(Bloomberg) — The White House strongly signaled Wednesday that it is willing to increase its pandemic-relief offer in talks with Democrats and that Senate Republicans should go along in order to seal a stimulus deal in the next week to 10 days.
Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said President Donald Trump is open to the compromise $1.5 trillion stimulus proposal from a bipartisan group of House lawmakers that was an effort to break a months-long deadlock over bolstering the U.S. economy amid the pandemic.
The long-shot plan from a 50-member group of House Democrats and Republicans has a bigger total spending figure than the administration previously endorsed. It’s also higher than what Senate GOP leaders say would be acceptable to Republicans.
Meadows said on CNBC that the amount is not a “show-stopper.” But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called it insufficient, while Senator John Thune, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said a $1.5 trillion stimulus would cause “a lot of heartburn” for GOP lawmakers.
Trump on Twitter urged Republican lawmakers to accept a higher level of spending. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later at a briefing that the higher level was relative to a slimmed-down Republican Senate bill blocked by Democrats last week.
After initially proposing a $1 trillion stimulus at the end of July, Senate Republicans attempted to advance a bill providing $650 billion in economic aid, without the direct payments to individuals the president — and Democrats — want.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment when asked about Trump’s call for Republicans to go higher. Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer released a statement saying they were “encouraged” by Trump’s endorsement of higher spending. “We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway,” they said.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell weighed in, telling reporters that while the recovery has been faster than expected in the past 60 days, “there’s certainly a risk” that as the months pass without additional funding and if the unemployed don’t get jobs, “that will start to show up in economic activity.”
“My sense is that more fiscal support is likely to be needed,” Powell said at a press conference. He said about 11 million people are still out of work amid the pandemic, small businesses are struggling and state and local governments have seen revenues drop.
Stimulus negotiations have been handled by Pelosi, Schumer, Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The Problem Solvers Caucus plan was developed over six weeks with the knowledge of the White House and leadership from both parties. But the track record of bipartisan groupings of moderates in either the House or Senate in brokering major deals has been poor in recent years.
The proposal offered compromises on the thorniest issues in the stalled talks. On aid to state and local governments, the group is backing about $500 billion, splitting the difference between the $915 billion sought by Pelosi and Schumer and the $150 billion put forward by the White House.
Read more: House Moderates Unveil $1.52 Trillion Bipartisan Relief Plan
Meadows said the $500 billion figure is more than the White House estimates that states have lost in revenue due to the pandemic, but added that the administration could accept a figure in the $250 billion-$300 billion range.
The increased flexibility telegraphed by Meadows comes with the election just 48 days away, with Trump still running behind Democrat Joe Biden in polls. While the president has sought to run on a platform of a strong economic recovery, a report Wednesday showing a slowdown in U.S. retail sales growth underscored the impact of fiscal stimulus running dry.
Another fault line in talks has been the level of supplemental jobless benefits. The Problem Solvers proposed $450 a week for eight weeks, and then a transition to benefits of 100% of salary or $600, whichever is lower. That is a compromise between the $600 flat rate Democrats want — the same as expired in July — and the $300 Trump has backed.
Under the Problem Solvers plan, total spending could increase to about $2 trillion if the pandemic continues, or shrink to $1.3 trillion if it subsides more quickly than expected. The White House had previously been willing to back about $1.1 trillion.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday said Democrats shouldn’t agree to less than $2 trillion. A group of House Democratic chairmen issued a statement criticizing the Problem Solvers proposal as inadequate. Pelosi earlier on MSNBC Wednesday reinforced her demand for $2.2 trillion.
“We did come down,” Pelosi said of her willingness to compromise. “We can only go so far.”
Trump’s new push for a deal highlights continuing divisions among Republicans, some of whom are reluctant to spend more money on stimulus with the national deficit reaching $3.3 trillion this year.
Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt said a number higher than $1 trillion can be the basis for an agreement, if it can be done quickly.
“I think there is a deal to be had here,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “My concern is that the window probably closes around the end of this month. And we need to get busy finding out what we can all agree on.”
But other senators resisted the idea.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said the Senate GOP bill, which costs about $300 billion when its cuts to Federal Reserve loan authority are counted, is the right amount.
“The president has his opinion. We have ours,” he told reporters.
“I need to see what it would be for and how it would be spent,” John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said. “And if a bill is chock full of spending porn as Speaker Pelosi’s bill is, I’m not going to vote for it.”
(Adds comment from Powell in eighth and ninth paragraphs.)
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AR Takes on More Functional Role in Consumer Experience
3 “Strong Buy” Stocks That Are Flirting With a Bottom
In the investing game, it’s not only about what you buy; it’s about when you buy it. One of the most common pieces of advice thrown around the Street, “buy low” is touted as a tried-and-true tactic.Sure, the strategy seems simple. Stock prices naturally fluctuate on the basis of several factors like earnings results and the macro environment, amongst others, with investors trying to time the market and determine when stocks have hit a bottom. In practice, however, executing on this strategy is no easy task.On top of this, given the volatility that has ruled the markets over the last few weeks, how are investors supposed to gauge when a name is flirting with a bottom? That’s where the Wall Street pros come in.These expert stock pickers have identified three compelling tickers whose current share prices land close to their 52-week lows. Noting that each is set to take back off on an upward trajectory, the analysts see an attractive entry point. Using TipRanks’ database, we found out that the analyst consensus has rated all three a Strong Buy, with major upside potential also on tap.Progenity (PROG)Offering clear and actionable genetic results, Progenity specializes in providing testing services. The company started trading on Nasdaq in June and saw its shares tumbling 44% since then. With shares changing hands for $8.11, several members of the Street recommend pulling the trigger before it heats up.Piper Sandler analyst Steven Mah points out that even against the backdrop of COVID-19, PROG managed to deliver with its Q2 2020 performance. “We are encouraged by the recovery in late Q2 2020 with 75,000 accessioned tests (~79,000 in Q1 2020), driven by noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) and carrier screening,” the analyst noted. Expounding on this, Mah stated, “Progenity did not provide guidance, but June test volumes of ~28,000 were strong (Q1 2020 monthly average was ~26,000) which we believe showcases the durability of its reproductive tests and the success that Progenity has in co-marketing and attaching carrier screening to the more essential NIPT. Of note, despite the pandemic disruptions, Progenity was able to maintain its leading pre-COVID test turnaround times.”Additionally, health insurer Aetna is temporarily extending coverage of average-risk NIPT until year-end as a result of the pandemic, with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also expected to endorse average-risk in the future given its clinical utility, in Mah’s opinion.Reflecting another positive, the fourth generation NIPT (single-molecule counting assay) test was able to measure fetal fraction, a key milestone according to Mah, and will continue to be developed into 2021. As the technology could potentially be applied to DNA, RNA, epigenetic markers and proteins for additional clinical applications such as oncology, the analyst is looking forward to the completion of the preeclampsia verification in Q4 2020 and a possible 2H21 launch. “We believe preeclampsia (~2.3 billion serviceable market) is a major differentiator for Progenity, allowing them to cross-sell across the full-continuum of reproductive testing,” the analyst added.If that wasn’t enough, PROG signed its first GI Precision Medicine partnership agreement with a top-20 Pharma company in August. The Oral Biotherapeutic Delivery System (OBDS), an ingestible drug and device combination designed to precisely deliver biologics systemically through a needle-free liquid jet injection into the submucosal tissues of the small intestine, is set to be utilized as part of the collaboration. Mah commented, “We believe Progenity can sign additional Pharma deals and look forward to the newsflow coming out on this front.”To sum it all up, Mah said, “We believe Progenity shares are undervalued given the robust recovery in the core testing business and multiple upcoming growth catalysts.”To this end, Mah rates PROG an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with a $17 price target. Should his thesis play out, a twelve-month gain of 105% could potentially be in the cards. (To watch Mah’s track record, click here)Are other analysts in agreement? They are. Only Buy ratings, 4, in fact, have been issued in the last three months. Therefore, the message is clear: PROG is a Strong Buy. Given the $13.33 average price target, shares could climb 60% higher in the next year. (See PROG stock analysis on TipRanks)Tactile Systems Technology (TCMD)Developing at-home therapy devices, Tactile Systems Technology wants to provide new treatments for lymphedema, which occurs when the lymphatic system is impaired, disrupting normal transport of fluid within the body, and chronic venous insufficiency. Down 52% year-to-date, its $32.67 share price lands close to its $29.47 52-week low. Thus, with business trends improving, the Street is pounding the table.Writing for Canaccord, analyst Cecilia Furlong acknowledges that the pandemic has hampered the company, with COVID-19 weighing on both volumes and sales. In the second half of March, volumes were down 50% compared to the first half of the month, and TCMD’s patient volumes in April and May remained challenged. That being said, trends started to improve at the end of May.“Going forward, given the vast majority of TCMD’s clinician customers practice in outpatient or office-based settings, we remain positive on TCMD’s ability to demonstrate better insulation against COVID impacts and likely experience a greater bounce-back relative to overall med-tech volume trends, with TCMD further benefitting from its expanding using of technology to remotely engage with clinicians and support patients,” Furlong explained.The analyst added, “Furthermore, recent trends among some providers to prescribe Flexitouch (an advanced intermittent pneumatic compression device to self-manage lymphedema and nonhealing venous leg ulcers) earlier along the therapy process, as a means to reduce in-person contact, could provide upside near term, as well as potentially transition to a longer-term tailwind.”On top of this, Furlong is also optimistic about new CEO Dan Reuvers and the reprioritization of the company’s investment and market development efforts. TCMD will shift focus away from its acquired Airwear product line, with it redirecting investments toward its Flexitouch and Entre (a pneumatic compression device used to assist in the home management of chronic swelling and venous ulcers associated with lymphedema and chronic venous insufficiency) products.“Given significant under-penetration in the lymphedema/phlebolymphedema market targeted by Flexitouch alongside the large patient population with limited treatment options today targeted by the firm’s Head & Neck platform, we view the combination of education and clinical data as key to further developing and penetrating these markets… Going forward, we expect management to continue to compile a broad base of clinical data to support reimbursement and drive broad adoption,” Furlong commented.All of this prompted Furlong to keep a Buy rating and $62 price target on the stock. This target conveys her confidence in TCMD’s ability to soar 90% in the next year. (To watch Furlong’s track record, click here)In general, other analysts are on the same page. With 3 Buy ratings and 1 Hold, the word on the Street is that TCMD is a Strong Buy. The $62.33 average price target brings the upside potential to 91%. (See TCMD stock analysis on TipRanks)uniQure N.V. (QURE)Last but not least we have uniQure, which delivers curative gene therapies that could potentially transform the lives of patients. Even though shares have fallen 44% year-to-date to $40, not much higher than its 52-week low of $36.20, multiple analysts still have high hopes.Representing SVB Leerink, 5-star analyst Joseph Schwartz acknowledges that shares struggled after news broke of its collaboration and licensing agreement with CSL Behring for AMT-061, QURE’s gene therapy for Hemophilia B, he argues the “shareholder base turnover is likely now complete as investors and QURE shift focus to next-in-line AMT-130, its AAV5 gene therapy for Huntington’s Disease (HD).”Schwartz further added, “With the M&A premium now out of the stock, we see the QURE’s current level as an attractive buying opportunity for those investors interested in the company’s up and coming CNS gene therapies, internal manufacturing, and robust intellectual property and knowhow.”Looking more closely at the agreement with CSL Behring, QURE will be tasked with the completion of the pivotal Phase 3 HOPE-B trial as well as the manufacturing process validation and manufacturing supply of AMT-061.According to management, 26-week Factor IX (FIX) data from all 54 patients enrolled in the trial remains on track, and topline data from the pivotal trial is still slated to read out by YE20. It should be mentioned that in a Phase 2b dose-confirmation study, QURE reported 41% FIX activity out to one year. Additionally, Schwartz points out that with HOPE-B progressing as planned, QURE has continued its manufacturing process validation work ahead of the anticipated BLA/MAA submissions in the U.S. and EU in 2021.On top of this, as part of the deal, QURE is eligible to receive more than $2 billion including a $450 million upfront cash payment, $1.6 billion in regulatory and commercial milestones and double-digit royalties ranging up to the low-twenties percentage of net product sales.“With a strengthened cash position, QURE is well funded to rapidly advance CNS assets including AMT-130 (AAV5 gene therapy for Huntington’s Disease (HD)) and AMT-150 (AAV gene therapy for Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3/SCA3)…We continue to believe that as QURE’s CNS pipeline assets mature, the company could once again be an attractive partner to larger biopharma companies that have recently acquired many publicly traded gene therapy platforms with substantial manufacturing capabilities,” Schwartz noted.Everything that QURE has going for it convinced Schwartz to reiterate an Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating. Along with the call, he attached a $67 price target, suggesting 68% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Schwartz’s track record, click here)What does the rest of the Street have to say? 9 Buys and 3 Holds have been issued in the last three months, so the consensus rating is a Strong Buy. In addition, the $69.89 average price target indicates 75% upside potential. (See QURE stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for beaten-down stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Two Republicans resign from North Carolina election board
(Reuters) – Two Republicans resigned from the North Carolina State Board of Elections late on Wednesday, the panel said, citing concerns about a plan to settle a lawsuit over counting of absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election, among other issues.
Ken Raymond and David Black stepped down over a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans against the five-member election board, it said in a statement that attached their letters of resignation.
“It is impossible to have true bipartisanship when both sides of the political aisle do not have the important and vital information needed to make the right decisions,” Raymond said in his letter.
Black referred to concerns over the witness requirement for absentee ballots.
“It was not my understanding that the cure would simply mean a affidavit, or cure document, would be sent to the voter for a confirmation that this ballot was their own,” he said.
The election officials had struck a tentative agreement on Tuesday to count any absentee ballots that arrive up to nine days after the Nov. 3 election, so long as they are postmarked by election day.
“The unanimous agreement of the five-member State Board regarding the proposed settlement came after counsel to all board members from agency attorneys and litigation counsel before and during last week’s closed session meeting,” the board said in its statement.
Raymond and Black are both former chairmen of county election boards in North Carolina, where President Donald Trump this month urged residents to try to vote twice in the election, once by mail and once in person.
Trump won North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes by 3.6 percentage points over Clinton in 2016. The Southern state has gone consistently Republican in presidential elections since 1980, with the exception of Obama’s victory there in 2008.
That makes Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s slight lead in recent polls in the state a significant worry for the president.
(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes warns of a coup after Trump says he wants to ‘Get rid of ballots’ [Video]
On All In With Chris Hayes Wednesday night, Hayes had a dire warning for the American people following a press conference earlier in the day in which President Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he were to lose the presidential election in November, and even spoke of getting rid of ballots.
When asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump answered, “Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.” “I understand that, but people are rioting,” The reporter pushed. “Do you commit to making sure that there’s peaceful transferral of power?” Trump replied, “We wanna have—Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful—There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”
Trump received immediate backlash, including from Republican senator Mitt Romney.
Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 24, 2020
“A chilling moment, I gotta say,” Hayes said in response to Trump’s answer. “I don’t know any other way to say it. The President of the United States threatening violence to stay in power. Sounds weird coming out of my mouth but that’s what happened.” He later added, “What the president is doing here is the most explicit that he has been about his plans for this election. He’s plotting in open, in public, repeatedly, a coup to steal the election and hold onto power.”
In recent months, Trump has continually spread unfounded conspiracies about mail-in voting; his campaign has sued states that expanded mail-in voting due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic; and his hand-picked postmaster general has taken steps to hamper the mail-in voting process, including the removal of over 700 mail-sorting machines. Hayes believes the plan is to sow distrust in the mail-in voting process, and to slow the arrival of mail-in ballots, and that Trump will try to use this to his advantage.
“He will take advantage of something called the ‘Red Mirage’ where more Republican votes come in first because those people voted in person, making it look like Trump is ahead on election night,” Hayes said. “And then he will attempt to use the courts to delay something called the ‘Blue Shift,’ which is just the counting of more heavily Democratic mail-in votes. They’re all the same votes. They’re all just getting counted at different times.”
Trump, along with most senate Republicans, is pushing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and he has openly admitted, with a strong conservative majority on the Supreme Court, that he is counting on them to decide the election, no matter the vote count.
“He will try to use the courts, then, to invalidate as many as those mail-in ballots…as he can. Remember, this is why today he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, the mail-in ballots,” Hayes said. “Get rid of those ballots, he said. Those mail-in ballots are also the reason the president says, keeps saying, that he is counting on the courts, the federal courts, to help him win. He’s not going to wait for the ballots to be counted. He’s saying it.”
Even without filling the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, conservatives hold a 5-3 majority. But Hayes believes Republicans want to fill it before the election because, as he put it, “Apparently they do not trust Chief Justice John Roberts to be enough of a hack to corruptly hand them the White House.”
Hayes pointed out other ways Trump may try to “steal” the election, and concluded that the only way to make sure that doesn’t happen is record voter turnout.
All In With Chris Hayes airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.
Watch Chris Cuomo slam Trump’s ‘epic hypocrisy’ for changing his views on election year SCOTUS appointments:
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