Cowen expects Nike's sales fall $3.5 billion for May quarter

(Reuters) – Nike Inc’s (NKE.N) revenue could fall by a third in the fourth quarter, Cowen estimated, as the sportswear giant reels from store closures, supply disruptions and the suspension of this year’s NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The brokerage expects the 34% decline in Nike’s revenue for the quarter to lead to a loss of about 4 cents per share. Analysts currently expect revenue to rise 2.4% to $10.43 billion and profit of 64 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“Mall traffic may cease in coming weeks and fixed costs and future inventory markdowns create an almost impossible modeling exercise globally,” said John Kernan, who is a five-star rated analyst for the accuracy of his earnings estimates on Nike.

Nike shares fell nearly 16% amid plunging broader markets. The stock has lost a third of its value since the start of the year.

Almost 170,000 people have been infected by the virus globally and millions more have seen their lives turned upside down due to “social distancing” and clamp-downs on gatherings of large groups become the new norm.

Major sporting leagues such as the NBA and the NFL have also suspended their seasons, while companies including Nike, Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU.O) and Under Armour Inc (UAA.N) have shut stores in North America and other markets in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“There are parallels between the coronavirus impact on Nike and other brands from the cancellation of major sporting events with the impact on travel companies from the U.S. travel ban,” Jonathan Treiber, a retail-industry sales expert and the CEO of marketing platform provider RevTrax.

Meanwhile London-based Woozle Research estimates Nike could be robbed of more than $5.5 billion in revenue over the next three to six months.

The company’s global sales is already estimated to be down 21% between mid-February and March 10, according to about 120 major wholesalers and distributors of Nike products in China, Europe and North America polled by the research firm.

Nike’s revenue last fiscal year totaled about $39.12 billion.

“People don’t want to spend $150 or $200 on a pair of VaporFly Nike trainers right now,” one of the respondents told George Mosley, senior equity analyst at Woozle, which is contracted by firms including hedge fund Citadel and private equity firm KKR to conduct research on companies they are invested in.

Nike’s largest rival, Adidas, said last week it expected first-quarter sales to drop by up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in greater China, and overall to fall more than 10%.

Nike, which reports third-quarter results next week, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has already warned of a financial impact to its China business.

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Top court rules that Putin move to amend constitution to run again for president is legal

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Constitutional Court on Monday ruled that President Vladimir Putin’s proposed changes to the constitution that could allow him to remain in power until 2036 were in line with Russian law.

Putin last week backed an amendment that would allow him to ignore a constitutional ban on him running again for president in 2024.

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Edmonton-area ski hills shut down for the season in response to coronavirus

Three ski hills in the Edmonton region have shut down for the season early in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The announcements to close on Sunday came from from Rabbit Hill, Snow Valley and Sunridge ski resorts.

Rabbit Hill, located southwest of Edmonton near Devon, posted the announcement on its website, saying the decision was made after the City of Edmonton decided to shut down all rec centres and attractions.

“We feel this is the responsible decision for both our guest and our staff,” Rabbit Hill said in a statement.

Snow Valley, located off Whitemud Drive in south Edmonton, posted an update Sunday where it announced it would also be shutting down for the season.

It also said it was making the decision based on the city’s closures.

Sunridge in northeast Edmonton had announced its closure on Saturday, in a post on its website. It said that the last day of the season would be Sunday, March 15, and would close afterwards due to the “evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus.”

The hills had intended to stay open until the end of March: Rabbit Hill had listed the end of season as March 25, Snow Valley had intended to run until March 27. Sunridge had its regular season end listed as “mid-March.”

Several of the larger ski resorts in the province remain in operation: Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park remains open and operational, as does Sunshine Village in Banff National Park.

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Zero rates, zero impact: Fed & co fail to calm markets

LONDON (Reuters) – Stock markets and oil prices continued to nose-dive on Monday after the second emergency cut in U.S. interest rates in as many weeks — effectively to zero — and supportive measures from all corners failed to quell coronavirus fears.

The drastic manoeuvres were aimed at cushioning the economic impact as the breakneck spread of the coronavirus all but shut down more countries, but they did little to calm panicky investors worried about firms surviving a prolonged recession.

European stocks plunged close to 10% in brutal trading conditions that also sent volatility gauges surging to record highs and had Wall Street traders expecting more major damage when U.S. markets reopen.

Futures had quickly hit their down limits overnight but the SPDR S&P 500 exchange traded fund was pointing down 10%, while shares of Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup fell between 14% and 17% in premarket trading. Technology heavyweights such Apple, Microsoft and Amazon were together set to lose over $400 billion in market value.

“The central banks threw the kitchen sink at it yesterday evening yet here we are (with deep falls in stock markets),” said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes.

“There is a great sense that central banks are going to get to grips with the issues of getting money flowing … But the human problem, the macro problem, there is nothing they can do about that.”

Almost everything was walloped. Oil, already reeling from a price war, slumped 11% to almost $30 a barrel, metals buckled and even traditional safe-haven gold dropped 5% as investors fretted about the impact its global demand.

There were moves in Europe to curb short-selling of stocks, while bond markets tried to juggle both the risk to vulnerable countries but also that a fiscal spending splurge might impact safe-haven debt.

The Fed’s emergency 100 basis point rate cut on Sunday was matched by a restarting of its quantitative easing (QE) money printing programme and more cheap U.S. dollar funding to ease a ruinous logjam in global lending markets.

That was followed on Monday by further policy easing from the Bank of Japan in the form of a pledge to ramp up purchases of exchange-traded funds and other risky assets.

New Zealand’s central bank shocked by cutting rates 75 basis points to 0.25%, while the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) pumped more money into its financial system. South Korea and Kuwait both lowered rates, while Russia and Germany were throwing together multi-billion dollar anti-crisis funds.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said G7 leaders would hold a teleconference at 1400 GMT to discuss the crisis.

With global travel grinding to a standstill, Europe’s travel and leisure stocks index has halved in value in roughly three weeks. The drastic shock to demand delivered to airlines and travel companies maybe replicated elsewhere.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan tumbled 5.2% to lows not seen since early 2017, while the Nikkei fell 2.5% as the BoJ’s easing steps failed to reassure markets.

Chinese data underscored just how much economic damage the disease has already done to the world’s second-largest economy, with official numbers showing the worst drops in activity on record. Industrial output plunged 13.5% and retail sales 20.5%.

In Asia, Shanghai blue chips fell 4.3% overnight even as China’s central bank surprised with a fresh round of liquidity injections into the financial system. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 4%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 plunged, finishing down 9.7% — its steepest fall since the 1987 crash.

“By any historical standard, the scale and scope of these actions was extraordinary,” said Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income, who helps manage $1.3 trillion in assets. “This is dramatic action and truly does represent a bazooka.

“Even so, markets were expecting extraordinary action, so it remains to be seen whether the announcement will meaningfully shift market sentiment.”

Sheets emphasised investors wanted to see a lot more U.S. fiscal stimulus and evidence the Trump administration was responding vigorously and effectively to the public health challenges posed by the crisis.

(Graphic: Coronavirus pummels markets, here)


Wall Street’s worries were raised after New York and Los Angeles both ordered bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas to shut to combat the spread of the coronavirus, mirroring similar measures in Asia and Europe.

Markets have been severely strained as bankers, companies and individual investors stampede into cash and safe-haven assets while selling profitable positions to raise money to cover losses in savaged equities.

To ease the dislocation, the Fed cut interest rates by a full percentage point on Sunday to a target range of 0% to 0.25%, its second cut this month, and promised to expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in coming weeks.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been haranguing the Fed to ease policy, called the move “terrific” and “very good news”.

The Fed’s rate cut combined with the promise of more bond-buying pushed U.S. 10-year Treasury yields down sharply as low as 0.63% from 0.95% late on Friday, though they were back up to 0.76% in early U.S. trading.

In Europe, Spanish and Portuguese 10-year bond yields rose to 9-1/2 month highs at 0.74% and 0.93% respectively, up as much as 13 basis points on the day.

French 10-year yields also soared as much as 14 basis points to 3-1/2 month highs at 0.14%, while Italian 10-year yields were up 17 basis points at 1.98% having briefly touched 2%.

“The momentum we’ve seen in the periphery is largely to do with the sentiment towards debt metrics in countries which after many, many years of quantitative easing and existing central bank support within the euro zone, are going into another fairly significant if not larger crisis than the one before,” said Rabobank strategist Matt Cairns.

The fall in U.S. Treasury yields pounded the dollar. It was last down 1.9% on the Japanese yen at 106.01, marking its second-biggest fall since May 2017 following a bigger drop last week. The euro went up as far as 1% to $1.1212.

The commodity-exposed Australian dollar fell as much as 0.3% to $0.6166 while the New Zealand dollar slipped 0.2% to $0.6044.

Oil plunge left Brent crude off $3.20, or 9.5% at $30.70 per barrel while U.S. crude slipped $2 to just below $30 a barrel.

(Graphic: World stocks plunge on virus worries, here)

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Man demands keys, drives off with woman’s car: Hamilton police

Hamilton police are looking for a man who officers say drove off with a car after he reportedly demanded the keys from a driver near Locke Street North and York Boulevard on Friday night.

Investigators say the alleged incident happened around 8:30 p.m. when a woman was approached by a man after parking her car.

After starting a conversation, the man allegedly demanded the keys and drove off with the subcompact car while the woman and a passenger fled to call police at a nearby home.

The vehicle is a silver 2006 Toyota Matrix with Ontario licence plate 107YEX, according to police.

Earlier that day, police believe the same man attempted to steal a Dodge Ram pickup truck in the parking lot of Dundurn Plaza.

About a half-hour before, police say a man tried to enter the truck with a woman sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle near the intersection of Dundurn Street South and Main Street West.

The suspect was reportedly chased off by the woman’s husband, who police say was exiting a store at the time of the alleged attempted robbery.

The man was last seen running eastbound as he crossed Dundurn Street, according to police.

In both instances, police say the complainants gave similar descriptions of a man who was around five feet 10 inches tall, had a slim build and was wearing a dark-coloured hoodie and dark-coloured pants.

Investigators say the suspect may have been carrying a handgun.

Anyone with information can call Hamilton police at 905-546-3817, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or submit a tip online.

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Coronavirus: China relaxes travel rules in Wuhan

China is relaxing travel bans in Hubei province, including Wuhan – the city where coronavirus broke out.

Thousands of workers are being sent back to jobs at factories in a drive to get production going again.

Buses are being chartered in satellite cities outside Wuhan, according to the official Xinhua News Agency,

They will take residents who returned home for Chinese New Year in late January back to work in the city where the virus that has now spread across the world originated.

Chinese officials say the outbreak that spread from Wuhan in December has mostly run its course domestically.

But they insist they are remaining vigilant of anyone who could be carrying the virus back into the country.

The outbreak of coronavirus had a devastating effect on China’s service sector and industries from cars to mobile phones.

But President Xi Jinping has pledged economic growth targets for the year will still be met.

Meanwhile, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough.

Older adults and people with existing health problems are more at risk of the virus causing severe illness, including pneumonia.

So far 35 people with the virus in the UK have died and there are 1,372 confirmed cases.

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EU executive warns against border closures as way to curb coronavirus

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries must take care not to damage food and medicine supply lines as they slap on border restrictions in the drive to curb the spread of coronavirus, the EU’s executive arm said on Monday.

From Portugal in the west to economic powerhouse Germany to Hungary in the east, EU countries have tightened frontier controls across the normally open-border Schengen zone which includes most member states as well as non-members Switzerland and Norway.

“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding disruptions to the free movement of persons, and the delivery of goods and essential services across Europe,” the European Commission said in a note to the 27 member states.

“The implementation of… checks of persons and goods should be governed by the principle of solidarity between member states,” said the new border management guidelines, which the Commission circulated to national capitals on Monday and which were seen by Reuters.

Member states’ ambassadors to Brussels will discuss the matter when they meet in person at 1800 GMT. Most other policy discussions in the EU are now conducted by videoconference, including a call between European leaders scheduled for Tuesday on the health and ensuing economic crises.

With the official death toll in Italy now at nearly 1,300 cases and at about 300 in Spain, the Commission’s calls for unity and solidarity have been falling largely on deaf ears as each nation tries to fend for itself, and reports spread of cars and trucks getting stuck at what are normally invisible borders.

The Commission said suspending freedom of movement for people, goods and services – fundamental principles of the EU Single Market – risked exacerbating panic buying and aggravating the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“In order to avoid shortages and a worsening of the social and economic difficulties that all European countries are already experiencing, maintaining the functioning of the Single Market is key,” the Commission said.

For the EU’s external borders, the Commission health has recommended screening measures for incoming and outgoing travellers.

A French government source said the EU would announce moves to beef up its external borders later in the day.

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Coronavirus: Alberta’s places of worship differ in COVID-19 responses

Places of worship across Alberta are taking different steps when it comes to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Some have already shut down services or have excusing seniors from attending mass and others will be making a decision in the coming days.

Places of worship were initially exempt from Alberta’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, but on Sunday, Alberta’s top doctor said that’s no longer the case.

“We now have evidence that community transmission is occurring,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“Effective immediately, all places of worship are now being asked to follow the same restrictions.”

David Cay, an associate pastor with the Lighthouse Community Church in Calgary, said his church has already cancelled in-person services — opting instead for a livestream.

“It felt like it was important to do our part in helping contain the spread,” Cay said.

“We felt like it was the best way to love our neighbours and love our communities.”

Cay said protecting seniors and children was a driving factor to cancel services.

“My parents are in their 60s right now, so I’m really worried about them,” said Cay. “I just think it is just the best thing to do and to do our part.”

He also hopes other preachers take similar steps to protect their congregations, while still coming together during a tough time.

Anglican Diocese

On Saturday, the Anglican Diocese of Calgary announced on its website that all public services are suspended until March 31.

In a letter, Leighton Lee, the dean of Calgary, said the demographics of churchgoers factored into the decision.

“Please understand that this decision hasn’t been arrived at lightly,” said Lee.

“But given the fact … that many members of our congregations are part of the vulnerable sector, the only prudent response is to suspend services of worship. We have a duty to protect them.”

The Anglican Diocese of Edmonton has also posted on its website that churches will not be gathering for public worship for the next while.

It listed a number of churches that will be livestreaming services and linked to online sermons.

Catholic Diocese

William McGratten, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, wrote a letter to his parishioners regarding masses happening on March 15.

In the letter, McGratten said masses will still go ahead as scheduled, but excused Calgary Catholics from attending.

“In the light of the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus a pandemic with sustained risk of further global spread, the need to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the Faithful and to ease the distress they may endure, I, William T. McGrattan, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, dispense those Catholics in the Diocese of Calgary from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass on March 14th and 15th,” McGratten wrote.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton posted a COVID-19 update on Friday which also said that parishes should continue with weekday and Sunday masses for the time being, but that attendees should take extra precautions.

“Out of consideration for the well-being of others in the community, Archbishop Smith advises that the elderly, anyone with an underlying health condition, and those who feel even slightly unwell are excused from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton also told churchgoers to refrain from shaking hands.

Muslim community

Imams and members of Calgary’s Muslim community are meeting on Tuesday to decide if Friday prayers will be cancelled moving forward.

Jamal Hammoud, a senior Imam in Calgary, said he expects prayers to be cancelled but that the mosque will remain open for community support.

Mostafa Hassan, the chair of the Muslim Council of Calgary, said Edmonton mosques will most likely follow suit.

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Coronavirus shock: Scientist’s warning to Wuhan lab in 2017 exposed

Last week, Iran’s former President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stunned the world with his COVID-19 claims, as he stated: “It is clear to the world that the mutated coronavirus was produced in a lab,” echoing US Senator Tom Cotton’s comments last month. The Wuhan Institute of Virology, a level four biosafety laboratory around 12 miles from the seafood market, marks the epicentre of the outbreak. China installed the first of a planned five to seven biolabs designed for maximum safety in Wuhan in 2017, for the purpose of studying the most high-risk pathogens, including Ebola and SARS, but the move worried one expert over the culture in the communist state.

Tim Trevan, a biosafety consultant, told Nature in 2017: “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important.”

But lab director Yuan Zhiming defended the institution, saying that measures have been introduced to promote more openness.

He said in 2017: “We tell them the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done.

“Transparency is the basis of the lab.”

Monkeys can run, they can scratch, they can bite

Richard Ebright

In 2004, the World Health Organisation confirmed SARS – a distant relative of COVID-19 – had escaped a Beijing lab twice, via two separate workers.

A spokesman said: “We suspect two people, a 26-year-old female postgraduate student and a 31-year-old male postdoc, were both infected, apparently in two separate incidents.”

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, noted this incident before the opening of the Wuhan lab as a cause for concern.

He was not convinced there was a need for another lab in mainland China and the prospect of ramping up opportunities to inject monkeys with pathogens also worried him.

He added: “They can run, they can scratch, they can bite.”

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He also questioned whether the Wuhan lab was entirely focused on research, stating: “These facilities are inherently dual-use.”

However, speaking more recently, Dr Ebright clarified to “At this point, there’s no reason to harbour suspicions.”

The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, housed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was set up in the hope of helping China contribute to research on the world’s most dangerous viruses. 

Constructed in 2015, the lab was still undergoing safety testing, but near ready to open in 2017. 

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It was the first-ever lab in the country designed to meet biosafety-level-4 (BSL-4) standards, the highest biohazard level, meaning that it would be qualified to handle the most dangerous pathogens. 

BSL-4 labs have to be equipped with airtight hazmat suits or special workspaces that confine viruses and bacteria that can be transmitted through the air to sealed boxes that scientists reach into using attached high-grade gloves. 

There are about 54 BSL-4 labs worldwide. 

China’s first, in Wuhan, received federal accreditation in January 2017. 

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Schengen deal crumbles: Nine EU countries close borders as 170million citizens on lockdown

Nearly 170 million people have been ordered to remain in their homes as France and Spain joined Italy in enforcing strict quarantine rules amid the deadly viral outbreak. No fewer than nine EU countries have introduced drastic measures in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus over the coming weeks. Spain issued a state of emergency, leaving many British tourists trapped in their hotel rooms, with prime minister Pedro Sanchez announcing on Saturday evening that people could only leave their homes to buy groceries and pharmaceutical products, go to the bank or hospital, or take care of relatives.

It is only the second such time the special powers have been used since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Its government announced yesterday the death toll had risen by more than 150 to 292, and more than 2,000 new cases were registered, bringing the total to 7,844.

Mr Sanchez warned: “From now on we enter into a new phase. We won’t hesitate in doing what we need to beat the virus. We are putting health first.”

France is also planning on tougher sanctions after senior politicians were infuriated by citizens ignoring their calls to cut out socialising and unnecessary trips.

Prime minister Edouard Philippe said: “The first measures that we took, curbing public gatherings were imperfectly applied.

“The best way to slow the epidemic is staying away from people. We must absolutely limit our movements.”

The country had already shut bars, restaurants, museums and non-essential shops over the weekend in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

But President Emmanuel Macron flirted with danger after allowing nationwide municipal elections to go ahead. He insisted the virus must not harm democracy.

Measures were put in place to keep voters at a safe distance from one another and sanitise surfaces.

There are 5,437 cases in France, with some 300 in a serious condition and 127 deaths.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer claimed between 50 and 70 percent of the country would contract coronavirus.

He said: “It is precisely that which will put an end to the virus since it will create a sort of majority immunity so the virus will die out by itself.”

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Fears continue to grow for Italy, the worst affected country outside China, where the virus originated.

Doctors said hospitals were at the “point of no return” as cases continue to rise.

The death toll had reached 1,809 by yesterday, increasing some 368 in a day, the largest daily rise to date.

The total number of cases continued to rise, reaching 24,747 after a jump of 3,590 in 24 hours.

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Lombardy, which is at the centre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, is running out of intensive care beds after shouldering more than half of the country’s cases.

Germany, a country famed for keeping its borders, open has decided to partially shut its frontiers with Austria, France, Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The border will remain open to cross-border commuters and goods, but interior minister Horst Seehofer warned citizens “not to undertake non-compulsory trips”.

He said: “The situation is very serious.

“As long as there’s no European solution, you must act in the interest of your own population… those who don’t act are guilty.”

Mr Seehofer said the virus was advancing “quickly and aggressively”, claiming the outbreak’s “peak” was yet to come.

Germany saw a rise in 402 new cases, increasing the total to 6,215 with 13 deaths.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz has ordered citizens to remain in their homes unless they need to buy essential supplies, or supply healthcare to those in need.

Belgium and the Netherlands have ordered all bars and restaurants to close their doors, and all non-essential shops, excluding supermarkets and pharmacies, must close at weekends.

Schools and universities have both been closed for at least three weeks as part of the coronavirus crackdown.

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