March 5, 2024

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Congress should send workers more checks

with Brent D. Griffiths

It sounds like a bad joke: Conservative Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, walk into a debate over what belongs in an economic relief package.

The punchline is they all agree. And it isn’t funny — it’s true. 

The unlikely bedfellows want lawmakers to cut another round of direct checks to struggling Americans in the $908 billion measure they are racing to assemble before quitting town for the year.



Josh Hawley wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questions Barrett on Wednesday. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)


© Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questions Barrett on Wednesday. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

But negotiators haven’t included such a benefit in the bipartisan bill. Replicating the $1,200 checks to lower-income Americans included in the last major relief package in March would add about $300 billion to its cost. And many Senate Republicans already are wary of the measure’s price tag. 

The dispute is just one vexing a breakthrough on emergency aid as millions of Americans edge closer to the brink. “Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January,” Heather Long reports, citing Moody’s Analytics. “Last month, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.”

The House will vote Wednesday on a one-week extension of government funding to avert a shutdown and give negotiators more time to reach agreement on a long-term appropriations bill and the emergency relief. But lawmakers still want to wrap up their work by the end of next week.

The shrinking calendar and rising stakes are scrambling old partisan divisions.

Hawley and Sanders are talking about their shared goal of ensuring workers get another direct boost. And Hawley, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2024, is lobbying President Trump to veto a package that doesn’t include the help, the senator told Politico’s Burgess Everett. “We had a good conversation about it. And, you know, a pretty thorough conversation,” Hawley said.

On Friday, Hawley said he would work with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on the issue:

Sanders, for his part, is threatening to withhold support for the overall package if it doesn’t include more direct help for workers.

The right-left meeting of the populist minds between Hawley and Sanders is drawing support from an unlikely source: JPMorgan Chase’s policy center. 

The group, headed by former Obama administration adviser Heather Higginbottom, wrote in a paper it is circulating on Capitol Hill and to the Biden transition team that economic aid should include “additional stimulus relief efforts and expanded unemployment insurance. Absent additional government stimulus, lower-income households and those who faced job loss may exhaust their accumulated savings buffer and be forced to further cut spending or fall behind on debt or rent payments.”

The year-old center, which in October launched a $30 billion effort it said would aim to reduce wealth inequality, argues in its paper that low-income families are especially sensitive to income disruptions.

“Institute research has shown that families need roughly six weeks of take-home income in liquid assets to weather a simultaneous income dip and expenditure spike,” per the paper. “65 percent of families across age and income groups didn’t have enough in their checking or savings accounts pre-pandemic to weather such an event.”



a sign on the side of a building: The JPMorgan Chase world headquarters in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)


© Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
The JPMorgan Chase world headquarters in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Not everyone at the bank agrees. David Kelly, chief global strategist for JPMorgan Funds, argued in a Monday note the economy “does not need another broad round of stimulus checks… For many Americans who have not seen any negative impact on their income, further one-time checks from the government would either be saved or spent on goods, many of which are imported, neither of which activities would do much to help battle unemployment or protect small businesses.”

Back in Washington, the fate of more direct support hinges on whether Senate Republicans prioritize austerity over additional help for their low-income constituents.

And the political upside of advocating for more stimulus appears to be carrying the day in one of the Georgia Senate runoff races. Democratic nominee John Ossoff has been criticizing Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) for opposing new checks. Perdue responded Monday in a spot that stops short of explicitly calling for a new round of direct support while arguing the incumbent is “fighting for more” relief.

Market movers



In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders work on the floor on Monday. (Colin Ziemer/New York Stock Exchange via AP)


© Colin Ziemer/AP
In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders work on the floor on Monday. (Colin Ziemer/New York Stock Exchange via AP)

Dow falls more than 100 points.

But the tech-heavy Nasdaq hit a record: “The 30-stock Dow closed 148.47 points lower, or 0.5 percent, at 30,069.79 and snapped a four-day winning streak. The S&P 500 dipped 0.2 percent to 3,691.96. The Dow and the S&P 500 had closed at all-time highs on Friday. The Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, rose 0.5 percent to 12,519.95 and hit a fresh record high,” CNBC’s Fred Imbert reports.

“Intel was the worst-performing Dow stock, falling 3.4 percent. The energy sector led the S&P 500 lower, sliding 2.4 percent. Facebook rose 2.1 percent, and Apple gained 1.2 percent to lead the Nasdaq higher. Tesla also contributed to the Nasdaq’s gains, advancing 7.1 percent and reaching an all-time high.”

  • Morgan Stanley changes its emerging markets outlook: “The bank said it was sticking to its core view that developing economy currencies and select countries’ bonds would continue to climb, but was dialing back its bullish bets after November’s surge,” Reuters’s Marc Jones reports.

Airbnb boosts IPO price range: “Airbnb is boosting the range to between $56 and $60 a share, from $44 to $50 … The new range would give the home-rental company a valuation of as much as $42 billion on a fully diluted basis and including proceeds from the offering,” the WSJ’s Maureen Farrell reports.

“DoorDash Inc., the food-delivery company that is expected to debut Wednesday, the day before Airbnb, plans to price its shares at the high end of or above its range of $90 to $95 a share — already raised from between $75 and $85 …  Taken together, the developments are the latest sign that the market for new issues, already at a record in terms of money raised in the U.S., is set for a climactic ending to the year.”

Some small hedge funds are reaping big gains: “Funds with less than $1 billion in assets are benefiting from their more manageable portfolios. They can dart in and out of holdings to protect gains or minimize losses amid the market volatility that has characterized this year. They also get more bang for their buck — making investments that require less firepower to affect their overall performance,” the WSJ’s Julie Steinberg and Ben Dummett report.

“Among little funds putting up big numbers: London-based Alanda Capital Management Ltd., which manages less than $500 million and gained about 53 percent through November.”

Brexit negotiators ‘very gloomy’ over trade deal, with talks on ‘knife’s edge.’ Again. (William Booth and Michael Birnbaum)

Coronavirus fallout



a hand holding a cellphone: A member of staff poses with a phial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health center in Cardiff, South Wales. (Justin Tallisv / AFP)


© Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
A member of staff poses with a phial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health center in Cardiff, South Wales. (Justin Tallisv / AFP)

From the U.S.:

  • At least 14,927,000 cases have been reported; at least 282,000 have died.
  • Trump administration passed up chance to buy more Pfizer vaccine: “Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply …,” Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Carolyn Y. Johnson report.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) warns of shutdowns: “The state currently allows New York City restaurants to operate indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Elsewhere in New York state, restaurants can operate indoor dining at 50 percent capacity,” CNBC’s Will Feuer reports.
  • Amid history of mistreatment, doctors struggle to sell Black Americans on vaccine: “Fewer than half of Black Americans say they would get a coronavirus vaccine, compared with 63 percent of Hispanic people and 61 percent of White people, according to a December report from the Pew Research Center. Many Black people say they do not trust the medical establishment because of glaring inequities in modern-day care and historical examples of mistreatment,” Lola Fadulu reports.

From the corporate front:

  • Online shopping faces tough holiday test: “This holiday season, online shopping will strain the industry as never before: An estimated three billion packages will course through the nation’s shipping infrastructure — about 800 million more than delivered last year,” the New York Times’s Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari report.
  • J.C. Penney’s retail and operating assets to exit Chapter 11: The retailers “two of its biggest landlords, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management Inc, have acquired nearly all such assets,” Reuters’s Praveen Paramasivam reports.

The transition



Lloyd Austin wearing a uniform: Army General Lloyd Austin III, then-commander of the U.S. Central Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in 2016. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)


© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Army General Lloyd Austin III, then-commander of the U.S. Central Command, testifies on Capitol Hill in 2016. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Biden has picked a SecDef: “The president-elect plans to tap retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to be secretary of defense, according to three officials familiar with the decision. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief,” Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey, Dan Lamothe and John Hudson report.
  • Multinational tax rule may be on the chopping block: “A Trump administration regulation that cut the tax bills of companies such as Philip Morris International Inc. and Sealed Air Corp. could be poised for reversal in 2021 as the Biden administration tries to deliver on its campaign promise to raise taxes on corporations,” the WSJ’s Richard Rubin reports.
  • Schumer presses Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower: “We have come to the conclusion that President Biden can undo this debt, can forgive $50,000 of debt the first day he becomes president,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said, CNBC’s Annie Nova reports.

Trade fly-around



a large city landscape: Cranes at the ready in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou last month. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)


© Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Cranes at the ready in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou last month. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China posts record trade surplus.

Pandemic-related demand has helped power Beijing’s recovery: “November exports were up 21 percent from a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs reported Monday, accelerating from October’s 11.4 percent and beating economists’ 12 percent forecast. Imports were up 4.5 percent, slowing slightly from October’s 4.7 percent and short of the 5.3 percent expected by economists. The resulting $75.42 billion trade surplus topped the record set in May, when a drop in imports was the major factor,” the WSJ’s Erin Mendell reports.

“Louis Kuijs, an economist with Oxford Economics, said that though he expects a global economic rebound to underpin solid export growth for China in 2021, the country’s performance would likely be less impressive as pandemic purchases taper off once vaccines reduce the need for social distancing.”

Trump tracker



a view of a stone building: The Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg)


© Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
The Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg)

Trump faces more questions on payments to his hotel.

A civil case in Washington has renewed attention on Trump’s business in the nation’s capital: “In the lawsuit now moving forward, Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia is arguing that Trump’s inaugural committee illegally overpaid his family business by as much as $1.1 million for events held at the Trump International Hotel in the city in January 2017. Ivanka Trump was deposed in the case last week,” the Times’s Eric Lipton reports.

“The lawsuit asks the court to order the inauguration to recover the $1 million paid to the Trump hotel and to redirect it to a ‘proper public purpose’ such as ‘another nonprofit entity dedicated to promoting civic engagement of the citizens of the United States …’ But for all the attention focused on the issue, Trump is set to leave office without a clear resolution of what limits there should be on a president’s ability to profit from his public role.”

Peter Navarro was reprimanded for violating the Hatch Act: “The White House trade adviser violated a federal law that prohibits public employees from conducting political activity in their official roles, the office that enforces the law announced,” Felicia Sonmez reports.

“The Office of Special Counsel said in a report issued to Trump that it found Navarro ‘violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect an election by engaging in political activity during official media appearances and on his official Twitter account …’ The office said it was submitting its report to Trump for “appropriate disciplinary action.” But it remains uncertain whether such action will come.”

Ivanka & Jared buy $30M lot on high-security Miami island (NY Post)

Pocket change

Merrill Lynch to pay $26 million to New Hampshire.

The fines are among one of the largest FINRA settlements ever: “Merrill Lynch is being ordered to pay $26.25 million in fines and restitution to the state and to an investor, former Gov. Craig Benson (R), who claimed he suffered losses at the hands of a former Boston-based broker, to settle allegations including unauthorized and excessive trading,” CNBC’s Dawn Giel, Scott Cohn and Scott Zamost report.

“It is the largest monetary sanction in the state’s history and the second largest FINRA settlement in at least a decade.”



a hand holding a cell phone: (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)


© JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Traders are furious over outages at Interactive Brokers, Robinhood: “Interactive Brokers Group Inc. apologized to clients and said it ‘experienced a significant failure in multiple segments of a highly resilient data storage system.’ The company, with more than 1 million customers, said in an emailed statement that its systems had ‘mostly recovered,’” Bloomberg News’s Annie Massa and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou report.

“The breakdown at Interactive Brokers coincided with a brief and apparently unrelated outage at Robinhood Markets … As much as the boom in stock trading by individuals has been a hallmark of this year, so has service disruptions at the online brokerages. What’s more, customers have also reported hacks into their brokerage accounts.”

Kodak stock soars after being cleared in probe: “Shares rocketed about 80% higher in early trading Monday after the U.S. government reportedly found no wrongdoing in Kodak’s now-halted $765 million loan to help the company produce pharmaceutical ingredients,” CNN Business’s Jordan Valinsky reports.

Bob Dylan just sold his entire catalogue of songs to Universal Music (Taylor Telford)

Chart topper

Via Charles Schwab & Co. chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders: 

Daybook

Today:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims
  • Costco, Dave & Buster’s, Lululemon Athletica and Oracle are among the notable companies reporting their earnings
  • The Senate Small Business Committee holds a hearing on the future of PPP
  • A Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee holds a hearing on the logistics of vaccine distribution, featuring testimony from top FedEx and UPS officials 

The funnies

Bull session

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