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Good morning. The head of the Postal Service said he would suspend cuts until after the election. Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden for president. And as the economy staggers, the S&P 500 has hit a record high.
Despite a global pandemic and double-digit unemployment in the United States, the S&P 500 stock index reached a new high yesterday.
We asked Andrew Ross Sorkin, a business columnist and founder of The Times’s DealBook newsletter, to help us understand how the market could be doing so well amid economic devastation.
As irrational as it might seem, here’s the way investors rationalize the bullish stock market to themselves (we’ll only find out whether they are right or wrong in the future):
1. The stock market is forward-looking: Investors are betting on what the world and the economy look like in 12 to 18 months from now, not what they look like today, tomorrow or this fall.
2. The big get bigger: Much of the stock market’s success has been the result of a run-up in value for a few big technology companies — including Apple, Amazon and Microsoft — that make up a large share of the index. And retailers like Walmart and Home Depot are growing in part because small businesses have closed, allowing the bigger companies to take even more market share.
3. Betting on a vaccine: Given the daily headlines about the potential for a vaccine, investors want to be invested in the market when the news comes that there is a genuine vaccine, on the assumption that it will send stocks even higher.
4. The only game in town: With the Federal Reserve planning to print money for the foreseeable future, investors don’t want to be in cash or bonds, which are steadily losing value. So where else can they put their money? The stock market has become a default.
5. Help from Washington: As dysfunctional as Congress has proved to be, investors are betting that Republicans and Democrats will find a way to keep plying the economy with stimulus. (Anecdotal stories suggest some Americans have even taken their $600 unemployment checks and invested them in the stock market.)
Of course, all of these rationalizations don’t take into account the possibility of a terrible second or third coronavirus wave, a delay in the discovery of a vaccine, a constitutional crisis come the election in November, runaway inflation, the prospect of higher taxes to pay for the stimulus, a more significant trade war with China, or the dozens of other risks that seem to be bubbling just below — and in some cases on — the surface.
In the meantime, happy trading!
For more on the economy: Many Americans are still avoiding malls, restaurants and other businesses despite the end of strict lockdowns across much of the country, a Times analysis of cellphone data found. Their behavior suggests the economic recovery could be prolonged and uneven.
A project to help clear the drinking water supply, which was supposed to have wrapped up last year, was delayed by the pandemic. The virus has also deepened city residents’ problems, with job opportunities more scarce and violent crime spiking.
“First the water crisis, and now here comes Covid,” said one resident, who for two weeks sustained herself on oranges as she battled the virus. “We’re in double challenge mode.”
Here’s what else is happening
The captain of a ship that spilled about 1,000 tons of oil into the Indian Ocean — endangering world-renowned coral reefs and lagoons in Mauritius — was arrested on Tuesday.
A week into the fall semester, the University of Notre Dame announced that it would move to online instruction for at least the next two weeks in an attempt to control a growing coronavirus outbreak. Michigan State University also shifted its reopening plans, telling students not to return for the start of classes in two weeks.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali resigned after the country’s military mutinied Tuesday, arresting him and other government officials. The West African nation has been gripped by unrest for weeks, driven by charges that Keïta stole an election in March.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to wildfires in California, as the state battled the effects of a sweltering heat wave, rolling blackouts and the coronavirus pandemic.
Fifteen years after a bombing that killed Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, and 21 others, a U.N.-backed tribunal concluded with only a single conviction, of a minor Hezbollah figure.
Lives Lived: Gisèle Halimi was a prominent French lawyer, activist and author who championed feminist causes and human rights efforts for decades. She founded a feminist group with Simone de Beauvoir and played a key role in the decriminalization of abortion in France. She died at 93.
IDEA OF THE DAY: How to improve remote learning
Feeling overwhelmed, anxious and abandoned, the vast majority of parents across America have resigned themselves to the idea that school will be remote for some time, a new survey for The New York Times has found. That means some degree of online learning for most children after a disastrous end to the last school year that largely took place remotely.
With school from home looking like the default for the foreseeable future, here are three ideas to make it go more smoothly.
Emphasize interaction. Educators should lead videoconference sessions that give students face time with teachers and their peers, argues Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, a nonprofit online education organization. “Lesson plans designed for in-person classes don’t work in this coronavirus world,” he writes in a Times Op-Ed.
Keep lessons short. Live instruction should be broken up into smaller chunks spaced throughout the day, the education researchers Benjamin Cottingham and Alix Gallagher write in The Los Angeles Times. “Even adults have trouble videoconferencing for long stretches. For the youngest students, it is nearly impossible.”
Support parents. In the spring, “too many of our students and our young students were left home to navigate the virtual learning on their own with no support at home,” Marnie Hazelton, a New Jersey superintendent, told NJ.com. The Times survey found that one in five parents was considering hiring an in-person private teacher or tutor, though that option is largely limited to those with sufficient financial means. Ideally, schools would assign virtual counselors and tutors to ease the burden for the rest.
You can read more on this issue in the Coronavirus Schools Briefing.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, GARDEN
Make something refreshing
For a bright summer dish, make spicy cucumbers with yogurt and lemon. The simple yogurt sauce is elevated with herbs and lemon zest, then topped with cucumbers marinated in a spicy oil.
Fighting racism in the food world
Making a good jam is easy, explained Ashley Rouse, the founder of Trade Street Jam Company. The hard part, she said, is “everything that comes after.”
For Black jam makers, systemic racism across the craft food movement means obstacles in scaling their businesses, getting book deals and receiving widespread recognition. “It’s easier for white makers to get these opportunities than for people of color,” Rouse said. And if they make mistakes, “people are more willing to forgive.”
The joys of gardening on TikTok
Marcus Bridgewater — known to his fans as Garden Marcus — built a following on TikTok for his calming videos about plant care that often double as life lessons.
In one clip, he plants a sweet potato vine in a new spot to help it flourish. “It can be difficult to re-root, establish new relationships, grow beyond the old form,” he narrates, “but it can also be what’s needed to create new and healthier roots in our future.”
In a new interview, he shares some more gardening wisdom.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: One way to vote in a presidential election (five letters).