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Data: Datastream, Worldscope, DB Global Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of so-called zombie companies is spiking and could soon represent more than one in five U.S. firms, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

What it means: "Zombies" are firms whose debt servicing costs are higher than their profits but are kept alive by relentless borrowing.

What they're saying: "This is a macroeconomic problem because zombie firms are less productive, and their existence lowers investment in and employment at more productive firms," Deutsche Bank Securities chief economist Torsten Sløk said in a note to clients Thursday.

  • "In short, one side effect of central banks keeping rates low for a long time is that it keeps more unproductive firms alive, which ultimately lowers the long-run growth rate of the economy."

What's next: "This trend ... is likely to continue going forward given the Fed’s commitment to keeping rates low and the ongoing support from the Fed to credit markets."

Go deeper: Corporate debt issuance has already topped $1 trillion in 2020

Go deeper

Sep 22, 2020 - World

Study: China's economic policies directly harmed U.S. industries

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

China's economic planning and targeted subsidies have increased the competitiveness of Chinese firms in the global economy to the direct detriment of U.S. industry, an academic study has found.

Why it matters: When it comes to American industries and workers, the rise of Chinese industrial policy hasn’t been a win-win — researchers found for every 100 factories opened in China, 12.5 U.S. factories in the same industry closed.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."