Stocks were broadly lower on Friday, as new doubts about the strength of the United States economy and continuing concerns about U.S.-China relations gave traders reasons to avoid risky investments.
European markets were 1 to 2 percent lower, and every major market in Asia suffered losses. In New York, futures pointed to a fall of less than 0.5 percent when trading starts later on Friday.
In other markets, the move to safer investments pushed the price of 10-year U.S. Treasury notes higher, and gold gained about 0.3 percent. Crude oil futures also gained.
Thursday’s data on new state unemployment insurance claims in the United States — showing the first increase in nearly four months — provided evidence that the American economy is backsliding.
The claims are rising just as a $600-a-week federal supplement to jobless benefits is set to expire, and as the virus continues to spread: The United States surpassed four million total cases on Thursday, and another day of at least 1,100 deaths.
Investors were also troubled by continuing problems between the world’s two largest economies. China on Friday ordered the United States to shut its consulate Chengdu, in retaliation for the Trump administration’s order to close Beijing’s consulate in Houston. The move was not unexpected, but that was little consolation to investors.
Asian markets fell though the day. China’s Shanghai Composite lost 3.9 percent by the end of the trading session, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 2.2 percent, Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.6 percent and the Kospi in South Korea ended 0.7 percent lower.
British retail sales have returned to levels last seen before the pandemic and government-imposed lockdown, according to official statistics published Friday. The volume of sales jumped nearly 14 percent in June from the previous month.
It’s a welcome sign for an economy on track for its worst recession in three centuries. Though the volume of sales is reminiscent of the pre-pandemic period, the types of spending has changed substantially. About a third of all spending was online in June, compared with 20 percent in February. Average weekly online sales jumped from 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in February to a record £2.5 billion in June.
Spending in food stores, which has been strong through the pandemic, is still historically high. Spending on clothes and shopping in town centers were still down by a third. In June, sales for household goods, such as furniture and hardware recovered their lockdown losses as these stores reopened.
Samuel Tombs, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, cautioned that the jump in retail spending didn’t mean a wider recovery was taking hold. This “is not a sign that households’ overall spending also is recovering fully and rapidly,” Mr. Tombs wrote in a note.
Retail spending usually accounts for less than a third of household expenditures, he said, and it was bolstered in June because consumer services — such as eating out, going to a hairdresser, leisure travel — remained largely unavailable.
He said recent payments data suggests spending on non-urgent items, such as household goods and clothes, peaked in early July. “Real-time data suggest that this pent-up demand already has been satiated,” he added.
Pennies and dimes are hard to find in many parts of America after pandemic lockdowns disrupted their flow and kept households from exchanging their coin jars for dollar bills.
The United States Mint wants you to know that you can be part of the solution.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins,” the Mint, which is part of the Treasury, implored in a release on Thursday. “The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part.”
Other options include depositing coins or exchanging them for cash.
The coin shortage has forced regional Federal Reserve banks, which distributes coins, to institute a rationing system. On June 30, the Fed established a coin task force to deal with the unfolding crisis, complete with “industry leaders in the coin supply chain.”
The shortage has become a problem for many small businesses across America and has been the topic of local news coverage and of discussion on a corner of Reddit devoted to prepping strategies.
Even big retailers are feeling the penny pinch — Walmart, CVS, Kroger and other chains have begun asking customers to pay with plastic when possible or to use exact change.
While digital payments have become prevalent, coins have remained crucial to some parts of the economy: parking meters, vending machines, amusement parks and even campground showers. For the millions of households without bank accounts, cash is an essential part of daily life.
“For millions of Americans, cash is the only form of payment and cash transactions rely on coins to make change,” the Mint said.
“As important as it is to get more coins circulating, safety is paramount,” it added. “Please be sure to follow all safety and health guidelines.”
Disney on Thursday gave a worrisome update on its movie business — the largest in Hollywood, by far, and still mostly shut down because of the pandemic — by delaying the theatrical release of its live-action “Mulan” indefinitely and pushing back three upcoming “Star Wars” movies and four scheduled “Avatar” sequels by one year each.
The next “Star Wars” movie will not arrive until 2023, making for a far less promising 2022 for Disney’s movie and consumer products divisions. “Mulan” was supposed to arrive in theaters on Aug. 21 after being pushed back several times already.
“It’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis,” Disney said in a statement.
In a similar move, Warner Bros. on Monday indefinitely delayed Christopher Nolan’s big-budget “Tenet,” which had been scheduled to arrive in theaters on Aug. 12.
Some upcoming Disney movies are being delayed because the coronavirus has halted movie production across Hollywood. But the “Mulan” postponement reflects the economics of blockbuster-style films and the inability of theaters in some crucial markets — New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area — to reopen without government approval, the timing of which is impossible to predict. To release “Mulan” on Aug. 21, Disney would need to start its advertising barrage now. But no company wants to spend a minimum of $150 million to market a movie worldwide if it can’t be sure that the advertised product will be available.
Similarly, because these movies cost roughly $200 million just to produce, the only way to make them financially viable is to make them available everywhere all at once, thwarting piracy as much as possible. New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area are the country’s three biggest markets for ticket sales; it would be a financial calamity to release a “tent pole” movie with even one of those areas offline.
Disney’s next megamovie will now not arrive until at least November, when “Black Widow” is set to roll into theaters.
AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest cinema chain, said Wednesday it was delaying the opening of its more than 1,000 theaters in the United States until mid-to-late August.
Without its movie division to generate revenue, Disney’s theme parks have become even more important to the conglomerate. Disney reopened Walt Disney World in Florida earlier this month. It has been accused of irresponsibility from people concerned about visitor and worker health, but Disney has developed what it believes are safe operating procedures. And it gets to tell investors on its Aug. 4 earnings call that at least something came back online in the quarter.
🤳🏻 BuzzFeed said it had laid off 50 employees, including 10 people in its news division.The employees were among a group of 74 who were furloughed in the spring, the company said. Buzzfeed cut the salaries of its U.S. workers earning more than $40,000, and top executives had their pay reduced by 25 percent. Jonah Peretti, the company’s chief executive, said he would forgo his salary until the crisis passed. Employees will get between four and eight weeks of severance, and BuzzFeed will pay for insurance through September 30, a spokesman said.
📽 AMC Theatres delayed the opening of its more than 1,000 theaters in the United States until mid-to-late August. The move was not a surprise, given that it arrived on the heels of the Warner Bros. announcement earlier this week that its big-budgeted thriller “Tenet” would not be released on its rescheduled date of Aug. 12. With the coronavirus showing no signs of abatement, the studios and their movie theater partners have been playing a game of chicken, postponing the return to moviegoing until the virus numbers show a decline.