States and businesses are beginning to open with conflicting reports about the danger of doing so coming from the World Health Organization and political leaders
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The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments Tuesday related to national and global response, the work place and the spread of the virus.
GREEN SHOOTS: States are in varying degrees of reopening, and so are businesses.
— The New York Stock Exchange reopened the trading floor Tuesday, though with plexiglass shields and far fewer traders.
— U.S. restaurant traffic is starting to return as states push to get back to normal. Customer transactions at major restaurant chains fell 21% from a year ago for the week ending May 17, but it was the fifth consecutive week in which that gap narrowed, according to The NPD Group, a data and consulting firm. About 93,000 U.S. chain restaurant locations reopened between May 10 and May 17. Transactions at full-service chains like Applebee’s and Olive Garden declined 49% from a year ago — or 33% in states where dining rooms reopened — compared with a 58% decline the prior week. Transactions at fast food chains fell 20% the week of May 17, a slight improvement from a week earlier.
— Steelcase has called back most employees from furlough. All of the company’s manufacturing and distribution locations are open. Many office and showroom locations are also beginning to reopen, although some remain restricted under stay-at-home orders. Steelcase’s backlog of customer orders was approximately $700 million as of May 1. The company expects to manufacture and ship most of its current backlog by the end of July.
— Restaurants and cafes reopened in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East as the region moved to ease restrictions in place since April 1. According to local officials Tuesday, restaurants must keep capacity below 50 people and place tables 1.5 meters away from one another with only two seats. Buffets and big parties are not allowed. Malls and shops reopened in the region last week.
TRAVEL & LEISURE: When markets opened, some of the biggest gainers were airlines, hotels, restaurants and cruise lines. People are betting on the return to more normal rates of travel and a resumption of all things leisure.
— The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are set to start reopening their borders for their citizens to travel.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia announced a deal for their citizens to travel across their common border and not to face a mandatory quarantine and tests for the coronavirus if they return in 48 hours.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Tuesday Hungary is joining the Czechs and Slovaks to allow free travel among them for that limited period of two days. The measure will become effective on Wednesday.
— Australia’s prime minister says international travel could resume with New Zealand before Australians are allowed to fly interstate if state leaders refuse to reopen their borders.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he spoke to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday about resuming regular travel between the near-neighbors and such discussions will continue.
Every Australian state except those worst-effected by the pandemic — New South Wales and Victoria — have closed their borders to slow the coronavirus spread. Morrison added that Australia’s international borders “aren’t opening up any time soon.”
— Authorities in Greece say ticket reductions for sea travel from the mainland to the Greek islands will be introduced on June 1, with a sales tax cut aimed at stimulating the domestic tourism market. Giannis Plakiotakis, the merchant marine minister, said the sales tax rate on ferry tickets would be lowered from 24% to 13%.
Greece will begin opening up to international tourism on June 15.
EARNINGS: Most S&P 500 companies have reported earnings for the first quarter, but others continue to trickle in. The damage from the outbreak has been extensive.
— Hibbett Sports first-quarter sales fell 21%, hurt by store closings. Comparable store sales declined 19.5%, but the retailer’s online sales more than doubled. Hibbett began reopening stores toward the end of April and now has more than 1,000 locations in operation.
— AutoZone’s third-quarter domestic same-store sales dipped 1%, with federal stimulus checks helping to boost sales that declined when the virus outbreak began. It incurred about $75 million in COVID-19-related costs. AutoZone’s stores have remained open during the pandemic.
MARKETS: Stocks surged on Wall Street Tuesday, driving the S&P 500 to its highest level in nearly three months, as hopes for economic recovery overshadow worries about the coronavirus pandemic.
GET YOUR KICKS: Pandemics are not good for shoe sales, with revenue at Nike, Foot Locker and other footwear companies taking big hits this year. Not so for Crocs, the ugly, easy-to-put-on rubber shoes once exclusively in the realm of gardeners and kitchen workers. Shares are up 35% in the last month and on Tuesday analysts with BMO Research told clients to buy the stock, ticker symbol CROX, believing that Crocs have more room to run with so many people isolating.