The daily business briefing: May 1, 2020

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Another 3.8 million U.S. workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The new figures bring the total over six weeks to more than 30 million as the coronavirus crisis continues to shut down businesses. The once unthinkable total could even be an undercount, economists say, as many states have been overwhelmed by the rush of applications for unemployment benefits, which Congress have extended to include self-employed taxpayers. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that about 50 percent more people than were counted might have been eligible but found the process too daunting. "The problem is even bigger than the data suggest," said Elise Gould, a senior economist with the left-leaning research institute. [The New York Times]


Amazon on Thursday announced that it would spend its second quarter profits, estimated around $4 billion, on responding to the coronavirus crisis. The online retail giant said it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on COVID-19 tests for workers and improving its delivery network to handle a surge in online shopping under stay-at-home orders. Some of the money will go toward higher wages and personal protection equipment for workers. The company reported first quarter earnings of $5.01 per share, falling below expectations of $6.25 per share. Its revenue came in at $75.45 billion, beating forecasts of $73.61 billion. The company also said its employees who can work from home may do so until at least Oct. 2. [CNBC, Reuters]


Stock futures dropped by about 2 percent early Friday, after Wall Street finished its best month in decades after a rebound from a March plunge triggered by coronavirus lockdowns. U.S. stock indexes got a lift from several surging technology powerhouses, including Apple, which gained 15.3 percent in April, and Amazon, which climbed by nearly 27 percent as consumers under coronavirus stay-at-home orders increased their online purchases. The surging large companies lifted the S&P 500 from late-March lows, but broader problems linger as states start slowly lifting coronavirus restrictions. "Dependency on a handful of stocks has masked broadly based weakness in the past, and if they falter, could obscure broadly based improvements going forward," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird, in a note. [CNBC]


Macy's announced Thursday that it plans to reopen all of its 775 Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Bluemercury stores over the next six to eight weeks. The news came more than a month after the department store chain closed the stores due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it would only reopen in areas where state and local governments have lifted restrictions on nonessential businesses. It plans to start with 68 stores in Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas on Monday. There will be social distancing guidelines, and employees will have to wear masks. Beauty counters will not be able to give consultations or have testers out, and a limited number of fitting rooms will be open. [The New York Times]


Global poverty rates are forecast to rise in 2020 for the first time since 1998, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing World Bank forecasts. As many as a half a billion people, or 8 percent of the world's population, could become destitute by the end of the year, according to United Nations estimates. "The garment factory helped me and my family to get out of poverty," said Shahida Khatun, who was laid off in March at a Bangladesh garment factory. "But the coronavirus has pushed me back in." The job losses from the coronavirus crisis have wiped out two decades of gains in a few months. [The New York Times]

An Amazon building

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