Strength in the banks’ investing, lending and trading businesses added to the euphoria. All three reported robust revenues across multiple lines of business, driven by a combination of active and rising markets, a flurry of new mortgage activity and the boom in special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. Corporate merger and acquisition activity also marked an all-time high by dollar value.
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Goldman — a dominant player in corporate advisory services and in markets — reported a doubling of revenue to $17.7 billion, from $8.7 billion, thanks to double-digit percentage gains in investment banking, money management and markets. JPMorgan reported a 14 percent rise in revenue to $33.1 billion from $29 billion, driven by both markets and investment banking.
Wells Fargo’s revenue rose 2 percent, buoyed partly by a 19 percent jump in home lending, as Americans migrated away from cities and into more suburban or rural areas. The results “reflected an improving U.S. economy,” but low interest rates and sluggish demand for loans were a “headwind,” said Charles W. Scharf, the bank’s chief executive.
The banks have been major — if somewhat unintended — beneficiaries of the government’s spending push over the last year that sought to keep the shock of virus-related economic shutdowns from sending the economy into a long-term tailspin.
A little over year ago, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero and restarted its bond-buying programs, effectively injecting trillions of freshly created dollars into financial markets, which helped bolster activity in mortgages, corporate bond issuance and deals.
Since then, stock markets have soared more than 80 percent, amid a boom in trading that crested this year. Both factors helped banks, which have businesses that buy and sell shares for clients. Goldman’s equities business made $3.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 68 percent from last year. JPMorgan’s stock markets business notched $3.3 billion, up 47 percent.
Looking forward, several banks spotlighted the impact of recent infusions of stimulus checks on consumer accounts — a component of roughly $5 trillion the federal government has allocated to fighting the crisis over the last year. The influx of federal dollars has helped put the finances of American households on some of their firmest footing in years, bankers said, adding that there are growing indications consumers are eager to put the cash to work.
CAIRO — Compared with Ramadan 2020, when mosques around the world were closed for prayer during the holiest month of the year for Muslims, and curfews prevented friends and family from gathering to break the fast, the religious holiday this year offered the promise of something much closer to normal.
“Last year, I felt depressed and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last,” said Riyad Deis, a co-owner of a spice and dried-fruit shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. On Tuesday, the first day of the Muslim fasting month, its narrow alleys were alive with shoppers browsing Ramadan sweets and worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Mr. Deis, 51, who was selling whole pieces of turmeric and Medjool dates to a customer, recalled how empty and subdued the Old City had felt last year as virus cases surged and the authorities closed Al-Aqsa to the public. “Now, I’m relaxed, I have enough money to provide for my family and people are purchasing goods from my shop,” he said. “It’s a totally different reality.”
rising coronavirus infections across many countries.
In Kenya, the authorities have introduced longer curfews, closed bars and schools, restricted gatherings at spaces of worship, and limited travel in and out of five counties including Nairobi, the capital.
For Nairobi residents like Ahmed Asmali, this means a prolonged inability to break the fast with loved ones or attend prayers with larger congregations.
“It’s the second year now that we are in a lockdown,” said Mr. Asmali, a 41-year-old public relations worker. The experience, he said “feels weird. Feels out of place.”
Lebanon Crisis Observatory, a project by the American University in Beirut.
The pandemic still shadows much of the festivities. Shop owners in Jerusalem’s Old City said they were worried that Israel would not allow large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank, where few have been vaccinated, to visit the Old City this Ramadan, depriving the area of their holiday spending.
Prepandemic, Israel usually allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Jerusalem on Fridays during the fasting month. The arm of the Israeli government that liaises with the Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday that Israel would allow 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to pray at the Aqsa on Friday. It also said authorities would permit 5,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to make family visits in Israel between Sunday and Thursday next week.
Omar Kiswani, the director of the Aqsa Mosque, said he was overjoyed that the compound was open to worshipers — an estimated 11,000 attended the taraweeh prayers at the compound Monday evening — but he emphasized that people would still need to be careful. He said masks and two meters’ distance between worshipers are required at the mosque, and the indoor and outdoor spaces will be sterilized daily.
“These are times of great happiness,” Mr. Kiswani said. “We hope the blessed Aqsa Mosque will return to its prepandemic glory. But these are also times of caution, because the virus is still out there.”
Vivian Yee reported from Cairo, and Adam Rasgon from Jerusalem. Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting form Istanbul and Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi.
across the United States. Snap polls during the call suggested that most of the participants favor doing something, though what that would be isn’t yet clear, the DealBook newsletter reports.
The voting-rights debate is fraught for companies, putting them at the center of an increasingly heated partisan battle. Ken Chenault, the former American Express chief, and Ken Frazier, the Merck chief executive, urged the executives on the call to publicly state their support for broader ballot access. The two had gathered 70 fellow Black leaders to sign a letter last month calling on companies to fight bills that restrict voting rights, like the one that recently passed in Georgia.
A survey this month of 1,221 Americans shows support for companies wading into politics. The data, provided by the market research firm Morning Consult, was presented to the business leaders on the call, which was convened by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale. Here are some highlights:
Fifty-seven percent of Americans think companies should cut back on donations to elected officials who are working to limit voting rights. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that the government should ensure equitable access to voting locations.
More than half of Americans said they were more likely to buy from companies that promote certain social causes, including racial equality and civil rights, although support among Democrats was stronger than among Republicans on many of these issues. Among the handful of issues that would make Republicans less likely to buy from a company were support for the Black Lives Matter movement, abortion rights, stricter gun control and L.G.B.T. rights.
In a separate survey of 2,200 Americans by Morning Consult, 62 percent of “avid” fans said they supported Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Georgia in response to the state’s new voting restrictions. Support was lower among all adults (39 percent), but if the league was worried about the effect on its most dedicated fans, this is an important finding.
Microsoft said on Monday that it would buy Nuance Communications, a provider of artificial intelligence and speech-recognition software, for about $16 billion, as it pushes to expand its health care technology services.
In buying Nuance, whose products include Dragon medical transcription software, Microsoft is hoping to bolster its offerings for the fast-growing field of medical computing. The two companies have already partnered on ways to automate the process of transcribing doctors’ conversations with patients and integrating that information into patients’ medical records.
Nuance is also known for providing the speech recognition software behind Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. In recent years, however, it has focused on creating and selling software focused on the medical field.
Under the terms of the deal announced on Monday, Microsoft will pay $56 a share in cash, up 23 percent from Nuance’s closing price on Friday. Including assumed debt, the transaction values Nuance at about $19.7 billion.
The deal is Microsoft’s biggest takeover since its 2015 acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
“Nuance provides the A.I. layer at the health care point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise A.I.,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement.
A year into the pandemic, there are signs that the American economy is stirring back to life, with a falling unemployment rate and a growing number of people back at work. Even mothers — who left their jobs in droves in the last year in large part because of increased caregiving duties — are slowly re-entering the work force.
But young Americans — particularly women between the ages of 16 and 24 — are living an altogether different reality, with higher rates of unemployment than older adults. And many thousands, possibly even millions, are postponing their education, which can delay their entry into the work force.
New research suggests that the number of “disconnected” young people — defined as those who are in neither school nor the work force — is growing. For young women, experts said, the caregiving crisis may be a major reason many have delayed their education or careers.
Last year, unemployment among young adults jumped to 27.4 percent in April from 7.8 percent in February. The rate was almost double the 14 percent overall unemployment rate in April and was the highest for that age group in the last two decades, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At its peak in April, the unemployment rate for young women over all hit 30 percent — with a 22 percent rate for white women in that age group, 30 percent for Black women and 31 percent for Latina women.
Those numbers are starting to improve as many female-dominated industries that shed jobs at the start of the pandemic, like leisure, retail and education, are adding them back. But roughly 18 percent of the 1.9 million women who left the work force since last February — or about 360,000 — were 16 to 24, according to an analysis of seasonally unadjusted numbers by the National Women’s Law Center.
At the same time, the number of women who have dropped out of some form of education or plan to is on the rise. During the pandemic, more women than men consistently reported that they had canceled plans to take postsecondary classes or planned to take fewer classes, according to a series of surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau since last April.
“We’ve focused in particular on the digital divide and the impact of that on the learning loss for kids,” said Reshma Saujani, founder of the nonprofit group Girls Who Code. “But we’re not talking about how the caregiving crisis is impacting the learning loss for kids and how it’s disproportionately impacting girls and girls of color.”
All of this can have long-term knock-on effects. Even temporary unemployment or an education setback at a young age can drag down someone’s potential for earnings, job stability and even homeownership years down the line, according to a 2018 study by Measure of America that tracked disconnected youth over the course of 15 years.
For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England, the next bounce began.
The pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.
Last March and April, there was an economic slump unlike anything ever seen before when schools, workplaces and businesses abruptly shut. Then a summertime boom, when restrictions eased and the government helped usher people out of their homes with a popular meal-discount initiative called “Eat Out to Help Out.”
Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government has spent about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, the government has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.
By the end of the year, the size of Britain’s economy will be back where it was at the end of 2019, the Bank of England predicts. “The economy is poised like a coiled spring,” Andy Haldane, the central bank’s chief economist said in February. “As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”
Even though a lot of retail spending has shifted online, reopening shop doors will make a huge difference to many businesses.
Daunt Books, a small chain of independent bookstores, was busy preparing to reopen for the past week, including offering a click-and-collect service in all of its stores. Throughout the lockdown, a skeleton crew “worked harder than they’ve ever worked before, just to keep a trickle” of revenue coming in from online and telephone orders, said Brett Wolstencroft, the bookseller’s manager.
“The worst moment for us was December,” Mr. Wolstencroft said, when shops were shut in large parts of the country beginning on Dec. 20. “Realizing you’re losing your last bit of Christmas is exceptionally tough.”
He says he is looking forward to having customers return to browse the shelves and talk to the sellers. “We’d sort of turned ourselves into a warehouse” during the lockdown, he said, “but that doesn’t work for a good bookshop.”
With the likes of pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and hotels shut for months on end, Brits have built up more than £180 billion in excess savings, according to government estimates. That money, once people can get out more, is expected to be the engine of this recovery — even though economists are debating how much of this windfall will end up in the tills of these businesses.
Monday is just one phase of the reopening.Pubs can serve customers only in outdoor seating areas, and less than half, about 15,000, have such facilities. Hotels will also remain closed for at least another month alongside indoor dining, museums and theaters. The next reopening phase is scheduled for May 17.
Over all, two-fifths of hospitality businesses have outside space, said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality, a trade group.
“Monday is a really positive start,” she said. “It helps us to get businesses gradually back open, get staff gradually back off furlough and build up toward the real reopening of hospitality that will be May 17.”
Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.
The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.
Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.
Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.
The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.
Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.
The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.
From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.
Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.
Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.
Global stocks drifted lower from recent highs on Monday ahead of a batch of first-quarter earnings reports. The S&P 500 was set to open 0.4 percent lower, futures indicated, after reaching a record high on Friday.
Most European stocks indexes fell. The Stoxx Europe 600 also declined from a high reached on Friday. The index was 0.2 percent lower on Monday, with energy and airline stocks among the companies that fell the most. The FTSE 100 in Britain was down 0.2 percent.
Stocks have recently been propelled higher by expectations that the global economy will recover strongly from the pandemic this year. Much of the impetus is expected to come from the United States, where trillions of dollars are being spent on various economic recovery packages. On Sunday, Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, said the economy was at an “inflection point” and on the cusp of growing more quickly.
But there are still concerns about the uneven nature of the global recovery. For example, parts of Europe and South America are still struggling to contain outbreaks of the coronavirus and the vaccine rollout is slower than in the United States and Britain.
Oil prices and Treasury notes
Oil futures rose. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 0.4 percent to $59.53 a barrel.
Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes were little changed at 1.66 percent.
Retail sales in the eurozone rose more than economists forecast, data published Monday shows. Sales jumped 3 percent in February from the previous month, compared with predictions of a 1.7 percent increase.
In England, nonessential retail stores opened on Monday for the first time in more than three months. Shares in JD Sports, a clothing retailer, rose in the morning and hit a record high. But by midmorning shares, were down 0.4 percent and fell alongside several other large British brands, including Marks & Spencer and Next. Foot traffic in shopping locations across Britain was three times greater than last week, according to data from Springboard.
The deadline to file a 2020 individual federal return and pay any tax owed has been extended to May 17. But some deadlines remain April 15, Ann Carrns reports for The New York Times. So it’s a good idea to double-check deadlines.
Most, but not all, states are following the extended federal deadlines, and a few have adopted even more generous extensions.
But the Internal Revenue Service has not postponed the deadline for making first-quarter 2021 estimated tax payments. This year, the first estimated tax deadline remains April 15. Some members of Congress are pushing for the I.R.S. to reconcile the deadlines, but it’s unclear whether that will happen, with April 15 less than a week away.
Most states have retained their usual deadlines for first-quarter estimated taxes. One exception is Maryland, which moved both its filing deadline and the deadline for first- and second-quarter estimated tax payments to July 15.
Even as unionization elections, like the lopsided vote against a union at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., have often proven futile, labor has enjoyed some success over the years with an alternative model — what sociologist of labor calls the “air war plus ground war.”
The idea is to combine workplace actions like walkouts (the ground war) with pressure on company executives through public relations campaigns that highlight labor conditions and enlist the support of public figures (the air war). The Service Employees International Union used the strategy to organize janitors beginning in the 1980s, and to win gains for fast-food workers in the past few years, including wage increases across the industry, Noam Scheiber reports for The New York Times.
“There are almost never any elections,” said Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It’s all about putting pressure on decision makers at the top.”
Labor leaders and progressive activists and politicians said they intended to escalate both the ground war and the air war against Amazon after the failed union election, though some skeptics within the labor movement are likely to resist spending more revenue, which is in the billions of dollars a year but declining.
Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the retail workers union, said in an interview that elections should remain an important part of labor’s Amazon strategy. “I think we opened the door,” he said. “If you want to build real power, you have to do it with a majority of workers.”
But other leaders said elections should be de-emphasized. Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of a Teamsters local in Iowa, said the Teamsters were trying to organize Amazon workers in Iowa so they could take actions like labor stoppages and enlist members of the community — for example, by turning them out for rallies.
President Biden’s sweeping pandemic relief bill and his multitrillion-dollar initiatives to rebuild infrastructure and increase wages for health care workers are intended to help ease the economic disadvantages facing racial minorities.
Yet academic experts and some policymakers say still more will be needed to repair a yawning racial wealth gap, in which Black households have a mere 12 cents for every dollar that a typical white household holds.
The disparity results in something of a rigged game for Black Americans, in which they start out behind in economic terms at birth and fall further behind during their lives, Patricia Cohen writes in The New York Times. Black graduates, for example, have to take out bigger loans to cover college costs, compelling them to start out in more debt — on average $25,000 more — than their white counterparts.
The persistence of the problem affects the entire economy: A study by McKinsey & Company found that consumption and investment lost because of the gap cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
It also has deep historical roots. African-Americans were left out of the Homestead Act, which distributed land to citizens in the 19th century, and largely excluded from federal mortgage loan support programs in the 20th century.
As a result, the gap is unlikely to shrink substantially without policies that specifically address it, such as government-funded accounts that provide children with assets at birth. Several states have experimented with these programs on a small scale.
“We have very clear evidence that if we create an account of birth for everyone and provide a little more resources to people at the bottom, then all these babies accumulate assets,” said Michael Sherraden, founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which is running an experimental program in Oklahoma. “Kids of color accumulate assets as fast as white kids.”
An update to the contact tracing app used in England and Wales has been blocked from release by Apple and Google because of privacy concerns, renewing a feud between the British government and the two tech giants about how smartphones can be used to track Covid-19 cases.
In an attempt to trace possible infections, the update to the app would have allowed a person who tests positive for the virus to upload a list of restaurants, shops and other venues they recently visited, data that would be used by health officials for contact tracing. But collecting such location information violates the terms of service that Google and Apple forced governments to agree to in exchange for making contact tracing apps available on their app stores.
The dispute, first reported by the BBC, highlights the supernational role that Apple and Google have played responding to the virus. The companies, which control the software of nearly every smartphone in the world, have forced governments to design contact tracing apps to their privacy specifications, or risk not have the tracking apps made available to the public. The gatekeeper role has frustrated policymakers in Britain, France and elsewhere, who have argued those public health decisions are for governments, not private companies to make.
The release of the app update was to coincide with England’s relaxation of lockdown rules. On Monday, the country began loosening months of Covid-related restrictions, allowing nonessential shops to reopen, and pubs and restaurants to serve customers outdoors.
An older version of the contact tracing app continues to work, but the data is stored on a person’s device, rather than being kept in a centralized database.
To use the app, visitors to a store or restaurant take a photo of a poster with a QR code displayed in the business, and the software keeps a record of the visit in case someone at the same location later tests positive.
Apple and Google are blocking the update that would let people upload the history of the locations they have checked into directly to health authorities.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it is in discussions with Apple and Google to “provide beneficial updates to the app which protect the public.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment. Google declined to comment.
Two days after Chinese regulators fined the e-commerce giant Alibaba $2.8 billion for placing illegal restrictions on the vendors on its shopping sites, the company said it would lower the fees it charges such merchants and invest in new services for them.
“We will incur additional cost,” Alibaba’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang, said on Monday during a conference call with analysts. “We don’t view this as a one-off cost. We view this as a necessary investment to enable our merchants to have a better operation on our platform.”
The company’s chief financial officer, Maggie Wu, said Alibaba had set aside “billions” of renminbi in additional annual spending to support this initiative but did not offer more specifics. One U.S. dollar is around 6.6 renminbi.
China’s antitrust penalty against Alibaba far exceeds previous fines it has levied for anticompetitive business practices. It reflects the government’s growing concern about internet giants’ ability to tilt the playing field against their rivals and take advantage of their consumers.
In Alibaba’s case, the authorities focused on the company’s practice of blocking vendors from selling their wares on competing sites. Mr. Zhang said on Monday that such exclusivity arrangements previously covered only some digital storefronts operated by big brands on Tmall, Alibaba’s higher-end platform.
Mr. Zhang said Alibaba did not expect the ending of such arrangements to have any “material negative impact” on the company’s business. And Joseph C. Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, offered an upbeat assessment of what Beijing’s increasing scrutiny of large digital platforms means for China’s internet industry.
“The regulators’ communication to the public is very clear that they’re affirming our business model,” Mr. Tsai said. “We feel very comfortable that there’s nothing wrong with the fundamental business model of a platform company. These regulatory actions are undertaken to ensure fair competition in order to benefit the public.”
“We are pleased that we’re able to put this matter behind us,” he said.
The sharp rise in bond yields is forcing traders to consider that they may be holding two irreconcilable ideas in their heads.
One is that the Federal Reserve has no real control over bond market interest rates. The other is that the Fed can keep the stock market aloft as long as it tries to control interest rates.
The resilience of share prices — the S&P 500 rose 5.8 percent in the first quarter — suggests that those two ideas can coexist. But if yields continue to rise, the impact on companies, consumers and homeowners and the appeal that fatter bond yields may have to investors could produce a reckoning for stocks.
“The bond market is at an inflection point that eventually is going to be recognized by the stock market,” said Komal Sri-Kumar, president of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies. “Over the last 30 years, the bond market has only gone one way, but a change is occurring now, and it’s likely to be an abrupt one.”
CRB index, which measures a basket of commodities, rose 52 percent in the 12 months through March. Home prices rose 6 percent last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
$1.9 trillion bill last month to help the economy after the ravages wrought by the pandemic, President Biden proposed spending $2 trillion more on infrastructure projects, albeit over several years.
That $4 trillion, give or take, would be “going into an economy saturated with $6 trillion of stimulus spending from the Trump administration,” Mr. Sri-Kumar said. So much spending is likely to push up inflation and bond yields, he said.
Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Global Research, does not expect such concerns to diminish soon.
Because of such factors as “new central bank mandates, excess fiscal stimulus,” as well as “less globalization, fading deflation from disruption, demographics, debt, we believe inflation rises in the 2020s and the 40-year bull market in bonds is over,” Mr. Hartnett said in a report.
Commodities and other hard assets should outperform in the long term, in his view, along with shares of smaller companies, value stocks and foreign stocks. The dollar, shares of big companies and bonds should do worse.
David Giroux, a portfolio manager and head of investment strategy at T. Rowe Price, said he is worried that the bill will come due for much of the government spending.
“There’s a high likelihood we will have higher corporate taxes next year,” Mr. Giroux said. “That will be a headwind for corporate earnings.”
That persuades him to avoid shares of economically sensitive companies for which “a lot of really good news is already priced in.”
He prefers “stocks with really good business models that have been left behind,” including technology giants that are off their highs, such as Amazon and Google, and companies like utilities. Other favorites include regional banks such as PNC and Huntington Bancshares.
Ms. Bitel at William Blair foresees long-term higher returns by big growth stocks. But she throws in an immense caveat: Because rising interest rates tend to force down valuations, especially on the most expensive segments of the market, there could be a sharp decline before the erstwhile Wall Street darlings excel again.
“Retail investors will be able to buy their favorite growth stocks at a 40 percent discount, but that leadership will resume,” she said, emphasizing that the 40 percent was a ballpark figure.
Ms. Bitel also suggested holding foreign stocks, in particular shares of Chinese health care companies and Japanese software companies.
Mr. Paolini recommends banks, energy and real estate, and said he is avoiding carmakers, industrial companies and home builders.
Considering the investment landscape more broadly, he said, “The outlook for the next one to three years is quite good.” Then he seemed to try to talk himself out of that belief.
“The idea that you can simply print money and everything is fine isn’t sustainable,” Mr. Paolini said. “At some point, we will realize too much has been done and the market is too high, and the situation will change quite fast. I don’t know what that level is or how far away we are from it.”
Is his art real, I asked? He said he provides his buyers with physical screens with his works on them, so that’s kind of real, maybe.
Then he held up his phone and showed me an app that summarized his personal financial assets: At that moment, they included $56,635,781.41 in cash. He had received his payment in cryptocurrency, and immediately converted it into what I still think of as real money. The digital artist had transformed most of his new wealth into something I could understand: U.S. dollars.
But those dollars on his screen are a digital representation, too! “It’s not like I have 56 million dollar bills in my house,” he said, waving his hands to show the lack of stacks of bills. “I just have a number; you and I know this number is as real as anything else.”
In the world of modern art, it’s common for people to look at an abstract piece and say, “My kid could do that!” But, he said, “I’m pretty sure a kid couldn’t do what I do,” and showed me one of his pieces. It depicted a big sphere, and the image also contained a mountain and, by the way, a goat, among other elements, that he used digital trickery to manipulate, resize and juggle. The process was playful, but it also had something more, a guiding sensibility. Something that felt like — I might as well say it — art.
Besides, he asked me, what’s the inherent value of a baseball card? “You paid this much money for a little piece of cardboard?” he asked. “Even a painting. It’s just a piece of stretched fabric with some splotches of paint on it. Why would you pay for that?”
Did I mention that an NFT of a cat with a Pop-Tart body that leaves a trail of rainbows recently sold for nearly $600,000?
He had me wondering whether anything is real, and whether we’re not all just living in a consensual illusion.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, stressed on Thursday that even as economic prospects look brighter in the United States, getting the world vaccinated and controlling the coronavirus pandemic remain critical to the global outlook.
“Viruses are no respecters of borders,” Mr. Powell said while speaking on an International Monetary Fund panel. “Until the world, really, is vaccinated, we’re all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won’t be able to really resume activity with confidence all around the world.”
While some advanced economies, including the United States, are moving quickly toward widespread vaccination, many emerging market countries lag far behind: Some have administered as little as one dose per 1,000 residents.
Mr. Powell joined a chorus of global policy officials in emphasizing how important it is that all nations — not just the richest ones — are able to widely protect against the coronavirus. Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said policymakers needed to remain focused on public health as the key policy priority.
fresh data showed that state jobless claims climbed last week. Mr. Powell pointed out that the burden is falling heavily on those least able to bear it: Lower-income service workers, who are heavily minorities and women, have been hit hard by the job losses.
raising corporate taxes.
“For quite some time, we have been in favor of more investment in infrastructure. It helps to boost productivity here in the United States,” Ms. Georgieva said, calling climate-focused and “social infrastructure” provisions positive. She said they had not had a chance to fully assess the plan, but “broadly speaking, yes, we do support it.”
But the White House’s plan has already run into resistance from Republicans and some moderate Democrats, who are wary of raising taxes or engaging in another big spending package after several large stimulus bills.
Some commentators have warned that besides expanding the nation’s debt load, the government’s virus spending — particularly the recent $1.9 trillion stimulus package — could cause the economy to overheat. Fed officials have been less worried.
“There’s a difference between essentially a one-time increase in prices and persistent inflation,” Mr. Powell said on Thursday. “The nature of a bottleneck is that it will be resolved.”
If price gains and inflation expectations moved up “materially,” he said, the Fed would react.
“We don’t think that’s the most likely outcome,” he said.
She grew up in Hungary, daughter of a butcher. She decided she wanted to be a scientist, although she had never met one. She moved to the United States in her 20s, but for decades never found a permanent position, instead clinging to the fringes of academia.
Now Katalin Kariko, 66, known to colleagues as Kati, has emerged as one of the heroes of Covid-19 vaccine development. Her work, with her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA — the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.
But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year.
was published, in Immunity, it got little attention.
Dr. Weissman and Dr. Kariko then showed they could induce an animal — a monkey — to make a protein they had selected. In this case, they injected monkeys with mRNA for erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the body to make red blood cells. The animals’ red blood cell counts soared.
25 years of work by multiple scientists, including Pieter Cullis of the University of British Columbia.
Scientists also needed to isolate the virus’s spike protein from the bounty of genetic data provided by Chinese researchers. Dr. Barney Graham, of the National Institutes of Health, and Jason McClellan, of the University of Texas at Austin, solved that problem in short order.
Testing the quickly designed vaccines required a monumental effort by companies and the National Institutes of Health. But Dr. Kariko had no doubts.
On Nov. 8, the first results of the Pfizer-BioNTech study came in, showing that the mRNA vaccine offered powerful immunity to the new virus. Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. “Oh, it works,” she said. “I thought so.”
To celebrate, she ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.
Dr. Weissman celebrated with his family, ordering takeout dinner from an Italian restaurant, “with wine,” he said. Deep down, he was awed.
“My dream was always that we develop something in the lab that helps people,” Dr. Weissman said. “I’ve satisfied my life’s dream.”
Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman were vaccinated on Dec. 18 at the University of Pennsylvania. Their inoculations turned into a press event, and as the cameras flashed, she began to feel uncharacteristically overwhelmed.
A senior administrator told the doctors and nurses rolling up their sleeves for shots that the scientists whose research made the vaccine possible were present, and they all clapped. Dr. Kariko wept.
Things could have gone so differently, for the scientists and for the world, Dr. Langer said. “There are probably many people like her who failed,” he said.
Inflation is back in the news and so, of course, is interest in gold.
After years of dormancy, inflation is expected to rise a bit this summer. It is even possible that as Americans emerge from Covid-19 induced seclusion, their pent-up demand will overheat the economy and weaken the dollar.
Those concerns have put the spotlight on gold, which has long been viewed as a hedge against inflation, a declining dollar and an unstable stock market. Buy gold now and make a quick profit, or so the thinking goes.
But this analysis has problems, starting with the outlook for inflation, which isn’t necessarily that bad. The inflation rate ended 2020 at an anemic 1.4 percent, and Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has said that despite the potential for a modest surge above 2 percent this summer, the Fed doesn’t expect inflation to move much higher between now and 2023.
Perhaps that’s why gold hasn’t been soaring lately, either. After peaking at more than $2,000 an ounce last summer, gold prices hovered below $1,750 in early April, a decline of nearly 13 percent.
Warren E. Buffett likes to point out. Finally, investors who buy physical gold face the additional risk and cost and of securing their bullion or coins.
A more cautious approach is to avoid chasing returns. Instead, keep a small percentage of a portfolio in gold and other precious metals in the hope that this will be a long-term stabilizer.
“In a world where equity prices continue to elevate untethered to any fundamentals, precious metals as a small amount of diversification makes sense,” said David Trainer, chief executive of New Constructs, an investment research firm based in Nashville.
George Milling-Stanley, chief gold strategist at State Street Global Advisors, said gold offers two benefits over the long term: protection against risk and volatility, and as asset appreciation.
“Gold is a defensive asset that really comes into its own over the long term, when you can enjoy the return stream,” Mr. Milling-Stanley said.
restrained, rarely rising above 3 percent annually and remaining around 2 percent or less most of the time. Gold prices, however, rose from $274 an ounce at the beginning of 2001 to about $1,750 at the end of March.
“We don’t need inflation,” Mr. Milling-Stanley said. Gold performed well anyway.
Some experts recommend investors stick to E.T.F.s that focus strictly on gold, which tends to lead the other precious metals, silver and platinum. Advisers warn that gold, precious metals and other commodities should make up just a sliver of an individual’s portfolio, usually no more than a total of 5 percent.
Whatever its drawbacks as an investment, gold has had an enduring appeal.
“There is a psychological component in owning gold that goes back for centuries,” Ms. Simonetti said. “It’s an asset that gives peace of mind to investors. It just makes investors feel safe and secure.”
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen made the case on Monday for a global minimum tax, kicking off the Biden administration’s effort to help raise revenue in the United States and prevent companies from shifting profits overseas to evade taxes.
Ms. Yellen, in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, called for global coordination on an international tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations regardless of where they locate their headquarters. Such a global tax could help prevent the type of “race to the bottom” that has been underway, Ms. Yellen said, referring to countries trying to outdo one another by lowering tax rates in order to attract business.
Her remarks came as the White House and Democrats in Congress begin looking for ways to pay for President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure plan to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, water systems and electric grid.
“Competitiveness is about more than how U.S.-headquartered companies fare against other companies in global merger and acquisition bids,” Ms. Yellen said. “It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”
will release a new plan on Monday to overhaul the way the United States taxes multinational corporations. In addition to raising revenue, the proposal, which is co-authored by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, seeks to discourage companies from shifting profits and jobs to low-tax countries to avoid paying taxes in America. It also creates new incentives through the tax code for companies to invest in research and manufacturing in the United States.
The speech represented Ms. Yellen’s most extensive comments since taking over as Treasury secretary, and she underscored the scope of the challenge ahead.
“Over the last four years, we have seen firsthand what happens when America steps back from the global stage,” Ms. Yellen said. “America first must never mean America alone.”
Ms. Yellen also highlighted her priorities of combating climate change and reducing global poverty and underscored the importance of the United States helping to lead the world out of the crisis caused by the pandemic. Ms. Yellen called on countries not to pull back on fiscal support too soon and warned of growing global imbalances if some countries do withdraw before the crisis is over.
The slow pace of the deployment of vaccines around the world is also a concern for Ms. Yellen, who lamented that many developing and middle-income countries have been unable to invest in robust rollouts of inoculations, which could hurt the global economy.
“The result will likely be a deeper and longer-lasting crisis, with mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty, and growing inequality,” Ms. Yellen said, estimating that as many as 150 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year. “This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about.”
In a sharp break with the administration of former President Donald J. Trump, Ms. Yellen emphasized the importance of the United States working closely with its allies, noting that the fortunes of countries around the world are intertwined.
Overhauling the international tax system is a big part of that. Corporate tax rates have been falling around the world in recent years. Under the Trump administration, the rate in the United States was cut from 35 percent to 21 percent. Mr. Biden wants to raise that rate to 28 percent and increase the international minimum tax rate that American companies pay on their foreign profits to 21 percent.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in coordination with the United States, has been working to develop a new international tax architecture that would include a global minimum tax rate for multinational corporations as part of its effort to curtail profit shifting and tax base erosion.
Ms. Yellen said she is working with her counterparts in the Group of 20 advanced nations on changes to the global tax system that will help prevent businesses from shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions.
“President Biden’s proposals announced last week call for bold domestic action, including to raise the U.S. minimum tax rate, and renewed international engagement, recognizing that it is important to work with other countries to end the pressures of tax competition and corporate tax base erosion,” Ms. Yellen said. “We are working with G20 nations to agree to a global minimum corporate tax rate that can stop the race to the bottom.”