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Trade Deficit Widens to $67.1 Billion, a 14-Year High

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The Port of Oakland in California in September. The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services continued to climb in August, growing 5.9 percent from the previous month to $67.1 billion.
Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services continued to climb in August, growing 5.9 percent from the previous month to $67.1 billion, the highest level since 2006, as American imports outpaced exports.

The United States exported $171.9 billion of goods and services in August, compared with imports of $239 billion. The trade deficit in goods rose to $83.9 billion in August, the highest level on record.

The rising trade deficit comes at an inconvenient moment for the Trump administration, which is eager to declare victory on its trade agenda as the election approaches. Economists caution against using the trade deficit as a measure of the economy’s health, but President Trump views the figure as a measure of his success in rewriting trade deals in the United States’ favor.

The overall U.S. trade deficit shrank last year for the first time in six years as the American economy cooled and the trade war Mr. Trump waged against China bit into imports. But the trade deficit is once again trending upward this year, as the growth in imported goods outpaces exports.

The hefty tariffs that Mr. Trump placed on more than $360 billion of Chinese products has caused the trade deficit with China to shrink, though Americans have switched to importing products from other countries instead.

In August, the trade deficit with China fell $1.9 billion to $26.4 billion, as exports rose and imports remained flat. But the trade deficit with Mexico hit a record of $12.8 billion.

An Apple store on Regent Street in London. Shares of some technology companies fell after it was reported that Apple would stop selling third-party audio equipment on its website and in its stores.
Credit…Teresa Eng for The New York Times
  • European stocks started Tuesday slightly weaker and futures indicated stocks on Wall Street would open lower, halting Monday’s rally when stocks rose after investors saw signs that a U.S. fiscal stimulus deal was within reach.

  • Asian markets closed higher. The Nikkei in Japan rose 0.5 percent and Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.9 percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 was flat and the benchmark indexes in Britain, France and Germany were mixed.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to speak again on Tuesday to try to break the impasse over another round of fiscal stimulus. On Monday, they had an hourlong phone call and said they would share more documents between them as part of the negotiations.

  • President Trump left hospital late on Monday and returned to the White House, where he still has 24-hour medical care. The White House physician said the president “may not entirely be out of the woods yet,” and that it would be another week until doctors could be sure.

  • “President Trump may have left hospital, but it’s not given financial markets a major shot in the arm,” Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said. “There is a wait-and-see attitude settling over the market with investors still nervous about the chances of a contested outcome of the U.S. presidential election.” In the meantime, investors are still hoping new stimulus will be agreed, she added.

  • Some technology shares fell after Bloomberg reported that Apple would stop selling third-party audio equipment on its website and in its stores. Shares in Logitech, a Swiss-based maker of peripherals including speakers, fell more than 5 percent, and Sonos, the maker of a wireless speakers based in California, slumped 2 percent in premarket trading.

  • Oil prices rose extending Monday’s gain of more than 6 percent. Shares in British oil and gas company Premier Oil surged after it was announced thatChrysaor would take over the company and form the largest producer in the North Sea.

  • Even in a pandemic that caused record-breaking recessions around the world, luxury watches still sell. Shares in Watches of Switzerland Group surged more than 20 percent after the company, which sells luxury watches by Rolex, Cartier and TAG Heuer, among others, reported better-than-expected revenue and revised upward its earnings guidance for the rest of the year.

  • On Monday, stocks on Wall Street rallied, with the S&P 500 gaining 1.8 percent. The gains accelerated Monday afternoon after Mr. Trump tweeted that he would be leaving the hospital, where he has been since late Friday. Technology stocks outpaced the broader market, with the Nasdaq composite gaining more than 2 percent.

Movie theaters remain shut in New York, one of several reasons the industry is under pressure.
Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

Hollywood studios are delaying blockbuster films, and its taking a big toll on the cinema business.

On Monday, Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, one of the largest theater chains in the country, said it would temporarily close its 663 theaters in the United States and Britain this week. The decision affects 40,000 employees in the United States and 5,000 more in Britain, and raises questions about what other chains will do if Hollywood’s release schedule remains barren.

AMC said on Tuesday that it would not be following Regal’s lead. More than 80 percent of the chain’s theaters in the United States are open, and the company plans to open additional theaters, particularly in New York and California, when allowed to by state and county officials. “Fortunately for AMC, our groundbreaking agreement with Universal Studios announced earlier this summer puts AMC in a position where we can open our theaters when others may feel the need to close,” said AMC’s president and chief executive, Adam Aron.

Here are just a few of the movies that have been delayed.

  • Late last week, MGM/Universal announced that it was delaying the release of the new James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” until next year, the latest in a slew of big-budget movies that have been moved out of 2020 by Hollywood studios.

  • Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” whose Labor Day weekend release was intended to herald the return of movie theaters, continues to struggle at the U.S. box office, at least in part because audiences are wary of theaters.

  • Warner Bros. is postponing releasing the remake of “Dune,” once scheduled for December, until Oct. 1, 2021, according to two people familiar with the studio’s plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been made public. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

  • Still hopeful for 2020 is “Wonder Woman 1984,” though Warner Bros. has already delayed its release from October to Christmas Day. “Soul,” the latest from the Walt Disney Company’s Pixar animation studio, is scheduled for a Nov. 20 release.

Apparently not the best way to track Covid-19 cases.

Nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus cases recently went unrecorded in England’s tracking system, officials said on Monday. The glitch led to an undercount of the country’s tally and a delay in tracing infected people’s contacts, leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark about their potential exposure.

The culprit was a spreadsheet snafu, explains today’s DealBook newsletter. Specifically, the system relied on files formatted for an older version of Microsoft Excel, which can only handle a certain number of cells. When key files got too big, thousands of entries were skipped. To fix the problem, large files are now split before feeding them into the system — in other words, more spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets’ power comes from their flexibility, which also makes them dangerous. Mistakes managing spreadsheets have thwarted genetic research, enabled billion-dollar trading losses and led to misguided notions about fiscal austerity. The European Spreadsheet Risks Interests Group, which has been holding conferences about the perils of spreadsheet applications for the past 20 years, maintains an extensive list of other horror stories.

That England’s much-maligned test-and-trace system succumbed to such a mundane error — and that it relied so heavily on spreadsheets at all — led to geeky humor on social media that might be amusing, if it weren’t so serious.

After tourism dried up, the InterContinental in Times Square was transformed into housing for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients.
Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Across the country, as the hospitality industry grapples with a severe downturn, hotels have been trying to reinvent themselves — as schools, emergency housing, wedding halls or homeless shelters — even as the new uses may come up short on revenue.

There are signs of financial distress. In New York, 44 hotel loans backed by bonds totaling $1.2 billion are delinquent, according to September data from Trepp, an analytics firm. In second place was Houston, with 39 delinquent loans at $682 million, followed by Chicago with 29 at $990 million.

Though a foreclosure would not necessarily cause a hotel to close, many analysts do not expect the industry to fully recover till 2023. Many hotels are doing what they can to hang on:

  • The 607-room InterContinental Times Square in New York transformed into housing for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients.

  • Five hotels in Miami, including the Doral Inn and Suites, were designated as housing for doctors, the homeless and Covid-19 patients, for a total of more than 2,100 people from July to September, officials said.

  • At London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, a 226-unit property in Los Angeles, beds were removed to create work spaces more like boardrooms.

  • Five families rented a conference room at a Courtyard by Marriott in suburban Elmhurst, Ill., so their first-grade students could comfortably engage in remote learning.

But the money can be a pittance compared with what came before. “For some properties, just keeping the lights on could cost $1 million a month,” said Jeffrey Davis, a broker with the commercial real estate firm JLL and co-head of its hospitality group.

  • Macy’s has invested in the Swedish payments company Klarna and will become the first major U.S. department store to offer the firm’s “buy now, pay later” online shopping option, an increasingly popular payment method among younger shoppers. The size of the investment hasn’t been disclosed. Klarna said it was part of a five-year partnership that would allow Macy’s shoppers to pay for their purchases in four equal, interest-free installments.

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