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Autotrader: These are the most popular cars this summer

With over 3 million cars, trucks and SUVs listed for sale, Autotrader has a firm grasp on the popular cars this summer. Every summer, we publish our list of the most-searched-for cars, trucks and SUVs on Autotrader – it’s a list of 10 vehicles that users are searching for most often. Is there safety in numbers? Yes. Well, usually. If you like to shop for the most popular cars, then this is the list. It could also be that these are the best cars regardless, because people keep returning to them year after year.

In the past, we’ve used the same data but added rules to reduce redundancy – rules like “No more than one of any brand” or “having a mix of body styles.” Not this year. This time we just took the top 10 most-searched-for cars on Autotrader, only consolidating two models since they are variations of the same model. The Ford F-Series pickup includes the F-150 and F-250, and the Silverado includes both 1500 and 2500 series trucks. We also combined search data from new, used and certified preowned vehicles.

Want to know what the hottest cars are for the summer of 2020? Here’s the list:

1. Ford F-150/250

The Ford F150


New or used, the Ford F, +2.04% F-Series pickup is popular. It’s been the bestselling new vehicle for decades and continues to impress buyers with a variety of engine choices, off-road-ready models, budget-friendly basic models, and high-end, tech-heavy luxury versions. We’re not saying the F-150 is perfect, but it’s such a consistent bestseller we can’t see how so many people can be wrong. We’re also looking forward to an all-new F-150 for 2021.  

2. Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler.


If you’re looking for a quintessential American vehicle, it’s got to be the Jeep Wrangler. But the Wrangler’s popularity isn’t surprising – Americans love to get out and have fun, away from the confines of city life and the Wrangler is the just the thing to get them there. Most people will find the Wrangler Unlimited handles both off-road and family duty best but the two-door Wrangler is still a lot of fun. 

Also see: These are the best cars for families in 2020

3. Chevrolet Silverado 1500/2500

The Chevrolet Silverado


Americans love pickups. Also, Chevrolet pickups. Redesigned in 2019, the Silverado is nearly as popular with shoppers as Ford’s full-size pickup. The Silverado has typically had a nicer interior and a less utilitarian look outside. The Silverado is also offered in a variety of trim levels. Work Truck, Custom, LT, RST, Custom Trail Boss, LTZ, LT Trail Boss, and High Country are the current levels – then add bed length, two or four-wheel drive plus regular, double or crew cab and there are plenty of Silverados to pick from. 

4. Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang


Like the Jeep Wrangler, the Ford Mustang is just one of those purely American cars. It has a history, it’s fun, it’s affordable and it’s popular. You can find a high-mileage Mustang for a little as $2,000 or you can spend $100,000 on a high-performance Shelby GT500. The best compromise is probably a V8 powered GT 2015 or newer with average mileage for its age.

Also read: The pros and cons of buying a certified used car

5. Chevrolet Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette.


The C7 Chevrolet Corvette has turned out to be the swan song of the front-engine Corvette. The arrival of the C8 Corvette could mean some great deals on the previous model. Or, it could mean a lot of C7 owners believe they have some kind of rare instant classic and “won’t be tricked” into selling it for a reasonable price. Time will tell with this one. Either way, the C7 is an outstanding send-off to the ‘Vette’s front-engine layout. 

6. Ram 1500

The Ram 1500


With each passing model year, the Ram 1500 is becoming increasingly well-known for its plush interior, smooth ride and excellent towing capacity. The current Ram 1500 is the best one yet but even going back a few years will get you a nice truck. 

7. Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma


For years, the Toyota Tacoma has been built in Texas. Maybe that’s why the Toyota TM, -0.31% Tacoma feels as American as the Chevy Silverado or Ford Mustang. In every city, Tacomas are plentiful. The truck can do it all – daily driver, off-road, haul junk, last forever. The new 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a perfectly fine truck. However, be aware of used Tacoma prices because these things hold their value quite well. You might go looking for a lightly used Toyota pickup and end up with a new one for only a little extra money. 

Also see: 8 affordable new cars priced well below $20k

8. GMC Sierra

The GMC Sierra.


In the past, we lumped the Sierra in with the Silverado. However, the GMC Sierra has matured to the point where it’s tangibly different from the full-size Chevy. Many Sierras have unique features, trim and equipment. Fewer people are looking for a Sierra as compared with an F-150 or Silverado but not by much. One thing we like about the Sierra: It has fewer variations. That makes shopping a little easier. We like the SLE for a capable and affordable full-size truck. 

Also see: The 10 best new car models of 2020

9. Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep Grand Cherokee


Our theory is that all the interest in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is fueled by Wrangler research. We imagine these shoppers asking, “How can I have the authenticity of the Wrangler but with more interior space and comfort?” Jeep Grand Cherokee is the answer. 

Check out: A first look at Toyota’s new RAV4 plug-in hybrid

10. Toyota 4Runner

In a way, the 4Runner is kind of a throw-back to a simpler era. It is an SUV and those are wildly popular, but the 4Runner has been, essentially, the same for many years. Its tough construction is better for deep mud and rugged trails than it is for highway road trips. Like the Tacoma, don’t expect a lot of huge discounts on lightly used 4Runners. They hold their value quite well.

Also see: These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years

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Anthony Fauci tells MarketWatch: I would not get on a plane or eat inside a restaurant

This is not the first public-health emergency Dr. Anthony Fauci has faced. But it’s up there with the worst of them, he says, and it’s not even close to being over yet. “We’ve had challenges with Ebola, the early years of HIV/AIDS, the anthrax attacks and Zika,” he told MarketWatch in a wide-ranging interview. “This is probably a cut above all of those because this is very intense,” he says.

Fauci, a leading expert on pandemics in the U.S. for the past four decades and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the past three decades, was on the front lines of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s, and has been dealing with public-health emergencies ever since. America dodged a bullet with Ebola and Zika. But it did not dodge COVID-19.

If the speed and duration of the coronavirus pandemic is getting you down, spare a thought for Fauci. Are we there yet? How far are we on this journey through the pandemic? Near the finish line? Halfway? Or are we back where we started? “It’s a moving target,” he said. “I certainly don’t think we’re near the end of this if you look at what’s going on in the United States, that’s for sure.”

Trump has decided to hold the new round of 5 p.m. daily briefings at the White House solo, but Fauci remains a member of the White House coronavirus task force and visits the White House almost every day. He says things need to change if we are to reduce the current rate of up to 70,000 new COVID-19 infections each day, and laments the 144,167 lives lost in the U.S. to the virus.

Fauci on Trump’s new round of daily briefings

At 79, when most Americans have retired, Fauci has vowed to keep working, even if his message is sometimes at odds with that of President Donald Trump. The president has only recently embraced the policy of wearing a face mask, and went as far as to call it “patriotic.” Fauci said he didn’t actually catch the president’s statement live, but it came not a moment too soon.

“I did not see this briefing, but I’m very pleased to hear that he’s now being pretty explicit about some of the things that we — namely his medical advisers — have been telling him for some time,” Fauci said in a telephone interview on Thursday evening. “I think he’s made a very good choice. He’s embracing masking, he’s embracing physical distancing, and that’s a very good thing.”

But he holds out some, perhaps surprising, rays of hope. He is not against reopening schools and said it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. “It’s a complex issue,” Fauci said. “The fundamental default should be that we should try as best as we possibly can to open up the schools. But we have to remember, as a paramount consideration, the safety and the health of the children and teachers.”

If September looks bad, with flu season approaching and coronavirus is still not under control, isn’t January likely to be as bad or even worse for students? Are parents and children facing the possibility of a full year with no in-person schooling? “It’s unpredictable. Things could change pretty rapidly. But it doesn’t look like we’ll be facing a full year with no in-person schooling,” Fauci says.

Fauci discussed air travel and why he’s avoiding it, eating out and why he’s avoiding that, the price of a coronavirus vaccine and who should be first in line, the mixed success of mask mandates from Dublin, Ohio to Dublin, Ireland (where this reporter is sequestering), and lessons from his first pandemic — the HIV/AIDS crisis that eventually killed more than 32 million people worldwide.

On President Trump’s embrace of masks, Fauci says, ‘I’m very pleased to hear that he’s now being pretty explicit about some of the things that we — namely his medical advisers — have been telling him for some time.’

MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images

Fauci’s history with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in the early days, was fraught. But after a rocky start, members of Act Up activists were given seats at the table of the planning committee of the AIDS Clinical Trial Group. Larry Kramer, the playwright and activist who once called Fauci a “murderer” and “incompetent idiot,” ended up a a respected and beloved friend of Fauci.

And today? Fauci is consistently rated as the country’s most trusted voice on coronavirus. His dealing with the fire and passion of Kramer may have helped to give Fauci a tough skin to deal with the slings and arrows in recent weeks, particularly from the White House. Fauci maintains that his position on face masks changed when the evidence showed asymptomatic transmission.

He is eager to point out that millennials and young adults need to wear masks and practice social distancing too. He has this message for them: “You don’t realize, probably innocently, that you are inadvertently propagating the outbreak. You are becoming part of the problem because, even if you get infected without any symptoms, it is likely that you are going to infect someone else.”

Isn’t it hard to get children to socially distance in school, and young adults to follow the rules? “Yes, it is,” Fauci says. “Sooner or later, a vulnerable person gets infected and gets seriously ill. You should realize that it is your duty and your civic responsibility: You could be hurting someone else. That’s a tough message to get because some young people feel completely invulnerable.”

MarketWatch spoke with the veteran epidemiologist a couple of hours before he threw the first pitch for the Washington Nationals in baseball’s season opener against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park in Washington, amid cardboard crowd cutouts in an empty stadium and canned crowd noise. His pitch was wild. (Trump will throw the first pitch for the Yankees on Aug. 15.)

The interview has been edited for style and space:

MarketWatch: Greetings from Ireland, Dr. Fauci. Have you ever been here?

Fauci: I have not. I have only been to the airport making a connection. I’ve never actually traveled around Ireland. How’s the weather?

MarketWatch: Rainy and chilly.

Fauci: It seems like it’s always that way there!

MarketWatch: Just the way I like it. You know, I was actually thinking of you getting on my transatlantic flight, and I wondered whether Dr. Fauci would get on a flight at the moment?

Fauci: Well, the answer is “No” for the following reason: I am in a risk category. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m 79 years old. I can’t think of a reason to go transatlantic. Right now, I’m very sequestered. I’m on a coronavirus task force. I go to the White House almost every day.

I spend half a day in my office trying to develop a vaccine and drugs for COVID-19, and that’s really what I need to do. I don’t fancy seeing myself getting infected, which is a risk when you’re getting on a plane, particularly with the amount of infection that’s going on right now.

MarketWatch: The airline did not take our temperatures as we were boarding, or getting off. In New York, they do it in the doctor’s and dentist’s office.

Fauci: I’m not sure taking temperatures is all it’s cracked up to be, because there are a lot of false negatives and false positives. It’s best to just question people: “Do you have any symptoms? Have you been near someone who is infected?” The time spent asking a couple of simple questions is probably more effective than just taking temperatures, to be honest with you.

MarketWatch:There appears to be a disconnect in how people are approaching this pandemic. In New York, almost everyone appears to be wearing a mask on the street. In Ireland, hardly anyone is wearing one on the street, and it’s hit-and-miss in the stores here. In other parts of the U.S., it’s anyone’s guess. What’s your take on that?

Fauci: Yeah, that’s unfortunate because there really is an inconsistency in usage and an inconsistency in message. We’ve really got to make it very clear. If you want to pick three or four or five very simple tools that could have a major impact on turning around the outbreak.

Wearing a mask is definitely one of them, as is physical distancing, as is avoiding crowds, as is closing bars, as is washing your hands. I’m pleading with people to consider doing this consistently because, you’re right, if half of people don’t do it, it kind of negates the overall purpose.

MarketWatch: Do you have any estimate on how less likely people are to transmit coronavirus if they’re wearing a mask: 50%? 99%? Or…?

Fauci: We don’t know exactly. There have been a number of meta analyses. One published in The Lancet on June 1, 2020. said masks and respirators reduced the risk of infection by anywhere from 78% to 85%. Your guess is as good as any: 50% to 75% or 80% is probably correct.

Anthony Fauci: ‘This is a very, very high-pressure job. It’s exhausting. That’s my choice. I’ve been doing this for my entire career.’

MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto

MarketWatch: I presume you are not hanging out in restaurants or bars. Is it really more dangerous to eat indoors at a restaurant than outdoors?

Fauci: Yes, absolutely. Indoors 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.

MarketWatch: So you’re not going to restaurants? You wouldn’t risk it?

Fauci: I am not going to restaurants right now.

MarketWatch: Looking ahead, President Trump wants schools to reopen. Denmark has done it successfully, it seems, while Israel has faltered. What’s your take on that?

Fauci: So if you open up a school safely in a region where there’s not much infection, you probably don’t even have to make any changes. If you’re in a place where there’s considerable infection activity, there are a lot of options to mitigate the risk that you could do a hybrid model of part online, part in-person. You could physically separate the children at school, alternate days or morning/afternoon classes. It’s going to vary depending on the risk.

MarketWatch: That all sounds like good advice for people returning to the workplace, too.

Fauci: Yes, right.

MarketWatch: What are the chances there will be one big long wave rather than first or even a second wave? That’s how it’s starting to feel.

Fauci: I’ve never bought into this issue. We are still in a pretty big first wave. You talk about the possibility of a second wave when you’ve gone down to baseline and there aren’t too many new infections.

MarketWatch: How concerned are you that the U.S. will face a flu season and a rise in coronavirus cases in the winter or fall?

Fauci: If, in fact, and I hope it isn’t the case, we have significant COVID-19 activity as we go into the fall and winter season, that will be problematic and complicate things because that’s two respiratory infections circulating together, which is one of the reasons why we’re telling people that, when the flu vaccine becomes available, make sure you get vaccinated so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.

MarketWatch: You’ve said you’re hopeful of a vaccine in the spring. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, among other observers, have said that early next year is optimistic. Are you still saying early next year?

Fauci: I stick by what I’ve been saying all along. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year or the first month or two of 2021 is a reasonable projection.

MarketWatch: Assuming there is a vaccine that works — which is not a given — who should receive it first? People in nursing homes? Frontline workers?

Fauci: We’re going to put a group together of ethicists, clinicians, vaccinologists and community representatives, and make a prioritization of who should get it when the first doses become available.

Generally, with most vaccines, you tend to give a high priority to frontline workers: Hospital emergency-room people, those maintaining order in society, and people who are more vulnerable to the deleterious and serious effects associated with infections — the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

MarketWatch:Do you think the $19.50 per dose price Pfizer PFE, -0.38% is charging the U.S. government for the first 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine is reasonable?

Fauci: I would hope that it’s at a price that makes it eminently affordable by anyone who needs it.

MarketWatch: So you don’t have a problem with companies making a profit off this, as long as people can afford it?

Fauci: Right.

Anthony Fauci on who should be first in line if and/or when a vaccine becomes available: ‘Generally, with most vaccines, you tend to give a high priority to frontline workers.’

MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images, iStockphoto

Fauci on lessons from the HIV/AIDS pandemic

MarketWatch: What was the biggest lesson you took from your experience with the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s?

Fauci: Oh, my goodness. There are so many lessons because I have spent such a large portion of my professional existence fighting HIV from the very first years, from 1981, onward.

The first thing is how you tend to underestimate outbreaks. In the beginning, you don’t really fully appreciate the ultimate magnitude. That was certainly the case with HIV when it first presented in a relatively small group of gay men in the United States, even though there had already had been worldwide spread, and we didn’t know about it.

The same thing with coronavirus. It was felt to be just a virus that jumps species from an animal to a human, and we found out that was not the case, that it spread very easily from human to human. It rapidly exploded into a major global pandemic. There are a lot of differences, too. One is an insidious disease that accumulates over decades, and the other is a major explosion of cases in a period of less than six months.

MarketWatch: Right, it happened in just six months — God. If it is necessary, how difficult would it be to get people to abide by stay-at-home orders again?

Fauci: It would be difficult. That’s the reason why I think we can accomplish the goal of getting this surge of infections under control by first calling a pause, and maybe taking a step back to Some of the states jumped over some of the checkpoints. If you’re in Phase 2, maybe you want to drop back to Phase 1. If you’re in Phase 1, maybe you want to go back to gateway. There are different phases in trying to open America again.

MarketWatch: What are the most surprising or helpful things medical professionals have learned about treating COVID-19 patients?

Fauci: Well, it’s not helpful, it’s sobering that 20% to 45% of the people who were infected don’t have any symptoms at all, which makes it extremely difficult to do contact tracing.

MarketWatch: And contact tracing has been an uphill struggle in the U.S. It’s a big country with one president and 50 governors, and they’re all doing their own thing.

Fauci: Yes, including the fact that you generally get the results of the tests back in 5, 6, 7 days, which is far too long a period of time.

MarketWatch: It took 10 days to get mine back. It’s an awesome responsibility for laboratories, doctors and, yourself, holding the health of a nation in your hands. People look to you as a trusted source. How do you deal with that in the quiet of night?

Fauci: This is a very, very high-pressure job. It’s exhausting. But that’s my choice. I’ve been doing this for my entire career.

MarketWatch: How did you feel about the criticism you recently received? The president’s comments that “mistakes” were made by you on masks, Peter Navarro’s op-ed in USA Today, and the White House list of criticisms sent to the Washington Post. There seemed to be a flurry of them over the course of just a few days.

Fauci: That Navarro stuff is just a bunch of unfortunate noise. It does nothing but detract from the general purpose of what we’re trying to do. I tend to put that behind me because it was merely a distraction. I don’t know why that happened. I don’t know why people made those statements. It certainly isn’t helpful. It certainly is not the truth. That’s the most important thing. The Washington Post, on a point by point basis, refuted every one of those claims of my “errors” and “mistakes.”

MarketWatch:What do you do to relax and decompress? Crossword puzzles, pilates, push-ups, watch old episodes of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race?”

Fauci: [Laughs.] I tend to like to go out in the evening and run. I don’t run as much as they used to cause I’m getting old. I do power walking. I walk or run at least 3.5 miles a day.

MarketWatch: That’s more than I’m doing. You’re not eating junk food like most of us, I suppose.

Fauci: Sometimes, I get so busy I don’t eat at all. My wife has to remind me it’s time to drink something or eat something.

MarketWatch: Well, it seems like you are living the advice that you’re giving people.

Fauci: Well, I hope so.

Personal Finance Daily: Domestic abusers are taking survivors’ stimulus checks and wealthy parents are paying up to $100 an hour for ‘teaching pods’ during the pandemic

Stay safe, MarketWatchers, and don’t miss these top stories:

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Eating chocolate once a week can lower your risk of heart disease: study

That’s good news considering Americans are buying more chocolate during the coronavirus pandemic

America is facing an eviction crisis as moratoriums expire: ‘This is a potential catastrophe’

Democratic lawmakers have proposed legislation to extend and to expand the federal moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire in just a few days.

Domestic abusers are taking survivors’ stimulus checks — and lawmakers want the IRS to do something about it

Domestic-violence survivors often use cash infusions as a springboard toward safety.

‘It’s actually not that easy, but for me it was easy’: Trump describes his recent cognitive test: ‘Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.’

Ziad Nasreddine, the doctor who invented the test, told MarketWatch, ‘It’s supposed to be easy.’

The feared jumbo mortgage debacle is here — thanks to the coronavirus — and ready to pound the housing market

COVID-19 pandemic is squeezing borrowers’ ability to stay in their homes, writes Keith Jurow.

Which DIY home renovation projects could add the most value to your house — and which ones to avoid

As Americans spend more time at home because of the pandemic, they’re looking to improve their abodes — but not all projects are worth the effort.

Thousands in Silicon Valley in danger of eviction as end of California moratorium nears

More than 43,000 households in the heart of Silicon Valley face eviction in the next few months even as local tech companies’ valuations soar, according to new research published Wednesday, a crisis that could creep across the nation as eviction moratoriums expire while the pandemic continues.

Walt Disney World tightens face mask policy after guests took advantage of loophole

Walt Disney World in Florida partially reopened on July 11.

From nanny services to ‘private educators,’ wealthy parents are paying up to $100 an hour for ‘teaching pods’ during the pandemic

Well-resourced parents are hiring tutors, nannies and ‘private educators’ to supplement or replace remote learning, the latest example of how the pandemic is exposing longstanding inequities in U.S. education.

The extra $600 in unemployment benefits ‘gave people a real lifeline,’ Trump says, so ‘we’re doing it again’ but in smaller increments

Failing to extend the extra $600 in unemployment benefits ‘would be the economic equivalent of reopening the economy too soon,’ one expert says.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
The jobless claims numbers are both better and worse than you may have read

More than 2 million people filed for jobless benefits last week, but there’s been no surge yet in response to renewed social distancing rules.

Senate GOP closing in on COVID aid bill deal with White House

Two top Trump administration officials said Thursday they were near finalizing an agreement on what would be an opening offer to Democrats for the next coronavirus aid bill.

Stock market crash? It would have happened by now, trader says

Headlines splashed across the financial news outlets these days would have you believe the stock market is about to crash, but Jani Ziedins of the Cracked Market blog isn’t buying it. Or, rather, he is buying it. The market, that is.

CityWatch: New York sees increase in virus infections among 20-somethings

More 20-something New Yorkers are testing positive for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference Thursday. 

In the last two weeks, the infection rate has risen 4 points for people between 21 and 30 years old, from 9.9% to 13.2%, he announced. It is the only age group in which infection rates increased in that time period. 

Calling the uptick a “threat” to the state, Cuomo pointed to large gatherings at bars and a lack of social distancing as causes, as he has regularly done over the past week.

“This is not the time to fight for your right to party,” Cuomo said, quoting the 1980s Beastie Boys hit. “I respect your right to party…but let’s be smart about it. There’s an attitude that young people are immune. You are not.”

Doctors have noticed the shift in the age of COVID-19 patients, according to Dr. Daniel Griffin, a practicing physician and an associate research scientist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University.

“The dynamic of the younger population has to do with behavior,” he told MarketWatch. “We’re seeing lots of young people out with large social circles interacting and we’re seeing spread within those communities.”

Across the general population, there were 811 new cases of the virus reported Wednesday, with an infection rate of about 1.16%, Cuomo said in the news conference. There were 706 new hospitalizations, the lowest number since March 18, and 13 fatalities. In total, there have been nearly 410,000 reported cases of the virus in New York and 25,081 deaths. 

Coronavirus update:Global COVID-19 cases top 15 million as U.S. edges closer to 4 million, and California has more cases than New York

Cuomo has called on local law enforcement to keep large gatherings at bars at bay, and earlier this week announced liquor licenses have been suspended for a number of establishments who have not complied with state guidelines. 

On Thursday, he also called on local police to enforce mandates against such gatherings. 

“New York City has to enforce the law,” Cuomo said. “The state liquor authority and the state police are going to step up their efforts dramatically, but they can’t do it without the local police.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has also expressed concern about the uptick in cases in this age group. Last week he announced that positive cases of the virus in 20- to 29-year-olds rose from 26.6 for every 100,000 people the first week of June, to 34.6 the week ending June 27. 

Still, the city is seeing the lowest number of new cases of the virus since the pandemic began. In addition, there hasn’t been an uptick in the infection rate since the city started reopening, the mayor said Thursday during his daily briefing. 

Read: Next coronavirus aid package may not become reality until second week of August, analysts say

De Blasio also announced four new testing sites in the city, and that NYC Health + Hospitals sites can now test up to 50,000 people a day. 

There have been a total of 219,489 reported cases of the virus in New York City, as well as 18,839 confirmed deaths and 4,624 probable deaths, according to city data. 

America is facing an eviction crisis as moratoriums expire: ‘This is a potential catastrophe’

The United States is facing a possible tsunami of evictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The CARES Act, which was signed into law in March, established a temporary moratorium on evictions for all rental units that were backed by some form of federally financing, including Fannie Mae FNMA, -3.19% and Freddie Mac FMCC, -2.45% loans. That moratorium is scheduled to end on Saturday.

The CARES Act moratorium protected some 12.3 million rental units nationwide, a report from the Urban Institute estimated. And while many cities and states passed their own eviction moratoriums, many of those have either already expired or are set to end soon.

“This is a potential catastrophe,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said during a press conference Wednesday.

Congressional Democrats have proposed multiple pieces of legislation in recent weeks aimed at extending and expanding the federal eviction moratorium.

Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced a bill that would extend the CARES Act moratorium for another eight months until March 2021 and expand the protections to nearly all renters nationwide. Under Warren’s legislation, landlords would be barred from charging renters fees for missed payments. Landlords would also be required to provide 30 days’ notice for evictions when the moratorium ended.

“Renters often don’t know if they’re covered by the federal moratorium,” Warren said during the press conference on Wednesday. “Failing to put a safeguard in place to keep people in their homes is most likely to harm the most vulnerable Americans.”

‘Renters often don’t know if they’re covered by the federal moratorium.’

— Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Separately, Sen. Kamala Harris of California unveiled legislation last week nicknamed the RELIEF Act that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year. The bill includes additional provisions that prevent utilities companies from ending service, landlords from raising the rent on tenants and negative credit reports amid the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

“Housing is a human right, and that’s why we need this comprehensive plan to help keep Americans safe and in their homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harris said in an announcement regarding the legislation. Both Harris and Warren are being considered for the vice presidential slot alongside presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Also see:‘Landlords are just trying to pay bills like everyone else.’ The coronavirus could hit mom-and-pop landlords hard as tenants miss rent payments

Millions of Americans are at risk of eviction

A look at data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows how severe the eviction crisis could become. The agency’s most recent household survey found that nearly one in five renters — which equates to roughly 14 million renters — either didn’t pay the rent last month at all or delayed their payment. These are households that are at serious risk of eviction if moratoriums expire.

In cities where local and state eviction moratoriums have lifted, evictions are indeed happening. In Houston, Texas, there were 550 eviction filings over the past week, and more than 1,700 over the past month, according to the most recent data from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Texas had an eviction moratorium go in effect in March, but it ended back in May. In cities like Houston, some renters were still protected by the federal moratorium. They could now too be at risk of eviction if lawmakers don’t extend it.

And matters aren’t sure to improve. The Census survey found that more than 9 million renters have no confidence in their ability to pay the rent next month, while another 14 million were only slightly confident they could.

Renters of color are disproportionately more at risk of losing their housing. More than one-quarter of Black renters nationwide missed last month’s rental payment, the Census Bureau survey data show. And nearly one in six Black renters said they have no confidence that they will be able to pay the following month’s rent.

‘If these protections are allowed to expire without further support, we risk facing a wave of evictions that would disrupt the lives of vulnerable renters across the county.’

— Chris Salviati, housing economist at real-estate website Apartment List

Separately, research from the National Multifamily Housing Council suggests that 91.3% of apartment households had made a full or partial rent payment by July 20, meaning that nearly 1 million households who live in apartments did not pay.

The crisis could be especially acute in high-cost real-estate markets. In Santa Clara County, California, which is home to Apple AAPL, -4.21% and Google GOOG, -3.30% , among many other tech companies, a recent report estimated that more than 43,000 household are at risk of eviction. That’s 16 times the number of evictions for a full year in the county typically.

In addition to the federal moratorium ending, the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government are scheduled to stop at the end of July. Republican lawmakers are reportedly floating the possibility of extending the benefits at a reduced amount capped at $400 a month until a longer-term relief package could be finalized.

And while many households benefited from the one-time stimulus payments, the $1,200 payment that individuals received was only slightly larger than the national median rent, which was $1,023 as of 2018.

The pandemic has exacerbated issues related to housing affordability across the country

“The pandemic has forced millions of Americans into sudden financial hardship, and the combination of direct stimulus and eviction moratoriums has been crucial in helping these folks maintain housing stability in recent months,” said Chris Salviati, housing economist at real-estate website Apartment List. “If these protections are allowed to expire without further support, we risk facing a wave of evictions that would disrupt the lives of vulnerable renters across the county.”

A recent report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition found that one in four renter households, which equates to 11 million households, have incomes so low that they cannot afford most market-rate apartments.

In 2020, there were only four states —West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas — where a full-time worker earning $15 an hour could afford a two-bedroom home without spending over a third of their income on rent, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition found.

In the context of an ongoing pandemic, the threat of a rise in evictions also amounts to a public health concern. “This pandemic is a stark reminder that housing is health care,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told MarketWatch in March when the moratoriums nationwide were first going into effect.

Activists, industry groups call for rental assistance

Progressive activists and trade associations that represent landlords agree that lawmakers need to go further in terms of addressing renters’ needs amid the pandemic.

“A robust rental assistance program is the only policy that both addresses the basic need of housing for renters and ensures apartment owners can pay the bills to keep rental housing operational,” Greg Brown, senior vice president of government relations at the National Apartment Association, told MarketWatch in an e-mail.

Brown argued that apartment owners have aimed to avoid evictions by offering payment plans and waiving late fees. “Unchecked claims of mass evictions have consequences that steer policymakers’ attention away from the policy we desperately need to keep America’s 43 million renters safely housed and the apartment industry solvent — emergency rental assistance,” Brown said.

‘The alternative to not canceling the rent is the complete bottoming out of the market.’

— Tara Raghuveer, housing campaign director at People’s Action

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a Democrat, introduced legislation in May that would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance program to help households during the pandemic. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has also called for lawmakers to establish temporary rental assistance. The organization’s research has estimated that it would cost $99.5 billion to cover all current and projected cost-burdened, low-income renters.

Read more:‘The housing emergency most harms people of color:’ Black Americans face an unequal housing market — and coronavirus could make it worse

Some activists, however, have advocated for rent forgiveness in lieu of rental assistance. Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has voiced his support for that approach, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat of Minnesota, has introduced legislation that would achieve it.

Forgiving or canceling rent would mean that landlords would seek assistance rather than tenants. Trade groups oppose Omar’s legislation, arguing it doesn’t adequately address the issue. But activists say that without rent forgiveness, the economy’s recovery is in jeopardy.

“The alternative to not canceling the rent is the complete bottoming out of the market,” Tara Raghuveer, housing campaign director at People’s Action, a political network devoted to grassroots organizing, told MarketWatch in May. “And tens of millions of people literally never financially recovering from this moment.”

Commodities Corner: Gold shatters ‘summer doldrums’ as it climbs to record territory

The gold market saw a lot of excitement on Thursday, with its climb over the last five sessions in a row ultimately lifting prices into record territory.

“Ordinarily this is the quiet time for gold—summer doldrums,” said Ross Norman, chief executive officer of precious metals news and information provider Metals Daily. “Well, not this year.”

Read: Why gold has become a ‘weapon of choice’ for investors

‘In reality, virtually everything is going gold’s way – record debt, epic increase in money supply, silver catching up, negative real yields, and even a dollar correction.’

— Ross Norman, Metals Daily

“In reality, virtually everything is going gold’s way—record debt, epic increase in money supply, silver catching up, negative real yields, and even a dollar correction,” Norman told MarketWatch.

August gold rose $24.90, or 1.3%, to settle at $1,890 an ounce on Comex Thursday, after trading as high as $1,897.70.

The contract ended just short of the most-active contract settlement record of $1,891.90 from August 22, 2011, based on records going back to November 1984, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The record most-active intraday level stands at $1,923.70 an ounce from Sept. 6, 2011.

However, the front-month July gold contract GCN20, +0.96%, which trades on significantly lower volume, settled at $1,889.10 on Thursday, up $25, or 1.3%, for the session. That’s a record for the front-month contracts, based on data going back to 1975.

Silver prices, meanwhile, also recently rallied to their highest settlement since 2013, with the September silver SIU20, -1.40% contract on Wednesday settling at $23.144 an ounce.

Gold’s upward momentum is “caused by perfect storm of pandemic headlines, benign dollars and interest rates, as global economic stimulus grows,” George Gero, managing director at RBC Wealth Management, told MarketWatch. “This may last longer than usual cycles” as the pandemic casts a shadow on Europe, South America, the Far East, as well as the U.S.

Contributing to gold’s haven appeal are escalating tensions between China and the U.S., the upcoming U.S. election, worries about an increase in debts from continuing stimulus, and unrest everywhere, said Gero.

Gold prices have climbed by around 50% since the summer of 2018, when the metal bottomed under $1,200 an ounce, said Adrian Ash, director of research at BullionVault. That’s the fastest two-year gain since New Year 2012, he said.

The yellow metal also has climbed around $400 an ounce from March’s COVID-19 crash, “its steepest 17-week gain since the very tops of September 2011 and before that January 1980,” said Ash, adding that trading volumes on BullionVault, an online platform for physical precious metals, reached $28.9 million, which was the third busiest day ever, after March 17 when the COVID crisis really broke, and June 24, 2016, the day of the U.K.’s Brexit referendum result.

“Hot money’s finally joined in,” said Ash.

That said, analysts warned that gold could soon see a correction.

Prices could move lower “on profit taking,” said Norman. At the same time, the stock market is “looking disconnected from the real economy and a sell off could see margin calls again like we saw” in the first quarter, prompting traders to sell gold to cover those margins.

Gero voiced caution as well. “Next week, options expirations on Comex, with in the money options becoming futures contracts needing cash margin, could bring traders profit taking” in gold, he said.

Even if there was a pullback in gold prices, however, Norman said “all that would do is provide a fresh buying opportunity…so that window could close quite quickly.”

The Margin: Eating chocolate once a week can lower your risk of heart disease: study

Guilty pleasure? More like superfood.

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology this week supports the argument that chocolate can be good for your heart.

Researchers conducted a combined analysis of studies from the past five decades that looked for links between eating chocolate and coronary artery disease, which included data from more than 336,000 participants who reported their chocolate consumption. And those who ate chocolate more than once a week were associated with an 8% lower risk of blocked arteries, compared with those who indulged in chocolate less than once a week.

“Our study suggests that chocolate helps keep the heart’s blood vessels healthy,” explained study author Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a statement. “Chocolate contains heart healthy nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols and stearic acid which may reduce inflammation and increase good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol).”

His findings build on previous research that finds consuming cocoa reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, and lowers the risk of death by cardiovascular disease. Scientists believe that the flavonoids found in chocolate (and red wine) do this by lowering blood pressure and improving vascular function, aka how effectively your blood delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, as well as carrying away waste materials.

That’s good news for the many people who’ve been turning to sweet, sweet chocolate during the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, Americans spent $3.7 billion on chocolate in the 17-week period that ended June 27, which is up 6.3% from the same window last year, Nielsen reported. And while dark chocolate sales were up 13.6%, milk chocolate has proven to be the sweet most people are sinking their teeth into during the pandemic, with Americans dropping $2.9 billion on it.

Privately held Mars told CNN it’s seen online sales of chocolate candy like M&Ms “skyrocket.” Hershey HSY, +5.46% reported that sales of chocolate syrup, baking chips and cocoa were up 30% in March as quarantining families stocked up to spend time together baking. While sales have slipped as the pandemic has dragged on, the company is hopeful that more at-home consumption, as well as stores replenishing their inventories as more markets reopen, will soon boost sales again.

Related:Hershey profit beats estimates as sales fall short

This new study on eating chocolate didn’t examine portion sizes, or whether subjects were savoring dark chocolate, milk chocolate or some other cocoa confection to feed their weekly chocolate habit. But several studies suggest that dark chocolate, in particular, can have numerous health benefits — when eaten in moderation, of course.

As noted above, chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure. Subjects with high blood pressure who ate dark chocolate or other flavanol-rich cocoa for two weeks in a 2010 study lowered their blood pressure more than the subjects who were taking a placebo.

Research teams at Harvard and in Denmark have also found evidence that chocolate can help prevent atrial fibrillation (aka AFib), an irregular heart rhythm that can raise a person’s risk of heart failure, stroke, dementia and even death. The study of more than 55,000 people over 13 years found that those who had two to six servings of chocolate per week had a 20% lower risk of AFib compared with those who ate chocolate less than once per month. (It should be noted that chocolate seemed to lose its halo effect if people ate more than six servings of chocolate per week, however, so this isn’t an excuse to binge.)

Consuming dark chocolate and red wine can also improve blood flow to the brain, and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia, according to a multidecade research project out of Tufts and Boston universities. The recent report found that those with the highest intake of flavonoid foods (which also include tea, berries and apples) were the least likely to develop dementia. The theory is that the flavonoids (antioxidant compounds found in plant foods) protect neurons in the brain from toxins, and also help fight inflammation.

Read more:Cheers! Chocolate and red wine may help you avoid Alzheimer’s

Chocolate has also been shown to boost athletic performance, improve moods and lower stress.

But keep in mind that most chocolaty treats are often chock-full of sugar, fat and other additives to make them even tastier, which can mitigate the positive health benefits with negative side effects such as weight gain or acne flare-ups in adults. A standard dark chocolate bar with 70% to 85% cacao packs about 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar, the American Heart Association notes. Milk chocolate has roughly the same number of calories, but twice the amount of sugar. Nutritionists generally recommend sticking to 1 ounce of dark chocolate per serving to maximize health benefits while balancing calories.

Retire Better: Trump’s retreat on tax cuts is a win for your Social Security and Medicare


President Trump has thrown in the towel on his demand to cut payroll taxes, and it won’t appear in an economic stimulus bill that Republicans unveil Thursday. It’s an acknowledgment that the president’s idea had little support in Congress, even from fellow Republicans.

If you care about the solvency of critical programs like Social Security and Medicare, this is a big deal, because both would have been weakened by a payroll tax cut.

Read: White House ends payroll tax cut bid as Republicans unveil tax package

Here’s why: Social Security and Medicare are both principally financed by the payroll taxes that Trump wanted to cut. Both workers and their employer pay into the system. Cut those taxes and you undermine the long-term health of these critical social safety net programs. It’s really that simple.

80% of older Americans can’t retire – COVID-19 isn’t helping

Why even cut payroll taxes? Trump thought doing so would have given companies more breathing room financially, and help them stay afloat during the pandemic.

Congress would have had to decide how much lower the tax rate should be and how long the tax break should last. Right now you pay (if you’re working, that is), about 7.65% of your income, which is matched by your employer. If you’re among the growing number of Americans who are self-employed, you pay both parts—though you get to deduct the employer portion.

Read: I have 4 goals for my money in retirement

But was cutting payroll taxes the best way to deal with the economic damage caused by a health crisis in the first place?

In terms of Social Security and Medicare, “it doesn’t make sense,” says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton LLP, a tax and accounting firm. She also warns it could threaten the “government’s commitments to older generations, like baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and the silent generation (born 1928-1945).”

It’s essential to remind Americans that Social Security and Medicare are already somewhat wobbly. Even before the GEC (“Great Economic Collapse”) of 2020 began, Social Security was dipping into its reserves—the so-called Trust Fund—to meet its obligations to older Americans. Because millions of Americans have been laid off—and thus not paying into the system—those reserves are being exhausted even faster.

Read: Take Social Security at 62? Here’s how to do it

Those reserves could be exhausted by 2035, the Social Security Board of Trustees projected in April, after which it will only be able to pay 76% of benefits. What’s worrying is that this report was compiled weeks and months before the economy collapsed, and millions dropped off the payrolls. The Trustees addressed this, warning that “The projections and analysis in this report do not reflect the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Social Security and Medicare programs.”

But even without those projections and analysis, it’s hardly unreasonable to suggest that the Trust Fund will be depleted even faster now.

The bottom line: Every dollar taken out of Social Security now brings its day of reckoning closer. If you’re planning to be retired in 2035—just 14 fiscal years away—you may want to consider the financial impact of a 24% cut in benefits.

Read: Who knew? A pandemic and a recession don’t lead to a baby boom

For Medicare, the news appears even more dire. The most recent report from that program’s trustees makes the same warning that its projections fail to take COVID-19 into account. But even without them, the trustees predict that the Part A trust fund (which pays for hospital and other inpatient care) could start to run out of money in 2026.

Again, it’s a safe bet that COVID-19 has made this worse.

In a broader sense, Trump’s thinking that he could use tax cuts to fix an economy that has been knocked down by a pandemic is wrongheaded, Swonk says. “Economists have been pretty unambiguous, with the exception of a small minority, that this is first, last and foremost a health crisis; the course of COVID will determine the course of the economy.” Contain the virus, and the economy will recover.

The president’s retreat seemed inevitable, following comments Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“There are some differences of opinion on the question of the payroll-tax cut and whether that’s the best way to go,” he said.

What is the best way to go? Not tax cuts, but another round of stimulus checks for hard-hit American families. Different ideas are being discussed, but this second round of aid will likely be in the $1,200 range, similar to what most individuals with incomes below $75,000 got earlier this year.

What isn’t the best way to go? Doing something that inflicts long-term damage on programs that all Americans will rely on at some point in their lives. If anything, in this time of heightened uncertainty, Americans need to be reassured that Social Security and Medicare—which we have all paid into over the course of our entire working lifetimes—are secure, and that promises made by the government will be honored.

Outside the Box: How will the robots see you through the pandemic?

Today’s market turbulence marks new terrain for automated investing platforms, most of which emerged over the last decade after the financial crisis in 2008.

This first major test for robo adviser platforms comes in the form of an unprecedented global health crisis that has spurred incredible uncertainty for the economy and financial markets. It’s enough to make any investor feel anxious — and robo adviser users are wondering what it all might mean for their portfolios.

Calls from our robo adviser clients have more than doubled on some of the most volatile market days recently. From millennial investors who are experiencing their first major market downturn to preretirees counting on their investments to last them through retirement, here are a few of the most common questions we are hearing, along with tips for any robo investor weathering uncertainty ahead:

1. ‘Should I change my portfolio allocation to be more conservative?’

This is one of the most frequently asked questions among investors right now, and the reality is that it is going to depend on each individual’s time horizon and risk profile.

Broadly, however, unless an individual’s financial goals have changed, their portfolio strategy shouldn’t change during volatility either. Over a lifetime of investing, the best strategy is to get and stay invested with a diversified portfolio and according to an established plan. Even if it’s tempting to try to time the market, time in the market is far more important.

2. ‘How often should my portfolio be rebalanced?’

Rebalancing is among the more critical things that an investor can do for their portfolio—but it’s also one of the trickiest. Markets are in constant flux, and target allocations within a portfolio can drift off course as the markets rise and fall—a challenge that becomes magnified in periods of volatility.

According to Schwab data, a hypothetical portfolio made up of 60% stocks and 40% bonds in March 2009 without rebalancing would have been 83% stocks and 17% bonds in June 2018—that’s a significant deviation over a 10-year period after the financial crisis.

Regular rebalancing ensures that investors’ portfolios remain consistent with their risk tolerance over time and mitigates exposure to a level of risk that may increase portfolio vulnerability during a market downturn. But rebalancing too frequently to hold tight to target allocations carries the potential risks of lower returns and increased tax burdens in nonqualified accounts.

Most digital advice platforms have built-in levers to determine when it’s necessary to rebalance, and some offer ongoing portfolio monitoring for opportunities to reallocate. The automated process puts logic, instead of emotion, in the driver’s seat to help investors stay the course. More important, it allows investors to focus on other pressing matters in challenging times, like taking care of their health and families.

3. ‘How should I think about tax-loss harvesting?’

A lot of robo adviser clients are seeing trades taking place in their portfolios and wondering about the mechanics of tax-loss harvesting, especially during market volatility when there is more opportunity for tax-loss harvesting. Put simply, by selling funds that have experienced a loss and reinvesting in a similar fund within the same asset class, investors can offset tax liabilities while maintaining their allocation targets.

Tax-loss harvesting, similar to rebalancing, is an important strategy that becomes even more significant in periods of volatility when there is opportunity to take advantage of losses. So it is natural that investors are seeing more of these trades in today’s environment.

4. ‘Should I move money out of the market if I’m close to retirement?’

The risk to getting out of the market fully is twofold. First, there’s a missed opportunity for growing assets toward individual long-term goals. For most, retirement is a pretty lengthy period and people typically need the growth provided by stocks to carry them through.

Second is the risk of not participating in a recovery if and when markets rebound. Historical data shows that trying to time a market exit and re-entry can be detrimental to returns, while investors who stick with a long-term investment plan in a diversified portfolio generally see their investments recover in a few years.

The decision is going to look different for every individual. Investors with short-term goals who need to tap their assets soon—within four to five years—may want to hold that money in cash investments or investments generally less volatile than stocks.

Weathering the storm with automated investing

While today’s environment remains uncharted territory for some robo adviser users, many of the traditional principles still apply — investors should establish their parameters from the get-go and aim to stay on track over a lifetime of investing. Automated platforms also help to remove some of the emotion that causes impulsive investment decisions that often accompany volatile markets, which can otherwise be detrimental to an individual’s long-term goals. Many even offer access to financial advisers at an affordable cost for investors who might want some additional guidance amid the uncertainty.

David Koenig, CFA, is chief investment strategist at Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.


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Metals Stocks: Gold prices approach highest settlement in history as silver futures take a breather

Gold prices looked set to extend a win streak to a fifth straight session on Thursday, bringing the yellow metal within shouting distance of a historic settlement peak around $1,900 an ounce, highlighting feverish demand for bullion amid the worst pandemic in over a century.

“Gold is now just $40 shy of reaching its 2011 record high…If it gets there, who is to say it can’t go to $2,000 next?” wrote Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a Thursday research note.

“Obviously, no one knows if it will get there, but momentum is certainly bullish, and the fundamental backdrop is still supportive,” he wrote.

Gold for August delivery GC00, +0.60% on Comex rose $12.40, or 0.7%, at $1,877.50, after the metal gained 1.5% in the previous session. Prices based on the most-active contracts, haven’t traded or settled at levels this high since September 2011 but the commodity is closing in on its highest settlement on record at $1,891, based on FactSet data.

The surge for gold comes against the narrative of continued uncertainty about the economic landscape for the U.S. and other countries attempting to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are now more than 15.25 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 world-wide and about 624,000 people have died, data aggregated by John Hopkins University show.

Gold has flourished in this environment at least partly due to the outsize efforts by central banks and governments to provide funding to lessen the economic effects of the global outbreak, which has benefited buying in gold and silver to a lesser extent.

September contract SIU20, -1.29% shed 20 cents, or 0.8%, to $22.945 an ounce, after surging 7.4% on Wednesday, extending a climb to its highest levels since 2014 after a 6.8% rally on Tuesday.

Read:Why silver is trading at a nearly 4-year high