Oct 23, 2020

Axios Markets

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🎙 "We appeal to the world to witness that this attitude of America is far more dangerous to mankind than the Atom bomb; and far, far more clamorous for attention than disarmament or treaty."- See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: Child care crisis is denting the labor market

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Erica Pandey and I write: New data from the Pew Research Center show that parents are being hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and as far as job losses go, mothers and fathers are faring equally poorly.

What's happening: "[O]ver the first six months of the outbreak, the labor market impact of COVID-19 has similarly affected mothers and fathers, and the wide gulf that exists in the workplace engagement of mothers and fathers persists virtually unchanged," Pew writes.

  • "The share of mothers and fathers who were employed and at work plunged with the onset of the coronavirus outbreak and had recovered only partially through September 2020."
  • "The gender gap in September (22 percentage points) is slightly greater than in February (20 points), but a similar gap was also present in September 2019."

Why it matters: Economists have been warning for months that the pandemic could do long-term damage to the economy as people remain unemployed for longer stretches of time.

  • And the decline of women's growth as a share of the labor force reverses what had been a broad-based economic tailwind for the U.S.

What we're hearing: "If you want to maximize economic growth, you want all working age adults to be engaged with the labor market at their maximum capacity," Misty Heggeness, a visiting scholar at the Minneapolis Fed, tells Axios.

  • "We're cutting ourselves short as a society."

The big picture: "There is no new normal to this. It just keeps getting worse every day," says Alicia Modestino, an economics professor at Northeastern University and a former senior economist at the Boston Fed.

  • "When you look down the barrel of hybrid or remote learning for an entire year, as a working parent you just want to cry."

By the numbers: In addition to the decline of parents who are employed and at work, more parents also are dropping out of the labor force altogether, Pew's data show. That means they're not looking for work.

  • The percentage of mothers not in the labor force jumped to 29.1% in September from 26.4% in September 2019.
  • For fathers, the rate has increased to 7.8% from 6.2%.

The bottom line: The U.S. economy is losing workers, which will ultimately make the country less productive.

  • The share of women employed and at work is the lowest it has been in 35 years.
  • The share of men at work is the lowest it has ever been.
2. Catch up quick

Gilead received FDA approval for remdesivir for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. (CNBC)

Wells Fargo has discussed a potential deal with PE groups and asset management companies for a sale of its asset management business, which is expected to valued at over $3 billion. (Reuters)

Ant Group will bring forward its IPO to Nov. 5 and underwriters have increased its valuation to $380 billion, unnamed sources say. (Hong Kong Economic Journal)

"A growing body of research has concluded that the steep drop in economic activity last spring was primarily a result of individual decisions by consumers and businesses rather than legal mandates." (N.Y. Times)

3. Investors around the world prefer Biden

Reproduced from UBS Investor Sentiment Q3 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors around the world prefer Joe Biden by a small margin in the 2020 election, according to a new survey from UBS of nearly 3,000 investment professionals in 14 different global markets.

Of note: 72% of investors surveyed said they plan to adjust their portfolios ahead of the election.

4. Turkish lira's crash shows the value of central bank confidence
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The value of the Turkish lira against the dollar fell more than 2% immediately following the central bank's decision not to adjust its benchmark one-week repo rate, sending the currency plummeting to its lowest level on record.

Why it matters: Turkey is becoming a cautionary tale of what can happen when a central bank loses its independence and credibility and is effectively controlled by the president.

Background: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has needled the central bank to keep interest rates low to boost the economy despite wide-ranging inflation and has largely gotten his way after firing former governor Murat Cetinkaya.

Keep it 💯: Had the central bank raised rates it would have sent “a credible signal” to investors that the central bank was “addressing the deterioration in inflation expectations and continuing with the gradual shift back towards more conventional monetary policy,” Phoenix Kalen, an emerging markets strategist at Société Générale, told FT.

  • “But clearly we did not see that.”
5. Unemployment numbers are getting better

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits declined for the week ending Oct. 3, as California restarted reporting its numbers, with revisions also reducing the number of new applicants and continued claimants for previous weeks.

The big picture: Fewer people were getting unemployment benefits as of the first week in October and fewer people applied last week.

  • As of Oct. 3, the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs was 23,150,427, a decrease of 1,046,493 from the previous week.
  • There were also fewer than 9 million people receiving traditional unemployment benefits that week for the first time since the end of March.
  • The four-week moving average of the number of people receiving unemployment benefits was 10.1 million, a decrease of more than 1 million people from the previous week's revised average.

Why it matters: "Last week's data was very troubling, hinting that the labor market had hit a pothole in its recovery," Thomas Simons, money market economist at Jefferies, says in a note to clients. "That no long seems to be the case."

Yes, but: The number of people receiving benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose again, and is a primary focus of California's investigation of its unemployment system.

  • The number of people on the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program increased by nearly 510,000 after rising by 818,000 the previous week.

Watch this space: We recently passed the 26-week mark from the beginning of the massive job losses seen in March, which is when traditional unemployment benefits expire.

  • The PEUC numbers as well as the Extended Benefits program, which increased by 90,000 to include 445,000 people for the Oct. 3 week, will likely continue to swell if the pace of job gains doesn't increase markedly.
6. Recent arrests suggest massive fraud in unemployment system

Fraud in California's Employment Development Department (EDD) was so rampant and seemingly easy to exploit that one Los Angeles rapper was arrested recently after making a song and video about doing it.

What happened: In a historic example of snitching on oneself in an effort to clout chase, rapper Fontrell Antonio Baines, aka Nuke Bizzle, describes how easy it is to get "rich off of EDD" in a music video posted to YouTube titled "EDD."

  • He was arrested last month in Las Vegas and prosecutors say he used stolen identities to file for $1.2 million in benefits through at least 92 debit cards that had been pre-loaded with fraudulently obtained benefits and mailed to different addresses.
  • More than $704,000 of these benefits were accessed through cash withdrawals, per the Daily Mail.

In a separate incident, Beverly Hills police arrested 44 people and confiscated 129 fraudulently obtained debit cards potentially worth more than $2.5 million in benefits issued by the state, the L.A. Times reported.

Less funny: Even after the two-week pause, there is still a massive backlog of unemployment claims unprocessed in the state and it's estimated 1.2 million claims won't be paid until late January.

Thanks for reading!

Editor's note: The top story was corrected to show the share of women employed and at work is the lowest it's been for 35 years (not 25 years).

Quote: "We appeal to the world to witness that this attitude of America is far more dangerous to mankind than the Atom bomb; and far, far more clamorous for attention than disarmament or treaty."

Why it matters: On Oct. 23, 1947, the NAACP sent to the United Nations “An Appeal to the World: A Statement on the Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of Citizens of the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress,” written by civil rights scholar W.E.B. DuBois.

  • The appeal detailed the abuses suffered by Black Americans in the U.S. and sought assistance from the United Nations.