Finance

Essential financial news & intel to start your day.
May 27, 2021
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In Letter, GOP Small Business Committee Members Press Yellen to Set Date for Testimony
Yesterday’s COVID-19 aid oversight hearing before the House Small Business Committee turned contentious — but not because of anyone in the room.

 

Both the panel’s chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) noted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s absence, despite a requirement for her to appear before the committee in the coronavirus pandemic relief bill.

 

The Republicans on the committee, led by Luetkemeyer, sent a letter to Yellen yesterday, pushing her to provide by tomorrow her availability in June to appear before the panel.

 

A snippet from the letter, provided exclusively to Morning Consult: “It is severely troubling that you would rather defy the law than appear before our Committee to discuss these important small business recovery programs.”

 

Read more here.

 

Morning Consult Finance will be off Friday and Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. The weekday newsletters will resume Tuesday.

 

Top Stories

  • Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles said at a Brookings Institution event that he’s open to discussing when the Fed should taper its bond-buying program, the latest high-ranking central bank official to make comments along these lines. Quarles said that inflation since December would “prove sufficient” to justify slowing asset purchases later in 2021, even “discounting temporary factors,” although he acknowledged that the labor market still needs improvement. (Financial Times
  • In prepared remarks to the House Appropriations Committee, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said the SEC is considering new rules or guidelines for special-purpose acquisition companies. Gensler also questioned whether the structure of SPACs protects small investors, saying in his written testimony that the “retail public” could be bearing too much of the risk and costs of SPAC deals. (The Wall Street Journal
  • The Department of Justice is investigating the unwinding of Archegos Capital Management in March, with federal prosecutors requesting information from at least some of the banks that did business with the company, people familiar with the matter said. It’s not clear what exactly  prosecutors are investigating or which companies they are targeting. (Bloomberg
  • Chief executives from the largest U.S. banks fielded questions on voting rules, climate change and racial justice from the Senate Banking Committee, with the panel’s chairman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), criticizing a decline in lending during the pandemic and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon for how large his salary is compared to that of his employees. Dimon responded that his compensation is set by the bank’s board and said that JPMorgan takes “very good care of our people.”  (The Wall Street Journal
 

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

 

What Else You Need to Know

General
 

There’s a massive child-care worker shortage and the market can’t fix it

Elliot Haspel, The Washington Post

Parents of young children have had a rough pandemic, facing down closed playgrounds, closed pools and closed child-care centers. While states have largely opened up, these parents now face a knock-on crisis: Child-care programs are contending with massive and unprecedented staffing shortages, leading to fewer spots and long waiting lists.

 

How the pandemic changed America’s ideas about infrastructure

Erick Trickey, Politico

Almost exactly a year ago, homebound, stir-crazy Bostonians learned they’d soon get a break from Covid-era isolation. Two months into a state stay-at-home advisory, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that restaurants would be allowed to seat diners again — outdoors.

 

Top House Democrat blasts Yellen for refusing to testify on PPP

Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico

House Small Business Chair Nydia Velázquez on Wednesday slammed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for declining to appear at a committee hearing, saying the Biden administration’s top economic official was showing “complete disregard” for the law. Velázquez, a senior New York lawmaker, called out Yellen at the beginning of a hearing focused on Covid-19 relief programs for small businesses. 

 

People Hired in the Pandemic Are More Likely to Quit Their Jobs

Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek

For those starting new jobs during the pandemic, welcome drinks and informal chats by the coffee machine have been replaced by formal meetings over Zoom. That lack of bonding time with other colleagues poses a problem for employers, who are less likely to retain those new hires than if they’d joined back when people worked primarily out of offices, according to a new study. 

 

U.S., China Trade Officials Hold First Virtual Meeting

Linling Wei and Bob Davis, The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai had a candid exchange on trade issues Wednesday night with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, Ms. Tai’s office said. Ms. Tai discussed the administration’s guiding principles on trade policy and her continuing review of the U.S.-China trade relationship in a virtual meeting, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said. 

 

Biden’s Top Man in Asia Says the Era of Engagement With China Is Over

Peter Martin, Bloomberg

The U.S. is entering a period of intense competition with China as the government running the world’s second-biggest economy becomes ever more tightly controlled by President Xi Jinping, the White House’s top official for Asia said. “The period that was broadly described as engagement has come to an end,” Kurt Campbell, the U.S. coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the National Security Council, said Wednesday at an event hosted by Stanford University.

 
Fiscal Policy
 

Trump wanted a quick tax break. His appointees are now stuck with big bills.

Brian Faler and Daniel Lippman, Politico 

Many of former President Donald Trump’s political appointees got a nasty surprise when they left the government: A big tax bill. They’ve been ordered to immediately repay months of payroll taxes that had been deferred under a bid by Trump to boost the economy ahead of last year’s elections — levies he had assured them would later be forgiven.

 

Applications for a restaurant grant fund far exceed the money available.

Stacy Cowley, The New York Times

Many applicants to the government’s pandemic relief program for restaurants, bars, caterers and other food businesses will be left empty-handed unless Congress provides more money for the $28.6 billion grant program, the head of the Small Business Administration said on Wednesday. The agency’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund received more than 372,000 applications, seeking $76 billion — far more than the fund has available, the administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman, said at a House Small Business Committee oversight hearing.

 

House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure

Naomi Jagoda, The Hill

A group of House Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to the Treasury Department and IRS urging them to reverse a Trump-era rule that limits donor disclosure requirements for politically active nonprofits. The letter from the House Democrats comes after Senate Democrats sent a version of the letter to Treasury and the IRS last month.

 
Economy and Monetary Policy
 

White House to face key decisions on climate, elder care if bipartisan deal with GOP emerges

Jeff Stein and Rony Romm, The Washington Post

President Biden is expected to soon face crucial decisions over his domestic agenda as his commitment to aggressive action on climate change and care for the elderly collides with his push for a bipartisan infrastructure deal. In multiple rounds of talks, Republican lawmakers have held firm in opposition against key White House plans to address the changing climate, add $400 billion in funding for elder care, and a slew of other domestic priorities the administration is pushing for families and children.

 

Jerome Powell’s Fate Is Critical to Biden Presidency

Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal

Few things matter more to the success of President Biden’s administration than employment and inflation, and few institutions influence those more than the Federal Reserve. Which is why so much is riding on whether Mr. Biden decides in coming months to reappoint or replace its chairman, Jerome Powell, whose four-year term expires next February.

 

Joe Biden under pressure from Democrats over infrastructure package

Lauren Fedor, Financial Times

Progressives and moderates divided over White House talks on striking deal with Republicans.

 

Jobless Claims Expected to Fall to Another Pandemic Low

Amara Omeokwe, The Wall Street Journal

Worker filings for jobless benefits likely fell again last week, extending a steady downward trend and adding to signs of a healing labor market as the economy opens more fully. Economists expect the Labor Department to report that initial unemployment claims for regular state programs, a proxy for layoffs, fell last week to 425,000 from 444,000 the prior week. 

 

Analysis: If not now, when? COVID-19 spurs global push to tackle wealth gap

Dhara Ranasinghe, Reuters

Governments worldwide, facing strong evidence that fallout from COVID-19 has widened wealth gaps as well as wrecking economies, have expanded social safety nets and in some cases begun exploring bolder ways of tackling the imbalances. The massive injections of fiscal and monetary stimulus and ideas such as one-off taxes on the rich and basic income support for the poor potentially set the scene for the biggest egalitarian shift since generous welfare states emerged in western Europe after World War Two.

 
Banking
 

U.S. bank profits rose 29% as outlook for future credit losses adjusted downward

Katanga Johnson, Reuters

U.S. bank profits rose 29.1% during the first quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter as banks adjusted expectations for future credit losses downward, a bank regulator said on Wednesday. The industry posted $76.8 billion in first-quarter profits, up $58.3 billion from a year prior and $17.3 billion in the final quarter of 2020, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said in its quarterly banking profile report.

 

HSBC to Exit Most U.S. Retail Banking

Frances Yoon and Kimberly Chin, The Wall Street Journal

HSBC Holdings PLC will stop serving mass-market individual customers and smaller businesses in the U.S., exiting the bulk of a retail business that has long struggled to compete with America’s big banks. The bank said late Wednesday that it will sell 90 of its 148 branches in the U.S., and plans to wind down another 35 to 40.

 

Banks feel the heat on financed emissions

Camilla Hodgson, Financial Times

Institutions are having to reckon with the climate impact of the companies they fund.

 
Financial Products and Investments
 

Judge rejects public access to search warrant in Richard Burr insider trading probe

Josh Gerstein, Politico 

A federal judge’s decision to refuse access to records of a search warrant issued in connection with an investigation into Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) could limit public access to information about public corruption and other criminal probes in which the Justice Department scrutinizes lawmakers’ actions but ultimately decides not to bring charges, legal experts said. In a ruling Wednesday, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington turned down a request from the Los Angeles Times to see what information prosecutors presented to a federal magistrate to get a search warrant last May for Burr’s phone.

 

Convertible debt sold by high-flying US groups falls back to Earth

Joe Rennison and Aziza Kasumov, Financial Times

Worries about inflation and a pullback in tech shares have weighed down on convertible bonds.

 

From Junk Bond King To SPAC Whale: How Michael Milken Became A Big Investor In The SPAC Boom

Antoine Gara, Forbes

The big money fueling SPAC mania comes from smart hedge funds—dubbed the SPAC mafia— capitalizing on a “no lose” trade. No surprise that a fund backed by brilliant billionaire financier Michael Milken owns nearly 125 SPACs.

 
Housing and GSEs
 

What the White House Means When It Says Housing Is Infrastructure

Kirston Capps, Bloomberg CityLab

Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is making a stop on Wednesday morning at 18th and Vine, the intersection at the heart of Kansas City’s historic Jazz District. Backed by Missouri leaders, she’ll deliver remarks on a theme that she’s been repeating since her confirmation, in speeches, during testimony and over social media: “Housing is infrastructure.”

 
Financial Technology
 

American bank chiefs express caution over cryptocurrencies

Gary Silverman and Joshua Franklin, Financial Times

Citigroup, Wells Fargo and BofA CEOs among attendees at fiery Senate hearing.

 

Carl Icahn Says He May Get Into Cryptocurrencies in a ‘Big Way’

Scott Debeau, Bloomberg

Activist investor Carl Icahn is interested in getting into cryptocurrency in a “big way,” and may eventually put more than $1 billion into an alternative currency. While Icahn hasn’t bought any cryptocurrency yet, the billionaire investor said in a Bloomberg TV interview that he studies Bitcoin, Ethereum and the crypto sector as a whole to determine where the opportunities are. 

 
Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives
 

Cryptocurrency has an Elon Musk problem

Emily Parker, The Washington Post

Cryptocurrency has an Elon Musk problem: In a supposedly decentralized industry meant to be impervious to any single party’s influence, market prices seem to soar or plunge based on the force of one man’s tweets.

 

Reopening Is Inflation’s Cure, Not Cause

Jason M. Thomas, The Wall Street Journal

The rise in inflation doesn’t stem from booming demand associated with the reopening of bars, restaurants, concert venues and stadiums, as many have claimed. It reflects the extent to which manufacturers were caught off balance by the pandemic last year. 

 

SPACs Need More Oversight and Regulation

Chamath Palihapitiya, Bloomberg

Big Tech is known not only for being valuable and very profitable, but also for how much of that value was created in the public markets. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google raised less than $2 billion combined before going public — relying instead on public markets to finance their ambitions. 

 






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