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Situational awareness: China is building a hospital for patients infected with the new coronavirus that's "killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country’s most important holiday." (AP)
🎙 "In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. ... We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.
Growth slowed for local economies virtually everywhere in the U.S. last year, and is declining again at the start of this year as consumers pare back spending and business growth stalls.
What's happening: The Yelp Economic Average had its largest quarter-over-quarter decline in a year in Q4, "fueled by slumps in retail and services businesses."
Why it matters: "Yelp has information not only on millions of U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses but on the consumer demand expressed by the millions of consumers who view, review, and post photos of businesses on Yelp every day," the company said in a release accompanying the analysis.
Yes, but: Yelp's data does not track online shopping or purchases, which is an increasingly important segment of the U.S. and global economy.
The big picture: If Yelp's data is correct, it shows economic prospects are deteriorating for brick-and-mortar businesses of all kinds.
Watch this space: Large states and metropolitan areas like California, Texas, Florida, New York City, Chicago and Seattle saw some of the worst scores.
P.S. You can see Yelp's methodology for calculating the economic average here.
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said the investment bank won't help companies go public unless they have at least one board member who is not white and male, “with a focus on women." (CNBC)
Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was ordered to pay $17.5 million and barred from ever working at a bank. Meanwhile, the former head of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank unit, Carrie Tolstedt, faces a $25 million fine. (CNBC)
The U.S. posted its worst result in at least eight years, falling to 23rd in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index. (Bloomberg)
As I wrote on Wednesday, Russian stocks and bonds had a blowout year in 2019, and they even managed to give a significant bump to hedge funds.
What happened: EM-focused hedge funds with exposure to Brazil, Russia and China saw average gains of more than 25%.
The number of companies around the world that had their credit ratings downgraded from investment grade to speculative grade — so-called fallen angels — hit the lowest level in 23 years, S&P Global reported Thursday.
But, but, but: While BBB-rated bonds grew to a record 50% of all outstanding investment grade U.S. corporate debt last year, downgrades fell to a record low 0.3%, data from BofA Global Research found.
Why it matters: Many companies appear to be holding their investment grade rating by adding significantly to their debt load.
On the other side: The global tally of companies with credit ratings upgraded to investment grade from speculative grade was 22 in 2019 — the lowest in 10 years.
Climate change has, quite suddenly, become a lightning rod for business and finance leaders around the world, Axios' Amy Harder and I report
Driving the news: Climate is the topic generating the highest degree of public pressure on corporations by activists, policymakers and journalists, according to data analyzed by consultancy High Lantern Group and provided exclusively to Axios. The topic's mention rose 77% over 2018.
How it works: This is the survey's second year and includes analysis of more than 6 million tweets.
The big picture: The survey comes amid an intensifying backdrop. In recent months, the world's foremost economic institutions have advocated for policies cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This trend is driven by a confluence of factors, including more extreme weather and greater public pressure.
What they're saying: The BIS — known as the central bank for central banks — warned Monday in a research paper that climate change could cause "potentially extremely financially disruptive events that could be behind the next systemic financial crisis."
The intrigue: Finance and economics-focused groups have increasingly been pushing governments to implement carbon taxes, an approach championed last year by every living former chair of the Federal Reserve and dozens of former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and Nobel laureate economists.
But, but, but: All this rhetoric should be scrutinized carefully and often. Talking about supporting policies addressing climate change is very different from actually doing something about it. Rhetoric often outpaces action on this topic, partly because it’s a slow-moving issue that’s hard to track: Goals are made 10–30 years out.
European Central Bank governor Christine Lagarde said Thursday the central bank would begin its first strategic review in 16 years.
Quick take: The ECB left policy unchanged at Thursday’s meeting, and Lagarde said interest rates would only be raised from negative territory when eurozone inflation “robustly” meets the central bank’s target of just under 2%.
The great Thurgood Marshall, who argued Brown v. Board of Education as a lawyer, founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court justice. He died on Jan. 24, 1993, at the age of 84.