Chevron, the American oil giant, said on Monday that it had agreed to acquire Noble Energy, a Houston-based oil and gas explorer with an international dimension, for $5 billion.
Smaller oil and gas firms have been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, making them look like potential bargains. Noble’s share price is down about 60 percent from the beginning of the year, allowing Chevron to buy its oil and gas resources at a low cost. Chevron, based in San Ramon, Calif., said the deal would add around 18 percent to its oil and gas reserves at a cost of less than $5 a barrel.
“This is a cost-effective opportunity for Chevron,” said Michael Wirth, the company’s chairman and chief executive.
Noble would bring Chevron properties in shale drilling regions in the United States.
The deal would also give Chevron a leading position in potentially lucrative if politically daunting natural gas fields that have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Noble has led the way in developing resources in Israeli waters, shrugging off geopolitical risks that once kept other companies out.
Noble has also made a discovery off Cyprus, where western companies are looking for gas, but where a simmering dispute between Cyprus and Turkey presents an obstacle to developing the island’s resources.
Last year, Chevron agreed to acquire Anadarko Petroleum, another explorer, but opted for taking a $1 billion termination fee when Occidental Petroleum topped its bid.
United Airlines said on Monday that it would step up air filtration as passengers board and disembark to give people more confidence in air travel during the pandemic. Airlines are losing tens of millions of dollars every day and are this week will offer an outlook on what is expected to be a long and uneven recovery.
“The quality of the air, combined with a strict mask policy and regularly disinfected surfaces, are the building blocks towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 on an airplane,” the airline’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, said in a statement. “We expect that air travel is not likely to get back to normal until we’re closer to a widely administered vaccine — so we’re in this for the long haul.”
United, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines will report financial results from the second quarter in the next few days. Last week, Delta Air Lines said its revenue during those three months fell about 88 percent compared with the same period last year.
Industrywide, passenger traffic had slowly recovered in May and June, but that rebound stalled in recent weeks as infections surged and governments placed quarantine restrictions on people arriving in their states. On Sunday, nearly 750,000 people filtered past federal airport security checkpoints, about 27 percent of the number screened last year.
Under the new policy announced on Monday, United plans to leave its high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filtration systems running as passengers get on and off most planes. The move is intended to maximize air flow.
“HEPA filters are an effective way to ensure clean air on an aircraft,” said Dr. James Merlino of the Cleveland Clinic, which is advising United on its cleaning and safety practices.
To address passenger concerns, Delta and Southwest have said that they will limit the number of passengers on their flights through at least September in an effort to leave middle seats empty. United, which is not capping flights, has described such policies as public relations stunts. American has also stopped limiting the number passengers on its flights.
Of course, neither filtered air nor an empty adjacent seat are enough to guarantee protection from germs spread by other nearby passengers at the gate, during boarding or in flight.
On average, only about 38 percent of the seats aboard United flights were occupied in May. That figure rose to 57 percent in June and is expected to fall to 45 percent this month. The airline plans to announce its quarterly results on Tuesday.
Marks & Spencer, the British high-street retailer, said it would cut 950 jobs as the company speeds up a restructuring plan, adding to a wave of job losses hitting some of the nation’s largest stores in the wake of the pandemic.
The cuts will be in its head office and in stores. The company said on Monday that the accelerated plan, intended to squeeze three years of change into a single year, would make store managers more accountable for profits and losses and customer service. “Through the crisis we have seen how we can work faster and more flexibly by empowering store teams and it’s essential that we embed that way of working,” Sacha Berendji, director of retail, operations and property, said in a statement.
M&S had been struggling before the government-imposed lockdown evaporated in-store sales. The company’s pretax profit for the year to March was down more than 20 percent compared with the previous year, and the retailer had already closed more than 50 stores in recent years.
Last month, stores in Britain were allowed to reopen but footfall in retails spots, such as high streets and shopping centers, was still down 40 percent from a year earlier in mid-July. Boots and John Lewis, two other larger retailers in Britain, announced plans to cut more than 5,000 jobs earlier this month. Ted Baker, the fashion retailer, is also planning to cut a quarter of its work force, about 500 jobs, The Sunday Times reported.
Stocks on Wall Street drifted between gains and losses on Monday, as lawmakers in the United States prepared to begin negotiations this week over the next coronavirus aid package.
Shares in Europe were also mixed as leaders there zeroed in on their own economic rescue package.
With the coronavirus resurgent across the United States, and many state governments reimposing restrictions on commerce, the prospects for government assistance to unemployed workers, small businesses and state governments could dominate sentiment in financial markets this week.
Investors will also hear from more companies this week about the state of their businesses, as corporate earnings reports for the three months through June continue to roll in. Reports are expected from Microsoft, Twitter, American Express, Chipotle, Hershey and United Airlines, among others.
Lawmakers in Washington are about to embark on an intense week of negotiations over what would be the fourth significant bailout package since the virus shuttered large swaths of the U.S. economy earlier this year. The talks come as millions of Americans are about to see their expanded unemployment insurance benefits expire.
The House, controlled by Democrats, has signaled that it wants $3 trillion in aid, while the Republican-controlled Senate appears to want something around $1 trillion. President Trump has said he’s interested in including a payroll tax cut in the next round of aid.
In Europe, leaders held talks through the weekend about a proposed rescue package of 750 million euros, or $860 million, to support member countries dealing with the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A few leaders of the 27-member bloc believe the total amount of aid is too big, and that it should be distributed to governments as loans, rather than grants. But after a third negotiating session broke up Monday morning, and a fourth session scheduled for later in the day, there were signs that a compromise was in the works.
Chief executives of major American companies are bracing for prolonged pain as the pandemic keeps squeezing the economy.
Arne Sorenson of Marriott International said he was “less optimistic than I was 30 days ago.” Ed Bastian of Delta Air Lines said he was now taking a “more cautious view.” Julia Hartz of Eventbrite said she was expecting “one step forward, two steps back.”
As coronavirus cases spike in the South and West, many top executives believe that reopening plans will be disrupted and a return to normalcy will be difficult, especially amid high unemployment and the lack of a vaccine.
Executives from CVS and Chipotle have weighed in on how best to proceed, pushing for more mask-wearing and a boost in government aid in the form of expanded jobless benefits and small business support. “Getting this wrong — overreacting or acting irresponsibly — could be far more devastating to the global economy and the health of Americans,” said Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase.
Ant Group, the financial affiliate of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, said Monday that it was planning an initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The I.P.O. is expected to be big — the company was valued at $150 billion two years go — and it offers a ray of light for Hong Kong, which has struggled under the dual uncertainties of the pandemic and a new national security law.
Ant did not give a timing for the listing, but in a statement, it cited the innovation in both stock markets as the reason for its choice. Although not as well known as Alibaba, Ant has grown huge as a provider of payments, investments and loans to Alibaba’s hundreds of millions of customers.
For years bankers, investors and employees alike have awaited a listing by Ant, which is controlled by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. The company grew out of Alibaba’s payment platform, Alipay, which Mr. Ma broke off from Alibaba after what he said was regulatory pressure from Beijing in 2011. Mr. Ma has long said that he hoped to take the company public in China.
For Hong Kong, the prospect of a new mega listing offers potential consolation after China’s new national security law has raised questions about its continued status as a global financial hub. The law, which gives broad powers to Beijing, could be used to force multinational corporations and banks to hand over all manner of data to authorities.
Ant competes primarily with China’s other internet giant, Tencent, to provide payments and other financial services to China’s hundreds of millions of smartphone users.
Delta Air Lines said it would require passengers unable to wear face masks because of health conditions to undergo a medical clearance at the airport before boarding — or the passengers should “reconsider travel” altogether.
The policy is an addition to Delta’s rules that call on passengers to wear face masks at check-in, boarding gates and during the flight. It follows reports of some passengers on U.S. airlines failing to wear masks onboard and air staff not enforcing them.
“Customers with health conditions or disabilities that explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel or should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process,” the statement said.
The screening process will take place before departure at the airport and can exceed an hour, the airline said. Should passengers falsify health claims, the statement said, they risk being barred from the airline until masks are no longer required.
Delta in July is running only 30 percent of its normal flight schedule.
The carrier’s pilots union said that 2,235 of Delta’s 14,000 pilots volunteered for early retirement during a sign-up period that ended Sunday night. It was not immediately clear how that would affect the nearly 2,600 pilots who were warned of a possible furlough weeks ago.
On Friday, the airline told its pilots that it could avoid a furlough for a year if they agreed to a 15 percent cut to guaranteed pay, a move that the union criticized as circumventing official negotiations.
The outdoor equipment co-op REI is facing a backlash over its handling of coronavirus cases among its employees, with some nervous workers pushing for more transparency as stores reopen.
An employee at a store in Grand Rapids, Mich., told colleagues about testing positive on July 2 for Covid-19 — a result that managers did not acknowledge to workers until July 9, several days after the store had reopened. The employee described being asked to stay quiet about the positive test.
REI changed its notification policy on Tuesday to allow managers to inform employees of known Covid-19 cases among their colleagues, after employees created an online petition accusing the co-op of prioritizing sales above workers. Eric Artz, the chief executive, said in a companywide meeting last week that there were 18 active Covid-19 cases across some 13,000 employees.
REI, which has gradually reopened its stores after shutting all of them down in March, is one of many retailers struggling to establish pandemic protocols that balance privacy and safety. “This situation and its challenges are incredibly fluid,” said Rob Discher, an REI spokesperson.
More than 90 companies listed on the S&P 500 report their latest earnings this week. So far, 73 percent of blue-chip companies that have released second-quarter results beat analyst expectations, according to FactSet. Can they keep it up?
⚡️ Technology, media and telecom: IBM (Monday); Snap and Texas Instruments (Tuesday); Microsoft and Rogers Communications (Wednesday); AT&T, Intel and Twitter (Thursday); Verizon and Vodafone (Friday).
💰 Finance: Capital One and UBS (Tuesday); Nasdaq (Wednesday); Blackstone and Travelers (Thursday); American Express (Friday).
🥤 Food and beverages: Coca-Cola (Tuesday); Chipotle (Wednesday); Hershey and Unilever (Thursday).
💊 Pharma and health care: Novartis (Tuesday); Biogen and HCA (Wednesday).
✈️ 🚄🚗 Planes, trains and automobiles: Lockheed Martin and United Airlines (Tuesday), CSX and Tesla (Wednesday); American Airlines, Daimler, Hyundai, Southwest Airlines and Union Pacific (Thursday); Honeywell (Friday).
In other news …
🏛 The Senate Banking Committee votes on Tuesday to advance the nominations of Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Since their hearings in February, the economists’ nominations have been held up because of qualms about Ms. Shelton’s unorthodox economic views.
👩🏭 The release on Thursday of data on weekly jobless claims will be noteworthy because it covers the survey period for the monthly jobs report. There are signs that the post-pandemic improvement in labor markets has stalled, with some states reporting a rise in claims in recent weeks.
Dan Feder, a graphic designer in Los Angeles, and his husband, Don Bacigalupi, a museum director, wanted to move closer to their teenage son’s school when pandemic lockdowns showed they could avoid a commute across town by working from home. But they worried about making a mistake in an uncertain economy.
“With so many unknown variables in the world, we wanted as much information as we could get before moving forward with such a large financial decision,” Mr. Feder said.
Buying a home under any circumstances can be stressful. But with some buyers looking to improve their lives during the pandemic and others trying to flee congested cities for greater space in the suburbs, the rush to move could cause unexpected problems.
The pandemic has created interrelated dynamics that make the process more complex. Some buyers want out of their city apartments, having already been cooped up in them for months this winter. If they have children, they may be acting quickly to get settled before the school year starts.
There are also deals in cities for those with cash and a strong stomach. Some of those purchases, costing millions of dollars, have been made through online scrolling and Zoom walk-throughs. But when purchases are driven by video, what catches the eye sells, and flaws can be missed.