Economy & Business

Why it matters: Despite murmurs of an impending economic crash, the U.S. has seen strong job growth and record low unemployment as trade wars, sweeping technological change and new media consumption habits are changing the American economy.

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Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Warren Buffett released his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders on Saturday morning, sharing investment reflections and eyeing the future of the Omaha, Nebraska-based holding company and the market at large.

Details, via Axios' Courtenay Brown: Buffett turns 90 this year, though there’s no indication he plans to step aside, there is speculation about Buffett’s successor. Berkshire also notably exited the newspaper business last month.

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.

Ex Glu Mobile CEO has a blank check company

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

While many tech companies are still apprehensive about going public and all the scrutiny that comes with that, ex-Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi just listed a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC) on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $200 million.

What’s next: De Masi, along with co-sponsor and former EMC executive Harry You, wants to create the next great mobile app-focused public company via this vehicle, he tells Axios. Think of it as Match Group, but for a different app category.

Scoop: Lyft acquires cartop advertising startup Halo Cars

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lyft has acquired Halo Cars, a small startup that lets ride-hailing drivers earn money via ad displays mounted atop their cars. Lyft confirmed the deal but declined to share any details.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing companies are increasingly eyeing additional ways to generate revenue, and Lyft rival Uber has been quietly testing a partnership with New York-based Cargo that gives it a cut of the advertising revenue, as I previously reported.

Podcast: The impact of the Boy Scouts' bankruptcy filing

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy this week in the face of hundreds of lawsuits from men alleging that they were sexually abused during their time in the organization. Pro Rata producer Naomi Shavin and Axios reporter Courtenay Brown discuss how the bankruptcy filing could shape the creation of a victims' compensation fund and what it means for the flood of lawsuits.

Go deeper: Why the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy

Philly Fed index boomed in January

Data: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, projection from Wall Street Journal; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing business outlook rose to near its highest level on record and notched its biggest reading above economists' expectations in history.

The big picture: Analysts at BMO Capital Markets note that the monthly reading is among the highest in history (in the 99th percentile) going back 30 years and marked the largest two-month jump since 1995.

California's "woman quota" law seems to be working

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

When California passed its boardroom law requiring public companies based there to have at least one female director, there were concerns it would spark a gold rush for the same handful of well-known women — but that hasn’t happened.

Why it matters: Of the 138 women who joined all-male California boards last year, 62% are serving on their first company board, per a study by accounting firm KPMG. That means a majority of companies aren't contributing to so-called overboarding in corporate America.

A Silicon Valley startup wants to make "executive physicals" available to more people

Photo: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

A Silicon Valley startup is attempting to make executive physicals — which are frequently offered as part of C-suite compensation — available to a larger audience, STAT reports.

Between the lines: The $3,500 annual membership is cheaper than a $20,000 weekend at the Mayo Clinic, but is still expensive and still subject to the same criticism — mainly that it's unnecessary.

Go deeperArrowFeb 21, 2020 - Health

Trump pans "Parasite" during Colorado rally

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Ad-libbing at his rally in Colorado Springs, President Trump attacked "Parasite," which this month became the first non-English-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar, prompting Neon, the studio behind the film, to hit back that "he can't read."

What Trump said: "What the hell was that all about? We've got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don't know. ... Can we get like 'Gone with the Wind' back, please? 'Sunset Boulevard' — so many great movies."

Surprise billing may be about to get worse

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The problem of surprise medical billing — which Congress failed to solve last year — is about to get worse, thanks to a feud between an insurance giant and a company that employs thousands of doctors.

The big picture Parents who have babies in intensive care, women with high-risk pregnancies and people who need anesthesia could receive unexpected bills in the mail as a result of the fight between Mednax, the physician-staffing firm, and UnitedHealth Group.

Go deeperArrowFeb 21, 2020 - Health

Companies are behaving like it's a recession

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Despite historically low interest rates, U.S. companies are being unusually frugal, holding back on issuing new debt and pumping up their balance sheets with cash.

Why it matters: Historically, when interest rates are low and the economy is strong, companies have levered up to increase capital expenditures and buy assets in order to expand. The opposite is happening now.

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