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Nevada facing double-bind of rising cases, limping economy – News 1130

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LAS VEGAS — As the coronavirus surges to record levels in Nevada, the governor has implored residents to stay home. But Democrat Steve Sisolak has also encouraged out-of-state visitors, the lifeblood of Nevada’s limping economy, to come to his state and spend money in Las Vegas.

The pandemic has put officials in this tourism-dependent place in a double-bind: trying to protect the economy while keeping people safe.

With the state seeing a record number of new cases, Sisolak said he’s on the brink of imposing new restrictions, but he’s walking a tightrope.

“I don’t want to shut down the entire economy if I can at all avoid it,” Sisolak told reporters on a phone call Wednesday. “We can keep everybody safe and accomplish both ends.”

Nevada’s tourism and hospitality industry has an estimated $67.6 billion economic impact, employing more workers and bringing in more state tax revenue than any other sector. Right now, it’s hurting and Nevada is facing a nearly 13% unemployment rate — the second highest in the U.S. behind Hawaii.

While the governor has urged Nevadans to try to get their groceries delivered, forgo in-person dining and stay home, he’s said he welcomes out-of-state tourists to Nevada. And though he implored residents to consider curbside pick-up, he said tourists were welcome to patronize restaurants as long as they followed protocols, such as abiding by the statewide mask mandate.

But with cases surging, the current measures aren’t working, officials acknowledge.

On Thursday, Nevada reported 2,416 new confirmed COVID-19 cases — a record of daily new cases for the state.

The Nevada Hospital Association reports 80% of hospital beds in the state are occupied and said in a bulletin this week that “current strategies are not successfully minimizing the spread of serious disease.”

In Reno, where one hospital has begun moving some coronavirus patients into its parking garage, the county health officer recommended that the governor limit statewide gatherings to 10 people.

Meanwhile, the governor is facing political pushback against more restrictions, along with workers, businesses and industry groups who have taken a big financial hit and are pushing for stability and some way to hang on.

Sisolak, who is grappling with his own COVID-19 diagnosis, has not offered any details about what measures he’s planning to announce next week to curb the spread of the virus, which has so far infected more than 129,000 Nevadans and caused 1,982 deaths.

While he hasn’t ruled out temporary closures of casinos and restaurants, he has defended the current health and safety practices in place as extensive and said he’d be hard-pressed to make any decision that hurts the ability to welcome visitors.

But the governor and his staff have offered little indication as to what other mitigation options they might pursue.

“I don’t have a strong or definitive idea of what that looks like,” Nevada COVID-19 Director Caleb Cage said Friday.

“We’ve done a stay-at-home order before and we’ve seen the impact on the virus and we’ve seen the impact on the economy that comes from that. And we’ve tried to do a more targeted approach and seen the impacts on both through that as well,” he said.

Republicans in the state Legislature urged the governor this week not to impose blanket restrictions.

In a publicly released letter, members of the Assembly Republican Caucus this week told Sisolak that, while they “appreciate the severity of the situation” they warned that “stricter restrictions will once again lead to declining sales and revenue for local businesses and an increase in unemployment – our state simply cannot afford this.”

After Nevada’s casinos, restaurants and many other businesses were closed in mid-March, the state set a record unemployment rate in April at 30.1%, the highest of any U.S. state ever. Though most businesses have been allowed to reopen, albeit with restrictions, the state’s unemployment rate has for months been among the highest in the country.

The economic hit of an 11-week shutdown of the state’s casinos and tourism businesses this spring was compounded in the months that followed as the pandemic stunted demand.

Visitor numbers and room occupancy rates in Las Vegas in September were roughly half what they were the same month in 2019. At least five casino resorts have some weekday closures, announcing they would not take some mid-week reservations due to lack of demand.

Countless restaurants have closed. Entertainment acts haven’t been spared either. Several acrobatic spectaculars have been among the shuttered shows, including the Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity” that ran for 17 years at the New York-New York Hotel.

Concert, convention and trade show venues have been capped at 250 socially distant people and were hoping they’d be able to expand and hold large events again. Sisolak in late October said he hoped large event venues would be able to begin filling their venues to 50% capacity in January, but it’s unclear if that target is still under consideration.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents the gambling and hospitality industry, has been pressing for some kind of roadmap to once again holding large live events.

“The people who plan and book these events — both on our side and on the people who are bringing events here — they need some predictability,” Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said.

___

Metz reported from Carson City, Nevada. He is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Sam Metz And Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

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Mexico Economy Grows at Record Pace With Long Recovery Ahead – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Chicco Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals (2020): Best Nextfit Car Seat, Bravo Travel System & More Deals Reviewed by Saver Trends

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Iran economy could rebound to 4.4% growth if U.S. sanctions lifted: IIF – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s economy could grow 4.4% next year if U.S. President-elect Joe Biden lifts sanctions that have contributed to a deep three-year recession, although the COVID-19 crisis could limit foreign investment, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.

Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 U.S. election has raised chances that the United States could rejoin a deal Iran reached with world powers in 2015, under which sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

This is unlikely to happen overnight, however, and the prospects remain uncertain as the adversaries would both want additional commitments.

Iran’s rial currency has lost about 50% of its value against the U.S. dollar in 2020, reflecting economic damage from sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, although it strengthened in late October in anticipation Biden would unseat U.S. President Donald Trump.

Iran has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East.

Trump abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018, and Tehran responded by scaling down its compliance.

The IIF, a trade body for the global financial industry, said that if United States lifted most of the economic sanctions on Iran by the end of 2021, the economy could expand 4.4% next year after an expected 6.1% contraction in 2020.

It would then grow by 6.9% in 2022 and 6% in 2023, the IIF said, adding that if oil exports increase, Iran could see its foreign reserves rise to $109.4 billion by the end of 2023.

Tehran has spoken optimistically about the return of foreign companies under a new U.S. administration, but lack of financial transparency could still curb interest from firms who had made tentative moves to invest after the 2015 deal was struck.

Garbis Iradian, IIF’s chief economist for the MENA region, told Reuters foreign direct investment inflows would increase progressively from this year’s $890 million to over $6.4 billion in 2025.

Assuming most sanctions could be lifted by late next year, FDI is likely to remain below $2 billion in 2021, with most of the money coming from China, Iradian said, adding: “Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic will limit FDI inflows in 2021.”

The Iranian economy would remain fragile, though “not to the brink of collapse” if most of the sanctions remain in place, the IIF said.

Under such a “pessimistic” scenario, Iran would post 1.8% growth next year and its foreign reserves would steadily decrease from about $80 billion this year to $46.9 billion by the end of 2023.

About 90% of Iran’s official reserves are frozen abroad due to U.S. sanctions.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Picture of US economy is worrisome as virus inflicts damage – Investment Executive

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The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs more than eight months after the virus hit. Before the pandemic, weekly jobless claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. Layoffs are still historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen and some, especially restaurants and bars, facing tightened restrictions.

Consumers increased their spending last month by just 0.5%, the weakest rise since the pandemic erupted. The tepid figure suggested that on the eve of the crucial holiday shopping season, Americans remain anxious with the virus spreading and Congress failing to enact any further aid for struggling individuals, businesses, cities and states. At the same time, the government said Wednesday that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.

The spike in virus cases is heightening pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose curbs on businesses. The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, is expected to eke out a modest gain this quarter before weakening — and perhaps shrinking — early next year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts annual GDP growth of around 2% in the October-December quarter, with the possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of 2021.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase have slashed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% annual GDP rate.

“This winter will be grim,” they wrote in a research note.

Zandi warned that until Congress agrees on a new stimulus plan to replace a now-expired multi-trillion-dollar aid package enacted in the spring, the threat to the economy will grow.

“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Zandi said. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”

Some corners of the economy still show strength, or at least resilience. Manufacturing is one. The government said Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose 1.3% in October, a sign that purchases of goods remain solid even while the economy’s much larger service sector — everything from restaurants, hotels and airlines to gyms, hair salons and entertainment venues — is still struggling. But economists caution that factories, too, remain at risk from the surge in coronavirus cases, which could throttle demand in coming months.

And sales of new homes remained steady in October, the latest sign that ultra-low mortgage rates and a paucity of properties for sale have spurred demand and made the housing market a rare economic bright spot.

But at the heart of the economy are the job market and consumer spending, which remain especially vulnerable to the spike in virus cases. Most economists say the distribution of an effective vaccine would likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what could be a bleak winter.

“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

The government said he total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That figure has been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months.

More Americans are collecting benefits under programs that were set up to cushion the economic pain from the pandemic. For the week of Nov. 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don’t qualify for traditional aid — rose by 466,000 to 9.1 million.

And the number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program — which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted state jobless aid — rose by 132,000 to 4.5 million.

The data firm Womply says that 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of this month, reflecting a steady increase from June’s 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October, Womply found.

The heart of the problem is an untamed virus: the number of confirmed infections in the United States has shot up to more than 170,000 a day, from fewer than 35,000 in early September. The arrival of cold weather in much of the country could further worsen the health crisis.

Meanwhile, another economic threat looms: the impending expiration of the two supplemental federal unemployment programs the day after Christmas could end benefits completely for 9.1 million jobless people. Congress has failed for months to agree on any new stimulus aid for jobless individuals and struggling businesses after the expiration of a multi-trillion dollar rescue package it enacted in March.

The expiration of benefits will make it harder for the unemployed to make rent payments, afford food or keep up with utility bills. Most economists agree that because unemployed people tend to quickly spend their benefits, such aid is effective in boosting the economy.

When the viral outbreak struck in early spring, employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April, sending the unemployment rate rocketing to 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Since then, the economy has regained more than 12 million jobs. Yet the nation still has about 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic erupted.

All of which has left many Americans anxious and uncertain. The Conference Board, a business research group, reported Tuesday that consumer confidence weakened in November, pulled down by lowered expectations for the next six months.

And the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers reported Wednesday that sentiment declined slightly this month, and remained far below where it was before the pandemic struck. With the resurgence of the virus depressing the outlook of consumers, the sentiment index fell to its lowest point since August.

“Gloomier consumer expectations will weigh on spending as the holidays approach,” cautioned Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

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