Top congressional Democrats renewed calls for a sweeping coronavirus relief package on Thursday, insisting that voters had given President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his party a mandate to fight the pandemic aggressively.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader in the Senate, cited record-breaking infections across the country, along with the presidential election results, to justify their position that any package must be much larger than what Republicans had been suggesting.
By holding firm to keeping $2.4 trillion in new spending as their starting point, Democrats appeared to be closing the door on the possibility of a year-end compromise with Republicans, who have proposed spending a fraction of that amount.
“This election was maybe more a referendum on who can handle Covid well than anything else,” Mr. Schumer said. “The Donald Trump approach was repudiated and the Joe Biden approach was embraced. That is why we think there is a better chance of getting a deal in the lame duck.”
Hours after their remarks, the top Democrats talked to Mr. Biden by phone, stressing in a statement afterward that they were on the same page about the “urgent need” for Congress to provide funds to support Americans struggling in the pandemic, as well as the nation’s health care system, before he takes office. It had been unclear how actively Mr. Biden, the incoming head of the party, would involve himself in negotiations before his inauguration.
Leaders in both parties have acknowledged the need for another round of stimulus, but they have yet to agree on the scope and cost of a second package, with Republicans insisting on a much smaller bill than what Democrats — and even the White House — had been advocating ahead of the election.
But the potential for agreement appeared to narrow further on Thursday, with a top Republican indicating that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, was no longer planning to rely on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to cut a deal with Democrats.
“There hasn’t been any discussion yet between McConnell and Pelosi, but McConnell is not going to rely on Mnuchin anymore to do the dealing,” Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters on Thursday morning. “I think he’s intending to take it over and try to get something going.”
Mr. McConnell, for his part, told reporters on Capitol Hill that “my view is, the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October,” referring to the targeted $500 billion packages Senate Republicans tried to pass before the election.
The price tag Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer were discussing, he said, “is not a place I think we’re willing to go, but I do think there needs to another package.”
But Ms. Pelosi portrayed Republicans as “cold-hearted” for insisting on a smaller relief package and tried to upbraid them.
“It’s like the house is burning down and they just refuse to throw water on it,” she said.
Both sides will also have to reach an agreement on critical spending legislation to prevent a lapse in government funding on Dec. 11, with either an agreement on the dozen annual must-pass bills or another stopgap spending bill.
Disney on Thursday reported an 82 percent decline in quarterly operating income, the result of steep losses at its coronavirus-devastated theme park division and the postponement of major movie releases.
But Wall Street had already decided that Disney’s overall results for the quarter, the fourth in the company’s fiscal year, would be “apropos of nothing,” as Todd Juenger, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a Nov. 2 research report. Investors are confident that Disney’s theme park empire will come roaring back when a vaccine is deployed — and all they really care about anyway, at least for the moment, is streaming, streaming, streaming.
To that end, Disney said its flagship streaming service, Disney+, had 73.7 million subscribers as of Oct. 3, surpassing the low end of its initial five-year goal after only 11 months. Disney also owns Hulu (36.6 million subscribers, up 27 percent from a year earlier) and an ESPN-branded streaming service (10.3 million, triple the number from a year earlier). Disney will soon introduce Star, an overseas version of Hulu stocked with programming from Disney properties like ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight and 20th Century Studios, which Rupert Murdoch sold to the company last year.
Streaming is not yet a profitable business for Disney — far from it. Losses in the company’s direct-to-consumer division totaled $580 million in the quarter (which was less than analysts had feared), bringing losses for the fiscal year to $2.8 billion. Streaming-related losses are expected to peak in 2022, as rollout costs decline and content expenses normalize, with Disney+ profitability expected by 2024, according to analysts.
Disney shares rose more than 5 percent in after-hours trading, in part because overall results (a loss of 20 cents a share, after adjusting for one-time items, compared with per-share profit of $1.07 a year ago) were better than investors had expected. Despite the wreckage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic — Disneyland in California has been closed since March, with no reopening on the horizon — Disney shares have declined only 4 percent for the year.
The Senate could vote as soon as next week to confirm President Trump’s two outstanding nominees for the Federal Reserve’s seven-person Board of Governors — including Judy Shelton, whose unconventional views had prompted concern among some Republicans about her candidacy.
Senate confirmation would give Mr. Trump a near total lock on the Fed, with six of the seven seats filled by the president’s picks. That could present a challenge for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., given that the board has significant, unilateral power over regulation of the largest banks.
Regional Fed banks put bank rules into place, but the board members alone set them. Board members also hold seven of 12 votes on interest rates and bond buying, though monetary policy is typically approached in a much less partisan way.
Ms. Shelton’s nomination seemed imperiled earlier this year after several Republicans expressed concern about her shifting positions on interest rates and other issues. She and another Trump nominee, Christopher Waller, passed the Senate Banking Committee in July 2020, but their nominations have been held up by reticence among key senators over her background.
She has a long history of supporting some sort of return to the gold standard — a move mainstream economists more or less uniformly say would be damaging — and has at times questioned the value of the Fed’s political independence.
She also changed her views substantially after Mr. Trump took office, which made her critics worry that she might carry out monetary policy with partisan goals in mind. The Fed is insulated from the political cycle so that it will set interest rates in the economy’s best interest over the medium to long term, rather than trying to achieve party goals at a long-term expense to stability and growth.
But Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, told reporters on Thursday that she would support Ms. Shelton’s bid for the job. She had previously signaled that she was undecided about the nomination, and her newfound conviction suggests Ms. Shelton may have enough votes to pass the Senate.
Underlining that reality, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, told reporters that the floor vote on the two nominees “could be as early as next week,” and has been discussed by congressional leadership. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, began the procedural steps necessary to bring the vote on Ms. Shelton to the floor.
Ms. Shelton is nominated for an unexpired board seat that lasts only until early 2024, while Mr. Waller’s term would last until 2030. Mr. Waller is an official at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and a much more conventional pick for the role.
The United States had a record $284 billion deficit for the first month of its fiscal year, more than double shortfall from October 2019, as the nation’s finances continued to face strains amid the pandemic.
The federal budget figures, released by the Treasury Department on Thursday, underscored the economic damage from the pandemic recession, which has necessitated huge amounts of government spending while sapping tax revenue.
Government tax receipts were down as millions of people remain out of work and some payroll taxes have been deferred until the beginning of 2021. Government spending continued to surge last month, largely related to outlays for coronavirus relief programs such as unemployment insurance and food assistance.
In October, the government spent $522 billion and received $238 billion. The $284 billion deficit was 111 percent higher than the $134 billion shortfall in October 2019.
The deep fiscal hole will present a challenge for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is expected to try to pass another stimulus package once he takes office. The federal budget deficit soared to a record $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year and U.S. government debt outpaced the size of the American economy, reaching 100.1 percent of gross domestic product, up from 79.2 percent at the end of fiscal 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Lawmakers have been grappling with how much to spend on another stimulus package. With President Trump leaving office, Republicans have been increasingly concerned about deficits, suggesting that a broad and expensive relief bill is unlikely to pass.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, and Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, both voiced caution over the prospect for a coronavirus vaccine — arguing that there are too many uncertainties ahead to assume that the global economy is out of danger.
Coronavirus cases are rising in the United States and around the world, which could imperil a steady recovery that has taken place since lockdowns sent economic activity plummeting in March and April. Markets surged in recent days on hopes that a vaccine will be available soon, after the pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Monday announced strong results for its potential coronavirus vaccine.
But the foremost leaders of the global economy sounded less sanguine.
“That is certainly good and welcome news for the medium term,” Mr. Powell said of a vaccine, but it is “too soon” to assess with confidence the meaning for the economy, adding that “the next few months could be challenging.”
He highlighted the virus surge as the biggest cause for concern.
“We do see the economy continuing on a solid path of recovery, but the main risk we see to that is clearly the further spread of the disease here in the United States,” Mr. Powell said. “People may lose confidence that it is safe to go out.”
Ms. Lagarde said that she did not want to be “exuberant” about the vaccine, even as one looks likely early next year.
“There are still uncertainties — about the logistics, about the transportation, about the rolling out, about the fabrication” and about how many people can actually be vaccinated in 2021.
Mr. Powell, asked about the presidential election and Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, demurred. The Fed closely guards its political independence and avoids talking about partisan contests.
“I won’t comment directly or indirectly — other than to say that this is a good time to take a step back and let the institutions of our democracy continue to do our jobs,” he said. He also reiterated his regular comment that more government support “is likely” to be needed to get through the pandemic era. “My sense is that we will need to do more, and that Congress may need to do more as well.”
Delta Air Lines has banned nearly 550 customers for refusing to wear masks aboard its planes, its chief executive said Thursday. It is the latest step the company has taken to assure employees and passengers that it is taking the pandemic seriously.
Over the summer, airlines started to ban passengers for refusing to comply with mask requirements in an effort to bolster confidence in the measures the companies were taking to protect travelers. They have also been deep-cleaning planes, leavings seats empty and reducing physical interactions between staff and passengers.
“Fortunately, that number represents a tiny fraction of our overall customers, the vast majority of whom follow our guidelines and appreciate the steps we are taking to keep them safe and healthy,” Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said in a letter updating staff on a range of subjects.
United Airlines said that it had put nearly 350 passengers to its no-fly list. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines declined to say how many people they had put on similar lists.
Delta and Southwest, which are widely regarded as the strongest companies in the industry, are the only large airlines leaving middle seats empty to promote distancing, in part because they can afford to forgo the revenue from keeping seats empty. Southwest plans to end the practice after Thanksgiving and Delta has said it will leave it in place at least through the end of the year.
With demand for flights down substantially — airport traffic on Wednesday was down about two-thirds compared with last year, according to federal data — airlines are desperately marketing the measures they’re taking to keep passengers safe.
The government reported on Thursday that 723,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to inflict economic damage.
Another 298,000 new claims were filed under a federal emergency program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, designed for freelancers, part-time workers and others who are not normally eligible for state benefits. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the figure for new state claims was 709,000.
New claims declined to a new low from the stratospheric multimillion levels reached in the spring — but they continue to outrun records set in previous recessions.
“The gradual healing of the labor market continued, but the magnitude is still high,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.
“Technically it looks like we’re in a recovery,” she said, “but we’re still so much in the hole.”
Prospects for digging out of that hole are shadowed by the alarming rise in coronavirus caseloads around the country.
And many people already collecting unemployment insurance have been hitting the 26-week limit on benefits that exists in most states.
Those workers are eligible to receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits under a federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, though the transfer from one program to the other is not automatic in some states. That caseload has been rising.
Most economists agree that controlling the pandemic is a prerequisite for an economic recovery regardless of any government-ordered shutdowns.
News of the development of a vaccine that is 90 percent effective lifted hopes — and markets — this week. But Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said on Tuesday, “The economy right now is being dictated by coronavirus’s existence, and I think less by the potential for a vaccine.”
Several Fed officials, including the chair, Jerome H. Powell, have said Congress’s failure to agree on another relief package for individuals and business will hamper any recovery. Both federal pandemic-related jobless programs will expire at the end of the year without further action.
Stocks lost ground on Thursday as the exuberance over potential success in the development of a coronavirus vaccine faded in the face of steadily rising infections and spreading lockdowns.
The S&P 500 dropped 1 percent. Many of the leading decliners on Thursday were companies sensitive to investors’ concerns about the pandemic. Carnival, the cruise line, fell 7.8 percent; Wynn Resorts dropped about 5.5 percent, and the shopping mall operator Simon Property was down 6.2 percent.
The United States set records for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations on Wednesday, and many cities and states began imposing new restrictions on public life. Worldwide, the number of new infections is growing faster than ever, with many European countries hit particularly hard.
Detroit’s public school system said on Thursday that it would shift to online learning until January. New York is weighing closing its system, and the governors of seven northeastern states announced on Thursday that interstate youth hockey competition would be suspended for the rest of the year after outbreaks linked to games.
The spread of the virus threatens the economy’s recovery, Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair said on Thursday, if people stop leaving their homes.
Stocks are up 8 percent in November so far, in Wall Street’s best two-week stretch since April when markets were rebounding from their plunge over fears of the pandemic’s economic impact.
Most of the gains came last week, as clarity over the outcome of the U.S. election raised investor sentiment. Stocks were also jolted higher this week by promising news from Pfizer and BioNTech about a vaccine under development.
Moderna, the pharmaceutical firm developing a coronavirus vaccine, said Wednesday evening that it had accumulated enough data to begin the first preliminary analysis of its drug. The results are expected within days.
Still, distribution of either vaccine is likely to be complicated by logistical challenges. Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, must be transported and stored in extremely cold temperatures.
“There are still uncertainties — about the logistics, about the transportation, about the rolling out, about the fabrication” and about how many people can actually be vaccinated in 2021, Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, said at the same event as Mr. Powell on Thursday.
Tesla has dominated the market for electric cars, but will soon face a much more crowded playing field.
Rivian, a start-up backed by Amazon and Ford Motor, said late Wednesday that it would begin delivering its highly anticipated electric pickup truck and electric sport-utility vehicle next summer. The upscale models will compete directly with Tesla’s vehicles. Separately on Thursday, Ford unveiled an electric cargo van set to go into production in late 2021.
Rivian’s pickup, the R1T, will be available in June for $75,000 and will be able to go more than 300 miles on a full charge. In August, the company will start delivering its S.U.V., the R1S, with the same range and a price of $77,500. Both vehicles should be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and various state incentives.
Other models priced at or below $70,000, and some with options for larger batteries that can support more than 400 miles of travel, will arrive in early 2022, Rivian said.
The Rivian vehicles are likely to arrive a few months before Tesla begins selling its angular Cybertruck pickup. Tesla has said its truck will start at a base price of $39,000. The tax credit is no longer available to Tesla buyers.
Ford’s van, the E-Transit, will start at $45,000, and is designed for delivery companies, plumbers, contractors and other businesses. The van will have a range of 126 miles. Ford said that would be sufficient because commercial van users typically operate in limited geographical area, and often drive just 50 miles a day.
Ford plans to produce the E-Transit at a plant in Kansas City, Mo. In 2022, it plans to add an electric version of its F-150 pickup, made in Kansas City and Dearborn, Mich.
Later this year, Ford intends to start making the Mustang Mach E, an electric S.U.V. styled to look like its sports car. General Motors also recently announced an electric Hummer pickup truck, which it will start selling next year.
With the coronavirus pandemic entering its ninth month, economists warn that the prolonged downturn could inflict long-lasting wounds to the U.S. employment outlook.
“There’s a risk that we’re going to see permanent damage to the labor market,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, referring to laid-off workers who end up dropping out of the work force and to industries like restaurants, entertainment, travel and hospitality that are unable to return to full capacity.
Roughly one-third of unemployed workers have been without a job for 27 weeks or more, compared with 4.1 percent in April. The longer someone is unemployed, the harder it is to get back into the work force.
There have been more job gains than losses recently, and the unemployment rate fell last month to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent in September. But much of the progress was in dining and retail businesses, which are the most vulnerable to losses from rising coronavirus caseloads.
State unemployment rolls have declined in recent weeks, but some of that drop is a result of program limits: In most states, benefits expire after 26 weeks.
Some of the workers who have hit the limits of their state benefits have signed up for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a program that Congress created in March to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits for people who exhausted their state aid. The number of filings in this program increased to 4.14 million for the week ending Oct. 24, from 3.98 million the previous week.
“That’s where you see the wounds festering and worry about how deep they are and how much they’ll scar us,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took the unusual step Wednesday of elevating an editorial critical of Georgia’s incumbent Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, above the banner on its front page.
In the editorial, which was posted online on Tuesday, The Journal-Constitution took aim at Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue for calling on Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, to resign for “mismanagement and lack of transparency” in Georgia’s elections. They did not offer any specific allegations.
“Reckless barely begins to touch on what Perdue and Loeffler have done,” the editorial said. “Without presenting reasons, they have assaulted Georgia’s election system. That is dangerous behavior in this tense moment, both for this state and for the nation that is watching this risky sideshow.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution puts its editorial above the banner today:
“Sens. Loeffler and Perdue have assaulted Georgia’s election system” pic.twitter.com/d0JQXyrqWs
— Bill Grueskin (@BGrueskin) November 11, 2020
The newspaper noted that it had been critical of Mr. Raffensperger in the past, but that the charges from Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue were “hyperbole and sly accusations.”
“Their attack seems directly crafted to appeal to core supporters of President Donald Trump who has, so far, refused to acknowledge the reported results of this month’s election,” the editorial said.
Mr. Raffensperger said he had no intention of resigning.
Georgia has emerged as a political battleground, and one that is central to Mr. Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud. (Election officials there and in other states have said there is no evidence of fraud.) On Wednesday, Mr. Raffensperger authorized a hand recount of votes for the presidential election, though it is unlikely to reverse Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s current narrow lead over Mr. Trump.
Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue both face runoff elections on Jan. 5 for their Senate seats. Democrats have a chance to regain the chamber if they flip both seats.