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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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 deeperArrow4 hours ago - 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 deeperArrow7 hours ago - 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.

Bloomberg drives record Democratic primary debate ratings

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg's first debate appearance drove ratings to a record-high Wednesday night, according to Nielsen ratings provided by NBC News. The debate averaged nearly 20 million live TV viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, according to preliminary numbers.

Why it matters: Bloomberg's highly anticipated debate debut drew contentious zingers from opponents who were eager to spar with him on stage for the first time.

Why the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy

Victims' rights Attorney Jeff Anderson speaks to media during a press conference on April 23, 2019. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection this week with the sole purpose of relieving the legal pressure it faces from sexual abuse victims.

Why it matters: Bankruptcy means that a judge will put a ceiling on how much BSA will pay to victims. The proceedings could limit the degree to which local councils' billions of dollars' worth of assets can be awarded to victims.

Trump indulges Wall Street with Milken pardon

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Donald Trump loves Wall Street shenanigans. Companies owned by him have declared bankruptcy six different times, and he was once sued alongside Mike Milken for participating in a scheme to artificially inflate junk-bond prices.

Driving the news: Trump pardoned Milken this week, with an official statement positively gushing over Milken's role in developing the wilder side of fixed-income capital markets.

Morgan Stanley to buy E*Trade in a $13 billion deal

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Morgan Stanley is buying E*Trade Financial, the company known for helping everyday Americans manage their money, in a $13 billion all-stock deal, the investment bank said Thursday.

Why it matters: The deal signals Morgan Stanley's desire to bulk up in wealth management, a strong profit arm of its business model. As the WSJ notes, Wall Street banks have been looking for steadier sources of revenue, now that "postcrisis regulations and a long period of eerie calm in the markets" have taken a toll on profits.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 24 hours ago - Economy & Business

Podcast: Bloomberg’s social media strategy

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mike Bloomberg’s campaign is hiring people to regularly post from their personal social-media accounts and send texts in support of Bloomberg to their contacts. Pro Rata producer Naomi Shavin is joined by Axios media reporter Sara Fischer to discuss the campaign’s social media strategies and how platforms are responding.

Go deeper: Read the Wall Street Journal report

Established VCs turn to "super angels" to grow their network

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thanks to companies like AngelList and Carta that make it easier than ever to set up small VC funds, a new generation of so-called “super angels” is cropping up — and established venture funds are backing them.

Why it matters: Just like the boom in scout programs a number of years ago, it’s all about the deal flow.

WSJ: Leslie Wexner to step down as Victoria's Secret goes private

Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

L Brands is reportedly near a deal to sell a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to Sycamore Partners, which will take the women’s lingerie company private and value it at about $1.1 billion, per the Wall Street Journal.

Details: L Brands will keep the remaining stake in a separate company along with sister brand Pink, while the core company will now only operate Bath & Body Works. Leslie Wexner will step down as CEO and chairman but remain on the boards of both companies.

Gold rising with stocks, yen falling with bond yields

Data; FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Markets are behaving strangely as investors attempt to make sense of the growing threat of the novel coronavirus. Assets that typically move in opposite directions are moving together, and assets that traditionally are very correlated are taking inverse tracks.

State of play: The market's two most popular safe-haven assets, gold and the Japanese yen, have decoupled and are moving in opposite directions.

Coronavirus outbreak slams companies' 2020 sales projections

A man and a child walk past a closed Apple store in Shanghai on Feb. 20. Photo: Yifan Ding/Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak already is eating into companies' 2020 plans, with a number of firms announcing significant expected hits to their sales.

What's happening: After warning that it would need to write down its revenue expectations, a new report from Nikkei says Apple's iPhone inventories could remain low until April or longer and that suppliers are "currently operating at around 30% to 50% of capacity."

The Fed may be setting the table for 2020 rate cuts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Fed looks to be laying the groundwork to lower U.S. interest rates this year, just as they did in April 2019 before cutting rates in July, September and October.

Why it matters: A Fed rate cut makes taking on debt more attractive for U.S. consumers and businesses, helping to juice the economy, but also puts the central bank in a weaker position to fight off a potential recession.

UnitedHealth terminates handful of Mednax contracts

Photo: Marijan Murat/picture alliance via Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group will be ending contracts with Mednax anesthesiologists, neonatologists and obstetricians in four states this year, affecting $70 million of revenue, Mednax said Thursday. Mednax and UnitedHealth did not immediately respond to questions.

Why it matters: If the two sides don't strike a new deal, Mednax doctors will be out-of-network for all people who have UnitedHealth insurance, regardless if those doctors work at in-network hospitals — putting patients at risk of receiving surprise medical bills from those Mednax doctors. Congress has not resolved surprise billing.

More firms throw weight behind new Wall-Street backed stock exchange

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are joining the list of banks, brokerages and trading firms that back the Members Exchange, or "MEMX" — a new stock exchange that says it will go live in July and challenge incumbent exchanges by charging lower fees.

Why it matters: MEMX, which is still awaiting regulatory approval from the SEC, could be a formidable competitor to the entrenched "big three" stock exchanges.

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