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McDonald's postpones plan to reopen indoor dining at US restaurants
Alistair Gray in New York
McDonald's is postponing plans to reopen dining areas in its US restaurants by three weeks because of a jump in coronavirus cases.
While 99 per cent of McDonald's US restaurants are open, most are confined to drive-through, delivery and take out. Seating is available in only about 2,200 outlets, about 15 per cent of the total.
Now the chain is hitting the pause button on more reopenings as several states, including California, Texas and Arizona, report record numbers of new cases and various jurisdictions including New York backtrack on plans to allow restaurants to resume indoor dining.
"This surge shows nobody is exempt from this virus – even places that previously had very few cases," Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA, and Mark Salebra, chair of the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, a body that represents about 2,000 franchisees, wrote in a letter to restaurant operators viewed by the Financial Times.
"We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust as needed to protect the safety of our employees and customers."
Texas reports record increase in new coronavirus cases
Peter Wells in New York
Texas reported more than 8,000 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, a record increase, and said that nearly 7,000 people were hospitalised across the state with the disease.
The state's health department said 8,076 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, topping the previous record set yesterday by just over 1,100. Deaths rose by 57, the most since mid-May.
Texas now has 6,904 people hospitalised across the state with Covid-19. Earlier today, the Houston-based Texas Medical Center, — the biggest hospital system in the US — revealed there were 1,350 patients in its ICU wards in the area, surpassing normal capacity of 1,330. Patients with coronavirus accounted for 36 per cent of those beds.
TMC is using all of its normal ICU capacity and is having to implement plans to create new intensive care beds.
US reports more than 50,000 new cases for first time ever
Peter Wells in New York
The number of new coronavirus cases in the US topped 50,000 for the first time on Wednesday, led by record increases in California, Texas and Arizona that have emerged as some of the new hot spots for the virus.
A further 52,982 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, according to data compiled on Wednesday by the Covid Tracking Project, up from 44,358 on Tuesday. The daily increase surpassed the previous record on June 26 by just over 8,600.
California's health department said earlier on Wednesday 9,740 people tested positive for Covid-19 over the past day, a record increase. Only New York, the early hot spot for the virus in the US, has experienced single-day increases bigger than this, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data. Just over 87,000 tests were conducted in the state, a drop from back-to-back days of more than 105,000.
Texas (8,076), Arizona (4,877), Georgia (2,946) and North Carolina (1,843) all had record jumps, while Florida (6,563), Louisiana (2,083), Tennessee (1,806), South Carolina (1,520) and Ohio (1,076) were the others with more than 1,000 new cases.
Washington (671) and Alaska (38) were among the seven states to report record increases in cases, according to FT analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
US House votes to extends small-business loan deadline
James Politi in Washington
The US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to extend the deadline for small businesses to apply for the Trump administration’s loan programme intended to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic, giving Congress until early August to debate ways to renew or change the scheme.
The move by the House mirrors a similar step taken by the Senate on Tuesday, which means it will be enacted once US president Donald Trump signs the extension bill.
After the initial $349bn in forgivable loans in the Payroll Protection Program were quickly tapped by small businesses in the early stages of the pandemic, Congress added $310bn to the scheme.
But demand then started to wane, and about $130bn of money remained unspent ahead of the previous June 30 deadline for companies to apply for the programme.
The fate of the PPP is being closely watched as Congress and the White House launch negotiations on a new stimulus package, amid concerns of a stalemate that could not only imperil further help to small business but also support for the unemployed, struggling households, and states and local governments.
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US stocks rose on the first day of the third quarter as bullish investors cheered economic data and news of a potential coronavirus vaccine. The S&P 500 index rose 0.5 per cent in New York on Wednesday after the ADP employment report showed US private payrolls rose by 2.37m in June after a sharp upward revision to the previous month's data and a gauge of manufacturing rebounded to its highest level in 14 months.
California governor Gavin Newsom has ordered businesses with indoor operations and bars in some of the state's most populous and hardest-hit counties to close, continuing the state's partial reversal of its reopening plans. The new measures apply to restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, cinemas, zoos, museums and casinos in 19 of California's 58 counties.
Apple is closing for a second time 30 more of its US retail stores as new cases of coronavirus surge across America, signalling that large parts of the country are not prepared for the economy to safely reopen. The announced closures bring the total number of second shutdowns to 77, representing nearly 30 per cent of the 271 Apple locations in the country.
Citigroup has abandoned plans to return hundreds of workers to the bank's offices across 13 western and southern US states that have seen soaring numbers of coronavirus cases.
California became the latest coronavirus hot spot to report a record increase in cases, with nearly 10,000 people testing positive over the past day. The state's health department reported a further 9,740 cases since Tuesday, taking the total number of positive cases in to nearly 233,000. Just over 87,000 tests were conducted over the period, a drop from back-to-back days of more than 105,000.
The world’s tourism industry is on course to lose at least $1.2tn, or 1.5 per cent of global economic output, from the four-month standstill in travel because of the pandemic. The UN’s trade and development body warned that the loss could rise by a further $1tn if the break in international tourism extends for another four months and total $3.3tn if overseas travel is restricted until March next year.
A coronavirus vaccine from Germany’s BioNTech has yielded positive trial results, generating immune defences in participants that were stronger than those of the average recovered Covid-19 patient, according to preliminary data. In a clinical study with pharmaceutical group Pfizer in the US, 24 people between the ages of 18 and 55 who received two doses of vaccine had “significantly elevated” antibodies within four weeks of their first injection.
English football club Wigan Athletic has collapsed into administration in a move that will heighten fears about the survival of some of its rivals while stadiums are shut to fans. Administrators from Begbies Traynor said Wigan, which plays in the second-tier Championship and won the FA Cup in 2013, would fulfil its fixtures while a buyer was sought.
Volkswagen will cancel plans to build a car plant in Turkey owing to the severe slowdown in the global car market, the German manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday. The proposed factory, near Izmir, had been put on hold after VW supervisory board members expressed concern about building a base in Turkey following its incursion into Syria last year.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has committed £200m of immediate funding for Virgin Atlantic as the grounded airline races to secure a £1bn rescue package early this month. The commitment will help bolster the struggling airline’s cash reserves in the coming months in the face of a slow recovery in international air travel, which has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Asia-Pacific stocks track Wall St higher on vaccine news
Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong
Stock markets in Asia-Pacific ticked higher on Thursday following gains on Wall Street on news of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Japan's Topix rose 0.5 per cent, the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.6 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 nudged up 0.2 per cent.
Futures tip the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong to fall 0.4 per cent after China revealed national security legislation that was more harsh than expected.
Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 added 0.5 per cent following upbeat economic data and news of positive trial results for a potential Covid-19 vaccine outweighed fears over US coronavirus outbreaks.
S&P 500 futures were flat.
Colombia reports record number of new infections
Gideon Long in Bogotá
Colombia has registered its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases on Tuesday taking the overall figure since the pandemic began to over 100,000.
The government recorded 4,163 new cases in a 24-hour period taking the total to 102,009, of whom 3,470 have died.
While the caseload in Colombia is rising relentlessly, the country has fared better than most of its Latin American peers. It has recorded fewer deaths per capita than Chile, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador or Mexico.
However, a strict lockdown has hit the economy hard. Gross domestic product crashed by 20 per cent in April and unemployment soared to 21.4 per cent in May.
On Friday, the government said it expected a fiscal deficit of 8.2 per cent this year and 5.1 per cent next year. It expected the economy to shrink by 6.6 per cent in 2020 before bouncing back with growth of 5.5 per cent in 2021.
The IMF is more pessimistic, forecasting a contraction of 7.8 per cent this year and a recovery of 4 per cent next year.
NZ health minister resigns over lockdown and quarantine blunders
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
New Zealand’s health minister, David Clark, resigned on Thursday following a series of blunders linked to the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including a personal breach of the nation’s lockdown rules by bringing his family to the beach.
Mr Clark’s resignation comes just months before a September election and follows a scandal over alleged lax Covid-19 procedures, including failing to test two British women who were allowed to leave quarantine early and later tested positive for the virus.
“It has become increasingly clear to me that my continuation in the role is distracting for the government’s overall response to Covid-19 and the global pandemic,” Mr Clark told a news conference.
Mr Clark had previously offered his resignation to Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, following the scandal linked to his breach of Covid-19 restrictions just a week into lockdown in March.
At the time Ms Ardern said she would normally have sacked the minister but to avoid disruption to the fight against the pandemic she demoted him instead.
Mr Clark announced his resignation on Thursday flanked by cabinet colleagues, finance minister Grant Robertson, left, and communications minister Kris Faafoi.
Ms Ardern said she accepted his resignation and appointed Chris Hipkins, education minister, to the post of health minister. He will retain both portfolios until the election, she said.
“David has put the interests of the team ahead of his own,” said Ms Ardern.
New Zealand has enjoyed global praise for its handling of the pandemic, which included enforcing a strict lockdown, closing its borders and crushing community transmission.
But in recent weeks critics have attacked the government for failing to test people leaving hotel quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
Support for Ms Ardern’s Labour party has slipped in a 1 News-Colmar Brunton opinion poll to 50 per cent, 9 percentage points lower than a similar poll a month earlier. Support for the main opposition National party increased by 9 percentage points to 38 per cent.
Trump eases attitude towards use of face masks
US president Donald Trump appeared to soften his stance on the wearing of masks on Wednesday, telling the Fox Business television channel that he liked the way he looked.
Although he does not like to be photographed wearing a face mask, Mr Trump told Fox Business he had worn one “in the past”, adding that donning one was unnecessary as visitors were tested before meeting him.
“I mean, people have seen me wearing one,” Mr Trump said. “It was a dark, black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Some Twitter users mocked Mr Trump’s depiction, given that the fictional former Texas Ranger portrayed on radio and in television, film and comic books wore his mask over his eyes.
Mr Trump said he still did not back the mandatory wearing of masks in public.
On Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in testimony to the Senate, urged Americans to wear masks in public areas and crowded spaces.
On Sunday, the US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said a national mask mandate is “long overdue.”
Global stocks gain as Fed guidance looks more likely
Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong
Global stocks gained ground after minutes from the US Federal Reserve showed officials were moving closer to offering detailed guidance on the path of interest rates and investors looked forward to the release of US employment data.
In Asian trading on Thursday, Tokyo’s benchmark Topix index rose 0.4 per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.7 per cent. China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 0.4 per cent.
Stocks in Hong Kong climbed 1.4 per cent on return from a bank holiday and following the imposition by Beijing of a sweeping national security law on the Asian financial hub.
“Financial markets overall appeared to have digested both the [national security law] and related international responses after their initial reactions”, said Adrienne Lui, an economist at Citibank.
Those gains came after the release of minutes from the US Federal Open Market Committee meeting held on June 9 and 10 revealed a growing consensus that the Fed should “further clarify” its monetary policy intentions.
That helped bolster Wall Street, where the S&P 500 closed 0.5 per cent higher. The benchmark surged more than 20 per cent over the past three months. Futures markets tipped the S&P 500 to open flat when trading begins on Wall Street later in the day.
Investors are looking ahead to US non-farm payrolls data due for release today, with economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecasting more than 3m jobs added in June—the first rise since the coronavirus pandemic began spurring massive waves of unemployment.
Masks not needed in most cases, says top Australia medic
Face masks are needed only in hot spots and for sick people, Australia's acting top doctor advised on Wednesday, as an outbreak continued to rage in the country's second-largest city.
Paul Kelly, Australia's acting chief medical officer, said the government's advice on masks "remains the same" as dozens of new cases have emerged in Melbourne.
Victoria, the state of 6.4m people of which Melbourne is the capital, has recorded 365 cases in the past week, a 185 per cent rise over the previous seven days. New South Wales, with 7.5m people, has reported 45 new cases in the past week.
Several Melbourne suburbs are back under lockdown and police set up roadblocks, pictured, to limit movement in and out of the affected areas.
"Masks are not needed in most circumstances, for most people, most of the time," Prof Kelly said during a news conference.
He said masks should be worn "where there is a large increase in community transmission and social distancing cannot be guaranteed".
Prof Kelly also recommended that people who feel unwell should wear a mask if they leave home.
"We actually asked, on the basis of this changed information and the epidemiology in Melbourne, we asked our expert panel on masks to look again, specifically, to see whether there was a change we needed to consider," he told reporters.
Pandemic and economic downturn ‘hits women hardest’
Andrew Hill in London
Linda Scott has spent years collecting data on gender inequality and exploring the dark history of female subjugation.
As an academic researcher, she has documented the first-hand experience of obstacles to women’s economic advance towards equality, from villages in Ghana and Uganda to the campuses of US business schools.
But it was the coronavirus pandemic that brought the issues to her doorstep, in the form of her young granddaughter. With US nursery schools emptying for lockdown and hospitals filling up with cases of Covid-19, Prof Scott’s daughter, a doctor in an accident and emergency department, was suddenly on constant call.
Meanwhile, her architect son-in-law was diverted to urgent projects refitting factories to produce emergency supplies. The family agreed it was safest for Prof Scott to become the primary carer for her four-year-old granddaughter.
“[This pandemic is] hitting women hardest and it’s hitting hardest for the same reasons,” she said.
For instance, the virus has hit childcare, service industries, part-time work and lower income jobs, all of which involve disproportionate numbers of women, and might also have contributed to the decline in the case growth rate during March.
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Individuals slowed spread before lockdowns began, researchers say
Mobile phone data suggest a decline in the number of trips people made per day began before US stay-at-home policies were implemented, and the decline was strongly correlated with a reduction of Covid-19 case growth in the 25 most affected counties across the US, according to a new study.
“Our results strongly support the conclusion that social distancing played a crucial role in the reduction of case growth rates in multiple US counties during March and April, and is therefore an effective mitigation policy for Covid-19 in the US,” said Lauren Gardner, from Johns Hopkins University, one of the authors of the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal.
“Critically, we also found that behavioural changes were already under way in many US counties days to weeks before state-level or local-level stay-at-home policies were implemented,” she added.
It compared local case growth with how individuals actually modified their movement patterns between January 1 and April 20, rather than relying on assumed compliance with local stay-at-home policies.
Between January 24 and April 17, mobility dropped to 35-63 per cent of the normal patterns in the 25 most-affected counties — ranging from 35 per cent of normal levels of movement in the counties that comprise New York City to 63 per cent in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston.
The authors observed a delay of nine to 12 days before the effects of decreases in movement were observed on Covid-19 transmission, which they said was in line with expectations.
For all 25 most-affected counties, the correlation between movement patterns and case growth was significant.
The authors note that they were unable to differentiate between low-risk and high-risk trips involved in the movement patterns. For example, multiple trips alone to a park are probably lower risk than a single trip to a grocery store.
Thai rubber glove maker's shares soar on debut
John Reed in Bangkok
Shares in Thai rubber products maker Sri Trang Gloves soared on their first day of trading in Bangkok, as investors piled into a business that stands to profit from brisk coronavirus-related demand.
Shares in the Thai company, after listing at Bt35 ($1.12) jumped by more than 70 per cent as of late Thursday morning. The Thai company, which is owned by one of the world’s largest integrated rubber groups, describes itself as the world’s third-largest manufacturer of rubber gloves.
Floated under the ticker STGT, Sri Trang Gloves says it wants to use the money to triple its production capacity to 100bn pieces by 2032.
Its initial public offering was the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s first since early February, when department store giant Central Group raised a record $2.5bn from investors before the global pandemic took hold.
Brussels in talks to secure doses of remdesivir for EU
Michael Peel in Brussels and Donato Paolo Mancini in London
The European Commission is in talks with Gilead Sciences, the US pharmaceuticals business, to reserve doses of the drug remdesivir to combat coronavirus after Washington announced that it had bought up much of the global supply.
Stella Kyriakides, health commissioner for the 27-country EU, has held a series of negotiations with the company, including over its production capacity, Brussels said.
Remdesivir, an antiviral, was once considered as a potential Ebola medicine. It is the only branded drug to receive emergency-use approval from US regulators for treating Covid-19.
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Tokyo cases top 100 for first time since emergency ended
Robin Harding in Tokyo
The number of new coronavirus cases in Tokyo has risen above 100 a day for the first time since a state of emergency was ended, according to national broadcaster NHK.
The increase follows a steady rise in Tokyo cases in recent days, raising fears of a second wave and a fresh request to close businesses.
The percentage of tests coming back positive rose to 3.4 per cent in recent days compared with lows of less than 1 per cent in late May.
However, many of the positive results relate to intensive testing of staff in host clubs and other nightlife premises, raising the possibility that the increase is due to better detection rather than increased spread of the disease.
Vietnam speeds up big projects to heal economy from pandemic
Tomoya Onishi in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam has approved its biggest commercial project this year, as the government seeks to maintain a record pace of public and private investment to help the economy emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed off on a $9.3bn tourist resort in southern Vietnam led by Vingroup, the south-east Asian nation's largest private conglomerate.
Foreign backers will also participate in the development in coastal Can Gio district, 50km south of Ho Chi Minh City, which is scheduled for completion in 2031.
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Philippines to release 15,000 prisoners to ease contagion threat
John Reed in Bangkok
Philippine authorities on Thursday said they were releasing more than 15,000 prisoners in a bid to ease congestion and contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Human rights groups and the International Committee of the Red Cross had been urging the south-east Asian country, which has some of the world’s most overcrowded jails, to release inmates serving time for minor offences.
Announcing the move, the Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government said that the majority of the 15,322 prisoners being released had committed light or bailable offences, adding that it was taking action "after leftist organisations claimed the government is not doing enough to decongest the jails”.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” has helped to fill the country’s prisons since he became president in 2016.
The Philippines has to date confirmed 38,511 coronavirus cases, 1,270 of which resulted in deaths, which is the third-highest caseload in south-east Asia after Indonesia and Singapore.
Alongside the capital, Manila, Cebu City in the Central Visayas islands has emerged as a new hot spot of infections in recent days.
Mr Duterte this week decided to keep the city under lockdown for two more weeks, even as quarantine restrictions in Manila were eased.
Ryanair reports 97% drop in passengers in June
Ryanair flew 400,000 passengers last month when it operated about 2,800 scheduled flights, the budget airline reported a day after it resumed trips from the UK to other European destinations.
That's a 97 per cent drop from June 2019's 14.2m passengers. The airline on July 1 returned more than 1,000 daily flights across Europe after a more than three-month coronavirus shutdown. That restores almost 90 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 route network, it said.
Ryanair shares rose more than 3 per cent in early trading.
The pandemic has shattered the airline and tourism industries with thousands of jobs worldwide being lost and planes grounded. Ryanair,which plans to axe as many as 3,000 jobs, has warned it would make a €200m loss in its first quarter.
Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in central and eastern Europe, had 86 per cent fewer passengers in June, compared with a year earlier, it said on Thursday.
City Bulletin round-up: Primark, audit reforms, Meggitt, Boohoo
Cat Rutter Pooley in London
Primark sales slumped by three-quarters compared with last year in the three-and-a-half months to mid-June, showing the effect lockdown has had on one of the largest retailers. The hit from store closures means profits for the year ending in September could be down by two-thirds to between £300m and £350m, rather than the £913m the brand raked in last year.
Donald Brydon, the former chair of the London Stock Exchange who laid out sweeping reforms to the UK audit profession in a government-commissioned report last year, has called for an overhaul of the sector to be accelerated in the wake of the Wirecard scandal. He urged the government to act before the sector found itself in disarray because of further scandals.
Aerospace contractor Meggitt said revenues would fall around 30 per cent from last year in the second quarter, after a slump in its civil aviation division and energy business. The group warned that it would write down the value of some of its assets in its half-year results, due out in September, because of the slowdown in the airline industry and said it expects to report a “significant free cash outflow” during the period.
Pub group Mitchells & Butlers reported a loss of £121m for the first half of its financial year, even though that only included around three weeks of lockdown. M&B said it was working on the basis that sales take nine months to recover to 2019 levels as sites start to reopen this weekend.
Finally, retailer Boohoo came under fire on Wednesday for allegedly risking the spread of coronavirus in Leicester. Labour Behind the Label, a garment workers’ rights group, said “business as normal” in the city’s garment factories was likely to be linked to a rise in virus cases.
Primark forecasts slump in profit as pandemic hits hard
Jonathan Eley in London
Discount fashion chain Primark, which before the pandemic crisis was expected to clear £1bn of annual profit for the first time, said on Thursday it expected the figure to be about a third of that level.
Shares in the discount chain's parent company Associated British Foods rose about 7 per cent in early London trading as investors gained some solace from sales picking up since Primark started to reopen stores in Europe on May 4.
Shoppers, starved of cheap clothing and fast fashion for weeks, queued for hours in England despite virus fears and spent more in the first week of reopening than they did in the same week a year earlier. Primark is pushing ahead with its plan to open new stores.
“There’s a lot to like in these numbers – and it’s the first time we’ve been able to say that in a while," said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"Trading in the first few weeks of June looks very promising and with almost all stores now open that provides a strong base for recovery," he added. "Meanwhile the group’s food-focused operations have not only benefited from consumers being stuck at home but have also delivered margin improvements – doubly good news for profits."
Full-year adjusted operating profit will range from £300m to £350m, compared with £913m reported for the previous financial year, parent company Associated British Foods said in a statement. The forecast is ahead of an unusually wide range of analysts’ expectations, which were mostly below £300m.
Primark, which has reopened 367 of the group’s 375 stores in the UK, Europe and the US, said trading had been “reassuring and encouraging”.
Same-store sales over the seven weeks to June 20 for those stores that had reopened were down 12 per cent.
Food sales boosted ABF as groceries generated 9 per cent more third-quarter revenue than a year earlier with housebound consumers stocking up on Ovaltine, cereals and Ryvita.
Italy's jobless rate surges as more 'inactive' people seek work
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
Italy’s unemployment rate rose sharply in May as hundreds of thousands of people who had been considered “inactive” started to look for work after coronavirus restrictions were partially lifted.
The number of people classed as “looking for work” in Italy rose by 307,000, pushing its unemployment rate up from a 12-year-low of 6.6 per cent in April to 7.8 per cent in May.
The record postwar recession caused by the pandemic has knocked Italy’s labour market, as the number of employed people fell by 84,000 in May. That took the total number who have fallen out of the workforce in the three months since the pandemic swept across Italy in March to 381,000.
Those classed as inactive rose sharply after authorities in March imposed a strict lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic. But in May it started to fall again, with a drop of 229,000 people.
The jobs of young people and women have been hit harder by the pandemic, the national statistics institute said. The youth unemployment rate rose from 21.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent between April and May, while more than three-quarters of those who fell out of the workforce in May were women, it said.
Global stocks rise on optimism US jobs report will reinforce bullishness
Philip Georgiadis in London and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong
Global stocks gained ground before the release of US payroll data that will offer investors more insight into the recovery of the world’s largest economy.
European stocks opened higher, following gains in Asia and a late rally on Wall Street as hopes for an economic revival and a potential coronavirus vaccine offset concerns over a surge of infections in several American states.
London’s FTSE 100 rose 0.8 per cent in early trading, while the regional benchmark Stoxx 600 added 1.1 per cent. Shares in Asia-Pacific traded around their highest levels in four months, as MSCI’s broad index of Asian shares ex-Japan gained 1.8 per cent. Futures markets tipped the S&P 500 to open 0.6 per cent higher while US government bond yields were stable.
The bullish sentiment comes in the run-up to US non-farm payrolls data due on Thursday, with a Bloomberg poll showing forecasts of more than 3m jobs being added in June. That would mark the second straight rise after a loss of 20.7m in April.
Still, analysts at UniCredit said that markets were vulnerable to a disappointing jobs print, given the background of rising cases in many US states.
“Equity markets seem to have withstood the threat from rising infection numbers over the past three weeks or so," UniCredit said in a note. "If lingering growth concerns were to be validated by a soft labour market report, we could be in for a nasty month of July."
Slowdown in Europe's job losses adds to recovery hopes
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
The downturn in Europe’s labour market has slowed after the unemployment rate inched up to 6.7 per cent across the EU in May, its highest level for nine months, but lower than many economists had expected.
Following sharp rises in consumer spending in Germany and France in May, the lower-than-expected rise in European unemployment provides further encouragement for those who believe the region is recovering quickly from the deep recession caused by the pandemic.
Europe’s jobless rate had been falling steadily for seven years since it peaked at over 11 per cent in 2013. But after hitting a 12-year-low of 6.4 per cent in March, the pandemic caused unemployment to start rising again, albeit less dramatically than many analysts had initially feared.
In May, the number of unemployed people across the EU rose by 253,000, pushing the jobless rate up from 6.6 per cent April to 6.7 per cent, Eurostat said on Thursday. In the eurozone, the jobless rate rose to 7.4 per cent in May, up from 7.3 per cent in April.
May’s figures were better than expected; economists surveyed by Reuters had predicted that the unemployment rate across the eurozone would hit 7.7 per cent.
Economists believe Europe’s government-subsidised furlough schemes have shielded the region’s labour market from the worst of the crisis, in contrast to the US where the jobless rate has risen from near record lows of 3.5 per cent to 13.3 per cent.
More than 40m people across Europe have enrolled in the furlough schemes, in which much of their wages are paid by their government while they are sent home — protecting jobs by allowing companies to idle employees temporarily at the state’s expense.
Treasuries face 'potentially volatile' trading around US jobs numbers
US non-farm payrolls figures will be in focus later today, offering investors an insight into the economic recovery and a new test for the bullish sentiment on Wall Street.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast that more than 3m jobs were added in June. That would mark the second straight rise after a loss of 20.7m in April.
The Treasury market faces a “potentially volatile” session, fixed income strategists at JPMorgan said, noting that a shortened trading day for bonds will combine with high uncertainty over the forecasts for the jobs numbers.
Given the historical sensitivity of Treasury yields to payroll surprises, combined with heightened forecast uncertainty around this week’s release and seasonally-depressed liquidity, this sets the stage for a potentially volatile reaction.
UK companies expect third-quarter sales to tumble
UK businesses expect their sales to fall by a quarter over the next three months even as the economy slowly reopens following coronavirus lockdowns, finance chiefs said in a poll conducted by the Bank of England.
The decline, though still steep, would mark a significant improvement from the April to June quarter, when sales were forecast to have fallen 38 per cent, according to the survey carried out between June 5 - 19.
Investors pay close attention to the BoE report, which is seen as an important leading indicator of conditions across the country's economy.
High-frequency data such as retail footfall and mobility figures have shown improvements as the economy reopens, but sales are an indicator of the ability of businesses to survive and support jobs.
All sectors expect sales to fall significantly in the third quarter, despite the reopening of the economy, with accommodation and food services expected to generate only half of their usual turnover. Manufacturers expect sales to be down by one quarter.
As a result, the labour market is set to deteriorate as the government job retention scheme wanes and revenues fail to recover to pre-virus levels. According to the survey, the share of people looking for a job is expected to peak at the end of this year at more than 11 per cent, from the current 3.6 per cent.
Business investment, which supports future growth and fosters advances in productivity and competitiveness, is projected to remain more than a third lower from what it would otherwise have been without the pandemic. In the first quarter of next year, CFOs see investment still nearly 20 per cent off normal levels.
The sobering picture comes as data from the Office for National Statistics reveal that 64 per cent of businesses open in the first half of June reported lower turnover than usual, a proportion largely unchanged despite the gradual reopening of the economy. More than one in four businesses saw their turnover halve over that period, leaving the number of job vacancies at half the level they were before the pandemic hit.
Much of US backs out of reopening as pandemic ravages state economies
More than half of the US has reversed or halted reopening bars, restaurants and shops as the coronavirus pandemic rampages through almost every state and knocks the world’s largest economy.
Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Georgia, which represent 13 per cent of the population, meet none of the four recommended federal criteria for reopening their economies while seven states — or 16 per cent — meet only one, Goldman Sachs said in a note. Vermont and New Hampshire are the only states to meet all four demands.
Stricter policies imposed at state level include restaurants returning to 50 per cent occupancy limit, from 75 per cent, in Texas while in Arizona the governor has closed bars, gyms, cinemas and water parks.
Goldman said that some states, such as New York where authorities have backtracked on this week’s planned reopening of indoor dining, could “begin to react with targeted measures to mitigate the virus spread before new case counts soar and hospital capacity diminishes”.
States "that have paused or reversed reopening — such as Colorado and Michigan — are performing better than several others that have announced no changes or suspensions to their plans”, the investment bank's note added.
The number of new US coronavirus cases surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, as some of the most populous states such as California and Texas reported a record increase. The case count surge has intensified concerns about the rate at which the disease is spreading as Americans prepare for the July 4 holiday weekend. The US registered 52,982 positive Covid-19 tests over the latest 24 hours, the Covid Tracking Project shows.
“In the US the rising number of infections and the re-tightening of measures against the pandemic in some places have brought the upward trend in mobility to a halt,” said Commerzbank.
The US is by far the worst affected country by case count and deaths, Johns Hopkins University tally shows. Along with Brazil, its new infection rate is steeper than that of Russia and the UK. Altogether these are four of the most scarred economies by the pandemic.
Here is Commerzbank's chart:
UK government reveals plan for England's return to school
Bethan Staton and Laura Hughes
Schools in England will be expected to put in place remote learning plans in case of local coronavirus outbreaks as well as preparing for a full return to the classroom in September, government measures published on Thursday revealed.
The Department for Education plans confirm that the government will lift limits to the size of groups of students to allow schools to open at full capacity. Pupils will be organised into “bubbles” of class or year groups to control the spread of coronavirus. Schools will also need to draw up plans in which whole year groups could self-isolate and learn remotely in case of outbreaks of Covid-19.
Returning to "normal educational routines" as quickly as possible was "critical to the national recovery", the education secretary said.
Gavin Williamson told MPs that by the start of the autumn term the government will provide all schools and colleges with a small number of testing kits.
The government’s plan confirms that schools will be expected to teach a full curriculum, while addressing “gaps in knowledge” that have emerged during lockdown, when most state schools did little teaching.
National GCSE and A-level exams will go ahead with some small alterations, and attendance for all pupils will be mandatory.
Pulled Treasury tweet cheering pub return draws ire
A now-deleted tweet urging English drinkers to "grab a drink and raise a glass" when pubs in England reopen this weekend has been called "wholly irresponsible", as some communities face reinforced restrictions to contain a surge in new infections.
The Treasury department later withdrew the tweet it put out on Wednesday that had an ochre-coloured banner saying in capital letters: Pubs are back July 4.
The tweet was considered tactless and ill-timed as Leicester this week became the first UK city under a reinforced local lockdown. Non-essential shops and many schools have been closed again as the Midlands city has suffered a surge in coronavirus cases.
Other cities and localities have shown a rise in their case count and face similar local lockdowns. The UK has reported nearly 44,000 coronavirus deaths to become the fourth-worst affected nation in the world with nearly 315,000 cases confirmed.
"This is wholly irresponsible publicity by the Conservative government which will fuel a resurgence of coronavirus infection & death in England," Welsh Labour MP Geraint Davies replied on Twitter.
The government has relaxed its strict three-month lockdown in England in a push to restart the ravaged economy, decreeing that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hair salons can reopen on Saturday. That follows non-essential shops opening their doors last month, a move that prompted queues outside clothes retailers.
Museums, cinemas and theatres will also be able to reopen. The UK cultural industry, a major tourist draw that employs tens of thousands, contributed £32.3bn to the economy in 2018, the latest official figures show.
Many though will hesitate to return to pubs and bars, as Alice Hancock reported on June 12.
The Hard Rock Cafe will be among those in London opening its doors to the public, asserting that a maximum of two households per table can book, preferably in advance. Menus will be covered in "the latest in antibacterial coating" and staff will wear masks.
ExxonMobil forecasts up to $3.5bn quarterly hit from oil price drop
Myles McCormick in London
Oil major Exxon Mobil expects its exploration and production business to take a hit of up to $3.5bn in the second quarter as a result of the crash in prices.
The group – the biggest US oil company by market capitalisation – said on Friday that it anticipated results in its oil and gas production division would be between $2.5bn and $3.1bn weaker in the second quarter compared with the first.
Oil prices have been hammered this year by a combination of a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which led to surging supply, and coronavirus lockdowns, which sapped demand.
US benchmark crude prices fell into negative territory in April. They have since bounced back, but at around $40 a barrel, they remain down by about a third since January.
Rival producer Royal Dutch Shell this week became the latest producer to warn it would be forced to write down the value of its assets as a result of the weaker oil price, after BP did so last month.
US unemployment rate falls as economy adds nearly 5m jobs
James Politi in Washington
US employers added 4.8m new jobs in June and the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 per cent, as the economic rebound from the initial coronavirus shock gathered pace last month before lockdown measures were eased.
The fall in the jobless rate from 13.3 per cent in May was better than expected, but was based on data collected in the second week of last month — predating a spike in infections that has hit several large US states since then and caused some authorities to reimpose restrictions on economic activity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job gains were broad-based, with leisure and hospitality recovering 2.1m positions, retail restoring 740,000 people on payroll, and manufacturing adding 356,000 jobs.
Even so, the US has now clawed back only 7.5m of the 22m jobs lost since March. As happened in previous reports, the BLS acknowledged that a “misclassification error” was still distorting the result of its survey, and without it the jobless rate would have been 1 percentage point higher on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
A separate release by the US labour department showed that 1.4m people filed for jobless benefits last week, highlighting the vast churn in the labour markets as many employers lay off workers even as others are hiring them back.
US stock futures rally following strong jobs report
Global stocks pushed higher after a strong jobs report fuelled hopes that the US economy is on track for a rapid recovery from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
US employers added 4.8m jobs in June and the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 per cent, the second consecutive month that the figures have beaten economists’ expectations.
S&P 500 futures rallied following the report, and were up 1.2 per cent with less than an hour to go until the opening bell.
US government debt came under modest selling pressure, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury up 0.022 percentage points to 0.704 per cent.
The jobs figures have breathed new life into an already bullish week for equity markets, which have been boosted by signs of economic recovery and developments towards a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
Israel turns to neighbourhood lockdowns to control virus surge
Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv
Israel will impose targeted lockdowns in neighbourhoods with flare-ups in infections as ministers grappled with a surge of cases that threatens the nationwide reopening of the economy.
More than a thousand people were diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, the highest since the outbreak began, after more than 800 — the previous record — tested positive the day before. The death toll rose to 324, with 58 people listed in serious conditions at hospitals.
The restrictions are seen as an attempt to stave off a second national lockdown. The previous restrictions on economic activity left close to a third of the population dependent on unemployment insurance. Jobless figures dropped to about 21 per cent in recent weeks, the government said on Wednesday.
Some neighbourhoods in the coastal city of Ashdod and the middle-class Tel Aviv suburb of Lod will face restrictions on travel and businesses, the prime minister's office said on Thursday. The Palestinian civil administration of the occupied West Bank also announced a week-long closure of the entire economy to stem a rising infection rate.
In the ultra-orthodox town of Bnei Brak, which saw the country's worst outbreak, authorities shut down the area around a Yeshiva, one of the religious training schools that were linked with a large number of cases earlier this year.
Ministers also renewed a controversial surveillance programme under which the security service Shin Bet will use a national cellphone location database to warn people if they have been near a diagnosed patient and instruct them to isolate.
Tesla deliveries top expectations to send shares higher
Tesla delivered more vehicles than expected even as its Fremont, California, plant was closed for about half the second quarter in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The news sent its shares soaring a day after it became the most valuable carmaker in the world.
The electric automaker said it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, above a Refinitiv poll with analysts expecting 74,130. However, this was still down nearly 5 per cent from the same quarter a year ago.
The company produced 75,946 of its lower-priced Model 3 and Model Y crossover utility vehicles and delivered 80,050.
Tesla delivered figures that were a "jaw dropper" in a performance "we would characterise as a 'major home run' speaking to its Teflon-like business model", said Daniel Ives, analyst at Wedbush. "Bulls will run with this as a potential paradigm changer moving ahead."
Tesla shares jumped more than 8 per cent to $1,212 in pre-market trade.
The better-than-expected deliveries came even as Tesla's Fremont plant stopped production on March 23 because of the coronavirus crisis. The company then sued Alameda County, where the electric car maker employs more than 10,000 people, and threatened to relocate operations. It eventually restarted production in defiance of authorities, before ultimately getting a greenlight to resume limited production in May.
Tesla shares are up 167 per cent year-to-date. On Wednesday, the company overtook Toyota to become the world’s most valuable carmaker by market capitalisation.
Scotland to ease the two-metre rule for some businesses
Mure Dickie in Edinburgh
Scotland plans to allow some businesses to reduce physical distancing for coronavirus from two metres to one metre starting on July 10, but will make wearing a face covering mandatory in shops.
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister, also announced that from Friday children up to 11-years-old would be exempted from physical distancing while outdoors and those up to 17 would be allowed to meet members of more households each day.
Ms Sturgeon has been under pressure from business groups and opposition parties to match the UK government's easing of the two-metre distancing rule in England. Critics say the two-metre rule makes many businesses unviable.
Under the Scottish government plans, two-metre distancing will remain the general rule but businesses in the public transport, hospitality and retail sectors will be allowed to move to one metre on condition they take other risk mitigation measures such as improving ventilation or retaining customers’ contact details.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said businesses would welcome the new flexibility, but would need clarity and detail on the extra precautions required.
Infections in England hold steady — government survey
Clive Cookson in London
The fall in coronavirus infections across England in recent weeks has leveled off, according to a weekly official infection report released on Thursday afternoon.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that an average of 25,000 people living in the community (rather than in hospital and other institutions) had Covid-19 at any given time between June 14 and June 27. Although that is lower than previous figures, the study also shows new infections occurring at a rate of 25,000 per week, which suggests that the number of Covid-19 cases may have begun to increase again.
“This week’s estimate of new infections appears to be higher than in recent weeks, but we do not have sufficient evidence to report this as an increase,” the ONS said. “At this point, we do not have evidence that the current trend is anything other than flat.”
The data come days before a significant easing of England’s lockdown, with pubs and restaurants opening on July 4.
The survey also found that 6.3 per cent of participants tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19. That would mean that 2.8m people in England have already been infected with coronavirus — a proportion roughly in line with other estimates.
American Airlines overstaffed by 20%-30% this autumn
Claire Bushey in Chicago
American Airlines will have more than 20,000 employees this autumn than it needs to operate its reduced flying schedule, executives said on Thursday.
Chief executive Doug Parker and president Robert Isom said in a memo to employees that the Fort Worth, Texas airline anticipates having 20 per cent to 30 per cent more workers than it needs, given reduced customer traffic and the airline’s decision to abandon 19 international routes from six hubs.
“To be clear, this doesn’t mean 20,000 of our team members will be furloughed in October, it simply means we still have work to do to right-size our team for the airline we will operate,” they said. “We are committed to resetting the airline using a different playbook than the one of past crises where last-in, first-out furloughs were the expected result.”
American is working with its unions to encourage voluntary leave and early retirement, they said.
Cash receipts improved each month of the second quarter, but remain a fraction of last year’s, the executives said. The airline averaged $4.2bn in cash receipts per month in the second quarter of 2019. This year, American received $11m in April, $358m in May and $1bn in June.
Florida reports record increase of more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases
Florida reported a jump in new coronavirus cases of more than 10,000 for the first time on Thursday.
A further 10,109 people tested positive over the past 24 hours, Florida's health department said in its provisional report on Thursday morning, up from nearly 6,600 a day earlier.
Until today, New York had been the only state to ever report a single-day jump of more than 10,000 cases.
The number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose more than 50,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday, propelled by record one-day increases in California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.
Like those states, Florida has established itself as one of the new hot spots for Covid-19 in the US, but state government is reluctant to further roll back its reopening plans, having already ordered bars across the state to close from June 26.
"We're not going back, closing things. I don't think that that's really what's driving it; people going to a business is not what's driving it," governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Wednesday, suggesting instead the spread was more a result of younger people failing to comply with health guidelines.
Ahead of the July 4 weekend, which has the potential to be a so-called superspreader event, some regions in Florida have issued their own guidelines and restrictions to residents. Cities in the Florida Keys decided yesterday to cancel their fireworks displays, while festivities in places like Orlando are still expected to go ahead.
President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on the divergence in coronavirus cases across US states, telling a press conference: "Some areas that were hard-hit are now doing very well. Some were doing very well and we thought they may be gone and they flare up and we're putting out the fires."
This post has been amended to include the number of non-Florida residents who tested positive for Covid-19 over the past day.
US oil and gas rig count falls again to record low
Myles McCormick in London
The US rig count — a key measure of drilling activity in the oil and gas sector — declined for the seventeenth consecutive week on Thursday, leaving it down almost three quarters since this time last year.
Data from Houston oil field services group showed the US rig count falling by two to a record low of 263 in the past week.
The dropoff in activity, caused by oil prices plunging as a result of coronavirus lockdowns, has slowed markedly in recent weeks, leading analysts to suggest a bottom may be near.
However, with prices remaining down by around a third since the beginning of the year, they are still too low for most producers to return to drilling. This has forced employers in the sector to continue to cut jobs. Employment in oil and gas fell by around 10,000 in June, even as employment in most other sectors rebounded.
Hermain Cain admitted to hospital with Covid-19
Hermain Cain has tested positive for coronavirus less than two weeks after he attended Donald Trump's reelection rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The one-time contender for the Republican presidential nomination was on Monday informed that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and by Wednesday had developed symptoms that were serious enough for him to require admission to hospital, according to a statement published to his Twitter account.
Mr Cain, who did not require a respirator, is receiving treatment at a hospital in the Atlanta area.
"There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr Cain contracted the coronavirus, but we do know he is a fighter who has beaten stage 4 cancer," the statement added.
Mr Cain's diagnosis came after he attended the president's rally in Tulsa on June 20. The campaign had expected some 19,000 people to attend but was greeted by a reduced crowd, though most attendees did not appear to be wearing masks inside the arena.
The US has seen a resurgence in coroanvirus cases with the number of new cases nationwide up by more than 50,000 in a day for the first time on Wednesday.
Rising daily case rates in the Midwest jeopardise June relief
More than half of the US states where daily coronavirus case rates declined during June have struggled to replicate that trend over the past week in a possible sign the progress made by some regions to contain the spread of the disease may have recently stalled or could be reversing.
At the end of June, only 18 states had seven-day average daily case rates that were lower than at the end of May, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data. But 13 of those states now had average daily rates as of July 1 that are higher than a week ago.
New York and New Jersey, which were early hot spots for the virus, are among only four states with average daily rates that were down for June as well as from seven and 14 days ago. Both brought their average rates down from the thousands and have been among the most cautious states to reopen.
While many states in the west and south are grabbing headlines with worrying trends in infections and admissions to hospital, there may be signs of a pick-up in average daily case rates in the Midwest, with all 12 states in the region registering average new case rates on July 1 that were higher than a week ago.
Only two of those Midwest states - South Dakota and Nebraska - have an average new case rate that is lower than 14 days ago, and these two joined Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois as the five that experienced a decline in case rates for June as a whole.
The increase in daily cases may in part be because of higher testing volumes. Midwest states including Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, notably, are testing as much as they ever have and are generally keeping their positivity rates in the low- to mid-single-digits. Minnesota is testing very close to its record rate, while Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin are at between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of their best.
The potential slipping performance in some states may not have gone unnoticed by some leaders. Delaware and Colorado, which have both seen some of June's good work stalling in the past week and fortnight, this week ordered bars across the state to close in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
Pennsylvania, which is also experiencing a recent tick-up, on Wednesday issued an order making face coverings mandatory. New York and New Jersey this week decided against allowing indoor dining as part of the next phases of their reopening, given the practice is suspected to have helped spread the virus in states that quickly moved to reopen their economies.
Georgia reports more than 3,000 new cases for the first time ever
Georgia reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time ever on Thursday, but with few signs that state government plans to reverse the reopening despite the growing number of infections.
A further 3,472 people in Georgia tested positive over the past 24 hours, the state's health department reported this afternoon, topping Wednesday's then-record daily increase of 2,946.
Governor Brian Kemp yesterday embarked on a statewide tour to encourage Georgians to wear face masks, particularly ahead of the July 4th long weekend, but has thus far batted back calls to make the practice mandatory.
“We’re not gonna be the nanny state,” Mr Kemp told reporters at a press conference in Brunswick on Thursday. "The bottom line is we don’t need to mandate people to do the right thing.”
Georgia was among a handful of states that reported record one-day increases on Wednesday. Its peers took a breather today.
California's health department said there had been 4,056 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, a 58 per cent drop from yesterday's record increase.
Arizona's health department today reported 3,333 new cases in the state over the past day, down from yesterday's record of nearly 4,900, while North Carolina's daily case rate also eased back from a record high to 1,629.
US stocks rise on strong jobs report but virus fears temper gains
Bryce Elder and Philip Georgiadis in London
Equity markets climbed after a strong jobs report fuelled hopes that the world’s largest economy is on track for a recovery though gains were capped by fears about a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index and the tech-weighted Nasdaq Composite both closed higher by 0.5 per cent. Both indexes slipped back in late trading, with the Nasdaq earlier having jumped as much as 1.5 per cent to set a new record intraday high.
Investors cheered as US employers added 4.8m jobs in June and the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 per cent from 13.3 per cent in May, the second consecutive month that the figures have beaten expectations after a fall of more than 20m jobs in April. However, investors also weighed up an alarming rise in cases in sun belt states and a pause or roll back in reopening plans across the nations.
US government debt also reversed gains as traders narrowed bets ahead of a three-day weekend. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped back from a session high of 0.724 per cent to fall 0.013 percentage points at 0.6693 per cent.
Texas governor issues statewide order to wear masks in public
Texas governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order requiring residents to wear a face mask in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state.
The order, issued on Thursday afternoon, requires Texans to wear a face covering in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases.
Mr Abbott also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges "the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others."
The governor's order arrived just before the state's health department revealed a further 7,915 people tested positive for coronavirus over the past day, down from a record 8,076 on Wednesday.
Last week, Mr Abbott ordered bars across Texas to close, throwing the state's reopening plans into reverse. He also ordered hospitals in the state's biggest cities to suspend elective surgeries in an effort to free up bed capacity, particularly in intensive care units.
"We need to refocus on slowing the spread, but this time we want to do it without closing down Texas again," Mr Abbott said in an accompanying video posted to YouTube this afternoon.
US coronavirus cases rise by more than 50,000 for second straight day
The number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose by more than 50,000 for a second straight day, spurred by a sharp rise in Florida, which reported an increase of more than 10,000 for the first time.
A further 52,815 people tested positive for coronavirus over the past 24 hours, according to data from Covid Tracking Project, a tally that was just under Wednesday's record increase of 52,982.
Florida became the first state since New York to report a daily increase of more than 10,000, with 10,109 new cases since Wednesday, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
Texas (7,915), California (4,065) and Arizona (3,333) North Carolina (1,629) all had the biggest increases, but by less than their records yesterday.
Georgia (3,472) reported more than 3,000 cases for the first time, while South Carolina (1,782) also had a record increase.
Tennessee (1,575), Louisiana (1,348) and Alabama (1,149) were the other states with more than 1,000 new cases.
Iowa (758), Washington (611), West Virginia (121), Montana (67) Alaska (39) rounded out the group of eight states that had record daily increases, according to FT analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
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