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(Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,039 words, 4 minutes.)
🎙"When the Colonists were staggering wearily under the cross of woe, a Negro came to the front and bore the cross to the victory of the glorious martyrdom.” - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The COVID-19 outbreak began weighing on U.S. businesses even before the virus had really begun its spread in the U.S., the Fed's latest beige book shows.
Why it matters: The extent of the outbreak can't yet be quantified, but the report, a collection of anecdotes from the central bank’s business contacts around the country, suggests U.S. firms could be in for a significant slowdown in March.
What happened: The Fed's report contained 48 mentions of the term "coronavirus," and while the report characterized the U.S. economy as growing at a "modest to moderate pace," it also noted the St. Louis and Kansas City districts, which include 12 Midwestern and Southern states, reported no growth during this period.
What it said: "Consumer spending generally picked up, but growth was uneven across the nation."
The big picture: The Fed took the highly unusual step of cutting U.S. interest rates by 50 basis points Tuesday in order to soothe markets, but many economists fear the virus could send the country (and potentially the world) into a recession this year.
The bottom line: If quickly contained, the virus' economic impact would be minimal. Fiscal and monetary authorities around the globe are joining together to reduce the virus' impact, but if its spread continues there is limited action policymakers can take.
The Fed's beige book also noted that Broadway theater ticket prices have fallen slightly so far this year.
The intrigue: WSJ's Spencer Jakab noted in its Heard on the Street newsletter that he found matinee tickets to Broadway's hottest attraction, "Hamilton," on sale for $135, well below their normal price on the secondary market.
The House of Representatives passed an $8 billion health spending bill aimed at fighting the coronavirus outbreak as the U.S. death toll rose to 11, with a death in California and new cases in New York. (WSJ)
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a non-voter, said markets are wrong to assume the central bank will cut rates again at its upcoming policy meeting. (Bloomberg)
Fed Governor Lael Brainard argued against a decision by the Fed to simplify its “stress capital buffer” rule, saying that the actual outcome will be a “green light for large banks to reduce their capital buffers materially.” (Bloomberg)
Senate Finance Committee Chair Senator Chuck Grassley said the coronavirus outbreak could require the U.S. to make some adjustments to the phase one U.S.-China trade deal. (Reuters)
American low-wage workers increased their earnings significantly in 2019, seeing higher wage growth than workers at the higher end of the income spectrum.
Details: The left-leaning think tank's report finds that low-wage workers in the 23 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that raised their minimum wage last year saw "much faster wage growth than low-wage workers in states that did not increase their minimum wage between 2018 and 2019."
By the numbers: Improving labor market conditions occurred in both states that did and did not raise their minimum wages, but the report found slightly faster growth (+0.4 percentage points) in states with increases than in states without (+0.3 percentage points).
Between the lines: Wages rose more quickly for workers in states with no minimum wage increases at higher income levels.
Health care stocks soared Wednesday, led by double-digit percentage gains from major health insurers Anthem, Centene, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group, Axios' Bob Herman writes.
The big picture: Nothing has changed with the health care industry, which is still printing money. But Joe Biden's Super Tuesday victories reassured Wall Street of his chances of beating Bernie Sanders and "Medicare for All” — and that a Biden presidency or a Trump re-election will keep the lucrative status quo in place.
Between the lines: The political prognostications of Wall Street and its trading algorithms have been all over the board in the past year.
The bottom line: Medicare for All faces a lot of political hurdles in Congress, but so do Biden's reforms. Any changes will face a huge battle from an industry that is both deep-pocketed and politically connected.
Campbell Soup stock jumped 10% on Wednesday as the company's CEO went on a media tour to tout the growing demand for the company's products in the face of COVID-19 fears.
What he's saying: CEO Mark Clouse told CNBC Wednesday that the company is increasing soup production in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
What he's also saying: In a separate interview Wednesday, Clouse told Reuters that a few retail customers had begun stepping up orders. The company had already started building inventory for ingredients that are usually stockpiled during natural disasters, including canned soups, snacks and Prego pasta sauces.
Quote: "When the Colonists were staggering wearily under the cross of woe, a Negro came to the front and bore the cross to the victory of the glorious martyrdom.”
Why it matters: On March 5, 1770, British troops killed five civilians in what would come to be known as the Boston Massacre. The first was Crispus Attucks, a black man. George Washington said the quote above in reference to Attucks' death.