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Three Buffett stocks, in particular, are trouncing Berkshire in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt many companies, Amazon's business has thrived. The impact of the global novel coronavirus outbreak has turned Amazon's business upside down -- mostly in a good way.
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is scaling back deliveries and adjusting routes in a small number of cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked demonstrations around the country, prompting curfew orders.“We are monitoring the situation closely and in a handful of cities we adjusted routes or scaled back typical operations to ensure the safety of our teams,” an Amazon spokeswoman told Bloomberg News.Amazon’s action shows how protests around the country are complicating operations for the e-commerce giant, which was still catching up from a surge in demand tied to the Covid-19 outbreak.In Chicago and Los Angeles, Amazon delivery drivers received messages Saturday night that said: “If you are currently out delivering packages, stop immediately and return home. If you have not completed your route, please return undelivered packages to the pick-up location whenever you’re able to do so.”Amazon was “in close contact with local officials and will continue to monitor the protests,” and would only re-open delivery stations when it’s safe and will plan delivery routes by monitoring demonstrations in every zip code, according to messages reviewed by Bloomberg.(Updated with additional cities in 1st paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As the coronavirus forced the western world into lockdown in March, humans were confronted with a moral test. Drawing on centuries of philosophical thought that produced the world’s competing modern value systems, each person had to decide which measures were justified to limit the medical and economic carnage. There was plenty of possibility for discord.Initially, people and leaders coalesced around a version of the biblical philosophy of the “golden rule” — that we should not do to others what we wouldn’t want done to ourselves. That was the basis for asking everyone to make personal and economic sacrifices to limit the death and suffering of the weakest and oldest. Governments of the left and the right made that choice, strongly supported by religious leaders up to and including the Pope.At the time, I wrote, “We are all Rawlsians now,” invoking the Harvard philosopher John Rawls who 50 years ago put a version of the golden rule at the heart of his influential theory of justice.I was wrong. Now the brief weeks of Rawlsian unity have given way to a bitter factional and cultural battle, with rival moral principles hurled like metaphysical grenades. Different countries have taken antithetical approaches while the U.S. has split itself almost into two nations, divided between those who wear masks and those who do not.“Quarantine is when you restrict movement of sick people. Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people,” Meshawn Maddock, an unmasked protester in Michigan proclaimed to Fox News.Masks, which were not at first recommended by the public-health authorities in the U.S., have created the deepest fault line. “Mask-shaming” started as a tactic by government-supporting mask-wearers. Early in the lockdowns, Jorge Elorza, a law professor who serves as the Democratic mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, encouraged people to speak up if they saw someone in public without a face mask. “You should socially shame them, so they fall in line,” he said.Meanwhile in Texas, chat-show host Brenden Dilley donned a Trump 2020 cap and took to Twitter to explain why he was not wearing a mask. “Better to be dead than a dork,” he said, throwing in some F-bombs for emphasis. “Yes, I mean that literally. I’d rather die than look like an idiot right now, you weakling.”It took North Dakota’s Republican governor Doug Burgum to remind citizens tearfully that those wearing masks might be doing so to protect a loved one who was vulnerable.What has gone wrong? What has the virus revealed about the moral principles that motivate us? The story can be told with the aid of an allegory, a novel by Steven Lukes, a British political philosopher who now teaches at New York University, called "The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat."Professor Caritat’s JourneyLukes’s allegory is simple but devastatingly effective. Professor Caritat is an expert in enlightenment philosophy in the country of Militaria, which emphasizes order above all else, and sounds like contemporary China. He is imprisoned for his subversive beliefs. Members of the opposition spring him from jail and send him on a trek through the neighboring countries of Utilitaria, Communitaria and Libertaria in search of the best way to run society. Everybody knows that they hate the military government, but what should they replace it with?These countries follow three great schools of moral thought:Utilitarians, following the Victorian reformer Jeremy Bentham, who believe in pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number, even if such an approach may bring harm to some. Communitarians, who believe that the sense of moral duty is rooted in a sense of community, and look for a concept of “common good.” Libertarians, who believe that individual freedom is paramount, and therefore resist attempts at paternalism or coercion. In Lukes’s words, “Each of these countries takes one of these ideas to an extreme to the exclusion of the others, and each one is a dystopia.”In Utilitaria, which is gleaming and prosperous, the elderly are routinely put to a humane death. Abortion is legal but decided on by the government, which rules whether any given birth would aid the general happiness.In Communitaria, everyone is divided into narrow camps, and it is almost impossible to do or say anything without causing offense (which will be punished as a crime).In Libertaria, which calls the contemporary U.S. to mind, citizens are left alone, which means that many are left to sleep on the street, city centers are full of sleaze, and a few rich people benefit from gambling.It is a brilliant tour of moral thought, and Lukes told me the book was most influenced by Isaiah Berlin, the 20th-century British philosopher and essayist. Both Berlin and Rawls were present at the lectures in which Lukes first told the fables of the different countries that would become the novel.“The book is really about pluralism: Is there an irreducible conflict between these values?” Lukes said. “Rawls is an attempt to somehow bring them together to give an overarching theory that somehow encompasses everything. You could contrast that with Berlin’s position that these are irreducible conflicts that aren’t going to be resolved, because that’s what life is. Instead you just have to choose what your ultimate values are.”By the end of Lukes’s allegory, Professor Caritat has come around to the Berlin point of view: The conflicts between these competing moral systems can’t be resolved.And looking at the real-life allegory acting itself out in the U.S., Berlin again seems to have been proven right. We are not arriving at a position of moral coherence, but instead confront moral conflict. How did this happen?Rawlsian PhantomsIt’s evident now that those early days of Rawlsian unity were an illusion. Yes, the calls for sacrifice to protect the elderly certainly sounded as though motivated by the golden rule. But in the months since, the scandal of those abandoned to die in nursing homes on both sides of the Atlantic has only grown.Moreover, getting people to sacrifice in the name of the golden rule requires trust in governments to make sure that those sacrifices are not wasted. In many places, that doesn’t exist. The deepening inequality across the western world would have been anathema to Rawls. In the U.S., long-standing casualties of inequality such as African-Americans and Native Americans turned out to be particularly susceptible to the virus, so the pandemic began to reinforce existing feelings of injustice.Other than in countries where the state could rely on its ability to coerce people, like China, lockdowns worked most effectively under governments perceived to be trustworthy and efficient, like Germany or Norway. In Norway, people believed that enforced self-isolation would pay off. In the U.S., public-health failures blazed a trail of skepticism.When governments are perceived to be unfair or inconsistent, Rawlsian discipline breaks down. Exhibit A is the remarkable story of Dominic Cummings, the Svengali-like political adviser to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Britain has a strong tradition of accepting authority, and the population had complied with a strict lockdown with minimal protest — until it was revealed that Cummings had broken the lockdown rules to drive 260 miles with his wife and child when he thought the family might have contracted Covid-19. It led to an outcry, especially as Johnson refused to dismiss him, claiming that Cummings had been concerned for his family and was entitled to use his discretion (opening the way for many more Britons to stop social distancing), and Cummings refused to apologize.For the many Britons who had gone without funerals or visits to elderly parents, this was a fatal philosophical blow. If Cummings had broken the golden rule, and the government had supported him, there was no reason why they should follow. The ministers defending Cummings were “telling the nation that Dom’s only crime was loving his family too much — and so implicitly telling every Briton who obeyed the rules that they loved their family too little,” the columnist Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian.A final problem for self-sacrifice a la Rawls was that people felt that governments were asking too much, stretching the golden rule too far. Ashley Radcliffe, a stay-at-home mother from the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Woods put it this way in an interview with the Detroit Free Press:The restrictions are too much. People want to work. They want their lives back. In the first couple weeks I was like, 'We're all staying in.' And we all did. Then that kind of wore off. She has restarted neighborhood play dates for her 5-year-old son. Liberty? Which Kind?Resisting authority is one thing. Fighting for liberty is another. Much depends upon exactly what liberty means, and Isaiah Berlin framed that moral debate. In a famous 1959 essay called "Two Concepts of Liberty," Berlin suggested that libertarians practiced either “positive” liberty, which entails the active freedom to do something, or “negative” liberty, which is freedom from interference. His point was that these two kinds of liberty are different. The U.S. Constitution is rooted in negative liberty, the freedom to be left alone. But the protesters who entered the Michigan capitol in Lansing with assault rifles in April and May were plainly pursuing positive liberty. Berlin, who was born in Latvia in 1909 when it was part of the Russian empire, believed that opened doors to totalitarianism.What, in any case, do the protesters want? A mandatory lockdown clearly violates any definition of liberty, but can this really be said of requiring people to wear a mask when entering a shop? In one incident, a man was caught on video demanding the right to enter a Costco unmasked “because I woke up in a free country.” In Albany, Minnesota, chanting protesters tried to pull the mask off a reporter, asserting their positive liberty to violate his negative liberty. Various people have been caught on camera deliberately coughing or spitting on people asking them to put on a mask.Libertarians often face criticism that they are justifying selfishness, and disregard for others. Such incidents confirm the stereotype and embarrass many libertarians. Resistance against incursions by an untrustworthy state does not justify violence against people who wear masks, or even going maskless in public. As Lukes put it: “You are putting other people in danger and you are putting yourself in danger. If liberty just means no restraint on something we might want to do, there are obvious deprivations of liberty that are totally justified. Like driving drunk.”Positive liberty also violates many American conservatives’ respect for their community and its norms, even if they share an instinctive distrust of over-reaching governments. Gary Adkisson, publisher of the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, wrote of how he would arrive dirty from work in the fields at a store with a “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” sign: There were rarely any other shoppers there, but my grandfather or uncles would not let us go inside shirtless or shoeless. It didn’t matter that no one else was there, or that the shirts were no cleaner than our skin, or that we would take them off as soon as we left. We wore them because that’s what the proprietor required. It was a matter of respect.Opposition to lockdowns and masks is led by libertarians, but — much as Berlin might have predicted — self-isolation also runs afoul of communitarian and utilitarian ideals. Communitarians, on the right as well as the left, sense that lockdowns violate traditions and harm the community. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, was articulating a communitarian spirit when he said on a Sunday talk show: “We take the virus very seriously. It’s a risk. It causes death. But you can’t cloister yourself at home. That is just contrary to the American spirit.”And of course there is the powerful utilitarian argument that lockdowns are wrecking the economy. That can be attacked as preferring profit to people, but record unemployment numbers suggest a real risk of a mental health crisis that could counterbalance the public-health benefits of reducing the Covid-19 death toll. In Italy, where the disease swamped hospitals for a time, doctors resorted to utilitarian rationing of care.None of the great schools of philosophy appears to have been deemed adequate on its own for the great test posed by the pandemic. Principles and TribesIf no version of moral philosophy has triumphed, what ideas are left standing? Is rhetorical allegiance to principles, such as the golden rule, liberty or the “American way,” just a cover for tribalism? As the virus has so far hit the geographical regions where one tribe of Americans lives, while mostly sparing the other, principles tend to rationalize behavior instead of guiding it. For people in the densely populated cities of the Acela corridor, who tend to be politically liberal, wearing masks and following government instructions seems like a good idea. For the more sparsely populated states in the middle of the country, whose citizens are philosophically more inclined to distrust the government, it is different.“People can vote or take political positions for a whole variety of motives,” said Lukes. “But nevertheless, when it comes to justifying their ideas they reach out for principles. Whether those principles are truly important to them is different.”And that is what has happened. Governments, with some exceptions, couldn’t persuade their people that they were really following the golden rule and treating everyone with equal respect. They also failed to prove that it was worth doing so. Protesters lost their patience, and misused the notion of liberty as a cudgel against lockdowns, while also bringing valid utilitarian, communitarian and libertarian criticisms into the fray. All may claim to be motivated by principle. But in the U.S., at least, people seem to be taking refuge in tribes, and joining those with whom they already share grievances.At this point, it looks as though Isaiah Berlin has been proven right.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.John Authers is a senior editor for markets. Before Bloomberg, he spent 29 years with the Financial Times, where he was head of the Lex Column and chief markets commentator. He is the author of “The Fearful Rise of Markets” and other books.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Amazon said a “bad actor” was to blame after listings containing racial slurs appeared on its store within searches for Apple’s AirPod earphones and similar products. Shoppers using Amazon’s UK-facing site and app discovered listings had replaced the product image with an abusive message that contained several instances of the N-word. Many of the listings appeared on the highly coveted and trafficked first page of results for “airpods” or “bluetooth headphones”.
Online sales have exploded during the coronavirus pandemic, as consumers try to stay home more. Online sales at Walmart, Target, and Best Buy in the first quarter increased by 74%, 141%, and 155%, respectively. Meanwhile, the 800-pound gorilla that is Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) continued its steady march, growing global online sales by 24% (Amazon's fiscal quarter ends a month before the other retailers mentioned).
HBO Max made its official entrance into the streaming wars on Wednesday — and its day-one performance highlights how consumers are embracing the new platform.
Apple (AAPL) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.
Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) and NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) are pillars of the video game industry. Meanwhile, many of the millions of PC gamers are using NVIDIA's graphics cards, and the company claims to serve more than 200 million gamers with its GeForce family of graphics processing units (GPUs) and is the market share leader in the discrete GPU market. With more people at home since March, Activision Blizzard reported high engagement levels across most of its games.
For retirees or those planning their retirement, stocks that pay their dividends monthly are particularly attractive investments. With its stock 66% below the 52-week high of almost $8.50 per share hit last September -- or even the $7 level it was trading at just before the COVID-19 outbreak struck -- investors have an opportunity to realize significant capital appreciation with Enerplus while continuing to receive their monthly dividend check.
Zoom Video stock has soared 164% in 2020, so expectations are high for the videoconferencing specialist's Q1 earnings.
5 Tips to Help You Become a Better Dividend Investor
(Bloomberg) -- Occidental Petroleum Corp. cut its quarterly dividend by 91% to the lowest since at least the 1970s amid the pandemic-driven collapse in energy demand that has strained the oil explorer’s ability to shoulder its debt.Occidental shareholders will receive a penny per share on July 15, the Houston-based company said in a statement Friday. The move extends a cut announced in March when it trimmed the payout to 11 cents from 79 cents.The surprise cut came the same day under-fire Chief Executive Vicki Hollub and the rest of the board of directors won re-election at Occidental’s annual shareholders’ meeting. The company will announce the final vote tallies in a regulatory filing later.Hollub has weathered extreme pressure from shareholders ever since outbidding Chevron Corp. to win the purchase of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. last year. The deal saddled Occidental with some $40 billion of debt that was looking hard to pay off even before Covid-19 wiped out global oil demand, sending crude prices plunging to an unprecedented minus $40 a barrel at one point last month.The benchmark U.S. oil price rebounded 88% in May to close the month above $35 a barrel, but it’s still 44% down from its high point in January and below a level that would ensure healthy cash flow for most producers.The dividend reduction will save Occidental about $360 million a year, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the wall of debt due over the coming years. The company probably kept a token payout to avoid mandatory selling of the stock by dividend funds and to signal that it aims to restock the stipend at some point in the future, according to Leo Mariani, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets.“They need that extra money at $35 a barrel oil, so it’s the right move,” Mariani said by phone. “They’ve got to do whatever they can to survive.”What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysAlready reeling from elevated debt, a weak fundamental backdrop and investors disgruntled by the Anadarko deal, Occidental doesn’t have many near-term positives we can speak to.\-- Vincent G. Piazza and Evan Lee, analystsRead the full report here.The company’s primary focus is on “maximizing liquidity and reducing debt,” Hollub said at the annual meeting, held virtually on Friday. The company has gone from being a steady, diversified oil producer to a debt-laden, shale-focused driller that now has a market value of just $11.7 billion, less than a third of the price it paid for Anadarko. Its credit rating was downgraded to junk in March.The stock dropped 5.1% to $12.95 in New York on a day when West Texas Intermediate oil futures jumped more than 5%.Hollub fended off a shareholder revolt by making peace with the company’s second-largest shareholder, billionaire Carl Icahn, ending a nine-month public battle that included personal barbs against the CEO. However, it came at a cost. Hollub and her fellow directors agreed to cede some control by putting nominees of the activist investor on the board.(Updates with analyst’s comment from sixth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The stock market is not the economy. Perhaps that’s never been as clear as during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Even as nations stare down the inevitability of long, deep recessions and unprecedented levels of unemployment, U.S. stocks as measured by the S&P 500 Index have rallied for two straight months after plunging in February and March. There are a few reasons for optimism. First, there was the quick response by the government to pump trillions of dollars into the economy and financial system. And with the rate of new infections slowing, people are emerging from lockdowns into new socially-distanced economies. But the outlook is far from sunny. Covid-19 continues to kill thousands of people globally every day, there is no vaccine, and mandatory social-distancing rules (and fear) are contributing to what is forecast to be the worst recession since the Great Depression and squash corporate earnings for the foreseeable future. And that’s without accounting for a renewed worsening of U.S.-China tensions.Are stocks completely out of control? Bloomberg Opinion columnists have been pondering that very question:Jamie Dimon Captures the Stock Market Moment: “This is a recovery based so far on asset-price inflation rather than any economic data. Central bank and government action may have restored financial valuations but real incomes will still suffer dramatically for a long while to come … The stock market is looking even further into the distance than usual to justify its valuations, which is sometimes hard to square away against a constant stream of dire economic statistics and evaporating company earnings.” — Marcus AshworthFor Markets, It's the Economy's Direction That Matters: “It’s important to recognize that the magnitude of the weakness in the data is not driven by what we would think of as typical business cycle dynamics where a negative shock expands over time throughout the economy. Instead, we literally flipped a switch and told companies to close. You can’t feign surprise at layoffs in the leisure and hospitality sector when restaurants and entertainment venues are all shuttered overnight.” — Tim DuyOptions Market Signals a Dire Picture for Stocks: “The market prices of options play a vital role in informing market participants of what risks lie ahead, and given market efficiency, they often tell a reliable story. When viewed through the lens of options prices, the current equities rally appears tenuous.” — Alankar and ScholesWhat’s Keeping Stocks Afloat? The ‘Microsoft Market’: “No company has defied the pessimism more than Microsoft Corp., and for a lot of sensible reasons. The Seattle-based maker of global business and consumer software led all publicly traded companies most of the year with a $1.4 trillion market valuation.” — Matthew A. Winkler More ReadingStocks Have Reached a Tipping Point: John Authers Stock Prices Make Lofty Promises That Earnings Can’t Keep: Nir Kaissar Bank Stocks Are Either Cheap or Signal More Pain: Brian Chappatta All the Stocks Are the Same Now: Matt Levine Stock Traders Should Heed the Lessons of the 1930s: Gary ShillingThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion's social media channels.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of A- (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of "a-" of National Guaranty Insurance Company of Vermont (NGIC) (Burlington, VT). The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) remains stable.
Following a more than doubling of its stock over the last six months, expectations are high going into the videoconferencing company's earnings report next week.
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) today announced the appointment of two new Corporate Risk leaders and an enhanced organizational structure designed to provide greater oversight of all risk-taking activities and a more comprehensive view of risk across the company. The new risk model will have five line-of-business Chief Risk Officers (CROs) along with other teams aligned by risk type, each reporting to Wells Fargo CRO Mandy Norton.
Investors were slightly concerned Friday morning about some of the geopolitical pressures that are starting to make their way into the financial market. In particular, moves from China to change its relationship with Hong Kong aren't sitting well with some U.S. government officials, and the potential for icier relations between China and the U.S. reawakened fears from last year's trade disputes. On the earnings front, investors had to deal with some bad news from a couple of high-profile companies.
What happened Shares of Embraer (NYSE: ERJ) spiked 17% on Friday following a report that a Chinese manufacturer has expressed interest in joining forces with the world's third-largest commercial airplane manufacturer.
Fiscal third-quarter revenue beat expectations, though COVID-19 impacts caused an April comparable-sales drop that marked the first year-over-year decrease in over a decade.
U.S. stocks ended the session on May 28 mostly in the negative territory, as equities took a dive in the final trading hour after President Donald Trump said he would hold a news conference on China on May 29.
Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) last week reported its latest quarterly results, which makes it a good time...