Coronavirus could cause multitrillion-dollar decline in US economic output, new report shows

Recession will be worse without more coronavirus aid for workers: Former Ford economist

Former Ford Chief Global Economist and Third Way senior resident fellow Ellen Hughes-Cromwick on government health care and worker support.

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The coronavirus pandemic could result in trillions of dollars’ worth of economic-related losses, a new government report shows.

Updated figures sent to Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday by the Congressional Budget Office highlight a “significant markdown” in GDP as a result of the pandemic. Over the next 11 years, the agency forecasts output will be $7.9 trillion less than its baseline projections put out in January.

The cumulative nominal output will be $15.7 trillion less than previous forecasts.

“Business closures and social distancing measures are expected to curtail consumer spending, while the recent drop in energy prices is projected to severely reduce U.S. investment in the energy sector,” the letter read. “Recent legislation will, in CBO’s assessment, partially mitigate the deterioration in economic conditions.”

STOCKS SHRUG OFF WEEKEND RIOTS, JUNE BEGINS ON HIGH NOTE

Lower inflation levels also contributed to its GDP forecast cut.

In a joint statement responding to the estimates, Schumer and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to acknowledge the need to provide more aid to America’s working families.

“In order to avoid the risk of another Great Depression, the Senate must act with a fierce sense of urgency to make sure that everyone in America has the income they need to feed their families and put a roof over their heads,”  Schumer and Sanders wrote. “The American people cannot afford to wait another month for the Senate to pass legislation. They need our help now.”

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Another $3 trillion stimulus bill passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and has made its way to the Senate, where the Republican majority has deemed it dead on arrival. McConnell has indicated another relief bill is feasible, but he has said lawmakers need to assess the impact of the CARES Act first.

The CBO noted there is an “unusually high degree of uncertainty” surrounding its forecast, given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the government’s responses – in addition to the uncertainty surrounding how the economy will respond moving forward. It is also not known what legislation could be enacted moving forward and if there will be large-scale future domestic outbreaks of the virus.

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Zoom Stock Could Sell Off After Earnings

Hot rocket Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (ZM) reports earnings after Tuesday's closing bell, with Wall Street analysts expecting a profit of $0.10 per share on $202.5 million in first quarter 2020 revenue. The remote conferencing company beat top- and bottom-line fourth quarter 2019 estimates in early March, triggering narrow range action, ahead of a momentum-fueled advance that added about 60% to the stock price in just five sessions.

High volatility set into motion after disclosures about privacy and security holes that exposed millions of users. The stock has recovered after two major downswings, but price rate of change has slumped badly in the past two months, adding just 15 points to the early March peak. Accumulation readings are lagging as well, with many traders and investors choosing to take profits and hit the sidelines.

Security Issues Still in Play

Zoom responded with a series of initiatives to address the security holes, but many analysts believe that commercial customers may have moved to other video platforms, including Facebook, Inc.'s (FB) Workplace and Microsoft Corporation's (MSFT) Teams. The ultimate impact of the controversy is hard to evaluate ahead of this week's confessional because Zoom has provided few user metrics since the disclosures.

In addition, Americans and Europeans are slowly heading back to physical workplaces, reducing the need for conferencing services. As we've seen with other companies that benefited from the pandemic shutdowns, market players have been dumping shares after first quarter releases and transitioning capital into beaten-down companies that have grown relatively cheap due to first quarter revenue destruction.

The accumulation pattern also raises a red flag, topping out in March and entering a distribution phase that has carved two lower highs even though the stock is now trading within a few points of April's all-time high at $181.50. However, that isn't predictive without confirmation through other indicators, and neither momentum nor relative strength readings are showing signs of slowing down or rolling over.   

ZM Daily Chart (2019 – 2020)

The company came public at $65.00 in April 2019 and entered an immediate uptrend that topped out just above $100 in June. The stock then entered a persistent decline, cutting through the IPO opening print in October before bottoming out at $63.74, ahead of a successful test of the low in December. The subsequent uptick stalled in the mid-$70s in January, yielding a short-term consolidation, followed by a strong February rally.

The uptrend completed a round trip into the 2019 high on Feb. 20, ahead of an immediate breakout that generated exceptionally high volatility and counter-movement. The stock carved three higher highs and two higher lows into the April peak and rolled over, adding a third higher low on May 1. Price action has quieted down in the past month, with a steady but less dynamic uptick failing to reach the April high.

The on-balance volume (OBV) accumulation-distribution indicator posted an all-time high in late March, a month ahead of price, and entered a decline that carved two distribution waves into the end of April. Buying power since that time has failed to erase the volume deficit, and OBV is still situated below the March, April, and May highs. Given this set-up, the company may need to blow away expectations during the earnings release to generate buying interest or risk a reversal that reaches the 50-day exponential moving average (EMA) below $150.

The Bottom Line

Zoom stock has rocketed higher in 2020, underpinned by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many businesses around the world to send home employees and switch to video conferencing. While this paradigm shift should generate a permanent increase in revenues, total eyeballs could drop as many folks go back to work at physical locations.

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of publication.

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Could coronavirus lockdowns be worse for our health than disease itself?

How is the coronavirus lockdown impacting people’s mental health

Coronavirus lockdown is fraught with danger from a psychological standpoint, dean of the University of Buckingham medical school Dr. Karol Sikora says.

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Continuing the lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus could be threatening the health of those not sickened by COVID-19, according to a top British doctor.

Dr. Karol Sikora, dean of the University of Buckingham medical school, told FOX Business' Gerry Baker on "WSJ at Large" that the longer the economy is shut down, the more serious the collateral damage to people’s mental health.

VARNEY: AMERICANS GETTING CORONAVIRUS 'QUARANTINE FATIGUE'

“Lockdown is … fraught with danger from a psychological standpoint,” he said. “People will lose their jobs, unemployment will go up, self-esteem is absolutely vital to get out of this crisis.”

“We can never get back to where we were with travel, hotels and holidays quickly, it will take a year or two, but we can get a semblance of normality,” he pointed out. “We just got to get systems in place to allow people to do what they normally do safely.”

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In addition, Sikora said our laser focus on dealing with the virus has led to people not getting proper treatment for other dangerous diseases.

“As an oncologist, I’m really upset, and the reason I got into understanding corona and being very vocal about it is we’ve now got to make the shift away from corona, which we’ve dealt with, there’s been a surge but it’s all gone, into other diseases, and cancer is perhaps the biggest challenge now,” he argued. 

And he fears many more deaths will occur unless we return to spending more time on other major diseases such as cancer.

“It’s not that cancer has simply taken Easter off, it’s simply not being diagnosed,” he explained. “The longer it goes on, the worse the mortality and the suffering we’re going to see from cancer. So we’ve got to move.”

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Hackers could be reading your WhatsApp chats – but huge new update will stop them

WHATSAPP is reportedly planning a huge new update that will make its two billion users even more secure.

Until this update is available, your messages probably aren't as secure as you might think.

However, WABetaInfo reported that too major changes are being trialled in the beta version of the app and may be rolled out soon.

The first change will apparently enable "the encryption for your chat history hosted on iCloud".

This is good news for iPhone users who may not realise that when their WhatsApp chats back up to iCloud they're not protected by WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption.

The fact that this doesn't already happen is a vulnerability that has been exposed before.

Currently, if you back up an iPhone with WhatsApp chats stored on an iCloud the chats become decrypted without a password being required on WhatsApp.

This could enable cybercriminals who have hacked an iCloud to then see those chats.

The second new feature that could be coming soon has also been long awaited.

WhatsApp is said to be working on a personal QR code that can load your WhatsApp contact details into another phone.

This reportedly aims to be available for both iOS and Android users and will make saving contacts much easier.

Instead of sharing phone numbers, users could share and also revoke specific codes.

This would go someone in severing WhatsApp's connection to phone numbers and specific smartphones.

There's no need to get excited just yet though as we don't know when or if these features will be rolled out in the mainstream.

WhatsApp – a quick history

Here's what you need to know…

  • WhatsApp was created in 2009 by computer programmers Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former employees of Yahoo
  • It's one of the most popular messaging services in the world
  • Koum came up with the name WhatsApp because it sounded like "what's up"
  • After a number of tweaks the app was released with a messaging component in June 2009, with 250,000 active users
  • It was originally free but switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast. Then in 2016, it became free again for all users
  • Facebook bought WhatsApp Inc in February 2014 for $19.3billion (£14.64bn)
  • The app is particularly popular because all messages are encrypted during transit, shutting out snoopers
  • WhatsApp has over 2billion users globally

In other news, Netflix is going to start automatically cancelling "inactive" accounts – even if you're still paying for it.

Apple's long-rumoured "smart spectacles" are expected to cost around $499/£410 when they launch in March 2021, insiders claim.

And, Instagram will now delete your videos for playing music ‘you don’t hold copyright for’.

Do you update your apps regularly? Let us know in the comments…

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at [email protected]

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Expedia Stock Could Gain Ground After Earnings

Expedia Group, Inc. (EXPE) reports earnings after Wednesday's closing bell, with analysts expecting a loss of $1.29 per share on $2.15 billion in first quarter 2020 revenue. The consensus would mark a 22% revenue decline compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, with the coronavirus pandemic spawning a major calamity in air travel and hotel occupancy. Even so, Expedia had a tough time meeting Wall Street estimates well before the crisis, with frustrated customers walking away and booking trips directly from airline, hotel, and car rental web sites offering better deals.

The travel giant noted pressure as a result of the pandemic about a month before President Trump shut down air travel with Europe but failed to realize the extent of the damage. The first sign of trouble came on Feb. 25 when the company released details of a restructuring plan that included the elimination of 3,000 jobs. Expedia withdrew 2020 guidance less than three weeks later due to an expected impact "in excess of the $30 million to $40 million range," followed up a week later with a $1.9 billion loan to pay the bills.

In April, Chairman Barry Diller warned that Expedia would spend just $1 billion for 2020 advertising, compared to $5 billion in prior years. The move reflected deep pessimism about a rapid return to air travel, given the ongoing threat of infection and a second wave this winter. The stock is now trading at about the same level it did at that time, highlighting extremely oversold technical conditions after the first quarter slide. Special Note: Diller is also chairman of Dotdash parent IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC).

EXPE Long-Term Chart (2005 – 2020)

The company came public at $27.50 in July 2005 and eased into a trading range between that peak and the 2006 low at $12.87. A 2007 breakout failed after reaching the mid-$30s, giving way to a steady downtick that broke the 2006 low during the 2008 economic collapse. The stock posted an all-time low at $5.90 in November 2008 and turned sharply higher, completing around trip into the prior high in 2011.

A 2012 breakout caught fire, lifting in three rally waves into July 2017's all-time high at $161.00. The stock sold off to a two-year low at $98.52 in February 2018 and held within that trading range until November 2019, when a poorly received third quarter 2019 earnings report triggered a breakdown, followed by a recovery attempt into February. That effort failed in March, confirming a four-year head and shoulders breakdown and new resistance at the neckline in the upper $90s.

EXPE Short-Term Outlook

The March sell-off ended within two points of the .786 Fibonacci retracement level of the nine-year uptrend, marking a high-odds location for a long-term low, ahead of a shallow uptick into May. The bounce has now mounted the .618 retracement at $65, which is vulnerable to a retest if the earnings report triggers an aggressive sell-the-news reaction, which appears unlikely because the company's financial woes have been well documented.

The monthly stochastic oscillator reached the oversold zone in March and crossed higher in April, predicting six to nine months of relative strength. In turn, this could support an eventual test at the head and shoulders neckline, which has narrowly aligned with the .382 rally retracement and .50 sell-off retracement levels. Conversely, a major reversal before reaching that level will greatly increase odds that the March low breaks and the stock gives up the last tranche of the long-term uptrend.

The Bottom Line

Expedia Group reports first quarter 2020 earnings after the closing bell on Wednesday, with well-documented and discounted financial problems lowering the odds for a sell-the-news reaction. 

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of publication.

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Airline Stocks Could Hit New Lows

Quarantines and stay-at-home orders are starting to lift across the United States, with many locales preparing to reopen retail stores and restaurants for at least limited indoor operations. Airline carriers around the world hope that the worst is past, but as Warren Buffett's recent sales disclosure pointed out, not everyone is convinced that the travel industry will spring back to life in the next one or two quarters.

Many analysts believe that travelers will stay away from airports in coming months, waiting to see if the lifting of restrictions triggers a dreaded "second wave" of infections. In addition, airlines are now implementing safe distancing in their fleets, lowering passenger capacity and revenues into the indefinite future. Plans to hike fares to make up for these lost seats could backfire, delaying a recovery that many smart folks expect will take two to three years.

Airline stocks are trading close to March lows right now, despite strong bounces throughout the market universe, highlighting weak demand. It's no surprise because they brought exceptionally weak balance sheets into this crisis, pumping years of profits into buybacks and executive bonuses rather than building cash reserves, and the companies now need the government's help to survive. In turn, this raises the odds for secondary offerings that will dilute already depressed shares. 

These poorly managed companies were weak market performers throughout the second half of the economic expansion, failing to reward shareholders, so any commentary insisting that the group will return to prior highs should be viewed with skepticism. More importantly, these issues can easily drop to new lows, continuing a bear market that might persist for months or years.

United Airlines Holdings, Inc. (UAL) stock completed a round trip into the 2007 high in the lower $50s in 2014 and broke out a few months later, stalling in the mid-$70s. It completed a breakout above that level in the fourth quarter of 2018, but buying interest failed to develop, yielding dead sideways action ahead of a March 2020 breakdown that cut through support at the 2017 and 2016 lows. Price action since that time has failed to remount either barrier.

The decline found support at the .786 Fibonacci rally retracement of the 2008 to 2018 uptrend, a common turning point after a major decline. The monthly stochastic oscillator crossed higher at an extremely oversold level at the same time but still hasn't issued a buying signal. Even so, a bounce into 2016 resistance appears more likely than a quick plunge to new lows at this point, with the stock's fate riding on its ability to remount that level.

American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) stock sold off from $63 to $1.45 during the economic collapse and turned higher into new decade, gaining ground in a retracement that stalled within seven points of the prior peak in early 2015. The stock got cut in half in the next 18 months, bottoming out at a two-year low in the $20s in June 2016. The subsequent bounce completed a round trip into the prior high in January 2018, yielding a breakout that failed within four points of 2007's all-time high.

The subsequent decline continued through 2019, accelerating in February 2020. It broke 2016 support at the same time, ahead of continued downside that cut through the .786 Fibonacci retracement level of the 2008 to 2018 uptrend. The subsequent bounce lasted for just three days before stalling at $17.24, ahead of a new low in early April. The stock is now testing that critical support level and could break down, finally reaching the deep 2008 low at $1.45.

The Bottom Line

Airline stocks are struggling near sell-off lows due to continued headwinds and could break those levels in coming weeks.

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of publication. 

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Coronavirus pandemic could hurt low-wage workers the most, study finds

States facing cash crunch amid coronavirus pandemic

States are asking for financial aid from the government while coronavirus hits hard. FOX Business’ Hillary Vaughn with more.

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More than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down swaths of the U.S. economy, but according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center, millions more who work in industries deemed high-risk could be impacted by the outbreak.

More than four in 10 businesses — or 2.4 million out of the 5.3 million studied — operate in higher-risk industries likely to be impacted by the virus, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data. At least one million of those businesses are in retail trade, or accommodations and food services, one of the industries hit hardest by the crisis.

CORONAVIRUS SMALL BUSINESS BILL STILL INCLUDES LOOPHOLE FOR BIG COMPANIES

The typical business analyzed by Pew was small: The workers earned an average of $40,194, and nearly three-fourths had annual sales lower than $1 million. Businesses considered “high risk” also tended to pay their employees less (about $28,259 annually as of 2016).

“Thus, as businesses in higher-risk industries confront uncertain economic times, their fortunes mostly imperil low-wage workers,” the study said.

But the economic risk from the virus varies based on demographic group, according to the study: Men, white or Asian entrepreneurs and individuals over the age of 50 are more likely to be business owners than their counterparts.

Pew found that in 2016, men were the majority owners of nearly two-thirds of businesses in the country, while women were the majority owners of about 21 percent (the remaining 15 percent of businesses were controlled equally by men and women).

TREASURY SAYS SOME PUBLIC COMPANIES NOT ELIGIBLE FOR SMALL-BUSINESS LOANS AFTER BACKLASH

At the same time, however, women, Asian and foreign-born entrepreneurs are more likely to operate within a high-risk industry. Women are the principal owner of 25 percent of businesses deemed to be “risky,” in part of their bigger role as owners in health care (33 percent) and the social assistance (27 percent) industry.

Business owners tend to be older and more educated compared to the U.S. workforce. About half of business owners are over the age of 55 and have graduated from college. By comparison, only 23 percent of all employed workers are 55 or older. Forty percent are college graduates.

To help small businesses weather the economic storm, Congress last month created the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which offers low-interest loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. If at least 75 percent of the money goes toward maintaining payroll, the federal government will forgive the loan.

On Friday, President Trump signed into law a bill that approved an additional $310 billion in funding for the program.

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Visa, Mastercard could raise swipe fees on many merchants: sources

Small business co-owner shares rough SBA PPP experience

SPACE 519 co-owner Lance Lawson says he’s been waiting a while to receive his Small Business Administration loans.

Many small businesses could have another thing to worry about when they come out of a coronavirus coma: higher credit-card fees.

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Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. had planned to raise swipe fees on many merchants this year, and the changes in some cases would be hardest on small businesses, according to people familiar with the situation. It is unclear if the fee changes, in the works for months, will be rolled out if the pandemic persists.

Already, the abrupt global slowdown has been most acute for the smallest businesses, which tend to operate on thinner profit margins and smaller cash reserves.

WHY CORONAVIRUS RELIEF TO SMAL BUSINESSES IS LAGGING

Visa's potential plans include increasing interchange fees associated with many consumer credit cards for many of the smallest retailers while lowering them for many of the largest ones, according to some of the people and a document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Many restaurants, both large and small, could also be affected.

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Visa and Mastercard are the largest U.S. card networks, and they tweak card fees on a continuing basis. The latest changes were decided before the pandemic spread in the U.S., according to the people, and the companies could shelve or delay the planned fee increases if the economy worsens. Both companies already delayed fee changes scheduled to kick in this month to July, citing the pandemic.

BANK BUREAUCRACIES CONTINUE TO TAINT CORONAVIRUS SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF OPTIONS, LEAVE MANY ON THE CURB

A Visa spokesperson said the company has "made no decisions regarding what, if any, changes will be made in the future in recognition of the dramatically changed environment in which all businesses are operating today."

A Mastercard spokesman didn't comment directly on the potential changes but said that delaying the planned new fees "allowed our customers and partners to focus on their core activities and manage through this unprecedented event."

Both companies pledged to support their clients. Visa and Mastercard also said this week they were committing $210 million and $250 million, respectively, to helping small businesses.

SMALL BUSINESS LOANS UNDER CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS BILL: WHAT APPLICANTS NEED TO KNOW

Swipe fees are known as interchange fees in industry parlance. Card networks such as Visa and Mastercard set the prices. Merchants pay the fees to credit-card issuers, usually banks, when consumers shop with the cards they issue. The fees can typically range from about 1% to 3% of card spending.

Merchants sometimes raise prices on consumers when their own fees are increased. Card-industry executives say interchange fees help cover costs for important functions such as preventing fraud.

Some large merchants, including Amazon.com Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Walmart Inc., in recent years have negotiated their interchange fees down in part by leveraging their market reach, according to people familiar with the matter. Small merchants have less power to negotiate.

Mastercard's potential plans include increasing fees for small grocery stores this summer, while keeping fees steady for the larger supermarkets, according to some of the people. Visa's potential plans include keeping fees essentially unchanged for small grocery stores but lowering them for large supermarket chains this summer, according to some of the people and a document reviewed by the Journal.

Visa has had friction with large supermarkets over card fees. Kroger Co., for example, temporarily stopped accepting Visa credit cards at some of its units.

Merchants paid an estimated $53.6 billion in Visa and Mastercard credit-card interchange fees in 2019, up 8% from the year before and up 107% from 2012, according to the Nilson Report, an industry publication. Fee payments have risen as more people shop with credit cards, including generous rewards cards. The networks set higher fees for those rewards cards.

The potential changes are forecast to result in merchants paying an estimated net increase of $731 million a year to card issuers, according to CMSPI, a merchants' payments consulting firm.

Other fee changes could come for merchants regardless of size.

Visa also could change how it calculates fees for restaurants starting in October, according to some of the people and a document. Quick-service restaurants whose average purchase price is above $9 would pay more in interchange fees, according to CMSPI estimates.

Mastercard also could increase interchange fees when consumer credit cards are used for most in-store retail purchases, some of the people said. Mastercard might lower interchange fees for subway rides and other public transportation, these people said.

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Jared Scheeler, chief executive of the Hub Convenience Stores, a small business comprising six gas stations, said his company paid nearly $400,000 last year in credit- and debit-card fees, including interchange fees.

Mr. Scheeler said the fees represented 2.12% of the Hub's total sales last year, up from 1.99% in 2018 and 1.93% in 2017. One reason, he said, are rewards credit cards.

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"It is pretty discouraging as a business owner to see that much money going out," said Mr. Scheeler, who is also a board member at the National Association of Convenience Stores. "The only line items bigger than that are rent and payroll."

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Coronavirus pandemic could make weather forecasts WORSE due to grounding of planes carrying sky-scanning instruments

WEATHER forecasts may become less accurate due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to scientists.

That's because forecasters rely on delicate instruments strapped onto commercial aircraft – scores of which have been grounded by the global outbreak.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

The stark warning was issued last week by US meteorologist Ryan Finn.

In a blog post on Spectrum News, he explained how planes are vital to the creation of long-range weather predictions.

"Along with radiosondes attached to weather balloons, [atmospheric] data is collected from buoys, satellites, and aircraft," Ryan said. "This includes commercial aircraft."

"Outside of satellite data, aircraft data is the most important source of data in terms of increasing forecast accuracy."

Data from these readings is sent to weather agencies such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Before the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced a third of the world's population into lockdown and cancelled most commercial flights, more than 1million weather data reports were being sent to these agencies on a daily basis.

According to Stanley Benjamin of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, that number has now dropped by more than 50 per cent.

It's likely that this will have a significant effects on our weather forecasts, Ryan said.

Last year, a study from the European Centre For Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) showed that cutting all aircraft weather data could degrade the accuracy of short-range wind and temperature forecasts by 15 per cent.

"I'm not trying to make an excuse for any future forecast busts, but less air traffic equals less data to incorporate into weather models meteorologists look at," Ryan wrot.

"This could, in turn, make for a decline in forecast accuracy in the coming weeks and/or months."

According to the NOAA scientist Stanley, a similar effect occurred in 2010.

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That spring, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, spewing huge plumed of ash and smoke into the atmosphere.

Air travel was sent into chaos, contributing to an estimated £4billion cost to the European economy.

Stanley said that disruptions to weather forecasts that year could be repeated during the coronavirus outbreak, New Scientist reports.

There is a chance, of course, that the disruption won't be noticed by weather scientists.

In other news, futurists recently revealed what life after the coronavirus crisis could look like.

We've debunked some of the zaniest coronavirus conspiracy theories out there.

And, check out our guide to the best apps for working from home.

Are you worried about the world's weather forecasts? Let us know in the comments!

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