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National lockdown to contain Covid surge is a ‘measure of last resort,’ top Biden health advisor says

Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, said on Sunday that widespread closures of businesses is a “measure of last resort.”…

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Empty tables and chairs stand outside a restaurant on Jefferson Street at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A national lockdown of businesses and schools is a “measure of last resort,” even as cases continue to surge to record-highs across the U.S., a top coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden said on Sunday.

Covid-19 cases were growing by 5% or more in 47 states as of Saturday, based on a weekly average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. reported 166,555 new cases on Saturday, the second-highest daily number of new cases so far.

The U.S. is now reporting a weekly average of 145,401 cases every day, a more than 33% increase compared with a week ago and a record high average, according to Hopkins.

More than 69,400 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, the highest number of patients with the virus at any point during the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

Top coronavirus advisors for Biden, who named a panel of scientists on Monday to help navigate his Covid-19 response, have given differing stances on whether the U.S. should adopt lockdown measures to control the recent spike in cases.

“That’s a measure of last resort,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general tapped to help lead the group, told “Fox News Sunday,” adding that any lockdown at this stage of the pandemic would look different than the sweeping closures which states enacted in the spring to suppress the virus.

“In the spring we didn’t know a lot about Covid, we responded, in a sense, with an on-off switch. We just shut things down because we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading, but we learned a lot more since then,” Murthy said.

In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy addresses the virtual convention on August 20, 2020.

Handout | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Murthy’s comments come after another Covid-19 advisor to Biden, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who serves as director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance in an interview Wednesday that shuttering businesses for four to six weeks while paying people for lost wages could help suppress cases and hospitalizations to a manageable level.

Osterholm later clarified his comments in an interview with NBC News, saying, “It was not a recommendation. I have never made this recommendation to Biden’s group. We’ve never talked about it.”

A Biden transition official told NBC News that a shutdown “is not in line with the president-elect’s thinking.”

“We are not in support of a nationwide lockdown,” Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery and health policy at Harvard and a Biden advisor, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “You can have targeted measures building on mask wearing to include widespread testing, can include dialing up and down capacity restrictions, and those measures need to happen on a more localized basis.”

Both Gawande and Murthy pointed to New York’s “micro-cluster” strategy as an example. The state has imposed tougher restrictions on specific areas depending on the level of coronavirus spread. The hardest-hit red zones would be forced to close nonessential businesses and schools for in-person learning while other surrounding areas can remain open with modifications.

“On a zip code by zip code basis, you can deploy different restrictions in order to get the virus under control and it’s quite effective. We do not need to go into a nationwide, shelter-in-place shutdown,” Gawande said.

More states are beginning to ease back into coronavirus restrictions and institute statewide mask mandates as coronavirus cases continue to soar ahead of the holidays. Many governors have pointed to “Covid fatigue,” or the reduced compliance with recommended public health guidance, as one reason for the swelling infections.

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a Twitter post that the state will “hit reset” and begin a statewide stay-at-home order on Monday. Residents are instructed to stay at home unless venturing out for essential services.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced sweeping new restrictions limiting restaurants to takeout service only; closing gyms, fitness centers and indoor and outdoor event centers; and limiting attendance at places of worship, among other limitations.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican who has resisted instituting a mask mandate, ordered residents on Friday to begin covering their face when in public. On Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reimposed a statewide mask mandate with tougher enforcement measures on businesses.

“If we wear a mask, we are keeping our kids in school and we are protecting our elderly and we are protecting our hospitals,” DeWine told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We can see the end of this, we just have to tough it out… for a few more months and do what we need to do so we can get through this.”

A handful of cities have started to carry out their own restrictions. Chicago on Thursday said it was issuing the 30-day stay-at-home advisory, asking people to refrain from traveling, having guests in their home or leaving for nonessential business “in response to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city.”

In New York City, schools will remain open for in-person learning on Monday, though Mayor Bill de Blasio has instructed parents to prepare their students to move to remote-learning once the citywide positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests, hits an average of 3%.

De Blasio said in a Tweet on Sunday that the city’s positivity rate stands at 2.57%.

“Thankfully, schools will remain open on Monday, but we have to keep fighting back with everything we’ve got,” he said.

— CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/15/coronavirus-top-biden-advisor-says-national-lockdown-measure-of-last-resort.html

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JPMorgan Chase beats profit estimates on strong trading, $5.2 billion release of loan-loss reserves

JPMorgan posted first-quarter profit of $4.50 a share, much higher than the $3.10 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

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JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday reported profit and revenue that exceeded analysts’ expectations on robust trading results and a $5.2 billion benefit from releasing money it had previously set aside for loan losses that didn’t develop.

The bank posted first-quarter profit of $14.3 billion, or $4.50 a share including a $1.28 per share benefit from the reserve release, higher than the $3.10 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. Excluding the impact of a $550 million charitable contribution, which lowered earnings by 9 cents, the bank earned an adjusted figure of $4.59, exceeding the $3.10 estimate.

Companywide revenue of $33.12 billion exceeded the $30.52 billion estimate, driven by the firm’s trading operations, which produced about $1.8 billion more revenue than expected.

JPMorgan’s release of $5.2 billion in reserves is the biggest sign yet that the U.S. banking industry is now expecting to have fewer loan losses than it did last year, when it set aside tens of billions for defaults anticipated from the coronavirus pandemic. A year ago, the firm had added $6.8 billion to credit reserves.

“Overall, this was a great quarter for JPMorgan,” said Octavio Marenzi, CEO of consultancy Opimas. “It is now increasingly clear that the bank over-reserved, and that money is now flowing back into its earnings, concealing some of the weakness in consumer banking.”

JPMorgan shares dipped less than 1%.

Fixed income trading produced $5.8 billion in revenue, a 15% increase that exceeded analysts’ estimates by more than $800 million, on activity in securitized products and credit markets. Equities trading revenue surged 47% to $3.3 billion, a full $1 billion more than estimates, on “strong performance across products.”

JPMorgan, with the world’s biggest Wall Street bank by total revenue, was expected to benefit from robust investment banking fees driven by record issuance of special purpose acquisition companies, which saw more activity in the first quarter than all of 2020, itself a record year.

That came to pass: The firm said first-quarter investment banking revenue surged 222%, or a full $2 billion, to $2.9 billion, exceeding the estimate of $2.65 billion.

Most of the quarter’s reserve release came from the bank’s retail division: The firm said $3.5 billion was tied to the bank’s credit card borrowers, and another $625 million from home loan borrowers.

While that meant that the firm’s consumer and community banking division saw profit surge by $6.5 billion from a year earlier, to $6.73 billion, the bank said that card and mortgage revenue was impacted by lower balances as flush consumers pay down their debts.

In the release, CEO Jamie Dimon called loan demand “challenged,” but during a call with reporters Wednesday, Dimon added that the dynamic would ultimately be good for loan demand because consumers were in good shape.

Dimon struck an optimistic tone for the near-term economic future in the U.S., similar to comments he made this month in his annual shareholder letter.

“With all of the stimulus spending, potential infrastructure spending, continued quantitative easing, strong consumer and business balance sheets and euphoria around the potential end of the pandemic, we believe that the economy has the potential to have extremely robust, multi-year growth,” Dimon said in the release.

Analysts will also be curious about the pace of share repurchases the bank is expected to make. Last month, the Federal Reserve said banks that pass the industry’s 2021 stress test at mid-year will be allowed to resume higher levels of dividend payouts and buybacks starting June 30.

Shares of JPMorgan rose 21% so far this year, compared to the 25% advance of the KBW Bank Index.

After JPMorgan’s earnings statement, Goldman Sachs also released first-quarter results that crushed forecasts with record first-quarter net profits and sales due to strong performance in trading and investment banking.

Here are the JPMorgan numbers:

Earnings: $4.59 per share vs. $3.10 per share expected by analysts polled by Refinitiv.
Revenue: $33.12 billion vs. $30.52 billion expected.

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Correction: JPMorgan’s EPS figure comparable to estimates has been adjusted 9 cents higher to account for a one-time charitable contribution.

JPMorgan shares dipped less than 1%.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/14/jpmorgan-jpm-earnings-q1-2021.html

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Coinbase drops below debut price

Coinbase held its direct listing on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, luring public market investors who’ve been waiting to get into the cryptocurrency exchange.

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Coinbase shares opened at $381 on the Nasdaq Wednesday morning, giving the cryptocurrency exchange an initial market cap of $99.6 billion on a fully-diluted basis. Shares quickly shot up as high as $429, giving it a market cap of $112 billion on a fully-diluted basis, before dropping back below the debut price.

The price was still well above the reference price of $250 set on Tuesday night, but no shares were traded on public markets at that price.

Skirting the traditional IPO process, Coinbase listed its stock directly, allowing employees and existing shareholders to sell shares immediately at a market-based priced.

Excluding options and restricted stock units, Coinbase’s market cap was about $80 billion at the opening price. Including options and RSUs, it’s already one of the 85 most valuable U.S. companies.

Founded in 2012 as a way to simplify the purchase of bitcoin, Coinbase has emerged as the most popular crypto exchange in the U.S. and soared in value alongside digital currencies bitcoin and ethereum. The service now has 56 million users, up from 43 million at the end of 2020 and 32 million the year before that. In its last private financing round in 2018, investors valued Coinbase at $8 billion.

Coinbase is hitting the public market as a record amount of cash pours into cryptocurrencies and tech investors are thirsty for high-growth stories. Snowflake, Palantir, DoorDash, Airbnb and Roblox have all gone public in the past six months and have market capitalizations ranging from $45 billion to $106 billion.

Relative to those companies and others in the IPO pipeline, Coinbase’s recent growth is unparalleled. The company said last week in announcing preliminary first-quarter results that revenue in the period surged ninefold from a year ago to $1.8 billion, and net income climbed from $32 million to between $730 million and $800 million. The number of monthly transacting users (MTUs) climbed from 2.8 million three months earlier to 6.1 million.

For the full year of 2020, revenue more than doubled to $1.28 billion, and the company swung from a loss in 2019 to a profit of $322.3 million.

Most transactions on Coinbase involve the purchase of bitcoin or ethereum, which have been on a historic tear, climbing over 800% and 1,300%, respectively, in the past year. The company has said that its short-term performance will largely be determined by crypto prices.

Bryan Armstrong, Coinbase’s co-founder and CEO, owns 39.6 million shares. In August, Armstrong was granted a multibillion-dollar performance award tied to the company’s stock price, potentially letting him purchase up to 9.29 million options at $23.46 over 10 years.

WATCH: Coinbase public debut is historic moment for cryptocurrencies

Founded in 2012 as a way to simplify the purchase of bitcoin, Coinbase has emerged as the most popular crypto exchange in the U.S. and soared in value alongside digital currencies bitcoin and ethereum. The service now has 56 million users, up from 43 million at the end of 2020 and 32 million the year before that. In its last private financing round in 2018, investors valued Coinbase at $8 billion.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/14/coinbase-to-debut-on-nasdaq-in-direct-listing.html

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States rush to replace J&J vaccine appointments after FDA recommends pause

The FDA and CDC recommended a pause in the use of J&J’s vaccine after six women developed a rare blood clotting disorder.

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More than two dozen states took steps Tuesday to halt inoculations with Johnson & Johnson‘s coronavirus vaccine, shortly after the Food and Drug Administration recommended to pause its use after reports some women developed a rare blood clotting disorder.

The states, like the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed that they were acting out of an abundance of caution, as more than 6.8 million doses of J&J’s vaccine have been injected and only six of the blood clotting cases have so far been reported.

J&J said in a statement that “no clear causal relationship” has been identified between the rare type of blood clots and the vaccine, adding it is working closely with regulators to assess the data.

New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said the state will “immediately” stop administering the single-dose J&J inoculation, and will use Pfizer‘s two-shot vaccine in its place for already scheduled appointments.

At least 25 other states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, also announced they are taking J&J’s vaccine doses out of their distribution plans.

Those precautions may not be in effect for long, however: Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said Tuesday that she expected the pause to last only for a matter of days.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, noted Tuesday that people who got the J&J vaccine more than a month ago are at very low risk for developing the blood clots. All six reported cases occurred in women ages 18 to 48, whose symptoms developed within two weeks after they received the shot.

New Jersey’s Department of Health said that all vaccination sites in the state “have been told to cancel or put on hold appointments for the J&J vaccine until further notice.” The agency said it will work with those sites to replace J&J appointments with an alternative two-dose vaccine.

Virginia “will cease all Johnson & Johnson vaccines” while the FDA investigates the “extremely rare possible side effect,” according to a statement from the state’s vaccination coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula.

Connecticut’s Department of Public Health recommended all Covid vaccine providers stop using J&J’s vaccine “for the time being” while the FDA and the CDC complete their review.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and top health officials in his state issued a similar advisory.

Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health notified all vaccine providers in the state to stop administering the J&J vaccine, “effective immediately.”

The other states are Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/13/states-rush-to-replace-jj-vaccine-appointments-after-fda-recommends-pause.html

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