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Mortgage rates are near record lows — but many Americans will struggle to find a lender willing to give them a home loan

There’s perhaps never been a better time to take out a mortgage — at least from an interest rate perspective. But finding a bank willing to lend to you may prove tricky these days.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.90% for the week ending Sept. 24, up three basis points from the week prior, Freddie Mac FMCC, -0.52%  reported Thursday. Two weeks ago, the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to an all-time low of 2.86%.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose five basis points to an average of 2.4%, while the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage dropped six basis points to 2.9% on average.

A dovish outlook from the Federal Reserve — indicating that the central bank is likely to keep rates low for many years to come — has kept long-term bond yields low, including the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 0.656%. Mortgage rates historically roughly track the direction of the 10-year Treasury note, but since the coronavirus pandemic began, the spread between the two had widened. In recent weeks, though, the two have moved more in sync, with mortgage rates falling to meet the 10-year note.

Low mortgage rates have stoked the housing market, as they have compelled would-be buyers to speed up their timelines in order to lock in the cheap financing.

Read more:‘This is just slowing the clock on evictions’: Why the CDC’s moratorium on evictions won’t solve America’s looming $100 billion rental crisis

But finding a mortgage lender who is willing to lend to you is a more difficult than it’s been in many years. A recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry trade group, found that mortgage credit availability has dropped to the lowest level since March 2014.

“Credit continues to tighten because of uncertainty still looming around the health of the job market, even as other data on loan applications and home sales show a sharp rebound,” Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in the report.

In particular, banks have pulled back from offering loans that allow for lower credit scores, smaller down payments and reduced documentation. Jumbo mortgages have also become harder to come by — and the rates on those loans, which are not included in Freddie Mac’s analysis, have remained much higher than the rest of the market.

Making matters worse for those still looking to refinance: Mortgage rates could soon rise for those loans. The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced plans to introduce a new fee for refinancing, which is now set to go in effect beginning in December. But economists suggest that there’s evidence that banks are raising rates to offset the cost of the new fee already.

The good news for those seeking to get a home loan is that economists don’t expect rates to move much in the near future. “Absent any fundamental changes to the FHFA policy, or significant virus-related developments such as a treatment or a vaccine, mortgage rate movements figure to be modest in the coming weeks,” said Matthew Speakman, an economist with Zillow ZG, +1.91%  .

This story was updated on Sept. 24, 2020.

Tax Guy: How canceled student-loan and mortgage debts could affect your taxes in the COVID-19 era

In this COVID-19 ravaged economy, debts can pile up beyond a borrower’s ability to repay. However, lenders are sometimes willing to forgive (cancel) debts that are owed by especially beleaguered borrowers. While forgiveness can help you survive financially, it can trigger negative tax consequences. Or maybe not. This column summarizes the most important things borrowers need to know about the federal income tax implications of forgiven debts. Here goes.

Cancellation of debt income is generally taxable

When a lender forgives part or all of a debt, it results in so-called cancellation of debt (COD) income. The general federal-income-tax rule is that COD income counts as gross income that must be reported on your Form 1040 for the year the debt cancellation occurs.

Key point: Lenders are supposed to report forgiven debt amounts to borrowers, and to the IRS, on Form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt). So, the IRS is supposed to know when debts are forgiven. Do lenders always issue Forms 1099-C when debts are forgiven? Uh, no. Compliance can be spotty.

Beneficial exceptions grant tax-free treatment to eligible borrowers

Thankfully, there are several beneficial exceptions to the general rule that COD income is subject to federal income tax. Here are the ones that are most likely to help beleaguered individual borrowers.

Bankruptcy exception

If debt is forgiven in a Title 11 bankruptcy proceeding, the resulting COD income is federal-income-tax-free. Title 11 encompasses bankruptcy filings under Chapter 7 (so-called liquidations), Chapter 11 (so-called reorganizations), and Chapter 13 (so-called wage earner filings). Legislation passed back in 2005 made it more difficult to file under Chapter 7 and thereby be completely exonerated from unsecured debts such as credit card balances. However, COD income still occurs in some Chapter 7 cases, and COD income still occurs in some Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 cases as well. When that happens, the COD income is federal-income-tax-free.

Insolvency exception

When the borrower is insolvent (meaning with debts in excess of the fair market value of his or her assets) immediately before debt cancellation occurs, the resulting COD income is exempt from federal income taxation to the extent of that insolvency. However, when the debt cancellation effectively makes the borrower solvent (because assets now exceed debts), the COD income is taxable to the extent the borrower is made solvent. The rest of the COD income (if any) is exempt from taxation under the insolvency exception.

Home mortgage exception

An exception for forgiven home mortgage debt was enacted years ago and then extended time after time. The most-recent extension covers qualifying cancellations of home mortgage debt that occur through 2020. Whether this exception will be extended beyond this year depends on our beloved Washington politicians. In any case, you need not be bankrupt or insolvent to take advantage of this deal — which allows an individual to have up to $2 million of federal-income-tax-free COD income from forgiven qualified principal residence debt. That means debt that was used to acquire, build, or improve your main residence and that is secured by that residence. Refinanced debt can also qualify for this exception to the extent it replaces debt that was used to acquire, build, or improve your principal residence. You must reduce the tax basis of your residence (but not below zero) by the amount of COD income that you are allowed to treat as federal-income-tax-free under this exception.

Warning: This home mortgage exception is not available for COD income from forgiven second mortgages, HELOCs, vacation home mortgages, or rental property mortgages.

Deductible interest exception

To the extent COD income consists of unpaid interest that was added to your loan principal and then forgiven, any forgiven interest that you could have deducted — if you had paid it — is exempt from federal income taxation. This exception often comes into play with forgiven principal residence mortgage interest, vacation home mortgage interest, and rental property mortgage interest.

Seller-financed debt exception

When COD income is from seller-financed debt (meaning mortgage debt owed by you to the seller of property that you purchased with the seller’s assistance), the COD income is exempt from federal income taxation. However, your tax basis in the property must be reduced by the amount that you are allowed to treat as tax-free under this exception.

PPP loan exception

The rules for forgiveness of SBA-supervised Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) have been a moving target, and future legislation may create more movement. Meanwhile, here is what we know right now after the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (PPPFA) became law on June 5.

* According to the original CARES Act rules for PPP loans, no forgiveness was allowed unless the borrower spent at least 75% of loan proceeds on payroll expenses. The PPPFA lowered the threshold to 60%.

* The PPPFA also gives borrowers up to 24 weeks to use PPP loan proceeds for purposes that will result in loan forgiveness, versus only eight weeks under the original CARES Act rules.

* Borrowers now have up to five years to repay PPP loans that are not forgiven, versus only 24 months under the original CARES Act rules. This favorable change automatically applies to loans made on or after 6/5/20. For earlier loans, borrowers and lenders can agree to modify the loan terms to allow the five-year repayment deal.

* The PPPFA included other liberalizations to the original CARES Act rules. Contact your tax advisor for details.

Key point: While the SBA has released two PPP loan forgiveness applications (a short form for eligible borrowers and a longer form for the rest), some (maybe most) lenders are not currently accepting applications. That’s because the forgiveness issue has proven to be such a moving target. As of now, there’s no hurry, because current SBA guidance says you have 10 months plus at least another eight weeks from the date you received your PPP loan to submit your forgiveness application. See here. Your tax advisor can keep you updated on when to submit your forgiveness application.

Student loan exceptions

COD income from certain cancellations of student loan debt is federal-income-tax-free, as long as the cancellation is contingent on the student working for a certain period of time in certain professions for certain classes of employers. Source: Internal Revenue Code Section 108(f)(1).

For 2018-2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) expanded the tax-free exception to cover certain student loan debt cancellations due to the student’s death or disability. Source: Internal Revenue Code Section 108(f)(5).

Finally, under the so-called Defense to Repayment procedure, the Department of Education is required to discharge a federal Direct Loan if a student (borrower) establishes, as a defense against repayment, that the school’s actions would give rise to a cause of action against the school under applicable state law. Federal Family Education Loans can also be discharged under this procedure if certain additional requirements are met. While there is no statutory rule that allows tax-free treatment for COD income from loans that are discharged under the Defense to Repayment procedure, the student loan borrower may be able to exclude COD income amounts under other tax-law exceptions (such as the aforementioned insolvency exception or bankruptcy exception) or under IRS-approved non-statutory exceptions that are issued from time to time.

Key point: The CARES Act suspended all payments, interest, and collections for government-held federal student loans through 9/30/20. In an Executive Order issued on 8/8/20, President Trump extended the suspension through 12/31/20.

Key point: The issue of student loan forgiveness may also prove to be a moving target. Future COVID-19 relief legislation may include good news for student loan borrowers. Your tax advisor can keep you posted on developments.

The bottom line

There are some other more-arcane exceptions to the general rule that COD income is taxable, but covering them would require a whole book that you would probably not want to read. Consult your tax pro if you have questions or want more information the tax treatment of COD income in various circumstances.

Where Should I Retire?: We want to retire somewhere in the Carolinas on $3,400 a month in Social Security — what’s a nice area?

Downtown Hendersonville, N.C., has a small-town atmosphere.

iStock

Dear MarketWatch,

My wife and I are both 57 and looking to retire at 62.  We will get approximately $1,700 a month each from Social Security.  We currently have approximately $750,000 in 401(k) and cash.  

We are looking to get out of New Jersey for obvious reasons. We are looking in both North Carolina and South Carolina to retire. We are not looking at areas near the shore. We do not need a lot to survive and live well within our means.  

Can you suggest some nice areas, with affordable housing, low crime and low taxes?  

Thank you,

Jim

Dear Jim,

Congratulations for being on track for a comfortable retirement and starting to think about your dream retirement spot. 

Many areas in the Carolinas qualify as nice and affordable with low taxes and low crime, so you may want to spend more time thinking about what else you’re looking for. Bigger city? Smaller town? And that’s just the start. 

On taxes: Note that Social Security is not taxed in North Carolina. South Carolina exempts the portion of Social Security benefits included in federal taxable income, so you should expect to pay some taxes. If this is a big concern, talk to a tax professional.

South Carolina also relies more on property taxes to fund state and local government than North Carolina does, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation. Of course, those taxes will vary by community and property.

Read: There is more to picking a place to retire than low taxes — avoid these 5 expensive mistakes

You may want to ask about other costs as well. What will your air conditioning bill look like vs. what you pay in New Jersey? What’s the cost of a pool, if the house you buy comes with one?

Now read: This eye-opening experience has me rethinking how Social Security figures into my retirement planning

Given that crime can vary by neighborhood or across a county, take the time to have a chat with the police department of communities that are on your short list.

And as always, take the time to really explore an area, including when the weather isn’t as ideal. A bad move is a costly mistake.

With that being said, here are three suggestions for you:

Hendersonville, North Carolina

You can have easy access to Asheville but be away from the crowds by living in nearby Henderson County. About 115,000 people live in the county, including 14,000 in the county seat of Hendersonville, which offers a cute downtown and plenty of chains on the outskirts. An unexpected historical site just outside of Hendersonville is poet Carl Sandburg’s house, now a national historic site.

You’ll have plenty of natural beauty given that Hendersonville is at the edge of the Pisgah National Forest and between the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. With an elevation of 2,200 feet, snow should be light while summer temperatures peak at an average of 85 degrees in July.

Median housing costs are slightly below the U.S. median. Using current listings on Realtor.com, which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp., take a look at homes that are on the market right now.

Now read: Curious about Winston-Salem?

Greenville’s Falls Park on the Reedy is a popular spot.

iStock

Greenville, South Carolina

Go an hour south of Hendersonville and you’ll reach Greenville, S.C. It’s popping up on many “best places” lists, and if you don’t want snow and can handle some humidity, it may be a fit.

What makes this city of 70,000 so hot? US News & World Report cites a “reinvigorated downtown,” and Money magazine notes that it is “one of the most diverse cities in South Carolina”. Livability.com says the local obsession is food, so foodies will appreciate that two restaurants were semi-finalists for James Beard awards this year. Furman University is in the top quartile of national liberal arts colleges, according to US News, and ranks fifth among “most innovative schools.”

There’s natural beauty — Falls Park on the Reedy gets lots of raves, and you’re in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals also praise the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a  22-mile greenway for cyclists, joggers, walkers and more along the Reedy River.

Sports fans can enjoy minor-league baseball and hockey.

Curious what your money can buy? Here are the current listings on Realtor.com.

Stepping back a bit, Greenville County has more than 500,00 residents. Next door, to the northeast, is Spartanburg County with more than 300,000 people. Clemson University is 40 minutes away in the opposite direction.

You can read about Columbia, S.C., 90 minutes on the highway toward Charleston, here.

Golfing at Pinehurst No. 9.

Getty Images

Pinehurst, North Carolina

But maybe the foothills aren’t your thing, and you’re happy with even warmer temperatures. So I looked at this list of low-crime spots in North Carolina. 

Pinehurst tops the list. You may know it as the home of big-name golf tournaments, but 16,000 people live there and another 14,000 in neighboring Southern Pines (No. 10 on the list).

Golf is certainly big here — there are 40 courses within 20 miles. But be sure to check out Reservoir Park and its 95-acre lake as well as the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens.

You’ll find plenty of fellow retirees here; in Pinehurst, more than 40% are 65 and older, and it’s still an above-average 26% in Southern Pines.

Weather-wise, the average high in July is 90 degrees. Median housing costs are above the national average, although they are low compared to New Jersey.

Here’s what’s on the market now, again using listings on Realtor.com.

This is a slightly more rural choice than Hendersonville; Moore County has about 100,000 residents. When you want to spend time somewhere busier, Fayetteville is an hour away to the east, Chapel Hill and Greensboro are about 90 minutes away, generally north, and Charlotte is two hours to the west.

You can read about Chapel Hill and the Raleigh-Durham area here.

Readers, what’s your best suggestion for Jim and his wife? Leave it in the comments section.

Now read: We get $2,470 a month from Social Security and want a warm, friendly city near the ocean. Where should we retire?

: Americans are starting to feel more comfortable eating at restaurants, but experts say to proceed with caution

Some 39% of U.S. adults say they feel comfortable dining out, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on Sept.18 – 20 (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Getty Images

A growing share of Americans feel comfortable dining out now despite the health risks it poses. 

Some 39% of U.S. adults say they’re comfortable eating out, according to a Sept. 18-20 survey of more than 2,200 Americans conducted by Morning Consult. That’s the highest share reported since the second week of June, when some 41% of Americans said they were comfortable.

After the second week of June, the share of Americans comfortable eating out declined amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in many parts of the country, including Texas, Arizona and California. Only recently did that share return to June’s high. 

That’s good news for the restaurant industry, which has taken a huge hit during the pandemic due to forced closures and restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. 

As a result, many eateries have permanently closed, according to Yelp YELP, +0.46% data.

Related: Airlines, restaurants on Pelosi’s radar for additional aid in another COVID-19 bill

Though they may be feeling more comfortable about eating in restaurants, Americans may want to proceed with caution, health experts say.

People who tested positive for coronavirus were approximately twice as likely to have reported eating recently at a restaurant compared to people who tested negative. That’s according to a Sept. 11 report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who test positive for coronavirus are approximately twice as likely to have reported eating recently at a restaurant compared to people who tested negative, the CDC reported

The report’s findings were based on an investigation of symptomatic patients at 11 U.S. health care facilities. It found that having close contact with people known to have COVID-19 or visiting establishments that offered “on-site eating or drinking options were associated with COVID-19 positivity.”

The investigation compared two groups, one made up of people who had tested positive, and another of symptomatic patients who had tested negative. The people who had tested positive were more likely to report dining at a restaurant, including indoor, patio and outdoor seating in the two weeks before the onset of their illness, the CDC said.

“Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19,” the authors wrote.

However, the authors noted several limitations to the findings in the report. One was that researchers didn’t ask patients to distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining when they asked them about eating at restaurants.

Similarly, the Morning Consult survey did not ask participants to make a distinction between the two regarding their comfort levels. 

From a health standpoint, the distinction between outdoor and indoor dining could be quite significant. 

Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades, said in a July interview with MarketWatch that he would not dine out at any restaurant, be it inside or outside. 

He acknowledged, however, that indoor dining is “much worse” than outdoors. “If you’re going to go to a restaurant, try as best as you can to have outdoor seating that is properly spaced between the tables,” Fauci said.

One of the advantages of eating outdoors is that air circulation is generally better outdoors than indoors because particles have more room to be dispersed, Ryan Malosh, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, told MarketWatch in late July.

“Outdoors, a light breeze can disperse particles with no constraint on the distance they can then travel,” Malosh said. That’s important because diners don’t tend to wear masks outdoors.

Wearing masks indoors can significantly lower the chances of dispersing virus-containing particles, said Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo.

“Whenever there’s a scenario where everyone can wear masks at all times the risk is lower,” Russo said. “When eating you physically can’t wear a mask but you can minimize that risk by popping it back on between bites.”

The world’s poorest countries may get another freeze on their debt payments. What they really need is debt forgiveness

The finance ministers of the G-7 group of major industrial countries are due to agree today in a videoconference on extending by six months, to June 2021, the suspension of the world’s 73 poorest countries’ debt payments.

– The G-7 backing may help trigger a similar agreement by the G-20 larger group of the world’s wealthiest nations, whose finance ministers will meet on October 14.

– Answering calls from the IMF and the World Bank, the G-20 agreed in April on a “Debt Service Suspension Initiative,” granting debt-service suspension to the neediest countries until December. The IMF recently called for the deadline to be pushed by one year, to the end of 2021.

– The World Bank has estimated that the countries benefiting from the initiative would together save up to $11.5 billion in debt service payments this year on debt held by official creditors (governments or international organizations).

– The Institute of International Finance in April urged private creditors to extend debt relief to their poorest debtors along the same lines.

The outlook: A final decision on extension will be taken by the G-20 summit of heads of states and governments in November. But the biggest question remains unsolved: Beyond a simple and temporary freeze on their debt payments, the 73 countries really need a major debt restructuring plan that would include some debt forgiveness. Most of them were often classified as stressed debtors before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and so it is adding to an already unsustainable financial burden.

Read: EU won’t recognize Lukashenko as Belarus president, opening a new front in its worsening relationship with Putin’s Russia

Economic Report: Durable-goods orders rise modest 0.4% in August

The numbers: Orders for durable goods rose 0.4% in August, the fourth straight gain but a more modest increase after three straight strong gains, the government said Friday.

Economists had forecast a 1.5% increase in orders for durable goods in August. Orders were up a revised 11.7% in July and 7.7% in June.

What happened: Machinery orders led the gain in August, rising 1.5%/

Stripping out planes and cars, orders also rose 0.4% in August. Transportation often exaggerates the ups and downs in orders because of lumpy demand from one month to the next.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts fell 4% in August after a 21.7% gain in the priot month.

Orders excluding defense goods rose 0.7% after a 10.4% gain in July.

Core capital goods rose 1.8% in August after a 2.5% rise in the prior month. Shipments of this critical sector rose 1.5%.

Big picture: Manufacturing has rebounded well from the shutdown due to the pandemic. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said manufacturing firms have some advantages because they have an engineering environment and know how to keep people safe.

Market reaction: Stock futures were lower on Friday with major benchmarks, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.19%   in danger of logging a fourth consecutive weekly loss.

Futures Movers: Oil prices on track for weekly fall on worries over COVID-19 impact on crude demand

Oil futures lost ground Friday, leaving both major benchmarks on track for their third weekly decline in four weeks as worries about the demand outlook grow in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery CL.1, -0.74%   CLX20, -0.74%  fell 37 cents, or 0.9%, to $39.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. December Brent BRNZ20, -0.44%, the most actively traded contract, was down 29 cents, or 0.7%, at $42.15 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, while front-month November Brent BRNN21, -0.28%  fell 23 cents, or 0.5%, to $41.71 a barrel. Based on the most actively traded contracts, WTI, the U.S. benchmark, was on track for a 2.9% weekly fall, while Brent was down 2.2%.

A rising number of COVID-19 cases have prompted the resumption of some lockdown restrictions in European countries, while stoking concerns about the U.S. economic outlook.

A lack of additional stimulus from Washington has added to worries the U.S. economic rebound will lose steam heading into year-end. House Democrats on Thursday were preparing a $2.4 trillion aid package that includes a number of items seen having bipartisan support, including direct payments to households, the Paycheck Protection Program, a revival of a federal add-on to state unemployment benefits, as well as a renewal of aid to airlines and money to help restaurants stay open. But analysts warned that the path to an agreement remained unclear.

Meanwhile, concerns about demand have been underlined by pressure on refining margins.

“We have repeatedly cited that crude prices will have difficulty rallying, on a structural basis, unless refining margins lead the path higher. And while U.S. gasoline stocks have reverted, in remarkable fashion, to seasonal norms, distillate inventories remain the acute issue overhanging the oil complex,” said Michael Tran, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, in a Thursday note.

He noted that the spot Nymex distillate crack spread—a crack spread is the difference in price between a barrel of oil and the products refined from it—is down by nearly half since mid-July, despite refiners cutting runs by an estimated 3.7 million barrels a day through the summer and domestic refiners shifting yields away from jet fuel at the fastest pace since the Energy Information Administration began tracking the data.

“In short, refiners are pulling all the possible levers to minimize jet production, yet distillate stocks remain stubbornly high. Based on our global mobility tracker, we estimate that 43% of U.S. flights remain sidelined, which models to 820,000 barrels a day of U.S. jet fuel demand destroyed daily,” Tran said.

Supply-related worries have also hung over the market this week, with Libyan output set to pick up after a military commander moved to lift a blockade of ports that has virtually strangled production for the past eight months.

Investors will also be watching data from oil-field-services company Baker Hughes, which will report its weekly tally of U.S. drilling rigs on Friday afternoon.

Metals Stocks: Gold slips Friday and heads for worst weekly slump since March

Gold futures were headed lower again on Friday, with bullion on track to book its fourth decline in five sessions that could cement the asset’s worst weekly slide in about six months.

Some commodity experts have attributed the bout of weakness in precious commodities, and in particular gold, to the recent resurgence of the buck, which has made dollar-backed gold relatively more expensive to overseas buyers using other monetary units.

The dollar on Friday was climbing 0.2%, bringing its weekly rise to about 1.7% and on track for the sharpest such gain since the week ended April 20, as measured by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.21%, FactSet data show.

Read:Trump says Supreme Court will need 9th justice to decide election outcome

December gold GCZ20, -1.00% GC00, -1.00% was headed $12.60, or 0.7%, lower at $1,864.30 an ounce, at last check, more than erasing its 0.5% gain from the previous session and pushing the metal toward a two-month low and a 5% weekly drop. A weekly slide of that magnitude would be its steepest since the period ended March 13.

“Gold dropped to a two-month low, coinciding with USD strength, and US real yields reaching a two-month high, weighing on investor flows,” wrote analysts at UBS in a research note.

The analysts said that communications from the Federal Reserve over the past week haven’t signaled sufficient dovishness to support gold values.

That said, the analysts view the backdrop of coronavirus that has engendered uncertainty about the global economic outlook and rising concerns about the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, as a potential floor to gold falling substantially lower.

“Further gold price weakness is possible, but US election uncertainties will likely intensify and the Fed will ultimately need to expand policy. Hence, we maintain our positive view on gold,” the UBS analysts wrote.

Meanwhile, December silver SIZ20, -1.90% SI00, -1.90% was trading 37 cents, or 1.6%, lower at $22.785 an ounce, after rising 0.4% on Thursday, pushing it to around its lowest levels since late July. Gold’s sister metal was headed for a weekly decline of a 16%, which would also mark its sharpest weekly drop since the week ended March 13.

: Amazon-backed food delivery startup Deliveroo could be heading toward a 2021 IPO, Bloomberg reports

The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a boom for food delivery, with millions of housebound consumers ratcheting up demand for the convenience service.

Gerard Julien/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Food delivery service Deliveroo is exploring an initial public offering for next year, according to reports.

U.K.-based Deliveroo is in talks with potential advisers about going public in 2021, according to confidential sources who spoke to Bloomberg, which reported that no final decisions have been made. Deliveroo representatives told MarketWatch that they “do not comment on this kind of speculation.”

The company is backed by Amazon AMZN, +0.66%, which has owned 16% of Deliveroo since its investment was approved by the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in August.

The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a boom for food delivery, with millions of housebound consumers ratcheting up demand for the convenience service. The sector is expanding and Deliveroo’s European rivals Just Eat Takeaway.com JET, -0.55% and Delivery Hero DHER, -0.61% have both made substantial acquisitions this year.

Deliveroo, which operates in over 200 cities across 12 countries, initially suffered at the beginning of the pandemic as partner restaurants themselves were closed. The CMA said that Deliveroo met the criteria for a “failing firm” due to the initial impact of the coronavirus on its business.

However, the CMA said that Deliveroo’s finances rebounded from April onward as its mix of restaurants shifted away from large chains, several of which had closed, toward smaller, independent restaurants, and the food delivery market as a whole recovered. “Both factors contributed to a rapid and significant turnaround in Deliveroo’s financial position,” the CMA said, as it cleared Amazon’s 16% investment in August.

After the food delivery company raised funds in 2017, its value was at least $2 billion, but no updated valuation has been made by the company since the $575 million investment led by Amazon and subsequent lockdown boom.

The Amazon deal, initiated in May 2019, was subject to scrutiny from regulators concerned that Amazon’s stake in Deliveroo could harm competition by preventing Amazon from re-entering the online restaurant delivery market or expanding its presence in convenience grocery delivery.

The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for food delivery companies to branch into other home delivery sectors. As British supermarkets — already a cutthroat industry — battle for supremacy in the e-commerce space, they have turned to this existing and agile sector to quickly expand their home delivery services.

Deliveroo has partnered with grocer Waitrose JLH, , while rival UberEats UBER, -0.59% delivers groceries for Walmart’s WMT, +0.52% Asda, and Morrisons’ MRW, foodstuffs are available via Amazon with free delivery for Prime members on orders over £40 ($51).

The Margin: David Attenborough joins Instagram because ‘the world is in trouble’

Start an Instagram account. Save the world.

That’s the approach that British broadcaster and conservationist Sir David Attenborough is taking to amplify his call to address climate change and protect the planet.

The 94-year-old narrator of BBC’s “Planet Earth,” who has spent 60 years working in television and radio, revealed in his first-ever Instagram post on Thursday that he’s joined the Facebook-owned FB, +0.20%  social media platform because “the world is in trouble.”

“Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on and on,” Attenborough says in his video post to his official @davidattenborough account. “But we know what to do about it. And that’s why I’m tackling this new way — for me — of communication.”

He certainly caught the internet’s attention. His account gained more than 200,000 followers in just an hour, the BBC reported. It had 1 million followers by the time this story was published on Thursday morning. In fact, Attenborough set the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to reach 1 million Instagram followers, bumping previous record holder Jennifer Aniston by hitting the milestone in just over four hours.

Opinion:These stocks could be smart buys as the fight against climate change intensifies

Attenborough won’t be creating and posting all of his content on his own, however. His frequent collaborators Jonnie Hughes and Colin Butfield, who worked with him on his upcoming Netflix NFLX, +0.52%  film and book “A Life On Our Planet,” will help manage the account. “Social media isn’t David’s usual habitat so while he’s recorded messages solely for Instagram, like the one in this post, we’re helping to run this account,” they wrote in a caption accompanying Attenborough’s inaugural post.

“Saving our planet is now a communications challenge,” they added. “We know what to do, we just need the will.”

Indeed, three in four Americans now believe that humans fuel climate change, according to a recent CBS News poll, and more than a quarter consider climate change to be a crisis. NASA has warned that 18 of the 19 warmest years in recorded history have occurred since 2001. And climate change has been linked to droughts, unprecedented floods, an increasing number of hurricanes and other extreme weather events, like the wildfires that have raged across Australia and California this year. A major bipartisan report recently warned that climate change poses “significant challenges to [the U.S.] financial system and our ability to sustain long-term economic growth.”

Related:Climate change is huge risk for the American financial system, a major new bipartisan report says

The venerated naturalist teased that future videos will follow him explaining what the problems facing the Earth are, along with how the world population can deal with them. His collaborators will also be posting some exclusive content and behind-the-scenes peeks from “A Life On Our Plant.”

“Join me, or as we used to say in those early days of radio: stay tuned,” Attenborough said.