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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Business has entered its next evolution — the can't lose market — but only for large companies with access to public markets.

The state of play: Companies with enough size are starting to take advantage of the moment, and backed by a seemingly endless supply of free Fed money can go all-in on whatever they want.

Driving the news: Mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Group unveiled plans to acquire "substantially all of JCPenney's retail and operating assets" for $1.75 billion Wednesday.

  • It's the biggest and riskiest of Simon's recent acquisitions through its joint venture with Authentic Brands Group that includes recently scooped-out-of-bankruptcy Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Lucky Brand and a portfolio of brands known as SPARC.

The big picture: Doubling down on malls might seem a risky strategy, but with the Fed seen as guaranteed to bail out credit markets if asset prices fall too far, big companies are seeing the green light to take risks with little worry about consequences.

  • If things go bad and ideas flop, companies can simply borrow more in the credit markets — investors have shown they will buy up debt even at negative interest rates, or from companies literally barred from operating.
  • That's largely because the Fed has backstopped the market and purchased billions in bonds from large companies.
  • Or better yet, as SoftBank demonstrated with its $4 billion options buying spree, companies can simply make big bets on the stock market going up to raise money.

Why it matters: Simon and its partners can blitzscale shopping malls or eight-track cassettes or the return of TaB cola with no real fear of running out of money or opportunities to get more and try again.

The other side: Small businesses without access to the Fed's money machine or public debt markets are running on fumes. More than one in three of those surveyed recently by Goldman Sachs said they expect to run out of cash before year-end without more aid from Congress.

  • An increasing number of U.S. households say they are going without food and many of the 29 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits are having to cut back on things like grocery purchases.

Watch this space: This new normal is fueling distrust of the financial sector.

  • The latest Axios/Ipsos poll shows 62% of Americans have little or no trust in the Fed, compared to 51% in May.
  • A MagnifyMoney survey last month found just 17% of Americans say they completely trust their money in the stock market, and only 5% of women.
  • 23% said they don’t trust any financial source, including financial advisers, journalists or Wall Street analysts.

Go deeper

Janet Yellen is back

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

A face familiar to Wall Street is back as a central player that this time will need to steer the country out of a deep economic crisis.

Driving the news: President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary.

Biden to nominate Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary

Photo: Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary, four people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Yellen, 74, will bring instant economic celebrity to Biden’s team and, if confirmed, she will not only be the first female Treasury Secretary but also the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government: the chair of Council of Economic Advisers, the chair of Federal Reserve and the Treasury Secretary.

Nov 24, 2020 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: COVID Thanksgiving

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Six in 10 Americans are dialing back this year's Thanksgiving plans because of the pandemic — cutting guest lists, canceling travel or scrapping Turkey Day altogether — in the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: This greater willingness to turn inward and exercise caution around the holidays comes amid signs of increased trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a growing confidence there will soon be a safe and effective vaccine available in the U.S.