Apr 14, 2020

Axios Markets

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🎙“People who have no creativity, talent, or courage are the ones who follow the rules.” - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: Corporate leaders see recovery moving further away

Reproduced from PwC CFO Pulse Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Having initially predicted they could get through the coronavirus pandemic with their businesses largely unscathed and workforces intact, U.S. corporate leaders are now starting to change their tune.

What it means: Top financial officers have consistently written down their expectations for the economy, their company's financial situation, and how many of their employees they will be able to keep on staff in recent weeks.

  • And the trend of worsening expectations is likely to continue.

Driving the news: The third release of PwC’s survey of American CFOs shows 26% anticipate layoffs at their companies, a marked increase from two weeks ago when the survey found only 16% expected layoffs.

  • More CFOs also expect that even if the virus were contained today, it would take longer for their businesses to recover.

By the numbers: A vast majority (81%) of those surveyed expect COVID-19 to decrease their company’s revenue and/or profits this year, up from 58% in PwC's first survey on March 11.

  • PwC also found 82% of CFOs are now focused on reducing costs, compared to 62% on March 11 (most company's No. 1 cost is employees).
  • Two-thirds (67%) of survey respondents now say they are considering deferring or canceling planned investments — more than double the 32% who said so in the first survey.
  • On March 11, 14% of respondents said they were "not considering any financial actions as a result of COVID-19," but that number dropped to 4% in the latest survey.

What they're saying: Having talked to corporate leaders during three separate periods over the past month, Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner at PwC, says, "It is becoming clearer and clearer ... that it’s reasonable to assume that trend will continue."

  • "There’s a growing realization that most have, whether it be at the policy-making or business level, which is that controlling the virus is simply going to take longer than we thought," Ryan tells Axios during a media call Monday.
  • "The ripple effect on the supply chain is becoming better understood and it’s causing companies to realize it’ll take a lot longer to bounce back than they had otherwise anticipated."

The big picture: That's bad news for employees, many of whom have been told by corporate leadership that their jobs were secure during the crisis.

  • "The survey is one indicator that the unemployment situation could become more challenging," Ryan says. "Not just in the retail sector, but more broadly."
Bonus content: The haves and have-nots

A separate survey from CFO Magazine conducted March 26–April 2 among 333 CFOs found that more than one-third (35%) are laying off or furloughing employees, even though a majority said they expect a V-shaped recovery. Most said they didn’t know how many employees would be affected.

  • Nearly half (49%) of the executives surveyed indicated that their organization was “scaling back” or delaying investments.

What's next: A clear division of companies is beginning to take shape, separating winners and losers. Many companies that loaded up on cash during 2019 anticipating a recession are in a better position to weather the storm.

  • However, the surveys show companies that are not large, did not have a mountain of cash coming into the year, and are not providing essential services, are already scrambling to stay afloat.
2. Catch up quick

States on both U.S. coasts formed coalitions with plans to coordinate the reopening of their economies after President Trump insisted he would have the final say. (Bloomberg)

President Emmanuel Macron extended France’s national lockdown to May 11, and the U.K. plans to extend its lockdown into May as well. (N.Y. Times)

House and Senate Democrats remain opposed to legislation that would increase the $350 billion small business lending program unless it includes additional funding for hospitals, states and food stamp recipients. (The Washington Post)

Amazon announced that it has hired 100,000 new employees, and is now "creating an additional 75,000 jobs to help serve customers during this unprecedented time." (Amazon)

U.S. earnings season for the first quarter kicks off today, with premarket reports from Wells Fargo and Johnson & Johnson among others expected to show that year-over-year earnings fell by around 10%, the weakest performance since Q3 2009, and down from a 4.3% increase forecast on Dec. 31. (FactSet)

  • JPMorgan reported profits fell by 69%.
3. U.S. likely lost more jobs in 4 weeks than it gained in 11 years

Adapted from Deutsche Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, says he is expecting Thursday's initial jobless claims report to show 8 million Americans filed for weekly unemployment benefits last week.

  • That would be the largest number ever and the fourth time in history unemployment benefits have surpassed 1 million — all of which have been in the past four weeks.
  • A reading that large would also mean the U.S. has officially shed more jobs in the past four weeks than it gained during the 11 years since the end of the Great Recession.

On the other side: Economists Aaron Sojourner and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, who initially stunned markets by predicting more than 3 million claims for the week ending March 21, expect 4.8 million claims this week.

4. Coronavirus is upending the U.S. mortgage market

More than 2 million U.S. mortgage holders are now in forbearance, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show, and forbearance requests jumped 78% for the week ending April 5.

  • Nearly 4% of all U.S. home loans are now in forbearance, MBA said.

By the numbers: The increase in requests is actually an exponential decline. Forbearance requests rose by 1,270% between the week of March 2 and the week of March 16, and another 1,896% between the week of March 16 and the week of March 30, MBA reported last week.

Keep it đź’Ż: "With mitigation efforts seemingly in place for at least several more weeks, job losses will continue and the number of borrowers asking for forbearance will likely continue to rise at a rapid pace," MBA chief economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement.

Between the lines: S&P Global warned in a note Monday that "servicers may not have adequate staff in place to handle the vast work volumes, and the enormous amounts of forbearance requests will result in very large sums of capital needed to meet servicers advancing requirements."

5. Americans face the risks
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Seven in 10 people now consider going to the grocery store a risky act — and a majority of Americans say they've started wearing masks outside their homes at least sometimes — in the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: In Week 5 of our national poll, we're seeing in more detail just how people are adapting to common fears and changes about the "new normal."

  • "Those who still work out in the world are particularly concerned about the risks they are running, and those laid off are reporting increasing debt and familial conflict," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

Go deeper: Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index Week 5: Americans face the risks

6. Costco and Walmart continue to shine

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Walmart stock rose by nearly 3% on Monday and is now less than 1% below its all-time high touched on April 6.

  • Costco's stock price also has held in positive territory during 2020, and is just under 8% from its record high.

Quote: "People who have no creativity, talent, or courage are the ones who follow the rules."

Why it matters: On April 14, 2016, Prince played his last concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, ending the show with "Purple Rain." He died a week later.

FYI: Prince was a magnificent basketball player, who would invite his vanquished opponents inside for pancakes after beating them on his home court at Paisley Park. Watch the true story told here.

  • Prince was a big fan of the "Chappelle's Show" skit about him.