Reuters/Eileen Soreng
Gold hits one-week peak as softer dollar, worsening pandemic lift appeal

Gold prices touched a one-week high on Monday propped up by a weaker dollar, while mounting U.S. coronavirus cases escalated concerns of the pandemic’s impact on economic recovery underpinning hopes of further monetary stimulus.

Spot gold rose 0.5% to $1,896.85 per ounce by 0329 GMT, after hitting its highest level since Nov. 9 at $1,898.81 earlier in the session.

U.S. gold futures were up 0.5% at $1,894.90.

The dollar index was down 0.2% making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.

The U.S. coronavirus cases crossed the 11-million mark on Sunday, while President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers called for urgent action to address the crisis.

“There are still underlying problems in structural economies, with job creations being the biggest problem,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at financial services firm Axi.

“Central banks are going to keep the markets flushed enough to bridge this gap between now and the vaccine.”

Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the country should brace for another 4-5 months of severe measures to halt the outbreak.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell repeated last week his view that more action from the central bank and Congress, in the form of further fiscal stimulus, would likely be needed.

Gold, which tends to benefit from stimulus measures from central banks as it is considered a hedge against inflation and currency debasement, has soared gold 25% higher this year.

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CNBC/Greg Iacurci
Unemployment claims are falling. But that’s not necessarily because people found work

Claims for unemployment benefits are falling. But it’s not all because people are returning to work.

Instead, many workers may be running out of jobless benefits altogether or falling through the cracks of the system, according to labor experts.

Even the unemployment rate may be artificially low, since millions of unemployed workers likely aren’t being counted by official statistics, the experts said.

These are important distinctions as policymakers gauge the vigor of the economic recovery and weigh the necessity of additional financial relief, like one-time stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits.

Continuing claims for unemployment benefits are the best available proxy for the total number of people receiving jobless aid. Claims have fallen by more than 10 million since the early summer.

There were around 21 million continuing claims through state and federal programs at the end of October, according to the Labor Department. That figure is elevated by historical standards, but down from nearly 33 million at the end of June.

A return to work likely accounts for a large portion of the decrease, said Susan Houseman, research director at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Other statistics seem to point to such a trend, she said.

For example, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.9% in October — less than half the 14.7% peak at the height of the coronavirus-fueled downturn in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, blind spots in the data make the extent of that positive impact unclear, experts said.

“There’s really no way to know,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

For one, workers are starting to exhaust their entitlement to unemployment benefits, Evermore said.

That’s true for self-employed and other workers in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, for example, Evermore said.

These workers are generally eligible for up to 39 weeks of benefits dating back to the end of January. Such workers would have stopped getting aid around the end of October or early November.

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CNN Business/Jazmin Goodwin
Walmart will start counting customers again as coronavirus cases reach record levels

Walmart has resumed counting and monitoring the number of customers that enter and leave its stores. This comes as coronavirus cases in the United States hit daily highs.

In April, the company began restricting the number of people to 20% of its store capacity, or lower if mandated by local officials. But for a brief period of the time, its stores stopped counting the number of customers that entered.

“We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20% metering capacity,” said Kory Lundberg, a Walmart (WMT) spokesperson. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have resumed counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores.”

With the holiday season fast approaching and the weather getting colder, more shoppers are looking to stock up for the winter season ahead. Nearly 60% of shoppers say they plan to stock up again as winter approaches, according to a survey of 1,000 shoppers by market research firm Inmar Intelligence conducted during the week of October 14.

Other grocery store chains, such as Kroger (KR) and Giant, have begun reinstating purchase limits on items, such as toilet paper, paper towels and disinfecting wipes. The moves come as grocery stores look to prevent shoppers from hoarding and “panic buying” — like before when the pandemic first hit in the spring.

Coronavirus cases have surged to record levels in the US, with more than 45 states reporting new infections this week than the week prior, according to data from John Hopkins University. So far, there have been at least 10,962,835 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 245,933 deaths.

Many states have also begun setting stricter measures to stop the spread of the virus, including scaling back indoor dining and banning services for nonessential businesses.

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