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Wall Street Week Ahead: Investors eye consumer discretionary stocks as U.S. reopens

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors are taking a closer look at the market’s consumer discretionary companies as a reopening U.S. economy fuels hopes of a turnaround for some of the sector’s hardest-hit names.

Many companies in the sector have been battered by the country-wide coronavirus-fueled lockdowns that have weighed on growth and damaged retail spending over the last several months, though the stocks of a few, like Amazon, have soared.

A gradual lifting of lockdowns in some states has stirred hopes for a bounce back for the retailers that make up much of the sector.

Some investors, however, say it may be months before consumers return to their previous shopping habits, making it unlikely that the companies will see a pickup in revenues in the near term.

Firms ranging from middle-income retailers such as Gap Inc and American Eagle Outfitters Inc to high-end destinations like Tiffany & Co and Vail Resorts Inc are expected to report results in the week ahead.

“This particular group is full of landmines,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group. “There is not going to be a lot of investor follow-through until we get some certainty with what future revenue prospects are going to be.”

Shares of the Gap, for instance, are down 43% for the year to date. A recession that persists through the fourth quarter of this year would reduce the company’s revenues by 40%, according to a note by research firm Trefis.

Next Friday’s U.S. jobs report is expected to show that the unemployment rate rose to 19.8% in May, smashing April’s record 14.7%, according to a Reuters poll. Non-farm payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4 million, adding to the 20.5 million jobs lost the previous month.

Cox is focusing on dominant players such as Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc and Target Corp, which have a mix of essential items such as groceries as well as electronics and games that can appeal to customers who may face extended lockdowns during a potential second wave of the virus.

Overall, retail companies in the S&P 500 are up 12.9% for the year to date, a gain powered largely by Amazon’s 31% rally. Apparel companies, by comparison, are down 16.2% over the same time.

Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist for the Wells Fargo Asset Management Multi-Asset Solutions team, says retail companies will likely show rising expenses over the next several quarters due to items like more frequent sanitation of stores and technology purchases aimed at increasing the productivity of employees working from home.

“It’s really going to be a challenge to get a clear read of the direction for quite a while,” he said.

Despite those headwinds, investors may still gravitate toward companies that are able either to tap the capital markets for funds or draw from their financial reserves, said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives with the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

Retailers such as J. Crew and J.C. Penney have already filed for bankruptcy due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving more opportunity for companies that are able to survive and grab market share, said Frederick.

“You’re getting set up for potential upside surprises,” he said. “You may take a step back and look at this and say, ‘No matter how awful these numbers may be, at least they’re still in business.’”

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Wall Street gains amid economic hopes; tech shares decline

(Reuters) – The Dow and S&P 500 rose on Wednesday, powered by banks stocks, as optimism for an economic recovery as lockdowns continued to ease overshadowed worries of simmering U.S.-China tensions.

Declines in technology shares limited the advance, with the Nasdaq underperforming the other major indexes.

The S&P 500 financial index .SPSY provided the biggest boost to the benchmark index, sending it past the psychologically key 3,000 level in intraday trading for a second day in a row. In contrast, heavyweights Amazon.com (AMZN.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O), which have led the recent rally, were down.

“It’s the tech stocks that are probably most sensitive to Chinese growth,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute in St. Louis.

“If the market is going to go higher from here, you’re going to have to have broader participation, but you are going to need those large-cap tech companies to be along for the ride, because they make up such a large portion of the benchmark,” Samana said.

The easing of lockdowns, optimism about an eventual COVID-19 vaccine and massive U.S. stimulus have powered the recent stock market rally, with the S&P 500 .SPX on Tuesday ending at its highest level since early March.

Even so, U.S. tensions with China have cast a cloud on markets. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Washington would announce its response to China’s planned national security legislation on Hong Kong before the end of the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 317.75 points, or 1.27%, to 25,312.86, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 21.81 points, or 0.73%, to 3,013.58 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 6.73 points, or 0.07%, to 9,346.95.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc slipped as Trump threatened to shutter social media companies a day after Twitter attached a warning to some of his tweets, prompting readers to fact-check the president’s tweets.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.70-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.81-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted five new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 35 new highs and eight new lows.

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S&P 500 tops 3,000 pts on hopes of economic recovery, COVID-19 vaccine

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks jumped and the S&P 500 breached 3,000 points on Tuesday as optimism about a potential coronavirus vaccine and a revival in business activity helped investors overlook simmering Sino-U.S. tensions.

The benchmark index traded above the key psychological level and also above its 200-day moving average, a closely watched long-term trend indicator, for the first time since March 5.

All 11 S&P sector indexes gained in early trading, with cyclical financials .SPSY, industrials .SPLRCI and energy .SPNU stocks jumping more than 3%.

The S&P 500 has risen about 37% from its March lows on a raft of central bank and government stimulus, and is now just about 11% below its February record high.

On Monday, California decided to reopen in-store retail businesses and places of worship from one of the most restrictive shutdowns in the United States.

“People have been locked up and when they see sparkles of hope like vaccines, that drives optimism probably ahead of where it should be and clearly ahead of the economy,” said Richard Steinberg, chief market strategist at Colony Group in Florida.

At 10:01 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 575.66 points, or 2.35%, at 25,040.82, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 54.53 points, or 1.85%, at 3,009.98, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 126.77 points, or 1.36%, at 9,451.36.

U.S. biotech group Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) jumped 17.3% as it joined the race to test coronavirus vaccine candidates on humans and enrolled its first participants.

Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) added 1.5% as it announced plans to develop two separate vaccines.

But with U.S. unemployment soaring beyond 14% and macroeconomic data pointing at a deep recession, analysts warned financial markets could be betting on too fast a recovery.

“Business cycles don’t simply end in two to three months – in a way that’s what some of these sectors are pricing. It’s going to be very slow,” said Patrick Fruzzetti, managing director and senior research analyst at the Rosenau Group.

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Beaten down travel-related stocks soared, with S&P 1500 airlines index .SPCOMAIR up 10.3% and cruise operators including Carnival Corp (CCL.N) more than 12%.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 9-to-1 on the NYSE and 5-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 83 new highs and four new lows.

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Wall Street ends mixed as China-U.S. tensions weigh

(Reuters) – Wall Street ended mixed on Friday in a mostly tame finish to a week of strong gains, as investors gauged China-U.S. tensions and amid ongoing uncertainty about the pace of economic recovery from the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump’s warning on Thursday that the U.S. would react strongly to China’s plan for a national security law in Hong Kong has raised concerns over Washington and Beijing’s possibly reneging on their Phase 1 trade deal.

Late in the session, stocks edged lower after the U.S. Commerce Department said it was adding 33 Chinese companies and other institutions to an economic blacklist for human rights violations and to address U.S. national security concerns.

The increasing rhetoric between Washington and Beijing has knocked Wall Street off multi-month highs, although the three main indexes still all rose around 3% for the week, fueled by optimism about an eventual coronavirus vaccine and the easing of virus-related curbs.

“We still think COVID-19 concerns are in the driver’s seat, but we could see U.S.-China relations move back into the front seat,” said Eric Freedman, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

U.S. stock exchanges will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

The Nasdaq index is down about 5% from its Feb. 19 record high, helped in recent weeks by gains in Microsoft, Amazon and other heavyweight companies seen coming out of the economic downturn stronger than their smaller rivals.

The S&P 500 real estate sector index jumped 2.2%, leading the 11 sectors, while energy dropped 0.7% as oil prices sank about 3%. [O/R]

A 1.9% drop in Chevron weighed on the Dow.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.04% to end at 24,465.16 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.24%, to 2,955.45. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.43% to 9,324.59.

For the week, the Dow added 3.3%, the S&P 500 rose 3.2%, and the Nasdaq climbed 3.4%.

Mixed earnings from retailers Walmart Inc, Best Buy Co Inc and Home Depot Inc earlier this week showed online shopping gaining traction with the lockdown orders, a trend that could damage brick-and-mortar players already feeling pressure from internet rivals.

On Friday, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group reported better-than-expected quarterly profit, but its shares tumbled almost 6%. Smaller rival Pinduoduo Inc’s U.S.-listed shares surged over 14% after the company posted upbeat results.

Nvidia climbed 2.9% after forecasting strong quarterly revenue as demand surges for its data center chips.

KKR & Co rose 1.1% after India’s Reliance Industries said the private equity firm would buy a 2.3% stake in its digital unit for 113.67 billion rupees ($1.50 billion).

Data analytics software maker Splunk Inc jumped over 12% after it said it expects more demand for its cloud services.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.75 billion shares, compared to the 11.2 billion average for the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.17-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.30-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted six new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 62 new highs and nine new lows.

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Wall Street set for muted open on simmering U.S.-China tensions

(Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes were set for a near-flat open on Friday as investors weighed hopes of more stimulus to revive an ailing economy against simmering Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

China on Friday unveiled details about its plan to impose a national security law in Hong Kong that could see mainland intelligence agencies set up bases in the global financial hub, raising fears of more pro-democracy protests.

Reports of the law on Thursday had drawn fire from President Donald Trump, toppling Wall Street’s main indexes from multi-month highs that were hit on optimism around a revival in business activity with the easing of coronavirus-led lockdowns.

“Market sentiment is really vulnerable to expensive valuation at the moment,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.

“After the shock of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have to go through a regular recession with high unemployment, low capex, low demand and that’s not what’s priced in at the moment.”

At 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 21 points, or 0.09%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.09% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.1%.

A swathe of mixed retail earnings from Walmart Inc, Best Buy Co Inc and Home Depot Inc earlier in the week had shown online shopping gaining traction due to the stay-at-home orders.

On Friday, Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, but its shares slipped 1.6%. Smaller rival Pinduoduo Inc’s U.S.-listed shares gained 1.2% after its own upbeat quarterly earnings report.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise fell 7.3% after missing second-quarter revenue and profit estimates, hit by global lockdowns since February.

Data analytics software maker Splunk Inc rose 5.8% after saying it expects higher demand for its cloud services as people around the world take to working from home.

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U.S.-China tensions pull Wall Street lower

(Reuters) – Wall Street receded on Thursday, a day after hitting two-month highs, on a fresh wave of China-U.S. tensions, raising doubts about the trade deal reached early this year between the world’s two largest economies.

President Donald Trump said the United States would react strongly if China imposes national security laws for Hong Kong in response to last year’s often violent pro-democracy protests.

Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while a Chinese official said the country will not flinch from any escalation in tensions.

The recent souring relations between the world’s two largest economies over the coronavirus pandemic has raised doubts about the Phase 1 trade deal signed earlier this year, interrupting a rally on the U.S. stock market.

“It seems like China is going to be used as a punching bag for the upcoming elections,” said Bob Shea, CEO and co-chief investment officer at TrimTabs Asset Management in New York.

“The White House has resolved to itself that it is more effective to swing at China than to salvage what was going to already be a watered-down Phase 1 trade deal. You don’t score any points for that,” Shea said.

The S&P 500 has surged over 30% from its March low, but remains down more than 12% from its February record high.

The Nasdaq is less than 5% below its February record high, fueled in recent week by gains in Microsoft (MSFT.O), Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and other technology heavyweights that many investors expect to emerge from the crisis stronger than smaller rivals.

At 2:22 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 0.11% at 24,547.99 points, while the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.42% to 2,959.2. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.47% to 9,331.64.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sector indexes were lower. Energy .SPNY, down 1%, fell the most.

Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) fell 3.6% after the electronics retailer reported a 5.3% drop in quarterly same-store sales due to the virus. L Brands Inc (LB.N) surged 20% despite posting worse-than-expected quarterly results but said it will scale down its struggling Victoria’s Secret unit

Discount chain owner TJX (TJX.N) jumped 6.8% to a more than two-month high after it flagged strong sales at its stores that have reopened after lockdowns.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.02-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted five new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 51 new highs and four new lows.

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S&P gains as investors juggle pandemic fears with recovery prospects

(Reuters) – The S&P edged higher on Thursday as investors weighed the prospect of additional stimulus and states reopening for business against bellicose remarks from President Donald Trump about U.S.-China trade negotiations and dire warnings from a whistleblower about the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow joined the S&P in the black, while tech shares held the Nasdaq in negative territory.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s lockdown orders, fueling hopes that mandated restrictions could be lifted sooner rather than later.

But an ousted health official testified before a U.S. House of Representatives panel that the United States could face “the darkest winter” if its response to the pandemic failed to improve.

Comments by Trump late Wednesday blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak and revived trade war fears, even as mandated lockdowns continue to damage the economy.

That damage was in evidence in a report from the U.S. Labor Department, which showed just under 3 million new jobless claims last week, pushing the seven-week tally well over 36 million.

“Going forward, we’re looking at how quickly jobs are going to come back to the economy,” said Charlie Ripley, senior market strategist for Allianz Investment Management in Minneapolis. “And we’re not going to get a clear picture of that until we see where consumer demand is at.”

A White House spokeswoman said President Trump is open to another possible stimulus bill, which could further support economic recovery.

Economic and fiscal stimulus is keeping buyers in the market, said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York wrote in a research note.

In a research note, Moya wrote “The economic outlook will remain uncertain until a vaccine is in place, but a complete selloff is unlikely when trillions of dollars keep getting put into the economy.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 157.61 points, or 0.68%, to 23,405.58, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 6.31 points, or 0.22%, to 2,826.31 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 18.64 points, or 0.21%, to 8,844.53.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven were higher, led by financial .SPSY and energy .SPNY stocks.

First-quarter earnings season is on the final stretch, with 451 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 66.7% have beaten consensus, according to Refinitiv data.

In aggregate, earnings for the first three months of the year are seen falling by 12.1% from the year-ago quarter, a stark reversal from the 6.3% annual growth seen on Jan. 1.

Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) rose 4.2% after its earnings beat, driven by a jump in demand for its work-from-home networking equipment.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.61-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.01-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted four new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 18 new highs and 110 new lows.

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Futures climb ahead of Fed Chair Powell's address

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures rose on Wednesday, after Wall Street’s main indexes fell sharply in the previous session, with markets also awaiting comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell amid recent speculation over negative interest rates.

Futures traders began pricing in the possibility of negative rates last week and President Donald Trump piled pressure on the Fed again on Tuesday, as the economy reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, several members of the U.S. central bank have recently said they do not see a need for borrowing costs, now near zero, to move into negative territory. Powell’s webcast address is expected to start at 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT).

“Powell will probably reaffirm that negative rates are not on the cards, putting him on another collision course with the President,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM.

“Depending on how strongly Powell rejects the possibility of negative rates, Wall Street looks vulnerable to sell offs.”

Unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus actions as well as hopes of an economic recovery have been vital in helping the three main U.S. stock indexes rise about 30% from their March lows.

However, the rally paused this week as a spike in cases in Germany, South Korea and China and a warning from a top U.S. health expert spurred worries of a second wave of coronavirus infections as lockdowns are slowly lifted in several countries.

At 8:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 163 points, or 0.69%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 19.25 points, or 0.67% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 76.75 points, or 0.85%.

Generic drugmaker Mylan NV rose 1.7% premarket after it signed a licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences Inc for Gilead’s remdesivir drug, which recently received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

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Futures edge higher on hopes of economic recovery

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures ticked higher on Tuesday on hopes that the easing of virus-led business shutdowns would help jump-start a battered global economy, with investors also weighing the risks of reopening too soon.

Adding to the upbeat mood, China announced a new list of 79 U.S. products including ores of rare earth metals, gold ores and silver ores for waivers from retaliatory tariffs.

Trade tensions between the two countries resurfaced recently, but optimism about a recovery in business activity and massive stimulus measures have helped the S&P 500 climb about 34% from the lows of a pandemic-driven selloff in March.

“We’re in a very choppy period where we don’t really collapse or don’t go much higher,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

“Things are going to begin to normalize. But what the market is looking out for is what does normalization mean and what is its impact on corporations and the economy.”

Wuhan reported its first cluster of coronavirus infections since a lockdown on the city, stoking concerns of a wider resurgence.

Later on Tuesday, top U.S. health authorities will testify to a Senate committee looking into plans for lifting the nation’s lockdown.

Wall Street’s fear gauge slipped for the fourth day running, hitting a ten-week low, even as data showed U.S. consumer prices in April dropped by the most since the Great Recession, weighed down by a plunge in demand for gasoline and services including airline travel.

The focus for this week is the retail report for April due on Friday.

At 8:43 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 104 points, or 0.43%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 10.25 points, or 0.35% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 34.25 points, or 0.37%.

Among stocks, BlackRock Inc dropped 3.2% in premarket trade as its top shareholder PNC Financial Services Group Inc planned to sell its entire 22% stake in the world’s largest asset manager.

Simon Property Group Inc jumped 11.3% as the biggest U.S. mall operator said it would have about half of its more than 200 retail properties in the country open within the next week.

Smaller rival Macerich Co climbed 8.3% as it expected to open a vast majority of its properties by mid-June.

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Wall Street weekahead: U.S. data deluge to underscore divide between roaring market, plunging economy

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A week packed with U.S. economic data is likely to provide investors with more evidence of the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic has hit growth, sharpening the debate on whether a rebound in stocks has been justified amid an unprecedented slowdown.

The raft of data will include reports on retail sales, industrial production and inflation from April, a month in which large parts of the country were under lockdown as officials mandated stay-at-home policies due to the spreading coronavirus.

It comes as investors digest a rally that has lifted the S&P 500 Index .SPX more than 30% from its March lows, even as unemployment has soared and large swathes of the U.S. economy are at a near-standstill.

Economic data worse than the already-dire expectations could bolster the case for investors who argue that the rally in stocks has gone too far. Few can say, though, whether it will derail a surge in which stocks logged their best monthly gain in three decades in April despite weak economic data from the previous month.

“The market has shown an ability to look through the economic data. I think it will continue to do that for the April data,” said Doug Cohen, managing director for portfolio management at Athena Capital Advisors.

The parade of April data kicked off on Friday, when the Labor Department reported the U.S. economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs that month, the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression. Though bleak, that number was smaller than analysts’ expectations of 22 million jobs lost.

Two key data points next week include retail sales and industrial production, due on Friday, May 15. The numbers could help investors gauge the effect of closures on sales and factory output, said Michael Englund, chief economist at Action Economics.

Economists polled by Reuters expect retail sales to tumble 10% in April, surpassing the record drop of 8.4% in March. Industrial production, which slipped 5.4% in March, is forecast to fall 11.6%.

Steep drop-offs like those are concerning to investors who worry that unprecedented stimulus from the Federal Reserve and U.S. government have led markets to shrug off the economy’s massive slowdown.

U.S. stocks have rallied even as Citigroup’s U.S. economic surprise index, which measures whether key economic indicators are coming in above or below forecasts, has tumbled to multi-year lows.

For a graphic on Disconnected – Economic data vs. stocks, click here

Recent gains could wilt if U.S. states need to roll back efforts to reopen their economies and unemployment fails to decline in coming months.

“Markets are suffering from cognitive dissonance,” said Rob Almeida, global investment strategist for MFS Investment Management, which manages about $470 billion in assets. “Even if you reopen economies… you are not going to have economic normalization in the second or third quarter.”

Big gains in technology and communications stocks led the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC to erase all its year-to-date losses on Thursday. Rebounds in beaten-down sectors like energy have helped push the S&P higher in recent days.

“A pause (in the stock market rally) may not be surprising but the momentum trade is to continue higher as reopening of the country accelerates,” said Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management.

Some recent economic data has also eased from the jarring levels of several weeks ago, though they remain weak by historical standards.

Initial jobless claims for state unemployment benefits decreased for the fifth straight week to 3.169 million for the week ended May 2. That compares with 6.867 million in the week ended March 28.

Still, much depends on the path the pandemic takes in the coming months. A vaccine or antiviral drug could accelerate efforts to reopen economies and reduce unemployment at a faster pace in the United States and abroad, analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note to clients.

At the same time, “if social distancing proves both less effective and/or more disruptive to economic activity than we are assuming, and antiviral drugs less helpful, the prospects for even a moderate bounce in activity… this year could be dashed,” the report said.

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