Outbreaks at meatpacking plants begin to strain the national supply.

Hundreds of Wendy’s restaurants have run out of hamburgers. Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States, is limiting the amount of ground beef and pork that customers can buy at some stores. And Costco, where shoppers typically buy in bulk, has placed a three-product cap on purchases of beef, poultry and pork.

Over the last month, dozens of meatpacking plants across the country have shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks, raising concerns about the country’s meat supply. Now, the impact of those disruptions is reaching customers at grocery stores and fast food drive-throughs, where certain types of meat, like hamburgers, are harder to find.

On Monday, nearly one in five Wendy’s restaurants — a total of 1,043 locations — were sold out of beef products, including burgers, according to analysis by the financial firm Stephens, which examined the online menu at every Wendy’s in the United States.

More meatpacking plants have announced infections and shut downs this week. A Tyson Foods pork plant and a Cargill beef plant in Nebraska announced temporary closures after a surge in coronavirus infections. More than 100 workers tested positive for the coronavirus at a Seaboard Foods pork processing plant in Oklahoma, though the facility remains open. In a call with investors on Monday, Tyson executives said that more meatpacking plants were likely to shut down for cleaning as the virus continues to spread.

Airbnb, the home-sharing start-up, laid off around a quarter of its staff, or 1,900 people, on Tuesday as it reels from the global pandemic that has battered the travel industry.

Airbnb lowered its revenue forecast for this year to be less than half of what it made in 2020 because of the pandemic, Brian Chesky, the company’s chief executive, told employees. Before the layoffs, Airbnb, which is based in San Francisco, had 7,500 employees.

It was the latest effort to trim costs by the once highflying start-up, which investors have valued at $31 billion. As global travel ground to a halt beginning in February and people canceled their Airbnb stays, the company cut its $800 million marketing budget, arranged new debt facilities and raised $1 billion in new funding.

Airbnb has said it planned to go public this year.

Mr. Chesky said that Airbnb’s business would have to change as a result of the pandemic, with more focus on travel options that are “closer to home, safer, and more affordable.”

“While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived,” he said.

Stocks in the United States followed global markets and oil prices higher.

The S&P 500 climbed nearly 2 percent, extending a rally that began late on Monday as shares of large technology companies rose.

Though unsteady at times, stocks have been climbing lately as investors see recovery efforts in the United States, as well as signs from Europe and China that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may be over in some of the hardest-hit places.

Underscoring the optimism, oil prices surged in early Tuesday trading, though they remained close to historically low levels. The price of benchmark crude in the United States was up nearly 20 percent. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up more than 10 percent.

The stock market gains — the S&P 500 is up almost 30 percent over the past six weeks — have come even as companies report discouraging financial results and warn of the economic damage being caused by the pandemic.

On Tuesday, a measure of demand and employment in the services industry showed a sharp slowdown in April, to the lowest level since March 2009, as stores and restaurants were shuttered and consumers stayed home. A similar measure of manufacturing activity, released by the Institute for Supply Management last week, had also shown a collapse.

Investors have managed to shake off such grim data, which signals that the United States economy is in an unprecedented decline, because it shows what has already happened rather than what might come as stay-at-home orders are lifted and governors gradually move to reopen their economies.

Parking lots have been a digital lifeline during the pandemic, a patch for one of the most stubborn problems in technology — and one the coronavirus has exacerbated. Instead of spending hours in restaurants, libraries and cafes, people without fast internet access at home are sitting in lots near schools, libraries and stores that have kept their signals on.

School leaders in Philadelphia and Sacramento have encouraged families to use free hot spots in library and school parking lots. More than 100 people logged on to the Wi-Fi of one of Omaha’s libraries over three days recently. Near Topeka, Kan., a steady flow of cars now arrive outside the public library, while other cars cluster near connected bookmobiles parked in lots near a women’s correctional facility and a mobile home park.

“I hope that there is a lesson learned from this,” said Gina Millsap, the chief executive of the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. “Broadband is like water and electricity now, and yet it’s still being treated like a luxury.”

One in four Americans has no high-speed internet access at home, according to the Pew Research Center, either because it’s too expensive or because the home is in a rural area with limited service.

For more than a decade, the makeup chain Sephora has operated branded shops within J.C. Penney stores — a big draw for the beleaguered retailer. But as J.C. Penney prepared recently to reopen nine of its stores, Sephora is accused in a lawsuit of saying it would not open its shops and threatening to end its agreement with J.C. Penney unless the chain agreed to shorten their deal, which does not expire for several years.

The lawsuit was filed by J.C. Penney on Monday. It is seeking a temporary restraining order to bar Sephora from terminating the agreement.

Losing Sephora at more than 600 of its locations would be a major blow for J.C. Penney, which is at risk of filing for bankruptcy. The lawsuit outlined disagreements between Sephora and J.C. Penney during the coronavirus pandemic, and highlighted the challenges that many retailers may face with vendors as they attempt to return to business.

A representative for Sephora said in a statement that the company had been “engaged in good-faith discussions with J.C. Penney for some time,” and that it filed a motion to dismiss the company’s “misleading petition.” A J.C. Penney representative said that the two chains “remain committed to working together to drive sustainable, profitable growth.”

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had removed eight global networks of accounts from the social network, including many that pushed false information about the coronavirus. The company said the disinformation it took down had been posted across more than 30 countries in April. In the United States, notably, the social network’s purge for the first time included pages from QAnon, the fringe conspiracy group.

All of the networks were created before the pandemic began, but “we’ve seen people behind these campaigns opportunistically use coronavirus-related posts among many other topics to build an audience.” Facebook said in its report.

Facebook said it focused on the coordinated behavior of the operations it took down, not harmful virus-related disinformation pushed by the accounts. But coronavirus disinformation was still a significant part of many of the operations in the takedown. In the United States, Facebook said it took down a QAnon operation spanning five Facebook pages, six groups and 20 Facebook accounts that, apart from frequently posting about the upcoming presidential election and the Trump administration, pushed anti-Asian conspiracies and disinformation about the virus.

Some of the accounts created fictitious personas and sold merchandise, Facebook said. More than 133,000 accounts on Facebook followed pages in the QAnon operation and 30,000 accounts joined one or more of the groups.

Besides the QAnon network, Facebook said it took down dozens of pages and accounts in the United States linked to VDARE and The Unz Review, two websites known to spread anti-immigration sentiment, as well as six other networks of accounts pushing political disinformation in Iran, Georgia, Myanmar and Russia.

The special inspector general that President Trump nominated to oversee the Treasury Department’s $500 billion pandemic recovery fund vowed on Tuesday to be fair and impartial in his efforts to combat misuse of the bailout money.

In prepared testimony ahead of his confirmation hearing, Brian D. Miller, attempted to defuse fears that he is not independent enough for the prominent watchdog role amid concerns that his current position as a White House lawyer means he would be putting Mr. Trump’s interests ahead of those of American taxpayers.

Lawmakers created the inspector general role to oversee disbursement of funds that are part of the $2 trillion economic relief package that Congress passed in March.

The nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, has not been received well by Democrats, who insisted on strict oversight as a condition of passing the rescue package that Mr. Trump signed into law.

Mr. Miller is expected to face questions about an unusual signing statement from Mr. Trump that suggested the president had the power to decide what information the inspector general could share with Congress.

“If confirmed, I will conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality,” Mr. Miller planned to tell members of the Senate Banking Committee. “I pledge to seek the truth in all matters that come before me and to use my authority and resources to uncover fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Hertz, the century-old car rental company, narrowly averted an impending crisis Monday after successfully negotiating with its lenders over a missed payment on the lease for its rental fleet, according to a securities filing. The company now has less than three weeks — until May 22 — to come up with a plan to pay them back and continue to meet its ongoing financial obligations.

The company warned last week that it had missed the payment, but had a one-week grace period ending on Monday to pay or negotiate new terms with the lenders. According to the filing on Tuesday morning, the lenders agreed not to force a sale of the vehicles in the Hertz fleet — for now.

Hertz had been preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as Tuesday if it could not reach an agreement with the lenders, according to Bloomberg. It had even hired a bankruptcy adviser to help it prepare, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The pandemic has had “a rapid, sudden and dramatic negative impact” on the company’s business, it said in the Tuesday filing. Hertz had begun selling some of the cars in its fleet as early as March as government restrictions and fear of the outbreak rapidly eroded its business. Last month, it laid off 10,000 workers.

Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise companies, said on Tuesday that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Norwegian acknowledged the dire situation in a securities filing announcing that it was seeking $650 million in new financing. The global shutdown of the cruise industry has strained the finances of all three major cruise companies — Norwegian and its two main rivals, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean — forcing them to borrow money at high interest rates.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, Norwegian said in the filing, it is “expected to continue to adversely impact our results, operations, outlook, plans, goals, growth, reputation, cash flows, liquidity, demand for voyages and share price.”

Carnival said on Monday that it planned to begin cruising again on some of its ships as early as August. A spokeswoman for Norwegian said the company hoped to begin cruising in July.

Publicly traded companies have given back more than $375 million in federal stimulus loans meant to help small businesses stay afloat, according to a New York Times analysis of securities filings and public announcements. Many of the companies began returning the loans after their disclosures raised an outcry that the stimulus program was steering money to major corporations instead of smaller operations like independent retailers and restaurants.

Nine of the 10 largest known loans issued to public companies have or will be returned, the Times analysis shows. The outlier, a loan to BBQ Holdings, which owns several hospitality brands including Famous Dave’s BBQ, was first disclosed on Friday.

Ashford Inc., which oversees a network of hotels and resorts including Ritz Carltons and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program, said on Saturday that it and its subsidiaries would return $68.8 million in loans after mounting criticism from policymakers and members of the public. So far, at least 35 public and private companies have returned their loans.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

NBCUniversal will cut salaries for higher-paid employees, its chief executive, Jeff Shell, announced in a companywide email Tuesday. The media giant will roll back merit increases, typically 3 percent, for those who make more than $100,000, starting in June. The management team, about 17 people, including Mr. Shell and Cesar Conde, the newly appointed head of news, will take a 20 percent pay cut. Employees at its theme parks division have already seen pay cuts. Company leaders haven’t decided how long the cuts will remain in place. NBCUniversal, part of Comcast, has had a tough quarter because of the effects of the coronavirus. Advertising fell by 2 percent and theme parks plummeted 27 percent in the first three months of the year.

The British airline Virgin Atlantic on Tuesday became the latest carrier to announce cost cuts, saying it would lay off more than 3,000 workers, retire older jumbo jets and no longer fly from London’s Gatwick Airport. Virgin said in a statement that it could take three years for the airline industry to get back to where it was before the pandemic began.

Reporting was contributed by Davy Alba, Edmund Lee, David Yaffe-Bellany, Niraj Chokshi, Michael Corkery, Alan Rappeport, Jack Ewing, Jeanna Smialek, Ben Dooley, Knvul Sheikh, Mohammed Hadi, Sapna Maheshwari, Ivan Penn, Matt Richtel, Carlos Tejada, Daniel Victor, Katie Robertson and Kevin Granville.



Source link