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Powell to Warn Lawmakers of ‘Extraordinarily Uncertain’ Outlook

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Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, will tell lawmakers on Tuesday that the U.S. economy is bouncing back, but the path ahead remains dependent on the virus and the action of policymakers.

“We have entered an important new phase and have done so sooner than expected,” Mr. Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Financial Services Committee. He will note that consumer spending rebounded “strongly,” but will warn that the outlook is “extraordinarily uncertain” and hinges on whether efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic succeed.

“The path forward will also depend on the policy actions taken at all levels of government to provide relief and to support the recovery for as long as needed,” Mr. Powell will say.

The Fed has worked to shore up markets and the economy as the pandemic tossed millions out of work and starved businesses of revenue, including by cutting interest rates to near-zero, buying huge quantities of government-backed debt and rolling out a series of emergency lending programs.

Mr. Powell’s testimony on Tuesday is meant to focus on those emergency efforts, which are backed by funding Congress earmarked as part of its coronavirus economic response package. Mr. Powell will describe the programs, most of which have seen fairly limited uptake as financial conditions have calmed, and as the private market or other government programs have met credit demand.

One notable exception is the Fed’s Paycheck Protection Program loan facility, which takes the government’s small-business loans off bank balance sheets to give the institutions room to continue lending. That program holds about $65 billion in outstanding loans, he will say, a sign that banks and other lenders have made use of the facility. — Jeanna Smialek

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Credit…Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Uber has made a takeover offer to buy Postmates, the upstart delivery service, according to three people familiar with the matter, as the on-demand food delivery market consolidates and Uber looks for new ways to make money.

The two companies could reach a deal as early as Monday evening, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly. The talks are still going on, the people cautioned, and any potential for a deal could fall apart.

Representatives of Uber and Postmates declined to comment on any potential deal talks.

Uber held merger talks this year with GrubHub, a food delivery competitor. But those talks fell apart after the two companies could not come to agreement on a price, two people familiar with the matter said. GrubHub was eventually bought by Just Eats, a European food delivery service, for $7.3 billion in June.

Shortly after the GrubHub deal fell through, Uber began to piece together a potential offer for Postmates, one of the few stand-alone American companies in food delivery.

Postmates also held sale talks with DoorDash and GrubHub over the last year, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because the talks were private. — Mike Isaac and Erin Griffith

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Credit…Olga R. Rodriguez/Associated Press

Wells Fargo said its shareholders will get a smaller dividend from the company in the third quarter after the Federal Reserve told the bank it had to hang on to additional capital to protect itself from uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Fed warned the country’s biggest banks not to increase cash payouts to shareholders for the third quarter, which begins next month, citing instability created

by the pandemic. On Monday, Wells Fargo said it expected to reduce its dividend from its current level of $0.51 per share when it reports second-quarter results on July 14. It was the only big bank to announce a reduced dividend; the others, including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, are leaving theirs unchanged.

The Fed’s warning of looming uncertainty was reiterated by another regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which warned in a report on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic has created so much extra work for banks that they are at risk of falling down on basic requirements like reporting customer activity to credit bureaus and rooting out fraud.

The regulator, which oversees the country’s largest banks, released the report as part of its routine assessments of the industry. It said programs created by Congress to try to prop up the economy, including a $650 billion aid package for small businesses that was structured as a series of forgivable loans, put special stresses on banks just as they were grappling with volatile financial market conditions and widespread lockdowns that forced many of their employees to work from home.

“This could cause breakdowns in controls related to account management, servicing management, flood insurance coverage, credit bureau reporting, and complying with applicable laws and regulations,” the report said.

The regulator also warned banks to keep a close eye on loans to homes and businesses that could be in jeopardy because of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic, and to watch out for fraudsters looking to take advantage of the sudden shift to work-from-home to find weaknesses in banks’ security systems. — Emily Flitter

Bimal Patel, a senior Treasury official and close aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is leaving the department this week, the latest departure of a top member of President Trump’s economic team.

The exodus comes at a pivotal moment as the Trump administration and lawmakers in Congress have been debating the framework for another economic stimulus package while cases of the coronavirus are surging around the country and the economy is struggling to shake off a recession.

Mr. Patel, the assistant secretary for financial institutions, was one of the architects of the $660 billion small-business lending initiative known as the Paycheck Protection Program. He also worked closely with the Federal Reserve on its Treasury-financed programs.

Several of Mr. Trump’s economic advisers announced plans to leave recently, including Kevin Hassett, his former head of the Council of Economic Advisers; Tomas Philipson, the acting C.E.A. chairman; and Andrew Olmem, the deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Mr. Patel was sworn in at the Treasury in June 2019. He previously was deputy assistant secretary for the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

The Treasury confirmed Mr. Patel’s planned departure, which was reported earlier by The Washington Post. — Alan Rappeport

Reprising a sales strategy some automakers used during the last recession, Ford Motor said on Monday it would let new car buyers return their vehicles if they lost their jobs.

Ford said it would allow customers who buy new cars or trucks before Sept. 30 to return those vehicles within a year. The vehicles must be leased or financed through Ford’s credit arm. For a buyer seeking to return cars, Ford said it would subtract the trade-in value of returned cars against what the buyer still owed and waive up to $15,000 of what was still due.

“We feel like right now, the economy is at the stage of recovery where people want things back to normal, they want to buy, but they’re still a little nervous about what the future holds,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

The policy, which the company calls Ford Promise, is the latest effort by automakers to entice people to buy new cars during the coronavirus pandemic. Ford, General Motors and other companies previously offered no-interest loans for 84 months and other incentives.

Ford’s car-return program is not the first such effort. In March and April, Hyundai and Kia put out a similar offer. Such programs date back to the recession in 2009 when auto sales plunged and banks all but stopped providing car loans. At the time, Hyundai was among the first automakers to gain attention for giving customers a means of returning cars. — Neal E. Boudette

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Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Federal Reserve’s primary market corporate credit program is up and running, the central bank said on Monday, giving relatively healthy companies a last-ditch option to sell bonds straight to the central bank if they are struggling to raise funding.

The Fed’s announcement, which also set out pricing terms for the program, called it a “funding backstop” that will support market liquidity and “the availability of credit for large employers.”

The Fed’s decision to buy corporate debt has already calmed markets, and analysts do not expect heavy use of the program unless market conditions take a turn for the worse.

The Fed announced on March 23 that it would buy new bonds on the primary market and corporate bonds on the secondary market — the one for already-issued debt. On April 9, it said the two programs would be supported by $75 billion given to the Treasury Department as part of Congress’s coronavirus economic response package. The money was meant to support up to $250 billion in secondary market purchases and $500 billion in primary market buying.

The Fed’s primary bond-buying program was initially expected to be the larger effort, but that now seems unlikely, because the primary market program is intended to be a backstop. To use it, a company must check several boxes: It must be unable to get “adequate credit” from banks and markets. It must be investment grade — meaning it is seen as a safe bet — or have been downgraded to junk-bond status only after March 22. Even “fallen angels” cannot use the program if they are now insolvent.

The program could help out if markets gum up again, as they did in March. Its sister program, the one that buys already-issued securities, has been active since mid-May and had made $8.7 billion worth of exchange-traded fund and bond purchases through June 24, based on the latest data.

On Sunday, the Fed detailed the corporate bonds it will buy in that secondary market program. A total of 12 sectors are represented in the index. The most heavily represented companies listed in the index include automotive and technology companies: Toyota Motor Credit Corporation, Volkswagen Group America, Daimler Finance, AT&T, Apple, Verizon Communications and General Electric round out the top issuers. — Jeanna Smialek

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Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times

Every January for 36 years, the Sundance Film Festival has been staged in Park City, Utah, an affluent ski town tucked 7,000 feet up in the Wasatch Range. Attendees fill theaters to capacity, huddle together in crowded wait-list tents, ride on jam-packed shuttle buses and hot-tub hop with boozy abandon — at the height of flu season.

But the coronavirus pandemic is forcing organizers to rethink Sundance. On Monday, Tabitha Jackson, the festival’s director, unveiled her preliminary plans for the 2021 edition, a gathering expected to take place under social distancing restrictions and with a Covid-19 vaccine still unavailable. It will simultaneously be held in Park City and at least 20 other locales: Exploratory talks are underway with independent cinemas in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas. Mexico City is also on the list.

Participating theaters will choose a “bespoke” selection of Sundance 2021 offerings that make sense for their community, Ms. Jackson said, augmenting those choices with complimentary programming of their own.

She said that Sundance’s “full curated program” would also be made available online.

“It will be the nucleus of the festival,” she said of an online platform that Sundance is developing, “a one-stop point of access, designed to create a participatory experience which brings all the elements and locations of the festival together.” — Brooks Barnes

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Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Stocks rallied Monday, rebounding from a week of losses, even as a resurgence in coronavirus cases that had alarmed Wall Street last week continued.

The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent, after having fallen nearly 3 percent last week. A jump in shares of Boeing helped lead the Dow Jones industrial average to a gain of about 2 percent. Shares in Europe had also ended higher, after rebounding from a decline earlier in the day.

Companies that have come to reflect investor sentiment toward the return of normal spending by American consumers — retailers and airlines — were among the best performing stocks in the S&P 500. Southwest Airlines rose about 9 percent, and Simon Property Group, which operates shopping malls, jumped 10 percent.

Oil prices also rose, with West Texas intermediate futures approaching $40 a barrel.

Boeing surged more than 14 percent after the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the company to begin test flights of its beleaguered 737 Max jet, a critical step that could mean the aircraft is back in service by the end of the year.

Investors have been watching nervously as coronavirus cases rise in the United States and in places where the pandemic had seemed to be under control, like Europe. Florida, Nevada and South Carolina broke daily records for new cases over the weekend. The global death total reached 500,000 on Sunday, according to a New York Times database. The number of confirmed cases passed 10 million.

But there was also more good news on the economic recovery on Monday. The National Association of Realtors said contracts to buy previously owned homes rebounded by the most on record in May.

  • Norwegian Air, the once-fast-growing low-cost carrier, said Monday it had canceled orders with Boeing for 92 737 Max jets and five 787 Dreamliners, adding to mounting cancellations for the aerospace giant. Norwegian, which temporarily laid off 90 percent of its staff in March, also said it was seeking compensation for the losses it incurred from the grounding of the Max and from engine troubles associated with the Dreamliners. The first in a series of crucial test flights of Boeing’s 737 Max jet took off from a Seattle-area airport just before 10 a.m. on Monday.

  • AMC Theaters, the largest cinema operator in North America, said it would push back its planned reopening by two weeks. AMC now plans to reopen most of its locations on July 30, with another 150 coming online the following week “barring further complications from the coronavirus outbreak.”

  • Cirque du Soleil announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and would seek to do the same in the United States. With productions shuttered, the famed circus said that it had lost its entire revenue stream. The company, which earlier this year temporarily laid off 5,000 employees, nearly 95 percent of its work force, said that it had entered into a “stalking horse” purchase agreement for existing shareholders to restart the business.

  • Broadway will remain dark for at least the rest of this year, and many shows are signaling that they do not expect a return to the stage until late winter or early spring. The Broadway League said Monday that theater owners and producers were ready to refund or exchange tickets previously purchased for shows through Jan. 3. But the league said it was not yet ready to specify a date when shows would reopen.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Isaac, Erin Griffith, Emily Flitter, Jeanna Smialek, Niraj Chokshi, Neal E. Boudette, Carlos Tejada, Clifford Krauss, Salman Masood, Jason Karaian, Eve Edelheit, Paul Sullivan, David Streitfeld, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Mohammed Hadi, Katie Robertson and Brooks Barnes.

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