Michael Milken. Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Three takeaways from this week's Milken Global Conference, where many of the world's top financiers, politicians and philanthropists gathered to exchange ideas and host dinners:

1. Optimism. So much optimism, about nearly everything. If Mike Milken had decorated the Beverly Hilton with rainbows, it wouldn't have been out of place. Someone actually said to me yesterday that the rules of economic cycles may no longer apply, and this was a senior capital markets professional with a head full of gray.

2. Regulatory confusion, as the venerable playbook has been set on fire without a replacement. Several M&A bankers told me that they feel unable to give reliable regulatory advice right now, either domestically or internationally. Some of this may be resolved this week in Beijing, but it goes further than CFIUS or China's MOFCOM. And even a ruling in AT&T vs. DoJ is unlikely to settle things, as the loser is widely expected to appeal (particularly if that loser is DoJ).

  • But going back to #1, global M&A is still way up over this time last year. So this is really an argument about how a hot market could be a few degrees higher.

3. Less Trump. Last year's conference was dominated not only by talk of Trump, but also by top administration officials on the agenda. This year Trump was more in the background, as not even the tariff spats seemed to particularly irk the free-trading crowd (again, optimism). The official program still included some cabinet bigs like Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, but it felt like much fewer than the 2017 edition.

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 20,004,254 — Total deaths: 733,929 — Total recoveries — 12,209,226Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,088,516 — Total deaths: 163,400 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Politics: Trump claims he would have not called for Obama to resign over 160,000 virus deathsHouse will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  5. Public health: 5 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — A dual coronavirus and flu threat is set to deliver a winter from hell.
  6. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  7. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."

AOC to speak at Dem convention

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during an April a press conference in Queens, New York City. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will speak at the Democratic convention next week ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders' appearance on the Tuesday night, CNN first reported and Axios has confirmed

Why it matters: Her involvement is a strategic decision to energize young progressives without tying former Vice President Joe Biden too closely or directly with her agenda.

1 hour ago - World

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election

An arrest today in Minsk. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty

Protesters and security forces are clashing across Belarus tonight, with at least one person dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.

Why it matters: Sunday’s rigged presidential elections have yielded political uncertainty unlike any seen in Aleksander Lukashenko’s 26-year tenure. After claiming an implausible 80% of the vote, Lukashenko is using every tool in the authoritarian arsenal to maintain his grip on power.