Jul 1, 2020

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

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🎆 I'm starting my Fourth of July weekend a little early, so Courtenay Brown and Jennifer Kingson will be handling the newsletter tomorrow. I'm back in your inbox on Monday morning.

🎙“Never before in history has such a sweeping fervor for freedom expressed itself in great mass movements which are driving down the bastions of empire." - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: The big divide over the next stimulus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Alayna Treene and I write: As lawmakers turn their attention to another coronavirus stimulus package, Republicans and Democrats each say they’ve learned many lessons from the $2 trillion CARES Act. The problem is, they can’t agree on what those lessons were.

Why it matters: With just an 11-day window in late July to act, and without the market free-fall of March to motivate them, Congress may choke on a compromise package that many economists see as necessary to keep the economy upright.

Between the lines: Because the House and Senate have alternating recess schedules, Congress will have to reach a deal on the phase 4 package in the small window between July 20–31.

  • That's the time period between when they return from their respective recesses and when temporarily increased unemployment payments to more than 33 million Americans will expire.

What we're hearing: "Regardless of your politics, the enhanced unemployment benefits expire at the end of July and there’s still too many unemployed," Societe Generale U.S. chief economist Stephen Gallagher tells Axios.

  • "The government is just obligated to continue to offer more support."

The catch: One big battle between Democrats and Republicans is over the reason unemployment has remained so high.

  • GOP lawmakers argue that enhanced jobless benefits were too generous. "A lot of people have sort of rationally said, 'I prefer to keep getting the [unemployment] benefit for as long as I can because I'm making 100% or 150% or 200% of what I made at work,'" a Republican aide familiar with the stimulus talks tells Axios.
  • Democrats contend that the economy was so badly damaged that workers don't have jobs to go back to and without the increased $600 a week payout from unemployment insurance will face poverty and possibly homelessness.

What went wrong: The Paycheck Protection Program, which "spent vastly more money than the number of jobs it saved," according to a new report from NBER, has more than $125 billion in funds remaining.

  • Business owners complained that the restrictions were overly burdensome, and data show the funds largely did not go to the states, industries and communities that most needed the money.
  • Additionally, more than 90% of the government's $500 billion loan program for larger companies remains untapped.

What's next: Republicans have been asserting for months that the government must evaluate both the effectiveness of the CARES Act and the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus bill.

  • On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated this position: "In July, we’ll take a snapshot of where the country stands, see how the jobs are coming back, see where we think we are."
  • McConnell also made clear that the HEROES Act is a non-starter. Instead, he said any sort of stimulus package with a shot of passing would be drafted in his office, adding that those talks won't begin in earnest for another few weeks.

The problem with this plan, as one senior Senate Democratic aide put it, is "they’re missing the cliffs that are coming up" with the nationwide moratorium on evictions ending July 25 and state and local governments facing deadlines to produce balanced budgets.

2. Catch up quick

The Senate extended the application period for the Paycheck Protection Program through August 8 by unanimous consent Tuesday night, hours before the federal loan program was set to expire. (Axios)

Hong Kong police announced they had made their first arrest under China’s national security law. (Twitter)

“I can’t make an accurate prediction but it’s going to be very disturbing,” White House health adviser Anthony Fauci told a Senate committee yesterday. “We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned.” (CNBC)

3. Q2 was one for the record books

U.S. stock indexes closed out a record-breaking second quarter on Tuesday, with all three of the major indexes ending higher on the day and each finishing the quarter with their best performance in at least 20 years.

By the numbers: The benchmark S&P 500 ended Tuesday up 1.5% for its third positive close in four days.

  • The index finished June up 1.8%, rising every month during the quarter. Its 20% gain for Q2 was the best quarterly performance since Q4 1998, when the index jumped 20.9%.
  • Still the S&P is down 4% year to date.

The Dow ended Tuesday up 0.85%, or 217 points, for its third positive day in a row. It rose 1.7% for the month and rose every month during the quarter.

  • The index closed the second quarter up 17.8% for its best quarter since Q1 1987, but is down 9.6% year to date.

The Nasdaq rose 1.9% on Tuesday, gaining 6% in June, which marked its third straight positive month.

  • It gained 30.6% in the second quarter, its best since Q4 1999 when it jumped 48.2%.
  • The index is up 12.1% year to date.
4. The myth of closing the racial wealth gap through Black banking
Data: FDIC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tuesday's news that Netflix would invest $100 million of its cash holdings in "financial institutions and organizations that directly support Black communities" sparked discussion about Black-owned financial institutions in the United States.

Why it matters: The company's $100 million investment helps illustrate why individual actions won't close the racial wealth gap.

By the numbers: As of the fourth quarter of 2019, Black-owned banks held assets totaling $5.2 billion, compared to $17.7 trillion in non-minority institutions held in community and non-community banks, according to data from the FDIC.

  • That comes out to 0.03% of the total assets.
  • Minority financial institutions in total hold $234 billion.

By comparison, JPMorgan Chase, the country's largest bank, holds $3.1 trillion in assets. The bank made a profit of $2.87 billion in the first quarter — more than half the total assets of all Black-owned banks in the United States.

  • And that profit total was down 69% from a year earlier.

The big picture: Politicians and others have long suggested that if more Black families and businesses used Black-owned banks it would help Black people overcome the massive racial wealth gap in the U.S.

  • However, a recent Brookings report shows Black-owned firms with paid employees generated just over $103 billion in revenue annually.

What it means: If every single Black-owned business put every single dollar of its revenue into Black-owned banks every year, after a decade Black-owned banks would have 6% of the total assets that banks led by white people had in the fourth quarter of 2019.

  • It would take just under 30 years of every dollar earned by all of the Black-owned businesses invested in Black-owned banks for their assets to surpass those held by JPMorgan Chase in the first quarter of this year.

Of note: Netflix didn't actually say it was putting its money into Black-owned banks.

5. Why the jobs numbers don’t look so hot
Reproduced from Homebase; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Hans Nichols writes: Some private data the White House closely monitors has been pointing to an economic recovery that’s plateauing — and that could bolster the case for more stimulus this summer.

Driving the news: June's unemployment rate will be released tomorrow morning, but the official jobs numbers are practically dated the moment they flash on financial terminals. The White House watches other private data to get an earlier sense of what's happening — and that data suggests the recovery may be cooling off.

Between the lines: To get a more technicolor — and timelier — view of what’s actually happening with the economy, the Council of Economic Advisers also relies on troves of big data, shared by credit card companies, tech payment firms and startups that normally sell their geospatial data to monitor foot traffic to hedge funds.

Details: A data feed from a tech company called Homebase, which manages digital timecards for 100,000 small businesses, is flashing yellow.

  • Fewer employees worked in the last week of June than the rest of the month, suggesting that forthcoming jobless rate could be too low.
  • "While we may be celebrating a positive report on Thursday, we should be mindful of what the most current data shows us,” said Ray Sandza, Homebase VP for data and analytics. “And it doesn't look good."

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Dion Rabouin

Thanks for reading!

Quote: “Never before in history has such a sweeping fervor for freedom expressed itself in great mass movements which are driving down the bastions of empire."

Why it matters: On July 1, 1960, the new nation of Ghana's constitution went into effect, presided over by President Kwame Nkrumah, who had led the country out from British rule.

  • Ghana was the first African country to declare itself independent from European colonial powers that had divided up and ruled the continent for centuries.