The Week in Business: Let’s Go Shopping

Good morning. The economy is showing more signs of recovery — jobs are coming back, the stock market is up (again) and people are spending money. Here’s the latest in business and tech news for the week ahead. Stay safe out there. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

So, what did you buy with your stimulus check? Retail sales in March blew past expectations, soaring nearly 10 percent as the latest round of federal relief funds trickled into bank accounts. Restaurants and bars saw a 13 percent bump in business, and sales of clothing and accessories rose 18 percent — people are getting out and about and need new clothes after a year of sweatpants. Another sign of better times ahead: Last week’s jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since the pandemic began.

With much fanfare, Coinbase — a marketplace where people buy and sell digital currencies like Bitcoin — went public on Wednesday, becoming the first major cryptocurrency company to do so. Its first day of trading made early investors, including the basketball star Kevin Durant, very rich (well, even more than they already were). It also encouraged the crypto-curious to dip a toe — or take a plunge — into what has become an increasingly hot market. Digital currencies have boomed this past year as investors pushed their prices to new highs, bringing related businesses (like Coinbase) along for the ride.

announced a flurry of sanctions against Russia last Thursday and barred American banks from purchasing any new Russian government debt. The measure targeted 32 individuals and entities involved in Moscow’s disinformation campaigns and interference in the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Biden also formally blamed Russia’s top intelligence agency for the sophisticated hacking operation that breached American government agencies and dozens of large companies last year. By squeezing access to international finance, the Biden administration aims to pressure Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, into negotiating a more stable relationship with the United States.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Apple’s first product unveiling of the year, titled “Spring Loaded,” will be streamed on the brand’s website this Tuesday. Anticipated gadgets include a new iPad Pro line (face it, your old iPad is out of storage space) and new iMac desktops (to improve your work-from-home setup, which you might need for the long haul). The company is also reportedly developing a small tracking device called an AirTag that can be stuck to items like keys and wallets, allowing you to find them with an app (now that you need them to go places again!). But it’s unclear if they will make their debut this week. Stay tuned.

For years, Instagram has been planning a special version of its app for users under age 13. The children’s version would supposedly include stronger measures to protect them from sexual predators and bullying. But it faces an uphill battle. Last week, an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups called on Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, to scrap plans for the app. Among their reasons: It “will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”

What does a global shortage of tiny semiconductors — also known as chips — have to do with you? Well, they’re used for everything from cars to computers to kitchen appliances. And the companies that make them are reeling from pandemic-fueled production snafus, causing trickledown problems in the auto industry and many other sectors. Mr. Biden wants to fund more domestic chip manufacturing with his infrastructure plan and signed an executive order to bolster supply chains in the meantime. But that may not be enough to fix what has already become a big problem.

masterminded the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, died in prison at age 82. Nearly four years after the infamous Fyre Festival left its attendees scrambling for shelter and water in the Bahamas, ticket holders — many of whom shelled out thousands for what was billed as an ultraluxury experience — will receive settlement payments of about $7,220 apiece. And China’s post-pandemic recovery is booming. Its economy grew by a whopping 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year to last year’s low.

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How the Tiny Kingdom of Bhutan Out-Vaccinated Most of the World

THIMPHU, Bhutan — The Lunana area of Bhutan is remote even by the standards of an isolated Himalayan kingdom: It covers an area about twice the size of New York City, borders far western China, includes glacial lakes and some of the world’s highest peaks, and is inaccessible by car.

Still, most people living there have already received a coronavirus vaccine.

Vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived last month by helicopter and were distributed by health workers, who walked from village to village through snow and ice. Vaccinations proceeded in the area’s 13 settlements even after yaks damaged some of the field tents that volunteers had set up for patients.

“I got vaccinated first to prove to my fellow villagers that the vaccine does not cause death and is safe to take,” Pema, a village leader in Lunana who is in his 50s and goes by one name, said by telephone. “After that, everyone here took the jab.”

emphasized its citizens’ well-being over national prosperity, had administered a first vaccine dose to more than 478,000 people, over 60 percent of its population. The Health Ministry said this month that more than 93 percent of eligible adults had received their first shots.

according to a New York Times database.

That rate was ahead of those of the United Kingdom and the United States, more than seven times that of neighboring India and nearly six times the global average. Bhutan is also ahead of several other geographically isolated countries with small populations, including Iceland and the Maldives.

Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s health minister, attributed its success to “leadership and guidance” from the country’s king, public solidarity, a general absence of vaccine hesitancy, and a primary health care system that “enabled us to take the services even to the most remote parts of the country.”

“Being a small country with a population of just over 750,000, a two-week vaccination campaign was doable,” Ms. Dechen Wangmo said in an email. “Minor logistic issues were faced during the vaccination but were all manageable.”

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. Bhutan’s government has said it plans to administer second doses about eight to 12 weeks after the first round, in line with guidelines for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

according to the World Health Organization. Immunization levels in recent years have been above 95 percent.

But Bhutan’s health system is “hardly self-sustainable,” and patients who need expensive or sophisticated treatments are often sent to India or Thailand at the government’s expense, said Dr. Yot Teerawattananon, a Thai health economist at the National University of Singapore.

A government committee in Bhutan meets once a week to make decisions about which patients to send overseas for treatment, Dr. Yot said. He said the committee — which focuses on brain and heart surgery, kidney transplants and cancer treatment — was known informally as the “death panel.”

“I don’t think they could cope with the surge of severe Covid cases if that happened, so it is important for them to prioritize Covid vaccination,” he said, referring to Bhutan’s health authorities.

Bhutan has reported fewer than 1,000 coronavirus infections and only one death. Its borders, tight by global standards even before the pandemic, have been closed for a year with few exceptions, and anyone who enters the country must quarantine for 21 days.

received his first vaccine dose last month while in quarantine after a visit to Bangladesh. He has been supporting the vaccination effort in recent weeks on his official Facebook page.

“My days are dotted with virtual meetings on numerous areas that need attention, as I closely follow the vaccination campaign on the ground,” Dr. Tshering, a surgeon, wrote in early April. “So far, with your prayers and blessings, everything is going well.”

The economy in Lunana depends on animal husbandry and harvests of a so-called caterpillar fungus that is prized as an aphrodisiac in China. People speak Dzongkha, the national language, and a local dialect.

Last year, the drama “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” became the second film ever selected to represent Bhutan at the Academy Awards. It was filmed using solar batteries, and its cast included local villagers.

Lunana’s headman, Kaka, who goes by one name, said the most important part of the vaccination campaign was not on the ground, but in the sky.

“If there hadn’t been a chopper,” he said, “getting the vaccines would have been an issue, since there’s no access road.”

Chencho Dema reported from Thimphu, Bhutan, and Mike Ives from Hong Kong.

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Post-Merkel Germany May Be Shaded Green

Whatever government fills the vacuum in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel will be tinged with green.

After nearly 16 years in office, Ms. Merkel’s conservative party, the Christian Democrats, is slipping and stagnant, critics say — short of ideas on how to keep Germany vibrant and rich in a world where its industrial and export model is outdated; where faith in the United States has been damaged; and where China is more self-sufficient and Russia more aggressive.

The other traditional mainstay, the left-center Social Democrats, currently junior partners with Ms. Merkel, is in even worse shape, both electorally and ideologically.

The German Greens are filling the vacuum. Five months before elections in September, the party is running a close second in the opinion polls to the struggling Christian Democrats, and some think it might even lead the next government.

“They will be part of the next government,’’ said Norbert Röttgen, a prominent Christian Democrat, in a forecast widely shared in Germany. “Either a big part or even the leading part.’’

But these are not the Greens of the Cold War, a radical party appalled by the nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States over a divided Europe. The Greens are now centrist, eager for power, with a surprisingly gimlet-eyed view of international affairs and of how Germany needs to change without alienating big business.

If the Greens surge in Europe’s largest and richest country, it would be a watershed not only for the party but for all of Europe, where it already is part of the governing coalitions in six countries.

It would also potentially herald a shift toward a more assertive foreign policy in Germany, especially toward China and Russia, as global politics is becoming a competition between authoritarian and democratic ideals.

“This is a different party, a different generation, a different setting and a different world,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a Green member of the European Parliament. “With Covid, climate and common global challenges clearer to many, it’s easier to push for a transformative green agenda in the classic sense.”

“But the confrontation with authoritarianism is now clear,” he added, “and that puts us in a different place.”

Jana Puglierin, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said: “The Greens are the only party that can rock the boat a bit, especially on China and Russia. They will strike a better balance between the economy and human rights.’’

Led by two pragmatists, or “realos,” the German Greens honor their “fundis,” the more idealistic among them, without allowing them to marginalize the party, as in the past.

The party’s co-chairs are Robert Habeck, 51, and Annalena Baerbock, 40, who is considered the most likely chancellor candidate. The choice is expected on Monday; she would be the only woman in the race to replace Ms. Merkel.

With the environment central to their program, the Greens represent the current zeitgeist. Its leaders argue that correct economic policies can produce a Germany that is digital, modern and carbon neutral, no longer so dependent on old-fashioned industrial production, however sophisticated.

They oppose Nord Stream 2, the Russian natural-gas pipeline to Germany that circumvents Ukraine and Poland. They also oppose the European Union’s investment deal with China. They are committed to European cooperation, democracy promotion, the defense of human rights, Germany’s membership in NATO and its strong alliance with the United States.

While the Greens consider NATO’s goal of military spending of 2 percent of gross domestic product to be arbitrary, the party favors more spending to ensure that the woefully weak German military is able to meet its NATO responsibilities.

Even Mr. Röttgen, the Christian Democrat who is chairman of the Bundestag foreign policy committee, said that “however embarrassing for me, the Greens have the clearest stance of all the parties on China and Russia.”

They would make “a much more realistic and preferable partner for us on foreign policy,” he said.

Wolfgang Streeck, a leftist German economist, once famously called the Greens “the vegetarian section of the Christian Democrats,” noted Hans Kundnani of Chatham House, a research organization based in London. In the way the party criticizes Russia and China on the grounds of democracy and human rights, Mr. Kundnani said, it is similar to American neoconservatives.

“The German Greens are now a pragmatist centrist party,” said Ulrich Speck of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “They want to be part of the government and play a big role, with a focus on greening the economy. They think there are enough in business who understand that this is the future.”

Foreign policy is secondary, Mr. Speck said. “But the democracy agenda matters, and they position themselves in solidarity with opposition democrats in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and China. And they are very tough on China.”

In Germany, the Greens are already part of governing coalitions with a variety of other parties in 11 of the 16 German states, and were just re-elected to head the government in Baden-Württemberg, where the car industry is important.

In fact, argued Arne Jungjohann, a political analyst with Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Greens are flexible enough to go into coalition with any party, except the far-right Alternative for Germany.

In Britain and Western European countries like France, the Greens are more modest and leftist, committed to the environment. But even there, they are benefiting from the weakness of more established parties.

In six countries, Mr. Jungjohann said, they are already in government. They are part of the governing coalitions in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden.

In Europe’s south and in post-Communist Europe, as in the east of Germany itself, the Greens are not such a big factor, though they are more popular with the urban young.

One of Germany’s main problems is that its successful economic model has become a trap, argued John Kornblum, a former American ambassador to Germany who still lives there.

“They haven’t done very well with digital, but found a market in China for their 19th-century products,” he said. “The Chinese at this point still need them and buy them, but at some point soon China will make all that themselves.”

The other establishment parties “believe that Germany’s existence depends on this 19th-century machine-tool economy,” he said.

Alone among the main parties, the Greens have a vision for a Germany that is digital, climate neutral, deeply committed to the European Union, to democratic values and gender equality. A party that, as Ms. Puglierin said, believes that the future is no longer the diesel Mercedes but the electric Tesla.

Still, the party has had to dance carefully over issues of the military, security and nuclear policy, where idealism confronts the world as it is, and where soft power is not always matched with hard power.

“A test will come, because the reality of foreign policy is not just value-driven, but you need to define your interests,’’ Mr. Lagodinsky said.

True to its roots, the party calls for a Germany without U.S. nuclear weapons. But it has also been careful to hedge its election manifesto.

“They want a world without nuclear weapons, but acknowledge that it will take time to get there — they’ll first have to find other ways to reassure eastern and central European partners,” said Sophia Besch, an analyst with the Center for European Reform in Berlin.

They want close cooperation with France on Europe but are less enamored of French ideas for a European army; are ambivalent about a new European air combat system that could carry nuclear bombs and armed drones; and would be strict about exports of arms to customers like Saudi Arabia.

They would also be strict about how and when German forces could engage overseas, even in coalitions of the willing, in the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

But what may be most important for Germany, Ms. Puglierin noted, is that the Greens would at least produce new, needed debates on long-suppressed topics, like the ambivalent German policies toward China and Russia, let alone German dependency on the combustion engine.

“The Greens are the only chance to see real change in German foreign policy,” she said. “We’ve been so status-quo oriented in the Merkel years.”

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Realtors Want to Sell You a Home. Their Trade Group Backs Evicting Others.

“Redfin has consistently been in favor of moratoriums,” said its chief executive, Glenn Kelman. “History will judge us.”

Zillow supports the C.D.C. edict, too, and it believes that moratoriums work most effectively when policies and relief programs include landlords and property managers in addition to renters. Last month, it published research suggesting that there could be as few as 130,000 evictions in the near future if everything goes right with legislation, regulations, their implementation and the economy. But it is a difficult figure to predict.

On the ground in Atlanta, Bilal Shareef also sees the wisdom of the coordinated approach that Zillow outlines. “I definitely wouldn’t feel as if we need to sue the government,” Mr. Shareef said. “Instead of displacing people who are renters, also provide assistance for landlords.”

Mr. Shareef is president of the Empire Board of Realtists, a trade organization with a pointed name that was founded in 1939, when other groups barred Black real estate professionals from their membership ranks. He’s also among the 1.4 million members of the N.A.R.

“Sometimes, we have to be on the inside to keep them honest about some things,” he said.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is a big player in the Georgia real estate sales scene. Its chief executive there, Dan Forsman, said in an interview this week that he had not taken a public position on the eviction moratorium before I called him. But Mr. Forsman believes the moratorium should cease on June 30, the end of its current extension.

His is a nuanced view, because he had Covid himself. “I was scared to death,” he said. Last year, the moratorium made sense to him, when it was clear how worried some of his staff was. The unemployment rate was frightening, too. In the Atlanta region, it grew to 12.9 percent last April. By February, however, it had fallen to just 4.7 percent.

“I’m thankful for the leadership that the C.D.C. has shown,” Mr. Forsman said. “They’ve put their tails on the line and protected those who couldn’t protect themselves. And now it’s time to move on.”

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How Can the City of London Survive Brexit?

LONDON — Coming out of Brexit this year, Britain’s government needed a new blueprint for the future of the nation’s financial services as cities like Amsterdam and Paris vied to become Europe’s next capital of investment and banking.

For some, the answer was Deliveroo, a London-based food delivery company with 100,000 riders on motor scooters and bicycles. Although it lost more than 226 million pounds (nearly $310 million) last year, Deliveroo offered the raw promise of many fast-growing tech start-ups — and it became a symbol of Britain’s new ambitions by deciding to go public and list its shares not in New York but on the London Stock Exchange.

Deliveroo is a “true British tech success story,” Rishi Sunak, Britain’s top finance official, said last month.

It was a false start. Deliveroo has since been called “the worst I.P.O. in London’s history.” On the first day of trading, March 31, the shares dropped 26 percent below the initial public offering price. (It has gotten worse.)

impacts from Brexit were immediate: On the first working day of 2021, trading in European shares shifted from venues in London to major cities in the bloc. Then London’s share of euro-denominated derivatives trading dropped sharply. There’s anxiety over what could go next.

Financial services are a vital component of Britain’s economy, making up 7 percent of gross domestic product — £132 billion in 2019, or some $170 billion. Exporting financial and other professional services is something Britain excels at. Membership in the European Union allowed London to serve as a financial base for the rest of the continent, and the City’s business ballooned. Four-tenths of financial services exports go to the European Union.

The government has begun hunting for ideas to bolster London’s reputation as a global finance center, in a series of reviews and consultations on a variety of issues, including I.P.O.s and trading regulations.

For many, the changes can’t come soon enough.

“The United Kingdom is not going to sit still and watch its financial services move across” to other European cities, said Alasdair Haynes, the founder of Aquis, a trading venue and stock exchange for equities in London. This will make the next three or four years exciting, he said.

But this optimism isn’t universal. The prospects of a warm and close relationship between Britain and the European Union have considerably dimmed. The two sides recently finished negotiations on a memorandum of understanding to establish a forum to discuss financial regulation, but the forum is voluntary, and the document has yet to be signed.

Duff & Phelps found that fewer see London as the world’s leading financial center but that it topped the leader board for regulatory environment.

Here are some of the plans.

Mr. Sunak told Parliament on March 3, the same day a review commissioned by the government recommended changes designed to encourage tech companies to go public in London. It proposed ideas, common in New York, that would let founders keep more control of their company after they began selling shares.

For example: allowing companies with two classes of shares and different voting rights (like Facebook) to list in the “premium” section of the London Stock Exchange, which could pave the way for them to be included in benchmark indexes. Or: allowing a company to go public while selling a smaller proportion of its shares than the current rules require.

The timing of Deliveroo’s I.P.O. wasn’t a coincidence. It listed with dual-class shares that give its co-founder William Shu more than half of the voting rights for three years — a structure set to “closely align” with the review’s recommendations, the company said.

But the idea may be a nonstarter among some of London’s institutional investors. Deliveroo flopped partly because they balked at the offer of shares with minimal voting rights.

the latest craze in financial markets, having taken off with investors and celebrities alike. SPACs are public shell companies that list on an exchange and then hunt for private companies to buy.

London has been left behind in the SPAC fervor. Last year, 248 SPACs listed in New York, and just four in London, according to data by Dealogic. In March, Cazoo, a British used car retailer, announced that it was going public via a SPAC in New York.

Already there are signs that Amsterdam could steal the lead in this booming business for Europe. There have been two SPACs each in London and Amsterdam this year, but the value of the listings in Amsterdam are five times that of London.

Britain’s financial regulatory agency said it would start consultations on SPACs soon and aim to have new rules in place by the summer.

regain ground lost to Germany, France and other European countries on the issuing of green bonds to finance projects to tackle climate change.

London’s finance industry isn’t in danger of imminent collapse, but because of Brexit a cornerstone of the British economy isn’t looking as formidable as it once did. And as London tries to keep up with New York, it is looking over its shoulders at the financial technology coming out of Asia.

The government has continuously billed Brexit as an opportunity to do more business with countries outside of the European Union. This will be essential as international companies begin to ask whether they want to base their European business in London or elsewhere.

When it comes to the future of Britain, it’s “almost a back-to-the-future approach of London as an international center as opposed to being an international and European center,” said Miles Celic, the chief executive of the CityUK, which represents the industry. “It’s doubling down on that international business.”

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Treasury Puts Taiwan on Notice for Currency Practices: Live Updates

Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020. The Biden administration’s report undid those designations, citing insufficient evidence.

Instead, the department said it would continue “enhanced engagement” with Vietnam and Switzerland and begin such talks with Taiwan, which includes urging the trading partners to address undervaluation of their currencies.

“Treasury is working tirelessly to address efforts by foreign economies to artificially manipulate their currency values that put American workers at an unfair disadvantage,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement.

Taiwan is the United States’ 10th largest trading partner in 2019, according to the United States trade representative. Vietnam is the 13th largest, and Switzerland is 16th.

The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.

Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.

“Sonia” chats with coworkers — from a distance.
Credit…IBM

Millions of workers are wondering what the office will be like when they go back after a long stretch of remote work. Employers are trying to prepare them for it.

IBM has designed a “reorientation” program to help its employees adjust when they return to a familiar setting but face a host of unfamiliar new procedures, the DealBook newsletter writes.

“It’s sort of like the first day of school,” said Joanna Daly, the company’s vice president of talent. “A day early, kids go and get to see the classroom or see how things work.”

This is needed, she said, because it is “not simply returning to the workplace as it existed before or the ways of working as it existed before.”

IBM made a “day in the life” video to show employees what to expect. One version of the 11-minute-long video seen by DealBook starts with “Paul” going back to one of IBM’s offices in Britain. To start the day, he goes through a self-screening checklist to assess potential exposure. He enters the office through designated entrances and picks up his masks for the day (and disinfectant wipes if he needs them). Arrows guide him through the halls and up one-way staircases. Only one person is allowed in the bathroom at a time.

The cafeteria is closed, so Paul must bring his lunch. He can’t use the whiteboards or marker pens in conference rooms (and he shouldn’t linger there longer than necessary). If Paul sees other IBMers not following the safety protocols, “It is OK to politely remind them,” the narrator assures him.

Along with the video, IBM produced an 18-page presentation depicting “Sonia’s’’ return to the workplace, serving as a friendly, cartoon-filled back-to-work manual.

“We’re looking now at how might anxiety manifests itself differently for different employees around being back together and then how do we address that,” Ms. Daly said, “through practical understanding of health and safety and also through having enough flexibility in the environment that everyone can kind of get used to coming back.”

IBM, which has 346,000 employees, hasn’t set a timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. The company’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, has said he expects 80 percent of them will work in a hybrid fashion when they do.

Mercedes-Benz said the electric EQS can travel up to 480 miles on a single charge, a feat the company attributed to new battery technology and the car’s aerodynamic shape.
Credit…Mercedes/Associated Press

Mercedes-Benz unveiled an electric counterpart to its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan on Thursday, the latest in a series of moves by German automakers to defend their dominance of the high end of the car market against Tesla.

The EQS, which will be available in the United States in August, is the first of four electric vehicles Mercedes will introduce this year, including two S.U.V.s that will be made at the company’s factory in Alabama and a lower-priced sedan. Mercedes did not announce a price for the EQS, but it is unlikely to be lower than the S-Class, which starts at $94,000 in the United States.

The cars could be decisive for Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, as it tries to adapt to new technology.

“It is important to us,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, said of the EQS during an interview. “In a way it is kind of day one of a new era.”

The EQS has a range of 770 kilometers or about 480 miles, according to Mercedes. If that figure is confirmed by independent testing, the EQS would dethrone the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus as the production electric car that can travel the farthest between charges. The Tesla currently occupies the No. 1 spot with a range of just over 400 miles, according to rankings by Kelley Blue Book.

The EQS owes its stamina to advances in battery technology and an exceptionally aerodynamic design, Mr. Källenius said. Some analysts question whether Mercedes can sell enough electric vehicles to justify the cost of development, but Mr. Källenius said, “We will make money with the EQS from the word ‘go.’”

The EQS is the latest attempt by German carmakers to show that they can apply their expertise in engineering and production efficiency to battery-powered cars. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, so the carmakers’ success or failure will have a significant impact on the country’s prosperity.

On Wednesday, Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, unveiled the Q4 E-Tron, an electric SUV. The Q4 shares many components with the Volkswagen ID.4, an electric SUV that the company began delivering to customers in the United States in March. Though priced to compete with internal combustion models, neither vehicle offers as much range as comparable Tesla cars.

In the S-Class tradition, the EQS offers over-the-top luxury features like software that can recognize when a driver might be feeling fatigued and can offer to turn on the massage function embedded in the seat.

“You’re going to get S-Class level refinement in a very, very high performing electric car,” Mr. Källenius said. “That’s your buying argument.”

Car buyers in Wuhan in January. China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic spending levels.
Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

China on Friday reported that its economy grew by a remarkable 18.3 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. But the spike is as much a reflection of how bad matters were a year ago — when the China’s output shrank by 6.8 percent — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.

Global demand for the computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.

China’s recovery has also been powered by big infrastructure. Cranes dot city skylines. Construction projects for highways and railroads have provided short-term jobs. Property sales have also helped strengthen economic activity.

Exports and property investment can carry China’s growth only so far. Now China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic ways.

Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.

Travel restrictions over the Lunar New Year holiday dampened consumer appetite and slowed the momentum of Chinese shoppers. But retail data on Friday showed that March sales were better than expected, raising hopes that consumers might be starting to feel confident.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

Global stocks rose on Friday after a string of strong economic reports and company earnings.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent, set for its fourth straight week of gains and another record. The benchmark had gained 1 percent in the week through Thursday and is up nearly 5 percent so far this month.

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent on Friday, also climbing to a record, while the FTSE 100 in Britain climbed above 7,000 points for the first time since February 2020. Stock indexes in Japan, Hong Kong and China all closed higher.

China reported on Friday that its economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year, when swathes of the country had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, data showed U.S. retail sales in March leapt past expectations, increasing by nearly 10 percent, and initial state jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic.

This week, banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported better-than-expected earnings, and their chief executives delivered upbeat economic forecasts.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to 1.57 percent on Friday. Last month, concerns that government spending would overheat the economy and lead to higher inflation sent bond yields shooting higher, to 1.74 percent on March 31. But those worries appear to have been soothed by central bank officials, who have repeatedly said they expect increases in inflation to be temporary.

Earlier this week, data showed that prices in the United States rose 2.6 percent in March from a year earlier, a larger-than-normal increase partly because prices of some items fell in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold.

Another reason yields have drifted lower is a “remarkable” demand for bonds, ING, a Dutch bank, said. Recent Treasury bond auctions have received more bids than normal, and JPMorgan Chase sold $13 billion of bonds on Thursday, the biggest sale ever by a bank, according to Bloomberg.

“Cash has to go somewhere, and it can’t all go into equities,” the ING analysts wrote in a note to clients.

James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas, in 2015.
Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Twitter said on Thursday that it had blocked the account of James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas.

Mr. O’Keefe’s account, @JamesOKeefeIII, was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam,” specifically that users cannot mislead others with fake accounts or “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations” through the use of multiple accounts, a Twitter spokesman said.

In a statement on his website, Mr. O’Keefe said he will file a defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday over its claim that he had operated fake accounts.

“This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay,” the statement said.

“Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me,” Mr. O’Keefe said, referring to a legal liability shield for social media. That shield, part of the federal Communications Decency Act, has become a favorite target of lawmakers in both parties.

In February, Twitter permanently suspended the Project Veritas account, saying it had posted private information. It also temporarily locked Mr. O’Keefe’s account.

“We were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad,” Caolan Robertson said of the videos he used to make.
Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.

Caolan Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.

Over more than two years, he helped produce and publish videos for right-wing Youtube personalities including Lauren Southern, Cade Metz reports for The New York Times.

Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Mr. Robertson said, he and Ms. Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. They attended a women’s march in London and, with Ms. Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”

They often received a confused, measured or polite response, according to Mr. Robertson. They continued to ask the question and sharpened it. Ms. Southern, for example, said it would be difficult for Muslim women to answer the question because their husbands wouldn’t let them attend the march. That caused anger to build in the crowd.

“It appears in the videos that we are just trying to figure out what is going on, gather information, understand people,” Mr. Robertson said. “But really, we were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad.”

Ms. Southern described the situation differently. “We asked the question because we knew it was going to force people to question their own political views and realize the contradiction in being a hard-core feminist but also supporting a religion that, quite frankly, has questionable practices around women,” she said. And, she added, they used video techniques that any media company would use.

Attendees of the disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas won $2 million in a class-action settlement that is subject to final approval.
Credit…Jake Strang, via Associated Press

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Looking Back at the First Roaring Twenties

We are in a second Roaring Twenties, or so you might think, from the countless comments suggesting that we are entering an exuberant decade that echoes the one of a century ago.

The 1920s were marked by frenetic celebration, amazing stock market returns — and, ultimately, one of the worst crashes and most devastating depressions in modern history.

A century is a long time, and the original Roaring Twenties have become something of a lost world, glimpsed through legend, movies and pop fantasy.

It’s worth looking back more closely. History doesn’t provide a clear guide to the future — many economists avoid studying it, preferring instead to dwell on mathematical models, the latest changes in fiscal and monetary policy and statistically significant leading indicators.

Alexander Dana Noyes wrote both of “the most reckless stock speculation” and of a series of “exceedingly favorable” factors protecting the economy: a “sound banking system,” “expanding production and consumption,” “large profits,” “stability of prices,” “conservative methods of trade,” “labor’s high wages” and “increasing exports.”

As stocks rose, people who had little knowledge of the market blithely bought shares for the first time, as Eunice Fuller Barnard described in “Ladies of the Ticker,” a firsthand account in April 1929.

Recently, there has been a parallel rise in trades by inexperienced retail investors.

Early in the 1920s, people played the market as a grand game, abetted by technological innovation and new mass media.

In 1923 the Trans-Lux company came out with the “movie ticker” — a large illuminated screen showing rapidly changing stock prices. For the first time, a crowd at a retail brokerage could watch together as a facsimile of the stock ticker tape whizzed by in bright light.

And they heard about the stock market on the radio, the hot new technology of that era. Westinghouse, in Pittsburgh, created one of the world’s first commercial radio stations, KDKA, which broadcast Warren G. Harding’s victory in the presidential election on Nov. 2, 1920. Sports events, comedy shows and stock market reports soon followed, and radio stations spread throughout the United States and the world.

The world entered homes electronically, giving people an immediate sense of the possibility of new technologies and access to a global narrative about financial success.

What is startling, in retrospect, is that while there was plenty of discussion of the brave new horizons for investing in the 1920s, there was very little skeptical scrutiny of the underpinnings of the markets available in mass media, at least at first.

CAPE, which enables us to say stock prices today are quite high on a historical basis.

But my research suggests that in the early 1920s, scarcely anyone, outside of investment professionals, knew what a price-earnings ratio was. There was not a single use of the phrase in the ProQuest News & Newspapers database before 1928.

This inattention shifted in the months before the October 1929 crash. In May 1929, for example, The New York Herald Tribune published “Price-Earnings Ratio Ignored by Traders in Present Market.”

It was a sign of worry. Suddenly, many people became aware that this important measure was at record highs, indicating that prices were difficult to justify. The article helped to spread a pessimistic narrative about the stock market that began to dominate discourse.

“The purchaser of securities on tips, who gives no thought or study to intrinsic values, must suffer the consequences of his own lack of reasonable care in conserving his resources,” the article said.

As the crash approached, newspapers reported that many people had taken excessive loans from brokers, noting that the severity of a market decline could be amplified when brokers made “margin calls,” requiring repayment of those loans.

As early as March 1928, an article in The Times said there was a widespread “uncomfortable feeling” about the “unpleasant possibilities” for the still roaring stock market. Such a feeling exists today, though perhaps not in as severe a form.

the risk of excessive speculation. Yet the Standard & Poor’s Composite Index rose 29 percent from Jan. 1 to Sept. 8 that year. (The increase in the S&P 500 from March 23, 2020, to Thursday, at 86 percent, is even larger.)

In 1929, the warnings only heightened public attention to the market.

In February 1929, the singer Eddie Cantor had a hit pop song about the dangers of living. Its title was a form of baby talk: “I Faw Down an’ Go Boom!” The lyrics included this: “I got a tip to buy some stocks, lost my shirt, lost my socks. The minute that I buy some stocks, they faw down an’ go boom.”

An article by Joseph Dineen in The Boston Globe on Feb. 10, 1929, said the song had gone viral: “‘I faw down and go boom.’ Did you ever hear anything sillier, more ridiculous and inane in your life? This wisecrack is positively cuckoo, a snatch of baby talk which has swept the country, used every day in every way by broad-shouldered huskies and lithesome lounge lizards as the last word in high-powered repartee. Every broadcasting station tossed it off into the air at least once a night.”

The song, and others like it, helped to prime people into thinking about the possibility of a crash.

Are there similarities today? Certainly. The current widespread fascination with the rising market accompanied by recent concern about a possible downward spiral and strained stock market valuations echo those of 100 years ago.

That said, there is no particular reason to expect a market collapse that would be as bad as the 1929 crash, and the government and the Fed have shown themselves to be far more adept in staving off prolonged recessions than their predecessors. But we shouldn’t be surprised if uncomfortable feelings about the market grow to unmanageable proportions, leading eventually to a major stock market decline.

Robert J. Shiller is Sterling professor of economics at Yale.


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Covid-19 Pushes India’s Middle Class Toward Poverty

Anil G. Kumar, a civil engineer, was one of them. Around this time last year, he and his family were about to buy a two-bedroom apartment. But when last year’s lockdown hit, Mr. Kumar’s employer, a construction chemicals manufacturer, slashed his salary by half.

“Everything turned turtle within a few hours,” he said. Three months later, his job had been eliminated.

Now Mr. Kumar spends his days in his home in a working-class neighborhood in the western part of Delhi, searching for jobs on LinkedIn and taking care of his son.

The family’s middle-class life is now under threat. They survive on the $470-a-month salary Mr. Kumar’s wife draws from a private university. Instead of holding a big celebration for their son’s 10th birthday at a restaurant, which would have cost nearly $70, they ordered a cake and a new outfit for about one-fifth the cost. Mr. Kumar also canceled his Amazon Prime subscription, which he hadn’t used in a while.

“Every day you can’t sit on the laptop,” he said. “At times, you feel depressed.”

India’s middle class is central to more than the economy. It fits into India’s broader ambitions to rival China, which has grown faster and more consistently, as a regional superpower.

To get there, the Indian government may need to address the people the coronavirus has left behind. Household incomes and overall consumption have weakened, even though the sales of some goods have increased recently because of pent-up demand. Many of the hardest hit come from India’s merchant class, the shopkeepers, stall operators or other small entrepreneurs who often live off the books of a major company.

“India is not even discussing poverty or inequality or lack of employment or fall in incomes and consumption,” said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring of the Indian Economy. “This needs to change first and foremost,” he said.

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Unemployment Is High. Why Are Businesses Struggling to Hire?

By contrast, “right now what seems to be happening is that job creation is outpacing the search effort that workers are putting forth,” said Professor Marinescu, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. “Compared to how people reacted last spring, it’s not that long ago, but the situation has changed a bit.”

That is to say, a similar decline in workers’ desire to pursue jobs matters more when there are plenty of jobs to go around, which is increasingly the case as the economy reopens.

In other research on the expanded jobless benefits, Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago Harris School and five co-authors found a smaller decrease in the inclination to search for jobs than earlier research would have predicted. In other words, those $600 weekly supplements didn’t decrease employment very much.

But those were circumstances that may no longer apply.

“The goal of government should be to get everyone back to work as soon as possible while continuing to provide economic support to workers who have not gone back to work yet,” Mr. Ganong said. “Those two things were not in tension in 2020, and they are in tension in 2021. All of those things that made 2020 special are receding, so we now face a more traditional set of trade-offs.”

Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has also studied the impact of last year’s expanded benefits, is skeptical that the lure of jobless benefits is the primary explanation. He notes that even with the reported shortages, businesses appear to be successfully hiring at a breakneck pace.

Companies added 916,000 employees to payrolls in March alone, a number matched only by the initial rebound from pandemic shutdowns last summer and in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Moreover, the expanded benefits are scheduled to expire in September.

“Maybe an unemployed person spends several additional days unemployed because of the $300,” Professor Dube said. “But if it’s a problem, it takes care of itself. It’s nothing compared to the broader trajectory of the reopening, which swamps anything on the unemployment insurance front.”

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