US bankruptcies drop to 14-year low as coronavirus cases surge

The 34,440 bankruptcy filings of all types in November was the lowest monthly total since January 2006. PHOTO: AFP

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - US bankruptcy filings fell last month to their lowest in more than 14 years, according to data compiled by Epiq Systems and provided by the American Bankruptcy Institute, a jarring disconnect with a worsening economic outlook as Covid-19 cases surge.

The 34,440 bankruptcy filings of all types in November was the lowest monthly total since January 2006, driven by a decline in non-commercial filings.

"These historic low bankruptcy filings reflect the overall uncertainty about our economic recovery," said Deirdre O'Connor, managing director of corporate restructuring at Epiq.

"Bankruptcy is a legal tool to restructure but in this unknown financial environment, the benefit from seeking bankruptcy protection is unclear for individuals, families, and even large companies."

Still, filings of the Chapter 11 bankruptcies used by companies to restructure their debts jumped 40 per cent to 654 last month, from 449 in November 2019, the data shows.

New cases of Covid-19 have surged in the United States in recent weeks, prompting many people to stay at home more and some local authorities to shut some businesses to contain the spread.

But unlike in March when the first lockdowns were imposed and threw the economy into a sharp recession, developers of vaccines are moving closer to government approvals. That potentially clears the way for the first inoculations to start within weeks and mass distribution within months.

Economists expect a vaccine rollout to set the stage for faster economic growth next year.

Government programmes that have helped households stave off bankruptcy, including eviction moratoriums and extended unemployment benefits, are slated to run out at the end of the year.

Lawmakers in Washington have revived negotations over a new pandemic relief package in recent days.

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