A lot is riding on the launch. NASA thinks the future of space — at least for low Earth orbit, for now — is chartered flights on private spacecraft. If successful, the launch could open up a range of economic activity and experimentation, with commercial operators stepping in while governments step back.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is the cheapest human-carrying spacecraft yet made for NASA, by some distance. The agency’s contracts with private companies have fixed prices, an incentive to keep costs down. But Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX in addition to Tesla, will get some extra promotional value out of the launch: The astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, will be ferried to the spacecraft in a NASA-branded Tesla Model X.
AT&T, the parent company of HBO since 2018, plans to spend more than $4.5 billion on the project over the next few years. The company hopes to have 50 million HBO Max subscribers by 2025 and envisions that the service will eventually generate billions in annual profits as it takes on Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV Plus and Peacock, among others.
A potential stumbling block for it is the cost. Netflix’s no-frills plan costs $9 a month. Disney Plus charges $7 a month. But HBO Max is asking people to spend $15 a month, at a time when household budgets are constrained by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Even before the outbreak, industry analysts called the pricing “unreasonable.” Now many customers are looking to cancel their HBO accounts, largely because of the cost, according to a study prepared for The New York Times by the global research consultancy Kantar.
Wall Street’s turbulent stretch continued Wednesday, and an early rally faded, as shares of large technology stocks declined.
The S&P 500 was slightly lower, giving back some of its gains from the day before. A drop in large technology stocks like Amazon and Microsoft was particularly evident in the Nasdaq composite, which fell nearly 2 percent.
A retreat in oil prices also weighed on shares of energy producers. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, fell about 6 percent to just above $32 a barrel.
Even though stocks were lower, Wednesday’s trading reflected optimism about a return to normal as states lift stay-at-home restrictions. For example, Nordstrom and Gap were among the best performing shares in the S&P 500, and shares of airlines continued to climb.
It’s been an unsteady period for stocks, with the S&P 500 alternating between gains and losses, as expectations for an eventual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have squared off against the reality that the damage is still severe and likely to continue for some time.
On Wednesday, investors were initially cheered by the news of fiscal stimulus proposals from the European Union and Japan. In Japan, the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved more than a trillion dollars in stimulus money. In Brussels, the European Commission seemed on the verge of introducing expansive financial measures to support the bloc.
But uncertainty continued over U.S.-China relations. President Trump said on Tuesday that the United States could offer a strong response as soon as this week to China’s effort to strengthen its hold over Hong Kong, a semiautonomous former British colony that offers economic and civil liberties that the mainland lacks.
The eurozone economy is likely to shrink by as much as 12 percent this year, in line with the European Central Bank’s most pessimistic projections a month ago, the bank’s president said.
Economists at the central bank estimated at the end of April that disruption caused by the pandemic could provoke a decline in economic output of between 5 percent and 12 percent. Christine Lagarde, the central bank’s president, told an online audience of European young people Wednesday that the decline will be at least 8 percent, and 12 percent in the worst case.
“The mild scenario is out of date,” Ms. Lagarde said.
But she answered “no” to a question about whether skyrocketing government debt will provoke a crisis like the one that nearly destroyed the eurozone earlier in the decade.
The pandemic emergency has obliged governments to acquire more debt to prop up their economies, Ms. Lagarde said.
“It was the right thing do,” she said. “In the face of the pandemic, fiscal measures had to be taken, come what may.”
Wall Street analysts have grown increasingly pessimistic in recent weeks about the outlook for corporate profits, even as investors have pushed markets steadily higher, breaking the link between analyst forecasts and the direction of stock prices.
Most companies in the S&P 500 stock index have reported their first-quarter earnings, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on profits is becoming clear, at least for January through March. On a per-share basis, profits of S&P 500 companies fell by 13 percent, making it the worst slump since 2009.
Analysts say they think that things will get worse before they get better. At the end of March, the consensus among analysts was that profits at companies that make up the index would sink a modest 1.8 percent in 2020. But after digesting the financial reports of companies from Agilent Technologies to Zions Bancorp, they now think 2020 profits will tumble more than 20 percent.
Any finance textbook’s section on equity prices holds that the direction of the stock market is determined, to a large extent, by the profits and dividends that shareholders expect companies to produce in the future. And academic research has repeatedly shown that when Wall Street analysts revise their forecasts for a company’s profits, it can move share prices.
Going by the conventional wisdom, the current collapse in profit expectations — and analysts’ woeful prognoses for future earnings — should be clobbering share prices. But investors don’t appear to be taking their cues from analysts. The S&P 500 has soared more than 30 percent over the last two months.
Nissan and Renault, the quarrelsome main partners in the world’s largest automaker alliance, announced a plan to try to reset their troubled relationship as they seek to survive the coronavirus’s devastating impact on the car industry.
The plan seeks to more clearly allocate responsibility for product development and regions. For example, Nissan will take the lead on development of autonomous driving technology and Renault will be in charge of electric vehicle bodies and chassis, the so-called platform.
Nissan will be the dominant partner in Japan, China and the United States, while Renault will take the lead in Europe, Russia, Africa and Latin America. Mitsubishi, the smallest of the three companies in the alliance, will be in charge of the rest of Asia.
The pandemic has made it even more essential for the companies to cooperate despite a history of severe tension. Renault’s auto sales fell by almost 26 percent in the first three months of 2020, and Nissan, which reports its annual results on Thursday, has seen a steady drop in sales and profits over the last year.
“There is absolutely no doubt about how it will work in the future,” Jean-Dominique Senard, the chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, said during an online news conference. “If there had been some few doubts in the markets these days, well, this is over today.”
The European Union’s executive arm laid out on Wednesday the details of a recovery package worth 750 billion euros, or about $826 billion, for its 27 member economies, especially those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns put in place to stop its spread.
Europe’s recovery effort will be difficult and expensive, as some of its economies are set to shrink as much as 10 percent this year. Germany and other wealthy countries have their own funds available to spend immediately to prop up their economies, but poorer European Union members need help.
The program, which was presented by the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in an address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, hinges on using its own budget to issue bonds in international capital markets, and then distributing the proceeds according to members’ needs. It is seen as a breakthrough for the bloc’s integration, even if it is a one-off.
The fund will distribute €500 billion worth of grants — free money that will not be piled on to national debt — to all 27 member states, with Italy getting the largest slice, followed by Spain.
As with most things in the bloc’s administrative capital, Brussels, the plan is the product of compromise between conflicting visions of what the European Union can do to help its members in times of crisis. It requires unanimous support by all nations, as well as the European Parliament’s blessing, and so a long road of negotiations lies ahead before it is finalized.
Japan made similar moves on Wednesday as its cabinet approved more than a trillion dollars in stimulus funds, including a combination of subsidies to companies and people. The Parliament is expected to approve the measure next month.
Japan’s proposal follows a raft of measures that the country passed in April. Taken together, the two packages would be equivalent to 40 percent of Japan’s economic output, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Wednesday.
The nation’s biggest nursing home operator, Genesis HealthCare, reported a profit in the first quarter of the year and said it also received money from the federal government while trying to contain the spread of coronavirus within half of its 361 facilities.
Genesis reported Wednesday that it had received $180 million under the federal CARES Act and other federal and state programs as part of the nation’s response to the pandemic. The company, based in Pennsylvania, disclosed the federal grant money as it announced first-quarter earnings of $33.5 million after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.
Genesis said that it took in $1.09 billion in revenue compared to $1.16 billion during the same quarter a year ago. The company’s earnings outlook brightened over the past year as it sold some of its facilities and reduced the number of nursing homes that it rented from corporate landlords.
The earnings report covered the quarter that ended in March, when the coronavirus crisis first hit hard in the United States. Genesis, which has 42,000 beds, said the first resident tested positive for coronavirus on March 16.
But the company’s outlook for the rest of year could be muddled as it disclosed that occupancy levels at its nursing homes have plunged in the second quarter. The company said that occupancy declined from 88 percent at the end of March to about 76 percent this month, which will mean fewer federal Medicaid and Medicare dollars.
Hoping to take advantage of wreckage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, investors are preparing to snap up commercial real estate at rock-bottom prices.
Long before states and cities closed businesses and issued stay-at-home orders, many real estate funds were stockpiling cash and waiting for a buyer’s market. Some have raised billions of dollars in the last several weeks.
As a result, investment firms are sitting on roughly $300 billion of equity ready for deployment, said Douglas M. Weill, a founder of Hodes Weill & Associates, a global real estate capital advisory firm in New York. “It’s a staggering amount of dry powder,” he said.
Every commercial property owner has its specific problems, but mom-and-pop landlords that own a handful of apartment buildings, retail centers or other assets are in a much more compromised position, said Sanford D. Sigal, president and chief executive of NewMark Merrill, a shopping center owner and manager in Woodland Hills, Calif.
“Very few small owners are equipped for this type of market,” said Mr. Sigal, who expected to collect about 57 percent of his May rent from tenants across some 70 properties in California, Colorado and Illinois. “I’ve seen more deals in the past week that were worth looking at than I did in the entire prior year.”
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
New data released on Wednesday showed that the Chinese economy — or at least the part involving its vast industrial sector — continues to bounce back from the outbreak. Industrial sales in April rose 5.1 percent compared with a year earlier, statistics officials said. Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics and analyzed by The New York Times suggested sales at the biggest industrial companies matched the levels they reached a year earlier.
Reporting was contributed by Matthew Goldstein, Jack Ewing, Carlos Tejada, Matt Phillips, Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Mohammed Hadi, Joe Gose, Mary Williams Walsh, Katie Robertson and Kevin Granville.