Tuesday's economy & business stories

Median existing home price hits new high

The median price for a previously owned home hit a new high last month, per a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

Why it matters: Home prices are shooting higher all across America because there are too few homes for the feverish demand.

Xbox executive calls for more diversity in gaming

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Xbox, Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Xbox executive Sarah Bond described her determination to make an impact through her work in expanding Xbox's outreach to diverse game creators, in an interview with Axios.

The big picture: The number of Black people in the games industry has hovered around 2% for 30 years, according to the advocacy group Black in Gaming.

Lucid Motors plants flag in NYC

Lucid's new showroom in New York City on June 21, 2021. (Image: Hope King/Axios)

Lucid Motors' new New York City showroom is a flashy workaround to its dealership problem.

Why it matters: The electric vehicle startup is competing in an increasingly crowded market while operating under strict rules that prohibit most car makers from selling directly to consumers on premise in more than two dozen states, including New York.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Warby Parker files to go public

Photo: RBL/Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images

Eyewear brand Warby Parker on Tuesday said it has filed confidentially to go public, although a source says the company hasn't decided whether to do so via an IPO or direct listing.

Why it matters: Warby Parker is one of the earliest direct-to-consumer online sellers, although it has since expanded into physical locations. The company was most recently valued at $3 billion by venture capitalists.

Mississippi incorrectly paid $117 million in COVID unemployment claims

Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security incorrectly distributed more than $117 million in unemployment benefits in the early months of the pandemic, the state auditor said in a report released Tuesday.

The big picture: Criminals may have stolen as much as half of the unemployment money the United States has pumped out over the past year, Axios' Felix Salmon reports. Washington, Iowa, California and New York have also lost millions of dollars to fraud schemes.

Small Business Administrator: We're fixing "historic barriers" to loan access

Photo: Axios

The Small Business Administration is transforming loan programs so small businesses owned by women and people of color can better access them, Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman said at an Axios event Tuesday.

Why it matters: Guzman said there are "historic barriers that are unacceptable if we are going to recover and rebuild." The pandemic hit minority-owned businesses particularly hard.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Bloomberg leans into personality journalism with new newsletters

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Bloomberg is launching newsletters centered around two of its top reporters, Axios has learned. The idea is to launch new franchises around talent that will help it lure subscribers.

  • Mark Gurman will write a weekly newsletter about Apple and consumer technology called "Power On." The email is free but there will be a subscriber-only version online that subscribers will receive first and get their questions answered by Gurman weekly.
  • Jason Schreier will write a weekly email that serves as guide to gaming and the gaming entertainment industry called "Game On."
Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Quartz, NYT vets launch new media company about work

Photo credit: Emma Howells for Charter

Quartz co-founders Kevin Delaney and Jay Lauf, along with New York Times veteran Erin Grau, are launching a new media and services company called "Charter" that is centered around the future of work, the founders told Axios.

Why it matters: "There are other media companies that write about this topic — some occasionally and some more frequently, but it's one topic among many things that they do," Delaney said. "This is a driving focus for us."

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Scoop: The Hill ramps up sale talks

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Hill, a Beltway-based print publication that receives significant national traffic to its digital website, is being more aggressively shopped by its owner Jimmy Finkelstein, sources tell Axios.

  • It’s held recent talks with broadcasting giant Nexstar Media Group, a source tells Axios.

Why it matters: Finkelstein has held talks for years about offloading the publication, but sources who have been recently pitched on the sale say those talks have gotten more serious amid a ripe deals market and as Finkelstein looks to capitalize on the outlet's success during the Trump-era boom.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Longtime C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully leaving network

Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Longtime C-SPAN political editor and on-air host Steve Scully is leaving the network on July 2, Axios has learned. He will join the Bipartisan Policy Center as SVP of communications.

Why it matters: Scully has been with C-SPAN for over three decades. He has covered eight presidential elections for the network.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Rich Lowry to hand off National Review’s print magazine, take on editor-in-chief role

Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru, Credit: Karen Morneau, Amber Schwartz

Rich Lowry, the longtime editor of the conservative opinion magazine National Review, is stepping down from his role overseeing the print publication to focus on more strategic long-term initiatives as the company's editor-in-chief, Lowry tells Axios.

  • Ramesh Ponnuru, a longtime editor with the outlet, will lead the magazine.

Why it matters: The transition comes amid a growth period for the 65-year-old magazine and now-digital media outlet.

HarperCollins strikes deal with MLK estate for rights to literary archive

Cherry blossoms at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on March 27, 2021. Photo: Shannon Finney/Getty Images

The estate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has reached an agreement with HarperCollins Publishers for rights to King's literary archive, AP reports.

The big picture: With the new agreement, HarperCollins Publishers — which released King's first book more than 60 years ago — plans to release works based on King's life and writing, ranging from children’s stories to graphic novels, per AP.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Blackstone Group wants to be America's landlord again

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Blackstone Group was once America's largest landlord, scooping up tens of thousands of single-family homes in the aftermath of the 2009 subprime mortgage crisis. Now it's coming back, but at a market peak instead of at a market trough.

Driving the news: Blackstone this morning announced that it will pay around $6 billion to purchase Home Partners of America, a Chicago-based owner of more than 17,000 single-family homes.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Fuse Media launching subscription streaming service

Fuse Media

Fuse Media, an English-language media company that serves mostly Latino and multicultural audiences, is launching a subscription video service later this year, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: There aren't many English-language streaming services that are aimed specifically at multicultural populations in the U.S.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jun 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Why electrifying the light truck market could be tough

Adapted from Archsmith, et al., 2021, "Future Paths of Electric Vehicle Adoption in the United States: Predictable Determinants, Obstacles and Opportunities"; Note: Sales from 2017-18; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New research suggests a problem for policymakers hoping to rapidly move U.S. road transport from gasoline to electricity: drivers of huge-selling pickups and SUVs may be a tough sell.

Driving the news: The working paper explores how electric vehicle adoption is correlated with different forces, such as purchase subsidies, battery range, and "intrinsic" factors like belief in climate change.

Share buybacks are back at a record pace

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Data: Compustat, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

The earnings environment is going so well for big companies that they're announcing new stock buyback plans at a record pace.

Why it matters: Last year, stock buyback activity fell sharply as companies were hanging onto cash amid extreme uncertainty. The about-face shows that confidence is up, along with earnings.

U.S. merger and acquisition activity to surpass 2020's total deal value

Data: PwC analysis of Refinitiv data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Merger and acquisition activity in the U.S. is on pace to substantially surpass last year’s total deal value, as companies sit on tons of cash, and debt financing remains cheap, according to a PwC outlook published this morning.

Why it matters: It’s another sign that the economic recovery is firing on all cylinders. Even with public markets trading at sky-high valuations, buyers are stepping in.

Survey: Investors on the legs of the "going public boom"

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Data: Edelman; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Nearly all the institutional investors surveyed by Edelman expect the surge in the number of firms going public to peter out within the next year.

By the numbers: 91% said the investment profiles of companies that go public via traditional IPO are stronger than those using the SPAC route.

What Fed officials are saying about easing up on emergency market support

St. Louis Fed president Jim Bullard. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Getty Images

Federal Reserve officials are taking the stage this week, following news the Fed is thawing to the idea of reducing its emergency market support.

Between the lines: Examined together, comments in the WSJ Monday from three Fed officials, plus Fed chair Jerome Powell, provide reassurance to markets that on the one hand, the economic recovery is strong — and on the other, the Fed will continue its support for the time being.

Trending on earnings calls: Inflation

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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation is on everyone’s mind, as prices for goods and services have jumped over the last few months. But many of the market participants and company executives who are talking about inflation are also admitting that it may not be that big of a deal.

Why it matters: Runaway prices could erode consumer spending power and pressure corporate profit margins.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Crowd-sourcing tech eases a trip down the Mississippi River

Ship traffic on the Mississippi River near Luling, Louisiana in 2017. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Image

Mississippi River vessels will soon have access to an app similar to Waze but for boat traffic to help them navigate the river's tricky, ever-changing conditions.

Why it matters: The Mississippi River is a critical thoroughfare for American commerce but backups occur if large ships can't pass through shallow areas created by natural sediment or severe storms.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

The age of the career-jumpers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Staggering stat: 53% of Americans would switch to a role in an entirely new industry if they had to opportunity to retrain, according to Prudential's latest Pulse of the American Worker Survey.

Why it matters: We've told you about the "great resignation" — how upwards of 40% of U.S. workers may quit their jobs post-pandemic. That reshuffling in the labor market could be even more dramatic than companies are expecting because nearly half of workers want to jump fields, not just jobs.

Jun 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Time-saving tech is coming to two new U.S. border crossings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two giant infrastructure projects under construction in San Diego and Detroit aim to expedite the flow of people and goods throughout North America by using connected-vehicle technology.

Why it matters: The new international border crossings, both funded by public-private partnerships, are designed to bolster trade with Mexico and Canada while reducing wait times and improving local air quality.

Climate coverage booms, but still pales compared to weather

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Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Climate-focused news initiatives are pushing media outlets to devote more coverage to the way climate change impacts extreme weather events.

Why it matters: Meteorologists and weather journalists, who worry the topic is under-covered and over-politicized, are leading these newsroom efforts in many instances.

Trump Organization sues New York City for canceling contracts

Former President Trump addressing the NCGOP state convention in Greenville, North Carolina, earlier this month. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Trump Organization filed a lawsuit against New York City Monday, alleging that the termination of its Bronx golf course contract following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot was politically motivated.

Why it matters: The estimated cost of the decision by NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to end all contracts between the city and former President Trump's family business is $17 million a year in revenue.