Author: SHO

Trump’s TikTok ban could create a security problem for users — here’s how

More than 100 million TikTok users in America, and anyone else who’s curious about the popular, controversial video-sharing app, now have a tight time frame to either download or upgrade the app.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced Friday that as of Sunday, Sept. 20, it will prevent all downloads of TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The same order is blocking downloads of WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings 700, -0.38%, also based in China.

TikTok stays “intact” until Nov. 12, Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday morning on Fox Business. But after that point — without American-based ownership that satisfies the U.S. government — TikTok would “be for all practical purposes shut down,” Ross said.

It’s a different story for WeChat, Ross said. The American-based use of that app is banned, come Sunday. “WeChat is essentially a funds transfer and payment processing mechanism…for all practical purposes, it will be shut down in the U.S.,” Ross said.

See also:TikTok saved my business: Candy retailer finds internet fame as COVID-19 forces a pivot

The order from Ross’s department comes as negotiations continue to find an American-based buyer for TikTok; the Trump administration worries ByteDance has too much access to American user data.

Oracle Corp. ORCL, -0.71%   and Walmart WMT, -1.02%  could reportedly take a large stake in TikTok, according to the Wall Street Journal. Oracle’s own bid reportedly hasn’t satisfied national security concerns inside the administration. Both companies did not immediately reply to MarketWatch’s request for comment.

So what do all those high-level negotiations mean for people who just want to flip though homemade dance videos, silly pranks or even a snippet of personal-finance advice?

‘I don’t care what they tell you, at the end of the day, the ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer.’

— Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout, a cybersecurity firm

“The only real changes as of Sunday night will be you won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” Ross said in his televised interview, later adding, “so if that were to continue over a long period of time, there might be a gradual degradation of services.”

The real deadline comes by Nov. 12, he noted.

Halting updates on any app could present a security risk, according to one expert.

“It is an extremely dangerous thing to create a situation where people have no ability to receive updates, and the reason is, it’s a big security issue,” Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout, a cybersecurity firm, told MarketWatch. An app update typically relates to a patch for vulnerabilities in the app. The Commerce Department order should be amended at least to say security upgrades are a must, in Levin’s opinion.

“TikTok isn’t, by any means, the only guys who are secretive about what they do with your information,” he noted. In all sorts of apps, users themselves might have to pour through the terms and conditions and privacy settings if they really want to guard their privacy, he said.

“There’s not an app that’s entirely safe. There’s not an app where you could be assured 1,000% there isn’t some vulnerabilty somewhere,” Levin said, later adding, “The most important thing people have to keep in mind, I don’t care what they tell you, at the end of the day, the ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer.”

A TikTok spokeswoman said the company disagrees with the Commerce Department’s order.

“[We] are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the U.S. from November 12,” a TikTok spokeswoman said. “Our community of 100 million U.S. users love TikTok because it’s a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, and we’re committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”

TikTok’s proposal to the government commits to “unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and U.S. government oversight of U.S. data security,” she added.

A spokesperson for WeChat said the company is reviewing the U.S. government’s order.

“WeChat was designed to serve international users outside of mainland China and has always incorporated the highest standards of user privacy and data security. Following the initial executive order on August 6 we have engaged in extensive discussions with the U.S. government, and have put forward a comprehensive proposal to address its concerns. The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but given our desire to provide ongoing services to our users in the U.S. — for whom WeChat is an important communication tool — we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the U.S. ways to achieve a long-term solution.”

‘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

Public-health officials have enacted a nationwide moratorium on evictions to protect Americans from COVID-19.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in early September that it was establishing a temporary ban on evictions across the country, the news was celebrated by housing advocates who feared that as many as 40 million Americans could be kicked out of their homes during the pandemic.

The bottom line: The historic move did not come with additional funding to support struggling renters and landlords across the country.Housing advocates and industry officials say if lawmakers don’t set aside funds for emergency rental assistance, the eviction crisis could hit a fever pitch once the current moratorium ends.

The moratorium doesn’t automatically protect renters — they must proactively fill out a form and send it to their landlord to receive protection under the CDC’s order. But the CDC’s moratorium was essentially a unilateral act.

White House officials stressed that some emergency funding at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Treasury — including money allocated by the CARES Act — could be accessed by struggling renters and landlords alike.

Have questions about how the national eviction moratorium works as a landlord or renter? Email us at EvictionQuestions@marketwatch.com

Congress, however, has not yet appropriated any funds for the explicit purpose of providing rental assistance. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain unemployed because of business closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘This is just slowing the clock on evictions, it’s not providing additional resources.’

— Marion McFadden, senior vice president for public policy at Enterprise Community Partners

The $600 in supplemental unemployment payments expired many weeks ago — the Trump administration has allowed states to tap emergency funds to provide an additional $300 per week in unemployment payments to eligible workers. But those funds too are likely to run out soon.

As a result, the CDC’s moratorium is not in itself a solution to the eviction crisis the nation is facing. “This is just slowing the clock on evictions, it’s not providing additional resources,” said Marion McFadden, senior vice president for public policy at Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing non-profit.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to see a quick bounce back from the economic impact of COVID,” said McFadden, who previously served at the deputy assistant secretary for grant programs at HUD. “We need Congress to be forward-looking to think about [providing] community assistance.”

Also see:CDC’s eviction moratorium doesn’t automatically protect renters — here are the strict criteria you must meet

It’s not just renters who are in sore need of the assistance. Industry experts have warned that landlords — particularly mom-and-pop landlords who own only a handful of rental properties — are also staring down financial ruin.

‘$100 billion was always perceived to be a floor, a minimum that would be needed.’

— Marion McFadden, senior vice president for public policy at Enterprise Community Partners

“The vast majority of single-family rentals have landlords who only have one, two or three homes — they don’t have much by way of resources to fall back on,” said David Howard, executive director of the National Rental Home Council, a trade group representing landlords in the single-family rental industry.

Many of these small-scale landlords own these units as a source of retirement income or a way to defer long-term housing costs. And many had already gone months without seeing monthly rental payments before the CDC’s eviction order went into effect.

“A landlord could very well have tenants who are not paying rent and who haven’t been paying rent for some time, yet the landlord is still responsible for paying the mortgage, paying for the maintenance and the upkeep costs,” Howard said. “And if they can’t, they can be foreclosed on.”

How much emergency rental assistance is needed?

When asked what was needed in terms of emergency assistance, most rental housing industry officials and affordable housing experts cited the same figure: $100 billion.

That was the amount of emergency rental assistance that was allocated in the $3 trillion HEROES Act legislation written by Democrats, which was passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year. A majority of those funds would be distributed to serve individuals or families experiencing or at risk of homelessness who earn less than 50% of their area median income.

The rental industry took issue with certain components of the HEROES Act — the legislation included its own eviction moratorium, which was far-reaching and would have lasted until March 2021 — but officials said they supported the amount set aside for rental assistance.

“It will accomplish what it’s designed to accomplish, which is providing assistance for people who are who are having trouble paying the rent, and we think that’s a good thing,” Howard said.

But $100 billion might not be enough money, depending on how many Americans continue to face difficulty paying the rent — especially as supplemental unemployment payments run out.

“$100 billion was always perceived to be a floor, a minimum that would be needed,” McFadden said. No one knows how long the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic fallout will last, so putting a price tag on the amount of emergency funds needed is difficult, she said.

“I don’t know if the $100 billion we supported before would even be enough,” said Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association.

What’s more, the amount needed in funds explicitly intended for rental assistance will depend on whether a future stimulus package — if one passes in Congress — includes more money for unemployment insurance.

A July report from the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank, calculated that without unemployment aid, it would cost $14.2 billion per month to alleviate the rent burden for all renters nationwide. With the supplemental $600 per week in unemployment benefits, that figure drops down to $11.8 billion.

“Only the federal government can provide the resources needed at this scale across the country,” McFadden said.

Don’t miss:Gaps in the CDC’s eviction ban could leave some renters homeless, housing advocates say

How would emergency rental assistance be distributed?

Any form of emergency rental assistance passed by Congress would likely make use of existing programs and channels at HUD to distribute it nationwide.

“Once we get some sort of stimulus legislation through, we need to get those monies out as quickly as possible,” Pinnegar said. “There’s not time to reinvent the wheel to get that money out there.”

Assistance would most likely come in multiple forms, McFadden said. Much of the money would likely be distributed in the form of Section 8 housing-choice vouchers. “Rental assistance that goes directly to families in the form of vouchers helps them pay the rent and gives them choice over the buildings they want to live in,” McFadden said.

But for a variety of reasons, a voucher program alone won’t be sufficient to meet the shortfalls in rent. “There are going to be renters falling through the cracks who are not accessing assistance they’re qualified to,” McFadden said.

‘The key is to get more funding into the hands of folks in the least bureaucratic way.’

— Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Some rental assistance likely would be distributed to states and localities through grants administered by HUD, particularly the Emergency Solutions Grants Program. States and cities that receive those grants, which are typically used to help individuals facing homelessness, will then distribute them to non-profits who will oversee dispersing the funds to residents and landlords to address the shortcomings of vouchers.

“The key is to get more funding into the hands of folks in the least bureaucratic way,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

McFadden argued that some emergency funding should be earmarked specifically for payments directly to affordable-housing providers. “They are spending much more money on cleaning their buildings to keep people safe and providing PPE to their staff and residents,” she said. “Those are kinds of things that an individual voucher is not going to pay for.”

However, some progressive activists have argued for other approaches to emergency housing assistance. A plan put forth earlier this year by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, called for nationwide renter forgiveness. Under her plan, rather than tasking renters with seeking out assistance, they would be allowed to forego rent payments entirely if facing hardship due to COVID-19.

Instead, landlords would be the ones tasked with navigating government assistance — and Omar’s legislation would require landlords to agree to a range of protections for their tenants in order to receive financial assistance.

“The landlord relative to the tenant has way more power and way more security in this moment simply by virtue of having an asset to borrow against,” Tara Raghuveer, housing campaign director at People’s Action, a political network devoted to grassroots organizing, previously told MarketWatch. “Tenants should not be faced with the burden of navigating a government bureaucracy to get their relief.”

Key Words: Dr. Fauci: ‘We may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us’ — but he says Americans must play a critical role

Whether a vaccine is effective — or not — will also depend on what role the public plays.

That’s according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert in infectious diseases for the last four decades, who was speaking to the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in a remote interview. “One of the things you need to understand, it’s the combination of how effective a vaccine is and how many people use it,” he said.

This is all the more important if the vaccine developed for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is moderately rather than highly effective. “If the vaccine is moderately effective, enough that you definitely want to use it, then you’re going to have to get a lot more people to get vaccinated to get that veil of protection in the community,” Fauci said during the Thursday event.

‘With the combination of a good vaccine along with public-health measures, we may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us the way we put the original SARS behind us and, hopefully, in the way we put MERS, or the Middle East Respiratory System, behind us.’

— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“With the combination of a good vaccine along with public-health measures, we may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us the way we put the original SARS behind us and, hopefully, in the way we put MERS, or the Middle East Respiratory System, behind us,” the veteran epidemiologist said. “I think we can do it with the combination of a vaccine and good public-health measures.”

Fauci said last month that he was hopeful that a coronavirus vaccine could be developed by early 2021, but has repeatedly said it’s unlikely that a vaccine will deliver 100% immunity; he said the best realistic outcome, based on other vaccines, would be 70% to 75% effective. The measles vaccine, he said, is among the most effective by providing 97% immunity.

Reviews of past studies have found that, on average, the flu vaccine is about 50% to 60% effective for healthy adults who are between 18 and 64 years old, according to a review of studies by the Mayo Clinic. “The vaccine may sometimes be less effective,” that report said. “Even when the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent the flu, it may lessen the severity of your illness.”

AstraZeneca AZN, +0.91%, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE BNTX, +0.32% and partner Pfizer PFE, -0.51% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +1.36% ; Merck & Co. MERK, -0.33% ; Moderna MRNA, +2.91% ; Sanofi SAN, -3.34% and GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -0.53% are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

Also see: Sweden embraced herd immunity, while the U.K. abandoned the idea — so why do they both have high COVID-19 fatality rates?

Last May, a majority of Americans (55%) said they would get vaccinated for COVID-19 if and when a vaccine becomes available, but that number has fallen to 32%, according to the latest Yahoo/YouGov poll conducted from Sept. 9 to Sept. 11 and released this week. For the first time, more people said they won’t get vaccinated (33%) or they’re unsure if they’ll get vaccinated (34%).

Commentators point to fears that a vaccine will be pushed through before Election Day, a hardcore group of anti-vaxxers, barriers to health-care access, and confusion about the vaccine’s possible effectiveness, among other reasons. The share of Republicans who said they’d get vaccinated fell to 33% in the latest poll from 47% in May, while the corresponding number of Democrats fell to 42% from 70% in May.

Fauci has cautioned against rushing a vaccine for political purposes without first knowing it was safe. At last month’s Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump said, “We are delivering life-saving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner. We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic, and emerge stronger than ever before.”

The president’s convention address appeared to somewhat accelerate the timeline laid out by “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to financially support the rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Under that program, the administration says it aims to have initial vaccine doses available by January.

As of Saturday, COVID-19 had infected 30,579,108 people worldwide, a number that mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed at least 953,318 people. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of cases (30,579,108), followed by India (5,308,014), Brazil (4,495,183) and Russia (1,092,915), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

And without a vaccine to provide adequate immunity and/or public-health measures to encourage social distancing? Fauci previously said that willfully aiming for “herd immunity” — as Sweden has attempted — instead of banning live events and closing schools and businesses to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases, would have dire consequences for the American people.

Stocks have been on a rollercoaster ride in recent months. The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA, -0.87%, the S&P 500 SPX, -1.11% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.07% closed lower Friday, as investors digested Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s dour economic outlook along with lackluster U.S. economic data that may need additional fiscal help.

“I’m optimistic about this even though we’re going through, globally, a terrible time right now,” Fauci told the WSJ CEO Council. “There will be an end to this, and we’ll be able to get back to normal.”

Earnings Outlook: Nike earnings preview: Orders canceled and retail partnerships cut but Nike is a ‘winner,’ analysts say

Nike Inc., like all other apparel and shoe sellers, has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; however, analysts say the athletic company will continue to be a “winner” heading into its fiscal first-quarter 2021 earnings announcement, scheduled for after hours Tuesday.

UBS says Nike NKE, -1.46% has canceled a number of orders, which means this quarter will be “ho hum,” but analysts are still bullish.

UBS rates Nike stock buy with a $127 price target.

“The key is Nike proactively canceled pre-COVID-19 factory purchase orders for the fall and holiday seasons by roughly 30% on a unit basis,” wrote analysts led by Jay Sole. “Our checks suggest this has made it hard for Nike to drive high near-term sales growth, despite strong demand. We believe this limits 1Q21 EPS [earnings per share] upside.”

Read: The holiday shopping season could start on 10/10/2020 with retailers hopeful that consumers will turn out early

Susquehanna Financial Group analysts led by Sam Poser note that Nike has also cut its sales to nine retailers, including Zappos, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -1.78%  , about 300 Belk stores, about 285 Dillard’s Inc. DDS, +1.26%   stores across 29 states and 31 VIM stores across New York and New Jersey.

“Nike’s decision to no longer sell to nine multi-branded wholesale accounts is positive for Nike, as it takes control of more of its own destiny,” Susquehanna said. Analysts there rate Nike stock positive.

Nike has been focused on its own direct-to-consumer offerings. Raymond James analysts note the continued demand for the company’s merchandise, helped in part by the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance,” which sparked even greater interest in Jordan-brand sneakers.

Moreover, Nike continues to invest in its digital channels, with more customers turning to-ecommerce during COVID-19.

“As stores start to reopen, we anticipate digital sales will continue to be robust which will prove critical as anything less than triple digits likely would stand in stark contrast to primary competitors,” Raymond James said.

Also:Customers are lining up to shop at Lululemon and analysts think there’s more room for growth

In the fourth quarter, which ended May 31, digital sales were up 75% with Nike Digital up triple digits in early June.

Raymond James rates Nike stock outperform with a $121 price target.

“All-in, we expect FY1Q shows evidence of progress ahead of plan, ongoing digital transformation, and business evolution to a higher margin, higher return model,” wrote Stifel in a note.

Stifel rates Nike stock buy with a $140 price target.

In its new Stifel Brand Scorecard, analysts note that athletic brands top the rankings, with Nike taking the top spot for “brand score.” Nike, Lululemon Athletica Inc. LULU, -2.75%   and Crocs Inc. CROX, -1.43%   are analysts “standout winners.”

Here’s what else to watch for when Nike reports:

Earnings: FactSet forecasts earnings per share of 46 cents, down from 86 cents last year.

Estimize, which crowdsources estimates from sell-side and buy-side analysts, hedge-fund managers, executives, academics and others, forecasts EPS of 40 cents.

Revenue: The FactSet consensus is for revenue of $8.94 billion, down from $10.66 billion last year.

Estimize is guiding for revenue of $8.83 billion.

Stock: Nike shares are up nearly 17% for the past three months, outpacing the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.87%  , which is up 5.7% for the period.

Nike stock has gained 13.5% for the year to date.

Also:COVID-related U.S. e-commerce growth slows as store reopenings attract quarantine-fatigued customers: Adobe

Other items:

-In a back-to-school season that was thrown into disarray due to COVID-19, Stifel’s 2020 Back-to-School Footwear Survey found that Nike was most popular by a wide margin (78%) followed by Adidas AG ADS, +0.03%    (16%) and Vans (3%).

Vans is part of the VF Corp. VFC, -3.29%   lineup.

-UBS analysts think the next big Nike earnings beat will be in the second half of the fiscal year.

“Our checks in the U.S., Europe and China, plus UBS Evidence Lab indicate Nike is recovering from the first half of CY20 shutdowns and taking market share,” analysts wrote. “However, we think big earnings beats won’t come until the second half of FY21.”

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