Alphabet, the parent company of Google, said on Thursday that profits in its most recent quarter rose 59 percent from a year ago, as marketers plowed money into advertisements on its internet search engine and YouTube.
Alphabet posted a net profit of $11.25 billion in the third quarter as revenue rose 14 percent to $46.1 billion. Both figures far exceeded Wall Street’s expectations and Alphabet’s stock rose more than 5 percent in after-hours trading.
When advertisers slowed spending with Google earlier this year as Covid-19 started to spread widely in the United States, Alphabet’s business took a significant hit. In the second quarter, Alphabet’s quarterly revenue fell from a year earlier for the first time in the company’s history. But as the economy has improved and businesses found their footing, advertisers have returned.
Google remains as indispensable as ever to advertisers even as the company defends itself against an antitrust lawsuit filed earlier this month from the Justice Department. The suit accuses the company of cementing the dominance of its search engine through anticompetitive agreements with device makers and mobile carriers.
It was another blockbuster financial quarter for Facebook.
The social network reported on Thursday that its revenue for the third quarter had risen 22 percent from a year earlier, to $21.2 billion, while profits jumped 29 percent to $7.84 billion. The results surpassed analysts’ estimates of $19.8 billion in revenue and profits of $5.53 billion, according to data provided by FactSet.
Facebook delivered the results even after a wide-ranging boycott by advertisers this summer over issues of hate and toxic speech on the site. Though the grass-roots campaign, Stop Hate for Profit, rallied many of the top advertisers on Facebook to reduce their spending, the overall effects were brief. The company has also been dealing with increasing regulatory pressure, including a possible antitrust case from the Federal Trade Commission.
The company continued gaining users as well. More than 1.82 billion people used the Facebook app every day, up 12 percent from a year earlier, the company said. In total, more than 2.54 billion people used one or more apps in Facebook’s family — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger or Facebook — daily, up 15 percent from a year earlier.
“We had a strong quarter as people and businesses continue to rely on our services to stay connected and create economic opportunity during these tough times,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive. “We continue to make significant investments in our products and hiring in order to deliver new and meaningful experiences for our community around the world.”
Facebook is spending more as it works to secure its platform before Tuesday’s presidential election. The company said that it employed more than 56,000 people, up 32 percent from a year earlier, and that more than half of its revenue had gone to operating expenses.
The threat of regulation is a point of uncertainty, Facebook said. In its earnings report, executives warned of changes to laws regarding trans-Atlantic data transfers, based on impending potential changes to European Union law.
Analysts shrugged off those concerns. “Despite an ongoing boycott, small and medium-sized businesses, which make a much bigger contribution to the company’s overall sales, continued to allocate their ad dollars to Facebook,” said Jesse Cohen, a financial analyst at Investing.com. “Similar to other social media platforms, Facebook showed no signs that it was feeling the squeeze from the coronavirus pandemic.”
The pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping pushed Amazon to a record for both sales and profits in the latest quarter.
Sales for the third quarter were $96.1 billion, up 37 percent from a year earlier, and profits rose almost 200 percent to $6.3 billion.
What’s more, the quarter did not include the usual boost from Prime Day, Amazon’s yearly deal bonanza, which was delayed to October because of the pandemic. And the profit came during a building boom, with Amazon expanding its warehousing and delivery infrastructure by 50 percent this year. The company added almost 250,000 employees in the quarter, for the first time surpassing more than a million workers.
The results far surpassed forecasts by analysts, who had expected the company to post $92.8 billion in sales and $3.8 billion in profit, according to estimates compiled by FactSet, a financial data firm.
The company sold 46 percent more items and digital downloads in its store, more than twice the rate it had grown before the pandemic.
Amazon Web Services, the company’s lucrative cloud computing division, grew 29 percent, as companies accelerated their shift to a model that is more accessible to work forces managing systems remotely.
Amazon said sales could reach $121 billion in the fourth quarter, because of the confluence of Prime Day, the holiday shopping season and the turn to online spending because of the pandemic.
An earlier version of this article misstated the growth rate for Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing unit. It grew 29 percent, not 27 percent.
Citing civil unrest in Philadelphia, Walmart has moved all of its guns and ammunition off the sales floors in its stores as a “precaution for the safety of our associates and customers.”
Walmart, which is the nation’s biggest retailer and sells firearms and guns in about half of its roughly 4,000 stores in the United States, said in a statement on Thursday that the move was motivated by “some isolated civil unrest.”
In an email, a company spokesman said the move was prompted by the protests and looting that have roiled Philadelphia this week after police killed Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man with mental health issues who approached them while carrying a knife.
In June, Walmart made a similar decision to remove firearms from its sales floor during the widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. The decision on Thursday was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.
“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen and sportswomen,” Walmart said in a statement. “These items do remain available for purchase by customers.”
As concerns about another wave of coronavirus inflections swept the globe in recent months, shoppers again hit grocery stores and loaded up on pantry items, sending sales of Kraft Heinz’s food products soaring in the third quarter.
The maker of Heinz ketchup, Kraft macaroni & cheese and Oscar Mayer cold cuts said on Thursday that organic sales, which strip out currency movements, acquisitions and divestitures, rose 6.3 percent to $6.4 billion in the third quarter from a year ago. On a call with Wall Street analysts, the company’s chief executive, Miguel Patricio, said Kraft Heinz saw retail demand for its products accelerate again in the second half of September.
Kraft Heinz, which was struggling with its product mix and company structure before the pandemic, said net income fell 33.7 percent in the quarter to $597 million because of charges stemming from its September announcement to sell part of its cheese business, including Cracker Barrel and Polly-O to the French company Lactalis.
But like other large food manufacturers, Kraft Heinz has benefited from the broad shift by consumers to eating more meals at home during the pandemic. Expecting that trend to continue through the end of the year, Kraft Heinz boosted its outlook for all of 2020. Ahead of the close of the stock market, Kraft Heinz shares were up 3.8 percent to $30.34
The cereal giant Kellogg said sales of its cereals and snacks gained in the third quarter, but at a slower rate than the previous period. After soaring 9.2 percent in the second quarter, organic sales at Kellogg grew 4.5 percent in the third quarter to about $3.6 billion. Net income climbed to $348 million, up from $247 million a year ago.
Executives said consumers in the quarter snacked on Pringles chips, and loaded up shopping carts with Eggo waffles and Morningstar Farms meat-alternative foods, including a new line of plant-based burgers and chicken nuggets called “Incogmeato.”
In late-afternoon trading, shares of Kellogg were flat at $63.51.
Meanwhile, consumers’ love of tacos and burritos pushed Yum Brands revenues up 8 percent to $1.45 billion in the third quarter. Net income rose 11 percent to $283 million from a year earlier.
Taco Bell was the big winner for the company, with people buying larger meal packs for families and embracing a new product, the grilled cheese burrito.
Taco Bell, whose sales were hit by a reduction in breakfast and late-night meals since the pandemic started, reported same-store sales gains of 3 percent in the third quarter. Those gains offset losses at Yum Brands’ two other large chains, KFC and Pizza Hut. While both chains grew same-store sales in the United States, they reported declines in global sales as demand lagged.
Softness in international markets could continue to affect Yum Brands in the fourth quarter. While Europe makes up less than 10 percent of Pizza Hut’s sales and 5 percent of KFC’s, executives said they were keeping a close eye on the area as France moved to another national lockdown and Germany inched closer to one in response to rising coronavirus cases.
The U.S. and China markets rebounded faster than expected for the coffee chain Starbucks, resulting in just a in global same-store sales in the quarter as compared with the same period last year.
As more Starbucks opened to limited in-store dining in the United States and China, which make up 61 percent of the company’s total global stores, same-store sales improved significantly from the 40 percent drop in the prior quarter.
In this past quarter, revenues declined 8 percent to $6.2 billion while net earnings were slashed in half to $392 million.
On a call with analysts, the chief executive, Kevin Johnson, said the company was adjusting to changing consumer patterns. Traffic has moved from dense metro areas to the suburbs, and early-morning coffee runs have shifted to midmorning business, Mr. Johnson said.
Starbucks’ fall seasonal menu, specifically its “pumpkin platform,” was also a boon as Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew coffee outsold a longtime fan favorite, the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Apple’s sales rose slightly in the latest quarter even though the pandemic forced it to push back the iPhone 12’s release to October, highlighting the increasing strength of other parts of the company’s business.
Apple said on Thursday that revenue rose 1 percent to $64.7 billion in the three months that ended on Sept. 30, despite a 20 percent drop in iPhone sales because the previous year comparison included early sales of the iPhone 11. Profits fell 7.4 percent to $12.7 billion, partly because Apple spent more on research and development.
In its earnings release, Apple did not provide guidance for the current quarter, which is the figure many investors had anticipated most because it would have signaled sales expectations for the new iPhone 12. The new iPhone went on sale this month.
Apple’s services business, which includes revenues from the App Store and digital offerings like Apple Music, continued to shine. Services revenue increased 16.3 percent to $14.5 billion. Apple has made that business central to its growth strategy, and it has become the company’s No. 2 revenue driver after iPhones.
Sales of iPads also rose by 46 percent, Mac computers by 29 percent and wearables by 21 percent. All those products combined to make up for the decline in iPhone sales.
“There are lots going on here, and everything is going incredibly well,” Luca Maestri, Apple’s finance chief, said in an interview.
But the services business faces a threat. A large chunk of that revenue — about $8 billion to $12 billion a year — comes from payments from Google to make its search engine the preselected choice on iPhones. That partnership is now in jeopardy after the Justice Department sued Google this month and singled out the deal as one of the biggest ways Google unfairly edges out competitors.
Apple’s revenue dip is unlikely to spook investors because it was expected, given the later-than-usual iPhone release. The company typically releases new iPhones in September.
The next quarter will be the true test of how much Apple can keep its enormous iPhone business humming. For more than a year, analysts have anticipated this year’s final quarter because many customers have been waiting to upgrade their devices so they could buy the iPhone 12, which works with faster 5G wireless networks. Investors have poured money into Apple’s stock in expectations that the quarter would deliver record results, pushing the company’s valuation past $2 trillion.
Twitter’s business is showing signs of recovery as advertisers, who abandoned the platform early in the pandemic, begin to return.
Revenue in the third quarter was $936 million, a 14 percent improvement from the same quarter a year ago that exceeded analyst expectations of $775 million. Net income was $29 million, down 21 percent from a year ago.
But user growth was sluggish. Twitter added just one million daily active users in the quarter, reaching a total of 187 million. Analysts had predicted the company would reach 195 million daily active users, and Twitter’s share price fell 14 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday.
“We remain confident that our larger audience, coupled with ongoing revenue product improvements, new events and product launches, and the positive advertiser response to the choices we’ve made as we have grown the service, can drive great outcomes over time,” said Ned Segal, Twitter’s chief financial officer.
Twitter said it was looking for more opportunities to connect users with live experiences and said the winter season could accelerate the growth of online shopping, giving the company more advertising opportunities.
But Twitter cautioned investors that the election could introduce uncertainty into advertiser spending. In the previous quarter, Twitter saw many advertisers pull their campaigns in response to widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.
Stocks on Wall Street rallied on Thursday, rebounding from their worst decline in more than four months, led by gains in big technology companies.
After an unsteady start, the S&P 500 rose about 1.2 percent. The index had dropped 3.53 percent on Wednesday, it’s sharpest daily decline since mid-June. The Stoxx Europe 600 ended a volatile day with a small decline.
A handful of large technology companies rose ahead of their earnings reports. Twitter jumped nearly 8 percent, and was one of the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500. Facebook, Alphabet and Apple and Amazon were also higher and the Nasdaq composite rose 1.6 percent.
But the concerns that had fueled the sell-off on Wednesday — the resurgent coronavirus pandemic in Europe and the United States — lingered in some corners of the financial markets. Crude oil prices dropped about 3 percent, adding to a more than 5 percent decline the day before.
Both France and Germany announced new nationwide restrictions on Wednesday, shuttering hospitality and leisure businesses and asking people to stay at home through November.
The International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for the British economy on Thursday, saying G.D.P. would decline 10.4 percent this year and grow only 5.7 percent in 2021, a deeper contraction and slower recovery than it predicted three weeks ago. In that time, a second wave of coronavirus cases went from being a theoretical risk to a reality, as it sweeps across much of Europe.
The renewed focus on the pandemic has added to an already turbulent stretch for traders on Wall Street, where expectations for imminent economic aid from Washington have been dashed and concern about the upcoming presidential election are keeping many investors on the sidelines.
A report on U.S. gross domestic product data for the third quarter, released Thursday, showed the fastest quarterly increase on record but revealed an incomplete recovery, with the economy still several percentage points smaller than before the pandemic. G.D.P. grew 7.4 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said. Weekly unemployment claims remained elevated at 732,000.
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Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation
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U.S. economic output grew at the fastest pace on record last quarter as businesses began to reopen and customers returned to stores. But the economy has climbed only partway out of its pandemic-induced hole, and progress is slowing.
Gross domestic product grew 7.4 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The gain, the equivalent of 33.1 percent on an annualized basis, was by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II; the previous record was a 3.9 percent quarterly increase in 1950.
Still, the economy in the third quarter remained 3.5 percent smaller than at the end of 2019, before the pandemic began. By comparison, G.D.P. shrank 4 percent over the entire year and a half of the Great Recession a decade ago.
The report was the last major piece of economic data before the presidential election on Tuesday. President Trump hailed the big gain as evidence that the economy had roared back to life after the spring’s pandemic-induced shutdowns.
But economists said the third-quarter figures revealed less about the strength of the recovery than about the severity of the collapse that preceded it. G.D.P. fell 1.3 percent in the first quarter and 9 percent in the second as the pandemic forced widespread business closures. A big rebound was inevitable once the economy began to reopen. The challenge is what comes next.
“The reason we had such a big bounce is that the economy went from closed to partially open,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “The easy growth was exhausted, and now the hard work has to be done in terms of fully healing.”
Already, there are signs that the recovery is losing steam. Industrial production fell in September and job growth has cooled, even as a growing list of major corporations have announced new rounds of large-scale layoffs and furloughs. Most economists expect the slowdown to worsen in the final three months of the year as virus cases rise and federal aid to households and businesses fades.
“We’re having a record recovery, but it comes after an even more record collapse, and it looks like economic momentum is fading in the fourth quarter,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. macro strategist for TD Securities.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she wanted to reach a deal on an economic relief bill during Congress’s lame-duck session after the election to clear the decks for a Joseph R. Biden Jr. presidency, expressing optimism that a deal could be done despite months of faltering negotiations.
“I want a bill for two reasons,” Ms. Pelosi, a California Democrat, said at her last news conference before the election on Tuesday. “First and foremost, the American people need help, they need real help. Second of all, we have plenty to do in a Joe Biden administration.”
Hours earlier, she had written to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, requesting a response to key differences in the stumbling relief talks as small businesses continue to struggle and millions of Americans remain out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Your responses are critical for our negotiations to continue,” Ms. Pelosi told Mr. Mnuchin.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Mnuchin shot back with a letter of his own to Ms. Pelosi, accusing her of a “political stunt.”
“I woke up this morning and read your letter to me in the press,” Mr. Mnuchin wrote. “Because you sent it to my office at midnight and simultaneously released it to the press, I can unfortunately conclude that it is a political stunt.”
Mr. Mnuchin noted that he had spoken to Ms. Pelosi almost daily for the last 45 days and accused her of mischaracterizing the status of their negotiations.
The list of unresolved issues include Democrats’ demand for aid to state and local governments, the amount of funding for schools and child care, and the terms of a national coronavirus testing plan that Ms. Pelosi has long sought.
Despite Ms. Pelosi’s wishes, lawmakers and the administration are unlikely to be able to reconcile their differences quickly, particularly given widespread concern among conservatives on Capitol Hill about the scope and size of the package.
Ms. Pelosi, however, has continued to insist that Mr. Mnuchin, the lead negotiator for the White House, agree to final language on a number of issues and respond to Democratic demands.
Ms. Pelosi said Mr. Mnuchin had yet to agree to final testing language, despite his declaration this month that “we’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language.”
In her letter, Ms. Pelosi said, “The president’s words that ‘after the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen’ only have meaning if he can get Mitch McConnell to take his hand off the pause button and get Senate Republican chairmen moving toward agreement with their House counterparts.”
She was referring to Senate Republicans’ public objections to the nearly $2 trillion framework. Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, has privately counseled the White House to hold off on agreeing to a deal until after the election.
Mr. Mnuchin said that the Trump administration had offered reasonable compromises on several fronts and that Ms. Pelosi had held up legislation that would allow the government to support airlines and small businesses and offer additional stimulus payments with unused funds from the last relief package.
“Your ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hardworking Americans who need help now,” Mr. Mnuchin wrote.
Under pressure from low oil and natural gas prices, Exxon Mobil said on Thursday it would cut 1,900 jobs through voluntary and involuntary layoffs in the United States in the next several months.
Exxon also said it is reducing the number of contractors it uses around the world by 14,000 over the next two years. These cuts follow large reductions by other oil and gas companies. On Wednesday, the company said it would maintain its dividend at its current level.
Exxon Mobil directly employs more than 70,000 people and said the new job cuts in the United States would primarily be in its Houston management office.
“These actions will improve the company’s long-term cost competitiveness and ensure the company manages through the current unprecedented market condition,” the company said in a statement that cited the drop in energy demand because of the pandemic. The U.S. benchmark oil futures contract was trading around $36 a barrel on Thursday, down from about $56 a barrel a year ago.
Exxon Mobil’s stock, which has dropped sharply this year, was up about 3 percent Thursday afternoon.
Airbus reported a consolidated operating loss of 636 million euros, or $745 million, in the third quarter, but the European aerospace giant managed to stop bleeding cash and expected continued stability after adjusting its business in response to the coronavirus crisis, the company said Thursday. Chief executive, Guillaume Faury, sounded a cautiously optimistic note about the company’s future at a news briefing, a day after its rival Boeing announced plans to slash another 7,000 jobs through the end of next year, building on a much larger cut announced this spring.
The European Central Bank left monetary policy unchanged following a meeting of its Governing Council on Thursday, but signaled it could take further steps to stimulate the eurozone economy in December. “In the current environment of risks clearly tilted to the downside, the Governing Council will carefully assess the incoming information, including the dynamics of the pandemic, prospects for a rollout of vaccines and developments in the exchange rate,” the bank said in a statement.
Tiffany & Company said on Thursday that it has agreed to cut the price of its sale to the French conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The settlement would end a dispute between the companies and seal one of the luxury world’s largest deals. Tiffany and LVMH agreed to a revised price of $131.50 a share, down from $135. That would bring the sale to just under $16 billion, or about $400 million less than before. They also agreed to settle dueling lawsuits in a Delaware court.
Newspaper companies have suffered even more during the pandemic than they did during the Great Recession, but revenue for television networks like ABC and Fox News has soared, according to a report released on Thursday by Pew Research Center.
The combination of the pandemic and a presidential campaign meant larger audiences than usual for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Of the three, only the top-rated channel, Fox News, was able to translate the surge in the number of viewers into more advertising dollars. Ad sales for Fox News increased 41 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. At the same time, CNN had a 14 percent slump, and MSNBC’s ad sales fell by 27 percent, according to the report.
Fox News has had consistently higher ad revenue than its rival cable networks since 2007, Michael Barthel, a senior researcher with Pew, wrote in an email, adding that Fox News may have been able to “provide some unique value to advertisers” because it is unmatched in its appeal to Republicans.
Mr. Barthel also suggested that, during a summertime advertiser boycott of Tucker Carlson’s prime time Fox News show, companies may have shifted their ad spending to other programs on the network, rather than decamp to its competitors.
Many TV networks cut back the time allotted for commercial breaks in part because companies were advertising less during the pandemic, said Gregory Aston, the head of digital media research science at Kantar Media, which provided data for Pew’s report. He added that traffic to CNN’s website surged 40 percent, while downloads of the network’s app increased 35 percent, which may have helped it “optimize its revenue opportunity.”
ABC had the largest ad sales increase of the broadcast networks, with a 21 percent jump, compared with single-digit jumps for CBS and NBC, according to the report.
But ad revenue sank by a median of 42 percent at Gannett, McClatchy, The New York Times Company and three other publicly traded newspaper companies that collectively own more than 300 daily papers. Tribune Publishing had a year-over-year decline of 48 percent. Digital ads failed to support the publications, as sales plunged 32 percent.
Political ads for local television, as well as retransmission fees paid by cable providers, helped buffer local television owners from the effects of the pandemic, according to the report. But overall advertising revenue slipped for five companies, including Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna, that collectively own 600 stations.
Airbus suffered a consolidated operating loss of 636 million euros, or $745 million, in the third quarter, but the European aerospace giant managed to stop bleeding cash and expected continued stability after adjusting its business in response to the coronavirus crisis, the company said Thursday.
Airbus’s chief executive, Guillaume Faury, sounded a cautiously optimistic note about the company’s future at a news briefing, a day after its rival Boeing announced plans to slash another 7,000 jobs through the end of next year, building on a much larger cut announced this spring. Boeing expects to end 2021 with about 130,000 employees, nearly 19 percent fewer than at the start of this year.
“After nine months of 2020, we now see the progress made on adapting our business to the new Covid-19 market environment,” Mr. Faury said. “Despite the slower air travel recovery than anticipated, we converged commercial aircraft production and deliveries in the third quarter and we stopped cash consumption in line with our ambition.”
Airbus earlier this year moved to curb airplane production and slash 15,000 jobs by the summer of 2021 to rein in costs as the slump in air travel from the pandemic took its toll. This week, the World Tourism Organization reported that international tourist arrivals plunged 70 percent during the first eight months of 2020, and probably would not recover for at least another year.
Airbus reported positive cash flow of €600 million in the three months to September. Its ability to maintain that trajectory would hinge on whether there was any further deterioration of the world economy and air traffic, the company said.
Mr. Faury said he expected Airbus to keep generating cash, despite new lockdowns to curb the virus announced Thursday in France and Germany, where Airbus has production operations.
The coronavirus crisis nonetheless weighed heavily on the company’s results. The plane maker took a third-quarter restructuring charge of €1.2 billion, reflecting the cost of planned job cuts.
Over the nine months of the fiscal year, Airbus had a consolidated operating loss of €2.1 billion. Third-quarter revenue fell 27 percent to €11.2 billion, reflecting a 33 percent drop in the main commercial aviation division. Airbus’s net loss from July to September was €767 million, compared with a profit of €989 million a year earlier.
For a month, beginning in November, United Airlines will test passengers over the age of 2 for the coronavirus on select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Heathrow Airport in London, in a trial intended to help convince government officials that testing could be a crucial part of reopening international travel.
United will administer the rapid molecular Abbott ID Now Covid-19 test to people flying between Nov. 11 and Dec. 11 on Flight 14, departing at 7:15 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Newark. Everyone hoping to be on those flights will have to test negative for the coronavirus to board the plane. Those who test positive will be isolated and asked to get in touch with their health care provider, and the airline will help them book a flight for a later date. People who do not want to take the test will be moved to another flight.
“We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day Covid-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. In September, international air arrivals to New York’s five regional airports were down 82 percent compared with September 2019, according to data from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
People on the flights will have to make appointments to get tested, and the airline is advising them to plan to arrive at least three hours before a flight. The testing site at Newark will be in the United Club near Gate C93.
The pilot program is intended to make passengers feel comfortable traveling again, but it won’t replace practices like mask wearing, social distancing and protocols for boarding and deplaning that have become mandatory in recent months. Passengers will still have to follow quarantine rules when they arrive in London.
The test comes on the heels of United and other airlines offering coronavirus testing to people traveling from mainland states to Hawaii, where those with a negative test can skip the state’s 14-day quarantine. Travel industry experts believe that testing will make it possible for people to bypass quarantines and make it easier for international travel to begin again, and United’s leadership team hopes that the trial will lead to more testing at airports.
Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, said on Thursday that it would raise its dividend for the third quarter by about 4 percent to 16.65 cents and keep increasing it by a similar amount annually in an effort to win back investors.
Investors have pummeled Shell’s shares since the company cut its dividend earlier this year for the first time since World War II. The share price was up about 2 percent in trading on Thursday.
Ben van Beurden, the company’s chief executive, said that Shell would be able to afford both increasing payouts to shareholders and the large investments needed to put in place his plans to shift Shell away from emissions generating oil and natural gas to cleaner energy like wind, solar and hydrogen. The idea is to make Shell “ a compelling investment case,” Mr. van Beurden said in a statement.
Shell’s adjusted earnings of $955 million for the third quarter were 80 percent lower than in the period the previous year as the company struggles with lower oil and natural gas prices stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. van Beurden said during a news conference that Shell would sharply increase investment in what he labeled Shell’s future businesses to roughly 25 percent of the annual total of capital spending of around $20 billion, from 11 percent. Those businesses including retailing, renewable energy and electric power. Mr. van Beurden said that 2019 was probably Shell’s “high point” for oil production.
After two record-setting quarters — one down, one up — economic growth at the end of the year will probably look comparatively normal. That’s not a good thing.
The big rebound in gross domestic product in the third quarter means economic output is about two-thirds of the way back to where it was before the pandemic began. A similar gain in the fourth quarter would not just fill in the gap, it would put the United States more or less back on its pre-pandemic growth path.
There is virtually no chance of that. Monthly data on jobs, consumer spending and industrial output all show that progress slowed significantly over the course of the third quarter. With federal aid drying up and coronavirus cases rising again, most economists expect the slowdown to continue or worsen in the last three months of the year.
Forecasts for the next G.D.P. report are highly uncertain this early in the quarter — even the third-quarter figures are still preliminary. But most forecasters expect growth to slow to 1 to 1.5 percent (4 to 5 percent on an annual basis). That would leave the economy about 2.5 percent smaller than before the pandemic.
A 2.5 percent contraction would be the equivalent of a relatively typical recession — smaller than the Great Recession a decade ago, but substantially worse than the mild downturns of the early 1990s and 2000s.
“We’re no longer in unprecedented territory, but this is still a deep gash in our economy,” said Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist who studies recessions.
What is troubling, Ms. Sinclair said, is that after the initial bounce, the economy appears to be falling into a pattern that has become familiar in recent decades: a steep drop in a recession, followed by a painfully slow rebound. Congress’s failure to provide more stimulus spending, she said, makes a weak recovery more likely.
“Without any further support, it’s going to be a slog,” she said.
The number of workers newly filing for unemployment benefits dipped slightly last week, a sign that the country’s economic recovery remains fragile.
The Labor Department reported on Thursday that 732,000 workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, a decrease of about 28,000 from the previous week.
New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and other workers who do not qualify for benefits under the regular unemployment system, were tallied at 360,000, up from 345,000.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 751,000.
For several weeks, new claims for state jobless benefits have totaled roughly 800,000 a week — much lower than the total during March and April after the pandemic struck, but extraordinarily high by historical standards.
“These are remarkably elevated levels of claims,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com. “There are huge cross sections of our society and sectors within it that are suffering.”
While new jobless claims are down, the number of people receiving assistance from Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation — a federal program that provides 13 weeks of additional benefits after state unemployment insurance runs out — is rising, as millions of people who lost jobs early in the pandemic remain out of work more than six months later.
“We’re moving in the right direction but not nearly as quickly as we need,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, a labor market economist for the Indeed Hiring Lab. “We need to recover quicker so that we don’t have people transitioning to long-term unemployment.”
Surges in coronavirus cases in the Midwest could foreshadow a fresh round of jobless claims in the coming weeks if states impose lockdowns or if people feel less comfortable shopping in stores or dining at restaurants, Ms. Konkel said. And as fall turns to winter, many businesses that have managed to stay afloat may be forced to close their doors.
“In warm weather, outdoor dining was a lifeline for many businesses,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the career site ZipRecruiter. “Soon that will no longer be an option in many states, so we’re likely to see more layoffs.”
Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator and the owner of NBCUniversal, passed a milestone that highlights the broad shift happening across the media industry: It now has more streaming subscribers than cable-TV subscribers.
About 22 million people signed up to its Peacock service since it started in April, the company reported Thursday as part of its third-quarter results. That’s more than double the figure it reported at the end of July.
The company’s foundational business — cable TV — now has 19 million subscribers, a decline of 273,000 from the previous quarter. That’s not a surprise: The pay-TV industry has for years seen a steady drop, as customers cut the cord in favor of cheaper streaming.
Comcast reported overall revenue of $25.5 billion and profit of $2 billion, beating expectations.
Peacock, unlike Netflix or Disney+, is free and relies on a more traditional media model: advertising. That’s helped Comcast sign up new customers relatively quickly; it aims to reach 35 million by 2024. (Comcast also sells a paid version that includes more content.)
The streaming platform is unlikely to be a moneymaker, but it does have has strategic value. Peacock is seen as a way to keep customers glued to broadband, Comcast’s most important business. The streamer is built into Comcast’s broadband-only offering and is relatively easy for cable television customers to use. Peacock recently signed a distribution agreement with Roku, which is available in about half of all households that have streaming devices.
Like other cable operators, Comcast has emphasized its internet service as it recognizes that pay television will become a smaller, less profitable arm of a bigger enterprise. The pandemic has only hastened that transformation. As the country went into lockdown, Comcast benefited even more from the growth in internet users and added 633,000 customers during the three months ending in September, the most it has picked up in a single quarter. It now has about 28 million broadband subscribers.
At NBCUniversal, the company continued to see falloff in both revenue and profit amid the pandemic. The shift in professional sports telecasts and the shutdown of movie theaters and theme parks has eaten into NBCUniversal’s revenue, which fell 19 percent to $6.7 billion. Movie studio sales declined by a quarter to $1.3 billion, and theme parks saw the biggest revenue drop, about 81 percent, to $311 million.
Even so, the company promoted its upfront presentation, where it sells advertising time to marketers ahead of the new season. Ratings have been down everywhere, but NBC said it was able to get higher ad rates.
Tiffany & Company said on Thursday that it has agreed to cut the price of its sale to the French conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The settlement would end a dispute between the companies and seal one of the luxury world’s largest deals.
Tiffany and LVMH agreed to a revised price of $131.50 a share, down from $135. That would bring the sale to just under $16 billion, or about $400 million less than before. They also agreed to settle dueling lawsuits in a Delaware court.
Directors of Tiffany met late on Wednesday to vote on the proposal.
LVMH agreed to buy Tiffany in November 2019, intent on adding the company’s diamond rings and robin’s egg blue boxes to a stable of brands that includes Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy. The acquisition would give LVMH a bigger foothold in the United States, executives said at the time, as well as expose Tiffany to more shoppers in Europe and China. The move also promised to cement the status of Bernard Arnault, the LVMH chairman and chief executive, as the top deal maker in the luxury business.
But the French luxury giant grew increasingly nervous about the transaction, its biggest ever, as the pandemic devastated the retail industry. Tiffany’s sales fell by nearly 40 percent in the six months to July, and it recorded a loss of more than $30 million. The company’s shares fell far below the deal price, as investors doubted LVMH’s resolve in going through with the takeover.
A deadline to complete the deal in August was delayed by three months and then, in September, LVMH threatened to abandon the takeover altogether, accusing Tiffany of poor financial performance and breaches of the acquisition agreement. Also, and unusually, LVMH said that the French government had asked it to pause the takeover because of the United States’s trade battle with France.
Tiffany sued LVMH in a Delaware court to compel the company to complete the deal. After more legal wrangling about the timing of the trial, it was scheduled for early January. Now, that might not be needed.
The European Central Bank left monetary policy unchanged following a meeting of its Governing Council on Thursday, but signaled it could take further steps to stimulate the eurozone economy in December.
“In the current environment of risks clearly tilted to the downside, the Governing Council will carefully assess the incoming information, including the dynamics of the pandemic, prospects for a rollout of vaccines and developments in the exchange rate,” the bank said in a statement.
The central bank said that, following a fresh assessment of the economy in December, it would “recalibrate its instruments, as appropriate, to respond to the unfolding situation and to ensure that financing conditions remain favorable to support the economic recovery.”
The outlook for the eurozone has darkened in recent days as Germany and France, its two largest economies, imposed harsh restrictions on social contact in response to signs that coronavirus infections were getting out of control.
France ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips like food shopping or visiting the doctor. The German government ordered bars, restaurants, theaters and fitness studios to close, and limited social gatherings to a maximum of 10 people from no more than two households.
Economists now expect the eurozone to sink back into recession after rebounding in the third quarter. “Last night’s announced lockdowns in France and Germany all but seal the deal on a negative growth rate,” Bert Colijn, a senior economist at ING Bank, said in a research note.