National News, Friday, Feb. 28 – Wall Street Drops Again With Worries About Coronavirus

News from across the nation and stories of interest for readers, from BasinLife.com

Friday, February 28, 2020

A wild and troubling week on Wall Street as U.S. stocks held a punishing selloff all week, some 3500 points, the worst week since November of 2008. 

The financial crisis continues in the market with mounting investor unease about the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.

Friday’s session was marked by wild swings that sent the Dow down more than 1,000 points before it rallied around 640 points in the final minutes of trading. The Nasdaq Composite fell as much as 3.5% before bouncing higher to narrowly close in positive territory.

Some of the most dramatic moves happened after the Federal Reserve’s unexpected attempt to calm markets at the very tail end of a volatile week. Late in the afternoon, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled that the central bank was prepared to cut interest rates to protect the economy from the widening global slowdown. Stocks initially pared losses after the announcement, dropped again, then climbed rapidly into the close

Investors have rushed to sell stocks and other riskier investments such as oil, leading to a bad week on Wall Street and one of the worst in recent memory.  Fears about the coronavirus have rapidly mushroomed, with investor anxiety that its spread will dent economic growth around the world strengthening as new cases cropped up.

“This unfortunately is the perfect storm,” said Doug Cohen, managing director at Athena Capital Advisors. “This is not something out of a standard economic textbook.”    Mr. Cohen said some of his clients have been worried that the worst isn’t yet over for stocks and they want to sell out of their equity positions or hedge portfolios to avoid even deeper losses.

The plunge unleashed a frenzy of trading among investors big and small all week, as the outlook for economic growth and corporate profits this year darkened, helping fuel the swift decline in stocks and bond yields. Stock trading volumes jumped to a year-long high on Thursday while listed options trading soared to the highest level on record.

About $18 billion left U.S. stock mutual and exchange-traded funds during the week ending Wednesday, the biggest such outflow in nine weeks, according to a Bank of America analysis of data from EPFR Global.

Meanwhile, the increased turbulence stoked a jump in trading in retirement funds. Trading activity among investors at large employers was about 11 times higher than normal on Thursday, a rare occurrence since 2008.

Adding to the anxiety is that much remains unknown about how far the virus will spread and the true harm it could do to economic growth around the world. Some investors have warned that it is soon to bet on a swift rebound in the stock market and many are bracing for more volatility ahead.

“Market feels panic now…nobody knows how bad or how good the situation will get,” said one source who wished not to be named.

The rush for traditionally safe assets comes as more than 82,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus globally and more than 2,800 have died. It has spread to at least 46 countries, according to the latest tally by the World Health Organization. On Friday, China reported 327 new cases—the lowest since Jan. 23—and 44 deaths.

The spreading virus has led investors and analysts to grow more pessimistic about their outlooks for the rest of the year, slashing estimates for upcoming earnings results. Goldman Sachs Group said it is now expecting 0% corporate earnings growth in 2020. Meanwhile, Bank of America Corp. lowered its estimate for global GDP growth because of the coronavirus. 

Today, health officials at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are alerting Americans to begin preparing for the spread of coronavirus in the United States after infections surfaced in several more countries.

The announcement signaled a change in tone for the CDC, which had largely been focused on efforts to stop the virus from entering the country and quarantining individuals traveling from China. A CDC spokesperson aid Tuesday: “The data over the past week about the spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and expectation that we are going to have community spread here.” What is not known, she said, is when it will arrive and how severe a U.S. outbreak might be. She cautioned: “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

A flight attendant for Korean Air who worked several flights out of Los Angeles International Airport has been diagnosed with coronavirus. The flight attendant had worked flights between LAX and Seoul–Incheon International Airport on February 19 and 20.

… The woman also serviced a flight from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Seoul on February 15. She may have contracted the virus from a South Korean church group who were on a pilgrimage to Israel. So far, 30 members of that church group have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

A whistleblower alleges that some federal employees were sent to work at coronavirus quarantine locations in California without adequate safety protocols and then flew back home on commercial airplanes, according to a person familiar with the complaint against the Department of Health and Human Services.

The complaint, which HHS said it was evaluating, focuses on some employees who work at the Administration for Children and Families, or ACF, an HHS division that handles programs such as Head Start and disaster emergency response and that performed functions at some of the quarantine camps.

The U.S. repatriated Americans from China on planes chartered by the State Department in early February. They were subject to 14-day quarantines.

Employees didn’t receive prior safety training relevant to the California assignment, the whistleblower alleges, according to the person familiar with the complaint. The employee who filed the complaint said she declined to go to one of the quarantine sites and was then reassigned for raising concerns about employee safety, according to the person familiar with the complaint.

The employees weren’t tested for the coronavirus before they left two California quarantine sites, the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, and flew home, the person familiar with the complaint said. There is no evidence that any of the workers contracted or spread the virus.

In response to the complaint, Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman at HHS, said Thursday: “We take all whistleblower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act. We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time.”

California’s mountain snowpack is about half its normal level, raising fears that the state could return to drought after a string of mostly abundant wet years.

On Thursday, officials of the state’s Department of Water Resources conducted a survey at a measuring station near Lake Tahoe that recorded 29 inches of snow, or 47% of average for this time of year.

The reduced snowpack follows a roughly six-week stretch that has been one of the driest periods on record in California. With no rain in sight until at least Sunday, downtown San Francisco is on track to record no measurable rain in February for the first time since 1864, and only the second time in its history.

Similarly, state officials say the northern part of the Sierra Nevada mountains are on track to experience no precipitation this month for the first time since records started there 100 years ago.

At the same time last year, by contrast, the Sierra mountains were buried under a snowpack that stood at 144% of normal—and nearly double the average amount in 2017 when then-Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to a five-year drought that hurt the farm economy, prompted mandatory rationing and turned forests into powder kegs for wildfires.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver-assistance system and the inattention of driver Walter Huang were likely factors in Huang’s fatal 2018 crash in Mountain View, California.

Huang had too much confidence in Autopilot, which was activated at the time of the crash, and had been playing a game on his phone before his Model X SUV hit a broken crash attenuator. The agency reportedly said that if the attenuator had been replaced, Huang would likely have survived.

… Autopilot can control steering, acceleration, and braking in some situations, but requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road at all times.

Last week, the Odessa Police Department received an unexpected visitor. The visitor, named Chico, put his paws on the counter and proceeded to report about a case of a missing dog. As it turns out, he was the missing dog. • IMAGE

… The dog was wearing a collar, but the ID tag had apparently fallen off, so animal control was dispatched to come check for a microchip. But before the animal control can arrive, Chico decided that he was missing long enough, and he “headed back to his family, all on his own.” The owner responded the next day to say that it was his dog and he had returned home. He lives about a mile from the station.

Walnuts are best for supporting healthy aging. 

We’re all looking for tried-and-true ways to boost our well-being, especially as we get older. Things like gut and brain health, as well as diet and exercise are all factors to take into consideration. And according to a new data (Nurses’ Health Study), there’s one kind of nut in particular that outshines the rest when it comes to healthy aging: walnuts. Even after accounting for all the other variables that affect aging, walnuts were the only nut linked with a greater chance of healthy aging.

… The four year long study included data from almost 34,000 women in their late 50s and early 60s, looking for links between nut consumption and healthy aging. Eating just two servings of walnuts a week was linked with a greater chance of being a “healthy ager” compared to a diet lacking walnuts.

A Missouri man said a $111,000 jackpot-winning lottery ticket spent days on the dashboard of his vehicle before a social media post tipped him off that it was a winner.

Steven Matherly bought a ticket for the February 8 drawing from a gas station (in Cabool) and left the ticket on his dashboard. Matherly said it remained there until he saw on Facebook that a winning ticket had been sold at the same gas station.

A baboon scheduled to have a vasectomy made a daring escape in Sydney, Australia. Footage captured by stunned pedestrians shows the male baboon and two female baboon companions running loose in a car park. The male baboon was due to have a vasectomy at the hospital and he was being accompanied by his two wives to “keep him comfortable”. Local police and wildlife handlers from a zoo were dispatched to the scene to capture the primates.

How about a free case of beer?  Miller Lite’s latest contribution to the drunken good time of the America people is giving away a free case of beer simply because it’s Leap Day. Twenty four extra hours this year equals 24 extra beers… on them.

… All you have to do is pick up a case this Saturday, scan the QR code on Miller Lite’s social media, and submit your receipt. They’ll pay you back, in full, the purchase price of you case.

St. Patrick’s Day trees are becoming the latest trend surrounding the holiday. It’s easy: take your artificial Christmas tree and make some St. Patrick’s Day adjustments.

Neanderthals have long been written off as our ancient, animalistic ancestors that fell by the wayside due to their poor intellect.

Perhaps we’ve been too quick to assume the neanderthals were devoid of culture or insight. The first partial neanderthal remains discovered in over 20 years is lending further proof to the theory that neanderthals performed “mortuary practices” on their deceased, adorning their lost loved ones with flowers before burying them in places akin to a modern day graveyard.

… The new remains were discovered in Iraqi Kurdistan. Early analysis of remains suggest that they are upwards of 70,000 years old, and teeth examinations indicate the neanderthal was a “middle- to older-aged adult” prior to passing away.

Michelle Janavs, whose family made its fortune creating the microwave snack Hot Pockets, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for agreeing to pay bribes totaling $300,000 to get her two daughters into prestigious universities.

Janavs admitted to paying $100,000 to have someone cheat on the daughters’ ACT exams and agreeing to pay $200,000 to have the younger daughter falsely tagged as a beach volleyball recruit to get her admitted into the University of Southern California. It’s the latest sentence in the nation’s college admissions scandal.

According to a new study of how people in various countries value their private information, German Facebook users would want the social media site to pay them about $8 per month for sharing their contact information, while U.S. users would only want $3.50.

The study (by Technology Policy Institute) assessed how much privacy is worth in six countries by looking at the habits of people in the United States, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Argentina.

… Facebook, on average, across all people the study assessed, would have to pay consumers a monthly $8.44 to share their bank balance information, $7.56 to share fingerprint information, $6.05 to read an individual’s texts, and $5.80 to share information on cash withdrawals. By contrast, people wanted to be paid only $1.82 per month to share location data and nothing to be sent advertisements via text messages.

Eat just corndogs and lose weight.  Mark Gautier had been brought back from the dead three times and had just emerged from a two-week coma when a priest was administering last rites to him. A doctor told the Anaheim, California, man: “You really need to do something or you’re not going to last much longer.” At 400 pounds, Gautier had slipped into diabetic shock and his kidneys were shutting down after years of failing health.

… Gautier’s then-girlfriend-now-wife Vanessa had a novel idea: Let’s go to Disneyland. Her simple plan: Help Gautier lose weight by walking around the Happiest Place on Earth. Gautier lost 150 pounds on a Disneyland Diet that included walking several miles a day while eating whatever he wanted at the theme park — from turkey legs to corn dogs to nachos. The key to his food intake: portion control.

… Now Gautier works at Disneyland after falling in love with the theme park.

Hopeless men may be at greater risk for high blood pressure than those with a more positive outlook. A Finnish study found that hopeless-feeling men risk raising their blood pressure by 16 percent for every one-point increase on a “hopelessness scale.” Hypertension, or high blood pressure, kills thousands of people every year… so cheer up guys.

Guys are truly afraid of the dentist.  Put a guy in a dental chair, and he turns into a wimp. In a survey, 49 percent of dentists said males are more anxious when it comes to dental appointments, while only 15 percent thought females were the scaredy-cats.

… In the survey, boys generally are no more afraid than girls. But as they get older, the fear gender gap widens. By the time patients hit their 40s, there are four dental-phobic men for every anxious woman. One reason may be that men don’t take care of their teeth as well as women do and therefore need more work.

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