Economy

US Consumers And Investors Want A Return To Normal, But Will A Second COVID-19 Wave Change That?

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U.S. restaurants and retailers are starting to reopen as authorities lift COVID-19 restrictions and consumers contemplate returning to life as usual, or at least life adjusted for a post-pandemic world of things like people wearing face masks in public. But worries about getting to year’s end without further economic damage are growing, which helped push the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 1,800 points on Thursday (June 11).

The crash followed fears of a so-called “second wave” of coronavirus this fall in which the entire U.S. economy could freeze shut once again. Although many experts think the past few months of prep time the U.S. medical establishment has had will negate the necessity of such extreme measures, uncertainty still looms in the market.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that there won’t be a second U.S. economic lockdown. “We can’t shut down the economy again,” he said. “I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage. And not just economic damage, but there are other areas … medical problems and everything else that got put on hold.”

Mnuchin also signaled that if necessary, he’ll return to Congress for additional relief spending to help juice the economy. “We have the Fed program — we have Main Street [lending program], which is going to be now up and running — and we’re prepared to go back to Congress for more money to support the American worker,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have passed a $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (or HEROES Act). Among its many provisions, the measure would provide up to $6,000 per household in stimulus payments, extend $600 extra jobless benefits through early 2021 and give states and cities federal aid to make up for lost local tax revenues.

However, the price tag on has engendered pushback from the Republican-controlled Senate, which has urged a “wait-and-see” approach as more numbers roll in on the outbreak’s economic impacts. But the GOP took that position before widespread civil unrest in U.S. cities saw curfews, looting and property damage that threaten to further slow Main Street small and medium-sized business (SMB) recovery.

What does it all mean for consumers and businesses?  According to PYMNTS’ most recent consumer survey, the mood among Americans increasingly favors an economic reopening. Some 36.1 percent told us they’re now “very” or “extremely” interested in going back out, compared to just 28.5 percent who said the same thing in our April 27 poll.

But enthusiasm varies depending on many factors. For instance, those who shifted to working at home during the pandemic are the most likely to want to get back out on public, with 40 percent saying they’re “very” or “extremely” interested in going out.

People who shifted their dining habits — those we categorize as “convenience shifters” — are the second most eager to get out, with 39.3 percent of them saying they’re “very” or “extremely” interested in doing so.

But how eager they’ll feel if a second wave of coronavirus emerges remains to be seen. And whether investors regain confidence in consumers’ enthusiasm to spend money seems to be an open question as well.

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