What’s behind the August sell-off?
Goldman Sachs economists see an end to the Fed’s hawkish policy on interest rates, predicting that the central bank will cut its prime lending rate in the second quarter of next year. But that bullish prediction is doing little to restore investors’ optimism, as concerns mount about consumer confidence and the health of global economy.
China’s woes are reverberating. The country, a major engine of growth, has been rocked by a decline in trade, a slowdown in consumer spending, a crackdown on the private sector and U.S.-led economic restrictions. Now, concerns are growing about China’s domestic property market after Country Garden, one of the country’s biggest developers, missed debt payments. Those ructions have sent the prices of global commodities, including Brent crude, tumbling on Monday.
Stocks across Asia fell, too, with the Hong Kong-listed Country Garden hitting a record low after trading in its onshore bonds was suspended at the weekend. The group’s woes have sparked contagion fears for China’s shadow banking sector, and hit U.S. business.
The U.S. stocks rally also stalled. Despite better-than-expected corporate earnings and signs that inflation is cooling, investors have dumped stocks and bonds this month. According to Deutsche Bank, August saw the worst start to a month for stocks since March, when the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank spurred a big sell-off. Bonds are doing even worse, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury bill climbing to a nine-month high. (Yields on bonds rise as their prices fall.)
Many on Wall Street, including Bill Gross, Pimco’s former chief investment officer, are warning that stocks and bonds are still too pricey even after the latest swoon.
The health of the American consumer is adding to the jitters. Debt levels are climbing, sapping purchasing power. Mortgage rates hit a 21-year high point last week, with little relief in sight. Millions of Americans will have to resume paying off their student loans in the coming weeks, which could, among other things, crimp their investing habits.
What are investors watching for next? On Tuesday, Beijing is set to release data on retail sales, industrial production and property investment. A few hours later, U.S. retail sales data will be published.
But the most eagerly anticipated market event will come on Wednesday when the Fed discloses the minutes from last month’s rate-setting meeting. Investors will pore over the report for signs of where policymakers stand on their fight against inflation and whether, as Goldman says, the central bank plans to take a break from raising interest rates.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Donald Trump is set to face new legal challenges. Prosecutors in Georgia are expected to present findings to a grand jury on Monday from their investigation into attempts by the former president and his allies to overturn an election loss in the state in November 2020. A decision on whether to indict Mr. Trump could come later this week.
US Steel shares surge after rejecting takeover bid. The company’s stock was up almost 30 percent in premarket trading after it rebuffed a $7.3 billion offer from Cleveland-Cliffs, and said it would review its strategic options. Cleveland-Cliffs went public with its bid in what would have created one of the world’s biggest steel makers.
SoftBank is reportedly in talks to buy the 25 percent stake in Arm it doesn’t own. The Japanese technology group may acquire the stake in the chip design company from the Vision Fund, the $100 billion Saudi-backed investment vehicle, according to Reuters. SoftBank is preparing to list Arm next month at a valuation of $60 billion to $70 billion.
Philips shares jumped after the billionaire Agnelli family bought a 15 percent stake. Stock in the Dutch health care technology company rose as much as 5.1 percent after Exor, the Italian family’s investment firm, paid $2.8 billion to become the group’s biggest shareholder.
Can Biden cash in on the IRA?
Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden’s attempt to transform the U.S. from a clean energy laggard to a magnet for green investment.
That transformation won’t come cheap. The plan is meant to decarbonize the economy by, in part, jumpstarting the electric vehicle industry and increasing investment in the likes of solar, wind and hydrogen energy. The tax breaks and government spending at its heart were originally estimated to cost $391 billion over the next decade, but that figure will balloon to more than $1.2 trillion, write The Times’s David Gelles, Jim Tankersley, Jack Ewing, and Brad Plumer.
One big reason: The law is more popular with consumers and businesses than previously expected, creating huge (even global) demand for the credits and subsidies.
Where is the money going? Even though no Republican lawmakers voted for the deal, the brunt of the spending is happening in G.O.P.-led states in the South where car companies, electric-vehicle battery manufacturers and solar firms have committed to build production facilities.
The act’s “ripple effects” can already be seen. According to Bank of America, $132 billion worth of new clean energy projects have been announced since the bill’s signing, amounting to 86,000 new jobs. The bank says it sees even bigger economic gains next year.
None of that seems to be helping Mr. Biden’s approval rating. The president’s ratings are languishing, opinion polls show. Hoping to leverage any green shoots of economic progress, the White House has made “Bidenomics” a centerpiece of its re-election messaging in recent weeks, and even dispatched Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, to the Southeast in a caravan of electric vehicles to promote the president’s track record on the climate and the economy.
Companies fight an M.&A. rule change
A proposal by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to tweak a form used in dealmaking may seem like a simple procedural change. But companies are pushing back, warning that the amendment could increase costs and have a chilling effect on mergers and acquisitions.
What’s in a form change? The pre-merger notification requirement would force companies to provide more information about deals to the F.T.C. and D.O.J. earlier in the process. The regulators want more data earlier about suppliers, prior acquisitions and labor violations to help them “more effectively and efficiently screen transactions for potential competition issues.”
But Noah Joshua Phillips, a former F.T.C. commissioner now co-chair of the antitrust practice at the law firm Cravath, told DealBook that this info wasn’t needed for most deals. “Only a tiny percentage of the thousands of reportable transactions filed every year get a second look by the agencies,” he said, “and, if the proposal is adopted, now every one will cost a great deal more time and money.”
The proposed changes would add a “significant” burden for companies, the competition law expert Luis Blanquez of Bona Law, told DealBook. For a start, if agencies reach out to suppliers before an agreement is public, leaks about a deal are likely. Businesses will also have to be more careful about internal discussions, because draft agreements will be subject to review. The rule would mean “more time, more expense and more exposure of confidential information,” Mr. Blanquez says.
Businesses are resisting. The lobbying group NetChoice successfully pushed the F.T.C. to extend the comment period by 30 days. (It had been set to expire on Aug. 28.) The Chamber of Commerce is also pushing back, warning that the changes and proposed merger guidelines undermine American competitiveness. “These disclosure requirements will mire every merger in government red tape,” Sean Heather of the Chamber’s antitrust department told DealBook.
The regulators don’t seem deterred. The F.T.C. Chair Lina Khan and Jonathan Kanter, head of the D.O.J.’s antitrust division, spoke last week about their approach to merger review at the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank. One focus was on labor issues, with the regulators saying that they want to know what impact deals have on workers. “Antitrust is for the people,” Mr. Kanter said.
“If Elon ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me. Otherwise, time to move on.”
— Mark Zuckerberg. The C.E.O. of Meta signaled that his much-discussed “cage match” showdown against Elon Musk won’t happen as he grows tired of his fellow billionaire’s excuses and delays.
The week ahead
In addition to the release of Fed minutes and retail sales data, the big retailers are set to report results. Here’s what to look for:
Tuesday: Home Depot reports second-quarter earnings.
Wednesday: Target, Cisco, and the Chinese tech companies JD.com and Tencent release earnings.
Thursday: Walmart and Applied Materials report their latest quarterly results.
Friday: Deere, Estée Lauder and Palo Alto Networks report. At Camp David, President Biden is scheduled to meet with leaders from Japan and South Korea to discuss, among other things, North Korea and China.
THE SPEED READ
Mastercard agreed to buy a minority stake in a fintech unit run by MTN, Africa’s largest wireless telecommunications company, in a deal valued at $5.2 billion. (Bloomberg)
Credit Suisse retail investors and former employees are planning a lawsuit to challenge the bank’s takeover by UBS. (FT)
The Brazilian soccer star Neymar will reportedly earn 150 million euros a year to play in Saudi Arabia as the oil-rich kingdom splashes out huge sums to recruit top talent. (Sky News)
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