More Businesses Will be Able to Apply for P.P.P. Loans Next Week


Credit…Mohamed Sadek for The New York Times

After giving small lenders a head start, the Paycheck Protection Program will open for all applicants on Tuesday, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.

The stimulus package passed last month included $284 billion in funding to restart the small-business relief effort, which made $523 billion in loans last year to 5.2 million recipients. The new funding will be available both to first-time applicants and to some returning borrowers.

Borrowers seeking a second loan will need to demonstrate a 25 percent drop in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020. Second loans will also be limited to companies with 300 or fewer workers, and the amounts will be capped at $2 million.

First- and second-time applicants can borrow up to 2.5 times their monthly payroll. (Those in the lodging and food service business who are seeking a second loan can borrow 3.5 times their payroll, a concession to the devastation those industries have faced.) The loans — which are made by banks but backed by the federal government — can be forgiven if borrowers spend least 60 percent of the money paying workers and use the rest on other allowable expenses.

Starting Tuesday, loans will be available from thousands of lenders, including national banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo; most regional banks; and financial technology companies like PayPal.

Some smaller lenders have already gotten started. Community Development Financial Institutions, Minority Depository Institutions and Certified Development Companies — specially designated lenders that focus on underserved populations, including Black- and minority-owned businesses — were allowed to start taking loan applications this week. And on Friday, lenders with $1 billion or less in assets will be allowed to start submitting applications.

The Small Business Administration, which manages the program, has not said how many applications it has already received. Unlike the first round, when the agency approved loans instantaneously, approvals will now take at least a day because of new fraud safeguards the agency has adopted.

Amazon quickly attracted regulatory attention after it introduced the Kindle e-reader.
Credit…Michael Nelson/European Pressphoto Agency

Connecticut’s top law enforcement official said on Wednesday that he was conducting an antitrust investigation into how Amazon runs its e-books business.

William Tong, Connecticut’s attorney general, said in a statement that the state “has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms” in the distribution agreements the company has for electronic books with some publishers.

The investigation is the latest antitrust inquiry into Amazon to be publicly revealed. Officials in California and Washington have scrutinized how the company treats the independent merchants who use its marketplace. The Federal Trade Commission also has its own inquiry into the company, which critics say has grown into a dominant online retailer by crushing smaller competitors.

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment. The inquiry was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon got its start selling books in the 1990s. It introduced its Kindle e-books reader in 2007. The business quickly attracted regulatory attention. In 2012, the Department of Justice sued Apple, saying it had conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books beyond the $9.99 that Amazon charged.

Connecticut was among the states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple. Mr. Tong, a Democrat, said in his statement that his office “continues to aggressively monitor this market to protect fair competition for consumers, authors and other e-book retailers.”

Brian Brooks, who warned that requiring customers to wear masks during the pandemic could lead to more bank robberies, is stepping down as the country’s top bank regulator, according to an announcement on Wednesday.

Mr. Brooks has served as acting comptroller of the currency since late May. As of Thursday night, Blake Paulson, a career employee of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, will take over.

“It has been an honor to serve the United States as acting comptroller,” Mr. Brooks said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished.”

In the months after he took over the agency following the departure of Joseph Otting, Mr. Brooks rushed to enact a number of changes, including one that would prohibit banks from cutting off credit to the fossil fuel industry and another establishing guidelines for how banks could measure their activities in low-income and minority neighborhoods as required under an anti-redlining law.

Until recently, Mr. Brooks was in line for his job to be made permanent. Despite having already lost the 2020 election, President Trump said on Nov. 17 that he intended to nominate Mr. Brooks to become the comptroller for a five-year term.

But the chances for Mr. Brooks to be confirmed during the lame-duck period of Mr. Trump’s presidency were low, and the Georgia runoff elections have given Democrats control of both chambers of Congress.

Advisers to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. had already begun vetting candidates to replace him after Mr. Biden takes over next week.

Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, said she expected the Fed’s purchases of government-backed debt to continue for “quite some time.”
Credit…Cliff Owen/Associated Press

Top Federal Reserve officials are making it clear they expect the central bank’s massive bond purchases to continue well into the economic recovery, tamping down concerns of a quick return to a more normal policy setting as vaccines become available and the government sends more direct economic aid to Americans.

In addition to holding interest rates at near-zero, the central bank is buying about $120 billion in government-backed debt per month. It has promised to continue doing so until “substantial further progress” has been made toward the Fed’s two goals — maximum employment and stable price gains averaging around 2 percent.

But recent comments from regional Fed presidents had fueled speculation that a rapid economic snapback in 2021 might allow the economy to meet those criteria earlier than many in the financial markets had expected. On Wednesday, two of the central bank’s governors suggested that a move toward tighter policy is unlikely to come soon.

“I expect that the current pace of purchases will remain appropriate for quite some time,” Lael Brainard said in webcast remarks sponsored by the Canadian Association for Business Economics.

Ms. Brainard pointed out that, adjusted for labor market dropouts and mis-classification issues, the unemployment rate stands at around 10 percent, which is where it was during the worst of the 2007 to 2009 recession. Fed analysis suggests that unemployment for low-wage earners is probably above 20 percent, while for the top quartile of wage earners it is below 5 percent, she added.

Richard Clarida, the central bank’s vice chairman, has also brushed away speculation that the so-called tapering of asset purchases will come soon. And on Wednesday, he reiterated that the Fed will not raise interest rates until inflation rises to the central bank’s 2 percent goal.

“We do think that the asset purchases now are an important part of this strategy,” he said.

Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, is scheduled to speak on Thursday, and economists at Evercore ISI wrote on Wednesday that they expect him to reinforce the “steady-as-she-goes approach to policy with no early consideration of a policy transition in response to better fiscal prospects.”

The first day of the advertising industry’s Cannes Lions festival in June 2019, in Cannes, France.
Credit…Richard Bord/Getty Images

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, typically a rosé-drenched networking extravaganza and one of the biggest events on the advertising industry’s calendar, confirmed on Wednesday that it planned to go ahead with an in-person event this summer, even as Covid-19 cases surge around the world.

“The availability of multiple vaccines offers hope that we can be together in June, even if we need to limit the numbers of delegates who can safely attend,” Philip Thomas, the festival’s chairman, said in a statement. “It’s clear from talking to the global industry that everybody is very keen to come together again.”

The festival is scheduled to take place June 21-25 on the French Riviera.

As the coronavirus mutates, countries have scrambled to respond with new lockdowns, quarantines and border closures. Passengers flying to the United States will need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test starting on Jan. 26.

One branding executive on Twitter described the Cannes news, which was first reported by AdWeek, as “a bullish, optimistic event announcement that sits at odds with the slow vaccine rollout and rising Covid-19 numbers.”

Cannes Lions can be expensive to attend, and much of the advertising industry, famous for its excess, has trimmed costs sharply during the pandemic. One person familiar with the spending of a major advertising holding company estimated the price tag of its presence at Cannes to be more than $15 million each year, including awards entry fees and production expenses.

Last year, Cannes Lions featured a series of video presentations, and other major events popular with the marketing community, such as South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show, have announced virtual settings this year. And several agency executives have voiced interest in continuing the virtual format of the upfronts, an annual courtship ritual between media companies and advertisers that usually sprawls across landmark New York locations.

The monthly deficit in December — $140 billion — broke a record set in the 2009 recession, the Treasury Department said.
Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The federal budget deficit was larger last month than in any December in American history, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday, another in a string of record-setting deficits that are a result of the pandemic and the government’s efforts to mitigate its damage to the economy.

The monthly deficit in December — $140 billion — was more than 10 times the size of the deficit the government ran in the same month a year earlier, and it broke a record set in the 2009 recession. The first three months of the fiscal year 2021, which began in October, have seen the nation run a deficit of nearly $600 billion in total — also a record, Treasury officials said. The fiscal year 2020 deficit was a record-smashing $3.1 trillion.

Lawmakers responded to the pandemic-induced recession with trillions of dollars in government spending, including direct aid to individuals and businesses, tax cuts for corporations and increased spending on health efforts to combat the spread of the virus. Late last month, Congress approved an additional $900 billion economic aid package. But little of that money was flowing into the economy by year’s end, Treasury officials said, so it did not materially affect December’s deficit numbers.

Monthly deficits appear likely to swell again in the months to come, as the pandemic continues to rage and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. pushes lawmakers to approve another large stimulus plan. Even many fiscal hawks, who typically decry high deficits, have called for more deficit spending to help people, businesses and state and local governments survive until coronavirus vaccines are widely distributed and the crisis abates.

Credit…Flo

The developer behind Flo, a period- and fertility-tracking app used by more than 100 million women, on Wednesday settled federal charges that it had misled users about its data-handling practices by sharing their intimate health details with Facebook and Google.

In its privacy policies, Flo had repeatedly promised users that it would protect private details about their menstruation cycles and fertility, and that the data would be used only to provide services to them, according to a complaint filed by The Federal Trade Commission.

Instead, federal regulators said, Flo shared sensitive health details on millions of users for years with numerous third parties — including Facebook’s and Google’s analytics units, as well as with two mobile analytics services, AppsFlyer and Flurry. The private data included information related to users’ periods, pregnancies and childbirths, the complaint said.

Moreover, Flo did not put limits on how Facebook, Google and other companies could use the women’s health information, federal regulators said, giving the third parties the ability to use the data for advertising and other purposes.

The proposed federal settlement prohibits the app’s developer, Flo Health, from misleading users about its data-handling practices. It also requires Flo to obtain users’ consent before sharing their health details and to obtain an independent review of its privacy practices.

In settling the case, Flo did not admit to any wrongdoing. In a statement, the company said it does not share information about users’ health without their permission. “We are committed to ensuring that the privacy of our users’ personal health data is absolutely paramount,” the statement added.

Shoppers wait outside a Target in Commerce, Calif., on Black Friday. The retailer saw sales rise both in-store and online this holiday season.
Credit…Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

Amid a mixed holiday shopping season for some retailers, and as coronavirus cases surged across the country, Target reported strong sales.

The giant retailer said on Wednesday that its sales in November and December were up 17.2 percent from the same time the previous year, a rise driven both by in-store and online shopping.

Its digital sales were the biggest area of growth, however, more than doubling from the 2019 holiday season. The vast majority of those sales were delivered from Target stores, which analysts say helped the company avoid some of the shipping delays caused by an overload of e-commerce orders. Fulfilling online orders from stores is also more profitable than paying to have items shipped through carriers like FedEx and UPS.

Target’s holiday results are further evidence of the growing gap between large retailers that are emerging from the pandemic stronger and more dominant and others that are failing and not likely to survive.

Google said it would not allow political ads on its platforms until after Inauguration Day because of last week’s violent uprising at the Capitol.

In a letter to advertisers on Wednesday, the company said the suspension covered any ads that referred to candidates, the election or its outcome, the upcoming presidential inauguration, the impeachment process, the Capitol riots, or planned protests about any of these subjects. There will not be exceptions for news or merchandise advertisers.

The pause will go into effect on Thursday and extend until at least Jan. 21. Google is the biggest seller of advertising on the internet. In addition to displaying advertising on its own services, such as its search engine and YouTube, it runs a powerhouse ad platform and exchange relied on by other websites and publishers. The policy change was reported earlier by Axios.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday that the company had made significant changes to how it handled political ads and election misinformation around the election, but he acknowledged that more work needed to be done.

“The internet, as a whole, needs to come to terms with what kind of information can spread,” Mr. Pichai said. “Definitely, there’s more to do on our side.”

Google has treated last week’s riot as a “sensitive event,” a designation it usually assigns to natural disasters or mass shootings, prohibiting advertising that seeks to take advantage of the tragedy. Google applied this policy for a month after the election and prohibited political ads to help prevent the spread of misinformation through advertising. Last week, in the immediate aftermath of the riot, Google initially stopped accepting ads that referred to the event.

After the polls closed on Nov. 3, Facebook also placed restrictions on political ads in the United States in an attempt to minimize the spread of election-related misinformation.

Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Credit…Gabrielle Lurie/Reuters

Airbnb, one of the biggest players in the short-term rental market, will cancel all reservations made in the Washington area next week and block new rentals, the company announced in a statement on Wednesday.

The decision came after the police and elected officials warned Americans not to travel to Washington for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., citing the risk of the spread of the coronavirus and the threat of another attack similar to last week’s violent siege at the Capitol.

Law enforcement authorities have warned of threats of violence ahead of the inauguration on Jan. 20, and National Guard troops have flooded Washington in response. On Monday, the leaders of the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland issued a joint statement telling potential visitors not to travel to the area, citing both the coronavirus pandemic and the riot.

Already, 16 groups — some of them armed and most of them supporters of President Trump — have registered to stage protests in Washington, though Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked federal officials to cancel any public gathering permits issued.

This week, Airbnb said it would review reservations in the Washington area and cancel those it determined were made by members associated with extremist or hate groups. On Wednesday, it said it would take the broader step of canceling all reservations in response to pleas for people not to attend.

Ms. Bowser and the governors of Virginia and Maryland “have been clear that visitors should not travel to the D.C. metro area for the Inauguration,” the company said in a statement. “Additionally, we are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the inauguration.”

Airbnb said it would refund guests for their reservations and reimburse hosts at its own expense.

The company declined to say how many reservations would be canceled, the dates the cancellation policy would be in effect or how far from Washington its policy would apply.

But two Airbnb hosts who contacted the company about the status of existing reservations were told by customer service representatives that Airbnb was canceling reservations that started on or after Jan. 15 and ended by Jan. 21, according to screenshots provided to The New York Times.

Airbnb also said it had banned “numerous individuals” associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved with the mob at the Capitol. It declined to provide more details.

  • Nordstrom reported a net sales decline of 22 percent in the nine weeks ended Jan. 2 as retailers that specialize in apparel and accessories continued to face a challenging environment. The company appeared to take a blow from a decline in physical foot traffic, as digital sales accounted for 54 percent of overall sales in the period, up from 34 percent last year.

  • Dollar General, which has nearly 17,000 locations in the United States, said on Wednesday that it will give four hours of pay to hourly workers who receive a completed Covid-19 vaccination, and additional store labor hours to salaried employees who also do so. Dollar General is one of the first major employers to announce such incentives. It said that it did “not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work.”

  • Visa and the financial technology start-up Plaid abandoned their $5.3 billion merger on Tuesday, citing a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit. The agreement between Visa and Plaid, a service that allows companies and apps to securely share customer data, was challenged in November by Justice Department officials who said the credit card giant was trying to eliminate a “nascent threat” to its online payments business. The leaders of Visa and Plaid said they disagreed with the Justice Department’s stance but decided not to fight the lawsuit.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

  • Financial markets in the U.S. were slightly higher on Wednesday, after retreating from record highs earlier this week.

  • The S&P 500 rose less than a quarter of a percent. In Europe, the FTSE 100 was down slightly, while the Stoxx Europe 600 was slightly higher.

  • Energy prices broke their streak of gains, with futures on West Texas Intermediate crude falling half a percent. Futures on the U.S. crude benchmark had risen for seven straight days, the longest streak in two years, after Saudi Arabia said last week it would cut production.

  • The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds fell for a second consecutive day to 1.09 percent. Last week, the yield climbed above 1 percent for the first time since March. On Tuesday, two Federal Reserve policymakers said that it was too soon to consider when the central bank would taper its bond-buying program, saying any pullback in monetary stimulus didn’t need to be considered while the pandemic was still raging.

  • U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday moved toward impeaching President Trump, the United States set another record for the number of deaths in a single day from the coronavirus, and other countries around the world strengthened restrictions as they rush to vaccinate as many people as possible.





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