Energy markets swirled on Monday as investors responded to the immediate disruption of Hurricane Ida while also trying to gauge the economic toll of rising hospitalizations in the United States caused by the coronavirus.
Gasoline futures were 2 percent higher, after climbing more than 4 percent when trading started. West Texas Intermediate oil, the United States benchmark, also jumped at first, but then dropped into negative territory and was 0.8 percent lower Monday morning.
Before Hurricane Ida stormed ashore in Louisiana on Sunday, oil and gas companies shut down more than 90 percent of production in the Gulf of Mexico, making this storm the first of the year to significantly disrupt those industries.
Workers were evacuated from nearly half of the area’s staffed production platforms, federal officials said on Saturday. BP, Chevron, Phillips and Shell were among the companies that closed facilities.
The disruption could affect gasoline prices throughout the region ahead of Labor Day, traditionally one of the year’s high-demand peaks.
“It’s a little speculative to say yet what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be an event,” said Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. “This could lead to a mini-price spike.”
Analysts at ING said the timing of oil industry’s recovery from the storm could affect prices.
“The big question is, which will make a quicker return — offshore oil production or refining capacity?” the analysts said in a note. “If it is the former, we could start to see a buildup of crude oil inventories,” which could weigh on prices.
Oil prices have slowly recovered from their pandemic depths as economies around the globe reopen from lockdowns and energy demand climbs. But the rise in coronavirus cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant has threatened an already shaky revival, and the shutdown of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico could further hamper recovery.
The daily average for hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the United States is now more than 100,000, reaching a level not seen since last winter, before most Americans were vaccinated. The European Union is expected on Monday to recommend that member states reimpose travel restrictions on Americans wishing to travel to Europe.
Power companies in southern Louisiana are bracing for significant outages. Cleco and Entergy, two major providers in the New Orleans metro area, said they anticipated widespread flooding and had called up thousands of additional workers and contractors. Entergy warned that customers in the hardest-hit areas “could experience power outages for weeks.”
New mobile money apps are promoting themselves as part of the solution to a stubborn problem: a lack of financial savvy, particularly among young Americans.
The apps offer slick educational videos and tools while enabling children and teenagers to save and spend and even invest in stocks, Ann Carrns writes for The New York Times. And they’ve caught the attention of researchers and financial advisers who say the tools may help engage and enlighten young users, even as they worry that the apps, without close parental involvement, may encourage bad financial behavior.
Numerous reports have noted that financial literacy in the United States has resisted improvement for some time, even though more states have begun requiring schools to teach it.
Financial technology, or “fintech,” start-ups see the apps as a way to sign up customers early by offering personal finance instruction along with spending and saving tools.
Here are some notable apps:
Copper bills itself as “the only bank that teaches teens about money,” and offers brief, peppy videos and a financial literacy quiz that teenagers or their parents can take.
Step, an app for teenagers, offers a secured credit card, which can be used to make a deposit that serves as collateral; users can spend up to the amount of the deposit, and build credit when using it.
Greenlight began as a tool to help parents manage children’s chores and pay them an allowance. It has added features including cash back on its debit card, and an option that lets children invest through a brokerage account opened in a parent’s name.
Amazon customers will soon have another payment option at checkout.
Affirm, a so-called buy now, pay later payment provider that allows customers to pay for their purchases in installments, said on Friday that it had reached a deal with the online retail giant.
Affirm said Amazon customers would be able to use its service on purchases of $50 or more — including items like furniture, home goods, electronics and fashion — and pay in monthly installments. Once approved, customers will be able to see the total purchase price upfront — and they won’t be charged any late or hidden fees, the company said.
The service is being tested with select customers now, Affirm said, and will become more broadly available to shoppers in the coming months. Certain purchases, including those from Whole Foods Market, Amazon Fresh and certain digital purchases like movies and books, will not be eligible, according to Affirm.
“Amazon is always looking to add flexible payment options,” an Amazon spokeswoman said, “and Affirm does just that by offering transparent pay-over-time solutions that customers can choose based on their needs.”
Buy now, pay later services have become an increasingly popular option among consumers. And the partnership follows another giant deal last month: Square, the payments firm run by the Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, agreed to acquire Afterpay for $29 billion. That deal will open the installment option to millions of small business that process their credit card transactions through Square’s app.
Affirm — whose shares rocketed more than 30 percent in after-hours trading — has already become partners with 12,000 merchants, including Walmart and Peloton. Peloton accounted for 30 percent of the company’s total revenues in the first fiscal quarter of 2021, according to an August research report from FT Partners, an investment banking firm focused on financial technology. That was up from 14 percent in the same quarter a year earlier.
Amazon’s partnership with Affirm is its first with a buy now, pay later provider in the United States; it works with Zip in Australia, where these options are already more established. Amazon had already provided monthly payment plan options on its own for select customers buying certain products. It also offered installment programs for customers with the Amazon.com Store Card, the Amazon Rewards Visa Card, and eligible Citi credit card members.