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Subway riders hold out hope for futuristic cleaning to restart economy – POLITICO

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A person wearing a mask steps onto a New York City subway car | AP Photo/John Minchillo

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NEW YORK — Ultraviolet radiation robots that sanitize subway cars in a flash. Nanoparticles that kill Covid-19 on bus poles and subway seats for three months, non-stop, after just a single application.

In the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s headlong search for ways to woo riders back to the nation’s biggest transit system once the pandemic eases, no idea is too outlandish.

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Subways and buses are the circulatory system of the most economically important city in America — they carry more than 5 million people a day during normal times, from grocery clerks to investment bankers, to and from their homes and jobs.

They’ve also likely been a central conduit for the spread of Covid-19 and are seen as among the factors in New York becoming the epicenter of the crisis.

The city’s — and by extension the country’s — economic recovery from the pandemic may well depend on New Yorkers’ willingness to return to the subway. The city’s 8.4 million residents cannot all drive to work. Nor can they all walk or bike, though those methods will likely gain in popularity during the recovery.

Rather, it’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s famously sclerotic Metropolitan Transportation Authority — whose leaders only weeks ago assured riders it was safe to travel the trains and buses — to somehow reassure them it’s safe to come back in the coming months.

“It’s going to be a long time before I would let any member of my family into a crowded bus or subway,” said Dick Ravitch, the former MTA chairman credited with saving the subway from financial collapse in the 1980s, in an interview this week.

Officials are exploring the feasibility of taking the temperatures of some passengers before they enter the subway system. They’re mining the experience of their global counterparts from Seoul to Milan who are ahead of New York on the pandemic’s trajectory.

And in recent weeks, the MTA has begun applying a chemical compound to surfaces in its subways and buses that authority officials say could continuously eradicate Covid-19 for up to three months

After a period of time, the MTA swabs the surfaces and sends the samples to a lab to determine if there are any microbes, germs or viruses on them, an official told POLITICO, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press.

The MTA declined to identify the chemical it says it has applied to each of its subway cars and about a quarter of its buses, except to say that it is an “anti microbial biostatic compound.” Workers administer it using an electrostatic applicator.

“We’re working with federal and other labs to determine whether the product has a virus-killing efficacy that lasts beyond the initial application,” said MTA chairman Pat Foye.

MTA officials declined to name the product’s manufacturers, but expressed hope that their claims of long-term virus-killing capacity prove true.

“If that were to occur, that would be a great development,” Foye said. “We have not had it confirmed, not to say that it won’t be confirmed.”

“It doesn’t pose any health issues,” he added.

For wary straphangers, that may take some convincing.

Making matters worse, the MTA will almost certainly have to make its persuasive pitch before there’s widespread availability of an effective vaccine or antiviral treatment.

“We’re going to be appealing to tens of thousands of MTA colleagues and literally millions of customers and making a case,” Foye said.

It’s a tall order.

“I can tell you I would be really scared to get on a subway train [right now],” said Richard Florida, the University of Toronto professor known for his research on cities and the creative class.“That tells me something. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool urbanist.”

Roughly 450,000 New Yorkers are riding the subway system these days. Before the pandemic, daily ridership was 5.5 million. Today’s riders are largely essential workers: the nurses, doctors, grocery store workers and home health care aides without whom New York City could not battle the virus. Many are of modest means with few alternate transportation options.

Those who can work from home are largely doing so, and presumably will continue to do so as long as their employers allow. For a while, as the MTA ramps up to higher levels of service, that should suit it just fine.

But the MTA’s finances are fare dependent, it’s facing financial stress that Ravitch says exceeds that of the 1970s, when New York City almost went bankrupt, and at some point, it will have to proactively drive up ridership for the sake of its own bottom line. That will pose something of a marketing challenge, particularly given the high fatality rate suffered by the New Yorkers most exposed to the system, the MTA’s own workers. As of Friday afternoon, 98 had died from the coronavirus.

“What a tragedy that Andy Byford is not leading New York City transit right now,” said Brad Lander, a Councilman from Brooklyn, referring to the former transit chief who clashed with Cuomo and resigned in January. “We just had the system’s best leader in a generation and right at the moment that we need him, [he] is not there.”

As part of its appeal, the MTA will have to convince New Yorkers that the subways are clean. The governor is already planning to close the subway system from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. for the first time in its 24-7 history to more effectively disinfect it and clear out the homeless. But Cuomo cast that as an effort benefiting the essential workers who ride the system right now.

When it’s time to start marketing to those New Yorkers with more commuting choices, the MTA is looking to things like ultraviolet radiation. Such radiation is now used in hospitals for disinfection, Foye said, and scientists are confirming that it is in fact effective against Covid-19. In the meantime, the MTA is experimenting.

“We’ve used UV on a limited number of cars,” Foye said. “There’s a possibility of UV robots down the road. There’s a possibility of UV being installed as original equipment on new rail cars and buses, but that’s not going to happen in the short term.”

One problem with ultraviolet radiation is that its utility vanishes the minute a surface is reexposed to the virus. Hence, the MTA’s experimentation with purportedly longer-lasting antimicrobial products.

The MTA’s challenges are not unique. Major cities around the world are confronting similar issues. Beijing has been using artificial intelligence and handheld scanners to screen the temperatures of some subway passengers. It’s also been requiring passengers book access to particular stations on an app, according to Mohamed Mezghani, the secretary general of the International Association of Public Transport.

Seoul’s metro has announced it will sanitize its vehicles 14 times a day, Mezghani said. Cities are staggering work and school hours to flatten the commuting peak. Milan is marking circles on its subway and bus floors to show riders how to stand at a safe distance from each other. Where they can, systems are trying to increase train and bus frequency to increase capacity and reduce crowding. France and Italy have both mandated social distancing in their transit systems, said Mezghani, though he’s doubtful it’s all that feasible.

“I would say social distancing and mass transportation are not compatible,” he said.

Any longstanding public aversion to mass transit will create problems for the rest of the city.

If New Yorkers turn to individual cars, they will magnify the city’s famous pre-Covid gridlock. Transportation experts worry that New York City will experience the same traffic problems it dealt with after Sept. 11, and then again after Hurricane Sandy, particularly since the MTA’s bid to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan has stalled.

Advocates for greener transportation argue that this pandemic comes with the rare opportunity to reimagine the city’s streetscape, with scores of new protected bike lanes and bus lanes and pedestrian plazas, and stringent high-occupancy vehicle requirements on bridges and tunnels.

Sam Schwartz, the transportation engineer known as Gridlock Sam, says New York City should even build pedestrian bridges between Manhattan and New Jersey.

“Now’s the time to build bicycle, pedestrian bridges, which are being done in London, in Paris, even in Dublin, Ohio, outside of Columbus,” he said.

Following weeks of pressure, City Hall is making some moves in a greener direction. This week, it announced a goal of widening sidewalks, opening up roads to pedestrians and establishing bike lanes along up to 100 miles of streets. There are 6,000 miles of roadway in New York City.

In an interview, New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg suggested there might be more to come.

“I think that’s a bit of a template for what we’re going to need more of on the surface, as we come out of this, obviously, space for folks to be outdoors and maintain some distance,” she said.

But she also warned that there is no Gotham without a working subway and bus system.

“New York City is a city that can only really function with mass transit,” she said.

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Will protests and looting permanently damage the economy? – Yahoo Canada Finance

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The civil unrest sweeping the country stemming from the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police may not permanently damage a U.S. economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could influence investment decision-making in the near-term.” data-reactid=”16″>The civil unrest sweeping the country stemming from the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police may not permanently damage a U.S. economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could influence investment decision-making in the near-term.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“The timing could not have been worse. All of a sudden we have 90% of the population in the U.S. in a phase back state, and now you are trying to reopen the small businesses and the social unrest really derails the economic recovery. I think more than anything it pushes [the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic] back. I don’t think this is going to be something that permanently hampers economic output, but it really makes concerns,” said Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Americas CIO Deepak Puri on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.” data-reactid=”17″>“The timing could not have been worse. All of a sudden we have 90% of the population in the U.S. in a phase back state, and now you are trying to reopen the small businesses and the social unrest really derails the economic recovery. I think more than anything it pushes [the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic] back. I don’t think this is going to be something that permanently hampers economic output, but it really makes concerns,” said Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Americas CIO Deepak Puri on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Puri still sees the S&P 500 reaching 3,100 this year in the face of the macroeconomic risks from the social unrest and upcoming presidential elections. The U.S. economy is likely to expand by 5.6% in 2021 after falling by a similar amount in 2020, according to Puri’s work.

Despite the upside S&P 500 target, Puri is advising clients to be cautious at the moment.

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, specialist Anthony Rinaldi is silhouetted on a screen at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A smoother ride for stock investors sounds like a no-brainer given this year’s big swings for the stock market, but the “low-volatility” funds pitched by the investment industry come with their own risks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, specialist Anthony Rinaldi is silhouetted on a screen at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A smoother ride for stock investors sounds like a no-brainer given this year’s big swings for the stock market, but the “low-volatility” funds pitched by the investment industry come with their own risks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

“Cash has taken a more bigger and prominent role in your asset allocation, no doubt about that. I think people realized that even though it’s not to generate much a return, the safety aspect of return on your principles has at times over the last three months taken precedence over a return on capital,” Puri adds.

Investors continue to overlook the rising number of risks the U.S. economic recovery.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The three major indices turned positive Monday morning after opening slightly lower. The Financials and Consumer Discretionary sectors paced the gains in the S&amp;P 500, while Boeing, American Express and Goldman Sachs led winners in the Dow. Investors also plowed into high beta tech names such as Tesla, Zoom Video Communications and CrowdStrike.” data-reactid=”33″>The three major indices turned positive Monday morning after opening slightly lower. The Financials and Consumer Discretionary sectors paced the gains in the S&P 500, while Boeing, American Express and Goldman Sachs led winners in the Dow. Investors also plowed into high beta tech names such as Tesla, Zoom Video Communications and CrowdStrike.

Indeed, the bullishness to kick off the week has left some on the Street scratching their heads, and advising investors to be careful in the trading sessions ahead.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“I’m hugely surprised. I woke up this morning thinking I really don’t understand the markets. Between everything going on, I don’t really understand why it’s positive this morning,” said AdvisorShares CEO Noah Hamman on The First Trade. “So I’m nervous for those who are buying. I’m nervous for people seeing this being the bottom right now.”” data-reactid=”35″>“I’m hugely surprised. I woke up this morning thinking I really don’t understand the markets. Between everything going on, I don’t really understand why it’s positive this morning,” said AdvisorShares CEO Noah Hamman on The First Trade. “So I’m nervous for those who are buying. I’m nervous for people seeing this being the bottom right now.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.” data-reactid=”36″>Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance” data-reactid=”37″>Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.” data-reactid=”49″>Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.

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The extreme impacts from the lockdown economy: Morning Brief – Yahoo Canada Finance

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Monday, June 1, 2020” data-reactid=”16″>Monday, June 1, 2020

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Employment down, savings up, and an uncertain summer for the U.S. economy

June is here.

And as summer has arrives across the country, so too does something resembling a resumption of economic activity.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="We’ve noted recently that economic data has stopped getting worse, building the case that the most severe impacts of the lockdown-related economic stoppage are behind us.” data-reactid=”22″>We’ve noted recently that economic data has stopped getting worse, building the case that the most severe impacts of the lockdown-related economic stoppage are behind us.

But this still leaves the economy a long way from healed.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="As Bank of America outlined in a note last month, the current recovery is likely to play out in three phases: lockdown, transition, recovery. We are now in the transition phase. But what this phase might look like continues to be informed by some of the jarring data coming out of the economy’s March-April lockdown phase.” data-reactid=”24″>As Bank of America outlined in a note last month, the current recovery is likely to play out in three phases: lockdown, transition, recovery. We are now in the transition phase. But what this phase might look like continues to be informed by some of the jarring data coming out of the economy’s March-April lockdown phase.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="What we know is that tens of millions of workers have lost jobs. Last Thursday, initial jobless claims data brought total filings for unemployment insurance since this crisis began to north of 40 million.” data-reactid=”25″>What we know is that tens of millions of workers have lost jobs. Last Thursday, initial jobless claims data brought total filings for unemployment insurance since this crisis began to north of 40 million.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And on Friday, the April data on personal income, outlays, and savings served as another stunning entry in the history books. In response to mass unemployment, we know that consumers saved at a record rate, cut spending at a record rate, and saw incomes rise due to enhanced unemployment benefits passed through the CARES Act.” data-reactid=”26″>And on Friday, the April data on personal income, outlays, and savings served as another stunning entry in the history books. In response to mass unemployment, we know that consumers saved at a record rate, cut spending at a record rate, and saw incomes rise due to enhanced unemployment benefits passed through the CARES Act.

Taken together, this data really tells the simplest story of what happened in the U.S. economy during the most severe stage of this crisis — millions of people lost jobs and saved every penny they could as a result. How we go forward from here will be informed by fiscal policy, the spread of the virus, and how many workers are re-employed quickly.

“Consumer spending fell off a cliff in April, collapsing by 13.6% [month-over-month] while the annual momentum plunged to its weakest pace on record,” Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note to clients. “Meanwhile greater benefit payments temporarily lifted income momentum to its strongest pace on record.”

The CARES Act boosted personal income in April while spending rose at a record pace amid massive job losses during the most severe stage of shelter-at-home policies hurting economic activity. (Source: Oxford Economics)
The CARES Act boosted personal income in April while spending rose at a record pace amid massive job losses during the most severe stage of shelter-at-home policies hurting economic activity. (Source: Oxford Economics)

Boussour added that, “Amid extreme uncertainty, the savings rate spiked from 12.7% to 33.0% — the highest rate ever. This underscores how the global coronavirus recession is leading to more frugal consumer behavior which will dampen the recovery. This is particularly true as the boost from social benefits will gradually erode over time leaving households more financially constrained.”

And so it seems that Congress was able to keep U.S. consumers afloat while shelter-at-home policies and fears about the future kept most of those excess dollars coming into consumer stashed away. Savings during this initial phase of the pandemic and the recession could, it seems, help boost the economy into the second half of the year.

Michael Gapen at Barclays said in a note published Friday that, “under the assumption households have not spent the entirety of safety net payments already, the potential good news in the report on April personal income is that households have, on net, likely accumulated sizeable cash savings that could be spent in upcoming quarters should the U.S. economy successfully emerge from economic lockdowns.”

April’s personal income and spending data, then, serves as evidence of the consumer holding what amounts to economic dry powder as we emerge from shelter-at-home policies.

How quickly the labor market heals, however, is likely to be more important in shaping how eager consumers are to resume consumption in the months ahead.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This coming Friday, the May jobs report is expected to show the unemployment rate rose to 19.6% last month with another 8 million Americans losing their jobs, according to estimates from Bloomberg. In the view of some economists, the stubbornly high level of initial jobless claims shows that businesses which initially closed on a temporary basis early in this crisis are now closing permanently.” data-reactid=”45″>This coming Friday, the May jobs report is expected to show the unemployment rate rose to 19.6% last month with another 8 million Americans losing their jobs, according to estimates from Bloomberg. In the view of some economists, the stubbornly high level of initial jobless claims shows that businesses which initially closed on a temporary basis early in this crisis are now closing permanently.

The more time that passes without answers for businesses and consumers, the more these temporary disruptions become permanent. Which is the whole story of the “transition” economy and the summer of 2020 — how many temporary changes can be prevented from becoming permanent.

The fewer the better. And the clock is ticking.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="By&nbsp;Myles Udland, reporter and co-anchor of&nbsp;The Final Round. Follow him at&nbsp;@MylesUdland” data-reactid=”52″>By Myles Udland, reporter and co-anchor of The Final Round. Follow him at @MylesUdland

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South Korea Unveils $62 Billion 'New Deal' to Reshape Post-Virus Economy – BNNBloomberg.ca

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(Bloomberg) — The South Korean government unveiled a 76 trillion won ($62 billion) ‘New Deal’ spending plan to reshape the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic after slashing its growth forecast for the year.

The plan, first outlined by Moon in April, aims to refocus the economy through 2025 by supporting job growth and new industries. It will partly be funded by a third extra budget now being drafted, according to a statement on the policy outlook for the second half.

The extra spending will help an economy forecast to grow by just 0.1% this year, the slowest expansion since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. The latest projection was more optimistic than the contraction expected by the Bank of Korea and private economists, but the government acknowledged downside risks to its view should a second virus wave emerge.

South Korea’s trade-dependent economy is suffering as the pandemic hits overseas markets. New virus clusters have also sprung up at home, raising fear among the public and potentially hindering a domestic recovery. President Moon Jae-in’s administration has so far announced 250 trillion won in measures to prop up the economy, including direct support, loans and funds to stabilize financial markets.

While previous measures have been focused on helping the economy ride out the pandemic, the government’s long-term spending plan envisions the creation of 550,000 jobs by 2022. The plan seeks to have 100,000 specialists in artificial intelligence and software programming.

Some 31 trillion won will be spent on the project by 2022, when Moon’s term ends. Another 45 trillion won will be spent by 2025.

The focus is to promote the use of fifth generation wireless networks and artificial intelligence across industries and foster digitalization in South Korea’s least developed areas. Investment will also support startups focusing on green technologies, while the country seeks to make its manufacturing sector more energy-efficient.

South Korea to Make 5G, AI Centerpieces of ‘Korean New Deal’

Part of the new-deal fund will be used to retrain workers and expand employment insurance for universal coverage.

To accelerate South Korea’s economic recovery this year, the government said it will use funds from the upcoming extra budget to issue discount coupons to encourage spending. It will also lower the consumption tax on car purchases during the second half of the year. Tax incentives will be offered to companies that increase investment by more than their average in the past three years, the statement said.

The government said inflation will probably slow to 0.4% this year, slightly better than the BOK’s 0.3% estimate. It sees zero job growth, down from 300,000 in 2019. Exports are expected to fall 8% this year while imports drop 8.7%.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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