The Week in Business: It Was All About the Coronavirus

I’m going to do my taxes this week. There, I said it. Maybe now I’ll actually follow through. Or I’ll spend the week wandering from supermarket to supermarket, stocking up on canned soup. The coronavirus has been rattling the business world since January, but this week was different: It sent the markets tumbling and now seems poised to disrupt every aspect of American life. Maybe we’ll all end up doing our taxes from the safety of a bunker. — David Yaffe-Bellany

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

As cases of the coronavirus spread around the globe, stock markets entered a seven-day meltdown, with analysts issuing new warnings that the outbreak could drag down economies around the globe. The market losses last week were the largest since the financial crisis in October 2008, even as the Federal Reserve sought to assure investors on Friday that the American economy remained strong. For some companies, however, the apocalypse has been good for business: Investors are betting that people will load up on Clorox wipes and Campbell’s soups.

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

After delaying his retirement several times, Bob Iger abruptly stepped down as chief executive of Disney on Tuesday. (No, he’s not running for president: “It’s a little late for that,” he said.) He will be replaced by Bob Chapek, or Bob C, as he’s known in the halls of Disney. But the shared given name is where the similarities end. Mr. Iger is a larger-than-life personality who had a successful career in television before he became chief executive in 2005. Mr. Chapek is a quiet and efficient operator with almost no experience in television. He has spent most of his nearly three decades at Disney working in less flashy businesses like consumer products.

Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two felony sex crimes on Monday after a trial in Manhattan that has gripped the country for weeks. Mr. Weinstein was acquitted of the most serious charges against him — being a sex predator — but women’s rights groups celebrated the conviction, hailing it as a major victory for the #MeToo movement. Still, for all the progress of the last few years, Hollywood remains a man’s world, dominated by male filmmakers, producers and writers.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Investors are concerned that the coronavirus could seriously rattle the U.S. economy in the coming weeks. But last month, its impact was relatively insignificant, with the worst of the outbreak confined to China and the surrounding countries. On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to announce how many jobs were added to the economy in February. Economists are expecting another solid month of hiring to continue the labor market’s record-setting run, which has seen the unemployment rate hover below 4 percent for a year. But they will also be watching for any signs that the supply chain disruptions caused by the virus last month have started to slow job growth.

If (like me) you plan to do your taxes this week, you may be interested to learn that the maker of TurboTax, the software company Intuit, is spending $7.1 billion to purchase Credit Karma, a consumer finance firm that also offers tax-prep services. (Is this the birth of Big Tax Prep?) The deal is aimed at creating a Silicon Valley financial technology company that can provide a wide range of financial services, from getting credit scores to filing taxes. But the acquisition could also attract the attention of regulators, who have become increasingly concerned about companies that control large amounts of consumer data.

Ordering dinner on Grubhub or Uber Eats is almost irresistibly convenient. But it may also drain profits from neighborhood eateries. For months, New York restaurant owners have butted heads with the online delivery services, complaining that the apps charge exorbitant commissions. (They’re also expensive for consumers: The markups on food delivery can go as high as 91 percent.) Now, the New York City Council is proposing regulations that would cap the commissions — which usually range from 15 to 30 percent — that the apps charge restaurants and require them to apply for licenses to do business in New York.

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