Rampant inflation, Dow falls 700 points now below 30,000

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Biden threatens oil companies with ’emergency powers’ if they don’t boost supply amid inflation spike
  • The letters represent Biden’s latest attempt to use executive action to curb inflationary pressure. Inflation currently sits at a 40-year high of 8.6% and shows no signs of slowing down.
  • “Your companies and others have an opportunity to take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined product you are producing,” he continued. “My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.”
  • The letters come one day after Biden ordered the sale of another 45 million barrels of crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve.

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Rise in Inflation now 7.5%

Rev 6:6 NAS And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Inflation surges 7.5% on an annual basis, even more than expected and highest since 1982
  • The consumer price index for all items rose 0.6% in January, driving up annual inflation by 7.5%.
  • That marked the biggest gain since February 1982 and was even higher than the Wall Street estimate.
  • Real earnings for workers increased just 0.1% on the month when accounting for inflation.
  • Weekly jobless claims declined to 223,000, below the 230,000 estimate.
  • On a percentage basis, fuel oil rose the most in January, surging 9.5% as part of a 46.5% year-over-year increase. Energy costs overall were up 0.9% for the month and 27% on the year.
  • Vehicle costs, which have been one of the biggest inflation contributors since they began surging higher in the spring of 2021, were flat for new models and up 1.5% for used cars and trucks in January. The two categories have posted respective increases of 12.2% and 40.5% over the past 12 months.
  • Shelter costs, which make up about one-third of the total CPI number, increased 0.3% on the month, which is the smallest gain since August 2021 and slightly below December’s rise. Still, the category is up 4.4% over the past year and could keep inflation readings elevated in the future.
  • Food costs jumped 0.9% for the month and are up 7% over the past year.

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As U.S. inflation hits 31-year high, banks assess risks and opportunities

By Matt Scuffham

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street banks are planning for a sustained period of higher inflation, running internal health checks, monitoring whether clients in exposed sectors could pay back loans, devising hedging strategies and counseling caution when it comes to deals.

U.S. consumer prices this month posted their biggest annual gain in 31 years, driven by surges in the cost of gasoline and other goods.

Senior bank executives have become less convinced by central bankers’ arguments that the spike is a temporary blip caused by supply chain disruption and are stepping up risk management.

Higher inflation is generally seen as a positive for banks, raising net interest income and boosting profitability. But if it jumps high too quickly, inflation could become a headwind, top bankers warn.

Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer John Waldron last month identified inflation as the No. 1 risk that could derail the global economy and stock markets.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon told analysts last month that banks “should be worried” that high inflation and high interest rates increase the risk of extreme price movements.

A sustained period of higher inflation would pose both credit and market risk to banks, and they are assessing that risk in internal stress tests, said one senior banker at a European bank with large U.S. operations.

Risk teams are also monitoring credit exposures in sectors most affected by inflation, another banker said. They include firms in the consumer discretionary, industrial and manufacturing sectors.

“We are very active with those clients, offering hedging protections,” said the banker, who asked not to be named as client discussions are confidential.

Clients that may need extra funding to get them through a period of higher inflation are being advised to raise capital while interest rates remain relatively low, the banker said.

“It’s still a very beneficial environment to be in if you need funding, but that won’t last forever.”

Investment bankers are also assessing whether higher inflation and monetary tightening could disrupt record deals and public offering pipelines.

“We expect a sustained period of higher inflation, and monetary tightening could slow the momentum in the M&A market,” said Paul Colone, U.S.-based managing partner at Alantra, a global mid-market investment bank.

Alantra is advising clients in the early stages of M&A discussions “to review the risks sustained inflation could bring to both valuation and business results,” Colone said.

Sales and trading teams, meanwhile, are taking more calls from clients looking to reposition portfolios, which are vulnerable to a loss in value. When inflation ran out of control in the 1970s, U.S. stock indices were hit hard.

“We’re seeing more interest from clients in finding some manner of inflation protection,” said Chris McReynolds, Barclays’ head of U.S. inflation trading.

Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, which are issued and backed by the U.S. government, are proving popular, he said. The securities are similar to Treasury bonds but come with protection against inflation.

Traders are also seeing demand for derivatives that offer inflation protection such as zero-coupon inflation swaps, in which a fixed rate payment on an investment is exchanged for a payment at the rate of inflation.

“People are realizing they have inflation exposure and it makes sense for them to hedge their assets and liabilities,” McReynolds said.

Banks with diversified businesses are likely to fare best during a sustained period of inflation, most analysts say.

They expect that a steepening yield curve will boost overall profit margins, while trading businesses can benefit from increased volatility and the strength of deals, and initial public offering pipelines mean investment banking activity will remain healthy.

But Dick Bove, a prominent independent banking analyst, takes a different view. He anticipates the yield curve will flatten as higher rates reduce inflation expectations, crimping profit margins.

“Perhaps for as long as 12 to 18 months, bank stock prices will rise,” he said. “At some point, however, if inflation continues to rise, the multiples on bank stocks will collapse and so will bank stock prices.”

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Dan Grebler)

U.S. SEC chief Clayton to call it quits at the end of 2020

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton will step down from his position at the end of the year, the Wall Street regulator said in a statement on Monday.

Clayton’s early exit – his term would not expire until the end of June – clears the way for President-Elect Joe Biden to quickly take control of the regulatory agency when he is sworn in on Jan. 20, as Democrats are eager to create a more aggressive watchdog.

“Working alongside the incredibly talented and driven women and men of the SEC has been the highlight of my career,” said Clayton, who was appointed under President Donald Trump.

Clayton has said he wants to return home to New York and was expected to resign before his term ends in June. His departure would likely position an ultra-conservative ranking Republican commissioner, Hester Pierce, who frequently votes against penalizing companies for wrongdoing, to serve as an interim acting chairwoman at least until Biden takes office, lawyers said.

It is expected that senior Democratic SEC commissioner Allison Lee would be named as the acting chairwoman by Biden, until a permanent SEC chief is nominated and confirmed.

Under Clayton, the SEC has pursued changes to regulations that critics saw as burdensome or hindering corporate growth, often in the face of opposition from Democrats and investor advocates. The former corporate deals lawyer is generally respected for his expertise and described by those who deal with him as thoughtful and affable.

In July 2020, Clayton had been nominated by the Trump Administration to potentially replace a top federal prosecutor who was being fired by President Donald Trump at the time.

It is now unlikely Clayton would assume that role after Trump departs the White House, lawyers said.

As a full-time replacement SEC chief, progressives are keen for former Democratic SEC commissioner Kara Stein to fill the role, although Rob Jackson, also a former Democratic commissioner who currently teaches at New York University School of Law, is preferred by moderates.

Former derivatives market regulator Gary Gensler, who is working on a transition plan for financial industry oversight under Biden, is also a contender, sources told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Catherine Evans and Chris Reese)

Trump bans U.S. investments in companies linked to Chinese military

By Humeyra Pamuk, Alexandra Alper and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled an executive order prohibiting U.S. investments in Chinese companies that Washington says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, ramping up pressure on Beijing after the U.S. election.

The order, which was first reported by Reuters, could impact some of China’s biggest companies, including China Telecom Corp Ltd, China Mobile Ltd and surveillance equipment maker Hikvision.

The move is designed to deter U.S. investment firms, pension funds and others from buying shares of 31 Chinese companies that were designated by the Defense Department as backed by the Chinese military earlier this year.

Starting Jan. 11, the order will prohibit purchases by U.S. investors of the securities of those companies. Transactions made to divest ownership in the companies will be permitted until Nov. 11, 2021.

“China is increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernization of its military, intelligence, and other security apparatuses,” said the order released by the White House.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a stock exchange filing, China Telecom said it estimated the executive order might impact the price of its shares, which closed down 7.8% in Hong Kong on Friday, and American depository shares, adding that it would “closely monitor” developments.

Another telecom operator, China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd, said companies affected by the order would include its parent, China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd.

China Unicom also said in its filing, it expected an impact on its shares, which fell 6.7% on Friday, and American depository shares, adding it was “considering appropriate steps to protect its and its investors’ lawful rights”.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro estimated that at least half a trillion dollars in market capitalization was represented by the Chinese companies and their subsidiaries.

“This is a sweeping order designed to choke off American capital to China’s militarization,” he told reporters on a call.

The move is the first major policy initiative by President Donald Trump since losing the Nov. 3 election to Democratic rival Joe Biden and indicates that he is seeking to take advantage of the waning months of his administration to crack down on China, even as he has appeared laser-focused on challenging the election result.

Biden has won enough battleground states to surpass the 270 electoral votes needed in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the next president, but Republican Trump has so far refused to concede, citing unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud.

Thursday’s action is likely to further weigh on already fraught ties between the world’s top two economies, which are at loggerheads over China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its move to impose security legislation on Hong Kong.

Biden has not laid out a detailed China strategy but all the indications are that he will continue a tough approach to Beijing, with whom Trump has become increasingly confrontational in his last year in office.

WALL STREET INTERESTS

The order echoes a bill filed by Republican senator Marco Rubio last month that sought to block access to U.S. capital markets for Chinese companies that have been blacklisted by Washington, including those added to the Defense Department list.

“Today’s action by the Trump administration is a welcome start to protecting our markets and investors,” said Rubio, a top congressional China hawk. “We can never put the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and Wall Street above American workers and mom and pop investors.”

His comments were echoed by Republican Congressman Jim Banks, who described the order as “one of the wisest and most significant foreign policy decisions President Trump has made since he entered office”.

Rubio’s bill and the order are part of a growing effort by Congress and the administration to thwart Chinese companies that have the backing of U.S. investors but do not comply with U.S. rules faced by American rivals. It also shows a new willingness to antagonize Wall Street in the rivalry with Beijing.

In August, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Treasury officials urged Trump to delist Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges and fail to meet its auditing requirements by January 2022.

Thursday’s move received a cool reception on Wall Street, where shares were already pulling back from recent gains. The iShares China Large-Cap ETF extended falls.

“The market is probably worried that President Trump is going to increase tensions with China and Iran in his last two months as president,” said Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer of the Independent Advisor Alliance.

Still, it was unclear how investors would react. The order bans transactions, which it defined as “purchases,” so investors would technically be able to hold onto current investments.

While the document does not spell out specific penalties for violations, it gives the Treasury Department the ability to invoke “all powers” granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which authorizes the use of tough sanctions.

Questions also remain about whether Biden, who is set to take office just nine days after the order goes into effect, would enforce it or simply revoke it. His campaign declined to comment.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Alexandra Alper and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Alden Bentley, Meg Shen and Tom Daly; Editing by Chris Sanders, Edward Tobin, Rosalba O’Brien and Barbara Lewis)

Morgan Stanley launches Black recruitment program to boost trading unit’s diversity

By Imani Moise

(Reuters) – Morgan Stanley is piloting a program to recruit Black talent in its sales and trading division, executives told Reuters, in corporate America’s latest initiative to improve diversity after nationwide protests against racial inequality.

The Morgan Stanley Experienced Professional Program within its Fixed Income & Business Resource Management Divisions is seeking Black professionals with at least two years’ full-time work experience in any field who want to work in finance.

“As long as you have the skill set around communication, analytical abilities, interpersonal skills, and you are willing to work hard, you could have a strong career,” Derek Melvin, a managing director who designed the program, said in an interview on Wednesday.

The banking industry has been scrutinized for its lack of racial diversity since the May 25 death in police custody of George Floyd, a Black man, sparked demonstrations and prompted deep introspection at companies across the country.

That has led to fresh pledges to improve diversity and tie executive compensation to meeting related targets. However, such action has triggered concern from authorities.

Last week, Wells Fargo & Co defended its diversity initiatives after the U.S. Labor Department questioned whether they were unlawful or discriminatory.

Morgan Stanley’s program is only open for up to 20 people. Melvin said he hopes the program, if successful, will be replicated across the firm’s institutional securities business.

That division, the bank’s largest breadwinner, reported a 21% jump in revenue for the third quarter on Thursday, helping the bank breeze past Wall Street estimates.

Successful applicants will get a month of training before doing 10-week rotations on different trading desks, leading to a full-time job.

Feedback on the program so far has been overwhelming, Melvin said. Since advertising it at the end of September, his team has received over 700 applications. Successful applicants will be chosen by the end of the year.

“Our expectations were that after a month, we’d have about 100 to work through,” Melvin said in an interview. “But we’ve been surprised to the upside here.”

(Reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Paul Simao)

White House says ‘not optimistic’ about COVID-19 aid, talks with Congress are off

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday said he was not optimistic that a comprehensive deal could be reached on further COVID-19 financial aid and that the Trump administration backed a more piecemeal approach, even as he said negotiations with Congress were over.

“We’re still willing to be engaged, but I’m not optimistic for a comprehensive deal. I am optimistic that there’s about 10 things that we can do on a piecemeal basis,” Meadows told Fox News in an interview.

Meadows did not say what 10 items the administration wanted to tackle, but reiterated President Donald Trump’s position tweeted late Tuesday night that he would back separate legislation addressing airlines, small businesses and stimulus checks for individuals.

Trump called off talks with lawmakers on pandemic aid in a tweet on Tuesday, rattling Wall Street as U.S. stocks sank. He later pulled back saying he would support a few stand-alone bills.

U.S. stock indexes appeared set to open higher on Wednesday, and airline stocks were also higher.

“The stimulus negotiations are off,” Meadows later told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “Obviously we’re looking at the potential for stand-alone bills. There’s abut 10 things that we agree on and if the Speaker is willing to look at it on a piece-by-piece basis then we’re willing to look at it,” he said referring to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Democratic-led House has already passed full legislation seeking a wide range of aid as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, infecting an estimated 7.5 million Americans and killing more than 210,600 — the highest in the world.

Pelosi on Tuesday said lawmakers would pass more aid, despite Trump’s refusal to negotiate.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alex Richardson and Chizu Nomiyama)

Wall Street rises on upbeat earnings as Fed looms

By Medha Singh and Devik Jain

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes rose on Wednesday as a slew of positive earnings updates and hopes for a dovish tone from the Federal Reserve overshadowed concerns about next steps for the government’s coronavirus support plan.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc <AMD.O> jumped 12% after the chipmaker raised its full-year revenue forecast.

AMD shares were among the top boosts to the benchmark S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. The Philadelphia chip index <.SOX> rose 1.1%.

Starbucks Corp <SBUX.O> climbed 4% after the coffee chain said business was “steadily recovering” worldwide and it would return to profitability in the current quarter.

Of the 163 S&P 500 firms that have reported results, 79.1% have surpassed a low bar of quarterly profit expectations, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Recent data pointed to a possible slowdown in business and hiring as infections spiked in southern and western U.S. states, and deaths from the novel coronavirus approached 150,000 in the country on Wednesday.

Investors will keep a close watch on how the U.S. central bank addresses these economic risks at the end of a two-day policy meeting. The Fed’s statement is expected at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), which will be followed by Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference.

Emergency monetary stimulus measures along with trillions of dollars in fiscal support have been pivotal in driving a sharp recovery in the U.S. stock markets since March.

“The biggest catalyst within the market right now — for at least the bullish sentiment — is where’s the next wave of liquidity,” said Andrew Smith, chief investment strategist, Delos Capital Advisors, based in Dallas.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration and Democrats in Congress were far apart in their efforts to come together on a coronavirus relief bill, and he suggested he was not in a hurry to strike a deal.

At 9:52 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> was up 18.15 points, or 0.07%, at 26,397.43, the S&P 500 <.SPX> was up 13.62 points, or 0.42%, at 3,232.06. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> was up 65.22 points, or 0.63%, at 10,467.32.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher with technology stocks providing the biggest boost to the S&P 500 index.

Boeing Co <BA.N> slipped 1.9% as the planemaker slashed production on its widebody programs and reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss due to the fallout from the pandemic.

Industrial conglomerate General Electric Co <GE.N> saw less cash outflow than estimated in the second quarter even as it reported a wider-than-expected loss. Its shares fell 3%.

The chief executives of Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O>, Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Alphabet’s Google <GOOGL.O> are set to face a congressional hearing on antitrust on Wednesday, marking their first time appearing before lawmakers together.

All four companies are set to report results on Thursday.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.65-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.97-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 17 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and five new lows.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

‘It’s okay to feel scared’: Coronavirus brings countries close to standstill

By Doina Chiacu and Guy Faulconbridge

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools were shutting down from New York and Los Angeles to Paris and Dubai in a worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as financial markets tumbled despite emergency action by global central banks.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in less than two weeks, but Wall Street opened with a dizzying plunge that set off circuit breakers.

EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.

Leaders of the G7 countries were due to hold a video conference on Monday to discuss a joint response.

European stocks fell on Monday to their lowest level since 2012, with investors still worried about the threat to the global economy. Wall Street’s S&P 500 index fell more than 9% as trading resumed after an initial automatic 15-minute cutout.

In Italy, hardest-hit country in Europe, there were 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was recording at the peak of the outbreak that first hit its central city Wuhan.

“Many children think it is scary,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference, at her office, dedicated to answering children’s questions about the pandemic.

“It is okay to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.”

Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the disease that has infected over 169,000 people globally and killed more than 6,500.

Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption that the outbreak would largely be contained in China. But there have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a take-out or delivery basis. He also said he would order nightclubs, movie theatres, small theater houses and concert venues to close.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city,” he said. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued similar orders.

Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.

The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March. Thailand plans to close down schools, bars, movie theatres and popular cockfighting arenas.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States.

GETTING WORSE IN ITALY

U.S. Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said it was important to react aggressively.

“Do we want to go the direction of South Korea and really be aggressive and lower our mortality rates or do we want to go the direction of Italy?” he told Fox News.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.

Britain has asked manufacturers including Ford <F.N>, Honda <7267.T> and Rolls Royce <RR.L> to help make health equipment including ventilators to cope with the outbreak and will look at using hotels as hospitals.

The worldwide financial policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but the target now is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.

“The issue for investors that still remains is that the virus’s economic impact is still not known, if this is a one-month event or if this is a one-year event, and how deep the cutback in consumer spending is going to be,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Airlines said they would make more drastic cuts to their flying schedules, shed jobs and seek government aid because of sweeping global travel restrictions.

China said industrial output contracted at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of 2020.

The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics starting on July 24 can proceed.

The Jewish faithful should avoid kissing the stones of the Western Wall, the chief rabbi of the Jerusalem site said.

And Starbucks <SBUX.O> has moved to a “to go” model in all its company-owned stores in the United States and Canada, the coffee chain said, temporarily abandoning reusable cups.

(Reporting by Doina Choicu, Leela de Krester in New York; Lindsay Dunsmuir, Nandita Bose, Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir in Washington; Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton in London; Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Francesca Landini and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Kevin Yao in Beijing; Jaime Freed in Sydney; Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Kay Johnson in Bangkok and Tracy Rucinski in Chicag; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie; Editing by Stephen Coates, Timothy Heritage and Peter Graff)

Fed cuts rates and NYC, LA close restaurants to fight coronavirus

By Lindsay Dunsmuir and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With panic buying on Main Street and fear-driven sell-offs on Wall Street, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero on Sunday in another emergency move to help shore up the U.S. economy amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles ordered restaurants, bars and cafes closed, with takeout and delivery the only options for food sales. Movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues were also ordered closed as the U.S. death toll from the outbreak hit 65.

“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We have to break that cycle.”

For the second time since the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed cut rates at an emergency meeting, aiming for a target range of 0% to 0.25% to help put a floor under a rapidly disintegrating global economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had openly pressed the Fed for further action, called the move “terrific” and “very good news.”

Store shelves have been stripped bare of essentials, schools closed and millions of jobs in jeopardy as businesses temporarily shut their doors.

“We’re learning from watching other countries,” Trump said. “It’s a very contagious virus … but it’s something that we have tremendous control of.”

Trump has faced criticism at home and abroad for sometimes downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and overstating his administration’s ability to handle it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the United States was entering a new phase of coronavirus testing but tempered the president’s optimism.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” Fauci said, a warning he has issued frequently in the past week. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to what the ultimate end point is going to be.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said testing for coronavirus was expanding with more than 2,000 labs across the country ready to process tests and 10 states operating drive-through testing.

The United States has lagged behind other industrialized nations in its ability to test for the coronavirus. In early March, the Trump administration said close to 1 million coronavirus tests would soon be available and anyone who needed a test would get one, a promise it failed to keep.

With limited testing available, U.S. officials have recorded nearly 3,000 cases and 65 deaths, up from 58 on Saturday. Globally more than 162,000 are infected and over 6,000 have died.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Sunday recommended that events with gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks be postponed or canceled.

DON’T HOARD

The White House appealed to Americans not to hoard as the coronavirus spreads, reassuring them that grocery supply chains were strong.

Trump held a phone call on Sunday with 30 executives from grocery stores including Amazon.com Inc’s <AMZN.O> Whole Foods, Target Corp <TGT.N>, Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> and Walmart Inc <WMT.N>, the White House said.

“Have a nice dinner, relax because there’s plenty, but you don’t have to … you don’t have to buy the quantities,” Trump said. “We’re doing really, really well. A lot of good things are going to happen.”

Trump tested negative for coronavirus, his doctors said on Saturday, as the president extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to slow the pandemic.

Trump’s spokesman, Judd Deere, said temperature checks will be conducted on everyone who enters the White House grounds, beginning Monday morning.

Travelers returning to the United States and being screened for the coronavirus were met by long lines and massive delays at some major airports, prompting federal officials to deploy more staff and Trump to appeal for patience.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, squaring off in a Democratic debate, blasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and touted their own plans to deal with it.

In their first one-on-one debate, the two Democratic contenders to face Trump in the November election said the Republican president had contributed to worries about the pandemic by minimizing the threat before declaring a national emergency on Friday.

CLOSURES EXPAND

The U.S. containment measures have so far been mild compared to the nationwide lockdowns imposed in Italy, France and Spain.

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Even though Americans are not barred from going to the movies, ticket sales in North America fell to their lowest level in more than two decades this weekend, according to measurement firm Comscore.

Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties would close from Monday, and he called on Trump to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers to create more hospital beds.

Cuomo had been criticized for not closing schools as other states have done, given that New York has a large cluster of coronavirus cases.

A clinical trial to evaluate a vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus will begin on Monday, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed U.S. government official.

It would take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine, the AP added, citing public health officials.

(For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Andrea Shalal, Nandita Bose, Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk, John Whitesides, Steve Holland in Washington; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Diane Craft, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle.)