Bank of England predicts a faster recovery and slows down its bond-buying program.

The Bank of England unveiled a much brighter outlook for the British economy on Thursday, saying it would return to its prepandemic levels at the end of this year as lockdowns ended, consumers spent billions of pounds in extra savings and the vaccine rollout reduced public health worries.

The central bank, in its quarterly monetary report, raised its growth forecasts and slashed its predictions for unemployment. The British economy is now projected to grow 7.25 percent this year, compared to a forecast of 5 percent growth three months ago. This would be the fastest pace of expansion for the economy since official records began in 1949, pulling Britain out of its worst recession in three centuries.

The higher forecast comes after the government has announced tens of billions of pounds in additional spending to see workers and businesses through the summer, and outlined its plan to end lockdown restrictions by late June.

Britain’s economic output “recovers strongly over the course of 2021, albeit only back to pre-Covid levels,” Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, said in a news conference on Thursday.

“Of course, there remains uncertainty around how the pandemic might evolve and so there are risks around this projection, including from renewed waves of infections in the U.K. and other countries,” he said.

He added that there was also an “enormous amount of uncertainty” about how the pandemic might permanently change people’s working and living patterns, and the effect that will have on the shape of the economy.

Even though inflation is expected to rise above the central bank’s 2 percent target, policymakers voted unanimously to keep the benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent. It cut rates to that level in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The central bank also said it would slow the pace of its £875 billion government bond-buying program, which was projected to run through 2021, so that it does not finish the program before the end of the year. If the central bank had continued at its current pace, the buying program would have ended several months early. Instead of buying £4.4 billion government bonds a week, the central bank will buy £3.4 billion. The program helps keep government borrowing costs low and supports the economy by encouraging investors to buy other assets.

The minutes of the central bank’s policy meeting showed that officials don’t intent to tighten monetary policy until “there is clear evidence that significant progress” is made on the economic recovery and inflation is sustainably at the bank’s target.

The Bank of England now forecasts unemployment to peak at 5.5 percent later this year, because of the extension of the government’s furlough program. In February, the central bank predicted the unemployment rate would rise as high as 7.75 percent.

The easing of pandemic restrictions will also increase consumer spending. The central bank added that it now expected people to spend about 10 percent of the excess savings they built up in lockdown based on new survey evidence. The previous estimate was just 5 percent.

But these extra savings are “not evenly distributed,” Mr. Bailey said. And they are concentrated among people who are older and already wealthier.

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Fed Officials Tamp Down Overheating Concerns

Inflation jitters are popping up in earnings call chatter, spooking investors and dominating business television talk shows. One place they aren’t taking over, it appears, is the Federal Reserve.

America’s central bank is responsible for fostering maximum employment and stable inflation — making it the first line of defense against fast price gains. Fed officials have been clear for months that they expect prices to pop this spring and summer as the economy reopens but that they think the jump will prove temporary. By and large, they are sticking to that script.

During a volley of speeches and appearances on Wednesday, central bank policymakers made clear that they do not think incipient price pressures are going to prove painful or last long. Some suggested that they would even welcome what a hotter economy might have to offer.

“You talk about the economy overheating, you kind of go: ‘Gosh, I kind of like producing as much as we can,’” Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said during a call with reporters. “Why would you like unemployment to be higher when it can be lower? It depends on what the added cost is.”

aims for inflation at 2 percent on average over time, so it is currently angling for a period of slightly higher price gains to offset years and years of very weak gains. Price pressures are picking up a bit from very slow readings a year ago during the worst of the pandemic shutdowns, and economists think supply bottlenecks could keep them elevated for a time as producers try to ramp up for a national reopening.

But officials have been clear they do not expect that situation to force them to rapidly dial back the policies they have in place to bolster the economy — buying $120 billion in government-backed bonds per month and keeping interest rates at rock bottom.

“We’re still a long way away from our goals, and in our new framework we want to see actual progress, not just forecast progress,” Richard H. Clarida, the central bank’s vice chair, said on CNBC on Wednesday afternoon. “As we move through the year, we’ll get more data.”

The Fed’s policymakers have repeatedly said they want to see “substantial further progress” before slowing bond purchases, and full employment and 2 percent inflation with evidence that it will stay above that level for some time before lifting interest rates.

They’ve drawn a distinction between inflation that jumps in 2021 because of reopening quirks and sustainable price pressures that suggest they’ve achieved their goals.

prepared remarks released Wednesday morning. “I am encouraged by the recent pace of the economic recovery, and I remain optimistic that this strength will continue in the coming months.”

If prices take off, the Fed could dial back its buying or lift rates. Either move would make borrowing more expensive, likely slowing the economy and denting the stock market.

“Our baseline view is that we don’t overheat,” Mr. Clarida said. “If there are unforeseen, persistent upward pressures on prices,” then “we would use our tools to bring it down.”

Historically, abrupt Fed policy changes have at times set off recessions. That’s why some economists are worried. If the Fed is forced to act to choke off pesky price pressures, it entails real risks for the economy that could hurt the most vulnerable, who tend to lose jobs first in downturns.

avoid taking too defensive a position.

If the Fed signals that it may lift rates sooner and market-based financial conditions tighten in response — often the case with central bank communications — it could make borrowing more expensive and slow the economy. In that event, it might take longer for the labor market to reach full strength.

“Why do we have bottlenecks?” Ms. Daly asked on Twitter on Wednesday. “Newly vaccinated people are spending, so we have a ‘freedom-induced demand spurt.’ Producers have to catch up. So ride through the temporary pops in inflation — the economy’s in transition.”

Mr. Evans said he wished people who fretted about an overheating economy would explain precisely how high they thought inflation was about to go — and how the economy was going to get to a place where prices remained sustainably hotter.

“I really wish that people who say they’re concerned about inflation, that they would sort of fill in the dots on exactly what kinds of numbers are you talking about,” Mr. Evans said.

He also expressed comfort in the possibility that wages might rise, even if companies didn’t have the pricing power to pass that on as inflation, forcing businesses to eat higher costs and cutting into their profits.

“If wages go up, if labor share was to increase relative to capital share, I mean, I’m kind of agnostic about that,” Mr. Evans said. “We saw labor share fall over a long period of time, and if we didn’t get our nose out of joint then, why would we get our nose out of joint when labor share goes up?”

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Goldman Sachs Will Ask Most Workers to Return in June: Live Updates

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, plans to open all its U.S. offices on May 17 for employees who wish to return voluntarily. That will be followed by a compulsory return in July, when workers will rotate in and out of the office in accordance with safety measures that will limit each office’s capacity. Bank of America has not yet announced to employees when a fuller return to the office is expected.

Twitter has begun to add paid subscriptions, and announced plans to introduce other subscriber features in the future.
Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

Twitter plans to acquire the subscription service Scroll, the social media company announced on Tuesday, as it expands its plans for subscription offerings. The two companies declined to disclose the deal terms.

Scroll charges its users a fee to block advertising on participating news websites, then distributes a cut of its earnings to its partner publishers, which include USA Today, Vox and The Atlantic. Publishers can earn up to 50 percent more from the service than they do from advertising, Scroll contends. Twitter plans to integrate the service into its platform, and use its technology to build other subscription services.

“People come to Twitter every day to discover and read about what’s happening,” Mike Park, Twitter’s vice president for product, said in a blog post announcing the deal. “If Twitter is where so much of this conversation lives, it should be easier and simpler to read the content that drives it.”

In recent months, Twitter has begun to add paid subscriptions, and announced plans to introduce other subscriber features in the future.

In January, Twitter acquired Revue, a newsletter provider, and said it would take a 5 percent cut of subscription revenue. In February, the company revealed plans to introduce “Super Follows,” a feature that would allow Twitter users to place some of their content behind a pay wall. And this week, Twitter said it planned to add a ticketing feature to its audio chat, Spaces, so that hosts can charge listeners for entry into their discussions.

Twitter plans to supplement its advertising revenue with revenue from subscriptions, and has raced to add content like newsletters and audio chats that it thinks audiences will pay for. Its acquisition of Scroll will add journalism to that list.

“For every other platform, journalism is dispensable. If journalism were to disappear tomorrow their business would carry on much as before,” Tony Haile, Scroll’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post. “Twitter is the only large platform whose success is deeply intertwined with a sustainable journalism ecosystem.”

Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, said that the company wanted to build “a phenomenon that transcends gaming.”
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The chief executive of Epic Games offered a granular explanation of the popular game Fortnite to paint an expansive portrait of his company’s world on the first day of what is expected to be a three-week trial, pitting Epic against Apple in a fight over Apple’s App Store fees and other rules that could reshape the $100 billion app economy.

Fortnite, Tim Sweeney said, “is a phenomenon that transcends gaming,” Erin Griffith reports for The New York Times.

“Our aim of Fortnite is to build something like a metaverse from science fiction,” he said.

Metaverse? A court reporter needed clarification. It’s a virtual world for socializing and entertainment, Mr. Sweeney said.

In a mostly empty courtroom in Oakland, Katherine Forrest of the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore opened Epic’s case by previewing a series of emails between Apple’s top executives. The emails were evidence, Ms. Forrest argued, that the tech giant purposely created a “walled garden” that locks consumers and developers inside. That forces them to use Apple’s payment system, she said.

Once Apple lured users and developers into its walled garden, “the garden gate was closed, the lock turned,” Ms. Forrest said. She compared Apple’s fees on in-app purchases for subscription services to a car dealership that takes a commission on gas sales.

Apple’s lawyers described, in their opening statement, a thriving market for app distribution that includes gaming consoles, desktop computer gaming and the mobile web. Karen Dunn of Paul, Weiss argued that the 30 percent commission was in line with industry standards and that Epic’s requests, if granted, would make iPhones less secure, while unlawfully forcing Apple to do business with a competitor.

Ms. Dunn added that Epic’s case was a self-serving way to avoid paying fees it owed Apple and was on shaky legal footing.

Pfizer’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich.
Credit…Dado Ruvic/Reuters

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced that its Covid vaccine brought in $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year, nearly a quarter of its total revenue. The vaccine was, far and away, Pfizer’s biggest source of revenue, report Rebecca Robbins and Peter S. Goodman of The New York Times.

The company did not disclose the profits it derived from the vaccine, but it reiterated its previous prediction that its profit margins on the vaccine would be in the high 20 percent range. That would translate into roughly $900 million in pretax vaccine profits in the first quarter.

Pfizer has been widely credited with developing an unproven technology that has saved an untold number of lives.

But the company’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich — an outcome, so far at least, at odds with its chief executive’s pledge to ensure that poorer countries “have the same access as the rest of the world” to a vaccine that is highly effective at preventing Covid-19.

As of mid-April, wealthy countries had secured more than 87 percent of the more than 700 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines dispensed worldwide, while poor countries had received only 0.2 percent, according to the World Health Organization. In wealthy countries, roughly one in four people has received a vaccine. In poor countries, the figure is one in 500.

Throughout the pandemic, Eleven Madison Park has been preparing food boxes for needy families. The new plant-based iteration of the restaurant will help sustain efforts like those, said its chef, Daniel Humm.
Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Eleven Madison Park, the Manhattan restaurant that has been called the best in the world, will serve an all-plant-based menu when it reopens after more than a year of being closed because of the pandemic.

Eleven Madison Park’s multicourse menu will keep its prepandemic price of $335, including tip, Brett Anderson and Jenny Gross report for The New York Times.

Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park’s chef, said the decision is the result of a yearslong re-evaluation about where his career was headed, which reached its breaking point during the pandemic.

“It became very clear to me that our idea of what luxury is had to change,” Mr. Humm said. “We couldn’t go back to doing what we did before.”

While the restaurant’s ingredient costs will go down, labor costs will go up as Mr. Humm and his chefs work to make vegan food live up to Eleven Madison Park’s reputation. “It’s a labor intensive and time consuming process,” he said.

It marks a striking departure for one of the most lavishly praised American restaurants of the past 20 years. Though Mr. Humm still offers plenty of red meat at his London restaurant, Davies and Brook at Claridge’s hotel, the move at Eleven Madison Park — which has four stars from The New York Times and three from Michelin — suggests how different fine dining may look as restaurants reopen and reimagine themselves.

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Verizon Says It Will Sell Yahoo and AOL to Apollo: Live Updates

sell Yahoo and AOL to the private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $5 billion.

The sale includes Verizon’s advertising technology business as well, and the company will retain a 10 percent stake in the business, Verizon said in a statement announcing the deal on Monday.

The transaction is the latest turn in the history of two of the internet’s earliest pioneers. Yahoo used to be the front page of the internet, cataloging the furious pace of new websites that sprang up in the late 1990s. AOL was once the service that most people used to get online.

But both were ultimately supplanted by nimbler start-ups, like Google and Facebook, though Yahoo and AOL still publish highly trafficked websites like Yahoo Sports and TechCrunch.

The sale signals the unraveling of a strategy Verizon heralded in 2015 when it acquired the faded internet giant AOL for $4.4 billion. The purchase was meant to give Verizon a pathway into mobile, with the goal of using AOL’s advertising technology to sell ads against digital content. Verizon doubled down on that strategy in 2017 with its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo, which it combined with AOL under the umbrella Oath.

But Google and Facebook have proved to be formidable competitors in the digital advertising market. Verizon acknowledged their might in 2018 when it wrote down the value of Oath by $4.6 billion, attributing the move in part to “increased competitive and market pressures” that had resulted in “lower-than-expected revenues and earnings.”

Still, the media business generates plenty of revenue. It recorded $1.9 billion in sales in the first quarter, a 10 percent gain over last year.

A worker at MTA, a maker of electronic components, in Codogno, Italy. Eurozone manufacturers have been reporting new orders.
Credit…Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Apple and Epic Games, maker of the wildly popular game Fortnite, are set to square off on Monday in a trial that could decide how much control Apple can exert over the app economy. The trial is scheduled to open with testimony from Tim Sweeney, the chief of Epic, on why he believes Apple is a monopoly abusing its power.

The trial, which is expected to last about three weeks, carries major implications, Jack Nicas and Erin Griffith report in The New York Times. If Epic wins, it will upend the economics of the $100 billion app market and create a path for millions of companies and developers to avoid sending up to 30 percent of their app sales to Apple.

An Epic victory would also invigorate the antitrust fight against Apple. Federal and state regulators are scrutinizing Apple’s control over the App Store, and on Friday, the European Union charged Apple with violating antitrust laws over its app rules and fees. Apple faces two other federal lawsuits about its App Store fees — one from developers and one from iPhone owners — that are seeking class-action status.

Beating Apple would also bode well for Epic’s coming trial against Google over the same issues on the app store for Android devices. That case is expected to go to trial this year and would be decided by the same federal judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California.

If Apple wins, however, it will strengthen its grip over mobile apps and stifle its growing chorus of critics, further empowering a company that is already the world’s most valuable and topped $200 billion in sales over just the past six months.

As the post-pandemic economic recovery ramps up, prices are going up on goods as varied as toilet paper, diapers and wood flooring — and the increases may soon be felt in consumers’ wallets.

Procter & Gamble is raising prices on items like Pampers and Tampax in September. Kimberly-Clark said in March that it would raise prices on Scott toilet paper, Huggies and Pull-Ups in June, a move that is “necessary to help offset significant commodity cost inflation.”

And General Mills, which makes cereal brands including Cheerios, is facing increased supply-chain and freight costs “in this higher-demand environment,” the company’s chief financial officer, Kofi Bruce, said recently.

These price increases reflect what some economists are calling a major shift in the way companies have responded to demand during the pandemic, Gillian Friedman reports in The New York Times.

Before the virus hit, retailers often absorbed the cost when suppliers raised prices on goods, because stiff competition forced retailers to keep prices stable. The pandemic changed that.

The people who profit off corporate America’s use of offices are trying to coax corporate America back to the office.

They have refined their sales pitches to play up air filtration systems, flexible lease terms and swing space and brokers are back in their own workplaces in force. They are acknowledging that some things have changed while also seeking to prove to their clients, and themselves, that the office will soon return to something close to what it was, Rebecca R. Ruiz reports in The New York Times.

With New York City set to reopen fully in July, and many companies expecting to summon workers back this summer and fall, those in commercial real estate are hoping that the rebirth they’ve tried to hasten may finally happen.

“We opened our offices as soon as we were allowed across the country,” said David Lipson, a vice chairman for Savills, a global brokerage firm. “If you’re in the office real-estate business, should you be comfortable getting too comfortable working from home?”

The industry, coming off a boom of continuous growth, has seen commissions fall off as vacancy rates have climbed to their highest levels in decades. Real estate executives, characteristically bullish on their prospects, are facing existential questions.

With 1.3 billion square feet of office space available across America’s top markets — and more now on the market in Manhattan than exists in all of Nashville, Orlando or San Antonio, according to the research firm CoStar — strains in rosy projections are showing.

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Consumer Spending Drove Economic Recovery in First Quarter

The first-quarter economic recovery, when the economy expanded 1.6 percent, was powered by spending. Specifically, by spending on stuff.

Consumer spending rose 2.6 percent in the first three months of the year, with a 5.4 percent increase in spending on goods accounting for most of the growth. Americans ramped up spending on cars, furniture, recreational vehicles and other long-lasting items, as well as on clothes and food. Spending on services, which has slumped throughout the pandemic, rose by a more modest 1.1 percent.

Services spending is likely to pick up in the second quarter, as the acceleration of the vaccine rollout allows more Americans to return to restaurants, airplanes and other activities that they avoided during the pandemic. The data released Thursday by the Commerce Department largely predates that surge.

What the first-quarter data does capture is the impact of two rounds of relief checks from the federal government. After-tax personal income, adjusted for inflation, jumped 12.7 percent in the first quarter, with the government payments accounting for most of the increase. There was a similar jump in income when the first round of relief checks hit last year, which was followed by a similar surge in spending on goods.

“To some extent, when people have money, they’re going to spend it,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a forecasting firm. “If they’re not spending on services because they’re not going to movies or amusement parks, they’re going to derive utility from goods.”

He said he expected goods spending to ease in the second quarter as services spending begins to rebound more strongly.

Americans still have plenty of cash to spend. Households were sitting on a collective $4.1 trillion in savings in the first quarter, up from $1.2 trillion before the pandemic began — although such aggregates can obscure the fact that many families have seen their finances wiped out by the crisis.

Ample savings and rising consumer optimism are giving businesses the confidence to bet on the future as well. Business investment rose 2.4 percent in the first quarter and is now above its prepandemic level. The housing market has been juiced by low interest rates and strong demand; residential construction spending rose 2.6 percent in the first quarter.

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U.S. Economy Rebounds as Pain Caused by Pandemic Eases: Live Updates

the first-quarter growth rate was 6.4 percent.

2019 Q4 LEVEL

$20 trillion

+1.6%

FROM

PRIOR

QUARTER

Gross domestic product,

adjusted for inflation and

seasonality, at annual rates

2019 Q4 LEVEL

$20 trillion

+1.6%

FROM

PRIOR

QUARTER

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation

and seasonality, at annual rates

“This was a great way to start the year,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “We had the perfect mix of improving health conditions, strong fiscal stimulus and warmer weather.”

“Consumers are now back in the driver’s seat when it comes to economic activity, and that’s the way we like it,” he added. “A consumer that is feeling confident about the outlook will generally spend more freely.”

Looking ahead, economists said they expected to see even better numbers this quarter.

“It’s good news, but the better news is coming,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “There’s nothing in this report that makes me think the economy won’t grow at a gangbusters pace in the second and third quarter.”

The expansion last quarter was spurred by stimulus checks, he said, which quickly translated into purchases of durable goods like cars and household appliances.

“This demonstrates the value of government intervention when the economy is on its knees from Covid,” he added. “But in the coming quarters, the economy will be much less dependent on stimulus as individuals use the savings they’ve accumulated during the pandemic.”

Cumulative percent change in

G.D.P. from the start of the

last five recessions

Final quarter

before

recession

5 quarters

into recession

Cumulative percent change in G.D.P.

from the start of the last five recessions

Final quarter

before

recession

5 quarters

into recession

Overall economic activity should return to prepandemic levels in the current quarter, Mr. Anderson said, while cautioning that it will take until late 2022 for employment to regain the ground it lost as a result of the pandemic.

Still, the labor market does seem to be catching up. Last month, employers added 916,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6 percent, while initial claims for unemployment benefits have dropped sharply in recent weeks.

Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a recruiting and staffing firm in Chicago, said: “It’s the best job market I’ve seen in 25 years. We have 50 percent more openings now than we did pre-Covid.”

Hiring is stronger for junior to midlevel positions, he said, with strong demand for professionals in accounting, financing, marketing and sales, among other areas. “Companies are building up their back-office support and supply chains,” he said. “I think we’re good for at least 18 months to two years.”

Spending on goods like automobiles led the way in the first quarter, but demand for services like dining out should revive in the second quarter, said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “I think we will see a surge in services spending,” she said.

As more Americans become vaccinated, many economists expect a decline in new unemployment claims.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Initial jobless claims fell last week to yet another pandemic low in the latest sign that the economic recovery is strengthening.

About 575,000 people filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised figure. It was the third straight week that jobless claims had dropped.

In addition, 122,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 12,000 from the previous week.

Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 553,000.

“Today’s report, and the other data that we got today, signals an improving labor market and an improving economy,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist with the career site Glassdoor. “It is encouraging that claims are continuing to fall.”

Although weekly jobless claims remain above levels reached before the pandemic, vaccinations and warmer weather are offering new hope. Most economists expect the slow downward trend in claims to continue in the coming months as the economy reopens more fully.

But challenges lie ahead. The long-term unemployed — a group that historically has had a more difficult time rejoining the work force — now make up more than 40 percent of the total number of unemployed. Of the 22 million jobs that disappeared early in the pandemic, more than eight million remain lost.

“The labor market is definitely moving in the right direction,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the online job site Indeed. She noted that job postings as of last Friday were up 22.4 percent from February 2020.

Still, she cautioned that industries like tourism and hospitality would probably remain depressed until the pandemic was firmly under control. She also stressed that child care obligations might be preventing people ready to return to work from seeking jobs.

“We still are in a pandemic — the vaccinations are ramping up but there is that public health factor still,” Ms. Konkel said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

The NBC sitcom “The Office” became a big streaming hit for Netflix and is now back in the Comcast fold, available on its streaming service Peacock.
Credit…Chris Haston/NBC

If you want a clear picture of the state of the media industry in upheaval, Comcast offers a good snapshot.

The company, which includes NBC, Universal Pictures, several theme parks, and the Peacock streaming service, beat Wall Street’s expectations in its first-quarter earnings report on Thursday as it continued to shift its emphasis from cable to digital.

To start, take these figures from its results:

Despite the regular pace of cord cutting, Comcast’s cable television business pulled in over $5.62 billion in revenue for the first quarter. That was flat compared with last year, but it’s still the company’s biggest business, accounting for a fifth of all revenue.

Peacock, on the other hand, is the fastest growing, but it loses the most money. Last year, it approached $700 million in pretax losses. This year, the streaming platform is expected to lose $1.3 billion as Comcast spends big to load it up with original shows and sports programming with the aim of attracting more viewers.

That’s the operating thesis behind every major media company today: replace the eroding base of profit-rich cable customers with loss-making streaming viewers in the hope that over time the digital audience will become more valuable. The Walt Disney Company, ViacomCBS, Discovery Inc. and AT&T’s WarnerMedia are all trying to make the transformation without entirely losing their shirts.

Peacock’s 42 million sign-ups should also come with an asterisk. The service is free and easy to join, but that doesn’t mean everyone is watching. (The figure includes paid versions of Peacock, which feature more content and fewer commercials.) A February report from the tech news site The Information revealed that a little more than 11 million households were watching the service.

Even so, the aim of Peacock is to replace the lost advertising from Comcast’s cable and broadcast channels as people continue to cut the cord. Peacock, which is available nearly everywhere, can also act as a hedge against other cable operators such as Charter or Cox when Comcast’s media division, NBCUniversal, negotiates carriage fees.

Peacock offers some of the most popular streaming shows, including “The Office,” a top hit on Netflix before it lost the rights to the series in 2021 when the license expired and the show reverted back to its owner, Comcast.

In a few years, Peacock will have the rights to stream National Football League games on Sunday alongside NBC as part of a new agreement. That could ruffle feathers with some of NBC’s affiliate stations if viewers drop TV and opt for Peacock to watch football. The streamer will also have some games exclusively. In March, the service added WWE.

Comcast sells something that has proved more durable than sports and entertainment: broadband, the piping that carries all streaming platforms. The company saw a surge in subscribers during the pandemic. In the first quarter, sales increased 12 percent to $5.6 billion. It’s likely to overtake cable television as the company’s biggest business.

At NBCUniversal, sales sharply dropped as movie theaters remained mostly shut and fewer people were visiting theme parks under the pandemic. Revenue fell 9 percent to $7 billion and pretax profit decreased 12 percent to $1.5 billion. Advertising at its television networks, which include NBC, MSNBC and Syfy, fell 3.4 percent to $2.1 billion.

Overall, the company beat expectations, reporting adjusted profit of 76 cents a share on $27.2 billion in revenue, and its stock was climbing on Thursday morning. Investors were looking for 59 cents in per-share profit and $26.6 billion in sales.

Microsoft will decrease the share of money it charges independent developers that publish computer games on its online store, starting in August, the company said on Thursday.

Developers will keep 88 percent of the revenue from their games, up from 70 percent. That could make Microsoft’s store more attractive to independent studios than competitors like Valve’s gaming store, called Steam, which typically starts by taking a 30 percent cut. Epic Games’ store takes 12 percent.

“We want to make sure that we’re competitive in the market,” said Sarah Bond, a Microsoft vice president who leads the gaming ecosystem organization. “Our objective is to have a leading revenue share and really a leading platform.”

The share of revenue that developers get to keep has come under greater scrutiny across the tech industry. Google and Apple have faced antitrust questions for the 30 percent fees they charge developers whose programs appear in their app stores.

Last year, Epic sued Apple and Google separately, claiming they violated antitrust laws by forcing developers to use their payment systems. Epic had tried to bypass the fees by letting customers pay for items in its Fortnite video game directly through Epic. That caused Apple and Google to boot Fortnite from their app stores.

Apple and Google have since reduced fees for some developers. Epic’s lawsuit against Apple is set to head to trial on Monday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif.

A Shell recharging station for electric vehicles in the Netherlands. Despite investments in renewable energy, Shell’s profit last quarter was largely the result of rising oil and gas prices.
Credit…Koen Van Weel/EPA, via Shutterstock

Strong profit increases from two of Europe’s largest energy companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, demonstrated that what really matters for the financial performance of these companies remains the price of oil and natural gas.

Their recent investments in clean energy, described by company officials as essential for the future, remain marginal.

Total said that adjusted net income rose by 69 percent compared with the period a year earlier, when the effects of the pandemic were beginning to kick in, to $3 billion, while Shell said that what it calls adjusted earnings rose by 13 percent to $3.2 billion.

The main factor in the improved performance by both companies was a roughly 20 percent rise in oil prices along with an increase in natural gas prices, leading to higher revenues. During a news conference to discuss the results, Jessica Uhl, Shell’s chief financial officer, said that a $10 jump in oil prices would translate into a $6.4 billion increase in cash for the company’s coffers on an annual basis.

Shell, which cut its dividend last year for the first time since World War II, confirmed that it would increase the payout for the quarter by 4 percent, to about 17 cents a share.

Both companies have tethered their futures to generating and distributing renewable sources of energy. Shell in February said its oil production had peaked in 2019, and it has been investing in various clean energy ventures, including a network of 60,000 charging stations for electric vehicles. And Total has, among other things, invested in options to build offshore wind farms off Britain.

In its earnings statement, Total took the lead among the oil majors in providing details on its investments in renewable energy like wind and solar. The company said these businesses brought in $148 million for the quarter, measured as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. This figure was about 2 percent of the overall total for the company of $7.3 billion, according to analysts at Bernstein, a research firm.

Although Airbus reported a quarterly profit after a full-year loss for 2020,  “the market remains uncertain,”  said Guillaume Faury, the company’s chief executive.
Credit…Chema Moya/EPA, via Shutterstock

Airbus announced Thursday that it had returned to a profit in the first quarter following a 1.1 billion euro loss last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but its top executive warned that the economic toll would continue.

“The first quarter shows that the crisis is not yet over for our industry, and that the market remains uncertain,” Guillaume Faury, chief executive of the world’s largest airplane maker, said in a statement.

Airbus booked a net profit of 362 million euros ($440 million) between January and March, compared with a loss of 481 million euros a year earlier, as cost-cutting measures — which included more than 11,000 layoffs announced last year for its global operations — bolstered the bottom line. Revenue fell 2 percent to 10.5 billion euros.

Airbus delivered 125 commercial aircraft to airlines in the three-month period, up from 122 a year earlier. Over all, Airbus delivered 566 aircraft to airlines in 2020, 40 percent less than expected before the pandemic.

Airbus has previously warned that the industry might not recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic until as late as 2025, as new virus variants delay a resumption of worldwide air travel.

Given the uncertain outlook, Airbus won’t ramp up aircraft deliveries this year. The company said it expected to deliver 566 aircraft on back order from airline companies, the same number as last year.

It maintained its forecast for an underlying operating profit of two billion euros for the year.

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Stocks on Wall Street jumped on Thursday, rising with European stock indexes, amid indications that the economy is moving toward a recovery to prepandemic levels.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the U.S. economy expanded 1.6 percent in the first three months of 2021, compared with 1.1 percent in the final quarter last year, or 6.4 percent on an annualized basis.

A day earlier, the Federal Reserve said that the outlook was improving and that it would continue to provide substantial monetary support, easing investors’ concerns that it would soon start easing the stimulus efforts it launched a year ago when the Covid-19 crisis forced a near shutdown of many parts of the economy.

“While the level of new cases remains concerning,” Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said, “continued vaccinations should allow for a return to more normal economic conditions later this year.” The central bank kept interest rates near zero and said it would continue buying bonds at a steady clip.

The S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent. Market sentiment continued to rise after President Biden detailed more of his spending plans — which total $4 trillion — to fund expanded access to education and reduce the cost of child care, among other things.

Oil prices rose. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, climbed more than 2 percent to above $5 a barrel.

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.3 percent as a measure of economic confidence for the eurozone surged higher.

Amazon announced raises for half a million employees in its warehouses, delivery network and other fulfillment teams.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Amazon will increase pay between 50 cents and $3 an hour for half a million workers in its warehouses, delivery network and other fulfillment teams, the company said on Wednesday.

The action follows scrutiny of Amazon from lawmakers and an unsuccessful unionization push that ended this month at its large warehouse in Alabama. In 2018, Amazon raised its minimum pay to $15 an hour. In recent months, it has publicly campaigned to raise the federal minimum to $15, too.

Amazon has been on a hiring spree during the pandemic. As more customers ordered items online, the company added 400,000 employees in the United States last year. Its total work force stands at almost 1.3 million people.

Amazon typically revaluates wages each fall, before the holiday shopping season. But this year, it moved those changes earlier, said Darcie Henry, an Amazon vice president of people experience and technology. The new wages will roll out from mid-May through early June. Ms. Henry said the company was hiring for “tens of thousands” of open positions.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, recently told shareholders in his annual letter that he recognized the company needed “a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.” He said that Amazon had always striven to be “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” and that now he wanted it to be “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work” as well.

Amazon is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Thursday.

Gary Gensler’s tenure leading the Securities and Exchange Commission is off to a rocky start: Alex Oh, who he named just days ago to run the regulator’s enforcement division, has resigned following a federal court ruling in a case involving one of her corporate clients, ExxonMobil.

In her resignation letter on Wednesday, Ms. Oh said the matter would be “an unwelcome distraction to the important work” of the enforcement division.

Ms. Oh’s resignation letter followed a ruling on Monday from Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia over the conduct of Exxon’s lawyers during a civil case involving claims of human rights abuses in the Aceh province of Indonesia.

According to Judge Lamberth’s ruling, Exxon’s lawyers claimed without providing evidence that the plaintiffs’ attorneys were “agitated, disrespectful and unhinged” during a deposition. He ordered Exxon’s lawyers to show why penalties were not warranted for those comments.

The ruling did not single out any lawyers by name. Ms. Oh was one of the lead lawyers for Exxon.

The judge’s order also granted the plaintiffs’ motion that Exxon pay “reasonable expenses” associated with litigating their request for sanctions and with an accompanying motion to compel additional testimony from Exxon related to the deposition.

Ms. Oh’s resignation letter did not mention the Exxon case by name, but a person briefed on the matter confirmed that the ruling from Judge Lamberth had prompted her to step down.

Ms. Oh, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who worked for the elite firm Paul, Weiss for nearly two decades, was picked by Mr. Gensler to oversee the S.E.C.’s 1,000-attorney enforcement division on April 22. The same day, she filed a notice with the court in the Exxon case saying she had withdrawn from the matter because she had resigned from the firm to join the federal government.

The civil litigation involving Exxon is nearly two decades old and involves allegations by the plaintiffs that Exxon’s security personnel “inflicted grievous injuries” on them. The lawsuit was brought under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act, which enables residents of other countries to sue in the United States for damages arising from violations of U.S. treaties or “the law of nations.”

Mr. Gensler said in a news release that Melissa Hodgman, who had been the enforcement division’s acting chief since January, will return to that position. Ms. Hodgman has been an enforcement attorney with the agency since 2008. He thanked Ms. Oh for her “willingness to serve the country.”

Ms. Oh could not immediately be reached for comment.

Brad Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, said the firm would not comment on the matter because it involved ongoing litigation. “Alex is a person of the utmost integrity and a consummate professional with a strong ethical code,” he added.

Ms. Oh is a highly respected lawyer, but her selection had been criticized by the Revolving Door Project, a good-government group, because she had been in private practice for so many years and had defended some of the largest U.S. companies.

Increased supply-chain and freight costs for cereal makers could translate into higher retail prices for customers.
Credit…Sara Hylton for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, when suppliers raised the cost of diapers, cereal and other everyday goods, retailers often absorbed the increase because stiff competition forced them to keep prices stable.

Now, with Americans’ shopping habits having shifted rapidly — with people spending more on treadmills and office furniture and less at restaurants and movie theaters — retailers are also adjusting, Gillian Friedman reports for The New York Times.

The Consumer Price Index, the measure of the average change in the prices paid by U.S. shoppers for consumer goods, increased 0.6 percent in March, the largest rise since August 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Procter & Gamble is raising prices on items like Pampers and Tampax in September. General Mills, which makes cereal brands including Cheerios, is facing increased supply-chain and freight costs that could translate into higher retail prices for customers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies were focused on fulfilling demand for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, canned food and masks, said Greg Portell, a partner at Kearney, a consulting firm. The government was watching for price-gouging, and customers were wary of being taken advantage of.

Now that the economy is beginning to stabilize, companies are starting to rebalance pricing so that it better fits their profit expectations and takes into account inflation. “This isn’t an opportunistic profit-taking by companies,” Mr. Portell said. “This is a reset of the market.”

Gary Gensler, the chair of the Securities Exchange Commission, has some expertise with cryptocurrencies.
Credit…Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

For many cryptocurrency supporters and investors, regulatory approval of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in the United States represents the holy grail. It would allow the crypto-curious to get exposure to Bitcoin without having to buy the tokens themselves, signifying that digital assets are really, truly mainstream.

But it’s not meant to be — yet. On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission delayed a decision on a Bitcoin E.T.F. proposal from the investment manager VanEck, saying it needs more time but offering no other explanation.

Delay is not denial, and it may be a good sign, Todd Cipperman, the founder of the compliance services firm CCS, told the DealBook newsletter. When considering the concept of a crypto E.T.F. in 2018, the S.E.C. raised questions about investor protection issues and put a “wet blanket on the whole idea,” he said.

Now, crypto is much bigger, and Gary Gensler, who taught courses about blockchain technology at M.I.T., is chair of the S.E.C. His expertise doesn’t guarantee success for crypto E.T.F.s, but it will be easier for an expert in the field to approve them, Mr. Cipperman suggested.

The S.E.C. gave itself until mid-June, with the option to take more time, but it must decide before year’s end. The regulator has rejected every proposal to date, starting with the first Bitcoin E.T.F. pitch in 2013, presented by the Winklevoss twins, which was eventually dismissed in 2017 (and again in 2018). There are several E.T.F. proposals on the table now, including one from the traditional finance giant Fidelity.

Canada is moving faster, approving all kinds of crypto E.T.F.s, after allowing its first Bitcoin E.T.F. in February. Hester Peirce, an S.E.C. commissioner and vocal crypto champion, told DealBook earlier this month that she has been “mystified” by her agency’s response to some prior applications, which met the standards in her view. With more players now engaging in the process, approval could be looming — eventually.

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The Federal Reserve’s Patient Approach Could Be Tested Soon: Live Updates

spread of new variant

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee has said it wants to see “substantial” progress toward its goals of full employment and stable inflation before slowing down the monthly bond purchases. The hurdle for rate increases is even higher: A return to maximum employment and inflation that exceeds 2 percent and is expected to slightly overshoot that for some time.

At their meeting in March, the central bank’s officials signaled that interest rates were likely to remain near-zero through 2023 if the economy shapes up as they expect. But investors will be keenly focused on hints about the path ahead when Mr. Powell gives a post-meeting news conference around 2:30 p.m., after the committee’s 2 p.m. statement release.

“By the time of the June meeting well over half of all Americans should be partially vaccinated, and the level of employment could be a few million greater than it is now, allowing the F.O.M.C. to discuss some tangibly improving outcomes,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan, wrote in a research note. “For now, however, we think the message from the committee will be little changed from the one delivered six weeks ago.”

Still, the Fed’s commitment to patience — an approach that focuses on real-world outcomes, not just expected ones — is in for its first big challenge. As unemployment drops and inflation picks up, two trends that are expected to play out in the coming months, monetary policymakers are likely to face growing calls to dial back their support to prevent conditions from getting out of hand.

But Mr. Powell and his colleagues have played down concerns about overheating and inflationary warnings that hark back to the 1970s and 1980s, arguing that the world has changed in recent decades.

“We had 3.5 percent unemployment, which is a 50-year low, for much of the last two years before the pandemic,” Mr. Powell said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview. “And inflation didn’t really react much. That’s not the economy we had 30 years ago.”

An Allbirds store in Manhattan.
Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Silicon Valley’s favorite shoe brand is headed to Wall Street. Allbirds is interviewing banks over the next few weeks to help it make a market debut, people familiar with the matter told the DealBook newsletter, requesting anonymity because the process is confidential. The direct-to-consumer company was last valued at around $1.7 billion.

The talks come as consumer brands that were founded with a heavy (if not exclusive) internet presence, including Honest Company and Warby Parker, are taking advantage of a pandemic-driven boom in online shopping to see if investor enthusiasm for tech offerings extends to them as well. Many of those companies, including Allbirds, have since opened some retail stores, which has proved an easier transition than the legacy retailers trying to build digital operations after making their names in the offline world.

Allbirds was founded by the New Zealand soccer star Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, a renewables expert. Its mantra is to “create better things in a better way,” and the company advertises that the merino wool in its shoes uses 60 percent less energy than typical synthetic materials.

“One of the worst offenders of the environment from a consumer product standpoint is shoes,” Mr. Zwillinger told The New York Times in 2017. “It’s not the making; it’s the materials.”

The brand’s flashy-but-logo-free shoes are popular among techies, celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio is an investor) and former President Barack Obama. The company has raised more than $200 million since 2016.

Allbirds is a B Corp, a certification earned by focusing on social good as well as profit. (Mr. Zwillinger joined a DealBook Debrief call last year to talk about the purpose of business.) Wall Street hasn’t always taken kindly to such companies: Etsy had to drop the status after taking a beating from the public markets following its I.P.O. Allbirds, though, said the $100 million funding round it announced last September was “indication of investors’ continued enthusiasm for its stakeholder-centric business model.”

“Allbirds has always been focused on building a great company, and as a B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, doing what is best for our stakeholders (planet, people, investors) at the right time and in a way that helps the business grow in a sustainable fashion,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

Deutsche Bank’s best quarter in seven years was a vindication for Christian Sewing, the chief executive who took over in 2018.
Credit…Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Deutsche Bank reported its best quarterly profit in seven years Wednesday as it benefited from lively financial markets and avoided losses from the investment firm Archegos Capital that has battered rivals.

The first-quarter profit of 900 million euros, or $1.1 billion, was better than expected and suggested that Deutsche Bank may be emerging from a decade of scandals and disasters that earned it a reputation as Europe’s most troubled lender.

James von Moltke, the chief financial officer of Deutsche Bank, said in response to a question about Archegos during an interview with Bloomberg News that the bank had been able to exit its involvement without a loss.

That is in contrast to rivals like Credit Suisse, which lost $4.7 billion it had lent to Archegos after the firm collapsed in March. Swiss bank UBS disclosed Tuesday that it lost $774 million from its involvement with Archegos.

Deutsche Bank, like most big corporations, is assessing how the pandemic may have permanently changed the way employees do their jobs. Mr. von Moltke said the bank was working on a plan that would allow employees to work from home two or three days a week.

Like many of its peers, Deutsche Bank has benefited from frenetic activity on financial markets, earning fees as it helped governments issue debt to finance stimulus programs or sell shares in blank-check investment vehicles known as SPACs.

The bank said it had also benefited from a European Central Bank stimulus program that effectively pays commercial lenders to provide credit to businesses and consumers in the eurozone. In addition, Deutsche Bank slashed the amount of money it set aside for bad loans.

The financial results are a vindication for Christian Sewing, the bank’s chief executive, who has been trying to show large shareholders like the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management that he can generate consistent profits. Deutsche Bank shares rose 9 percent in Frankfurt trading Wednesday and are up more than 20 percent since the end of January.

“Our first quarter is further evidence that Deutsche Bank is on the right path,” Mr. Sewing said in a statement.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
Credit…Pool photo by Susan Walsh

When Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, speaks to reporters in a webcast news conference on Wednesday afternoon, he’s likely to face questions about a simmering topic: inflation.

Prices are expected to pop in the coming months, both as inflation indexes lap very weak 2020 readings and as supply chains experience short-term reopening bottlenecks. The unknowns facing the Fed, and the investment world, are how big the jump will be and how long it will last.

Most forecasters and the Fed itself expect the increases to be only temporary. But some economists have warned that they could be significant enough to become a problem as businesses reopen, consumers start to spend their savings and the government pumps stimulus money into the economy.

If the increases are big enough and sustained, the Fed could find itself in a tough spot, forced to choose between letting prices rise or raising interest rates before the labor market is fully recovered.

Inflation also worries stock investors: If the Fed lifts interest rates to cool off the economy, it could make investing in bonds more attractive and corporate borrowing more expensive, both bad news for equities.

The Fed wants inflation to average 2 percent annually over time, and it defines that goal using the Commerce Department’s headline personal consumption expenditure index. But officials look at a variety of indicators to gauge conditions. Here’s where a handful of critical inflation measures stand and, when it’s relevant, where economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect them to go in the coming months:

Fed officials regularly point out that inflation has been too tepid in recent years, not too high, and they don’t expect that to change quickly. To raise rates, they say, they would need to see that inflation was going to remain higher sustainably — for instance, if it came alongside heftier wage increases.

Part of the Fed’s comfort with a period of faster price gains is that consumer and business expectations have remained relatively low, despite some recent increases. If people aren’t anticipating higher prices, it’s likely to put a lid on how much more companies can charge.

Google’s logo on a building in Zurich, Switzerland. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported a strong increase in revenue last quarter.
Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Government bond yields jumped higher on Wednesday ahead of the latest Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Economists expect Fed officials to keep interest rates near zero and continue their bond-buying program, but central bank watchers will be looking for clues for how much longer the support will last as the U.S. economy improves. Higher yields on government bonds may reflect expectations that the Fed is inching closer signaling that it will change its policy, including raising its benchmark rate, even if that’s still years in the future.

Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, will speak to reporters Wednesday afternoon. Fed officials have said they would telegraph any changes well in advance and expected the current rise in inflation to be temporary, which would diminish the need for a monetary policy reaction.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose two basis points to 1.65 percent on Wednesday after rising six basis points the previous day. Yields on 10-year British government bonds rose six basis points to 0.83 percent and German bond yields climbed four basis points to negative 0.21 percent.

“We think risks around this meeting are firmly skewed towards higher rates,” analysts at ING said of bond yields. “This is particularly true if the Fed breaks with its cautious tone of late, or simply decides to hedge its bets by saying it will react as appropriate if the economy overheats.”

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

California is expecting a roughly $15 billion budget surplus next fiscal year, which runs from July through June, according to its most recent forecast. The state is so flush that it is now running its own stimulus program, writing one-time checks of $600 or $1,200 to poorer households and spending some $2 billion on aid for small businesses.

Less than a year ago, the state was facing a $54 billion shortfall, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times. Here’s how the state’s fortunes were turned around:

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The Fed’s patient approach could be tested soon.

The Federal Reserve is expected to keep its monetary policy in crisis mode when it concludes its latest meeting on Wednesday, even as the economy improves.

The question now is how long it will take for the recovery to progress enough to inspire the central bank to change course.

The Fed has held interest rates near zero since March 2020, and is buying bonds at a pace of about $120 billion a month. Those policies make many types of borrowing cheap and push investors toward riskier, more active investments — sending money coursing through the economic system and speeding up growth.

Fed officials are in no rush to dial back that support — even as coronavirus vaccines become widely available, the labor market heals and retail spending rises, helped along by government stimulus checks.

spread of new variant

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee has said it wants to see “substantial” progress toward its goals of full employment and stable inflation before slowing down the monthly bond purchases. The hurdle for rate increases is even higher: A return to maximum employment and inflation that exceeds 2 percent and is expected to slightly overshoot that for some time.

At their meeting in March, the central bank’s officials signaled that interest rates were likely to remain near-zero through 2023 if the economy shapes up as they expect. But investors will be keenly focused on hints about the path ahead when Mr. Powell gives a post-meeting news conference around 2:30 p.m., after the committee’s 2 p.m. statement release.

“By the time of the June meeting well over half of all Americans should be partially vaccinated, and the level of employment could be a few million greater than it is now, allowing the F.O.M.C. to discuss some tangibly improving outcomes,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan, wrote in a research note. “For now, however, we think the message from the committee will be little changed from the one delivered six weeks ago.”

Still, the Fed’s commitment to patience — an approach that focuses on real-world outcomes, not just expected ones — is in for its first big challenge. As unemployment drops and inflation picks up, two trends that are expected to play out in the coming months, monetary policymakers are likely to face growing calls to dial back their support to prevent conditions from getting out of hand.

played down concerns about overheating and inflationary warnings that harken back to the 1970s and 1980s, arguing that the world has changed in recent decades.

“We had 3.5 percent unemployment, which is a 50-year low, for much of the last two years before the pandemic,” Mr. Powell said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview. “And inflation didn’t really react much. That’s not the economy we had 30 years ago.”

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Hong Kong and Singapore set a new date for the start of a long-delayed travel bubble.

The governments of Singapore and Hong Kong said on Monday that a long-delayed travel bubble between the two Asian financial centers would begin next month, allowing travelers on designated flights to bypass quarantine.

The travel arrangement, which was originally supposed to begin last November, was suspended at the last minute when Hong Kong experienced a sudden surge in cases. With both places now reporting relatively few local infections, officials say the travel corridor will begin on May 26.

“Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s minister of transport, said in a statement.

The arrangement, which is open to people of any nationality in Singapore and Hong Kong, will begin with one flight per day in each direction for up to 200 passengers. Travelers to both places must test negative for the coronavirus before departure and again upon arrival. They are also required to download and use government contact-tracing apps.

Australia and New Zealand and between Palau and Taiwan, all places where local transmission of the coronavirus is almost nonexistent.

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