faster.” There may be more to the request than just a hope to steady prices, Hirs added. “The two producers who have asked for this are well suited to go around and pick up some of the pieces,” Hirs says. “In many respects, you could look at this as a crass competitive play on their part to consolidate and expand their positions in the Permian Basin.”

Some American Oil Selling at Under $10 a Barrel- Oil is selling for less than $10 across key North American hubs as the global demand shock from coronavirus leaves crude with nowhere to go. The coronavirus pandemic has hit demand so hard that as benchmark futures plunge to lowest in 18 years, oil is backing up throughout the distribution system, raising the prospect that producers will need to shut in wells. Some of the hardest-hit areas have been those thousands of miles from export terminals, which would provide the possibility of escape, either to foreign markets or onto tankers as floating storage. Refiners across the U.S., including PBF Energy Inc., Valero Energy Corp. and Phillips 66, are slowing fuel production as restrictions on travel and work has reduced gasoline and jet fuel demand to a trickle. North Atlantic Refining Ltd will be idling its 130,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Newfoundland, Canada, for two to five months due to the outbreak. The market is groaning under the weight of this oversupply so much so that U.S. midstream operators such as Plains All American Pipelines have asked their suppliers to reduce oil production because storage capacity is reaching its limits. Bakken crude in Guernsey, Wyoming, sank to a record-low $3.18 a barrel Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, while Western Canadian Select in Hardisty, Alberta, was worth just $4.18. Even oil in West Texas is as cheap as it’s ever been. West Texas Intermediate in Midland was $10.68, just above its all-time low from 1998. And it’s lower-quality counterpart, West Texas Sour, slid to a record $7.18, the lowest in data going back to 1988. West Texas Intermediate Light, also known as WTL, traded at around $7.50 a barrel below the WTI Midland benchmark on Monday, traders said, the equivalent of about $3 a barrel outright. Including transportation costs from the wellhead, that would mean the very light crude is worth near-zero, if not negative, when it comes out of the ground.

This Is The Largest Economic Shock Of Our Lifetimes - Goldman Sees Negative Prices Amid Oil Devastation  - Over the weekend, we reported that with the oil industry oversupplied by a mindblowing 20 million barrels daily as roughly 20% of total global output ends up unused in a world economy that has ground to a halt, and instead has to be parked in storage either on land or sea, the unthinkable is about to happen: oil storage space is about to run out, and as that happens the price of oil will continue sliding ever lower and lower until it finally goes negative as some such as Mizuho's Paul Sankey predict it will, over the next few months, leading to an unprecedented shockwave across the global energy market. Then overnight, more eulogies for the oil market emerged, with Bank of America writing that oil has now slumped "into the abyss" and it expects to see the "steepest decline in global oil consumption ever recorded, with our base case reflecting a 12mn b/d drop in 2Q20 and a 4.5mn b/d contraction on average for the year" and on a net basis, BofA now expects global oil demand to contract by almost 17mn b/d in April with consumption recovering modestly into 3Q20 and beyond. The bank also adjusted its oil price forecasts for 2020 and 2021 down to $37 and $45/bbl for Brent and to $32 and $42/bbl for WTI respectively, but in the near-term, it sees both benchmarks temporarily trading in the teens in the coming weeks.However, by going all "there will be blood" on oil, BofA has only caught up where Goldman has been for the past two weeks, ever since it predicted that the "physical end was near." Meanwhile, in a note of unprecedented gloom, Goldman now says that "the physical end is here" as the coronacrisis goes global.As Goldman's Jeffrey Currie calculates, the oil surplus generated by an unprecedented demand shock has begun to hit physical constraints at refineries, pipelines and storage facilities, "leading to at least 0.9 million b/d of announced shut-ins at the wellhead, with the true number likely higher and growing by the hour." With social distancing measures now impacting 92% of global GDP, the ultimate magnitude of these shut-ins which is still unknown will likely permanently alter the energy industry and its geopolitics, restrict demand as economic activity normalizes and shift the debate around climate change. In other words, what is taking place now is "not only is this the largest economic shock of our lifetimes" but from a practical perspective, "carbon-based industries like oil sit in the cross-hairs as they have historically served as the cornerstone of social interactions and globalization, the prevention of which are the main defense against the virus."

US may test its crude storage limits in the weeks ahead -— The United States could face a dire crude oil storage crunch in the coming weeks and months with more than half of the nation's commercial crude capacity currently filled and volumes rapidly rising. The combination of a global crude demand crunch coupled with the continued flow of surplus supplies means that storage reserves should begin to fill up more quickly, possibly testing the limits of US crude storage capacity as early as this summer, according to industry observers. Almost 300 million barrels of commercial crude oil storage remain in this country, according to the latest estimates from federal data. But the US is still churning out close to 13 million b/d of crude oil. Those volumes are expected to decline, but not fast enough to prevent storage volumes from rapidly rising. The rest of the world is facing potential storage shortfalls as well, so it may be increasingly harder to ship excess crude barrels oversees in the weeks ahead. Some pipelines and regional storage hubs already are feeling constrained, and more oil is going into storage in supertankers around the world. The worst-case scenario is if global demand falls by about 20 million b/d or more from the coronavirus pandemic, and Saudi Arabia and Russia continue their pricing war after the implosion of the so-called OPEC+ group early in March. That could result in a supply-demand gap of 24 million b/d, said Ethan Bellamy, an energy analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. "My view is that it's much worse than people are expecting," Bellamy said. "With no changes to the status quo, we will fill storage in June or July depending on the rate of overall economic slowdown and OPEC+ positioning. If that happens, oil producers will be shutting in wells or giving oil away." NYMEX WTI pricing could then further crater from about $20/b now down to the single digits, Bellamy said. Some spot markets already are pricing much lower. In the Permian Basin, Midland WTI was assessed by S&P Global Platts at just $13.51/b Friday, as price discounts have widened because of reduced storage space, and lower refinery demand. Those spot price discounts also reflect the widening contango structure for crude. NYMEX front-month May crude futures settled at a roughly $15/b discount to the 12th-month contract Monday.

Traders Eyeing Rail Cars for Oil Storage - Oil companies are turning to rail cars to stash the crude they can’t sell, as the world runs out of places to store a growing glut of cheap barrels. North American producers, refiners and traders are now looking to store excess oil in rail yards in Texas, Saskatchewan and Manitoba amid the crude market’s historic plunge and collapsing demand, according to people familiar with the matter. With oil for May delivery trading at a steep discount to future months -- a structure known as contango -- more firms are hoarding barrels rather than sell at a loss. But crude tanks and supertankers are filling up fast, with the world projected to run out of storage space by the middle of the year, according to IHS Markit. In Canada, tank-tops could be breached within two to three weeks, Goldman Sachs Group said, while U.S. stockpiles last week rose for the 10th week, increasing by the most in three years. “Rail certainly is an economic option to store crude while the contango is at historic levels,” said Sandy Fielden, director of research for Morningstar Inc. “A trader has to mitigate risks associated with quality and location because rail yards may not be located in major oil trading hubs.” A decade ago, transporting crude by rail was rare, while stowing oil in a tank car was virtually unheard of. But as the shale boom unleashed record volumes of crude, overwhelming pipeline capacity, producers have increasingly come to rely on rail to move barrels from one point to another. Now, crude-by-rail service providers and terminal operators are fielding inquiries about leasing cars for storage. The situation is particularly dire in the land-locked Canadian province of Alberta, where local heavy crude is trading at less than $10 a barrel, according to NE2 Group. In some parts of the U.S., prices for physical barrels have gone negative. Although no contracts are finalized, some companies have inquired about using the cars for 3 months to a year, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the talks are private.

El Dorado-based Murphy Oil makes cost-cutting moves - El Dorado-based Murphy Oil Corp. said Wednesday that because of ongoing weakness in the oil sector it is cutting executive pay, reducing its yearly capital spending guidance and reducing its quarterly cash dividend by 50%."Murphy recognizes the reality of the current situation in the commodity markets, and we believe the reduction in dividends, capital expenditures, salaries and retainers are prudent steps to sustain the company for the long term," Claiborne Deming, chairman of the board for Murphy Oil Corp., said in a statement.Coronavirus Updates Stay up to date with the latest news regarding the coronavirus pandemic.Shares of Murphy Oil Corp. fell nearly 9% in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Oil prices have plummeted from about $54 a barrel in mid-February to about $20 a barrel.In a news release, the company said the president and chief executive officer's annual salary will be cut 35%. Other executives will have their salaries reduced by up to 30% with an average reduction of 22%, effective Wednesday.The company declared a quarterly cash dividend of $1.25 a share or 50 cents a share annually, according to the release. Murphy also reduced its 2020 capital spending plan to $780 million.

Texas Oil Company to pay $115,000 Civil Penalty to resolve violations of Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a proposed settlement with Citation Oil & Gas Corp. (Citation) of Houston, Texas, to resolve alleged violations of federal regulations intended to prevent oil pollution. The Clean Water Act violations pertain to oil spill prevention requirements and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations at Citation’s Park County, Wyoming, oil production facilities. Citation will pay a civil penalty of $115,000 to resolve the alleged violations. This proposed settlement resulted from EPA’s investigation of two spills at Citation facilities. The first spill occurred on February 9, 2016, when Citation released approximately 300 barrels of crude oil from its Embar 3 Facility into Buffalo Creek, a tributary of the Big Horn River. The second spill occurred on August 21, 2019, when Citation released approximately 1000 barrels of produced water from its North Waterflood Station into the same tributary. “Companies that store oil have a responsibility to follow laws that protect the public and the environment,” said Suzanne Bohan, director of EPA Region 8’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “Due to the harm oil can cause when released to water resources and the environment, every effort must be made to prevent spills and to clean them up promptly once they occur.” In investigating Citation’s spills, EPA discovered deficiencies in Citation’s SPCC plans for the North Waterflood Station and Middle Waterflood Station. The company corrected these deficiencies and submitted corrected plans to EPA, helping ensure that water resources and communities where Citation operates are better protected from damaging oil spills.

NGPL expansion in Texas that will serve LNG exports can begin construction: FERC - — Kinder Morgan's Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America can start construction of its Gulf Coast Southbound project in Texas, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Tuesday. The approval was the latest sign that regulators are allowing gas infrastructure to move forward over fierce objections of local opponents as the coronavirus pandemic threatens worker safety. During a teleconference with reporters March 19, the commission's chairman said FERC's work would not be slowed by efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus. Several projects, including Gulf Coast Southbound, are being designed to feed gas to LNG export facilities. Even as the health scare shifts trade flows, disrupting some construction efforts and depressing commercial activity, US liquefaction facilities have recently been seeing robust utilization. Low input and shipping costs continue to make deliveries to some regions economic. The compression-based expansion of NGPL's Gulf Coast Mainline natural gas system will boost supplies to Cheniere Energy's LNG terminal near Corpus Christi. It will enable the system to provide 300,000 Dt/d of firm southbound transportation capacity to Corpus Christi Liquefaction. It would also allow NGPL to make 28,000 Dt/d available to the market. The project, which received certificate authorization February 21, will include a new 10,000-horsepower compressor unit and related facilities at a compressor station in Victoria County, Texas; a new 15,900-hp turbine at a station in Wharton County, Texas; and two new 23,470-hp turbines at a station in Harrison County, Texas. NGPL also plans to abandon in place some existing compressor units at two of those stations. The same pipeline system also provides a backbone of feedgas to Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana. Cheniere operates two trains at Corpus Christi and is building a third there; It operators five trains at Sabine Pass and is building a sixth there. The approval of construction on the NGPL expansion is affirmation that FERC is keeping pipeline construction going. The agency is also addressing ratemaking issues in a way that will give operators some breathing room.

Accident prompts Kinder Morgan to suspend Hill Country pipeline construction - Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan has suspended construction on one segment of a controversial pipeline being built through the Texas Hill Country after an drilling accident allegedly sent a mixture of clay and water into nearby wells.The accident happened along the Permian Highway Pipeline route in Blanco County where construction crews experienced an underground drilling fluid loss on Saturday, the company reported. Further investigation revealed that the drilling fluid, a mixture of water and non-toxic bentonite clay, seeped into freshwater drinking wells used by nearby landowners."At this time, drilling operations have been suspended while the team evaluates the cause of the loss and determines the best path forward," Company officials said. "We are working with affected landowners to address their needs. We are also consulting with our Karst expert and the local water district manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts. All of the appropriate regulatory agencies have been notified."Midstream: Federal judge sides with Kinder Morgan in Hill Country pipeline fight. Landowners claim they were not notified about the accident by Kinder Morgan and only learned about the contamination when muddy water came out of their faucets Sunday. Blanco County officials are inspecting water drinking wells to determine how widespread the contamination from the spill has been and how many residents have been affected, the Sierra Club reported.Worth an estimated $2 billion, the 430-mile pipeline was designed to move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to a facility owned by Kinder Morgan at the Katy natural gas hub near Houston. The project faced stiff opposition from Hill Country landowners on environmental and safety concerns.“This spill has validated those concerns," Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative said. "The fact that this spill was not made public until residents spoke out about contamination in their drinking water makes it clear that Kinder Morgan can’t be trusted to build this pipeline safely."

Cheniere seeks U.S. permission to put Oklahoma Midship natgas pipe in service - (Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Inc has completed the Midship natural gas pipeline in Oklahoma at a cost of around $1 billion and is seeking federal regulators’ permission to put it into service, according to a filing made available on Wednesday. Cheniere has asked the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to put the project into service “at the earliest time possible, but no later than April 17, 2020, in order to meet the needs of its shippers,” the filing says. Cheniere, the nation’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter and biggest consumer of gas, started work on the project around February 2019. Midship includes nearly 200 miles (322 kilometers) of 36-inch (91-centimeter) pipe. The pipe is designed to deliver about 1.44 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas from the Anadarko basin to existing pipelines near Bennington, Oklahoma, for transport to U.S. Gulf Coast and Southeast markets, where demand for the fuel for domestic consumption and LNG export is growing. One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes a day. Total U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to rise to 10.0 bcfd by the end of 2020 and 10.7 bcfd by the end of 2021 from the current 8.5 bcfd. That keeps the United States on track to become the world’s biggest LNG exporter in the mid 2020s, up from the third biggest now behind Australia and Qatar.

Iowa regulators agree to doubling volume for Dakota Access pipeline  Iowa regulators announced Friday they have agreed to help clear the way for the multistate Dakota Access pipeline to double its crude oil capacity. The underground pipeline, which crosses 18 counties in Iowa diagonally from northwest to southeast, began operating nearly three years ago after vehement protests against it brought worldwide attention. In Iowa, the owners of the pipeline — a Texas-based consortium of companies and investors called Energy Transfer Partners — sought regulatory approval to bolster its pumping station in Cambridge, south of Ames, to help move the increased volume. Friday, the three-member Iowa Utilities Board announced it had waived a hearing requirement and granted the request over the objections of the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association, the Sierra Club, the Office of Consumer Advocate and others. “The IUB found that the increase in oil will not significantly increase the risk of a spill, or the amount of oil that would be spilled if an incident occurred,” the board said in a news release. The regulators did require Dakota Access to file updates on the approval process in the three other states that also must sign off, as well as any damage claims by landowners and any safety violations. The pipeline also runs through parts of North and South Dakota before ending at a hub in Illinois. From there, the Bakken crude is pumped to the Gulf of Mexico in a different pipeline.

Minnesota, Wisconsin frac sand mines crushed by oil industry shifts - The frac sand mining industry in Minnesota and Wisconsin was already struggling before the coronavirus-related downturn made matters worse. Frac sand miner Jordan Sands in North Mankato was pushed into receivership recently after its banker declared a loan default. A few months earlier, Minnesota’s largest frac sand producer by far, the Kasota mine near St. Peter, was idled. In western Wisconsin, 10 frac sand processing plants have closed over the past 18 months. That’s one-third of the industry’s dry sand milling capacity, said Kent Syverson, a geology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a sand-industry consultant. Many other Wisconsin frac sand operations were operating well below capacity at the beginning of March, he added. And all of this was before oil collapsed as the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic cratered global demand at the same time Russia and Saudi Arabia decided to flood the market with crude supply. “Now we have an oil-price crash, and some [oil producers] are cutting back their fracking and drilling budgets.” Announced cuts already total billions of dollars. The Upper Midwest’s frac sand industry has been shellacked since 2018, first by a southward migration of sand mining, then by a supply glut. The industry’s sand surplus is “approximately double the current demand,” Jordan Sands CEO Scott Sustacek said in a court affidavit filed March 2, just before oil prices plummeted.

Crude oil spill reported in McKenzie County - A crude oil spill from a pipeline operated by True Oil, LLC was reported on March 27. The spill impacted Red Wing Creek, affecting roughly 1.5 miles of the creek. The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) says the spill has not yet been contained, and the amount of crude spilled has not yet been released. The spill was reported on the same day. The incident occurred about 17 miles southwest of Watford City, and the cause is still under investigation. NDDEQ says it is inspecting the site and will continue to monitor the investigation and remediation.

Spill in McKenzie County reaches Red Wing Creek (AP) — A state regulator estimates about 420 gallons (1,590 liters) of crude oil has spilled from a pipeline in McKenzie County and reached a creek there. The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality said Monday the spill happened Friday on a line about 17 miles southwest of Watford City. The pipeline is operated by True Oil LLC. State environmental scientist Bill Suess said the oil reached Red Wing Creek and affected about 1.5 miles of the creek, which is a tributary to the Little Missouri River. He said the spill has been contained and the oil is being cleaned up.

Brine spills at McKenzie County saltwater disposal well | Bakken News – A saltwater disposal well in McKenzie County leaked brine on Sunday due to an equipment failure, according to the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division. The well, owned by Missouri Basin Well Service, spilled 608 barrels or 25,536 gallons of fluid. All the saltwater was contained on the well site about 11 miles north of Watford City, according to the state. Brine is highly concentrated saltwater that comes up alongside oil and gas at well sites. It can render farmland infertile when it spills off-site. The state said its inspectors will continue to monitor additional cleanup.

Disputed Canada-US oil pipeline work to start in April (AP) — A Canadian company said Tuesday it plans to start construction of the disputed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline through the U.S. Midwest in April, after lining up customers and money for a proposal that is bitterly opposed by environmentalists and some American Indian tribes. Construction would begin at the pipeline’s border crossing in Montana, said TC Energy spokesman Terry Cunha. That would be a milestone for a project first proposed in 2008. The announcement came after the company secured $1.1 billion in financing from the Canadian provincial government of Alberta to cover construction through 2020 and agreements for the transport of 575,000 barrels of oil daily. Despite plunging oil prices in recent weeks, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province’s resource-dependent economy could not afford for Keystone XL to be delayed until after the coronavirus pandemic and a global economic downturn have passed. “This investment in Keystone XL is a bold move to retake control of our province’s economic destiny and put it firmly back in the hands of the owners of our natural resources, the people of Alberta,” Kenney said. A spokeswoman for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said he had been in contact with Kenney to raise concerns over an estimated 100 workers coming into the state for the line’s construction. Bullock said that could further strain rural health systems facing the coronavirus. “TC Energy holds a tremendous responsibility to appropriately manage or eliminate this risk and we will continue to monitor the plans for that response,”

  Keystone XL Pipeline Construction to Forge Ahead During Coronavirus Pandemic --The company behind the controversial and long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline announced it would proceed with the project Tuesday, despite concerns about the climate impacts of the pipeline and the dangers of transporting construction crews during a pandemic. Pipeline owner TC Energy Corp. also announced that Alberta's government had invested around $1.1 billion to cover most construction costs through the end of 2020, CBC News reported. The completed 1,210 mile pipeline will have the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it will connect to pipelines traveling to Gulf Coast refineries, TC Energy said. Construction along the pipeline route in Alberta, at the U.S. and Canadian border and in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska will begin immediately, CBC News reported. "This is a shameful new low," Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign associate director Catherine Collentine said in a statement reported by The Hill. "By barreling forward with construction during a global pandemic, TC Energy is putting already vulnerable communities at even greater risk." The pipeline has long faced opposition from environmentalists who say it promotes the use of especially dirtytar sands oil in a time of climate crisis, and indigenous and local communities who oppose its construction on their land. The timing of TC Energy's announcement has spawned a new line of opposition, however — communities along the pipeline route who are concerned that construction crews could spread the new coronavirus. Even before TC Energy's announcement, the group Bold Nebraska launched an online petition calling on the company to cancel all construction in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska while the outbreak lasts. "Our rural communities are strained as it is for medical supplies and hospital beds amid a global pandemic. TC energy must put an end to any construction in our small towns as the pandemic grows across our country," the group's founder Jane Kleeb told NPR.

PIPELINES: Lawsuits loom as KXL backers march toward construction -- Tuesday, March 31, 2020  - As a Canadian oil firm prepares to build its embattled Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S. border, legal experts say the company could use the project's construction status to protect it against an onslaught of ongoing litigation.

In the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Construction Is Set to Resume on the Keystone Pipeline - Bill McKibben -  Over the past few weeks, the oil industryhas been working to push through construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The effort began in earnest in mid-March, when several states—including, crucially, South Dakota, which is on the KXL route—passed laws designating pipelines as “critical infrastructure.” South Dakota’s governor went further last week, signing a law that could charge anyone who, with three or more others, acts to cause “damage to property” as a rioter, and made it a felony to “incite” such behavior. On Monday, Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, where the pipeline originates, announced that his government would hand over $1.1 billion dollars to TC Energy, the company building the pipeline. That is enough to cover construction costs for the rest of the year. In addition, Kenney put forward $4.2 billion in credit guarantees, and that was enough for the company, which had been unwilling to commit to the project, to go forward. Now, the company says, construction will begin immediately, both in Canada and across the border. Indeed, it appears that construction workers began arriving in Montana before the state announced a fourteen-day quarantine on travellers arriving from out of state. So here’s the situation: in the middle of a pandemic, construction workers will move into isolated rural communities with already strained hospital resources. The “man camps” where many such workers in the industry live are associated with violence against women and other crimes, even in the best of times. Now, with the pandemic, many of the Native communities that live along the pipeline route fear for the worst. “This causes eerie memories for us with the infected smallpox blankets that were distributed to tribes intentionally,” Faith Spotted Eagle, a leader of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said. (The coronavirus is already wreaking havoc on isolated reservations in other parts of the country, and the chronically underfunded Indian Health Service is struggling to meet the crisis.) TC Energy insists that it is building the pipeline now because it will “strengthen the continent’s energy security,” but that’s obvious nonsense—at the moment, a record glut of oil is so overwhelming the market that there’s literally no place left to store it, and Texas (where the Keystone pipeline will terminate) is consideringlimiting oil production for the first time in fifty years. It’s impossible to think of a less critical thing to be building right now, when we’ve theoretically stopped every business that isn’t “essential.”

Could COVID-19 Spell the End of the Fracking Industry as We Know It? – It has always been known that the oil and gas industry only survives by way of debt financing. Fracking is capital intensive, and very few companies involved ever actually even turn a profit in excess of the cost of capital. Instead, they have always operated by dependency on cheap money from Wall Street banks to finance their drilling and operations.Attorney, author and CPA Greg Rogers wrote the seminal book, Financial Reporting of Environmental Liabilities and Risks, as well as being a fellow and adviser to the Master of Accounting Program at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. “If the golden goose is going to die, it’s really important that you know that so you can anticipate it,” Rogers warned. “When do you get out of that game? You’d better be close to the exit door.” Oil companies owe billions of dollars in asset retirement obligations (AROs) to the state, which are the oil and gas companies’ financial obligations to clean up and close their wells. But it is looking increasingly likely that, instead of the oil companies paying for the AROs, these are what states will be stuck with as companies file for bankruptcy. Hence, states like New Mexico that tied so much of their budget to the fracking boom look like they are going to be without that money, plus needing hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly even billions, to close the wells if they are not successful in obtaining that money from the oil companies before they go bankrupt. Which raises questions such as: Will social programs have to be sacrificed to fund these cleanup operations? And would states even have the money without the fracking generated revenue? Rogers, who also worked as an adviser to oil giant BP and its auditors on liability estimates and disclosures arising from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, describes fracking as being “like a Ponzi scheme, it only works as long as you continue to get new suckers to sustain growth.” The global spread of the COVID-19 virus has caused both supply and demand for global goods to plummet as factories are shuttered, workers stay home, and businesses are ordered to close or cut their hours drastically by states across the U.S. Jets are grounded as people cease traveling, and talk of an ongoing global recession, or even depression, is now commonplace. The Financial Times recently ran a story which posited, “Oil crash only a foretaste of what awaits energy industry: The end of hydrocarbons as a lucrative business is a real possibility. We are seeing that in dramatic form in the current oil price crash.” Oil companies are already announcing major cuts in spending in response to the rapid devaluation of stock prices. American oil companies are now frantically racing to restructure their massive debt, as the price war appears poised to cause numerous bankruptcies across the entire shale patch. Seven of the most active companies involved in fracking in Texas have already cut $7.6 billion from their budgets as a response to the oil price collapse.

Court OKs Trump repeal of Obama public lands fracking rule  A federal judge on Friday upheld the Trump administration’s decision to repeal an Obama-era rule that established standards for hydraulic fracking on federal land. California and several environmental groups sued over the repeal, claiming it was unlawful. California particularly claimed that the federal government was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. However, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., an Obama appointee, sided with the Trump administration, writing: "The record does not compel the conclusion that [the Bureau of Land Management] arbitrarily ignored foregone benefits or arbitrarily overvalued the costs associated with the 2015 Rule, as California Plaintiffs urge." "Although BLM could have provided more detail, it did enough to clear the low bar of arbitrary and capricious review, and that is all the law requires,” he added. The 2015 Obama administration rule would have required companies to say what chemicals they use in fracking, make them cover surface ponds that contain fracking fluids and also set well construction standards. But it never went into effect because it was temporarily halted by federal Judge Scott Skavdahl in 2015. The judge later overturned the rule in 2016. The Interior Department celebrated the court’s decision on Friday, saying in a statement that it will “allow the Department to continue to implement the President’s direction to repeal overly burdensome regulations and ensure America’s energy independence, while protecting the safety of our workers and the health of our environment.” “We are grateful the Court has affirmed that the Department’s actions were fully compliant with all legal requirements,” it added. An adviser to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) told The Hill that they are reviewing the decision. The Sierra Club, one of the groups that sued over the repeal, is also reviewing the decision and will consider its options. "Fracking on public and tribal lands puts our air, water, and communities at risk," Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement. "The Trump administration was wrong to rescind this commonsense protection, and it's disappointing that the court is allowing this dangerous rollback to stand."

Coronavirus has oil industry near 'massive collapse,' Rick Perry says - Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry believes that the oil industry could collapse because of the dramatic decrease in demand worldwide caused by the coronavirus outbreak and a steep decline in prices. "Our capacity is full. The Saudis are flooding this market with cheap oil," Perry told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night. "I'm telling you, we are on the verge of a massive collapse of an industry that we worked awfully hard, over the course of the last three or four years, to build up to the number one oil and gas producing country in the world, giving Americans some affordable energy resources." Many U.S. states and countries around the world have ordered their citizens to stay home in order to contain the spread of the virus. And airlines have dramatically cut back on flights as the number of passengers has fallen off. Fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky means far less demand for oil. Coupled with a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has resulted in an oil surplus, the price for crude as well as gasoline has plunged. The national average for gas in the U.S. is now below $2 a gallon. Perry, a former governor of oil-producing Texas, said that could destroy smaller, independent companies and hurt the people who depend on them for jobs. "There's this host of Americans who their entire future – taking care of their family paying their mortgages – is tied directly to the energy industry," Perry said. "It's a driver of a massive amount of our American economy." And he said the loss of those smaller companies would have long term consequences for the American consumer. "If we woke up a year from now, and there were five big companies because all of these independents were gone out of business ... I would suggest that would make a lot of Americans really nervous," he said.  Perry's concerns appeared prescient Wednesday after the Whiting Petroleum Corporation announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In announcing the decision, CEO Bradley Holly cited "the severe downturn in oil and gas prices driven by uncertainty around the duration of the Saudi / Russia oil price war and the COVID-19 pandemic."

Mnuchin suggests oil companies could receive Fed aid –   Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that oil companies are eligible for aid from new lending programs the Federal Reserve is setting up, but not direct loans from his department. U.S. producers are facing financial distress from the price collapse that stems from COVID-19 causing an unprecedented drop in oil demand, and the Saudi-Russia price war. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who heads the Energy Committee, on Wednesday sent Mnuchin a letter urging him to consider the industry for loans under the recently signed $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill.   Mnuchin, when asked about her request at a White House briefing, said he has "very limited ability to do direct loans out of the Treasury," and that he can provide only for specific sectors including airlines and national security companies.  "Outside of that, we work with the Federal Reserve to create broad-based lending facilities, which we will do." "Our expectation is the energy companies, like all our other companies, will be able to participate in broad-based facilities, whether it's the corporate facility or whether it's the Main Street facility."— Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Five Days Before It Filed For Bankruptcy, Whiting Execs Got $15 Million In Bonuses - Just days Whiting Petroleum it became the first shale casualty of the current oil price crash, when it filed for prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday morning after the plunge in oil prices left it unable to pay its debts, the company's board - supposedly with the approval of the company's creditors - approved $14.6 million in cash bonuses for top executives.As part of this KERP, or Key Employee Retention Plan, CEO Brad Holly would collect $6.4 million of the total, which will be “paid immediately,” the company said in a filing Wednesday according to Bloomberg. Four other executives including Chief Financial Officer Correne Loeffler will get the rest.The board said employees eligible for variable compensation can receive payouts that amount to no more than their target levels. The payouts will be made quarterly. As part of the deal, the senior executives agreed to forfeit equity awards they were in line to receive this year.The bonus plan which was signed off by the board on March 26, or 5 days before the Chapter 11 filing, is "part of an overhaul of the company’s variable compensation program" with the filing noting that the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, has dealt a crushing blow to the oil and gas industry, making it “virtually impossible” to set short-term performance goals.To be sure, the board knew just how bad the optics of this deal would be, so why do it? The stated reason: the program "is intended to ensure the stability and continuity of the company’s workforce and eliminate any potential misalignment of interests that would likely arise if existing performance metrics were retained."CEO Holly, who was executive vice president at Anadarko before he was named Whiting CEO in 2017, has collected $4 million in salary and bonuses since then; he’s also received payouts of stock that have plunged in value. CFO Loeffler, who joined the company just eight months ago, will receive $2.2 million from the bonus plan. In other words, only the people who pushed Whiting into Chapter 11 can deliver it from bankruptcy, or so the thinking goes.

Exxon May Crush Bailout Hopes for Suffering Fracking Companies - The Washington Post reported March 10 that the Trump administration was considering some type of financial help for the failing U.S. shale oil and gas industry, “as industry officials close to the administration clamor for help.” Those officials — billionaire shale CEO Harold Hamm was likely among them — seemed desperate for government assistance because, as DeSmog has documented, their deeply indebted businesses have lost billions of dollars during the fracking boom. Even before the recent oil price war and COVID-19 pandemic, these companies could hardly stay afloat, making cries for some type of corporate welfare likely unavoidable.  But that's not the same message across the entire oil and gas industry. At the same time, the head of the American Petroleum Institute — the oil and gas industry's most powerful lobbying group — said the industry was not interested in seeking a bailout, which didn't exactly sound like the desperation reported by The Post. It seemed like an odd mix of messaging from the industry.  The idea of bailing out the shale companies was not well received by many politicians, environmental groups, and conservatives. Efforts to directly bail out the shale industry in the federal stimulus package were apparently abandoned.  The next proposed oil industry bailout came March 19 when the Department of Energy (DOE) formalized its intent to buy 77 million gallons of oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), an emergency stockpile of oil. That idea lasted a bit longer than the first bailout proposal, but the DOE killed the idea late on March 25.   That marks two failed efforts to bail out shale companies while the oil and gas industry's top trade group continued saying the industry didn't want a bailout. What's going on here? In a remarkable interview on March 26, CEO Scott Sheffield of shale firm Pioneer Natural Resources added great clarity to why shale companies are unlikely to get bailed out and why the American Petroleum Institute has been touting free markets and opposing bailouts. Exxon has a huge stake in the Permian shale play in Texas, and Sheffield appears to admit that Exxon holds all the cards right now when it comes to any type of shale bailouts.  Sheffiled explained why these efforts weren't going well.  “We’ve had opposition from Exxon who controls API and TXOGA,” Sheffield said. “They prefer all the independents to go bankrupt and pick up the scraps.”

US set to lose spot as world's top oil producer — and doesn't have the tools to do anything about it -- The U.S. is all but guaranteed to lose its hard-earned spot as the world’s number one oil producer this year amid the recent price crash, vanishing demand and a plunge in capital investment, energy experts say. That could mean potentially enormous implications for U.S. foreign policy, as administrations have for decades viewed energy security and national security as being inexorably tied. “If we continue where we are with these low prices, we’ll see a big decline in U.S. oil production. It will no longer be number one,” Dan Yergin, energy expert and vice chairman of IHS Markit, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Monday. The U.S. became the top oil producer globally, surpassing the output of Saudi Arabia and Russia, in 2018 thanks to the shale oil boom. A world increasingly in lockdown over the coronavirus crisis and the oil price war set off between Saudi Arabia and Russia in early March have brought crude prices down more than 65% year-to-date, with global benchmark Brent crude trading at just $22.78 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate at $20.39 per barrel on Monday morning London time, their lowest levels in nearly two decades. Saudi Arabia earlier this month slashed its crude prices, reversing course from boosting prices via production cuts to what some analysts call a “scorched earth” strategy, flooding the market with cheap oil in pursuit of greater global market share. Russia has announced it will in turn increase its own production, leading other OPEC allies of Saudi Arabia like the United Arab Emirates to open their taps once the previously-agreed OPEC+ output cut deal expires on April 1. But the impact of the price war still pales in comparison to the sheer evisceration of demand brought on by a forced economic shutdown in most of the world in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has now killed more than 34,000 people and infected more than 730,000. “We see in this coming month of April what could be a 20 million barrel a day decline in oil demand. It’s unprecedented,” Yergin said. “That’s six times larger than the biggest downturn during the financial crisis period.”

Exclusive: Trump does not plan to ask U.S. oil producers for coordinated cuts - official - (Reuters) - The United States will not ask U.S. domestic oil companies for a coordinated cut in production to counter a historic meltdown in global prices and is still awaiting the details of planned cuts in Saudi Arabia and Russia, a senior administration official told Reuters on Thursday. Earlier, President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut approximately 10 million barrels from daily production in a newly reached deal, a comment that sparked a jump in oil prices following weeks of steep declines that have threatened U.S. drillers. The official said details of planned reductions remained unclear, but a big cut was expected. Trump was set to meet with leaders of U.S. oil companies on Friday to discuss the state of the oil market. But he will not ask them to agree on a coordinated drop in supplies, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the United States cannot orchestrate a mandated cut in domestic production and noted that U.S. companies had already cut production in response to a collapse in market demand. They did not have to be asked to cut, the official said. Both Moscow and Riyadh have said they cannot shoulder the responsibility of balancing the global oil market without the help of other major producer nations, as the coronavirus pandemic brings global economies to a standstill. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Moscow was no longer planning to raise output and said it was ready to cooperate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers to stabilize the market. Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of OPEC, called on Thursday for an emergency meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, an informal grouping known as OPEC+, state media reported, saying it aimed to reach a fair agreement to stabilize oil markets. The senior administration official described Trump as a broker between Saudi Arabia and Russia, calling their leaders multiple times to help resolve the price war. The president was in a good mood about the developments, he said. Trump hinted on Wednesday that he had measures in mind if the two countries did not reach a deal.

Sinking Fuel Demand Shuts North American Refinery -- Newfoundland’s only refinery is shutting down, the first North American fuel maker to be idled as the coronavirus outbreak crushes demand worldwide. North Atlantic Refining Ltd. will idle the Come by Chance refinery, VOCM radio reported on its website, citing Glenn Nolan, the president of United Steelworkers Local 9316. The plant could be shut for two to five months, Nolan said, according to the report. North Atlantic, the union and Nolan didn’t respond to emails seeking comment outside of normal working hours. The 130,000 barrel-a-day refinery supplies fuel to eastern Canadian markets and the U.S. East Coast. While this is the first plant in the region to shut, refineries across the U.S. and Canada are cutting back as the gasoline and jet fuel markets seize up. Measures to slow the spread of coronavirus may result in an unprecedented plunge in fuel demand, with estimates that global consumption is shrinking by 20% or more. U.S. government data show that the amount of refined products supplied to the market fell by more than 2 million barrels a day in the week ended March 20. With coronavirus cases in the U.S. on the rise since then, and more parts of the country shutting down businesses and limiting travel, consumption has likely slid further. Valero Energy Corp. has reduced processing rates across about half of its refineries, and Phillips 66 said many of its refineries are near minimum rates. Suncor Energy Inc. said it’s adjusting its refinery utilization. With refineries using less crude, the oil market is starting to seize up, with at least one pipeline asking producers to reduce output.

Oil Refineries Face Shutdowns as Demand Collapses - A growing number of refineries around the world are either curtailing operations or shutting down entirely as the oil market collapses. Oil prices have fallen precipitously to their lowest levels in nearly two decades. Typically, falling oil prices are a good thing for refiners because they buy crude oil on the cheap and process it into gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel, selling those products at higher prices. The end consumer also tends to consume more when fuel is less expensive. As a result, the profit margin for refiners tends to widen when crude oil becomes oversupplied.But the world is in the midst of dual supply and demand shock — too much drilling has produced a substantial surplus, and the global coronavirus pandemic has led to a historic drop in consumption. Oil demand could fall by as much as 20 percent, according to the International Energy Agency, by far the largest decline in consumption ever recorded.Consumption of jet fuel around the world has plunged by 75 percent. Average retail gasoline prices in the U.S. are dropping below $2 per gallon nationwide and have already fallen below $1 per gallon in some places. They will fall further still.In fact, margins even fell into negative territory, meaning that the average refiner was losing money on every gallon of gasoline produced. Refiners now find themselves facing a painful financial squeeze. "We're seeing gasoline cracks at negative margins. We're seeing jet cracks even worse," Brian Mandell, an executive with Phillips 66, said on a March 24 phone call with investors. "Cracks" refer to the difference between the cost of buying crude oil and selling the refined product, and it stands in as a reference point for a refiner's profit margin.  One of the main strategies that refiners use when a particular product is oversupplied is to alter their processing mix. Facing a glut of gasoline, refiners could switch their operations away from gasoline to a focus on diesel, where margins have not declined by nearly as much. However, some refiners already switched over to diesel following tighter international sulfur regulations on maritime fuels that took effect at the start of this year, which placed a premium on low-sulfur diesel. Having already tapped that strategy, the ability to adjust away from gasoline production is "likely limited," RBN concluded. There are around 3 billion people on some form of a lockdown around the world. In those circumstances, refiners have seen buyers vanish overnight.  With no buyers, gasoline is set to pile up in storage. Refiners are looking at no other choice but to curtail or shut down operations. Valero Energy, for instance, recently announced that it would limit output at six of its 12 U.S. refineries. ExxonMobil announced significant cuts to its refineries in Texas and Louisiana, citing the lack of sufficient storage capacity. Notably, Exxon said it would shut down its gasoline unit at its Baytown, Texas, complex, the company's largest such unit in the United States. "The poor refining margins will push companies to reduce operating rates further." The danger for some refineries is that they cannot simply throttle back and operate at really low levels. "In our experience, crude throughput in the 60 percent to 70 percent range is approaching the minimum rates that a refinery can operate without completely shutting down units," RBN said.

Some Refiners Benefiting From Crude-Price Drop -- America’s biggest fuel makers are taking advantage of plunging oil prices to capture profits while slowing fuel production. Marathon Petroleum Corp., Phillips 66 and Valero Energy Corp. are some of the U.S. refiners that cash in when crude costs fall faster than fuel prices. Some grades of American crude are trading at record discounts to Brent, the international benchmark, opening up huge opportunities for refiners to profit. “As refiners cut runs to offset weaker demand and global storage starts to fill up, we are witnessing a material widening in differentials for inland and coastal grades,” Manav Gupta, an analyst at Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, wrote in a note to investors on Monday. Widening differentials “have historically favored refiners relative to other energy sub-sectors.” Refiners in the S&P 500 Index rose as much as 5% on Monday. PBF Energy Inc., which is not a member of the refiners’ index, climbed 18% after telling investors it would suspend dividends, cut capital spending, and put more than half a billion dollars in assets up for sale. Despite Monday’s advance, the refining sector is still down more than 50% since the end of 2019 as the Covid-19 outbreak isolated millions of people and shut down massive swaths of the global economy. “We are now turning more positive” after staying neutral or negative on refiners for nearly two years, Brad Heffern, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets LLC, wrote in a note to clients. “Benefits from lower crude prices and oversupply are likely underappreciated.”

Equinor says Sverdrup oilfield output to beat expectations -  (Reuters) - Norway’s Equinor said on Monday its Johan Sverdrup oilfield is ramping up output at a faster pace and will produce more barrels per day than initially expected. Western Europe’s biggest producing oilfield is now expected to hit a daily output rate of 470,000 barrels in early May, above the 440,000 bpd peak that had initially been pencilled in for mid-year, it said. The news comes as the price of North Sea crude has dropped to its lowest in 18 years amid a glut of output and falling global demand. But the cost of operating the field amounts to less than $2 per barrel, making it resilient to weak prices, Equinor said. “With low operating costs Johan Sverdrup provides revenue and cashflow to the companies and Norwegian society at large in a period affected by the coronavirus and a major drop in the oil price,” Equinor executive Arne Sigve Nylund said in a statement. The field, which holds an estimated 2.7 billion barrels of oil equivalents, began production last October, two months ahead of schedule. It now produces more than 430,000 bpd from nine wells and a 10th well will soon be completed, the operator said. “Field production has been very good and stable from day one, and the wells have produced even better than expected,” said Rune Nedregaard, vice president for Johan Sverdrup operations.

Apache Makes Significant Oil Find - Apache Corporation announced Thursday a “significant” oil discovery at the Sapakara West-1 well, which was drilled offshore Suriname in Block 58. Sapakara West-1 was drilled to a depth of approximately 20,700 feet and successfully tested for the presence of hydrocarbons in multiple stacked targets, Apache revealed. Preliminary fluid samples and test results indicate at least 259 feet of net oil and gas condensate pay in two intervals, Apache noted. “Our second discovery offshore Suriname this year further proves our geologic model and confirms a large hydrocarbon system in two play types on Block 58,” Apache CEO and President John J. Christmann said in a company statement. “Based on a conservative estimate of net pay across multiple fan systems, we have discovered another very substantial oil resource with the Sapakara West-1 well,” he added. “Importantly, our data indicates that the Sapakara West-1 well encountered a distinct fan system that is separate from the Maka Central-1 discovery we announced in January this year,” Christmann continued. Block 58 comprises 1.4 million acres and offers significant potential beyond the discoveries at Sapakara West and Maka Central, according to Apache, which said it has identified “at least” seven distinct play types and more than 50 prospects within the thermally mature play fairway.

India Subsea Project Achieves First Gas - India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) has achieved early first gas on its 98/2 Block Project in the Krishna Godavari Basin offshore India, McDermott International, Inc. reported Wednesday.“McDermott is a leader in the subsea space and we have worked incredibly hard to fast-track the production to early first gas,” commented Ian Prescott, Asia Pacific senior vice president with McDermott, which supplied equipment and services for India’s largest subsea project.Citing ONGC’s website, an October 2018 Rigzone article notes the operator had pointed out the 98/2 Block Project could cut by 10 percent India’s reliance on imported hydrocarbons.“To deliver this accelerated schedule is an exceptional achievement and testament to the benefits of the collaborative commercial model put forward to ONGC,” Prescott stated Wednesday. “Production from a deepwater well in less than 14 months is an outstanding achievement for the deepwater exploration and production industry.”In a written statement emailed to Rigzone, McDermott noted that its integrated subsea package for the project included:

  • supplying all subsea production systems (SPS), including 26 deepwater trees
  • installing subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines (SURF) at a water depth ranging from zero to 4,265 feet (1,300 meters).

McDermott stated that early first gas involved tying back a single well to the existing Vashishta facility. In addition, it pointed out the first well – at a 4,265-foot (1,300-meter) water depth – is the deepest that ONGC has opened.

Oil spill at Sulphur Point in Tauranga - Bay of Plenty Regional Council oil spill response staff have been working to contain an oil spill at Sulphur Point in Tauranga. An estimated 2000 litres of oily sludge is believed to have been discharged from a tanker truck at around 5pm on Monday, as it was removing the sludge from a vessel. Some of this sludge has entered the water. Regional Council staff deployed booms and other spill equipment to contain the spill as much as possible. For safety reasons, clean-up activities were halted overnight but will recommence at first light. Regional On Scene Commander Adrian Heays says while it appears most of the oil has been contained underneath the wharf, staff won’t know until first light whether any has managed to get past the booms and further into the harbour. Staff had been at the scene earlier in the day when a smaller spill had occurred involving the same vessel and tanker truck. It’s believed around 60 litres was spilled as part of this earlier event, with around 10 - 20 litres having entered the water. The cause of the incidents is not thought to be related. A full investigation has commenced for both incidents. "We expect to provide an update before 10am tomorrow morning once staff have had an opportunity to assess the situation and plan their action for the day. "Staff have full PPE gear to use and are working with appropriate distancing due to COVID-19. "While the public should not be out and about due to COVID-19, they are especially being asked to stay away from the area to avoid inadvertently causing any extra complications."

 Oil demand could decline by 20 million barrels a day in April, says oil expert Dan Yergin - The oil market is facing a “double crisis” with a collapse in the OPEC+ alliance affecting supply and the slowdown in the global economy crushing demand, oil guru Dan Yergin said this week. “The breakdown of OPEC+ is only part of the picture,” the vice chairman of IHS Markit told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Monday. “The big thing is the coronavirus and the showdown of much of the world economy.” Infections around the world have now crossed 700,000, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 34,000 people have died from COVID-19. Countries have implemented travel bans and instituted lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus. “Cars not on the road, airplanes not in the air, factories not working, people not going to work,” Yergin said. “We see, in this month of April that’s coming, what could be a 20 million barrel a day decline in oil demand.” “It’s unprecedented. That’s six times larger than the biggest downturn during the financial crisis period (in 2008),” he added. While demand is set to fall, major producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have announced they will increase supply in April after the OPEC+ agreement expires at the end of March. “This is what people are now looking at ... where are you going to put all of the oil?” he asked. When oil storage runs out, prices could fall further, he added. “I think the prices that we’re seeing, that you’re talking about today are really precursors ... April is going to be a very difficult month.”

Saudi Arabia says will raise oil exports further in May, in face of coronavirus hit to demand - Saudi Arabia's energy ministry on Monday said it will boost its oil exports in May to 10.6 million b/d, further flooding an oil market in which prices have cratered due to the coronavirus pandemic's hit to demand. In a statement, the ministry said an increase in the amount of natural gas used to generate electricity, along with a decrease in domestic demand for refined products due to the coronavirus outbreak would free up 600,000 b/d additional barrels of crude oil for export in May. That would bring "the total of Saudi petroleum exports to 10.6 million b/d." The ministry had said two weeks ago it would "increase its crude exports during the coming few months to exceed 10 million b/d." The shift in wording in Monday's statement to "petroleum exports" suggests that now some of the volumes could include refined products, condensates or NGLs. Saudi ministry officials have not responded to questions on how much of the exports would be solely crude. The kingdom exported 7.29 million b/d of crude oil and 748,000 b/d of refined products in January, according to the latest figures reported by the Joint Organizations Data Initiative. There were no NGL exports from Saudi Arabia, the JODI data shows. Saudi Arabia has said its state oil giant Aramco will raise crude production to its maximum 12 million b/d capacity once its OPEC quota of 10.14 million b/d expires at the end of March, as well as draw 300,000 b/d from its vast storage inventories, to supply the market with 12.3 million b/d of crude, including its domestic consumption. Saudi refineries have been running about 2.2 million b/d of crude the last few months, according to JODI. If runs remain at the same levels and the kingdom eliminates the crude it uses for electricity generation, that would imply about 10.1 million b/d of crude for export. "It is not clear if the kingdom's production after April 1 is 12 million b/d of crude oil or if it includes condensate and NGLs," said Sara Vakhshouri, who heads the consultancy SVB Energy and closely follows the Saudi oil sector. "Also it's unclear for how long Saudi Aramco intends to produce 12 million b/d."M

5 charts that explain the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war so far Two of the world’s largest oil producers — Saudi Arabia and Russia — are set to increase production dramatically this month, after an agreement between OPEC and its allies to lower output expired at the end of March. OPEC+ countries have teamed up to reduce their supply to the market since 2017, but failed to reach a deal last month. Riyadh and Moscow then separately announced that they would flood the market with oil in April. That, against the backdrop of demand destruction due to the global coronavirus pandemic, has crushed oil prices. Crude oil benchmarks plunged to 18-year lows on Tuesday and have fallen more than 60% since the beginning of the year. Here’s how the oil price war unfolded. As early as mid-January, the future of oil demand came into question as the coronavirus spread, prompting factory closures and trip cancellations in China. These concerns have now intensified — many countries have gone into lockdowns and air travel has largely been halted in a bid to prevent infections. Chart: Oil consumption 200401 Asia Both OPEC and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) slashed their oil demand outlooks in March reports. The Middle-East dominated alliance now sees demand growing by 60,000 barrels per day, while the EIA expects a rise of 400,000 bpd. They had initially expected growth of more than 1 million bpd in January. As coronavirus fears arose, there was talk of an emergency meeting between OPEC and its allies to stabilize the market, but only the Joint Technical Committee met in February. While it officially recommended extending voluntary production cuts to the end of the year, reports said OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia was considering cuts by 1 million bpd.Prices plummeted after Russia declined to approve OPEC’s proposal to cut production by an additional 1.5 million bpd, on top of the 1.7 million bpd agreed upon in December, excluding voluntary reductions. Saudi Arabia responded by offering discounts on its oil and announcing that it would increase production, leading both WTI and Brent to their worst days since 1991 on March 9, which in turn caused a sell-off in global markets.Analysts said Russia may have taken the action in order to target the U.S. “It’s Saudi Arabia against Russia, and Russia against the United States. I think that’s what it is,” vice-chairman of IHS Markit Dan Yergin said at the time.

The First Victims of the Oil Price War - As the oil price war and coronavirus pandemic rage on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the energy market can remain choppy and irrational longer than entire nations can stay solvent.  Everybody is watching to see which of the leading protagonists between Saudi Arabia and Russia is going to be the first to blink as high supply and low demand threaten to overwhelm available storage facilities. Scores of oil-producing countries have adopted a raft of austerity measures and spending cuts as they attempt to outlive the biggest oil bust in living memory. Unfortunately, it’s the riskier corners of the global financial markets that will emerge as collateral damage in the ongoing oil price war. American credit rating agency Moody’s has warned the dramatic plunge in oil prices is likely to cut fiscal revenue and exports for most exposed oil-exporting sovereigns by more than 10 percent of GDP and, consequently, weaken their credit profiles. According to Moody’s, the sovereigns most vulnerable to low oil prices in the 2020-21 period are those with the highest reliance on hydrocarbons for fiscal exports and revenues coupled with a limited capacity to adjust. The credit agency says the most vulnerable sovereigns are Oman, Iraq, Bahrain, and Angola due to their limited capacity to adjust to external shocks. These nations could see a decline in fiscal revenue in the range of 4-8 percent of GDP if low oil prices persist.The vast majority of Gulf Arab states are unable to balance their budgets with oil prices of $40 per barrel, let alone the current $20/barrel level. These developing economies are especially vulnerable due to ongoing massive cash outflows, with investors continuing to liquidate emerging-market assets. In contrast, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan are seen as being less vulnerable, with expected declines in fiscal revenue and exports of less than 3% of GDP. Interestingly, Moody’s analysts concur with a previous opinion piece, which argues that Russia has the upper hand in the oil price war. Moody’s sees Russia as being less vulnerable to external shocks and turbulence in energy markets than most oil-exporting nations due to its massive forex reserves as well as a flexible exchange rate. Indeed, the lifting cost per barrel of oil equivalent for Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, is now lower than the same metric for Saudi Arabia’s oil giant, Aramco – thanks mainly to a weaker ruble. The ruble has weakened about 15 percent against the U.S. dollar over the past 30 days, recently hitting a four-year low against the greenback after the oil markets imploded. Russia, though, says it’s quite happy with oil prices in the range of $25 to $30 per barrel and can hold out at these levels for 6-10 years. In fact, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak recently declared that Russian oil companies would remain competitive “at any forecast price level.”

Oil prices fall to 17-year low as Saudi Arabia-Russia standoff continues, coronavirus hits demand - Oil prices fell to the lowest in more than 17 years as demand plunged as a result of the pandemic and an unrelenting price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia showed no signs of easing. Brent crude prices hit $23.03 a barrel on Monday morning during Asia hours – the lowest level since Nov. 15, 2002. It has since clawed back some losses following that record decline, but was last still 5.86% lower at $23.47 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures briefly dipped below $20 per barrel to $19.90 – their lowest level since March 20, when they fell as low as $19.50. WTI was last 4.51% lower at $20.54 per barrel. Those declines come as Saudi Arabia signaled no breakthrough in the oil price war with Russia. On Friday, the two countries were still at a stalemate, with Saudi Arabia saying it was not in talks with Russia to stabilize oil markets despite Washington stepping in to pressure both sides to end the price war. “Russia and Saudi Arabia show no signs of compromising in their standoff over oil supply,” National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril wrote in a Monday note. In early March, OPEC and non-OPEC allies, sometimes referred to as OPEC+, failed to agree on the terms of deeper supply cuts. The fallout between OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC leader Russia has kickstarted an oil price war. OPEC recommended additional production cuts of 1.5 million bpd starting in April and extending until the end of the year, but OPEC-ally Russia rejected the additional cuts. Saudi Arabia has signaled its intent to flood the market with crude, announcing massive discounts to its official selling prices for April, Reuters reported. Such a move could prompt a wave of bankruptcies and investment cuts in the U.S. which, in turn, would have a noticeable impact on shale production. “We think oil supply from the US, Canada and China are the most likely to be curtailed at low oil prices. US oil production cuts are expected to be the most significant,” Vivek Dhar of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note on Monday. “The plunge in US oil rigs last week signals the pressure facing the US shale oil sector.” Countries have gone into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, with flights all over the world canceled as airlines ground their planes, hitting economic activity and fuel demand. That has led to excess supply flooding the market as well.

US crude dips below $20 as lockdowns hit demand - Oil prices fell sharply on Monday, with U.S. crude briefly dropping below $20 and Brent hitting its lowest level in 18 years, on heightened fears that the global coronavirus shutdown could last months and demand for fuel could decline further. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, was down $2.19, or 8.78%, at $22.74, after earlier dropping to $22.58, the lowest since November 2002. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell $1.41, or 6.5%, to $20.10. Earlier in the session, WTI fell as low as $19.92. The price of oil is now so low that it is becoming unprofitable for many oil firms to remain active, analysts said, and higher cost producers will have no choice but to shut production, especially since storage capacities are almost full. “Global oil demand is evaporating on the back of COVID-19-related travel restrictions and social distancing measures,” said UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo. “In the near term, oil prices may need to trade lower into the cash cost curve to trigger production shut-ins to start to prevent tank tops to be reached,” he added. Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, Bjornar Tonhaugen said: “The oil market supply chains are broken due to the unbelievably large losses in oil demand, forcing all available alternatives of supply chain adjustments to take place during April and May,” including cutting refineries runs and increasing storage. Besides demand destruction, oil markets have also been slammed by the Saudi Arabia-Russia price war that is flooding markets with extra supply. An official from Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry said on Friday the kingdom was not in talks with Russia to balance oil markets despite rising pressure from Washington to stop the rout that has cut prices by more than 60% this year. With world demand now forecast to plunge 15 million or 20 million barrels per day, a 20% drop from last year, analysts say massive production cuts will be needed beyond just the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “OPEC, Saudi Arabia and Russia could mend their differences, but there’s not that much OPEC could do .... The demand shock from COVID-19 is just too big,”

Oil market volatility is at an all-time high - Crude oil prices have fallen significantly since the beginning of 2020, largely driven by the economic contraction caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and a sudden increase in crude oil supply following the suspension of agreed production cuts among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries. With falling demand and increasing supply, daily price changes for the U.S. benchmark crude oil West Texas Intermediate (WTI) have been extremely volatile. Implied volatility measures an asset’s expected range of near-term price changes. OVX measures the implied volatility of oil prices and is calculated using movements in the prices of financial options for WTI, the light, sweet crude oil priced at Cushing, Oklahoma. VIX measures the implied volatility of the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500—a stock market index of 500 large companies listed in the United States. Crude oil volatility is typically higher than the S&P 500’s volatility, generally because OVX represents changes in one commodity and VIX represents changes across a diverse group of 500 companies.Both volatility measures have been relatively high this month: on March 16, the VIX index measured 82.7, a level higher than any point during the financial crisis of 2008–09, the last time the global economy experienced a significant recession. Crude oil market volatility has been even higher. On March 20, OVX reached 190, the highest value since its inception in May 2007. Since 1999, daily WTI crude oil futures prices have settled within 2% of the previous trading day’s price about 70% of the time. Nearly all (99.5%) of the daily WTI price changes since 1999 have settled within 10% of the previous day’s price; larger price changes are relatively rare. March 2020 has had four days where WTI prices decreased by more than 10% and two days where WTI prices increased by more than 10%. The 25% decline on March 9 and the 24% decline on March 18 were the two largest percentage declines in the WTI futures price since at least 1999. On the days following those declines, WTI prices rose by 10% (March 10) and 24% (March 19), likely in response to announced plans from various countries’ governments that emergency fiscal and monetary policy would be forthcoming.

The Global Oil Market Is Broken, Drowning in Crude Nobody Needs -  The global oil market is broken, overwhelmed by an unmanageable surplus as virus lockdowns cascade through the world’s largest economies.Onshore tanks in many markets are full, forcing traders to store excess oil in idle supertankers. Refineries are starting to shut down because nobody needs the fuels they produce. In physical oil markets, barrels are already changing hands for less than $10, and in a few landlocked markets producers are paying consumers to take away their crude. “The physical oil market has seized up,” said Gary Ross, an influential oil watcher and chief investment officer of Black Gold Investors LLC. “The logistics are struggling to cope because we are facing a catastrophic loss of demand.”Oil traders say it’s likely to get worse this week. The root cause is an accelerating plunge in consumption that’s without precedent since a steady flow of oil became essential to the global economy more than a century ago. The great crash of 1929, the twin oil shocks of the 1970s and the global financial crisis don’t come close. The world normally uses 100 million barrels of oil day, and traders and analysts reckon as much as a quarter of that has disappeared in just a few weeks.  The global airline industry is grounded, countless businesses and factories are shuttered and billions of people have been forced to stay home. The immediate problem is a lack of storage in the right places. With demand running 20 million barrels a day below supply, the world won’t have enough tanks to store the surplus in two or three months. But the issue is even more pressing because global tank capacity, mostly concentrated in a few hubs like Rotterdam, the Caribbean and Singapore, isn’t available to every producer. For those without access to pipelines and ports, local storage will run out in days, traders and consultants say.For those with access to the coast, one solution is to use the supertanker fleet as floating storage tanks, and that’s happening at an unprecedented rate. The CEO of the world’s largest tanker owner, Frontline Ltd., said on Friday that he’d never known such demand to hire ships for long-term storage. Traders could book ships to put 100 million barrels at sea this week alone, he estimated, but even that could accounts forless than a week’s oversupply. In the U.S., one of the largest pipeline companies, Plains All American Pipeline LP, has asked oil producers to voluntarily cut output to avoid overwhelming the network that connects well heads to refineries through thousands of miles of pipelines.

Welcome to a Truly Free Oil Market - At the point we’re now at, postponing the oil-price war won’t make a lot of difference for an industry that’s already breaking down under the weight of demand destruction. With prices hitting a 17-year low on Monday, it’s too late to use diplomacy and artful negotiations to share the burden of output cuts that are now inevitable. The pumping free-for-all unleashed by Saudi Arabia and Russia is important for the long-term shape of the oil industry, but, as my colleague Javier Blas pointed out here, it’s a sideshow to the havoc being wrought by the lockdowns crippling economies worldwide in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Forecasts of a catastrophic drop in oil demand abound, with estimates of a whopping 20% year-on-year reduction in global consumption in April becoming more common. That’s 20 million barrels a day, equivalent to the entire consumption of the United States. And even those gloomy views may be too optimistic, according to Goldman Sachs. It would be impossible for any small group of producers to mitigate that kind of impact by reducing output, unless Saudi Arabia and Russia were both to slash their production to almost zero. And that’s not going to happen. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to take the lead as his country prepared to host a meeting of the Group of 20 nations. Pompeo urged the kingdom “to rise to the occasion and reassure global energy and financial markets.” That’s a reasonable request. Somebody has to show leadership and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be President Donald Trump. The trouble is that I suspect what Pompeo meant is for Saudi Arabia to cut its production unilaterally, rather than trying to bring together a short-term “coalition of the willing,” including the U.S., to work together to confront a global problem. After all, that’s always what’s happened in the past.. In February 1999, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to its third successive output cut and by the end of the year Brent crude had recovered.. Those were the days when oil was regarded as a depleting asset whose value would only rise in the future, as demand outstripped available supply. That view no longer holds sway — battered both by the tsunami of crude extracted from shale rocks and the growing awareness of the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that has seen concerns about peak oil production replaced with worries (for producers) of peak oil demand. Oil left in the ground now is at risk of never being produced at all.

Oil Tumbles to 18-Year Low - Oil tumbled to an 18-year low as coronavirus lockdowns cascaded through the world’s largest economies, leaving the market overwhelmed by cratering demand and a ballooning surplus. Futures in London plunged by 9% to the lowest level since March 2002, while New York crude dipped below $20 a barrel before settling just above that level. While U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Monday to discuss the importance of stable energy markets, that did little to stanch the decline. A huge oversupply is further collapsing the oil market’s structure, and there may be more weakness to come as the world quickly runs out of storage capacity. The slump in demand has shut refineries from South Africa to Canada, leading to excess barrels in the market. At the key storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, inventories are said to have ballooned by more than 4 million barrels last week, according to traders with knowledge of Genscape data, raising fears about storage capacity limits being reached. “We’re grinding lower here and we’ll continue to get lower as runs get cut globally,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund focused on energy. “As we see specific points like Cushing near its limits, it’s just going to put greater and greater pressure on the price till we get to a clearing point.” Prices are on track for the worst quarter on record. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates consumption will drop by 26 million barrels a day this week as measures to contain the coronavirus hurt global GDP. Consultant FGE estimated that refinery operating rates have been cut by over 5 million barrels a day worldwide, and could bottom out at between 15 million and 20 million lower. Meanwhile, Riyadh and Moscow are showing no signs of a detente in their supply battle as Saudi Arabia announced plans to increase its oil exports in the coming months.  Prices:

  • Brent declined $2.17 to settle at $22.76 a barrel.
  • Front-month futures are poised for a plunge of over 65% this quarter, their worst ever.
  • West Texas Intermediate slid $1.42 to $20.09, after falling to as low as $19.27.

In the market for physical barrels of crude, prices are already far below those of futures benchmarks. Oil from Canada touched a record low of $3.82, while many other key grades are trading below $10 a barrel, with some as low as just $3. It’s a similar picture in Europe, where Kazakh crude was offered at a 10-year low. The six-month contango on the global Brent benchmark has grown bigger than in the financial crisis, at more than $13 a barrel. The equivalent six-month contango for WTI is about $12.

Oil Prices Rebound After Falling to 18-Year Low - Oil prices ended March by clawing back some losses after prices fell to 18-year lows in the last session. International Brent Oil Futures gained 1.82% to $26.88 by 9:57 PM ET, whilst U.S. Crude Oil WTI Futures jumped 4.43% to $20.98. WTI slumped almost 7% to $20.09 a barrel on Monday, its lowest level since February 2002 as oil markets continued to search for a solution to its' dilemma of oversupply. Saudi Arabia and Russia will be able to pump-at-will from tomorrow as the OPEC+ alliance failed to mediate a truce in the price war between the two producers. Meanwhile, most countries are extending lockdown deadlines as well as slashing transport numbers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. A conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss the importance of stable energy markets, failed to make an impact. “Any little bit of optimism is welcome even if it is little more than a false dawn,” Stephen Innes, global chief market strategist at AxiCorp, told Bloomberg. “The demand devastation is the most aggravating factor these days, while the supply issues are exacerbating that pressure,” he added.

Crude-oil prices post the largest quarterly percentage drop on record - May West Texas Intermediate crude tacked on 39 cents, or 1.9%, to settle at $20.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices based on front-month WTI crude fell by 54.2% this month, or $24.28—the largest one-month net decline since October 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data. For the quarter, prices lost 66.5% to post the largest quarter percentage loss based on records dating back to March 1983. Meanwhile, the global benchmark on ICE Futures Europe, May Brent crude BRNK20, -0.22% fell 2 cents, or 0.09%, at $22.74 a barrel on the contract’s expiration day. For the month, prices fell 55%, tallying a loss of 65.6% for the quarter—the largest quarterly decline based on records dating to June 1988. The new front month June Brent shed 7 cents, or 0.3%, to $26.35 for Tuesday’s session.  WTI marked its lowest finish since February 2002, while Brent saw its lowest settlement since November of that year. The slight rebound Tuesday came even as U.S. benchmark stock indexes moved lower.

Oil prices just had their worst ever quarter as coronavirus slashes demand - Oil prices registered their worst quarterly performance on record over the first three months of the year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to crush global demand for crude. Brent futures dipped 0.09% lower on the final trading day of the first quarter, settling at $22.74, while WTI gained almost 2% to settle at $20.48 in the previous session. It means Brent futures have collapsed more than 65% over the first three months of the year, registering their worst-ever quarter through our history to 1990, according to data compiled by CNBC. Brent also recorded its worst-ever monthly performance in March, falling over 54%. Meanwhile, WTI futures slumped more than 66% in the first quarter, recording their worst-ever quarterly performance back to when the contract began trading in 1983. WTI futures fell over 54% last month, registering its worst-ever monthly performance, too. A public health crisis has meant countries around the world have effectively had to shut down, with many governments imposing draconian measures on the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. The restrictions have created an unprecedented demand shock in energy markets, ramping up the pressure on companies and governments reliant on crude sales. To date, more than 860,000 people have contracted COVID-19 worldwide, with 42,345 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $25.34 a barrel Wednesday morning, down more than 3.8%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $20.18, more than 1.4% lower.

 Oil falls on oversupply fears and US inventory growth - Global crude prices fell on Wednesday as a bigger-than-expected rise in U.S. inventories and a widening rift within OPEC heightened oversupply fears. Oil prices are near their lowest since 2002 amid the global coronavirus crisis that has brought a worldwide economic slowdown and slashed oil demand. Crude futures ended the quarter down nearly 70% after record losses in March. Brent crude was down $1.17, or 4.44%, to trade at $25.18 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 19 cents, or 0.9%, to trade at $20.28 per barrel. U.S. crude inventories rose by 10.5 million barrels last week, far exceeding forecasts for a 4 million barrel build-up, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed. “The market sentiment remains bleak as there is no clarity on how long the pandemic will continue,” said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities. Asian shares and Wall Street futures also fell on Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of a global recession tore through investor confidence. Nearly 800,000 people have been infected across the world and more than 38,800 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The bearish mood in the market was also fuelled by a rift within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC were unable to come to an agreement on Tuesday to meet in April to discuss sliding prices. “It is very unlikely that OPEC, with or without Russia or the United States, will agree a sufficient volumetric solution to offset oil demand losses,” BNP Paribas analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said in a report issued on Tuesday. Adding to the downward pressure, sources told Reuters that top U.S. officials have for now put aside a proposal for an alliance with Saudi Arabia to manage the global oil market.

 Oil prices could soon turn negative as the world runs out of places to store crude, analysts warn - Global oil storage could reach maximum capacity within weeks, energy analysts have told CNBC, as the coronavirus crisis dramatically reduces consumption and some of the world’s most powerful crude producers start to ramp up their output. The coronavirus pandemic has meant countries have effectively had to shut down, with many governments imposing draconian measures on the daily lives of billions of people. It has created an unprecedented demand shock in energy markets, with storage space – both onshore and offshore – quickly running out. At the same time, a three-year pact between OPEC and non-OPEC partners to curb oil output ended on Wednesday, paving the way for oil producers to ramp up production. OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has pledged to hike output to a record high. “Refineries in many places are now losing money for every barrel they process, or they have no place to store their output of oil products,” Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, told CNBC via email this week. He pointed out that when refineries shut down, many oil producers have nowhere to send their crude if the refinery is also part of the logistical chain to the market. “For land-based or land-locked oil producers, this means only one thing,” Schieldrop continued. “The local oil price or well-head price they receive very quickly goes to zero or even negative, because if they have too much oil, they must pay someone to transport it away until they have managed to shut down their production.” International benchmark Brent crude traded at $25.33 Wednesday afternoon, down more than 3.8%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $20.54, around 0.3% higher. Both benchmarks recorded their worst-ever quarter through the first three months of the year, according to data compiled by CNBC. Brent futures collapsed over 65% in the first quarter, while WTI slumped more than 66% over the same period.

 The oil price war could persist until year-end, analyst says - The oil price war could last until the end of the year, an analyst said Wednesday. Prices have plummeted more than 60% since the beginning of year after OPEC+ failed to reach an agreement, leading Saudi Arabia and Russia to enter a price war amid the global coronavirus crisis. Riyadh said it will boost output to 12.3 million barrels per day in April, while Moscow said it can increase production by 500,000 bpd in the long term. Chart: Saudi oil production 200401 Asia “This was always going to be an inevitability of the production-cut strategy that OPEC+ had been adopting,” said Edward Bell, senior director of market economics at Dubai-based bank Emirates NBD. “Saudi Arabia was not going to restrain production infinitely and allow for other producers in the rest of the world to take away its market share.” Brent crude fell 5.01% to $25.03 on Wednesday evening in Asia, while U.S. crude futures were down 1.03% at $20.27. Higher production levels can help Saudi Arabia maintain its oil revenues while prices are low, Bell told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.” “That suggests to us that the oil price war strategy remains in place for quite a long time, until the end of this year, if there is no real diplomatic breakthrough,” he said. If Russia, a non-OPEC member, or countries in the cartel decide to call for some kind of production restraint, the oil market could go back to behaving the way it has for the past few years, Bell said. “You could see prices rallying on the back of ... 5, 10 million bpd being cut, and those are the kind of scales of cuts that could be required, given the severity of the demand destruction that we’re seeing,” he said. That, in turn, would also allow the U.S. shale patch to increase production again. However, Riyadh doesn’t seem prepared to back down from its price-war strategy, he said. “We don’t really see any change in the oil market diplomacy.” If the kingdom wants to carve out its place as the global dominant oil supplier, it’s going to mean “a lot of pain” for marginal producers, he added. “It’s going to have to try and squeeze them out of the oil market as permanently as it can.”

WTI Tumbles To $19 Handle After Biggest Crude Build Since 2016 -  After its worst quarter ever, as COVID-19 lockdowns crushed demand, raising fears about overflowing storage tanks amid a price war that has flooded the market with extra supply, all eyes are glued to today's official inventory data (after API reported a major surprise build in crude and gasoline stocks) as Standard Chartered analysts, including Emily Ashford warned in a report, oil tanks around the world could fill in six weeks, a move that will likely force significant production shut-downs, “Huge inventory builds, potentially exhausting spare storage capacity, will mean that market balance requires an unprecedented output shutdown by producers,” they wrote. So, eyes down... "There is the very real possibility that this week's storage reports could be the energy patch version of last Thursday's Weekly Jobless Claims," Robert Yawger, Mizuho Securities USA's director of energy said in a note. "I would expect the numbers to be supersized and challenge multi-year highs/lows on multiple data points. Of course, I have been expecting big numbers for the past couple week, but the fireworks have not happened. That leads me to believe that the data explosion will likely happen this week ... Exports will likely be down big, and refinery utilization will likely pull back dramatically. That will leave a lot of crude oil on the sidelines ... EIA crude oil storage has been higher for nine weeks in a row. Storage will likely double up and increase at the rate of around 10 million for another nine least." DOE:

  • Crude +13.833mm (+4.6mm exp) - biggest since Oct 2016
  • Cushing +3.521mm - biggest build since Mar 2018
  • Gasoline +7.524mm (+3.6mm exp) - biggest build since Jan 2020
  • Distillates -2.194mm (-600k exp)

API reported a massive crude build (and gasoline build) overnight but the official data showed an even bigger 13.8mm barrel crude build - the biggest since Oct 2016 and a huge increase in stocks at Cushing...

Oil ends lower after U.S. crude stockpiles jump (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Wednesday after U.S. crude inventories rose last week by the most since 2016, while gasoline demand suffered its biggest weekly drop ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. Crude inventories rose by 13.8 million barrels last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. That was the biggest one-week rise since 2016, and analysts expect similar data in coming weeks, as refineries curb output further and gasoline demand continues to decline. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 17 cents to settle at $20.31 a barrel, after hitting a low at $19.90. June Brent crude fell $1.61 , or 6.1%, to $24.74 a barrel. The global benchmark fell to $21.65 on Monday, its lowest since 2002, when the now-expired May contract was the front month. The market has slumped on the sharp fall in demand because of the coronavirus pandemic and rising output from Saudi Arabia and Russia after a supply pact collapsed last month. Brent crude fell 66% in the first three months of 2020, its biggest ever quarterly loss. Saudi Arabia's production rose to more than 12 million bpd in the most recent months, according to sources. "The likelihood of distressed cargoes, increased freight rates, force majeures, strains on storage capacity, VLCC availability will be combining in placing additional downside pressures on petroleum prices," Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday for global oil producers and consumers to address "challenging" oil markets while U.S. President Donald Trump complained that oil cheaper "than water" was hurting the industry. Trump invited several energy industry executives, including the chief executives of Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp, to a meeting on Friday to discuss aid for the industry, including possible tariffs on oil imports from Saudi Arabia, an administration source confirmed. News of those efforts has intermittently bolstered futures prices, but physical grades of crude are deteriorating, as refiners and shippers confront the coming wave of supply and freeze-up in demand. Gasoline demand fell by the most ever in one week, with products supplied, a proxy for demand, dropping by 2.2 million barrels per day to 6.7 million bpd. That augurs for more refining cutbacks down the road. "Demand is a disaster," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. "That's the whole problem here. It's horrible."

 Oil prices could soon turn negative as the world runs out of places to store crude, analysts warn -  Global oil storage could reach maximum capacity within weeks, energy analysts have told CNBC, as the coronavirus crisis dramatically reduces consumption and some of the world’s most powerful crude producers start to ramp up their output.The coronavirus pandemic has meant countries have effectively had to shut down, with many governments imposing draconian measures on the daily lives of billions of people. It has created an unprecedented demand shock in energy markets, with storage space – both onshore and offshore – quickly running out. At the same time, a three-year pact between OPEC and non-OPEC partners to curb oil output ended on Wednesday, paving the way for oil producers to ramp up production.OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has pledged to hike output to a record high.“Refineries in many places are now losing money for every barrel they process, or they have no place to store their output of oil products,” Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, told CNBC via email this week.He pointed out that when refineries shut down, many oil producers have nowhere to send their crude if the refinery is also part of the logistical chain to the market.“For land-based or land-locked oil producers, this means only one thing,” Schieldrop continued. “The local oil price or well-head price they receive very quickly goes to zero or even negative, because if they have too much oil, they must pay someone to transport it away until they have managed to shut down their production.”

Unprecedented Demand Destruction Marks The Return Of Crude's Super-Contango -  These days, every corner of the oil market is “unprecedented”—from the demand destruction to the supply surge and the resulting glut. The oil futures curve is no exception and is also in a state never seen before.   This is the super contango, the market situation in which front-month prices are much lower than prices in future months, pointing to a crude oil oversupply and making storing oil for future sales profitable.  The last time a super contango appeared on the market was during the previous glut of 2015. During the peak of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the super contango hit a record—the discount at which front-month futures traded compared to longer-dated futures was at its highest ever.The double supply-demand shock of the past month threw the oil futures market into another super contango. And this super contango is already beating previous records.The super contango is representative of the state of the oil market right now: the growing glut with shrinking storage capacity as oil demand craters, OPEC’s leader and the world’s top exporter, Saudi Arabia, intent on further cratering the market with a supply surge beginning this month. Storage costs are surging, and so are costs for chartering tankers to store oil at sea for future sales when traders expect demand to recover from the pandemic-hit plunge.The market structure flipped into contango in early February, when the Chinese oil demand slump in the coronavirus outbreak led to lower estimates for oil consumption. A month and a half later, oil consumption is set to plunge by 20 million bpd, or 20 percent, this month. Add to this the Saudi supply surge, and here we have what analysts expect to be the largest glut the oil market has ever seen.Earlier this week, the oversupply and fast-filling storage capacity sent the discount of the May futures of Brent to the November futures contract to the widest contango spread ever—$13.95 a barrel, higher than even the super contango at the peak of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.  With the rollover of the front-month futures contract in April, the June Brent futures traded early on Wednesday at a discount of $10.30 a barrel to the November futures, while the June 2020 futures spread to the June 2021 futures was $13.59.One of the hottest ‘commodities’ in the market right now is storage—be it onshore or offshore—as commodity traders and oil majors are increasingly looking to profit from the super contango in several months’ time.   Apart from the traders who manage to secure storage for stashing crude for sale in a few months, the other big winners of the super contango market structure are set to be tanker owners and operators, as rates for chartering tankers for storage are soaring.Over the next few months, the tanker companies will be the biggest winners from the double market shock as traders rush to secure what’s left of available crude carriers for storage in the super contango structure.The inventory buildup around the world will be so high that it will force up to 10 million bpd of global oil production to be “cut or shut-in from April to June 2020 as oil storage fills up and output from financially strapped companies begins to fall,” IHS Markit said on Tuesday.“Under current conditions second-quarter global demand for oil is expected to be 16.4 million barrels per day less than a year ago. That is more than six times the record drop experienced during first quarter 2009 during the Great Recession. In April the drop will be even bigger,” said Aaron Brady, vice president, IHS Markit.  

Oil Companies on Tumbling Prices: ‘Disastrous, Devastating’ - The New York Times The once mighty oil industry is shrinking quickly around the world, hunkering down in survival mode.With the coronavirus pandemic all but eliminating travel and commutes, demand for energy is tumbling, and oil companies from Algeria to West Texas are slashing budgets. Refineries are cutting production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Pipeline operators are telling producers that they can ship crude only if there is a buyer willing to take the fuel because storage tanks are filling up fast. And American oil companies are dropping rigs, dismissing fracking crews and beginning to shut down wells.As much as 20 percent, or 20 million barrels a day, of oil demand may be lost as the global economy slows, according to the International Energy Agency. That is roughly equivalent to eliminating all U.S. consumption. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing oil production to regain market share from American oil companies that increased production and exports in recent years.The Trump administration has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia and Russia that they should cut production to help stabilize the oil market; President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia discussed energy markets in a call on Monday. But the energy demand destroyed by the virus now overshadows anything that Saudi Arabia or Russia could do to reduce exports. Global oil benchmark prices hover around $20 a barrel — levels not seen in a generation — and regional prices in West Texas and North Dakota have fallen even further, to around $10 a barrel. That is about a quarter of the price that shale operators typically need to cover the costs of pulling oil out of the ground. If these prices persist, a big wave of bankruptcies is inevitable by the end of the year, experts say. “The picture looks bleak,” said Trent Latshaw, president of Latshaw Drilling, an oil service company active in Texas and Oklahoma with only 10 of its 41 rigs currently deployed. “We have never had this situation where you have a huge increase in supply and a huge decrease in demand at the same time. Oil prices are down to $20 a barrel, and we don’t know where the bottom is.”All told, global investments in exploration and production are expected to fall in 2020 by $100 billion, or 17 percent below last year, according to Rystad Energy, a research and consulting firm based in Oslo. That drop is only the latest jolt to an industry that has been tightening budgets for years. The $446 billion that the industry is expected to invest is just over half the $880 billion it spent on exploration and production in 2014.The share prices of large companies like Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron have nearly halved in recent months, while the stocks of smaller firms with less healthy balance sheets have fallen even more.

GOP senator calls on Saudis to end its oil price war, says 'Americans died' protecting the kingdom - America’s strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia may permanently change if Riyadh does not end its latest oil price war, Sen. Dan Sullivan told CNBC on Wednesday. “The Saudis have really brought in a supply shock at exactly the wrong time,” the Alaska Republican said on “Squawk Box.” “These kind of crises really make it clear … who your friends are and who aren’t your friends.” Sullivan said that a group of U.S. senators has been applying pressure on Saudi Arabia, writing a letter to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that was followed up by call with the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington. “All of the senators who were on that letter, on that conference call with the ambassador, have been strong supporters of the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” said Sullivan. “That is going to change if the Saudis don’t start playing a more constructive role with regard to energy markets.” Sullivan, who represents the oil-rich state of Alaska, said he reminded the Saudi ambassador of the past U.S. defense of the kingdom. “We’ve been there for you,” Sullivan said he told her. “First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein is getting ready to roll through your country. It wasn’t the Saudi military that stopped him. ... It was the First Marine Division, 82nd Airborne. Americans died in that war.” The Saudi Embassy was not immediately available to respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Saudi Arabia's big oil gamble will hurt the kingdom — but it'll likely pay off - April is going to be a hellish month for the oil industry. Already down more than 65% year-to-date, crushed by the coronavirus crisis and the Saudi-Russia oil price war, crude prices are set to tank even further when Saudi Arabia and others turn on the taps following the expiration of the OPEC+ output cut deal on April 1 that had reined in production to boost the market. Oil at $20 per barrel was unimaginable a few months ago; now some forecasters are calling prices as low as $10 or even single digits as the world runs out of storage space and the global economy grinds to a halt. But when the dust settles, many analysts believe it’ll be Saudi Arabia — even with its overwhelming reliance on oil revenue — that comes out on top. The kingdom is willingly inflicting pain upon itself by slashing its selling prices and committing to increase production to more than 12 million barrels per day — a record amount — after a bid to cut output together with Russia failed. Its strategy now is going after maximum market share. Its revenue is taking a massive blow and its budget deficit could rise by 40%, prompting plans for spending cuts and borrowing. The IMF estimates the kingdom needs oil at $80 a barrel to balance its budget; Brent crude closed at $22.74 per barrel on Tuesday, ending its worst quarter ever, with the second quarter expected to be even worse. Despite the dire numbers, however, enduring months of fiscal pain while it pursues greater exports may ultimately pay off. “Saudi will definitely be one of the winners on the other side,” Abhi Rajendran, director of research at Energy Intelligence, told CNBC. His call is based on the assumption that oil prices will rebound in 2021 post-coronavirus; his firm sees oil back up to $80 per barrel within three years. Rajendran predicts Saudi Arabia’s market share will “definitely grow,” adding that “in a year or two they will have to increase production because the market will need it… and it will be ahead of the U.S. again in terms of volume.”

Oil Surges On Report China Buying For Strategic Reserve, Hopes For Saudi-Russia Truce - Oil surged as much as 13% this morning following a report that China is planning to start buying cheap crude for its strategic reserves, as well as speculation that President Trump said he thought Saudi Arabia and Russia would resolve their differences in the oil price war that has sent supply soaring even as global oil demand tumbles. Following massive builds in crude in the US as reported by the DOE and API, and amid sporadic reports that various storage facilities are starting to fill up: ... overnight, Bloomberg reported that Beijing instructed government agencies to start filling state stockpiles after oil plunged 66% over the first three months of the year, while the global benchmark’s nearest timespread also rallied strongly. Beijing has asked government agencies to quickly coordinate filling tanks, Bloomberg source said. In addition to state-owned reserves, it may use commercial space for storage as well, while also encouraging companies to fill their own tanks. The initial target is to hold government stockpiles equivalent to 90 days of net imports, which could eventually be expanded to as much as 180 days when including commercial reserves. According to Bloomberg calculations, 90 days of net crude imports translated to about 900 million barrels. By comparison, the U.S. currently holds about 635 million barrels in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, according to government data. And while the current size of China’s state reserves is unknown, and Beijing could use a different method for calculating net imports, oil traders and analysts at SIA Energy and Wood Mackenzie estimated it could amount to China buying an additional 80 million to 100 million barrels over the course of the year before it ran into logistical and operational constraints.  In September, the head of development and planning at the National Energy Administration said the country had total oil reserves, including strategic stockpiles, for about 80 days. In December, state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. said on its website that the government intends to boost the capacity of its strategic petroleum reserves to 503 million barrels by the end of this year, an indicator of the maximum amount the government can store. While the purchases could help soak up some excess supply, traders said it will fall well short of offsetting the overall glut created by the virus lockdowns and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. As Bloomberg adds, China’s move comes as the physical crude market shows deepening signs of strain as supply explodes and demand collapses due to the coronavirus. Dated Brent, the benchmark for two-thirds of the world’s physical supply, was assessed at $15.135 on Wednesday, the lowest since at least 1999. Crude has slipped below $10 in some areas including Canada and shale regions in the U.S., Belarus wants to buy Russian oil for $4, while some grades have posted negative prices.

Trump Eyes 10MMbpd Global Oil Cut - President Donald Trump is trying to get the world to cut oil production by 10 million barrels a day in an effort to end a market-share war that sent crude prices plunging to the lowest levels in two decades. Trump shocked markets on Thursday by tweeting that he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia alone to cut about 10 million barrels -- or roughly a 10th of global petroleum, sending oil prices soaring. A person familiar with the discussion later said that Trump, after a call with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was hoping to get other oil market participants to contribute to that cut, too. A second person familiar with the situation said Trump’s goal is purely aspirational and will ultimately hinge on whether Saudi Arabia and Russia can reach a deal. Any across-the-board reduction of this size will face serious challenges. Saudi Arabia hasn’t voiced outright support for the move and instead called for an “urgent meeting” of the world’s oil producers to discuss a “fair agreement.” The response signals the country will only cut output if others do so and raises the question of whether the Trump administration is willing to cap America’s own production to reach a global accord. Russia’s response was arguably harsher. In his tweet, Trump said he had spoken to MBS, who had in turn spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the conversation hadn’t happened and confirmed that no production cut had been agreed to with the Saudis. Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2020 An OPEC+ delegate familiar with the conversations similarly said Saudi Arabia and Russia had yet to agree to production cuts -- let alone their size. Any proposed curbs would be conditioned upon every other major oil producer also agreeing to reduce production, the person said, asking not to be named discussing diplomatic conversations. Meanwhile, Trump told reporters on Thursday that he expected a deal to be reached soon.

Oil surges as Trump talks up hopes for truce in Saudi-Russia price war - Crude oil futures jumped 10% on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to reach a deal soon to end their oil price war and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a solution to “challenging” oil markets. Brent crude futures rose 11.36%, or $2.81, to $27.55 as of 0701 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures increased 10.0% or $2.03, at $22.34. Trump said he had talked recently with the leaders of both Russia and Saudi Arabia and believed the two countries would make a deal to end their price war within a “few days” - lowering production and bringing prices back up. Trump also said he has invited U.S. oil executives to the White House to discuss ways to help the industry “ravaged” by slumping energy demand during the coronavirus outbreak and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. “The market is hoping that this U.S. intervention will bring us closer to an agreement between Saudi and Russia in cutting production,” said CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang, adding that bargain hunting is also lifting oil prices. Speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday, Putin said that both oil producers and consumers should find a solution that would improve the “challenging” situation of global oil markets. Saudi Arabia supports co-operation between oil producers to stabilize the market but Russia’s opposition to a proposal last month to deepen supply cuts has caused market turmoil, a senior Gulf source familiar with Saudi thinking told Reuters. Some analysts cautioned there is still a long way to go before any output cut agreement is struck.

Oil Soars on Trump's Saudi-Russia Output Cuts Claim -- Oil soared after U.S. President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia and Russia would make major output cuts, though uncertainty swirled over the volume of curbs and whether reductions would be made at all. While Trump tweeted that cuts of 10 million to 15 million barrels were possible, he didn’t specify if that reduction would be per day. He also said he spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about the market. His comments immediately triggered skepticism, even within the U.S. government. One person familiar with the administration’s discussions with the Saudis said there was widespread internal confusion about what the president was referring to and the numbers he mentioned may not be reliable. The prospect of the U.S. joining in on any output cuts was raised after Ryan Sitton of the Texas Railroad Commission, in a rare move for the state’s oil regulator, spoke with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on reducing global supplies by 10 million barrels a day. He said he would also talk to the Saudi oil minister soon. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t spoken to the Saudi crown prince and hasn’t agreed to cut oil production to boost prices. The Middle East kingdom also didn’t confirm the cuts, but called for an urgent meeting of the OPEC+ producer alliance to reach a “fair deal” that would restore balance in oil markets, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. Any curbs by the group would be conditional on other countries joining, according to a delegate. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures jumped as much as 35%, before closing up almost 25% -- their biggest single-day advance ever. Brent crude increased as much as 47%, the global benchmark’s largest surge in intraday trading. “The 10, 15 million barrel a day cut is just not going to happen. On top of that, Russia has older oil wells, so they can’t restart in the same way that Saudi Arabia can,” said Tariq Zahir, a fund manager at Tyche Capital Advisors. If Trump meant 10 million barrels per day, that would equal both Moscow and Riyadh curbing nearly 45% of their production in what would prove an unprecedented move. If collective action does remove that much from the market, that would be the equivalent of about 10% of world demand prior to the impact of coronavirus crisis. Still, that may not be enough to stop the pain that’s rippled across the energy industry as demand craters with the coronavirus outbreak shutting down economies around the world.

@novakav1. While we normally compete, we agreed that #COVID19 requires unprecedented level of int&#39;l cooperation. Discussed 10mbpd out of global supply. Look forward to speaking with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman soon.&mdash; Ryan Sitton (@RyanSitton) April 2, 2020 '>@novakav1. While we normally compete, we agreed that #COVID19 requires unprecedented level of int&#39;l cooperation. Discussed 10mbpd out of global supply. Look forward to speaking with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman soon.&mdash; Ryan Sitton (@RyanSitton) April 2, 2020 '>@novakav1. While we normally compete, we agreed that #COVID19 requires unprecedented level of int&#39;l cooperation. Discussed 10mbpd out of global supply. Look forward to speaking with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman soon.&mdash; Ryan Sitton (@RyanSitton) April 2, 2020 '>@novakav1. While we normally compete, we agreed that #COVID19 requires unprecedented level of int&#39;l cooperation. Discussed 10mbpd out of global supply. Look forward to speaking with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman soon.&mdash; Ryan Sitton (@RyanSitton) April 2, 2020 '>What Really Caused Oil To Rally By 25%?  -  Oil prices spiked 25 percent on Thursday after President Trump tweeted that Saudi Arabia and Russia would cut production by 10 to 15 million barrels per day (mb/d), but there are a variety of reasons why a cut of this size faces steep odds. Incidentally it was the biggest one day percentage surge in the price of oil in history. This should be prefaced with the fact that nobody knows what will happen and that the onset of a global pandemic means that all of the old rules are thrown out the window. Anything can happen in the context of the greatest public health and economic crisis in a century.  But Trump’s tweets raise a ton of questions. Right off the bat, a 10-15 mb/d cut is incredibly massive. How could that be divided up? Russia and Saudi Arabia are both at around 11 mb/d; would they both cut their output in half? That’s an absurd notion.   Indeed, immediately, Russia shot down the idea that there was some agreement. That was followed by a clarification from Saudi Arabia, which called for an emergency OPEC+ meeting that could lead to cuts with “another group of countries” in an attempt to arrive at a “fair solution.”   That statement means that Saudi Arabia has not signed onto anything, and would only cut if a lot of other countries did the same. The Saudi statement hints that it wants more than just the OPEC+ coalition, which presumably would include the U.S., Canada, Brazil and/or some other non-OPEC producers.   Then, news surfaced that Saudi Arabia was willing to cut output below 9 mb/d if others joined them. That means that Saudi will chip in around 2 mb/d of cuts, which is incredibly modest compared to what Trump’s tweet suggests. It would also bring Saudi output roughly back to where it was a month ago, prior to the breakdown of the OPEC+ negotiations.  Meanwhile, an even larger question is what the U.S. would need to give in order to achieve anything close to what Trump claimed. Reuters reported that the Trump administration does not actually plan on asking domestic drillers to cut production. Trump is set to meet with a group of oil CEOs on Friday, but he apparently won’t ask them to cut output, Reuters says.  Bloomberg reported that there was widespread confusion even within the U.S. government about what Trump’s tweet meant.  If the U.S. is not going to cut, what, then, is Trump talking about? One thing to consider is that Saudi Arabia can earn some goodwill in Washington by agreeing to call for an emergency OPEC+ meeting. The Saudis could be nodding along with Trump, commiserating about low oil prices, while also suggesting that they could take strong action…if others go along. Riyadh does not have to agree to anything immediately, but by putting the ball in the court of the U.S. and Russia, they may entice production cuts from elsewhere.

Why A 15 Million Barrel Per Day Cut Will Never Happen - Oil prices exploded on Thursday morning after US President Trump tweeted that he spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about a potentially ‘huge’ output cut.  According to Trump, the production cut from Saudi Arabia and Russia could be as high as 15 million bpd. For anyone wondering why oil prices just spiked by over 25%...  — (@OilandEnergy) April 2, 2020The reality, however, is very different. Earlier this morning, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman of Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that ‘’No one has launched any talks about a potential new oil-production deal to replace the OPEC+ format’’ Peskov assured reporters that no one is happy with current oil prices, but that there are no high-level talks scheduled for either Thursday or Friday.  It seems then that US pressure on Riyadh has convinced Saudi Arabia to reopen negotiations once again, but as I wrote before, neither of the parties will be willing to hand an easy victory to the others.  While both Russia and Saudi Arabia have started to hint that they are willing to talk about new cooperation, neither of them have proposed any specific new deal. The situation changed this morning after Saudi Arabia’s official news agency reported that the Kingdom is calling for an urgent OPEC+ meeting with the aim of ‘’seeking a fair agreement’’. In other words, Saudi Arabia is willing to return to the negotiating table if every other nation is willing to cut production. According to Dow Jones, Riyadh is willing to reduce output to 9 million bpd, roughly what it produced in February before the OPEC+ deal fell apart. It also seems that the Kingdom will only be happy to cut production back to 9 million bpd if Moscow agrees with the 500,000 bpd production reduction it rejected at the previous OPEC+ meeting in Vienna. Even if Saudi Arabia gets Russia to agree to the 500,000 bpd cut (which remains unlikely), this means that the markets will see a production reduction of only 3.5 million bpd – a far cry from the 10-15 million bpd that President Trump claimed in his tweet this morning.

Oil's Trump Bump Fades as Doubts Rise-- Oil slid back below $25 a barrel after a record surge as doubts crept in about a deal touted on Twitter by U.S. President Donald Trump that would see deep supply cuts from producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia. Futures dropped as much as 7.1% after surging almost 25% in New York on Thursday following Trump’s tweet that he expected global producers to slash output by 10 million barrels or more. However, the Kremlin later said that President Vladimir Putin had not spoken to his Saudi counterpart and hasn’t agreed to reduce production. Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said any supply deal would be too little, too late as demand craters. While futures spiked, the outlook for the physical market remains bleak as discounts for some grades of physically delivered oil across the U.S. and Canada widened. Heavy Louisiana Sweet crude lost $1.75 a barrel relative to West Texas Intermediate to a record $10.50 discount. Oil has whipsawed this week after plunging to an 18-year low on Monday. While Trump tweeted that he had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had in turn spoken with Russian president, a person familiar with the situation said the U.S. president’s goal is purely aspirational and will ultimately hinge on whether Riyadh and Moscow can reach a deal. After Trump’s request, Saudi Arabia said it had called a meeting of the OPEC+ alliance that includes Russia to discuss a “fair agreement,” signaling it would only cut output if others do so. Producers are facing an unprecedented collapse in demand as nations try to stem the spreading coronavirus. “Even if there is an agreement to curtail 10 million barrels a day of output, the fundamentals show demand destruction and inventory builds,” said John Driscoll, chief strategist for JTD Energy Services Pte in Singapore. The “anxiety and mayhem out there is reminiscent of the financial crisis,” he added. West Texas Intermediate for May delivery fell $1.26, or 5%, to $24.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 1:53 p.m. Singapore time. The contract is still up about 12% this week, set for the first weekly gain since February. Brent for June settlement lost 4.9% to $28.48 on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices are up 14% this week. Texas Railroad Commission Ryan Sitton, in a rare move for the state’s oil regulator, tweeted on Thursday that he spoke with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and discussed a 10-million barrel a day global output cut and would talk to the Saudi oil minister soon. Trump is scheduled to meet with U.S. oil company executives Friday as the administration seeks ways to help the beleaguered industry.

Russia, Saudis Deny Trump "Expectation" Of 10 Million bpd Oil Production Cut - Whether it's just more desperate jawboning or resembles reality, CNBC's Joe Kernan reports that he just spoike to President Trump who claims his conversations with Putin and MbS suggest an oil production cut of up to 15mm barrels/day is imminent.President Trump tells CNBC that he spoke to President Putin yesterday and Saudi Crown Prince today and expects them to announce an oil production cut of 10 million barrels and could be up to 15 million.  President Trumptold reporters in Washington this morning that..."Worldwide, the oil industry has been ravaged. Its very bad for Russia, its very bad for Saudi Arabia. I mean, its very bad for both. I think they're going to make a deal."..and has just tweeted his confirmation:Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2020   The result is not surprisingly a massive 35% surge in crude... Shortly after the market exploded higher on Trump's tweet which also sent oil soaring by a mindblowing 35%, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a text message that: Russian President Vladimir Putin has not spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and hasn’t agreed to cut oil production to boost prices, “No. There was no conversation,” Peskov said when asked about tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump saying that Russian, Saudi leaders had agreed to cut oil output to boost prices. Caught between a rock (not pissing off Trump), and a hard - or rather soft - place, (hoping to flood the world with millions of barrels in excess oil), moments ago Dow Jones reported that the Saudis are mulling a production cut to 9mmb/d but only if others join. Again, this means Crown Prince MbS is only willing to go back to where the March Vienna OPEC summt was...  just before Russia refused to cut by 500kb/d and all hell broke loose. In other words, this is not a negotiation, this is an offer to return to the bargaining table at the point where Russia balked. Oh, and there is another problem: even if Saudis cut from 12mmb/d to 9mmb/d and Russia cuts by 500k, that's 3.5mmb/d less in supply. Meanwhile, global demand is down by over 15mm barrels! In other words, the only way the oil market will rebalance is if both Saudi Arabia and Russia both stop pumping, even as shale continues to flood the world with US oil (because as Whiting showed yesterday, the company will continue business as usual even under Chapter 11).

OPEC+ debates biggest-ever oil cut as virus destroys demand - - OPEC and its allies are working on a deal for an unprecedented oil production cut equivalent to around 10% of global supply, an OPEC source said, after the U.S. president called on producers to stop the market rout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for Monday, April 6, the Azeri energy ministry said, but details were still thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said. Oil prices have fallen to around $20 per barrel from $65 at the start of the year as more than 3 billion people went into a lockdown because of the virus, reducing global oil demand by as much as a third or 30 million barrels per day. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had spoken with both Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and they agreed to reduce supplies by 10-15 million bpd out of a total global supply of around 100 million bpd. But the International Energy Agency warned on Friday that a cut of 10 million bpd would not be enough to counter the huge fall in oil demand. Such an output cut would still result in a 15 million bpd stock-build in the second quarter, said Fatih Birol, the head of the agency. Trump said he did not make any concessions to Saudi Arabia and Russia, such as agreeing to a U.S. domestic production cut - a move forbidden by U.S. antitrust legislation. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump will fight any international collusion in energy markets that would hurt U.S. producers, but that the administration cannot dictate to oil producers. “I think... oil companies, seeing a decline in price are going to pull back on production. That’s just common sense,” he said, adding that he sees no reason why Trump’s talks with Saudi Arabia and Russia on oil will not “bear fruit”. Some U.S. officials have suggested U.S. production was set for a steep decline anyway because of low prices. “The U.S. needs to contribute from shale oil,” an OPEC source said. Russia has long expressed frustration that its joint cuts with OPEC were only lending support to higher-cost U.S. shale producers.

Putin Responds To Trump Oil Gambit- 10MM Production Cut Possible But US Needs To Join -Earlier today we said that ahead of Monday's (virtual) R-OPEC conference, a new ask had emerged from within the oil producing nations - any production cut would have to include the US, which alongside with Russia, Saudi Arabia and others R-OPEC nations, would to around 10 million b/d. Then moments ago, Vladimir Putin confirmed just that. The Russian president said that he had spoken with US President Trump saying "we are all worried about the situation" and that he is "ready to act with the US on oil markets" with 10mmb/d in oil production needed to be cut, adding that cuts must be taken from Q1 2020 levels which was a jab at Saudi Arabia which is hoping to "cut" by 3 million b/d to go back to where it was in February. And by we, he meant the "we" that includes the US, because as he explained "joint actions" are required on oil markets, i.e., shale too. Observing that the situation on global energy markets remains difficult and that demand is falling (by 26mmb/d according to Goldman), Putin said that he wants "long-term stability" of the oil market, and that he is comfortable with $42 oil. The Russian president was also kind enough to summarize the reasons for the oil price collapse which he blamed on the coronavirus, the lack of oil demand and, drumroll, the Saudi withdrawal from the OPEC+ deal. At this point Russia's energy minister Novak chimed in and explained what it would take to get such a cut: speaking to Putin, the Russian energy minister said it is necessary to cut oil production for everybody, including Saudi Arabia and the US, and that output should be cut for the next few months and gradually recovered thereafter. Novak also said that Saudis are still negatively influencing oil market, and that oil storage could be filled for next 1.5 to 2 months only. Finally, there was some speculation that Russia would not be present at next week's R-OPEC conference, so Novak defused any confusion, by confirming that the meeting is set for April 6th. There was no reaction in the price of oil which now awaits to see how Trump will respond to the Saudi/Russian demand that shale join equally in any upcoming production cut.

Oil rises on hope of output deal - Oil rose on Friday as traders eyed a possible deal on production cuts after President Donald Trump said he expected a deal of at least a 10 million barrel production cut to soon be announced, and after Saudi Arabia called an “urgent” meeting for OPEC. Brent crude futures were up 9%, or $2.75, at $32.69 per barrel. Brent soared as much as 47% during Thursday’s session, its highest intraday percentage gain ever, before closing 21% higher, but still at less than half the $66 it was trading at at the end of 2019. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude also moved back into positive territory, rising 4.5%, or $1.13, to $26.45 per barrel, after surging 24.7% on Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had brokered a deal which could see Russia and Saudi Arabia cutting output by 10 to 15 million barrels per day (bpd) - an unprecedented amount representing 10% to 15% of global supply. Trump said he had made no offer to cut U.S. output. Saudi Arabia called on Thursday for an emergency meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, saying it aimed to reach a fair agreement to stabilize oil markets. Kuwait’s oil minister Khaled al-Fadhel said on Friday he supported Saudi Arabia’s invitation for a meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. The energy ministry of non-OPEC producer Azerbaijan, meanwhile, said the OPEC+ meeting is planned for April 6 and will be held as a video conference, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. “There does appear to finally be collective acceptance that the market is in such an extraordinary state of oversupply that coordinated action is needed,” said Callum Macpherson, Investec’s Head of Commodities. “For now, the possibility of ‘something’ happening could make short sellers more wary and help to limit downward pressure on oil prices, but there may need to be more tangible signs of progress fairly soon if a retest of recent lows is to be avoided before long.”

Oil jumps as much as 12% a day after its best day on record as traders expect big production cuts - Oil prices surged again on Friday on the hope that a production cut deal will soon be reached after OPEC and its allies announced they will hold a virtual meeting on Monday, and after Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly said that the county wanted to see global action on cuts of around 10 million barrels per day. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 11.93%, or $3.02, to settle at $28.34 per barrel. At the session high, WTI gained more than 12% to trade at $28.56. For the week WTI rose 31.7% in its best week on record back to the contract’s inception in 1983. International benchmark Brent crude rose 13.9% to settle at $34.11 per barrel. Russia initially rejected additional cuts proposed by OPEC in early March, but Reuters reported on Friday that Putin said production needs to be cut by around 10 million barrels per day, but that the U.S. must also take action. “In our view there is no OPEC+ choice involved, the rhetoric is window-dressing, the market will deliver cuts, and they will be deeper than any OPEC+ agreements,” Mizuho managing director Paul Sankey said in a note to clients Friday. On Thursday WTI and Brent posted their best day on record after President Donald Trump told CNBC that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to announce a deal to cut oil production by 10 million to 15 million barrels, although the exact details of the cut remained unclear. WTI gained 24.67% to settle at $25.32, while Brent rose 21% to settle at $29.94. But some have questioned whether a cut of the magnitude Trump is suggesting is possible, especially if the U.S. doesn’t participate. According to a report from Reuters, the administration does not intend to ask U.S. companies to scale back production. “President Trump might have been shooting from the hip when he Tweeted about oil yesterday, promoting the idea of a deal too early on negotiations of high complexity that need more time to blossom,” Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets Bjornar Tonhaugen said in an email. Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said that the state would potentially agree to curb production in an effort to prop up prices. “This will be part of a singular deal. We’re following the President’s lead on this … If this is part of that international agreement, in light of the fact that we are in arguably the worst economic pandemic in mankind’s history, then we will participate in extraordinary measures due to those extraordinary circumstances,” Sitton said Friday on CNBC’s “The Exchange.”

OPEC and allies reportedly set for video meeting as analysts pour skepticism on Trump's intervention - Oil producer group OPEC and its partners will reportedly hold an emergency virtual meeting on Monday, with all members of the energy alliance expected to take part in an effort to stabilize markets. It comes less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump told CNBC that he expected OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC leader Russia to take up to 15 million barrels of crude off the market. International benchmark Brent crude traded at $32.78 a barrel Friday morning, up over 9%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $26.59, more than 5% higher. Brent settled up more than 21% on Thursday, registering its best day since contract inception in 1989, while WTI closed up over 24%, also marking its best-ever daily rally. It leaves both benchmarks on pace for their best week since January 2009, although, year-to-date, Brent and WTI are still down more than 54%. On Friday, Azerbaijan’s energy ministry said a virtual meeting between OPEC producers and non-OPEC partners, an alliance sometimes referred to as OPEC+, had been scheduled for April 6, according to the RIA news agency. OPEC was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC Friday morning. Trump said via Twitter on Thursday that he expected OPEC+ to cut approximately 10 million barrels of oil, “which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!” Around 30 minutes after his first tweet, Trump then suggested the deal “could be as high” as 15 million barrels. This would be “great news for everyone!” he added. Oil production is typically discussed in terms of barrels per day, but Trump made no reference to the time frame of the cuts. Additionally, it was not clear how the cuts would be distributed across oil-producing countries. “Donald Trump’s tweet … It’s nonsense, really,” Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at Plurimi Investment Managers, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday. “There is no way that Russia and Saudi Arabia are going to cut production by 50%, which is the midpoint of the 10 to 15 million barrels per day he was talking about,” he added.

Opec March output at three-month high as deal expired - Opec output rose to a three-month high in March, the final month of the Opec+ production restraint agreement. Opec and its partners will meet on 6 April to discuss how to proceed, after the expiry of the deal weighed on global crude prices. Opec output increased by 1.02mn b/d to 28.76mn b/d last month, with Mideast Gulf members notably increasing production. The deal that expired on 31 March obliged participating Opec and non-Opec countries — collectively known as Opec+ — to curtail combined production by 1.7mn b/d in the first quarter of this year, with Saudi Arabia voluntarily cutting a further 400,000 b/d. The Opec participants' target for the quarter was 25.15mn b/d. They were collectively just 27pc compliant with that in the deal's final month. Saudi Arabia's production exceeded 10mn b/d for the first time since October. It has a stated target to supply 12.3mn b/d for foreign and domestic consumption this month. The UAE raised output by more than 500,000 b/d to 3.53mn b/d. It said that it will supply 4mn b/d of crude in April. Kuwait's 180,000 b/d increase was supplemented by the recent ramp-up of crude output from the Neutral Zone that it shares with Saudi Arabia. Production continued to decline from deal-exempt members Iran and Venezuela, as demand from key buyer China fell because of the coronavirus pandemic that has since led to country-wide lockdowns and caused run cuts at European refineries. Libyan production dwindled further as blockades continued at oil infrastructure, some of which have been in place since the middle of January. Opec+ members and other oil producing countries will hold an extraordinary video conference to discuss oil output strategy next week. Russian president Vladimir Putin — whose country opposed deepening cuts in March — has advocated a 10mn b/d decline from first-quarter levels, and said that Russia is willing to co-operate with the US on this. Washington has signaled it is unlikely to send a delegate, but it has held talks with Russia and Saudi Arabia in recent days.

Brent crude could still drop to $10 a barrel and stay there in Q2: IHS Markit - Oil prices on Thursday rallied more than 20% following reports of a possible deal to cut production by an enormous 10 million barrels per day, but one analyst is still predicting that Brent crude will sink to $10 a barrel. The benchmark Brent crude was trading up 9.92% trading at $32.91 on Friday afternoon in Asia, while West Texas Intermediate gained up 4.82% at $26.54. “We are projecting that Brent is going to drop to around $10 a barrel in April and will likely stay at that level in the second quarter,” said Victor Shum, vice president of energy consulting at IHS Markit. “There is little chance of any OPEC+ deal that’s going to save the crude oil market from the attack of the COVID-19,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Friday. “I think any talk of big cuts is probably too little, too late.” Oil futures have fallen more than 50% since the beginning of the year amid a Saudi-Russia price war and demand destruction because of the coronavirus pandemic. CH 20200402_oil_volatility_since_march_6.png U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to play “moderator” between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and said on Thursday that he was expecting a cut of 10 million bpd to 15 million bpd. Riyadh called for an emergency meeting of OPEC and its allies, which was supported by Iraq, according to Reuters reports. Still, Shum said, given that both sides produce around 10 million bpd to 11 million bpd, he considers it “highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia will agree to a unilateral massive cut or even a bilateral cut with Russia.” “Are we talking about asking Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut 50% or more of their production? That seems incredible,” he said. Trump told reporters that he has not offered to lower American oil output.

OPEC+ meeting delayed as Saudi Arabia and Russia row over price collapse -  (Reuters) - OPEC and Russia have postponed a meeting planned for Monday until later next week, OPEC sources said on Saturday, as a row intensified between Moscow and Saudi Arabia over who is to blame for plunging oil prices. The meeting’s delay came despite pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, to urgently stabilize global oil markets. OPEC+ is working on an unprecedented oil output curb equal to about 10% of world supply, or 10 million barrels per day, in what member states expect to be a global effort that will include the United States. Oil prices hit an 18-year low on March 30 due to sliding demand caused by government lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak, and the failure of OPEC and other producers led by Russia to extend an earlier deal on output curbs that expired on March 31. Washington, however, has yet to make a commitment to join the effort and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday put the blame for the collapse in prices on Saudi Arabia — prompting a firm response from Riyadh on Saturday. “The Russian Minister of Energy was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April, leading to the decision that the countries have taken to raise their production,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA. Putin, speaking during a video conference with government officials and heads of Russian major oil producers on Friday, said the first reason for the fall in prices was the impact of the coronavirus on demand. “The second reason behind the collapse of prices is the withdrawal of our partners from Saudi Arabia from the OPEC+ deal, their production increase and information, which came out at the same time, about the readiness of our partners to even provide a discount for oil,” Putin said. Three OPEC sources, who asked not be identified, said the emergency virtual meeting planned for Monday would likely be postponed until April 8 or 9 to allow more time for negotiations.

Risk of environmental disaster as safer tanker decays in Yemen - Six Arab countries have filed a request to the UN to access the Safer oil tanker — filled with 138 million liters of Yemeni oil — to prevent an environmental disaster of drastic proportions. The tanker’s decay in Hodeidah would cause an environmental disaster with dire economic and humanitarian consequences, threatening millions of residents in the Hodeidah governorate and the Red Sea riparian countries. “It’s a great danger,” political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. The tanker has been lying in the port of Ras Isa for five years without any maintenance. UN ambassadors from Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen said in the letter that an explosion or leak from the Safer would close the port of Hodeidah for several months. This would halt critical imports and “could increase fuel prices by 800 percent and double the price of goods and food, resulting in more economic challenges for the people of Yemen,” they said. A leak or explosion would also affect 1.7 million people working in the fishing industry and their families, the six countries said. Al-Shehri said: “The tanker is used as a strong-arm point by the Houthis. Using it from time to time and reaping its goods but denying access to the UN.” He added that one of the main reasons the Houthis have kept the international community and the UN at bay is “if the tanker was maintained and fixed it would affect their revenue. But the Houthis do not keep their word and have lied over and over again to their benefit.” On July 18, 2019, Mark Lowcock, the UN’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council that its assessment team had been denied the necessary permits by Houthi rebels who control the area. The tanker could face two potential hazardous scenarios.There could be an explosion or leak, which could lead to one of the worst environmental disasters the world has seen. The spill would be four times worse than the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989, where the region still has not fully recovered. The aftermath of a fire or explosion would prevent the recovery of nearshore species in nearly 25 years, 1.7 million people would need food aid as the closure of the port can create shortages.

Saudis Claim US Patriot Missiles Activated In Major Yemeni Houthi Attack On Riyadh - Houthi rebels in Yemen over the weekend launched what's being described as among the largest assaults on Saudi Arabia since the start of the war five years ago.  Starting on Saturday the Saudi military said it intercepted at least two ballistic missiles over the capital of Riyadh, as well as over the southern city of Jizan, in the first such major attack in more than a year. Saudi military spokesman Turki al-Malki confirmed there were injuries among residents on the ground from "debris scattering on some residential areas" in Riyadh and Jizan.    Saudi press agency SPA later said "two civilians were slightly injured due to the falling of the intercepted missile's debris as it exploded in mid-air over residential districts".At least three blasts were heard in Riyadh during the attack, followed by the blare of emergency sirens. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television also indicated significantly that US-supplied Patriot missiles were activated during the attack.On Sunday a military spokesman for Yemen's Houthi movement confirmed responsibility for the major attack, saying, “the joint military operation of the missile force and the Air Force managed to target a number of sensitive targets in the capital of the Saudi enemy, Riyadh, with Zulfiqar missiles, and a number of Samad-3 aircraft.” “The major military operation also targeted a number of economic and military targets in Jizan, Najran and Asir, with a large number of Badr missiles and 2K bombers,” he added.The Houthi military spokesman warned: “The Saudi regime will suffer from these painful operations if it continues its aggression and siege on Yemen,” and promised to keep up the pressure, noting “the armed forces will reveal the details of the wide and qualitative military operation in the coming days.”

Workers Return to China’s Factories, but Coronavirus Hurts Global Demand—Chinese workers returned to factory floors in March, but operations remained slow due to sluggish demand, dampening hopes for a speedy recovery as the coronavirus pandemic continues to paralyze the global economy. Chinese factory activity expanded in March, following sharp contractions in January and February, when Beijing locked down much of central Hubei province and took other drastic measures to contain the virus. However, smaller companies appeared to lag behind larger companies, many of them state-owned enterprises, in the recovery, according to new private and official surveys of China’s manufacturers. The Caixin China manufacturing purchasing managers index, which is tilted toward smaller private manufacturers, rose to 50.1 in March from 40.3 in February, Caixin Media Co. and research firm Markit said Wednesday. The March result is just above the 50 mark, which separates contraction from expansion. A day earlier, on Tuesday, China’s official manufacturing PMI, which focuses more on larger state-owned companies, showed a jump to 52.0 in March from a record low of 35.7 in February. Though the official survey of 3,000 manufacturers, which is conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, covers a much larger sample size than the private Caixin survey’s 500 manufacturers, the surveys for the most part paint a similar picture of the broader trend. Both surveys recorded their lowest readings in February.The bounceback in the March readings offered some hope for the economy, said Yang Weixiao, an economist at Founder Securities, though there is still cause for concern after such a severe disruption to industrial activity. “The good news is that things are recovering; the bad news is the recovery path ahead of us is going to be slow and long,” Mr. Yang said. The rebound in the manufacturing PMIs “is more of a reflection on sequential recovery in March compared with February, and does not suggest a strong activity level,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

China Unexpectedly Cuts Reverse Repo Rate To The Lowest On Record - China’s central bank joined the global easing bandwagon early on Monday when it unexpectedly cut the rate on reverse repurchase agreements by 20 basis points, the largest in nearly five years, as authorities stepped up measures to relieve pressure on an economy ravaged by coronavirus pandemic. Without giving a reason for the move, the People’s Bank of China said on its website that it was lowering the 7-day reverse repo rate to 2.20% from 2.40%, the lowest on record. This was the first rate cut since a 10bps cut in December 2019, and the third cut in the 7-day rate since November. "The larger-than-usual rate cut is an expression that China is willing to join the coordinated consortium for economic stabilization," said Raymond Yeung, chief China economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group in Hong Kong as quoted by Bloomberg. “Small and medium-sized businesses are collapsing for lack of cash flow."Also on Monday, the PBOC injected 50 billion yuan ($7 billion) into money markets through seven-day reverse repos, breaking a hiatus of 29 trading days with no fresh fund injections via the liquidity tool.“The unexpected cut is a response to the politburo meeting last Friday,” said Xing Zhaopeng, markets economist at ANZ in Shanghai. “The medium-term lending facility (MLF) rate and Loan Prime Rate (LPR) will be cut at the same pace this month. We believe this cut is a signal to urge all loans to refer LPR as the benchmark so that the PBOC can improve the effectiveness of monetary policy transmission.”

Black-clad men hurl petrol bombs at Hong Kong police station A Hong Kong police station came under attack during Monday’s early hours, when three black-clad men hurled petrol bombs into the compound, sparking a search for the perpetrators. Firefighters were called to Happy Valley Police Station on Sing Woo Road when the firebombing happened at about 2.20am. A police source said he believed three petrol bombs were hurled into the station car park. The fire burned out before firefighters arrived. He said the fourth flaming projectile landed on Kwai Fong Street near the junction with Sing Woo Road, leaving a parked car blackened. Officers scouted the area, but no arrests were made. According to police, no one was injured and no evacuation was needed. “Officers seized glass fragments at the scene for examination. The case has been classified as arson,” police said in a press statement.

Duterte reacts to COVID-19 with military repression - As of Sunday evening, 1,418 people in the Philippines had been official recorded as infected with COVID-19, a number which includes 343 new cases reported that day. Of the confirmed cases, 71 people have died thus far. Twelve of them were doctors who contracted the virus while courageously caring for patients despite not having received adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The 71 reported deaths are only those who have been officially tested for COVID-19. Given the very limited testing thus far, the actual death toll is almost certainly an order of magnitude larger. The Philippine government did nothing to prepare for this catastrophe. In late February, when the global impact of the virus was clear, Duterte delivered an incoherent and vile public address in which he said that he would personally “slap the f..king idiot virus,” but declared that Filipinos would not get sick because they prayed regularly. No medical supplies were stockpiled; no facilities were readied. On March 16, long after the catastrophe was apparent, Duterte abruptly announced that he was placing significant portions of the country under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). The response of the Duterte administration to the pandemic has been the deployment not of masks and tests and treatment, but heavily-armed military checkpoints, armored personnel carriers, and police state repression. The entire island of Luzon, the largest and most populous region in the country, including the capital city of Manila, has now been placed on total lockdown until April 13. Over 50 million people have been confined to their homes under threat of arrest if they leave. Beyond Luzon, other provinces and regions have been placed under de facto martial law, on orders from governors and provincial officials. One member of every household has been given a quarantine pass that authorizes them at certain limited hours to leave their home in search of groceries or medicine. Anyone found outside without a quarantine pass, or traveling to a job deemed essential, can be arrested on the spot. Flights out of the country have effectively stopped and all public transportation has been suspended. Nurses, grocery store workers, bank employees, pharmacy workers, many of whom live great distances from their workplace, are compelled to walk for hours to get to their employment each day.

‪Duterte Orders Philippine Police To Shoot Dead Virus-Lockdown Violators  - The Philippines could be on the brink of social chaos, sparked because the virus pandemic forced the government to lockdown 57 million residents, many of which are living in poverty and left jobless in the last month. Social unrest broke out mid-week in a Manila slum as food and health equipment are in short supply, reported AFP. DZRH, Manila Broadcasting Company, posted a chilling video of the social unrest, as low-income folks clashed with government forces during the quarantine. WATCH:  While other reports suggest social unrest could soon erupt in the country, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made it very clear on government media on April 1 that police will shot any citizen defying the public health order to shelter-in-place. “Shoot them dead”: After Filipinos defied a coronavirus lockdown to protest a lack of food, their president, Rodrigo Duterte, took to the airwaves declaring that he will order the military to shoot troublemakers dead  — CBS News (@CBSNews) April 2, 2020 "I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there's violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead," Duterte said. "Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose." "Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave," he warned, adding that COVID-19 is quickly spreading across the country despite a lockdown.  According to Johns Hopkins, the Philippines (on Friday morning, April 3) has recorded 3,018 confirmed cases of the virus and 136 deaths – much less than surrounding countries.

"Unprecedented Decline" - The Collapse In World Trade Is A Once In A Generation Shock - COVID-19 is expected to produce a global recession depression as nearly all of the world's major economies have ground to a halt between February and March, expected to continue through April. The crash in China's economic activity, shown last month, suggests that Europe and the US will face similar outcomes. There is some concern that the longest economic expansion on record will end this quarter as the global economy has been battered by bat soup.As the fast-spreading virus terrorizes the US, China, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Iran, the UK, Switzerland, South Korea, and other countries, more than 537,000 confirmed cases had been recorded across the world, with 24,100 deaths. Governments have had no other choice than to order a complete shutdown of their respected economies to flatten the curve and slowdown infections. As World Trade Organization (WTO) Chief Economist Robert Koopman told Bloomberg, mass quarantines and shuttering of businesses has resulted in a plunge in world trade -- "could be seen as a war-like scenario without the physical asset destruction." Data from the world's busiest ports in China showed containers were piling up with no place to go after supply chain disruptions were seen due to shutdowns in the country. There's also been a significant decline in maritime activity from China to North America, China to the Mediterranean, and China to Europe as the virus crisis worsens in the Western Hemisphere.In early March, we showed how supply chain disruptions from China started to wash ashore on US West Coast ports, especially collapsing containerized volumes at the Port of Long Beach. IHS Markit data compiled by Bloomberg shows US import and export volumes dramatically slowed in the weeks leading up to the shutdowns of US cities.Former White House economist Phil Levy told Bloomberg that the US economy is expected to fall 'very sharply' over the second quarter, calling it an "unprecedented decline…because of the speed at which it is happening.""If we are already starting to match Great Recession statistics, that means we are on pace for the modern record," said Levy, now the chief economist at freight logistics company Flexport.And to sum up, so far, the global economy has likely crashed, as per JPMorgan's chief US economist, Michael Feroli, who recently slashed his Q2 US GDP forecast to a staggering -14%

 UN warns that COVID-19 pandemic could trigger global food shortage - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the global food supply chain in a notice on their website writing: “We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.” The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen explained that while the supply of foodstocks is plentiful, the lockdowns, restrictions on all but essential work, shuttering of schools and border closures imposed around the world to limit the spread of the coronavirus are impacting farm workers and disrupting supply chains. This in turn is leading to a slowdown in the shipping industry, as many countries implement tighter controls on cargo vessels, as well as air cargo. These new measures will particularly affect fresh food produce and livestock.  The hardest hit will be the world’s most vulnerable people, including 300 million children who rely on school meals as their one reliable meal of the day. UN-supported school meals programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, benefit 85 million children, with 10 million depending on them for the main source of food. Mass layoffs and lower incomes will make it harder than ever for the most impoverished families to put food on the table. In an interview with the Guardian, Torero urged countries not to ban the export of foodstuffs saying, “The worst that can happen is that governments restrict the flow of food.” Protectionist measures and trade barriers would only make matters worse, creating “extreme volatility” in prices. Some countries have already begun to take such measures. March 20, for example, Russia called a halt to the export of buckwheat and other grains for 10 days, while Kazakhstan introduced restrictions on shipments of wheat flour, buckwheat, sugar, several types of vegetables and sunflower oil. Torero insisted that global food trade had to be kept going, warning against the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of the global food price crisis of 2008 when some countries imposed higher export taxes or export bans that provoked tit-for-tat reactions.