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Dumb reopening might just work



A smart reopening, with well worked out protocols at work, and a robust competent test and trace public health response to stamp out the embers, seems unlikely. Technology to save us — vaccine, cure, cheap daily test, scaled up and implemented — seems unlikely in the next few months. We seem fated to a dumb reopening. Conventional wisdom says we will then get a massive second wave in the fall, followed by a larger shutdown.

Spread in last week’s tidbits and a bit of modeling over the weekend, I see hope that this dumb reopening might just work, including the steady and slowly declining new set of cases we are seeing right now.

The Theme

In February and early March, the models predicted exponential growth, massive infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, with most everyone getting the virus in a matter of months, and then the virus to quickly pass. The models were disastrously — or, better, miraculously — wrong.  New cases plateaued quickly and then slowly declined. In many parts of the country, hospitals have plenty of extra space.

Conventional wisdom holds this great good fortune is because of the lockdown. But, that wisdom warns,  the minute the economy reopens, it all starts again absent the above public health or a vaccine.  Conventional wisdom thus says, do not extrapolate the current trends.

The tidbits of news that give me hope, below, are that the plateau came far sooner than expected, it is lasting far longer than expected, and the shape seems quite similar across many regimes.

I hazard here a guess of why this is occurring: 1) The models do not take account that the reproduction rate R0, how many people each infected person gives it to, is immensely influenced by human behavior. And, said humans, read the news. 2) The average reproduction rate heavily influenced by super-spreading activities. The average is composed of a large majority of activities that give it to less than one other person, and a small minority of activities — singing in choirs, beer pong at ski resorts, big loud indoor wedding parties — that super-spread it.

Add up 1) and 2). When people hear there is a disease about, they quickly stop super-spreading activities, all on their own, because they don’t want to get sick. Shutdowns only marginally affect this process. We saw, for example, massive declines in travel and restaurants long before shutdowns were announced. This action quickly and rather easily reduces the average reproduction rate to something like 5 to something below 2.

Then, as people hear news of how bad it is in their area, they adjust more. If people hear it’s not so bad, they adjust less. If the virus is on the upswing, they social distance more. Do you walk or take the bus? Do you eat at a social distanced restaurant or take out? There are hundreds of little behaviors each of us take that push the reproduction rate around.

You can see a self-regulating state here, where the number of new cases sits at a steady plateau for a long time. You can easily see a self-regulation that drives the system to R0=1, or to a steady number of new cases.

That’s not great news. There will still be a steady flow of new cases  per week, just enough to scare people.  But as people slowly start to adopt common sense and ignore silly shutdowns, and as people start to adopt common sense and avoid even permitted dangerous activities, the economy can recover a good deal. All we need is good information.

Now in detail. 

The current conventional wisdom started on the standard SIR path — exponential growth, a huge peak of infections and deaths.  The key of any model is, what is the force that slows the infection down? In the SIR model, with a fixed reproduction rate, the only thing that stops the growth is that each infected person comes in contact with more and more people who are recovered and immune — herd immunity.  With a highly contagious virus like this one, that means the majority of the population has to get it. Then the virus goes away, about as quickly as it came. Cases look like a normal distribution, with a time scale of months and a huge peak. At the time guesses were 2% fatality (since cut by a factor of 10 or more), leading to 6 million deaths in the US. This is the projection that in early march led to the shutdowns.

This standard model failed immediately. Growth was never near constant exponential even before shutdowns were announced. 1) We reach a plateau, and then either stay there or see slow decline. 2) The pattern is remarkably similar across countries with very different policies. 

Michael Levitt at Stanford noticed

a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential”.

Isaac Ben-Israel noticed the same thing,

A similar pattern – rapid increase in infections to a peak in the sixth week, and decline from the eighth week – is common everywhere, regardless of response policies

Both have been criticized, especially the latter, for not having enough letters after their names to opine on such matters, and more cogently for not having a reason or mechanism behind their observations.

Well, with ex-post wisdom, we can add that mechanism and see where it takes us.  We start with fast exponential growth. Then people notice that people around them are getting sick, and quickly take action to lower the reproduction rate  below R0=1. Lockdowns also reduce the reproduction rate. Then we work through the infections already baked in to the population and approach a much, much lower peak, and decline at whatever the new R0 is.

Here the second feature is suggestive. Continuing Levitt

the total number of deaths we are seeing, in places as diverse as New York City, parts of England, parts of France and Northern Italy, all seem to level out at a very similar fraction of the total population. “Are they all practising equally good social distancing? 

From the Johns Hopkins data center

Since all these countries are well below herd immunity, the SIR model with fixed R0 predicts a straight line going up. It’s nothing like that.

Here are some  graphs from epiforecasts, (HT Trevor Bedford, and many links HT Marginal Revolution, essential as always). For the US as a whole 

Regionally too

New York is not a plateau. But it takes a week or more from change in behavior to change in infection to showing up at a hospital.

Italy overshot as well. But notice that unlike the standard model Italy is declining  slowly.

Even Sweden is plateauing — or certainly not growing exponentially, despite not closing down its economy.  The similarity of all these cases despite quite different shutdown policies is striking.

Plateau and decline. At far different levels, but a same pattern everywhere.

Models and data 

Contrast with the predictions. The standard models were really forecasting doom and gloom as of February and March.   An Elon Musk  tweet says it all:

Now, I think it’s a mistake to personalize it and blame Newsom. He’s relying on “science,” as politicians are advised to do. The best “science” was indeed predicting doom and gloom, based on the exponential growth model. That “scientific” model just happens to be wrong.

Well, modelers say, governments saved us with economic shutdowns that lowered the reproduction rate, far below what the modelers thought could be achieved.  See for example the beautiful Chad Jones and Jesús Fernández-Villaverde  model.

The curve is their model. They estimate that New York started with a 4.10 reproduction rate. Exponential growth took off. The lockdown bent New York’s reproduction rate to 0.5. We hit the peak and now it’s going away at a decaying exponential rate. (See also Andy Atkeson here, and the excellent Avery, Bossert, Clark, Ellison, Ellison survey here.)

Will it last?

In all these economic models, the decline in R0 reproduction rate is specified exogenously and is assumed to be due to the shutdown policies. If that’s true that’s a very depressing outcome because it means we will have a second wave or a depression after reopening.

If the reproduction rate responds to information, however, as I hazarded above, then we can trundle along at a reproduction rate near one for a long time.

And the remarkably similar evolution the disease across places that did very different policies argues that simple behavior rather than details of shutdown policies account for the plateau. That is the small hope on which I grasp this week.

What’s needed? Obviously, a better SIR model that includes a behavioral response, sketching out my guesses here. That’s in the next post.


A key part of my hopeful view is that there is some easy pickings to reduce reproduction rate by avoiding obvious super-spreading activities. A reminder of the importance of variation in R0 comes from gorgeous simulations by Christopher Moore, reported by Jeana Marshall here: (underlying papers cited there)

Figure 2. A hundred random outbreaks in a scenario with superspreading, where 1 percent of the cases infect 20 others. As in Figure 1, we have R0 = 0.8 and the average outbreak size is 5, but now the heavy tail of outbreaks is much heavier. In this run the largest outbreak has size 663.

This is a simulation with an average R0 = 0.8. But there are two sources of variation. First, contacts are random. If you are an R0 = 0.8 person, then you give it to one other person with 0.8 probability. That leads to a lot of variation already in how it spreads. Second, this simulation has superspreaders

… 20 percent of cases generate one new case, 10 percent generate 2, 4 percent generate 5, and 1 percent “superspread” and generate 20 (and the remaining 65 percent infect no one). 

Their point is how variable the outbreaks are, even with relatively large numbers — counties, say. But one glance at any of these simulations.  and you can see just how effective it would be if we could only eliminate the superspreading events.


The $ 6 Trillion dollar question (and it is that). Just how does this disease spread? If we only knew, for 1,000 random cases, exactly where and how they got it, and where and how they did not get it, this thing could be over quickly. We would quickly know what are the dangerous activities, and what are safe.

The other news of the week is half good and half bad. It appears there are more asymptomatic cases than we thought. That means it’s less deadly than we thought. But it means it’s more transmissible than we thought (higher R0), and it means that it’s harder to stop than we thought. Staying home if you feel bad and have a temperature will not stop about half the infected people.

Models failed. Models are based on assumptions, often reasonable, and often guesstimated. When the assumptions are wrong, the models are wrong. Pay attention to the logic of models.  Models are wrong more often than not, because they don’t make the right assumptions. The SIR model wasn’t wrong because it was logically faulty. It was wrong because it focused on the wrong mechanism — development of herd immunity, not behavioral responses to lower the reproduction rate.

Just because the person giving you a computer model wears a white lab coat and calls it “science” does not mean it’s truth. (Just because they wear a tweed jacket and call it “economics” doesn’t mean it’s the truth either.)   It’s a quantitative guess following from assumptions and modeling some mechanisms and not others. Economists have good experience with models, given the massive failure of the Keynesian forecasting models and the limits of growth models in the 1970s. Perhaps the failure of SIR models might teach us a little lesson about the reliability of models, and especially obscure black box models, in general.

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The Media Has Conveniently Forgotten George W. Bush's Many Atrocities



Former president George W. Bush has returned to the spotlight to give moral guidance to America in these troubled times. In a statement released on Tuesday, Bush announced that he was “anguished” by the “brutal suffocation” of George Floyd and declared that “lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.”

Bush’s declaration was greeted with thunderous applause by the usual suspects who portray him as the virtuous Republican in contrast to Trump. While the media portrays Bush’s pious piffle as a visionary triumph of principle, Americans need to vividly recall the lies and atrocities that permeated his eight years as president.

In an October 2017 speech in a “national forum on liberty” at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City, Bush bemoaned that “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” Coming from Bush, this had as much credibility as former president Bill Clinton bewailing the decline of chastity.

Most media coverage of Bush nowadays either ignores the falsehoods he used to take America to war in Iraq or portrays him as a good man who received incorrect information. But Bush was lying from the get-go on Iraq and was determined to drag the nation into another Middle East war. From January 2003 onwards, Bush constantly portrayed the US as an innocent victim of Saddam Hussein’s imminent aggression and repeatedly claimed that war was being “forced upon us.” That was never the case. As the Center for Public Integrity reported, Bush made “232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda.” As the lies by which he sold the Iraq War unraveled, Bush resorted to vilifying critics as traitors in a 2006 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bush’s lies led to the killing of more than four thousand American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. But since those folks are dead and gone anyhow, the media instead lauds Bush’s selection to be in a Kennedy Center art show displaying his borderline primitive oil paintings.

In February 2018, Bush was paid lavishly to give a prodemocracy speech in the United Arab Emirates, ruled by a notorious Arab dictatorship. He proclaimed: “Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.” He openly fretted about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 US election.

But when he was president, Bush acted as if the United States were entitled to intervene in any foreign election he pleased. He boasted in 2005 that his administration had budgeted almost $5 billion “for programs to support democratic change around the world,” much of which was spent on tampering with foreign vote totals. When Iraq held elections in 2005, Bush approved a massive covert aid program for pro-American Iraqi parties. The Bush administration spent over $65 million to boost their favored candidate in the 2004 Ukraine election. Yet, with boundless hypocrisy, Bush proclaimed that “any (Ukrainian) election…ought to be free from any foreign influence.” US government-financed organizations helped spur coups in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. Both of those nations, along with Ukraine, remain political train wrecks.

In that October 2017 New York speech, Bush proclaimed: “No democracy pretends to be a tyranny.” But ravaging the Constitution was apparently part of his job description when he was president. Shortly after 9-11, Bush turned back the clock to before 1215 (when the Magna Carta was signed), formally suspending habeas corpus and claiming a prerogative to imprison indefinitely anyone he labeled a terrorist suspect. In 2002, Justice Department lawyers informed Bush that the president was entitled to violate the law during wartime—and the war on terror was expected to continue indefinitely. In 2004, Bush White House counsel Alberto Gonzales formally asserted a “commander-in-chief override power” entitling presidents to ignore the Bill of Rights.

Under Bush, the US government embraced barbaric practices which did more to destroy America’s moral credibility than all of Trump’s tweets combined. Bush’s “enhanced interrogation” regime included endless high-volume repetition of a Meow Mix cat food commercial at Guantanamo, head slapping, waterboarding, exposure to frigid temperatures, and manacling for many hours in stress positions. After the Supreme Court rebuffed some of Bush’s power grabs in 2006, he pushed through Congress a bill that retroactively legalized torture—one of the worst legislative disgraces since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. During his years in the White House, Bush perennially denied that he had approved torture. But in 2010, during an author tour to promote his new memoir, he bragged about approving waterboarding for terrorist suspects.

Is Bush nominating himself to be the nation’s racial healer? When he was president, Bush inflicted more financial ruin on blacks than any president since Woodrow Wilson (who brought Jim Crow barbarities to the federal government). Bush trumpeted his plans to close the gap between black and white homeownership rates and promised in 2002 to “use the mighty muscle of the federal government” to solve the problem. Bush was determined to end the bias against people who wanted to buy a home but had no money. Congress passed Bush’s American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003, authorizing federal handouts to first-time homebuyers of up to $10,000 or 6 percent of the home’s purchase price. Bush also swayed Congress to permit the Federal Housing Administration to make no–down payment loans to low-income Americans. Bush proclaimed: “Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership.” In Bush’s eyes, self-reliance was so wonderful that the government should subsidize it. And it didn’t matter whether recipients were creditworthy, because politicians meant well. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign trumpeted his down payment giveaways, a shining example of “compassionate conservatism.”

Thanks in large part to his policies, minority households saw the fastest growth in homeownership leading up to the 2007 recession. The housing collapse ravaged the net worth of black and Hispanic households. “The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans—one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades,” the Washington Post reported in 2012. The median net worth for Hispanic households declined by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009. That devastation was aptly described in a 2017 federal appeals court dissenting opinion as “wrecking ball benevolence” (quoting a 2004 Barron’s op-ed I wrote). But almost none of the media coverage of the ex-president reminds people of the economic carnage of this Bush vote-buying binge.

It is possible to condemn police brutality and, even more importantly, the evil laws and judicial doctrines that enable police to tyrannize other Americans without any help from a demagogic ex-president who ravaged our rights, liberties, and peace. As I commented in an August 2003 USA Today op-ed, “Whether Bush and his appointees will be held personally liable for their [Iraq War] falsehoods is a grave test for American democracy.” The revival of Bush’s reputation vivifies how our political media system failed that test. As long as George Bush doesn’t turn himself in for committing war crimes, all of his talk about “achieving justice for all” is rubbish.

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Police Are Killing Fewer People In Big Cities, But More In Suburban And Rural America 



Six years after nationwide protests against police violence captured the country’s attention, the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have put the issue of police violence back into national focus. Many are left asking what, if anything, has really changed?

In the absence of comprehensive federal data, databases such as Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence and The Washington Post’s Fatal Force project have tracked these killings year after year. And the data produced by these projects suggests that police, at least on a national level, are killing people as often now as they were before Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked widespread protests in 2014.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the nationwide total of people killed by police nationwide has remained steady, the numbers have dropped significantly in America’s largest cities, likely due to reforms to use-of-force policies implemented in the wake of high-profile deaths. Those decreases, however, have been offset by increases in police killings in more suburban and rural areas. It seems that solutions that can reduce police killings exist, in other words — the issue may be whether an area has the political will to enact them.

Indeed, looking only at the 30 most populous cities in the country,1 you see a substantial decrease in the number of people killed by police in recent years.

Police departments in America’s 30 largest cities killed 30 percent fewer people in 2019 than in 2013, the year before the Ferguson protests began, according to the Mapping Police Violence database. Similarly, The Washington Post’s database shows 17 percent fewer killings by these agencies in 2019 compared to 2015, the earliest year it tracks.

This data isn’t perfect. The databases have slightly different methodologies for collecting and including police killings. And not everyone who’s shot winds up dying, which means some people who are shot by police don’t end up in one of these tracking projects. So to better test and understand the progress made in these big cities, I compiled an expanded database of all fatal and nonfatal police shootings by these departments, which expands our view of any changes in police behavior. Based on data published on police departments’ websites and reported in local media databases, I found data covering police shootings in 2013-2019 for 23 of the 30 departments.2 An analysis of this data shows that police shootings in these departments dropped 37 percent from 2013 to 2019.

So why haven’t these trends resulted in fewer people killed by police nationwide?

Examining the geography of police killings based on population density (a methodology developed by the real estate site Trulia, which was featured in a previous FiveThirtyEight article), police killings in suburban and rural areas appear to have increased during this time period — offsetting reductions in big cities.

This shift mirrors other trends within the criminal justice system. For example, since 2013, the number of people in jail per capita in urban areas has fallen by 22 percent, while rates have increased by 26 percent in rural areas, according to a study by the Vera Institute of Justice.

Similarly, arrest rates have declined in major cities at a faster pace than arrest rates in suburban and rural areas. Fewer arrests means fewer police encounters that could escalate to deadly force — police are substantially more likely to use force when making an arrest than in other interactions with the public — so falling arrest numbers could have a marked effect on police killings. Comparing police shootings data to the arrests data each department reported in the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that departments that reported larger reductions in arrests from 2013-20183 also reported larger reductions in police shootings. Specifically, cities that reduced police shootings also made 35 percent fewer arrests in 2018 than 2013, compared to only a 4 percent drop in arrests in cities where police shootings increased or remained constant. These declining arrest rates have been attributed, in part, to reforms reducing enforcement of low-level offenses such as marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, loitering and prostitution.

Other reforms may be making a difference as well. Police shootings dropped in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Baltimore after the cities began reforming their use-of-force policies to match recommendations from the Department of Justice. In Chicago, police shootings dropped following protests over the shooting of Laquan McDonald and fell further after the city adopted more restrictive use-of-force policies and a new police accountability system. Denver also adopted more restrictive use-of-force policies in 2017, requiring de-escalation as an alternative to force. Los Angeles police shootings reportedly declined to the lowest number in 30 years in 2019, which officials attribute to new policies requiring officers to use de-escalation and alternatives to deadly force. Shootings dropped precipitously in Phoenix a year after public scrutiny led the department to evaluate its practices and implement changes to its use-of-force policy. And, in response to local protests over the 2012 killing of James Harper, Dallas implemented a range of policies to emphasize de-escalation, which local authorities credit with producing a sustained decline in police shootings.

This suggests that reforms may be working in the places that have implemented them. Many of these reforms were initiated in response to protests and public outcry over high-profile deaths at the hands of police — most notably in Baltimore following the police killing of Freddie Gray, in San Francisco following the killing of Mario Woods, and in Chicago and Dallas following the deaths of Laquan McDonald and James Harper. This suggests that protests and public pressure may have played an important role in producing policy changes that reduced police shootings, at least in some cities.

Of course, that’s a double-edged finding. The absence of reforms in more suburban and rural cities and towns could explain why police killings haven’t decreased in those areas — though it may not explain why they increased. There’s still a lot we need to investigate about how policing is changing in rural and suburban areas. More Latinos are being killed by police in suburban areas than before, according to Mapping Police Violence data, while more white people are being killed in rural areas than before. Some of this might reflect demographic shifts (though killings have dropped in urban areas across all races) or other changes in the criminal justice system — for example, the share of the population that’s in jail awaiting trial has been increasing in rural areas. Gun-related suicides and gun deaths in general appear to be increasing in rural areas, which might also be spilling over into policing practices and responses.

Still, if we know that certain policies reduce police violence, adapting those reforms to smaller cities, suburban and rural communities could be a pathway to reducing police violence in the U.S. overall. But that would take political willpower at the local level, and the country’s growing urban-rural political divide might make that difficult.

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast: The data behind police violence

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Newsletter: The Slow Process of Healing the Economy



This is the web version of the WSJ’s newsletter on the economy. You can sign up for daily delivery here.

The American Economy is Healing—Slowly

The U.S. economy didn’t deteriorate as badly in May as it did in April. That is a far cry from saying that it is getting better. The Institute for Supply Management said its index for nonmanufacturing activity climbed to 45.4 last month from 41.8 in April. That came on top of its report Monday that its manufacturing index had climbed to 43.1 from 41.5. But anything under 50 indicates worsening activity. The underlying message: Even though restrictions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus eased last month and more Main Street businesses were able to at least partially resume operations, the crisis is far from over, Justin Lahart writes.


The European Central Bank releases a policy statement at 7:45 a.m. ET.

U.S. jobless claims for the week ending May 30 are expected to fall to 1.8 million from 2.123 million a week earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)

The U.S. trade deficit for April is expected to widen to $50 billion from $44.4 billion the prior month. (8:30 a.m. ET)

U.S. productivity is expected to fall 2.7% in the first quarter, unrevised from a previous estimate. (8:30 a.m. ET)

Japan household spending for April is out at 7:30 p.m. ET.


Back to Work

Last week’s jobless claims report showed the number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell for the first time since February. Another drop would suggest people are being rehired. Even so, it could take years for the economy to regain the millions of jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic, Sarah Chaney reports. 

The latest report is out today at 8:30 a.m. ET.

States across the country are being hit by unemployment-benefit fraud, reflecting the vulnerabilities that workers and governments face in the midst of historically high levels of jobless claims. Scott Dahl, the inspector general for the U.S. Labor Department, said at least $26 billion in unemployment insurance payments could be wasted during the pandemic, Sarah Chaney reports.

The coronavirus pandemic caused unemployment to rise in every metropolitan area in the U.S. in April. Tourist destinations and factory towns were hardest hit, Eric Morath reports.

Damage, Devastation

Looting strikes a second blow to businesses in minority neighborhoods. Vandalism and theft at many large retailers are delaying efforts to restart an economy that lost millions of jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic. The damage to small businesses could be more devastating, potentially permanently closing doors. Small businesses, especially minority-owned ones, typically have little savings and very often don’t have multiple locations to help blunt the ravages of the pandemic and the looting, Scott Calvert and Ruth Simon report.

Jumbled supply chains and new safety protocols are hobbling U.S. manufacturers as they look to emerge from coronavirus shutdowns. Some factories are looking for alternative suppliers to compensate for plants that remain closed or are overwhelmed by orders for items in high demand. Other companies say new protective equipment and procedures to add space between workers will weigh on their profits and productivity, Austen Hufford and Bob Tita report.

After the Money’s Gone

Nine weeks after Congress approved its largest-ever economic relief measure to counter the coronavirus pandemic, most of the direct cash assistance aimed at keeping the economy afloat has been spent or committed. The so-called Cares Act included a projected $1.2 trillion in direct aid; Congress topped up that sum in April with an additional $400 billion. Of the total, roughly $1.12 trillion, or about 70%, has been distributed, Kate Davidson and Paul Kiernan report.

Germany adopted its second economic-stimulus package since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing their total cost to €1.3 trillion ($1.5 trillion), by far the largest in Europe as a share of gross domestic product. Years of budget surpluses and negative borrowing costs have allowed Germany to rapidly deploy a vast protective shield to cushion the impact of the pandemic, Bojan Pancevski and William Boston report.

U.S.-China Chill

The Trump administration threatened Wednesday to bar mainland Chinese airlines from flying to and from the U.S. starting later this month, saying Beijing has failed to approve resumption of these routes by U.S. carriers. The threat of a ban was the latest sign of souring U.S.-China relations that are at their worst in more than three decades, Alison Sider and Ted Mann report.

Chinese state-controlled companies have canceled some shipments from U.S. farm exporters, according to maritime officials. The cancellations involve orders made following the phase one trade pact between the two countries signed in January. China committed in the agreement to increasing purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over 2017 levels, Costas Paris reports.

Hot Soup

Campbell Soup raised earnings expectations for its fiscal year after demand skyrocketed for its soup and snacks during the coronavirus pandemic. Sales in its latest quarter jumped 17% on a comparable basis, including a 35% surge in U.S. soup sales—the strongest performance by that metric in decades. But demand has exceeded Campbell’s manufacturing capacity, causing it to lose market share in heat-and-eat soups, Annie Gasparro reports.


“This is the biggest recession we’ve experienced in our lifetime. It’s like a car crash, without an airbag.” —Jérôme Haegeli, chief economist at insurance company Swiss Re


Could anything good come of coronavirus? “If more of us end up working remotely after the pandemic, there is one change that could make work better: ending the misalignment between the school day and the work day. The gap between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. in many countries is grossly unfair to working parents. Some propose making school days longer, but I advocate shorter work days,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Adam Grant writes in the Economist.


Real Time Economics has launched a downloadable calendar with concise previews forecasts and analysis of major U.S. data releases. To add to your calendar please click here.


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