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Rep. Eric Swalwell calls for a nationwide mask mandate: 'You're protecting others'

Rep. Eric Swalwell on California reversing reopening plans this holiday weekend as coronavirus cases spike

California closing many beaches for Fourth of July holiday amid spike in coronavirus cases.

Democratic California Congressman Eric Swalwell said Saturday that he agrees there should likely be a nationwide mask mandate amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview on "Cavuto LIVE" with host Neil Cavuto, Swalwell noted case and hospitalization rates in his home state — like much of the South — are increasing at an alarming rate following reopening phases.

DOES WEARING A FACE MASK POSE ANY HEALTH RISKS?

"Well, you know, we are seeing about a 56 percent increase in hospitalizations in California. In my area, about 200 cases each day in Alameda County — one of the largest counties in Northern California," he stated. "And, it's not that we're increasing the testing. Of course, we're increasing the testing…The rate of people testing positive is going up, and that's what's most concerning."

Swalwell noted that while there is a marked increase in infections of America's youth, the risk is "much higher" when "you put young people with their parents or grandparents over a holiday weekend."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Washington. 
(AP)

According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there are now almost 2.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States and close to 130,000 deaths.

"The most important [thing] is to follow the science. And, [in] the calls I've been on with the governor [he says that] he's going to let the science dictate this," Swalwell explained. "And, you saw a number of counties open up in California for in-room dining, for bars, for hair salons and nail salons, and then have had to roll it back. And so, we really are evolving, Neil."

The best way to combat the spread, according to Swalwell, is masking up.

"And, if we wear a mask and then keep investing in the testing, tracing, and treatment, we can come out of this," he told Cavuto.

Last weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she believes a federal mandate on mask-wearing is "long overdue"

However, wearing a mask has become a political point of contention across the U.S.

On Wednesday, state officials in Pennsylvania announced that residents are now required to wear masks when outside their home, joining a growing list adopting universal mask mandates.

"I think we should have a nationwide mask mandate. I don't think anyone believes we should have mask, you know, police. But, I don't think you should be allowed in any public place without wearing a mask," Swalwell remarked.

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"You're not doing it for protecting yourself. You're protecting others. And, that's what, you know, being courageous is. That's what being caring and kind is. [It’s] worrying about protecting others," he pointed out.

"And look, the sooner we do this, the sooner we come out of this. But, we can be our own worst enemies if we're not going to wear masks," Swalwell concluded.

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World News

U.S. Envoy Forges Ahead With Troubled Taliban Peace Deal

Islamabad (AP) — Washington’s envoy to Afghanistan on Saturday emphasized the economic benefits of the peace deal with the Taliban, forging ahead with an agreement that has run into new political obstacles in the U.S. and the region.

Zalmay Khalilzad was wrapping up a week-long trip that included stops in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the Gulf state of Qatar, where Taliban negotiators are headquartered.

Accompanying Khalilzad for the first time was an economic development team led by U.S. International Development Finance Corporation Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler.

Khalilzad offered no details about the kinds of economic projects being envisioned to jump-start an economy battered by widespread corruption and currently 75% funded by international donations. However, he did suggest joint economic projects involving Qatar and Pakistan, possibly on infrastructure and trade.

The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February to end 19 years of war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad has sought to stress the economic benefits of the peace deal throughout his tour. In a series of tweets early Saturday, the U.S. envoy said he met with the Qatar Investment Authority and the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani, in the tiny Gulf state’s capital of Doha.

“We agreed development plans in support of peace can never start too early,” Khalilzad tweeted.

However, Washington has recently become embroiled in a controversy over intelligence reports that Russia was paying money to insurgents with links to the Taliban to kill American and NATO soldiers.

The identity of the insurgents who took the bounty money is still vague but the payments have been traced to an Afghan drug lord, Rahmatullah Azizi, who is living in Moscow, according to Afghan officials who spoke with The Associated Press.

The officials said the money was delivered through Azizi’s brother Wahidullah, who was the go-between for those facilitating the attacks on U.S. troops.

The New York Times first reported the U.S. intelligence claiming the payment of bounties as well as Azizi’s involvement.

Added to the uncertainty and delays swirling around the U.S-Taliban peace deal, the Pentagon released a report Wednesday that questioned the Taliban’s commitment to end its ties with Al-Qaida. The peace deal calls for the Taliban to fight against terrorist organizations and ensure Afghanistan would not be used again to attack U.S. interests or its allies. Critics of the deal say the militants can’t be trusted.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied contacts with Al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, saying the insurgents were committed to the peace deal.

Khalilzad embarked on his tour of the region last weekend, even as the rate of coronavirus infections in the United States soared and countries worldwide struggled with the dangers of re-opening.

He did not travel to Afghanistan, citing the dangers of the pandemic, and instead held videoconference calls with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government partner, Abdullah Abdullah.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tested positive for COVID 19, just 48 after meeting with with Khalilzad. Both had been pictured wearing masks during their meeting on Wednesday in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad

Qureshi said he developed a fever on Friday and tested positive to the virus. But he promised to “carry on” his official duties from home.

Even as Khalilzad winds up his latest diplomatic mission, there was no date for crucial intra-Afghan negotiations that bring the Taliban together with the Afghan government and other local actors. Khalilzad called for a quick resolution of outstanding issues so those negotiations could begin.

The biggest hurdle has been the release of prisoners. The peace deal called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Taliban releasing 1,000 government personnel. So far, the government has freed 4,015 and the Taliban has freed 669, according to the Afghan government..

Ghani earlier this week suggested that his government had a problem with some of the names on the Taliban’s list of prisoners to be released and said alternative names would be given.

It seems unlikely that the Taliban will accept anyone not on the list agreed upon during negotiations with the U.S.

Suhail Shaheen, Taliban political spokesman in Doha, called the Afghan government reasons for delaying prisoner releases “phony excuses” and the reason for the delay in beginning intra-Afghan talks.

As of Saturday, Afghanistan had recorded 32,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but international non-governmental organizations say the rate is much higher and have warned that the country’s war-ravaged health care system risks collapsing.

Seemingly indicative of the lack of health care facilities in Afghanistan to deal with the virus, Ghani’s special envoy for economic development, Yosuf Ghaznafar, went to Turkey when he became ill with COVID-19. On Friday he died of the disease, according to a statement from the presidency. Ghaznafar is the senior most Afghan official to die of the virus.

Afghanistan has so far recorded 826 deaths from the virus.

_____

Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

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World News

Andy Puzder: Signs of a 'V'-shaped recovery — a welcome bounce back in economy

President Trump touts ‘historic’ jobs report: ‘Shattered expectations,’ economy roaring back

The early economic signs indicate that we may already be in a “V”-shaped recovery — or at the very least a strong checkmark-shaped recovery — as we cautiously emerge from the coronavirus shutdown.

As Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jay Powell admitted earlier this week, we have experienced a welcome “bounce back in economic activity,” and “have done so sooner than expected.” The economic data from the past two months make the point.

The May jobs report gave us the first indication that the post-pandemic rebound would be something special, revealing that employers had created a record-shattering 2.5 million jobs in a single month, beating economists' expectations for a loss of around 9 million jobs.

SEN. RICK SCOTT: CORONAVIRUS MANDATES – AMERICANS WILL MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS IF GIVEN MORE INFORMATION

Most economists anticipated that the trend would continue, but few foresaw just how stellar the June jobs report turned out to be. Last month, the country gained a mind-boggling 4.8 million new jobs, blowing past consensus expectations of around 3.7 million. As an added bonus, last month’s total was revised upward by nearly 200,000 jobs, bring the two-month gain to 7.5 million jobs.

Even though the labor force participation rate rose sharply, meaning more people began looking for work, the nationwide unemployment rate nonetheless plummeted in June by more than two full percentage points, falling from 13.3 percent to 11.1 percent, also beating economists’ expectations of a 0.8 of a percentage point decrease to 12.5 percent.

Those are some incredible numbers! But what else were we seeing in the economy?

In May, retail sales increased by a record 17.7 percent, soundly beating economists’ expectations of around 8.4 percent. This increase in retail sales — following three months of declines — bodes well for a return to positive economic growth. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of our economic output, and retail sales account for about a quarter of consumer spending.

New home sales, a leading indicator of housing market health, were up 16.6 percent in May, beating economists’ expectations of a 1.9 percent increase — with many economists having forecasted negative sales in May.

The renaissance is taking place across the board as state and local officials roll back their lockdown orders.

The National Association of Realtors recently reported that its index of pending home sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rebounded by a record-setting 44.3 percent in May, driving the index to 99.6, the highest month-over-month gain since its inception in January 2001.

So how about June? It’s obviously early, but we have some data in addition to the jobs numbers.

Manufacturing, which represents about 11 percent of the U.S. economy, saw a big positive jump in June for the second straight month. The Institute for Supply Manufacturing survey showed that 52.6 percent of companies said their businesses are growing, up from 43.1 percent in May. That’s the best score since April of 2019 — and, of course, it beat economists’ expectations of 49.5 percent.

Consumers saw the writing on the wall in June even if the economists missed it — again. The Conference Board, a New York-based research organization, said that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 98.1 in June from 85.9 in May, the biggest jump since 2011 and beating economists’ expectations of 90.5.

Not wanting to miss out on all the positivity, the stock markets — which are forward-looking — closed up nearly 20 percent for the quarter ending June 30, their best quarterly percentage increase since 1998.

Bottom line: the economic improvements over the past two months have been tremendous.

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The renaissance is taking place across the board as state and local officials roll back their lockdown orders, though the gains are naturally being led by industries that were hit hardest by the pandemic, including leisure and hospitality (2.1 million new jobs), retail (740,000 new jobs), education and health services (568,000 new jobs), and manufacturing (356,000 new jobs).

There are plenty of lockdown orders still in place all over the country, meaning we’ve got ample potential for additional growth just by continuing to responsibly return to normal, even if we occasionally need to douse the embers of the pandemic here and there.

This unprecedented “V”-shaped recovery is exactly what President Trump predicted at the height of the COVID-19 downturn. Based on his track record of presiding over record-setting economic prosperity before the foreign pandemic reached our shores, I’ve always had confidence in the president’s ability to guide us through this crisis.

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Now that the bounce-back has begun, I’m excited to see how his pro-growth economic agenda of middle-income tax cuts, targeted deregulation and genuinely free trade will fuel our national resurgence.

The “V”-shaped economic recovery has only just begun, and while there may be some coronavirus flare-ups along the way that force us to slow things down, we’ll have nothing to worry about as long as we keep President Trump’s pro-growth economic policies in place.

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World News

Samsung now sells a wireless charger 'that STERILISES your phone with UV light in 10 minutes'

SAMSUNG is selling a charger that promises to sterilise your phone while it's juicing up the battery.

The wireless charging pad uses UV light to eradicate "up to 99 per cent of bacteria within 10 minutes", according to the South Korean tech titan.

Phones are among the filthiest things we own, with some studies suggesting the average mobile is ten times dirtier than a toilet seat.

That grim reality has come into the limelight during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced billions of people to take extra care to keep their surroundings clean of viruses and other pathogens.

Samsung's new charger, dubbed the ITFIT UV Sterilizer, is a white box that the firm says is big enough to fit one of its chunky Galaxy S20 smartphones.

The device will sterilise mobiles not built by Samsung, but it won't necessarily charge them too.

Once you've placed your gadget inside, simply hit the switch and the Sterilizer will blast your device with ultraviolet radiation.

Samsung doesn't specifically state that the charger kills the COVID-19 virus, but studies have shown UV lamps can kill more than 99.9 per cent of airborne coronaviruses.

Of course, the device also features a 10W QI charger that juices up your phone while it's getting a clean.

That means you'll need a mobile with wireless charging capabilities to get the full benefit of the Sterilizer – though most modern smartphones do.

Samsung – a brief history

Here's what you need to know…

  • Samsung is a major South Korean company made up of many businesses that operate globally
  • It's known locally as a "chaebol", which means "business conglomerate"
  • It was founded by Lee Byung-chul in 1938 as a trading company
  • But over several decades, it branched out into food processing, insurance, textiles and retail
  • It wasn't until the late 1960s when Samsung entered the electronics industry – for which it's best known in the west today
  • It also launched businesses in construction and shipbuilding in the 1970s
  • Today, Samsung's most important sources of income are its smartphones and computer chips
  • The firm accounts for around a fifth of South Korea's total exports, and roughly 17% of the country's GDP
  • More than 320,000 staff are employed by Samsung globally
  • And in 2017, Samsung turned over the equivalent of £174billion today in revenue

The twist is that Samsung is only selling the device in Thailand for now.

It's going for the equivalent of about £40 ($50). It's not clear whether the charger will ever hit shelves in the US or UK.

Quick-fix cleaning technology has unsurprisingly boomed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

In May, Ford revealed it was kitting its latest vehicles with a 56C "oven mode" that heats the car's interior to wipe out lingering viruses.

In other news, a social distancing gadget that beeps whenever you're not keeping two metres from someone could help people return to work.

A huge Google Chrome update reveals if your passwords have been hacked.

And, the iPhone 12 could be the thinnest ever thanks to new screen technology.

What's your favourite phone brand? Let us know in the comments…

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World News

Varney: New York City is a virus victim

Varney: NYC’s big city problems have gotten ‘a lot worse’

FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on New York City falling victim to the destruction of coronavirus and urban unrest.

FOX Business’ Stuart Varney, in his latest “My Take,” argues big city problems are getting “a lot worse” for New York and returning to the way it was before coronavirus will not happen any time soon.

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Varney said recently two developments send a “chilling message” to lovers of New York City. First, Mayor Bill De Blasio cut the NYPD budget by $1 billion.

“He's a far-left guy, and he calls this ‘real re-distribution,’” Varney said. “The rest of us worry about safety. Shootings have more than doubled this year compared to 2019.”

VARNEY RIPS CUOMO OVER CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: 'NEW YORK CITY IS A MESS'

A no-police zone is also forming outside of City Hall, Varney noted, similar to the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in Seattle where a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed Monday night.

“Why come back to work in this city?” he said. “Why live here? The mayor has lost control.”

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 26: A man stops in the middle of 7th Avenue in the deserted Times Square as coronavirus (COVID-19) stay at home orders have kept most people off the streets of Manhattan on March 26, 2020 in New York City. Gary Hershorn/FOX News

Second, Varney mentioned the theatre industry announced Broadway shows will close for the rest of 2020.

“That’s about $15 billion that will not be coming here,” he said. “Musicians, actors, ushers and stagehands who will not be working. Tourists from all over the world: not coming. Hotel rooms: not occupied. It is an economic disaster.”

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Varney noted it’s not easy for all cities to deal with the coronavirus lockdown and “varying degrees” of urban unrest while trying to get workers back into the office. And ensuring safety, he said, is not easy when the cities have defunded the police.

Even though every metropolitan area will have to “make a comeback” to a degree, Varney believes New York won’t bounce back that easily.

“I don't think New York will come back to the way it was just four months ago,” he said. “Maybe in a few years, but, in the immediate future, it’s not going to happen. In fact, New York will go into reverse.”

Varney argued removing law enforcement will push the city back to “the years of rampant crime,” New Yorkers will begin to flee, businesses will close and workers will be reluctant to commute.

“This city is a virus victim, which lacked solid leadership just when it needed it most,” he said. “The exodus is about to begin.”

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Business

Sturgeon’s economic catastrophe: Scottish businesses have WORST confidence in whole of UK

The latest Business Barometer, which surveyed 1,200 businesses, from the Bank of Scotland, showed that companies in Scotland felt less confident than other nations. When asked about the impact of COVID-19, more than one third of businesses said they expected to be operating at more than 50 percent capacity by the end of June.

 

However, one fifth said they do not expect to be open at all by then, while 21 percent said they thought it would take around three months to be operating at pre-lockdown levels.

The majority of businesses have also seen a fall in demand during June with just five percent reporting an increase in demand.

Across the UK, business confidence grew marginally month-on-month, rising three points to -30 percent.

The West Midlands was the least pessimistic region at -18 percent, followed jointly by Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East at -23 percent.


It comes after the Scottish Government said that it needed to borrow up to £500 million more to deal with the impact of coronavirus, as well as having greater flexibility over its capital budget.

A formal request was sent to the Treasury on Friday.

At the same time, Boris Johnson set out his plan to get the UK back on track post coronavirus which included investing more than £5bn in Infrastructure.

The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery said in its Scottish Economic Recovery Report that urgent action was needed to develop a stronger relationship between business and government on how they can recover from COVID-19.

READ MORE: Sturgeon crisis: Scotland faces eye-watering 50% rise in council tax

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While the results suggest the economy may be starting to see some improvement, trading conditions remain difficult for most firms as the majority are still experiencing disruption to supply chains.

“Hopefully the recent Government announcement of further relaxation of restrictions and the slight easing of social distancing measures will enable more businesses to reach their capacity and resume their usual activities, which we would expect to be reflected in further improvements to optimism next month.”

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said that the plans to rebuild the economy must be backed with “intent, collaboration and investment of a scale not seen since the last century”.

She added: “The Prime Minister set out a compelling case for investing in infrastructure and we urge both the Scottish & UK Government to work together to put shovel-ready projects on the table and deliver investment to ensure the economy is supported in the immediate, medium and long term.

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“Boosting consumer confidence by announcing VAT cuts, providing further job security by extending the furlough scheme for the hardest-hit sectors and providing guaranteed opportunities for our young people are just some of the immediate steps both Governments should collaborate on and deliver for business.

“The Scottish Government must ensure all consequential funding is allocated towards rehabilitating the economy and creating jobs.”

The Scottish Government said it would respond to Mr Higgins’ report by July 31st. 

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Economy

Some taxpayers face a desperate wait for refunds

Fox Business Flash top headlines for June 29

Fox Business Flash top headlines are here. Check out what’s clicking on FoxBusiness.com.

As a 58-year-old woman on disability, Robin Short of Wallingford, Connecticut, relies on her tax refund to catch up on bills. She filed her return electronically in February, opting for direct deposit so she could get her $773 refund quickly.

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DID PUSHING BACK THE TAX-FILING DEADLINE DO AMERICANS A DISSERVICE?

She’s still waiting, as are millions of others. The IRS is slowly resuming operations after pandemic-related lockdowns, but delayed refunds are devastating some people’s finances.

TAX REFUNDS HAVE BECOME A LIFELINE

Tax refunds, which last year averaged $2,979, are the largest single infusion of cash for about 30% of U.S. families, says Fiona Greig, consumer research director at the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which researches economic issues. While many Americans use refunds to save or to pay down debt, significant numbers rely on the money to cover bills or to get needed medical care — and that was true even before COVID-19 threw millions out of work.

THE IRS SAYS CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS CAN BE SEIZED FOR THIS REASON

Delayed refunds can lead to evictions, hunger, creditor lawsuits and health problems from postponed medical care, among other ill effects. Many households live so close to the edge that they can experience hardship when a refund is delayed by two or three weeks, let alone several months, says John Thompson, chief program officer for the Financial Health Network, which researches financial challenges facing low- and moderate-income households.

“Not everybody has got the kind of flexibility or resilience to just be able to hold on,” Thompson says.

MOST IRS OPERATIONS SHUTTERED BY THE PANDEMIC

The IRS started shutting down tax return processing centers in March, along with its taxpayer help line, local offices and volunteer assistance programs. Soon after, it focused on sending out more than 159 million payments as authorized by the coronavirus relief package. By mid-May, the agency faced a backlog of 10 million pieces of unopened mail, including paper tax returns.

People who filed electronically generally got their refunds unless those returns were flagged, commonly because of identity theft concerns or a mismatch between the information on the return and what was provided by employers or financial institutions.

GOT YOUR STIMULUS CHECK BUT NOT YOUR TAX REFUND? IRS SAYS TO EXPECT DELAYS

In Short’s case, the TurboTax software she used counted a $3,800 annual pension payment twice, as both 1099 income and as W-2 income. The IRS sent her a letter about the error and advised her not to contact the agency for 60 days while the issue was resolved. Then, the lockdowns happened.

Short says her pension and monthly Social Security disability checks don’t cover her expenses. She makes arrangements to pay overdue bills, such as her power bill, when her refund arrives. Otherwise, she says, the math of living on a low fixed income gets grim.

“Either you miss a payment on the electric bill, or you don’t get your medicine,” says Short, a former facilities manager and insulin-dependent diabetic who was severely injured when her car was hit by a drunk driver.

USING REFUNDS TO CATCH UP

Putting off bills, then using tax refunds to catch up, is a common practice among strapped households, Thompson says. A survey of people who used free filing methods for lower- and moderate-income taxpayers last year found roughly half said they needed their refunds for bills, rent, groceries and other everyday expenses, according to Prosperity Now, a nonprofit that promotes financial security.

CORONAVIRUS COULD CAUSE NEW YORK TO RAMP UP AUDITS OF WEALTHY TAXPAYERS

People also increase their health care spending significantly after refund checks arrive. A 2018 study of 1.2 million checking account holders found health care spending rose 60% in the week after people received refunds, indicating many were catching up on care, Greig says.

It’s not clear how long it will take the IRS to address the backlog or when taxpayers can expect their money. People can try using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS site or call the taxpayer help line, but getting through to a human is difficult even in normal times. Congress has cut the IRS’ budget by 20% since 2010, leading to a 22% reduction in staff, according to acting National Taxpayer Advocate Bridget Roberts. Without adequate staff, the agency answered less than one-third of its calls last year. Another option is to contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which has representatives in each state.

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Rather than wait for the IRS to return their money each year, taxpayers can adjust their withholding so they get more money in their paychecks. But many don’t feel comfortable changing their withholding in case they wind up owing big sums, Thompson says.

“You’d have to predict how the year is going to go,” Thompson says. “And what could we possibly predict about this year?”

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Economy

'Flying blind into a credit storm': Widespread deferrals mean banks can't tell who's creditworthy

US banks see $2T in cash deposited since coronavirus outbreak

U.S. banks have seen $2 trillion in cash depositedsince the coronavirus pandemic hit. FOX Business’ Lauren Simonetti with more.

Banks have pulled back sharply on lending to U.S. consumers during the coronavirus crisis. One reason: They can't tell who is creditworthy anymore.

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Millions of Americans are out of work and behind on their debts. But, in many cases, the missed payments aren't reflected in their credit scores, nor are they uniformly recorded on borrowers' credit reports.

The confusion stems from a provision in the government's coronavirus stimulus package. The law says lenders that allow borrowers to defer their debt payments can't report these payments as late to credit-reporting companies. From March 1 through the end of May, Americans deferred debt payments on more than 100 million accounts, according to credit-reporting firm TransUnion, a sign of widespread financial distress.

US BANKS HAVE GROWN BY $2T IN DEPOSITS SINCE START OF PANDEMIC

The credit blind spot has further clouded the outlook for lenders. For years, strong consumer spending and borrowing helped propel them to record profits. Now the economy is in shambles, and they are trying to figure out what is going to happen to all of the debt Americans racked up in better times.

Lenders that are having a tough time spotting risky loan applicants are approving fewer borrowers for credit cards, auto loans and other consumer debt. They are also hunting for new data sets that could indicate who is in financial trouble and how much they need to set aside to cover soured loans. The Federal Reserve last week said the biggest U.S. banks could be saddled with as much as $700 billion in loan losses in a prolonged downturn.

“Banks don’t know who is going to pay and who isn’t. It’s like flying blind into a credit storm”

"Without accurate information, their only option is to pull back on credit," said Michael Abbott, head of banking for North America at consulting firm Accenture PLC. "Banks don't know who is going to pay and who isn't. It's like flying blind into a credit storm."

Banks started tightening their underwriting standards in March, when the first wave of coronavirus layoffs began.

By early April, 33% of banks that responded to the Federal Reserve's senior loan officer survey said they had increased their minimum credit-score requirements for credit cards over the previous three months, up from 14% in January. Bank respondents tightened lending standards for all consumer-loan categories tracked by the survey.

PANDEMIC COULD WIPE OUT MORE GLOBAL WEALTH THAN 2008 CRISIS

Loan originations have fallen, a result both of the tightening and a decline in consumer demand. An estimated 79,000 personal loans were extended in the week ended May 10, compared with 226,000 in the week ended March 22, according to Equifax Inc. Auto loan and lease originations fell to 266,000 from 390,000 during the same period. General-purpose credit-card originations totaled 483,000, down from 856,000. In 2019, weekly card originations rarely fell below 1.2 million.

Lenders have asked some credit-reporting companies to remove borrowers in deferment programs from solicitation lists for credit cards and other loans, according to people familiar with the matter. Some 74 million credit-card solicitations were mailed out in May, down from 316 million in February, according to Mintel Comperemedia. Mailed personal-loan solicitations fell by more than half to 84 million over the same period.

"Banks are looking very carefully at their underwriting models to see if they need to be adjusted to factor in latent risk," said Rob Strand, senior economist at the American Bankers Association.

Prepandemic, deferrals weren't much of a problem for banks. They were used rarely for most types of consumer debt and were usually confined to areas hit by natural disaster. Now, a staggering number of consumers around the U.S. are in deferral or other repayment programs, leading banks to question whether the credit scores and reports they have relied on for decades are reflecting applicants' true level of risk.

CALCULATE YOUR DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO AND FIND OUT WHERE YOU STAND

Lenders are recording that information on borrowers' credit reports in different ways. Boxes that were either marked on time or late are being left blank by some lenders. Some are applying codes next to debt accounts that indicate the borrower is in deferment or forbearance. Others are using natural-disaster codes.

What's more, lenders can't tell if a borrower in deferment has fallen on tough times or is simply taking advantage of lenders' relief options.

Forbearance and natural-disaster codes "were really designed for acute types of situations," said Curt Miller, executive vice president of credit-risk solutions at TransUnion. "If you look at what's happened, it's so broad and widespread there's nothing in the system designed to say 100 million accounts are in this status."

Lenders are looking for data that will help them figure out which applicants are a safe bet and who's likely to run into financial trouble.

BOOST YOUR CREDIT SCORE WITH THESE SIMPLE STEPS

They are also considering using unemployment data — such as cellphone records that show unemployment office visits and benefit-deposit data — that could help them figure out how to account for future loan losses, according to people familiar with the lenders' discussions. Some banks are reviewing cash flow in deposit accounts to get a better idea of the risk lurking in their loan books, the people said.

Woman making online credit card payment. Top view

Credit-reporting companies have been in discussions with lenders about additional data sets that could help identify hidden risks. The conversations also involve how to pinpoint applicants who fall short of lenders' credit-score cutoffs but are likely to pay back their loans.

Fair Isaac Corp., the creator of the widely used FICO credit scores, is rolling out an index that will appear next to loan applicants' scores and inform lenders how likely the applicant is to withstand financial difficulties during the downturn.

"It gives [lenders] that extra filter of how a person is going to handle an economic downturn," said FICO Chief Executive Will Lansing. "The increase in approvals will be more than the increase in rejections."

HOW TO GET A LOW-INTEREST PERSONAL LOAN

Equifax said more lenders are asking for information on how consumers are managing their bank accounts, and whether they are paying accounts that aren't in their credit report on time, to help determine whether to approve them. (Lenders must obtain consent from applicants before getting the information.)

Experian PLC is selling lenders a scenario-planning tool that uses metro-level economic data such as unemployment rates and household debt that can help with lenders' loan-loss forecasting.

TransUnion recently began selling data to help lenders determine whether consumers have been affected by the pandemic, including data on people who have received a deferment or other assistance. That information can't be used to deny a person credit.

Coronavirus has "thrown existing models off," TransUnion's Mr. Miller said.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at [email protected]

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Your iPhone has a hidden map of EVERYWHERE you go – how to find it

YOUR iPhone keeps track of your real-world movements – which you can view on a map.

The little-known feature is buried deep within your iPhone settings, and shows your exact movements over the past few months.

What is iPhone Significant Locations?

Your iPhone has a feature called Location Services, which uses your location to improve various features on the device.

This includes Significant Locations, a rolling log of your real-world movements, which are then used to offer other services.

For instance, if your iPhone knows about your daily commute, it can provide tailored timing information about your journey.

"Allow your iPhone to learn places significant to you in order to provide useful location-related information in Maps, Calendar, Photos and more," Apple explains.

Is iPhone Significant Locations safe?

You might be panicking that Apple is keeping a log of your every move, but that's not quite the case.

"Significant Locations are encrypted and cannot be read by Apple," according to Apple.

That means that the location info is stored on your iPhone, and is encrypted and dissociated from you if it needs to leave the device.

No outsiders can see your Significant Locations, and they're not accessible through iCloud either.

And even if a pal is using your iPhone, they can't get into Significant Locations without getting past a Face ID or Touch ID lock first.

However, if you're really worried that a spouse might sneak their way onto your iPhone and catch you at the pub when you were supposed to be at work, it might be worth deactivating the system – or clearing your history at the very least. We'll explain how to do that below.

It's also worth mentioning that Significant Locations is opt-in, although you probably never knew that.

It turns on when you activate Location Services during iPhone set-up, but it's buried beneath several layers of Settings, so most people have no idea it exists.

The location data tracks back around a year.

How to find your iPhone Location Map

First, launch the Settings app on your iPhone, then tap on the Privacy section.

Then click on Location Services and scroll to the very bottom of the page, where you'll need to tap on System Services.

Go to the Significant Locations tab, at which point you'll be asked to log in with Face ID, Touch ID or your passcode.

You should see a long list of cities, which you can tap into to find various locations you've previously been at.

All of these locations are time-stamped, and are included on a map at the top of the screen.

It may even highlights your 'Home' and 'Work', which should be your most-visited destinations.

How to delete iPhone Significant Locations

There are a few ways to clean up your Significant Locations on the iPhone.

The first is to simply toggle Significant Locations off when you're in the correct menu.

You can also hit the Clear History button inside Significant Locations, which deletes your locations collected so far.

Alternatively, you can toggle Location Services off entirely, although this means you'll lose out on some really useful mapping features.

We've asked Apple how frequently the tracker updates with your location, and how it works out where your home and work addresses are.

In other news, find out how to download iOS 14 and get the latest iPhone features.

There's a new iPhone homescreen coming in iOS 14.

And your iPhone can now tell you if someone is listening through your microphone.

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OnePlus Z ‘confirmed’ as a new cheap smartphone to rival iPhone SE

ONEPLUS has confirmed it's working on a new affordable smartphone.

We don't yet know its name but rumours have been calling it the OnePlus Z, OnePlus 8 Lite, or OnePlus Nord for a while now.

The 'OnePlus Z' still remains a big smartphone mystery of 2020.

CEO Pete Lau confirmed the company is working on a new device in a forum post.

It reads: "Today, I’m very excited to announce that we are bringing the premium, flagship experience that you’ve come to expect from OnePlus to a new, more affordable smartphone product line.

"I know this is something many of you have been wanting for a long time."

We don't know many more details about the phone and its specs, just that it will be coming to Europe and India first.

However, the company is looking to bring its affordable smartphones to North America in the future.

Lau noted in a media statement: "to be clear, this is not a reactionary attempt to 'go back to our roots,' as some people have speculated. 

"Our goal has always been to build leading products that provide the best user experience at a comparatively affordable price point.

"And since our 'roots' are actually in creating the best flagship smartphones, I see this part of our strategy as an important extension of the OnePlus value proposition."

This implies that the new phone won't be super cheap but will likely be more mid-range like older OnePlus devices.

The term 'product line' also implies that we could be getting multiple new phones.

At the same time OnePlus made the announcement an Instagram account was spotted called OnePlusLiteZThing.

It's bio states: "It’s been a while since we’ve done anything like this. #NewBeginnings".

If this account is anything to go by, it's looking more likely that the phone will be called OnePlus Z or something similar.

Currently, most things we hear about the smartphone are speculation.

OnePlus fans are anticipating more announcements soon to see if any more rumours can be confirmed.

In other news, Apple is giving the iPhone homescreen a huge makeover with iOS14.

Kim Kardashian West has entered an exclusive deal with Spotify to produce and host a new podcast.

And, recent leaks suggest Samsung could be announcing its latest flagship phone and iPhone rival as early as August 5.

What's your favourite phone brand? Let us know in the comments…

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