Mnuchin Prepared to Give Relief Talks ‘One More Serious Try’: Live Updates

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would try to restart talks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a new economic relief bill.
Credit…Pool photo by Drew Angerer/EPA, via Shutterstock

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he was giving stimulus talks “one more serious try” and that he would present House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a counteroffer later in the day that lays out the Trump administration’s proposal.

“I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” Mr. Mnuchin said at a conference sponsored by CNBC.

The Treasury secretary said that the proposal would be similar to the one unveiled by the House Problem Solvers caucus this month and that it would be about $1.5 trillion.

Mr. Mnuchin said that it would include liability protections for schools and businesses, more economic impact payments, support for airlines and relief money for emergency workers in states.

“More fiscal response will help the economy,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

Mr. Mnuchin indicated that it would be clear in the next day or two if a deal was possible. He said he did not anticipate a stand-alone bill to help the airline industry but said that he would be briefing airline executives on Wednesday afternoon on progress and had been encouraging them to hold off on planned layoffs.

  • Stocks rallied on Wednesday as Wall Street looked to end a turbulent stretch with a small gain.

  • The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent in early trading and major benchmarks in Europe reversed early losses.

  • September has proved to be a turbulent period for stocks, as investors worried about gridlock over a new economic stimulus plan. The S&P 500 is still down about 4 percent this month, its first monthly decline since March.

  • But those losses have been trimmed somewhat in the final days of the month, as negotiators resumed talks over a coronavirus relief package. House Democrats have unveiled a $2.2 trillion bill that would provide aid to American families, businesses, schools, restaurants and airline workers, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he was giving stimulus talks “one more serious try.”

  • Mr. Mnuchin said he would present House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a counteroffer later in the day that lays out the Trump administration’s proposal.

  • On Wednesday, shares of companies that have been hardest hit — and have proved to be bellwethers of investor sentiment about the pandemic — rallied. L Brands, the retailer, and Norwegian Cruise Line both rose more than 5 percent. United Airlines climbed more than 3 percent.

  • A retreat in once high-flying technology stocks like Apple and Amazon has also weighed on the broad market this month. Apple has dropped nearly 12 percent in September, through Tuesday’s close. Amazon is down 9 percent. Shares of both companies rose on Wednesday.

  • It may have helped on Wednesday that — despite its acrimonious tone — the presidential debate on Tuesday didn’t lead to any unexpected policy announcements by President Trump or his rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

  • “Markets have remained calm as no policy surprises have emerged from the debate so far,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda. “The uncertainty ahead of the debate has subsided.”

  • “Lost in the noise of the debate,” Mr. Halley added, “China has released another impressive set of data.” China’s official Purchasing Managers Index, which covers large firms, and the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, which includes an important measure of smaller export-oriented companies, both released stronger than expected numbers.

  • More numbers to come: On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will release the nonfarm payroll data for September.

One in four women — and one in three mothers — are considering scaling back or dropping out of the work force, according to a new study that examined disruptions in the workplace caused by the pandemic.

Mothers are more likely to be thinking about taking drastic steps than fathers, and among those mothers who are thinking about downsizing or leaving, a majority cite child care responsibilities as a primary reason, according to the study, the sixth annual Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org.

Researchers at McKinsey and Lean In polled more than 40,000 North American workers for the survey, which is one of the most comprehensive studies of working men and women during the pandemic. The study comes at a time when many children have returned to school and parents are struggling to juggle work responsibilities while helping their adjust to online learning or a different and limited in-person school schedule.

The study also found that the pandemic has hit Black and Latina mothers particularly hard, with Latina mothers 1.6 times more likely than white mothers to be responsible for all child care and housework, and Black mothers twice as likely to be handling these obligations.

The report warned that corporate America is at a crossroads for gender parity. Over all, the study found that as many as two million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the work force, the first year that the study has shown signs that women are leaving the labor force at higher rates than men.

“Without bold steps, we could erase all the progress we’ve made toward gender equality in the six years of this study,” the report stated. “But if companies rise to the moment, we can lay the foundation for a more flexible and equitable workplace in the long term.”

Black and Latino households with children are more likely to face financial hardships in the pandemic than their white counterparts, according to a new study.
Credit…Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

More than 60 percent of households with children in the United States reported serious financial problems — including struggles to afford medical care, depletion of household savings and difficulty paying credit card and other debts — during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.

Black and Latino households with children bear the brunt of the hardships. Of the Latino households who responded, 86 percent reported these difficulties; in Black households, 66 percent reported them. In white households, the number hovers around 50 percent.

The immense differences were surprising, as they came after federal and state governments invested heavily in programs for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, said Robert Blendon, a director of the study behind the report and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“So much money was spent to put a cushion under households,” Dr. Blendon said, adding that because of this, “the expenditures should have lowered for everybody.” But, he said, “the numbers of people in trouble, that is the shock.”

The poll, conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 3,400 adults, 1,000 of whom were living with children under the age of 18, from July 1 to Aug. 3.

Now that some government measures to support households financially during the pandemic are waning, experts are concerned that the financial devastation could be worse than what the survey shows, said Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now, Dr. Morita said, “households are probably suffering just as much if not more,” leaving Black and Latino communities especially “unprotected.”

The survey highlights other challenges faced by households with children during the pandemic. More than a third of them reported “serious problems” keeping children’s education going. Six in 10 said that an adult in the home lost their job, was furloughed or had wages or hours cut. And in nine out of 10 households where someone contracted the coronavirus, they faced “serious financial problems” in addition to difficulty caring for their children.

These responses, Dr. Blendon said, show that a high number of households — particularly Black and Latino ones — will face substantial long-term financial effects from the pandemic.

“It’s a very large number of people who can’t pay the basics,” Dr. Blendon said. “You have unbelievably vulnerable people over the next six months.”

The remains of the farmhouse at Castello di Amorosa winery in Napa, Calif.
Credit…Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 8,100 blazes have burned nearly four million acres across California this year. The Glass Fire that broke out this week near Napa, which is only 2 percent contained, is ravaging parts of the famous winemaking region in the middle of the harvest season, and the effects may linger long after it and other fires are extinguished.

Grapes untouched by flames can be tarnished by ash or smoke taint, and the extent of the damage is revealed only in the fermentation process. (Because red wines are fermented along with their skins, which bear the brunt of smoke taint, they are more affected than whites.) There is a testing backlog, so the extent of the taint is not yet known, Gladys Horiuchi of the lobbying group Wine Institute told the DealBook newsletter.

Most California wine grapes are sold in advance, so vineyards and wineries are negotiating to mitigate the impact of the fires, Ms. Horiuchi said. The goal is to avoid any smoke-tainted wine ever going on sale. That means, for now, drinkers are unaffected, sipping wines from prior harvests. But even if consumers don’t notice any difference in flavor or pricing down the line, behind the scenes, supply chains and longstanding industry relationships are already coming under strain.

Some wineries are offering growers reduced payments to keep them in business but avoid potentially tainted grapes, while major buyers like Constellation Brands warn that contracts could be voided for elevated taint. And wineries previously concerned about oversupply because of the pandemic’s effect on restaurant sales are looking to the bulk market to cover a potential shortfall.

The San Francisco Chronicle is keeping a running list of wineries and vineyards in Napa that have been hit by the Glass Fire, with extensive damage reported at Castello di Amorosa (although its famous castle survived), Chateau Boswell and LVMH-owned Newton Vineyard, among others.

Shell’s chief executive said the company was reshaping itself to meet a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Credit…Robin Utrecht/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, said Wednesday that he was speeding up a reorganization of the company that will result in the loss of up to 9,000 jobs by the end of 2022.

In an interview published on Shell’s website, Mr. van Beurden said the company needed to be reshaped to meet its targets of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. At the same time, Shell is under pressure to cut costs because of lower demand for oil and gas because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Europe’s major oil companies, including Shell, Total and BP, are shifting under pressure from society and government to reduce emissions in order to tackle climate change.

Mr. van Beurden said the job cuts would help Shell shed up to $2.5 billion in operating costs. He said that 1,500 people had already left the company on voluntary redundancy packages this year. Shell has about 83,000 employees.

By 2050, Mr. van Beurden said, Shell’s business lines would differ markedly from today. He said that Shell would still sell some oil and gas but that its products by midcentury would be “predominantly low-carbon electricity, low carbon biofuels,” as well as hydrogen and other “solutions.” The company is expected to present more details of its plans in February.

Rupert Stadler, center, in a Munich courtroom on Wednesday. He ran Audi from 2007 to 2018.
Credit…Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

A panel of judges began hearing evidence Wednesday against Rupert Stadler, the former chief executive of Audi, a division of Volkswagen, as he became the first of dozens of former managers and engineers to face trial in Germany on charges they oversaw an enormous emissions cheating conspiracy.

For the first time, prosecutors offered a new motivation for why they contend Mr. Stadler, who was also a member of Volkswagen’s management board, authorized the sale of diesel Audis with illegal emissions software even after U. S. authorities had exposed the fraud: He wanted to keep sales up so he could collect his bonus.

Mr. Stadler, 57, who ran Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury car division, from 2007 to 2018, arrived at a Munich courtroom Wednesday morning with his lawyers, German media reported.

The evidence against Mr. Stadler and three other defendants will be heard by a panel of three professional judges and two lay judges, who are similar to jurors, in that they do not necessarily have formal legal training. All five members of the panel will vote on whether to convict Mr. Stadler when the trial concludes after proceedings that are expected to last two years. He has denied the charges.

No witnesses were scheduled to testify Wednesday. Prosecutors were expected to spend most of the day reading a 92-page indictment, which details how Audi engineers developed software beginning in the early 2000s that could detect when regulators were testing a car’s emissions.

The software adjusted the emissions controls so that the car appeared to be compliant. Other times, the car polluted far more than allowed.

Initially, Audi wanted to spare customers the loud noise that diesel engines made while the emissions control system was warming up. Later, to avoid inconveniencing customers, Audi used the software to limit how often owners would have to refill a tank on the car with a fluid, known as AdBlue, that was necessary for the emissions system to work properly.

Engineers at Volkswagen, the parent company, adapted the illegal software in 2006 when they ran into problems developing a diesel engine that could meet U.S. pollution standards, which are stricter than in Europe.

Walt Disney World in Florida reopened in July but attendance has been weaker than the company anticipated.
Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times
  • Disney said it would eliminate 28,000 theme park jobs in the United States, or about 25 percent of its domestic resort work force. About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will be among the laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 before the pandemic. The job cuts, which will come from both resorts, will reduce that number to about 82,000.

  • JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay close to $1 billion as part of settlements to resolve charges that it had manipulated markets for U.S. government bonds and precious metals. The settlements announced on Tuesday — which include a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department — stem from charges that JPMorgan bankers placed artificial orders for futures contracts.

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The Treasury Department said Tuesday that it had completed loans for seven passenger airlines, drawing from the $25 billion set aside for the industry under the March stimulus law known as the CARES Act.

“The payroll support and loan programs created by the CARES Act have saved a large number of aviation industry jobs, and kept workers employed and connected to their health care, during an unprecedented time,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are pleased to conclude loans that will support this critical industry while ensuring appropriate taxpayer compensation.”

In exchange for the loans, the airlines are subject to requirements like limiting executive compensation, refraining from stock buybacks and issuing warrants or equity to the federal government. The recipients are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and United Airlines.

American announced last week that it had completed a $5.5 billion loan from the Treasury, but expected that to rise to $7.5 billion after the agency reallocates funding set aside for other carriers, like Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, that declined the loans. That amount, $7.5 billion, is the maximum any airline will receive, the Treasury said.

Steven Ray Littles II left his job as a Delta Air Lines flight attendant and plans to pursue a hobby in drone photography as a business.
Credit…Horatio Baltz for The New York Times

Tens of thousands of airline workers are bracing for a wave of furloughs that could begin as soon as Thursday, when a ban on broad layoffs that was a condition of federal aid comes to an end. The cuts will be painful, but they could have been worse.

For months, airlines have asked employees to volunteer for pay cuts, extended leaves, buyouts or early retirement in order to help preserve as many jobs as possible. Tens of thousands signed up.

Steven Ray Littles II, a young Delta flight attendant, took a buyout because he didn’t want to leave his future to chance. Mike Stoica, a mechanic at American Airlines, decided to do the same to secure health care benefits for his wife. Tina Jackson, a 56-year-old reservations agent at Alaska Airlines, retired early so that she might help save a colleague’s job.

“When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” she said.

The industry had hoped to avoid, or at least delay, this reckoning and its chances seemed good. Workers in recent weeks had successfully lobbied lawmakers to renew the $25 billion in payroll assistance that they provided passenger airlines under the CARES Act in March, garnering bipartisan support in Congress and the president’s approval. But broader talks stalled.

There is still a chance that a bill may pass, but the parties remain far apart on a price tag.

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