Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Monday that the electric-car company was resuming production at its assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., even though it had not yet been cleared to do so by local health authorities.
“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he announced on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
The county’s health officer has said he hopes to work out an agreement with Tesla to open the plant on May 18. The plant is Tesla’s main source of revenue and has been closed since early April. County officials have not yet authorized the resumption of indoor manufacturing over fears that the coronavirus could spread among large groups working in proximity.
In email that was sent on Monday and was reviewed by The New York Times, the company’s head of human resources in North America, Valerie Workman, told employees they would be contacted within 24 hours about when to report for work.
The state has authorized a resumption of manufacturing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that “we recognize localism” and that “if a county doesn’t want to go as far,” local orders would prevail.
But Mr. Musk’s brother, Kimbal, seemed unappeased, declaring Monday on Twitter, “The governor has enormous power. He chose to put it into the hands of the county and he can take back that decision. This is on @GavinNewsom entirely.”
AutoNation, the country’s biggest chain of new-car dealerships, said on Monday that auto sales had started to improve after a steep drop in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.
In the first 10 days of April, sales of new and used vehicles plunged by 50 percent. But in the final 10 days of last month, sales were off by just 20 percent, the company’s chief executive, Mike Jackson, said.
The auto industry will see ups and downs the rest of this year, but consumers are still interested in buying new vehicles, Mr. Jackson said in an interview. “The automotive recovery is underway,” he said.
Many buyers coming to AutoNation are buying cars to reduce their use of public transit or shared transportation to avoid the chance of contracting the virus, he said. “There is now a greater desire to be in your own personal space,” Mr. Jackson said.
AutoNation on Monday reported that it lost $232 million in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $92 million in the same period a year earlier.
Many consumers expect to lose their jobs and to see home prices stall — or even decline — over the coming year, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Given that people’s homes are often their largest investment, that could spell even more trouble for the economy.
For the first time since the Federal Reserve Bank of New York started its survey of consumers in 2013, the median consumer did not expect home prices to increase over the next year. More than 44 percent of April respondents actually expected home prices to decline, and that pessimism was broad-based across demographic groups and regions.
As recently as February, consumers expected a 3 percent home price appreciation. The swift deterioration in their outlook underlines how much the coronavirus lockdown, which has left millions out of work and has made loans harder to come by, could threaten the housing industry.
Mortgage credit availability has tumbled to its lowest level since late 2014, a Mortgage Bankers Association index showed last week, as lenders shy away from borrowers with low credit scores and those looking for large mortgages. That could blunt the economic benefit of the Fed’s recent rate cuts, as consumers struggle to benefit directly from lower borrowing costs.
Consumers were glum along other dimensions, too. They increasingly expected to lose their jobs, putting the chances over the coming year at 20.9 percent in April, a new series high.
The United States is on the brink of the worst economic collapse since the Hoover administration. Corporate profits have crumpled. More than a million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and hundreds of people are dying each day.
After a few weeks of wild swings, the market is down roughly 9 percent this year and a little more than 13 percent from its peak. Even as 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April, the S&P 500 stock index logged its best month in 33 years. The index was basically unchanged on Monday.
Conventional wisdom would explain the market’s comparatively modest losses this way: Because markets tend to be forward-looking, investors have already accounted for what’s expected to be a cataclysmic drop in second-quarter activity and are forecasting a relatively rapid economic recovery afterward.
But for decades, the market has been growing increasingly detached from mainstream of American life. There are a few reasons:
The giant companies that make up the S&P 500 operate under very different circumstances than the nation’s small businesses, workers and cities and states. They are highly profitable, hold significant sums of cash and have regular access to public bond markets.
Stock ownership is heavily skewed to the richest segments of the population, who are least likely to feel the pain of an economic downturn.
The Federal Reserve’s actions have also bolstered investors’ confidence that the bottom won’t fall out of the market.
Americans have long relied on the stock market as a proxy for the U.S. economy. The current economic fallout, however, could snap any illusions that the logic of the market is derived, in any consistent way, from real-world events.
Randal K. Quarles, the Fed’s vice chair for banking supervision, will tell lawmakers this week that banks are playing a key role in getting credit to consumers and businesses as the coronavirus crisis unfolds in the economy and in financial markets.
“Banks entered this crisis in a position of strength,” Mr. Quarles said in prepared remarks released on Monday afternoon, adding that “banking organizations are well-positioned to serve as a source of strength, not strain, in the current crisis.”
Mr. Quarles, long an ally of the banking industry, said that financial institutions “now have an essential part to play in addressing that disruption — as a bridge between the start of this crisis and the completion of our economic recovery.”
Banks both touched off and exacerbated the 2008 crisis, but this time around, they have been made a key part of many of the government’s lending programs. Their stronger position coming into the crisis, the result of new rules and regulations put into place in the wake of the last crisis, has helped enable that.
With air travel nearly shut down during a pandemic, Delta Air Lines has swung from huge profits and is bleeding money. On Wednesday, it will drop 10 more airports from its already skeletal network.
Delta and the other major airlines in the United States are losing $350 million to $400 million a day as expenses like payroll, rent and aircraft maintenance far exceed the money they are bringing in. And even though they are slashing schedules, they are averaging an anemic 23 passengers on each domestic flight.
Passenger traffic is down about 94 percent and half of the industry’s 6,215 planes are parked, according to Airlines for America, a trade group.
Yet, devastating as the downturn has been, the future is even more bleak. With much of the world closed for business, and no widely available vaccine in sight, it may be months, if not years, before airlines operate as many flights as they did before the crisis. Even when people start flying again, the industry could be transformed, much as it was after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The crisis could push some airlines, especially smaller ones, into bankruptcy or make them takeover targets. Consumer fears about catching the virus on crowded planes could lead to reconfigured seating. Carriers may initially entice wary travelers with discounts, but if they can’t fill up flights, they may resort to raising ticket prices.
A 112-year-old German company has found itself playing an unexpected yet crucial role in supplying the country with the face masks its population needs to safely reopen its economy.
The company, Melitta, makes coffee filters and vacuum cleaner bags. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it retooled one of its coffee filter production systems to make masks that filter out bacteria as efficiently as simple medical masks. They are shaped like the coffee filters Melitta still makes for sale in grocery stores around the world, but they are made of material that is similar to Melitta’s vacuum cleaner bags, layers of melt-blown and spun-blown microfiber.
So far, the company has produced 10 million masks, but they are not yet for sale to the public and Melitta has yet to set a price for their wide distribution. One of its executives, Rene Korte, said Melitta can sell the masks at prices comparable to what masks made in Asia sold for before the crisis hit.
The company is now working on designing earloops that can be made of similar material and can fold out of the mask, which would allow it to eliminate the rubber bands currently used to affix the masks to wearers’ faces.
The unemployment rate soared last month to 14.7 percent, the highest level on record, according to government data released Friday. In February, it was 3.5 percent, a half-century low. While states try to gradually reopen after sheltering and shutdowns, barely more than half the adult population of the United States now has a job.
Among those who lost their jobs, many were furloughed, left with a sense of hope that their situations were temporary. Freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs found themselves without gigs. Others were laid off.
Some people tried to find new jobs, unsure if any existed, or applied for unemployment benefits, only to find themselves stuck in interminable bureaucracy. Many stretched the stimulus checks they received from the federal government. They learned to live lean — canceling subscriptions, rationing food and pleading with creditors for extensions. They felt pressured by stress, or loneliness, or uncertainty.
If you signed up for a dependent care account, your employer siphons pretax money from your paycheck, and you get a little back on request after paying each day care bill, or in a lump sum after covering summer camp costs.
Except now your day care is closed, and there may not be summer camp. You have locked away four figures of money that you may not be able to get back, because if you don’t use it before the end of the year, you lose it entirely and your employer gets to keep it.
In the broad scheme of things — a pandemic, tens of millions of people with no job at all — it may not seem like a big thing. But there are an estimated 5.2 million dependent care accounts, according to the financial research firm Aite Group, and many of their holders have lost at least some income or have spouses who have.
It’s a problem big enough that legislators in Washington are now trying to solve it. But first, The New York Times’s Ron Lieber has prepared a brief reminder on how these accounts are generally supposed to work when things are more normal.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Steak ‘n Shake permanently closed 57 restaurants in the first quarter because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s parent, Biglari Holdings, said in its quarterly earnings report. Biglari, whose properties include Western Sizzlin restaurants, Maxim magazine and First Guard Insurance, reported that revenue fell to $136 million in the first quarter, from $182 million the same quarter a year earlier. The company had 605 company-operated and franchise Steak ‘n Shake and Western Sizzlin restaurants as of March 31.
Twitter will add new labels to tweets that contain misinformation about the coronavirus, the social media company said on Monday in a blog post. Tweets that contain “potentially harmful, misleading information” related to the virus will now include a link to additional information from trusted sources like public health officials. Posts that Twitter considers particularly harmful or misleading will be hidden behind a warning label, which cautions viewers that the tweet contains information that “conflicts with guidance from public health experts.”
The hotel giant Marriott International reported a 92 percent drop in profits in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic closed many of its hotels. Marriott said its net income for the first quarter fell to $31 million, down from $375 million a year ago.
Avianca, Colombia’s flagship airline and one of the world’s oldest carriers, filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in New York late on Sunday. The company said that the drop in air travel had eroded its revenue by more than 80 percent and that it is in talks to secure financial lifelines from the government of Colombia and those of its other markets.
Reporting was contributed by Ron Lieber, Brent Lewis, Tiffany Hsu, Kate Conger, Neal E. Boudette, Jeanna Smialek, Michael de la Merced, Liz Alderman, Julie Creswell, Stanley Reed, Niraj Chokshi, Brooks Barnes, Clifford Krauss, Christopher F. Schuetze, Emily Flitter, Conor Dougherty, Gregory Schmidt, Jason Karaian, Mohammed Hadi, Ana Swanson, David Yaffe-Bellany, Michael Corkery, Keith Bradsher, Carlos Tejada, Daniel Victor and Kevin Granville.