Feb 10, 2019

When market indices get political

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The most powerful actors in the financial world might well be the index providers. They essentially compel all passive investors when it comes to their asset allocation. They also create the benchmarks against which nearly all active investors are measured.

The state of play: When indices change, billions of dollars of money can end up moving as a result. When it comes to emerging markets, the two giants of the indexing world are the MSCI for stocks and the EMBI for bonds. When those indices are altered, all emerging-market fund managers, be they active or passive, will feel the consequences.

  • Index providers are susceptible to government coercion. China twisted MSCI's arm to try to persuade it to include Chinese stocks in its emerging market index. Meanwhile, Venezuelan politicians aligned with Juan Guaidó, who may or may not be the president of Venezuela depending on who you believe, want JPMorgan, which runs the EMBI index, to keep the country in the index, despite the fact that it's illegal for Americans to buy Venezuela's bonds.

The bottom line: Everything is susceptible to human biases, even supposedly objective indices. People think that the S&P 500 includes the 500 biggest stocks in America, for instance, but it doesn't: Tesla has never been included. If you can influence the people who determine what gets into the index and what doesn't, that's real power.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,131,713 — Total deaths: 59,884 — Total recoveries: 233,591Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 278,458 — Total deaths: 7,159 — Total recoveries: 9,897Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

The renaissance of the American family

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It used to be scarce and hard-earned, but suddenly family time is abundant in the era of shelter-in-place.

Why it matters: For the first time since the early 19th century, many parents and kids — and even grandchildren — are all under the same roof round-the-clock. And if past periods of emergency are any guide, this enforced togetherness could deepen our relationships for years to come.

Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.