By Jack Kelly
Despite the United States and the world being thrusted into utter turmoil, stocks rose higher again today. Since the pandemic lows, stock prices have shot up 30% and higher. The reason for today’s optimism is based on new economic data showing a stronger-than-expected rebound in the U.S. service sector. China—who is totally credible—also said that its economy is healthy and strong. The upbeat data countered fears over a resurgence of Covid-19.
Over the weekend, we saw new cases pop up in hot spots in the South and West. The World Health Organization claims a record worldwide 212,326 coronavirus diagnoses were confirmed in 24 hours, as of Saturday. The U.S., Brazil and India show the largest increases, if you believe the WHO—and who doesn’t believe them?
According to BuzzFeed, at least 121 University of Washington students—nearly all of whom are fraternity members—have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Sunday. In what the Seattle university described as the “Greek Row outbreak,” at least 112 fraternity house members tested positive for the virus, as of Sunday. The nine other students who tested positive were “close contacts” of the fraternity house residents, but did not live in the houses, according to the university.
Of course, the media had to shame people who were out and about. A viral video of partygoers at a beach in Michigan made the rounds to the scolding of news reporters. I’m not as concerned about the lack of masks, as I am about the general grossness factor. The water seems muddy and dirty and the closely clustered bros seem a little too pudgy for their swimsuits. It’s interesting to note that a small group of “hot” young women were roped off from the dudes and had security by their side.
This is happening now in Michigan. I was going to say we’re going to be a mess in 2 weeks, but we’re already a mess, so I’ve got nothing. pic.twitter.com/aD3DB1Iftn
— Meg Gorman (@Meg4Congress) July 4, 2020
Back to reality. About 80% of New York City restaurants couldn’t pay their rent on time. The forced closures and questions over whether they’ll be allowed to stay open or only permit a small number of patrons have crushed the restaurant business. Under the best of times, restaurants operate on a razor-thin margin. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a large number of places shut down for good.
Lucky Brand Dungarees, which has about 200 Lucky Brand stores in North America and sells its products in department stores, announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last Friday.
It’s been estimated that about 25,000 stores could close this year. The companies will claim that it’s due to the coronavirus. The reality is that many of the retailers were in bad shape. They weren’t able to build online platforms to compete with Amazon. They weren’t innovative and lost touch with their core customers. Some, if not a majority, of the bankruptcies shared common elements—they were acquired by private equity firms and saddled with way too much debt. Covid-19 and the mandated shutdowns of non-essential businesses and requirements for people to stay at home were the final straws on an already broken camel’s back.
J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Tuesday Morning, GNC, Chuck E. Cheese and J. Crew already filed for bankruptcy protection. There are a slew of others in the wings. Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom and Signet Jewelers, parent company of Kay, Zales and Jared, may file for Chapter 11 or close a large number of stores.
Over the last few weeks, Boeing, Macy’s, AT&T, Hilton Hotels, Chevron, IBM, Uber, Airbnb, Hertz and a number of other big-name corporations have downsized thousands of workers.
Let’s end on some good news. Fortune magazine shared ‘101 Great Things About America.’ Here’s the top 11:
1) #MeToo movement
A movement that started in the U.S. and went on to rock the global patriarchy.
Because Americans invented—and reinvented—casual dressing.
The perfect breakfast—and sometimes lunch—carbohydrate, this dense and chewy classic has yet to be replicated, let alone improved upon, outside of America’s borders, European bakeries and pastry shops be damned. Just try being jet-lagged—or worse, hung over—in a foreign airport and you’ll never miss home so much. Sure, the bagel may have originated in Eastern Europe, but it was perfected in New York and New Jersey. Besides: What more could you possibly want out of life after enjoying an everything bagel? (Another, maybe.)
4) Baseball caps
Baseball is fine. Baseball hats? Amazing.
Invented out of thin air (by a Canadian!) in America, now the most popular sport in China.
Carolina vinegar or Memphis-style sweet sauce. Pulled pork or beef brisket. Dallas or Kansas City. We love to argue about it. We love to eat it. And it’s all-American.
The most powerful force in music today.
8) Big-box stores
Not all good to be sure, but great for stocking up during, say, a pandemic.
Low in calories and high in antioxidants, these super-healthy berries are native to North America. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of them. And they’re delicious in muffins and smoothies. Pretty great.
10) Bob Dylan
He is a sage, a whisperer of the times. From “Like a Rolling Stone” to “Murder Most Foul,” he is able to capture things about society in a way that only American folk music can.