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Quest Means Business
Coronavirus Daily Death Toll Hits Record In Russia; United Places Its Biggest Jet Order To Date; Nearly 50 Million Americans Will Travel For July 4th Weekend; Former South African President Jacob Zuma Ordered To Prison; U.S. Banks Boosting Dividends After Acing Stress Tests; S&P 500, Nasdaq Aim For Fresh Record Close. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired June 29, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: With an hour before the closing bell, we are on the cusp of new records for the S&P and the NASDAQ. The Dow
is not so encouraging. The gains of the day have evaporated, and we're bouncing around the zero level, as you can see, up a bit and down a bit,
but there are potentially gains or records on the NASDAQ and the S&P. We will update you as we go through the hour.
Those are the markets. The main events of Tuesday. New lockdowns and new record deaths tolls, as the Delta variant is wreaking havoc around the
United Airlines is making its biggest ever order and planning for a post- pandemic future, and South Africa's former President is sentenced to prison for contempt after he failed to show up for corruption inquiry.
We are live in New York, and it is Tuesday, it is 29th of June. I'm Richard Quest, and yes, I mean business.
Good evening. It doesn't matter the reason, the outcome is the same, whether from scarcity or hesitancy. Tonight, large swathes of the world's
population remain unvaccinated. And as a result, more cities and more countries are having to lock down to try to curb the spread of the Delta
variant that is wreaking havoc around the world.
So, let's look at exactly the situation. So far, three billion vaccine doses have been administered. That sounds very impressive. Nearly one in
four people worldwide has got at least one shot. And that means around 41 million shots are being given every day. That's impressive, 23 percent of
the world population with at least one dose.
However, it depends where you are whether those numbers look quite so encouraging, because curbing the virus pandemic comes down to two types of
people, those who can't get vaccinated, and those who won't get vaccinated.
There you see the map of that. The map shows clearly people partially vaccinated as a result, the lighter part is the lowest number.
So in the Middle East, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast, until shots reach these places lockdowns are a way of life to beat the Delta. And there
are countries where vaccines either have been or could have been widely available, for instance, Russia, the first country to approve a vaccine,
but rampant skepticism and now the deadliest day of the pandemic.
And right at the bottom Australia, largely unscathed so far with that complacency and the Federal government didn't buy enough doses. Now,
roughly 80 percent of the population under some form of lockdown.
We begin in Russia with Matthew Chance who is in the Capitol in Moscow. It's a way -- I mean, when I put it like that, Matthew, it's a fairly
sobering fact that the country that was first with a vaccine is now one of the worst in terms of numbers.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The vaccine hesitancy has been a massive problem here in Russia from the outset. And as
you say, they've made Sputnik V, which is the vaccine they approved for public use, you know, back in August of last year, freely available to
Russian citizens. You can go into shopping centers in the city and in other cities around the country and just walk in and get a jab, if you like.
There's plenty of availability, but there's just not enough uptake. You've got something like 11 percent of the population that have already been
vaccinated with one jab or more. But you know, more than 60 percent of the country do not want to take a vaccine, they don't trust it. They don't --
you know, they've been watching the internet too much and listening to all the conspiracy theories.
There is a deep seated mistrust as well, I think that stems from many decades ago of the medical profession. It is seen as an extension of the
government trying to reach into your private life and to control you. That's something that's very real here in Russia.
So, vaccine hesitancy has been an enormous problem, and it is starting to come through in the figures now. Yesterday, the last 24-hour period that
was measured 650 deaths, more than that in fact. That's the highest number since the pandemic began.
QUEST: Matthew, what are they doing? I mean, I know they've had all sorts of enticements to get vaccinated, and Russia is arguably one of those
countries coming the closest to forcing or mandating people to be vaccinated. Where is it going to go next?
CHANCE: Yes, I think we're definitely heading more towards the mandating people to have vaccine. In fact, that process has already begun. The
Russian government say it is totally voluntary, you can take the vaccine or not. They are not going to be the kind of government that forces its
citizens to be vaccinated.
But -- and this is a big but -- if you've got a job in public facing, you know, kind of occupations like the transport business, or the catering
business or the hospitality business or working in a shop, or anything like that, they've passed a law that says, if you're not vaccinated by the
middle of July, then you can no longer work in that industry anymore.
So, it's involuntary, your choice whether you get the vaccine or not, but if you don't get it by the middle of July, then you don't have a job
QUEST: Matthew Chance who is in Moscow, and we'll continue to watch the situation there. Matthew, thank you.
Let's head to Australia where an estimated 20 million Australians are now living under some form of lockdown. Perth, on the West Coast, Brisbane on
the Eastern Coast have now joined Sydney southeast, Darwin in the north, at the top, on Tuesday as among the major cities shutting down. So, it makes
half the country's capitals. The Queensland's Premier says she is furious that the vaccine rollout has been so slow.
Less than five percent of Australians are now fully vaccinated, and until the number gets much higher, the Premier of New South Wales says we will
have to live differently.
Samantha Brett is a reporter for Seven News in Sydney. Now, bear in mind, it is coming up to just after five o'clock in the morning in Sydney, so
when she joined me earlier, she told me having to go into lockdown was taking a big step backward.
SAMANTHA BRETT, REPORTER, SEVEN NEWS, SYDNEY: We was celebrating just a couple of months ago just how well Australia was doing. Everyone was out
and about. Everyone was traveling into the state, the mood was really, really positive. Businesses were flourishing. The economy was back on
track. Everything was working really, really well.
And then we had this one case -- can you believe it -- just one case on the 16th of June, and that was a limo driver who went and picked up someone
from our Sydney International Airport. He brought them into a hotel quarantine. Now, no one really knows exactly if he was wearing a mask, but
he certainly wasn't vaccinated, and that is how this Delta variant has now spread so quickly, not only where I am this morning in Sydney, but right
across the country.
We've had flight attendants that have been affected. They've traveled all over the country, and now we have snap lockdowns in certain states right
across the country.
QUEST: It is somewhat inevitable, if you have a locked policy, where basically shut the doors and be careful what comes in, eventually it's
going to come in and our questions being asked why Australia has such a pitifully low vaccination rate.
BRETT: Richard, this is a huge debate at the moment why we have been so slow to roll out the vaccine. And of course, there have been plenty of
excuses. Here, there and everywhere. I know, here in New South Wales, they're certainly doing the best that they can. There's a vaccination hub
that has been opened, specifically, an entire building to get people vaccinated as soon as possible.
But there's hesitancy here. There weren't enough vaccines of a certain type and people didn't want to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, unless they were
over 60 years old. No one here below 40 has been vaccinated, and I have friends across the world who have been vaccinated below 40.
So, this is now the huge focus. It is a real stuff up, many people are saying by the Federal government here.
QUEST: So, the idea of opening up the country into -- I mean, I would imagine you're now talking about well into 2022 before Qantas
International, before allowing proper tourism back into Australia.
BRETT: It's going to be such a long time, but even when the Federal government announced their budget a couple of months ago, even before this
latest outbreak, they were still saying that international travel would only open up as you say in mid-2022. That was also -- that was of course
getting a lot of people very, very nervous especially from the tourism sector, which has been so badly hit here in Australia. But certainly, we
will not be seeing international travel.
I was at the International Airport, the Sydney International Airport the other day. We have a travel bubble with New Zealand that has now been shut
down as well. There's absolutely no one at the airport. Now, there's no interstate travel either. Really no one here is getting on a flight.
And I was thinking back to last time we had this massive outbreak last year. It took about nine months for people to even get back on a flight at
all, even to another state within Australia. This is just going to take many, many months costing Australia billions of dollars.
QUEST: Final question, Samantha. Does it feel weird when you now see pictures in New York? Or you see London and frankly, I mean, here in New
York, it was Pride Weekend last weekend, things are pretty much back to normal.
BRETT: It is so weird, Richard. It is so weird. It was weird at first to see people in New York and my friends in New York and LA, you know, wearing
masks and not being allowed out when we were allowed out, and now the opposite is happening. I'm seeing people traveling to Europe and partying
in Mykonos, and I'm thinking, we're not even allowed out of our homes.
And here we were six months ago, looking like things were up, looking like we would be able to travel very soon, and now that just simply isn't the
QUEST: Channel Seven's Samantha Brett. Joining me is Fiona Godlee. She is the editor-in-chief of the "BMJ," the "British Medical Journal," as you
write, the pandemic has exposed failures of national and global leadership.
I guess, whichever country we look at, there are inevitably going to be those failures. For example, arguably in Australia, it is Scott Morrison's
government failure to vaccinate. In Britain, arguably, it is the failure to stop flights from India that would have brought in the Delta variant. What
point are you making here do you think?
DR. FIONA GODLEE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL": I think we have to acknowledge enormous successes with the vaccination program, 85
percent of adults have had their first dose and nearly half of adults have had a second dose, and that's been fantastic. Other successes with the
science and the trials we've done and the N.H.S. has managed fantastically, it hasn't been overwhelmed.
But you're right there. I think there have been some real policy failures. You've mentioned the one about failing to close our borders in time when we
knew that this new variant from India was coming our way. But there are other failures that are longer standing, slow to lock down in the first
instance being quite unprepared.
And also really failing on testing, tracing, isolation, and particularly failing to provide support for people so that they will come forward to
test and that they will isolate if found to be positive. So, the test, trace, and isolate system is one major, major failing. Vast sums have been
spent on it using a poor test rather badly.
QUEST: I don't know anyone that's really done a very good job on test and trace, arguably Australia, since they did know about this one driver who
caught it from somebody off a plane and that's it. But otherwise, I don't know any other country that has done a half decent job of test and trace,
and I wonder in today's Metropolitan world, whether it's realistic?
GODLEE: Well, I think the countries that did do well were those that were affected by earlier pandemics, you know, early epidemics, MERS, et cetera,
and they are, you know, mainly basing their response to the pandemic on testing and on really thorough contact tracing. And it just feels that that
would have been something over the period of 18 months, we knew, initially, we didn't have enough testing capacity.
But what's been happening in the U.K. has been this very kind of vertical privatized system using a test which has been effectively banned in America
for being not effective, not safe.
QUEST: Dr. Godlee, the pictures came out today of the chief medical officer being harassed, which I think quite rightly everybody abhors. I mean, I
suppose there's an argument for saying why he didn't have security bearing in mind his high profile position. And we've also -- you know, what do you
make of this? The anti-lockdown measures are again -- people are prepared to take extreme measures.
GODLEE: I think it's just a sign of the enormous divisions in society and a slight breakdown of, of just good behavior. I mean, it's really horrifying
to see Chris Whitty, who is a very gentle, you know, well-spoken, thoughtful, very intelligent, brave person, and has done an amazing job in
his role, not at all easy, hasn't got everything right, but brave and outspoken, and I think generally very good at supporting the science.
It is very upsetting to see these scenes and the police are taking action, which I'm very glad to see.
QUEST: Fiona finally, I'm just going to ask you, Matt Hancock, U.K. Health Secretary who sort of left, we're not going to ask you anything about what
he did or how he did it, but I would like you to --
GODLEE: No, no. I am very (AUDIO GAP) about this question, Richard.
QUEST: But I would like you to grade his performance as Health Secretary vis-a-vis the pandemic.
GODLEE: I think Matt Hancock will be harshly treated by history. I mean, Health Secretaries have come and gone and we've had one previously who was
considered to be the worst Health Secretary in recent memory, but I think Matt Hancock will go down as worse than him.
I think the blatant cronyism and corruption, the way he broke his own rules in the end was the final straw. But he had been heavily criticized rightly
for giving contracts without competitive bidding to his acquaintances with no experience in the work they were being asked to do, using his personal
e-mail address for government business, and generally sailing very close to the wind and lying to the public and to his boss, the Prime Minister.
So, I don't think there will be many tears shed from Matt Hancock and either those who want lockdown lifted, or those who want restrictions to
QUEST: Thank you. Good to see you, Doctor. As always, we need your good dose of blunt honesty, when we get to this sort of matters, thank you. I
It is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS from New York.
United Airlines places its biggest plane order. United, next. It's a vote of confidence in U.S. travel and the 737 MAX after the break.
QUEST: United Airlines has placed its biggest jet order ever. It's a massive bet on a bounce back in U.S. travel. United is buying 200 Boeing
737 MAX and 70 Airbus A321NEOs, the total price if you paid list price would be $35 billion.
But I can tell you this, they paid nothing like that. We'll never know. It's one of our closest guarded secrets.
It is the biggest purchase by any airline in nearly a decade, and a huge vote of confidence in Boeing and the 737 MAX.
CNNs aviation correspondent is Pete Muntean with more -- Pete.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Richard, it wasn't all that long ago that airlines were talking about how small they could possibly get
because of the pandemic. Now, airlines are talking about getting even bigger with more and more people rushing back to air travel.
United Airlines just announced it is ordering 270 brand new aircrafts, the largest order ever in United history, the largest order by a single airline
in the last decade. That now brings United's order book to 500 aircraft and the hope is for it to take back some of the routes that have been flown by
smaller regional airlines.
MUNTEAN: United says it needs to hire about 25,000 people for this effort. Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that United planned to furlough near
that many workers because of the pandemic. The backbone of this order, the airplane behind me, this is a Boeing 737 MAX, United has ordered 200 of
them and that is so significant because it's the largest order ever for the MAX. Also, because the airplane was grounded worldwide because of two
crashes abroad that killed 350 people.
Also new are the Airbus A321NEOs that are part of this order, and United is retrofitting all of its older airplanes to look new like this one with more
seat back in-flight entertainment, can't come soon enough, though, for the millions coming back to air travel, the T.S.A. screened 2.2 million people
at airports across the country on Sunday, a new record of the pandemic -- Richard.
QUEST: That's Pete Muntean at New York Airport and that optimism in the airline industry, the piling of orders. Southwest, for instance, ordered an
additional hundred and thirty four 737 MAX, and Delta has bought 25 more 321 NEO planes.
Brian Sumers is with me, the editor-at-large at Skift is with me from LA. Brian, we understand -- we had an argument about this. Some of my more
blinkered colleagues insisted on saying these were the same airlines that were taking bailouts and on their knees. But of course, the airlines have
to think about what they're going to need five and 10 years down the road, don't they?
BRIAN SUMERS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SKIFT; Absolutely, Richard, a lot of optimism today from United and also from other airlines. We have to
remember, most of these aircrafts are going to be delivered in 2024 and later.
Even the most pessimistic of us out there think that COVID is probably going to be mostly in our rearview mirror by then. Airlines need new
airplanes, a lot of airlines grounded and retired planes during the pandemic, not surprised at all that United made this move today.
QUEST: And interesting, the 737 MAX. Now, those I speak to in the industry say that, look, I mean, I'm not saying we should forget the crashes. But
when it's performing, it's hitting all its performance indicators. And actually, it's an extremely good plane, the orders would suggest that its
future is secure.
SUMERS: I think you're right, Richard. It's a very efficient airplane. Airlines can save money by flying it. They need less fuel. They can put
lots of seats on it. The worst is probably behind us in terms of the 737 MAX. Airlines seem very optimistic right now. I would certainly fly one and
I'm guessing you would feel the same way.
QUEST: Absolutely. No hesitation. All right. Let's go into #AvGeekMode.
The 737-10, which has done its first flight, but is that a suitable replacement for the 321-LR?
SUMERS: Well, it's not a suitable replacement for the 321-LR, right? United Airlines probably wanted a different airplane than the 321. That MAX 10
that you're talking about, it is a great airplane, but it's really good for the U.S. domestic market.
If you're going to fly it between London and New York, Dublin and Chicago, you need an airplane with more legs, as you say that's the A321. So, United
had to split the order here if it wanted airplanes that could do all the things that it wanted.
QUEST: And finally the 777X, how bad -- I mean, Boeing took a very bad hit on its stock price earlier in the week. How bad is this certification issue
from the F.A.A.?
SUMERS: It's certainly not good, Richard. There aren't any U.S. airlines that have ordered the airplane. Generally, they think it's too big. I know
Lufthansa Group has made a big order for those planes. It's something that we're watching and seeing.
I think that we've all seen that the F.A.A. is looking fairly very carefully right now about certification. One could argue more carefully
than it did maybe as recently as five years ago, and I think we know why that is. But we'll have to wait and see what happens with the 777X.
QUEST: Brian, good to see you. Thank you. As always, travel safely.
Now, U.S. travels demand is exploding ahead of July 4th holiday weekend. Gas prices are surging to the highest point in nearly seven years and many
petrol stations across the country are experiencing shortages.
Airlines struggling to meet demand. Some, like American, have canceled hundreds of flights through the mid-month because of labor shortages, and
Southwest is urging staff to take extra shifts to avoid disruptions.
Rick Cotton is the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Rick, it is good to see you, Sir.
Bridges, tunnels, airports -- things are picking up. I look at the statistics. Interestingly, airports are still down, path ridership which is
the New Jersey to New York one is still heavily down, but B and T -- bridge and tunnel traffic is almost back to where it was.
RICK COTTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY: That's exactly right, Richard. Our airports are still down as of last week
by 45 percent, but what that means is that we're 55 percent of pre-COVID levels, so it is above halfway back, and it's increasing steadily week by
But you're right, surface transportation has a huge dichotomy. Our bridges and tunnels, vehicles are virtually back to their pre-COVID levels. The
commuter railroad path, as you accurately reflect is still down 70 percent, so it's clear that commuters for the moment are opting for passenger cars
rather than public transportation.
QUEST: Now, we talked -- you did an amazing job with LaGuardia, which is sort of coming to a conclusion there. And Kennedy, the work continues.
What's your priority now in terms of investment? I'm thinking particularly about this famous tunnel under the Hudson, where the New York, New Jersey,
the Federal government, the Gateway Tunnel, the Transportation Secretary went and looked at it the other day, though, the old tunnel. It is going to
get built in our lifetime?
COTTON: Well, let me say, it is the most urgent infrastructure project in in the United States at the moment, and the agency that will oversee that
project has been set up especially between New York and New Jersey called the Gateway Development Commission. But the pivot point here is the new
That project has gone from being delayed, disregarded, even opposed by the past administration, but the Biden administration, which has a very
different outlook on infrastructure has embraced the project, has recommitted to it, and I think we will definitely see it move forward as a
cooperative project between the States of New York and New Jersey and the Federal government in the next relatively near period of time.
QUEST: So, let's listen to what President Biden, speaking in the last hour, said on his infrastructure bill. Listen to the President, and we'll come
back to you in a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a generational investment -- a generational investment to modernize our infrastructure,
creating millions of good paying jobs. That's not coming from me, that's coming from Wall Street, millions of good paying jobs, and positions
America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century, because China is way outworking us in terms of infrastructure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: So, Rick, as a man who has dealt with infrastructure all his life, is this the moment you've been waiting for? Not the blank check, but the
opportunity to get things done that you never thought you'd have a chance to get the money.
COTTON: The answer is yes. What a wonderful statement to hear from the President of the United States. We've just come through four bleak years of
administration which did nothing. We now have an administration in Washington, which is fully committed to advancing infrastructure and
infrastructure spending. Infrastructure support coming from the Federal government could not be more positive about the outlook.
We still face the challenge or the infrastructure bill and program face the challenge of overcoming what has been partisan gridlock in D.C., but
President Biden negotiating with a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement that is an enormously positive sign.
QUEST: Rick, kudos yourself for the work that you have done us in improving. As somebody who is somebody who spends his life on the road, let
me tell you, sir, going through your airports has become a lot easier and more pleasurable with the improvements you've made. I'm grateful to you.
Thank you for joining us.
COTTON: I appreciate it. Good to talk.
QUEST: In the past hour, we were then talking about President Biden. Now, when we come back in just a moment, Jacob Zuma has been ordered to prison.
It's for contempt, not corruption, which is an interesting aspect on this.
Now, all we want to know is, will he ever actually go behind bars? A discussion point after the break.
QUEST: Fifteen months in prison is the sentence for Jacob Zuma after South Africa's highest court found the former president to be in contempt. Zuma,
of course, scandal plagued over decades, refused to appear before an anti- corruption commission that was looking into his time as president.
He's been embroiled in corruption allegations well before becoming president. For instance, 2005, he faced a rape charge of which he was
acquitted. The court, however, admonished him for having had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, who was not his partner.
However, neither that nor any corruption allegations has stopped Zuma from sweeping elections in 2009. And finally, it was contempt that got him.
David McKenzie is in Johannesburg.
Now, David, it is an open question whether or not he will ever actually go to prison. That we were talking about earlier.
However, if he does turn up and there are pictures of him going into prison, does he become a martyr?
Does he become the ANC's -- it's not disgraced but the symbol?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the ANC put out a statement earlier today, saying they are appealing for calm and that this is a
difficult time for the movement. That is certainly the understatement of the year.
This is their former president of the party, of the country. He's facing 15 months in prison, as you say, not just -- not because of the allegations of
corruption that have dogged him for years but because of a technicality, essentially, that he didn't show up at a corruption commission and take
questions, where he was well within his rights to not really answer any of them and plead to avoid self-incrimination.
Does he become a martyr?
Well, certainly ahead of the ruling, that was the strategy, to say that he's a victim, a victim of politics a victim of factualism, something that,
in that very scathing judgment, they certainly said is not the case. And basically, he just thumbed his nose at the law -- Richard.
QUEST: Which begs the question, what next?
The current president is in a difficult position, left, front and center. I mean, only last week or earlier this week, he was talking about how South
Africa is about to face its worst wave of COVID. His former president, of which he was vice president, now heading off to prison for contempt.
QUEST: Where does this all leave the current president?
MCKENZIE: Well, the question will be how much support Zuma really garners. I'm not going to get here into speculation but this is definitely a very
tense political moment for the country.
He has -- Zuma, that is -- has said he will go to prison. But then he also said he wanted to stand trial for earlier corruption from the '90s and then
his legal team avoided that trial for many, many years, more than several decades.
So whether one can take him on his word on wanting to go to prison remains to be seen. I think all will be revealed in the next few days.
Does he surround himself with supporters and then refuse to go to prison?
I have spoken to several lawyers. They said there is no legal room for him to maneuver. There could be political room for him to maneuver but that
could be a powder keg in this country, where the ruling party is already divided by serious factionalism.
QUEST: We must put this into context of what is happening with COVID-19 and the worsening situation.
How bad is it getting?
MCKENZIE: It is certainly getting bad. And all of today, we were out with the teams who are trying to get oxygen and concentrators to people, who are
either too afraid or can't get into hospitals because they're just too full.
And we spoke to a doctor, who is just angry at the level of complacency, both among the public and what they say was a slow reaction by the
You put this all together, the politics of the moment, the pandemic ongoing, this is a very difficult time for South Africa, just to put it
full circle. Some of Zuma's relatives were saying, despite the pandemic, they'll be out in numbers as he shows up to face prison time.
Other relatives will say he is going to fight this. So it is all down to what the man says. And there's some talk he might even address the nation,
as it were, even though he's no longer president and is effectively a future convict.
QUEST: Right, so five days, I believe, David, which -- he's got five days, I think, is what you said to me earlier to report. So Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday -- oh, by the weekend, it could all be -- we could be having another story. David McKenzie, we'll have a busy week. Thank you,
U.S. markets, they are flat, heading into the close. The Dow has put on a little bit of weight. The SNP's crossed between positive and negative and
record highs as you can see.
Bank shares, interestingly, bank shares are mostly lower, despite passing the Federal Reserve's latest stress tests. Wells Fargo and Morgan are
buying back shares and raising their dividends. Bank of America will increase dividends, too. Paul La Monica is with me.
This is interesting because the amount of money that these banks had set aside for buybacks caused great criticism and concern.
PAUL LA MONICA, CNNMONEY DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that many of the top Wall Street financial services firms do face intense scrutiny,
particularly from politicians because maybe there is better use for these funds than rewarding shareholders with buybacks and dividends.
Obviously, the banks would argue that they are in very healthy financial shape; this is not 2008. The banks were not the cause of this particular
recession. They have remained pretty healthy, partly because of a lot of the post-great financial crisis/Lehman collapse rules that were put into
place by Congress and many other regulatory bodies around the world.
So I think the banks feel that the time is right to be giving investors back some of this excess capital.
QUEST: You have to -- from what you're hearing on Wall Street and what you're hearing, are we off to the races?
Are we -- I mean, once the summer is over, the infrastructure bill, in some shape or form, will get done.
Is it the general consensus we'll be off to the races for the rest of the year?
LA MONICA: Not necessarily off to the races, Richard. I think that a big concern is that, once we get past the summer and early fall, comparisons
are going to get a little bit more difficult.
Right now, everyone is looking at how the companies are doing, how the economy is doing versus the first half of 2020, which was horrific because
of the pandemic. We started to have things open up at the end of last year, anticipating the vaccine. And then obviously this year, it has been very
robust. So companies will face tougher comparisons at the end of this year and early 2022.
LA MONICA: The market may have already baked in a healthy economic rebound for the next few years. So it might be a little bit more difficult to build
on these gains.
QUEST: Paul, thank you very much, Paul La Monica, (INAUDIBLE) with that. Thank you, sir.
That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for the moment. A dash to the closing bell at the top of the hour. And I'll be back after this short break with WORLD OF
WONDER. This is CNN.
(QUEST'S WORLD OF WONDER)
QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. Two minutes to go. So we have a dash to the bell. The U.S. markets are up ever so slightly. Look at the Dow. It
pulped (ph) in the morning, inched off, bitter losses, as you can see, I'm literally just bouncing around in the middle of it.
However, the SNP 500 is on record -- on pace for a record close. So is the Nasdaq, with some reasonable gains across the board.
Joe Biden has just finished pitching his infrastructure plan in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. I spoke to Rick Cotton, the executive director of the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the planes and the airports and the train stations. He said it is wonderful that the U.S.
president is committed to infrastructure spending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK COTTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY: We've just come through four bleak years of an administration which did
nothing. We now have an administration in Washington, which is fully committed to advancing infrastructure, infrastructure spending,
infrastructure support, coming from the federal government.
Could not be more positive about the outlook. We still face the challenge - - or the infrastructure bill and program face the challenge of overcoming what has been partisan gridlock in D.C. But President Biden, negotiating
with a bipartisan group of senators, reached an agreement. That is an enormously positive sign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: And the Dow 30 to leave you with, as you say it's barely more is up -- or rather more is down than up. Boeing is the lowest, Nike, unusually,
Nike is the highest. And that's the markets as we leave you toward the closing bell. That is the dash to the bell. I'm Richard Quest in New York.
Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it is profitable. The closing bell is ringing on Wall Street. The Dow is barely up. "THE LEAD
WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts.