Apr 26, 2019

Axios AM

🎉 Happy Friday!

Was this email forwarded to you? Get your own! Sign up here.

1 big thing: Global economic whiplash

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There are two contradictory and ultimately irreconcilable stories playing out in the global economy, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • Stocks are rising and investors have publicly become very bullish. But bond and currency markets are showing worry about the prospects for economic slowdown or even a recession.
  • Both the market exuberance and trepidation can be traced back to the Federal Reserve's flip-flop on whether to raise interest rates.

Analysts say the Fed's U-turn shows that the world's top economic minds see danger.

  • Global growth is slowing to a halt in much of Europe and Japan; and Canada, Australia and New Zealand may be headed into a recession this year.
  • Central banks and international aid institutions like the IMF are issuing warnings and writing down growth expectations around the globe.

Yes, U.S. stocks are roaring and touching new all-time highs, joining a global rally in equities.

  • U.S. GDP expectations for the first quarter have jumped from near zero to more than 2.5% in about a month and a half.
  • China's economic data has improved and investors are starting to see signs that global trade has bottomed and is poised for a comeback.

The bottom line: At some point, the global economy will have to stand on its own, without artificially low interest rates and trillions in stimulus from central banks.

2. Parallel 2020 campaigns

Onstage and on the air, 2020 Democrats are talking about topics like health care, student loans and reparations. But in the online scramble for donations and e-mail addresses, Trump-centric topics dominate the left's conversation.

  • Hot-button issues like gun control, abortion, immigration and climate change are among the topics that have dominated digital advertising — mostly on Facebook and Google‚ since the midterms, according to data provided to Axios' Sara Fischer by the progressive group Tech for Campaigns.

Why it matters: Polarizing topics are being pushed via ads on social platforms, where algorithms elevate content that tends to be more emotion-driven. 

  • "On social media, you're in an attention war, and you need content that makes people stop scrolling — that's what these emotionally-charged issues do," said Greg Dale, the director of campaign relations for Tech for Campaigns.
  • A lot of the groups that are spending around these issues are involved in statewide races. That's particularly true for abortion at the state level, where legislative action has heated up in response to Republican power in D.C.

The bottom line: The need to get donations fast is driving a push toward more polarizing messaging. 

3. Bob Woodward's next quest
Bob Woodward at The Washington Post on June 3, 1974 (Ron Galella/WireImage) and in L.A. this month. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

After his blockbuster "FEAR" (in paperback this fall), Bob Woodward tells me he's considering a second book on President Trump, perhaps before the election.

  • "I'm not sure," Woodward said. "Let's see what the story is."
  • Woodward said that after the Mueller report, he continues to think that the story is "what Trump does as president," from how well he understands that "preventing World War III is Job 1," to the economic risks he's taking with tariffs and redoing trade deals, to what he's doing with North Korea, the Middle East and China.
  • "You know, one of those things can disrupt your breakfast," Woodward said wryly. "It's a governing crisis. He doesn't know how to govern."
  • "People who work with Trump say: You can't even organize your own government. How could you possibly organize a conspiracy with Russia? ... He doesn't even have a to-do list, as best I can tell."

On Washington's investigations of Trump moves from Mueller and House Democrats, the Watergate legend said there would need to be tapes or other dramatic new evidence as "propellant" before impeachment became realistic.

  • "There will be a pursuit for new evidence, tapes, testimony, as there should be. But [it takes a] critical mass get a president out of office."
  • "It happened with Nixon because of the tapes. You had a quality of evidence that does not exist in the Mueller report and the Trump case. ... Now, that could change this afternoon."
  • "I don't know whether notes can do it. Because what shocked the country about Nixon wasn't just the actions, but playing those tapes and hearing the language," Woodward said. "Hate ruled the story, and people saw the hate."

Asked about the likelihood that there are revealing tapes of Trump, Woodward said: "It's pretty clear Mueller didn't find them on these issues."

  • "So many people in our business expected there to be some secret, inner sanctum meeting or tape recording showing coordination with Russia. And you know, Mueller found none."

Woodward said that the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan (the Southern District of New York), which continues to investigate Trump and his family business, "is very aggressive and independent, well-staffed."

  • "So, it's not over," Woodward said. "But for the moment, this phase is over."

Be smart: "The thing that no one likes, including you, is the pause button," Woodward told me.

  • "Let's wait and see. ... That's the hardest thing in the world. I think you come out every day, don't you? I'm honestly lucky that I don't."
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Sarah Sanders held her first briefing in more than a month Thursday, but still didn't field questions from working journalists, AP's Darlene Superville writes.

  • Sanders held what the White House called a "kids-only" press briefing for children participating in "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day."
5. Biden expresses regret to Anita Hill

Photos: George Frey/Getty Images; Joe Biden for President

Joe Biden reached out Anita Hill through an intermediary a few weeks ago and arranged a telephone call, hoping to assuage her, but it did not go how he had hoped, per the N.Y. Times.

  • Yesterday, "the first day of his presidential campaign, the Biden camp disclosed the call, saying the former vice president had shared with Hill 'his regret for what she endured' 28 years ago."
  • As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "he presided over the confirmation hearings in which she accused Clarence Thomas, President George Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment."

"But Ms. Hill says the call from Mr. Biden left her feeling deeply unsatisfied."

  • "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, 'I'm sorry for what happened to you,'" said Hill, now a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University.
  • "I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose."
Joe Biden stopped at Gianni's Pizza in Wilmington Del., on the first day of his campaign. Photo: Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
6. A bump in the Belt and Road

Chinese President Xi Jinping "signaled a recalibration of his [Belt and Road Initiative] as he sought to assuage foreign critics who blame Beijing for pushing excessive lending onto developing economies," write The Wall Street Journal's Chun Han Wong and James T. Arredy (subscription):

  • At the start of a two-day summit with nearly 40 leaders from around the world, Xi "pledged that China would ensure the financial sustainability of projects" in countries around the world, especially in Asia and Africa.
  • What he's saying: "Everything should be done in a transparent way, and we should have a zero tolerance for corruption."

Why it matters: The worldwide infrastructure-building project "has pushed China’s huge construction, telecommunications and shipping companies to go global at a time when a cooling domestic economy means less business at home."

7. A tale for our times: Amazon speeds up

Two-day delivery is going out of style, AP's Joseph Pisani writes:

  • Amazon, which hooked shoppers on getting just about anything delivered in two days, announced that it will soon promise one-day delivery for its U.S. Prime members on most items.

Why it matters: The company hopes that cutting delivery times in half will make its $119-a year Prime membership more attractive, since every other online store offers free deliveries in two days.

  • Amazon also can't compete with Walmart and Target, where ordering online and picking up at a store is becoming more popular with shoppers.

P.S. ... Amazon's profit rises sharply: Amazon "notched a best-ever $3.56 billion quarterly profit as it continued to lean on higher margin businesses and put a lid on costs." (WSJ)

8. Microsoft is third company to $1 trillion

"Apple got there first, then Amazon, and [yesterday], Microsoft became the third American company to reach a market valuation of $1 trillion," the N.Y. Times' Stephen Grocer writes.

  • "It was a brief achievement (Microsoft was valued at about $990 billion by the end of the day)."

Why it matters: "[I]t underscores the remarkable recovery in technology stocks since their precipitous decline late last year."

9. Male angst prompts new fertility services

"Start-ups like Trak, Yo and SpermCheck are selling at-home testing kits so men can figure out early on if there’s something amiss with their sperm," the WashPost's Ariana Eunjung Cha reports.

  • "And sperm freezing companies are aiming to turn what has been a sterile, clinical process into something more cool — a 23andMe or Ancestry for sperm."
10. 1 fun thing

It's not even May, but you might as well start familiarizing yourself with the song that you'll be hearing all summer.

  • At midnight, Taylor Swift dropped her new single, "ME!" — which features Panic! at the Disco's Brendon Urie.
  • The launch followed a social-media blitz over the last two weeks, where Swift cryptically promised something to her fans on "4.26."

Why it matters: It's Swift's first new music under her mega-deal with Universal Music Group, which took steps to ensure that all of the label's artists would see profits should it ever sell off any of its 3.5% stake in Spotify, per Vox.

Turn it up.

📱 Thank you for reading Axios AM. Get your friends, relatives, coworkers to sign up here.