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The Most Profitable Trade: ‘Oil All Over the Oceans Right Now’ -

The Most Profitable Trade: ‘Oil All Over the Oceans Right Now’(Bloomberg) -- To outsiders, the oil trade of the day is so astonishing that even President Donald Trump sounded flabbergasted when he described it.“There’s oil all over the oceans right now. That’s where they are storing oil; we have never seen anything like that,” Trump said this week from the podium of the White House. “Every ship is now loaded to the gills.”With oil demand in freefall, traders are resorting like never before to using the world’s fleet of supertankers as temporary floating storage facilities, filling them with millions of unsold barrels until better times. It’s an unusual trade, but one that’s among the most lucrative around right now, just when everyone on Wall Street struggles to make money.From the coast of Singapore to the North Sea, the tankers are starting to slow down, ready to drop their anchors, holding crude the world economy doesn’t need as fuel demand plummets due to the coronavirus outbreak. And more tankers probably will be needed, as oil supply still runs well above demand.“The world is overproducing oil at a historic rate,” said Robert Hvide MacLeod, the head of Frontline Management, one of the world’s largest operators of supertankers. “Land-based storage is limited and selling out fast. Storage on ships will be the only solution.”What Trump didn’t say is that the most intriguing facet of the floating storage trade is just how profitable it is. In the industry, it’s often described as a money printing press: traders buy oil on the cheap, and immediately sell their cargo forward in the futures market, locking in a chunky profit -- with very little risk. Before oil prices rallied on Thursday on talk of an OPEC+ output cut, traders were easily able to lock-in a 20% annualized return on their money.Out of hundreds of supertankers in the world, large numbers of them are being hired not for their primary purpose -- shipping crude from A to B -- but to store oil amid a lack of space in shore tanks.Marco Dunand, the co-founder of top oil trading house Mercuria Energy Group, estimates that 250 million barrels of crude and refined products are already on the water, either as floating storage or waiting to be discharged because refineries can’t accept more crude right now.“The excess is pushing itself into the water,” he said.Far from being a problem, the floating storage is a money maker for some in the industry: the commodity trading houses and the shipowners.The oil market has flipped upside down, with the cost of a barrel of oil today far below what the market is willing to pay in, say, six months or a year. It’s what traders call a contango market. As oil is cheaper today than in 2021, a trader can buy crude now, put it on storage, while simultaneously selling in the forward market, in effect locking in the price difference between the different dates. As long as the contango is wide enough to cover the cost of storage, finance and insurance, the transaction is profitable.Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at merchant Trafigura Group, said the oil industry was pumping “a commodity that the world doesn’t need,” forcing crude into non-traditional storage: the tankers.“The problem for crude oil is fast coming. We need more contango to pay for non-traditional types of storage,” he said.Earlier this week, the six-month contango in Brent market, a gauge of the economic viability of floating storage, widened to a record of $14.46 a barrel, surpassing the peak set in the 2008-09 crisis, when oil demand briefly plunged.The floating storage game is the territory of the most sophisticated oil merchants, including little known names outside the petroleum industry like Vitol Group. Commodity trading giant Glencore Plc has hired the Europe, the world’s largest oil tanker, to store crude. In the past, others have also played the contango, including Koch Supply & Trading, the in-house trading arm of the billionaire Koch brothers, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.Shipowner profitThe traders aren’t the only ones making money. Shipowners are racking up exorbitant fees. Two years ago, the daily price of a standard supertanker, known as very large crude carrier, or VLCC, was about $18,000 a day. This year, one owner managed to get a record of more than $400,000 a day.“There’s been a huge interest in storage and that’s helped to lift freight rates,” said Halvor Ellefsen, a tanker broker at Fearnley’s A/S. “The bottom line is that everybody in the shipping market is acutely aware of the contango, and the profits it can give traders.”The glut, almost entirely caused by the demand collapse emanating from Covid-19, is a disaster for the wider global oil industry though. While the traders and the shipowners profit from the contango, Trump is eager for Saudi Arabia and Russia to work together to roll back production in order to lift prices and protect the jobs of workers in the U.S. oil industry.With Trump pushing Riyadh and Moscow to act, the contango has narrowed, endangering the profitability of the floating storage trade. But it’s far from over. Even if the OPEC+ alliance cuts production by 10 million barrels a day, as Trump suggested, it won’t be enough to offset the drop in demand, which most executives say is far bigger than that.“According to our numbers, even this 10 million barrels cut, in the second quarter we may well see a stock building over 15 million barrels per day,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency.With onshore tanks filling up every hour, every day, every week, the oil will have to flow onto the water -- into the very same tankers Trump talked about. It’s doing so already at record pace.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Sat, 04 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400

Trump’s ‘Free Market’ Response to a Global Deal to Save Oil -

Trump’s ‘Free Market’ Response to a Global Deal to Save Oil(Bloomberg) -- On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump sent oil prices rallying on the prospect of an unprecedented, U.S.-backed deal to cut global crude production.On Friday, he walked out of a meeting with the titans of America’s oil industry without any public declaration of a plan to curtail domestic output, saying it’s a free market and up to Saudi Arabia and Russia to solve their price war that sent crude crashing.His remarks call into question Trump’s ability to broker a truce between the world’s two biggest crude exporters at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is destroying demand and threating the shale industry’s survival. The president said that tariffs on oil imports could be imposed, though he’s not planning to do that at the moment.While both Saudi Arabia and Russia have expressed openness to coordinated production cuts -- and Trump said a deal between the two nations will come soon -- it’s unclear that can be achieved without the U.S. and other nations also taking part. Asked whether America would join in, Trump was evasive.“It’s a free market. We’ll figure it out,” he told reporters in Washington after the gathering with the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and other major producers. “Ultimately the marketplace will take care of it.”Left to its own devices, though, the market is poised to collapse further as the Covid-19 crisis could slash global crude demand by almost a third. Hundreds of thousands of industry jobs are hanging in the balance, with about $15 billion of investments wiped out from the budgets of shale explorers and many of them on the brink of bankruptcy. Oil producer Whiting Petroleum Corp. and service provider Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. filed for bankruptcy this week.So now all eyes turn to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is convening on Monday in a virtual meeting with members, allies and guests including the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta, in a bid to address crude’s meltdown.Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country is prepared to take part in deep cuts in oil production together with Saudi Arabia and other major producers.“It’s up to the meeting on Monday chaired by Saudi Arabia to deliver the 10 million barrels a day promised by Trump, without U.S. participation,” said Roger Diwan, oil analyst at IHS Markit Ltd. “That’s a very high bar to achieve.”Trump vowed to support the U.S. oil industry with measures that include filling the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease the glut as storage tanks in distribution hubs are almost filled to the brim.“We’ll get our energy back,” he said during a portion of Friday’s meeting that was open to reporters. “I’m with you 1,000%. It’s a great business, it’s a very vital business and honestly, you’ve been very fair. You’ve kept energy prices reasonable for a long period of time.”The meeting included Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods, Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s Vicki Hollub and Energy Transfer LP’s Kelcy Warren. Greg Garland, chairman and CEO of Phillips 66, and Mike Wirth, chairman and CEO of Chevron, also attended.The executives didn’t ask for a bailout, according to Trump. They did discuss tariffs on foreign oil, which “are a way of evening the score,” he said. “Am I thinking about imposing it as of this moment? No, but if we are not treated fairly, its certainly a tool in the toolbox.”ClearView Energy Partners analysts said Trump’s comments Friday indicate the U.S. is likely to prod the Russia-Saudi talks along not by expressing a willingness to cut U.S. production but rather a willingness to impose tariffs.Restricting imports with a tariff, an idea championed by Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm, a Trump confidant, is one of the most contentious matters, with refiners and Northeast U.S. gas producers firmly opposed.Prior to the gathering Trump had indicated he already has a plan in mind for helping oil companies he says are being “ravaged” by a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. He said he knows what to do to solve the problem, though he declined to reveal the strategy other than to say it’s “tough” and “I’d rather not do that.”He acknowledged that addressing the growing supply glut, which has been exacerbated by collapsing demand, would be difficult. “It’s going to take a long time to -- to get rid of that,” he said. “There’s massive excess amounts of oil and gas. Massive. Like probably there’s never been.”Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told oil industry representatives shortly after Trump’s meeting that he expected a Saudi-Russia deal on crude production cuts within days. While he didn’t provide details on what a deal might look like, he stressed that his agency was working with counterparts in both nations, according to four people familiar with the call who asked not to be named detailing a private conversation.West Texas Intermediate crude suffered its biggest-ever quarterly decline in the three months through March. Even after the past two days’ rally, futures are still down 54% this year.Trump again Friday called for purchasing oil for the nation’s emergency reserve during the meeting. Funding for the purchases was earlier spiked by Congressional Democrats, but Trump on Friday said they should “go back and see” if it could be included in “another bill.”Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, speaking at the meeting, said the Energy Department is still planning on purchasing oil for the reserve without providing more details.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 23:47:42 -0400

Tesla cuts contractors from California, Nevada factories: CNBC -

Tesla cuts contractors from California, Nevada factories: CNBCThe electric carmaker is axing contractors at both its vehicle assembly plant in Fremont, California, and at its Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada, according to the CNBC report "It is with my deepest regret that I must inform you that the Tesla factory shutdown has been extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, Tesla has requested to end all contract assignments effective immediately," Balance Staffing, a workforce management company, said in a memo sighted by CNBC.

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 23:19:03 -0400

IEA: OPEC Can’t Save The Oil Market - Fri, 03 Apr 2020 20:30:00 -0400
Some WeWork Staff Planned Their Lives Around a Stock Deal That Just Collapsed -

Some WeWork Staff Planned Their Lives Around a Stock Deal That Just Collapsed(Bloomberg) -- Teddy Kramer worked at WeWork from 2013 to 2015. When he left the company, he had been a director of new market development, helping the co-working startup open new offices in different regions. He’d put in the time and been granted shares in the company. At first, he thought he might be able to sell them after WeWork’s much-anticipated initial public offering in September, but the IPO attempt flopped.As a backup option, Kramer and other current and ex-WeWork staff were told they would be able to sell their shares to SoftBank Group Corp. in a deal set to take place on Wednesday. Kramer was expecting to sell between $50,000 and $100,000, he said, and he was depending on the cash to cover expenses while he started his new business, a co-working space in San Francisco called Neon. On Thursday, though, SoftBank sent a letter to all WeWork shareholders: The deal was off. The Japanese conglomerate, the largest investor in WeWork parent We Co., was pulling out of the agreement to purchase billions in WeWork stock from existing shareholders. The abrupt about-face has impacted many people like Kramer—rank-and-file employees who had been banking on the payout from SoftBank, some of whom are now left in a lurch as the coronavirus pandemic slams the global economy. They’d already faced the disappointment of losing the chance to sell after the promised IPO and seeing their highly valued WeWork shares lose almost all their worth in the fallout. SoftBank’s decision to pull out underlines the precarious nature of owning shares in a startup, even when the company was, at one point, the most valuable startup in the U.S.Less than a year ago, WeWork was on pace for an IPO that would add to the rolls of tech millionaires. New York was bracing for an infusion of wealth akin to the bonanza that beset Silicon Valley overnight when Facebook Inc. went public in 2012. An IPO or multibillion-dollar stock transaction like the one SoftBank agreed to with WeWork provides the seed money for people to buy homes and start businesses. For WeWork, those opportunities evaporated with little forewarning, coming as a shock to some shareholders who had already begun laying the foundation for their new lives. SoftBank cited several reasons for pulling out of the deal, including that WeWork was currently facing government inquiries from U.S. attorneys, the Securities and Exchange Commission, attorneys general in California and New York and the Manhattan district attorney. Those ongoing inquiries, the company said, meant that the conditions of the original deal had not been met. Representatives for SoftBank and WeWork declined to comment.  In the letter sent early Thursday confirming the deal was off, SoftBank framed the called-off stock sale as something that would have mainly benefited WeWork’s ousted chief executive officer, Adam Neumann, and WeWork’s investors. The bulk of the proceeds of the $3 billion stock sale was set to go to just five investors, including Neumann and venture capital firm Benchmark. "Adam Neumann, his family, and certain large institutional stockholders, such as Benchmark Capital, were the parties who stood to benefit most from the tender offer," SoftBank said in a statement about the decision. "Together, Mr. Neumann’s and Benchmark’s equity constitute more than half of the stock tendered in the offering. In contrast, current WeWork employees tendered less than 10% of the total."But for employees, a tenth of $3 billion is still a lot of money. Add in additional workers who have recently left the company, and that figure could climb even higher. Some current and former staff at WeWork have taken issue with SoftBank’s statements about its decision to pull out, arguing that the money they stood to receive from the sale would make more of a difference in their lives than to Neumann and others.“They’re trying to leverage the negative press that has followed Adam since the IPO by saying ‘This is just a billionaire making more money,’” Kramer said.Kramer, 36, said he’s fairly lucky. He hadn’t signed a lease yet for his new company, and doesn’t have employees that he would have to cut. But without the money from the stock sale, his business dream is on indefinite hold. In the meantime, he’s tutoring kids in reading comprehension over Zoom and looking for a different job.Other people were depending on the SoftBank sale to help defray costs they’d incurred when WeWork’s stock seemed much more valuable. One current WeWork employee, who also asked not to be named because of a non-disclosure agreement, said they bought a house last summer thinking they'd be able to pay for it after selling shares in the IPO. When that didn't happen, they had still been hoping cash from this stock sale could help offset some of those costs.A former employee, who asked not to be named because they signed a non-disclosure agreement, said that once the company’s IPO prospectus was made public in August, they figured that meant the IPO was likely to take place. Right after that, this person took out a loan in order to buy the shares they had access to. The idea was to buy early to try to avoid short-term capital gains tax.Over the next month, though, as WeWork’s bankers struggled to get institutional investors to commit to buying into WeWork’s IPO, the company’s prospects started to look shakier. The former employee said that WeWork’s then chief financial officer, Artie Minson, repeatedly tried to reassure workers at all-hands meetings. Minson told them the company had strong revenue, that its numbers had never been better, and that the company would go public by the end of the year.But quickly, WeWork withdrew its IPO and turned to SoftBank for bailout funding to avoid going bankrupt. Employees were offered the chance to reprice their shares at around $4 each. The former employee, though, still had a tax bill based on the value of the shares at their time of purchase, around $50 apiece. That left this person with a six-figure tax bill—and no way to sell the shares in order to pay it off. The former employee had been hoping that they’d be able to sell enough shares to SoftBank this week to pay off the loan taken out to buy the shares in the first place—not the profit this person had envisioned, but just enough to break even.Some employees might be able to find some relief, said Deep Gujral, a principal who works with venture-backed companies at the professional services firm Withum. Gujral recommended trying to negotiate with creditors: "Given the current climate, and Covid-19, they might be more receptive" to relaxing payment requirements, he said. "If you have a mortgage, and you go to the lender, they might be flexible." Gujral also expects to see class-action lawsuits that include current and former WeWork employees as a result of the withdrawn tender offer. After energy-services company Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, employees were able to use federal laws around benefit plans and stock to their advantage in court, and the same could apply here, he said.But hypothetical lawsuits are of little comfort to most WeWork shareholders. “The rest of the world needs to know that there are 500 to 1,000 early employees who are paying the price for this,” Kramer said. “All we ever did was work hard and make this company an $8 billion company. This was our moment. SoftBank came in and made a deal: ‘We're going to take care of you.’ And now all of a sudden it's, ‘Eh, we're not doing that.’”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 19:53:11 -0400

Berkshire Cuts Delta, Southwest Stakes With Airlines in Freefall - Fri, 03 Apr 2020 19:32:11 -0400
The OPEC Meeting Could Send Oil Prices Crashing Below $10 - Fri, 03 Apr 2020 19:00:00 -0400
Hang in There, Upwork Investors, Better Days Ahead, Says Analyst -

Hang in There, Upwork Investors, Better Days Ahead, Says AnalystThe trailing twelve-month chart for freelancing platform Upwork (UPWK) makes for queasy viewing. The stock has declined by 73%, 50% of which were shed since the turn of the year. While the majority of companies’ valuations have tumbled aggressively since the viral outbreak, Upwork’s severe beating is a curious one. You would think as its core business is all conducted online, it would be shielded somewhat.While Upwork hasn’t been immune to the COVID-19 pandemic, BTIG’s Marvin Fong believes the company's “potential is underappreciated.” Fong puts his money where his mouth is, reiterating a Buy rating, along with a $14 price target. Expect upside of a spectacular 160%, should Fong’s forecast plays out. (To watch Fong’s track record, click here)Despite the alarming downturn, Fong believes Upwork “has held up reasonably well” and is “doing better than most.” But the contracting global economy has affected activity on the platform. Job listings on March 31 indicated a 12% drop since the start of the month, with the trend remaining negative, both on the domestic and international front.Although Upwork belongs to the “work-at-home” category, Fong is not surprised to see its business depressed in the near-term. During recessions, the availability of freelancers increases, while jobs become scarcer. The difference this time, though, is that even people in full employment are working from home.Yet, Fong believes there is a brewing opportunity for Upwork here: “What UPWK has going for it in this environment is the ability to help businesses find low-cost talent and provide rapid hiring in a world where physical interviews and onboarding are undesirable.  In the longer run, with more freelancers on the site and businesses of all sizes getting more comfortable with remote workforces, we believe the pandemic could help Upwork’s enterprise offering gain improved traction once things settle down and businesses get out of survival mode.”Turning to the rest of the Street, Upwork’s Moderate Buy consensus rating breaks down into 4 Buys and 3 Hold ratings. With an average price target of $11, investors could see upside of 84%, should the target be met in the coming months. (See Upwork stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. More recent articles from Smarter Analyst: * 5-Star Analyst Reiterates Bullish Stance on Lyft Stock; Here's Why * Western Digital (WDC) Is Our 'Best COVID-19 Recovery Idea,' Says 5-Star Analyst * Overreaction Presents a Buying Opportunity in Hexo Stock * 3 Cannabis Stocks Set to Thrive Through the Global Shutdown

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 18:50:14 -0400

Luckin Coffee Scandal Deals New Blow to Corporate China -

Luckin Coffee Scandal Deals New Blow to Corporate China(Bloomberg) -- The fallout from Luckin Coffee Inc.’s accounting scandal is spreading far beyond the high-flying Starbucks challenger, with renewed concerns about Chinese corporate governance dragging down stocks across industries and threatening to bring a halt to the country’s overseas initial public offerings.The Xiamen-based coffee chain said on Thursday that its chief operating officer and some underlings may have fabricated billions of yuan in sales, upending what was supposed to be one of China’s best growth stories. Luckin Coffee shares plunged as much as 81% in U.S. trading and CAR Inc., a rental company founded by Luckin Coffee’s chairman, sank 54% in Hong Kong. Popular short-selling targets including Anta Sports Products Ltd. also slumped.Lone Pine Capital, one of Luckin Coffee’s top holders, no longer reports a stake in the company, according to a filing. It held a 10.7% stake as of Jan. 9, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The revelations revived doubts about financial reporting that have for years dogged Chinese stocks listed in the U.S. and Hong Kong, two exchanges frequently picked by company founders to raise new funds. While China recently changed regulations to punish instances of financial fraud onshore, the penalties remain negligible. Just last year, one of China’s largest listed drug makers said it overstated cash holdings by more than $4.3 billion.“After the Luckin incident, investors will be more careful when investing in Chinese companies that have a short founding history and rely on huge leverage to expand,” said Jackson Wong, Hong Kong-based asset management director for Amber Hill Capital Ltd.The news is likely to put at least a temporary freeze on new U.S. listings by Chinese companies, according to four investment bankers who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to media. One of the bankers said U.S. investor appetite for Chinese shares already had waned amid a string of disappointing deals and heightened geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing.Those concerns come on top of a general flight from risk because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused IPO volumes globally to plunge in recent weeks.“It will inevitably affect the investors’ confidence and market momentum on other U.S.-listed China stocks,” said Steven Leung, executive director at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. “It may even affect the Chinese companies’ U.S. IPO pipeline because investors would start to question their accountability.”Read more: Global Banks, Wary of Some China U.S. IPOs, Walk Away From DealsLouis Tse, Hong Kong-based managing director at VC Asset Management Ltd., disagreed, saying all IPOs have to follow the same procedures and meet the same regulatory requirements.“I don’t think this will tarnish the names of incoming companies in Nasdaq,” he said. “Psychologically it would have an impact, but it’s not necessarily on a Chinese company.”Outside the Luckin Coffee corporate family, the sell-off on Friday hit companies previously called out by speculators for their financial reporting -- including Anta Sports Products Ltd., Xtep International Holdings Ltd. and 361 Degrees International Ltd. China International Capital Corp., one of the lead managers of Luckin Coffee’s IPO last year, slid as much as 5.4% in Hong Kong.Luckin Coffee suspended Chief Operating Officer Jian Liu and others while its board investigates, and it said investors shouldn’t rely on previous financial statements for the nine months ended Sept. 30. The transactions in question occurred last year and totaled about 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million), according to its filing.If true, the fabricated sales figure could represent a significant portion of the company’s total revenue. Luckin, which has only reported financial data for the second and third quarter of last year after its May public offering, was seen reporting 5.15 billion yuan of revenue for the full year, according to the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.“Certain costs and expenses were also substantially inflated by fabricated transactions during this period,” Luckin said, adding that the board hasn’t verified the fabricated sales figures.Thursday’s share decline erased what had been a 54% gain since the company went public last year.The coffee chain, founded in 2017, operated about 4,500 stores by the end of 2019 in China. Chairman Lu Zhengyao and Chief Executive Officer Qian Zhiya employed a strategy they used with CAR Inc. more than a decade ago: burning money from investors to quickly grab market share from rivals. That strategy has been successful in winning over investors.Luckin Coffee planned to reach 10,000 locations by the end of next year in a market valued at $5.8 billion. Coffee consumption is only in its initial stages in China, and Luckin Coffee was trying to overtake Starbucks by opening more stores in two years than the industry giant has in two decades. Luckin pulled in Chinese consumers by offering generous discounts.Trouble emerged earlier this year, however. The stock plunged after Muddy Waters Capital tweeted Jan. 31 that it had a short position after receiving what it called a “credible,” unattributed 89-page report that alleged accounting issues with the chain and a broken business model. Luckin Coffee denied the allegations.The company raised $865 million from a share sale and a convertible bond offering in January, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It also raised $645 million in its U.S. IPO.“Luckin denied short sellers’ reports earlier, and then it admitted wrongdoing,” said Kenny Wen, a Hong Kong-based wealth management strategist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai Co. “Lots of lawsuits will emerge.”(Updates with holding data in third paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 18:33:38 -0400

Coronavirus job losses 'way worse than anything we saw in the Great Depression:' Economist -

Coronavirus job losses 'way worse than anything we saw in the Great Depression:' EconomistThe U.S. economy actually lost jobs on Friday, after a decade of gains, and the employment situation will likely only get bleaker as the nation remains closed for business to stem the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

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