Europe Takes a Tougher Line on Chinese Firms: Live Updates

working out an agreement in December intended to make it easier for European companies to invest in what has become the bloc’s most important trading partner for goods.

But since then relations have gone downhill because of tension over Chinese policy toward minority groups in Xinjiang province.

Legislation proposed by the European Commission Wednesday would give it power to investigate and take measures against foreign companies that use government subsidies to get an unfair advantage over domestic competitors, an accusation often leveled at China. A separate proposal, also announced Wednesday, is intended to make Europe less dependent on China for crucial goods like semiconductors, drugs and batteries.

The proposals came a day after Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, said that work on finalizing the December investment agreement with Beijing was on hold because of repressive Chinese policies.

In March, the European Commission sanctioned four Communist Party officials after accusing them of being responsible for human rights violations against members of the Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang.

China retaliated with sanctions against numerous members of the European Parliament, several scholars, and employees of human rights organizations and think tanks which have been critical of China.

In light of the sanctions war, Mr. Dombrovskis told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that “it’s clear the environment is not conducive for ratification of the agreement.”

Europe’s tougher line toward China brings it closer to the stance adopted by the Biden administration, which objected to the investment agreement. But Europe remains divided over how to approach an important trading partner that is also a geopolitical rival.

Markus J. Beyrer, director general of BusinessEurope, a leading business lobby, said in a statement Wednesday that the proposal on subsidies is “a step in the right direction in addressing existing legal loopholes and preventing market distortions.”

But a prominent business group in Germany, which is highly dependent on exports to China, was critical.

“The proposed regulation is very complex and there is a risk that its implementation will lead to considerable additional bureaucracy and legal uncertainty for our member companies,” said Ulrich Ackermann, managing director of foreign trade at V.D.M.A., which represents German makers of industrial equipment.

Facebook banned President Donald J. Trump after he used social media accounts to incite a mob of supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers ruled on Wednesday to uphold the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court to deliberate the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January, Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the suspension.

But the board also said that Facebook’s penalty of an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to determine its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

The board is a panel of about 20 former political leaders, human rights activists and journalists picked by Facebook to deliberate the company’s content decisions, explains Cecilia Kang of The Times. It began a year ago and is based in London.

The idea for the board was for the public to have a way to appeal decisions by Facebook to remove content that violates its policies against harmful and hateful posts. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s C.E.O., has said neither he nor the company wanted to have the final decision on speech.

The company and paid members of the panel stress that the board is independent. But Facebook funds the board with a $130 million trust and top executives played a big role in its formation.

Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that started as a joke, is on a tear. A surge in the past day pushed it to another record, sending it some 14,000 percent higher than it started the year.

One theory is that the upcoming appearance of Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive and noted Dogecoin superfan, as the host of “Saturday Night Live” on May 8 could get more people interested in trading the crypto token. It’s as good a reason as any for those who try to rationalize its movements.

The latest bout of Dogecoin mania has somewhat overshadowed what’s going on in Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, which also set records this week and made its 27-year-old co-creator, Vitalik Buterin, a billionaire (in dollars). The price of Ether, the crypto token built on the Ethereum blockchain, is up more than 350 percent for the year to date, outpacing Bitcoin’s relatively pedestrian 90 percent gain — which, for context, outpaces every stock in the S&P 500 over that period.

  • Stocks on Wall Street rose on Wednesday, following European markets higher, and rebounding from a decline the day before.

  • The S&P 500 rose about half a percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 1.4 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain rose 1.2 percent.

  • In oil markets, Brent crude gained 1.1 percent, to $69.61 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate rose 1 percent to $66.32 a barrel.

  • New data on the European economy from IHS Markit reflected continued strengthening. The eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for April grew for the second consecutive month. Significantly, the service sector grew after seven months of contraction.

  • “The updated services PMIs for April confirmed that the worst for the eurozone economy should be over,” said Nicola Nobile, the lead eurozone economist for Oxford Economics, in a note to clients. “The vaccination progress and the gradual reopening of some of the economies point to” an increase in economic output already underway, she added.

  • Stellantis, the name for the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA, the maker of Peugeot, said the semiconductor shortage caused an 11 percent decline in production of automobiles in the first quarter, representing about 190,000 vehicles.

  • Dealer inventories were down in all areas, “primarily due to the semiconductor shortage,” the company said. Despite that, Stellantis reported net revenue up 14 percent. Shares gained 3 percent in European trading.

President Biden signing a law in March to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through May 31, with Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Isabel Guzman, the administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Four weeks before its scheduled end, the federal government’s signature aid effort for small business ravaged by the pandemic — the Paycheck Protection Program — ran out of funding on Tuesday afternoon and stopped accepting most new applications.

Congress allocated $292 billion to fund the program’s most recent round of loans. Nearly all of that money has now been exhausted, the Small Business Administration, which runs the program, told lenders and their trade groups on Tuesday. (An earlier version of this item misstated that the actions it described occurred Wednesday.)

While many had predicted that the program would run out of funds before its May 31 application deadline, the exact timing came as a surprise to many lenders.

“It is our understanding that lenders are now getting a message through the portal that loans cannot be originated,” the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, a trade group, wrote in an alert to its members Tuesday evening. “The P.P.P. general fund is closed to new applications.”

Some money — around $8 billion — is still available through a set-aside for community financial institutions, which generally focus on lending to businesses run by women, minorities and other underserved communities. Those lenders will be allowed to process applications until that money runs out, according to the trade group’s alert.

Representatives from the Small Business Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some money also remains available for lenders to finish processing pending applications, according to a lender who was on a call with S.B.A. officials on Tuesday.

Since its creation last year, the Paycheck Protection Program has disbursed $780 billion in forgivable loans to fund 10.7 million applications, according to the latest government data. Congress renewed the program in December’s relief bill, expanding the pool of eligible applicants and allowing the hardest-hit businesses to return for a second loan.

Lawmakers in March extended the program’s deadline to May, but they have shown little enthusiasm for adding significantly more money to its coffers. With vaccination rates increasing and pandemic restrictions easing, Congress’s focus on large-scale relief effort for small businesses has waned.

The government’s recent efforts have been focused on the most devastated industries. Two new grant programs run by the Small Business Administration — for businesses in the live-events and restaurant industries — began accepting applications in recent weeks, though no grants have yet been awarded.

Tim Sweeney, the head of Epic Games, on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. He testified in court that he did not know how a verdict against Apple would affect other types of apps.
Credit…Ethan Swope/Getty Images

Last May, Epic Games was making plans to circumvent Apple’s and Google’s app store rules and ultimately sue them in cases that could reshape the entire app economy and have profound ripple effects on antitrust investigations around the world.

Epic’s chief operating officer, Daniel Vogel, sent other executives an email raising a concern: Epic must persuade Apple and Google to give in to its demands for looser rules, he wrote, “without us looking like the baddies.”

Apple and Google, Mr. Vogel warned, “will treat this as an existential threat.” To prepare, Epic formed a public relations and marketing plan to get the public behind its campaign against the tech giants.

Apple seized on that plan in a federal courtroom in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, the second day of what is expected to be a three-week trial stemming from Epic’s claims that Apple relies on its control of its App Store to unfairly squeeze money out of other companies.

Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers of California’s Northern District, who will decide the case, also asked Epic’s chief executive, Tim Sweeney, a series of pointed questions about its potential consequences. She asked whether he had any understanding of the economics of other types of apps, including food, maps, GPS, weather, dating or instant messaging.

“So you don’t have any idea how what you are asking for would impact any of the developers who engage in those other categories of apps, is that right?” the judge asked.

“I personally do not,” Mr. Sweeney said, in his second day on the witness stand.

Apple’s lawyers argued that Epic had attacked App Store fees to shore up a slowing business. Gross revenue on Fortnite, Epic’s flagship video game, shrank in the last three quarters of 2019 compared with 2018, according to an Epic presentation to its board of directors about its plan to fight Apple. The presentation was disclosed in court on Tuesday, along with the executive’s emails.

Under questioning from Apple’s lawyers, Mr. Sweeney said Epic’s own game store was not expected to turn a profit until at least 2024.

Epic’s lawyers said the lawsuit was not just about Epic and Fortnite but about fairness for all apps that must use Apple’s App Store to reach consumers.

“Our contention in this case is that all apps are at issue,” said Katherine Forrest, a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Epic is not asking for a payout if it wins the trial; it is seeking relief in the form of changes to App Store rules. Epic has asked Apple to allow app developers to use other methods to collect payments and open their own app stores within their apps.

Apple has countered that these demands would raise a world of new issues, including making iPhones less secure.

On Tuesday afternoon, Benjamin Simon, founder of Yoga Buddhi, which makes the Down Dog Yoga app, testified about his company’s problems with Apple’s policies. Mr. Simon said that he had to charge more for subscriptions on the App Store to make up for the 30 percent fee that Apple charged him, and that Apple’s rules prevented him from promoting inside his app a cheaper price that is available on the web.

Mr. Simon said Apple warned app developers against speaking out about its policies in guidelines for getting their apps approved. “‘If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps,’” he said. “That was in the guidelines.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. Its $50 billion endowment cannot be removed or divided up as a marital asset, a philanthropy scholar said.
Credit…David Ryder/Getty Images

When Bill and Melinda Gates announced filed for divorce in Washington State on Monday, grant recipients and staff members alike wondered what would happen to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The message from the headquarters in Seattle was clear: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t going anywhere.

The foundation’s $50 billion endowment is in a charitable trust that is irrevocable, Nicholas Kulish reports for The New York Times. It cannot be removed or divided up as a marital asset, said Megan Tompkins-Stange, a professor of public policy and scholar of philanthropy at the University of Michigan. She noted, however, that there was no legal mandate that would prevent them from changing course.

“I think there may be changes to come,” she said. “But I don’t see it as a big asteroid landing on the field of philanthropy as some of the hyperbole around this has indicated.”

The foundation, which set a new standard for private philanthropy in the 21st century, has given away nearly $55 billion, giving the couple instant access to heads of state and leaders of industry.

The couple’s prominence has also brought a fair share of scrutiny, throwing a spotlight on Mr. Gates’s robust defense of intellectual property rights — in this case, specific to vaccine patents — even in a time of extreme crisis, as well as the larger question of how unelected wealthy individuals can play such an outsize part on the global stage.

“In a civil society that is democratic, one couple’s personal choices shouldn’t lead university research centers, service providers and nonprofits to really question whether they’ll be able to continue,” said Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences.

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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.

  • Futures for the S&P 500 were lower Tuesday, while European shares were mainly higher. Travel and hospitality-related companies, bolstered by the news about the European Union laying out its plans for welcoming back visitors, were gaining.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.3 percent, and the FTSE 100 in Britain was 0.8 percent higher. The Dax, in Germany, lost 0.2 percent.

  • Oil prices rose as Saudi Aramco joined other oil companies in reporting strong profits for the last quarter. Brent crude gained 1.9 percent, to $68.82 a barrel. It has not closed above $70 barrel since late 2018. West Texas Intermediate gained 1.7 percent, to $65.60 a barrel.

  • Infineon, a big producer of semiconductors in Germany, reported “booming” demand for chips as it posted strong quarterly results. But the company warned of continuing supply chain problems and its shares fell.

  • “Demand greatly exceeds supply for the majority of applications,” said the chief executive, Reinhard Ploss, in a statement. Even though its plants are running at “full speed,” he continued, the company still faced supply chain bottlenecks. “We are doing everything we can to provide our customers with the best possible support in this situation.”

  • The world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Aramco, reported a 30 percent rise in net income in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago.

  • The company is joining other energy producers that reported strong earnings this quarter as oil prices continued their recovery from last year’s collapse.

  • “The momentum provided by the global economic recovery has strengthened energy markets,” Aramco’s chief executive, Amin H. Nasser, said in a statement. “Given the positive signs for energy demand in 2021, there are more reasons to be optimistic that better days are coming.”

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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Tech Firm Bars Political Discussion at Work: Live Updates

a blog post. “You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target.”

Basecamp’s move echoes a ban on talking politics at Coinbase, which was enacted in September by its chief executive, Brian Armstrong, prompting dozens of employees to leave the company.

The timing of these announcements is probably no accident, following a surge of employee activism and corporate action on social issues. Big companies like Amazon, BlackRock and Google took a stand this month against Republican efforts to enact restrictive election rules in almost every state.

Surveys suggest that a large portion of employees believe that the companies they work for should speak up on social issues. The new policy at Basecamp, which has about 60 employees, is one of the least hedged signals yet that the feeling is not always mutual.

Both bosses framed their new policies as a way to remove distractions and carved out exceptions for issues they consider relevant to their businesses. “If there is a bill introduced around crypto, we may engage,” Mr. Armstrong wrote last year, while one of Basecamp’s co-founders, David Hansson, wrote on Monday that the company might engage on “topics like antitrust, privacy, employee surveillance.”

The moves, in both cases, were met with a mix of admiration and criticism, with supporters saying the policies are good for business and detractors arguing that choosing to abstain from politics is inherently political and probably impossible to enforce.

In addition to discouraging politics talk on work platforms, Basecamp said it would end “paternalistic benefits” such as a fitness reimbursement and education allowances (it plans to give employees an equivalent amount of cash instead), ban committees and stop “lingering or dwelling on past decisions.”

Basecamp’s changes are notable because its founders have long evangelized the company’s worker-friendly culture in books and blog posts.

Mr. Armstrong of Coinbase applauded Basecamp on Twitter, calling it “another mission focused company.” “Who will be next?” he asked.

The City of London, a financial hub, is seeking ways to draw people as a shift toward flexible work keeps some professionals away.
Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The City of London, the square mile in the center of London that is the heart of Britain’s financial and legal services, once had more than half a million daily commuters bustling through its streets. But the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era of working from home that risks leaving the area permanently depleted. The City of London Corporation, its governing body, is looking for ways to revive it.

One way it hopes to use vacant space is to create at least 1,500 new homes by 2030, the corporation said, as part of a five-year plan announced on Tuesday. The district, which has several train stations, has primarily been a commuter destination, with only about 8,000 residents.

The City, as it is called, is particularly vulnerable to the trend of flexible working. It hosts hundreds of large companies that have been keen to offer their employees latitude in how often they work from the office. Last summer, during England’s brief easing of pandemic restrictions, the City’s streets were deserted while the rest of London and other towns boomed with activity.

“Firms have told us that they remain committed to retaining a central London hub, but how they operate will inevitably change to reflect postpandemic trends, such as hybrid and flexible working,” said Catherine McGuinness, the policy chair at the City of London Corporation.

In New York, developers are also working out how to repurpose office buildings in Lower Manhattan into housing.

While the City tries to lure back its usual workers and business visitors, it will also try to become more appealing to workers outside of financial and professional services. It is looking into offering cheaper, long-term rent on office space for creative professionals in empty or infrequently used spaces.

And it hopes to attract more tourists, with events, shopping and cultural activities outside of office hours. “We will explore opportunities to enable and animate the City’s weekend and nighttime offer,” the report said. “Bold programming of major events may include traffic-free Saturdays or Sundays in summer or an all-night celebration.”

Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan Chase chief executive, has spoken of what he deems as “serious weaknesses” with remote work.
Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase is opening its offices to all employees in the United States on May 17, subject to a 50 percent occupancy limit, according to an internal memo sent Tuesday obtained by The New York Times.

The bank, which employs more than 240,000 globally, told its office-based employees that the opening comes as the bank prepares itself — and its workers — for a more formal return to office at the start of July. (Employees of retail bank branches have been working on location throughout the pandemic.)

“We are welcoming more of you back next month so that you can get comfortable being back in an office environment,” the bank’s six-member operating committee wrote in the memo. “Understanding this may take some time, we would fully expect by early July, all U.S.-based employees will be back in the office on a consistent rotational schedule, also subject to our current 50 percent occupancy cap.”

Companies have been weighing how, and when, to bring workers back to the office. Microsoft opened its headquarters to employees last month, while still encouraging those who want to to stay at home. IBM created a “reorientation guide” for employees coming back to the office.

“We know that many of you are excited to come back, but we also know that for some, the idea of coming in on a regular basis is a change through which you’ll have to manage,” JPMorgan’s operating committee said in the email.

The finance industry, which places a premium on in-person interaction and training, has been among the most eager to get employees in back in the office. Investment banks have also struggled to keep up morale as record-breaking volumes of work has led some junior analysts to warn of burnout made worse by isolation and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional lives that comes from working at home.

JPMorgan’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, said in a recent letter to shareholders that there were “serious weaknesses” from remote work, including delayed decision making and a barriers to learning and creativity. He also acknowledged that the pandemic had accelerated trends like hybrid and flexible work policies, such that “working from home will become more permanent in American business.”

The bank continues to move forward with construction of its huge new Manhattan headquarters, which is expected to open in 2024 and house 12,000 to 14,000 employees.

“We are extremely excited about the building’s public spaces, state-of the-art technology, and health and wellness amenities, among many other features,” Mr. Dimon wrote.

In a new filing, Fox said its coverage of Smartmatic was part of its overall reporting on claims made by former President Donald Trump.
Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

In the months since the election tech company Smartmatic sued Fox News and three of its anchors, the two companies have engaged in a prehearing back-and-forth that continued Monday when Fox filed briefs in support of a previous motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

In its defamation suit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court on Feb. 4, Smartmatic accused Fox and the anchors Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro of promoting falsehoods about the company and widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Shortly after the suit was filed, Fox canceled Mr. Dobbs’s program on Fox Business and filed a motion for a dismissal of the suit, arguing that the claims of electoral fraud broadcast on Fox News and Fox Business were newsworthy and handled fairly. Smartmatic replied on April 12, with a brief stating that the three Fox anchors had played along as their guests promoted election-related conspiracy theories.

In its latest volley, Fox asserted that its coverage of Smartmatic was part of its overall reporting on a challenge of the election outcome based on claims made by former President Donald J. Trump.

“Smartmatic asks this court to become the first in history to hold the press liable for reporting allegations made by a sitting president and his lawyers, and to break that barrier in the context of one of the most newsworthy events imaginable: a contested presidential election,” Fox said in its filing on Monday. “This court should decline that First-Amendment-defying request.”

Representatives for Smartmatic declined to comment.

Smartmatic has argued that the Fox hosts knew the on-air statements about the company were not accurate. If a court determines that Smartmatic is a public figure, Smartmatic’s lawyers will have to show that Fox acted with “actual malice” in its treatment of the company.

The Fox briefs filed on Monday argued that Smartmatic, which is seeking $2.7 billion in damages, had not demonstrated that its channels or its anchors acted with malice, showing only that the three Fox hosts had not investigated the claims made on their programs.

The Fox brief said that Smartmatic’s “allegations largely boil down to accusations of mere ‘failure to investigate.’”

It added, “Seeking to compensate for the weakness of its allegations, Smartmatic emphasizes their volume. But a stack of inadequate allegations is still inadequate.”

The briefs filed by Fox on Monday are likely to be the last in its case against Smartmatic before a court considers the matter. A hearing date has not been scheduled. Another election technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, sued Fox for defamation in March.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., then vice president, at a 2015 event calling for a $15 minimum wage in New York.
Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday raising the minimum wage paid by federal contractors to $15 an hour, the latest in a set of ambitious pro-labor moves at the outset of his administration.

The new minimum is expected to take effect next year and is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of workers, according to a White House document. The current minimum is $10.95 under an order that President Barack Obama signed in 2014. Like that order, the new one will require that the new minimum wage rise with inflation.

White House economists believed the increase would not lead to significant job losses, a finding in line with recent research on the minimum wage, and that it was unlikely to cost taxpayers more money, two administration officials said in a call with reporters. They argued that the higher wage would lead to greater productivity and lower turnover.

The White House also contends that although the number of workers directly affected by the increase is relatively small as a share of the economy, the executive order will indirectly raise wages beyond federal contractors by forcing other employers to bid up pay as they compete for workers.

Several cities have a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, and several states have laws that will raise their minimum wage to at least that level in the coming years. There is so far little evidence on how a $15 minimum wage affects employment in lower-cost areas of such states.

Two years ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but the legislation has faced long odds in the Senate. Mr. Biden sought to incorporate such a measure in his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package so that it could pass on a simple majority vote, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it could not be included.

Mr. Biden’s executive order will also eliminate the so-called tipped minimum wage for federal contractors, which currently allows employers to pay tipped workers $7.65 an hour as long as their tips put them over the regular minimum wage. Under the new minimum, all workers must be paid at least $15 an hour.

The order will technically begin a rule-making process that is expected to conclude by early next year. The wage will be incorporated into new contracts and existing contracts as they are extended.

Traffic in Philadelphia last month. BP reported higher earnings on Tuesday, and said it expected demand for oil would continue to recover from the pandemic.
Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

BP reported a sharply higher profit for the first quarter of 2021 on Tuesday, signaling that after a grim 2020, oil companies’ earnings are recovering along with demand for their products.

BP said that underlying replacement cost profit, the metric most closely watched by analysts, was $2.6 billion, up from $791 million in the period year earlier. The London giant said that the price it received for its oil in the quarter was up more than 20 percent. BP described its trading and marketing of natural gas, where prices also increased, as “exceptionally strong.”

Citing strong economic growing in China and the United States, BP said that it expected the oil market to continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Bernard Looney, the chief executive, has said he wants to use the cash from oil and gas operations to finance a shift toward electric power and other clean energy.

In the first quarter, the plan seemed to work well. The company raked in about $10.9 billion, a sum that included revenue from sales of fossil fuel businesses, among them a stake in a gas field in Oman. Because of divestments, BP’s oil production fell by 22 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

At the same time, BP expanded into the offshore wind business. It entered into a partnership with Equinor, the Norwegian energy company that is developing wind farms off the East Coast of the United States, and is acquiring offshore wind acreage off Britain at what some in the industry considered high prices.

BP also said that, having met debt reduction targets, it would resume a program of buying back shares, a way to increase the price of BP stock; it had not bought back shares since the first quarter of last year, as its business was battered by the pandemic. In the second quarter the company plans to spend $500 million on such purchases.

Last summer, BP also cut its dividend for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago, to 5.25 cents a share. The dividend will remain at that level, the company said.

BP said it could generate a surplus with oil prices above $45 a barrel. Lately, prices have been considerably higher, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at about $66 a barrel.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

A Supreme Court case argued on Monday has created strange bedfellows, which did not escape the attention of the justices.

The matter pits charities against the State of California over donor disclosure requirements, and it’s a dispute over a seemingly small technical issue that some say has serious implications for political donations. It has turned groups that are often on opposite sides of political fights into — tentative — allies, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting the petitioners, the Koch-backed charity Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted. The foundation argues that California violates the constitutionally protected right to anonymous association by collecting major donor data and failing to protect it (the state’s website has experienced security breaches). Justice Kavanaugh cited a filing from the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Education Fund and others who all agreed that “a critical corollary of the freedom to associate is the right to maintain the confidentiality of one’s associations.”

“Certainly, we don’t see eye to eye with the petitioners in this case on every issue,” Brian Hauss of the A.C.L.U. said at a news conference after arguments at the court. In this case, the A.C.L.U. standing with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation because of what it calls California’s “systemic incompetence” in failing to protect nonpublic data. Legally speaking, however, it recognized a distinction between public disclosure and nonpublic disclosure. In other words, the brief didn’t argue for a general extension of anonymity.

Opponents say this is a case about “dark money.” Democratic senators argued in a brief that the foundation is advancing the matter as a way to make it easier for special interests to influence politics with untraceable money. “This case is really a stalking horse for campaign finance disclosure laws,” Justice Stephen Breyer said. A ruling is expected in June.

Shares in UPS were rising in premarket trading after the delivery company released first-quarter results that showed consolidated operating profit up 158 percent compared with a year ago.
Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
  • U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors digested more company earnings reports and awaited the Federal Reserve’s next policy decision on Wednesday. The S&P 500 drifted between gains and losses soon after the start of trading.

  • Tesla fell 2 percent even after the electric-car maker posted a quarterly profit of $438 million, its highest ever. UPS rose 11 percent after the parcel delivery company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.

  • Alphabet, Microsoft and Visa are among companies also reporting earnings on Tuesday after the market closes.

  • By last Friday, a quarter of companies in the S&P 500 had published their first-quarter results, with 84 percent of them reporting earnings that were better than expected, according to FactSet. If this trend holds, it would be the highest percentage since FactSet started tracking the metric in 2008.

  • Most European stock indexes fell. The Stoxx Europe 600 declined nearly 0.3 percent.

  • HSBC rose 2 percent, becoming the best performer in the FTSE 100, after the bank said its pretax profits rose nearly 80 percent in the first quarter compared with last year. As the global economic outlook has improved, the bank released $435 million it had set aside for loan losses.

  • UBS dropped 3 percent after the Swiss bank said it lost $774 million in the first quarter from the collapse of the American hedge fund Archegos Capital Management.

Talasheia Dedmon enrolled her son Braylon in a college savings account through SEED for Oklahoma Kids, an effort to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets.
Credit…September Dawn Bottoms for The New York Times

An experiment called SEED for Oklahoma Kids, or SEED OK, is one of a growing number of efforts by cities and states — governed by Democrats and Republicans alike — to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets

SEED OK is a far-reaching research project begun in Oklahoma 14 years ago to study whether creating savings accounts containing $1,000 for newborns would improve their graduation rates and their chances of going to college or trade school years later, Patricia Cohen reports for The New York Times.

Research about the Oklahoma project published this month by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which created SEED OK, found that families that had been given accounts were more college-focused and contributed more of their own money than those that hadn’t been. And the effects are strongest among low-income families.

The 1,300-plus children who were chosen at random to be given accounts in 2007 had an average of $3,243 saved by the end of 2019. Among the control group — another 1,300 children who were randomly selected to take part but were not given any money — only 4 percent had an account.

Proposals at the federal level to establish savings accounts at birth, for college, homes, business or retirement savings, go back to the 1990s. Canada, Israel, South Korea and Singapore have established versions of the idea. Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Illinois are among the states that have created programs.

Technical problems marred the Small Business Association’s first attempt at accepting applications for the grant program.
Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

After months of delays and technical problems, the federal government finally opened a $16 billion grant fund for music club operators, theater owners and others in the live-event business on Monday.

Thousands of people hit the website for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program the moment it began accepting applications. Speed mattered: The money — awarded on a first-come-first-served basis — is widely expected to run out fast.

One applicant posted a screenshot showing that he was in line behind more than 6,000 others waiting for their turn to apply. “Hunger Games” memes — “May the odds be ever in your favor” — popped up in Twitter posts from desperate business owners venting their collective anxiety.

But this time, the system stayed up. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the agency had received 6,040 grant applications, according to Andrea Roebker, an agency spokeswoman. Nearly 8,400 more had been created but not yet been completed.

Sarah Elger, chief executive of Pseudonym Productions, an events production company in Philadelphia, successfully submitted her application 16 minutes after she got access to the system.

“It was such a relief,” Ms. Elger said. She was one of thousands of business owners who had their hopes dashed earlier this month, when the Small Business Administration, the agency that runs the program, tried — and failed — to start taking applications. After four hours, the agency took the system offline for what turned into weeks of technology repair work.

Ms. Elger estimated that she uploaded more than 100 documents for her application, which she and her husband, Ricky Brigante, spent months preparing. They knew they would have to move quickly once the application website opened.

“We turned it into a game,” Ms. Elger said. “We had lots of folders on the desktop and raced through the uploads.”

The Small Business Administration said it would immediately start reviewing the applications, which are intended to yield grants for 45 percent of applicants’ prepandemic gross earned annual revenue, up to $10 million.

“We recognize the urgency,” said Barb Carson, the deputy associate administrator of the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance. “With venue operators in danger of closing, every day that passes by is a day that these businesses cannot afford.”

The program, created in the $900 billion economic support package that President Donald J. Trump approved in December, is the first large direct-to-businesses grant program the Small Business Administration has ever run. The process, for both the agency and applicants, has for months been fraught with complexity and confusion.

John Russell, the executive director of the Montford Park Players, a nonprofit community theater group in Asheville, N.C., submitted his application on Monday afternoon. He is relying on the grant to help cover his group’s return to the stage.

After a full year of hosting only virtual events, the group is planning to open its first full in-person production, the Shakespeare play “The Comedy of Errors,” next month.

“We figured people are in the mood for comedy,” Mr. Russell said. The show’s actors are volunteers, but the production creates paid jobs for its director, stage manager, lighting designer, food vendors and others, as well as for the theater troupe’s support staff.

The Small Business Administration is also preparing to open a second grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion support fund for bars, restaurants and food trucks that was created in last month’s $1.9 trillion relief bill. That program is planning a seven-day test to help the agency avoid the kind of technical problems that plagued the venue program.

Credit…Max Guther

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide says that what tech leaders believe and do matters. But when we focus on the chief executives, we sometimes neglect to recognize that regular people, not poobahs, make tech as we experience it.

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After a Glitch, a Relief Fund for Live Events Will Try Again: Live Updates

a technical malfunction prevented the site from accepting any applications.

Now, the Small Business Administration, the agency that runs the program, plans to try again on Saturday.

The agency’s announcement late Thursday night of its timing for restarting the program was immediately met with a deluge of criticism. “People have weekend plans, need child care, have to pay overtime for weekends. This is SO inconsiderate,” one typical reply tweet said.

Because the money will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis — and is widely expected to run out fast — many applicants feel pressured to submit their paperwork as soon as the application system opens.

That will be a particular obstacle for Jewish business owners who observe the Sabbath, which prohibits them from using electronics on Saturdays before sundown. “I’m in shock,” said Dani Zoldan, the owner of Stand Up NY, a comedy club in Manhattan. “There are many Sabbath observers in the performing arts industry. How did they not think through this decision before making this announcement?”

Mr. Zoldan, who is Jewish, hopes the agency will reconsider its decision. He said he would wait until after sunset to submit his application. “It’s been a mess on so many levels. I feel like they’re torturing us,” he said.

The Small Business Administration has not yet said what time on Saturday it plans to open its application portal. The agency said it would provide further details on Friday.

Homes typically sold in 18 days in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Credit…Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

The median sale price of an existing home in the United States was $329,100 in March, up 17.2 percent from a year earlier, when a 3 to 5 percent annual increase is considered healthy, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors, a trade group.

Nationwide, housing inventory was at 1.07 million units at the end of March, just above its record low of 1.03 million the prior month and down 28.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the group.

Sales of new single-family houses soared in March a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.021 million, the Census Bureau reported on Friday. It was the highest level since 2006.

As a result, homes typically sold in 18 days, a record speed. Normally, 60 days is typical, Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, told Stefanos Chen of The New York Times.

When the housing market peaks will depend largely on where you live and how the pandemic continues to reorder buyer priorities, but it will hinge on two trends: rising mortgage rates and incredibly tight inventory in some markets, which will likely keep demand strong through the rest of 2021, even as price growth moderates, several analysts said.

In Manhattan, where commercial real estate was battered and home buyers fanned outward to surrounding suburbs in search of affordability and more space, the sales market fell off at the beginning of the pandemic but appears to have turned the corner.

“The rate at which homes are selling nationally is not sustainable, but in New York, the uptick is just getting started,” said Nancy Wu, an economist for StreetEasy, a listing website.

In the week ending April 11, there were 783 new signed contracts citywide, the highest since the company began tracking weekly pending sales in 2019, when the peak was 491 contracts, she said.

Preparations for the Academy Awards last year, when viewership was down 20 percent from 2019. It is expected to be even lower this year.
Credit…Josh Haner/The New York Times

ABC has sold out its advertising inventory for the pandemic-delayed Academy Awards on Sunday, with companies like Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spending an estimated $2 million for each 30-second spot, according to media buyers — only a slight decline from last year’s pricing even though the television audience is expected to be sharply smaller.

Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, which sells ads on Disney-owned ABC, announced the sellout. She declined to comment on pricing or say how much revenue Disney will generate from the telecast. Last year, the Oscars pulled in about $129 million across 56 ads, according to Kantar Media, a research firm. (A red-carpet preshow attracted $16.3 million across 42 ads.)

Additional revenue comes from “integrations” and other sponsorships. For the first time, for instance, ABC will have a sponsor for closed-captioning (Google). The upshot: ABC’s revenue for the telecast is estimated to have declined only 3 to 5 percent from last year — a tiny drop compared with the expected 50 to 60 percent decline in viewing.

The ceremony is “one of those big cultural moments,” Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s chief creative officer, said of the company’s decision to buy ad space. “The broadcast this year will be a bit different,” he acknowledged, “but the event will still be an impactful one and an important one for us to show up in.”

Last year, about 23.6 million people watched “Parasite” win the Academy Award for best picture, according to Nielsen data. That was a 20 percent drop from the previous year and a record low. On Sunday, nine million to 12 million people are expected to tune in.

Audiences have been turning away from awards telecasts for years, but ratings have nose-dived during the pandemic. Without live audiences, the shows have been drained of their energy. Big studios have also postponed major movies, leaving this year’s awards scene to downbeat art films.

ABC does not guarantee an audience size to Oscar advertisers, thus removing any potential for so-called make-goods — additional commercial time at a later date — if ratings tumble.

ABC has been able to keep ad rates high in part because of the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscars night is a shadow of its former self — it attracted 57 million viewers in 1998 — but still pulls in one of the largest audiences on broadcast television, certainly for a nonsports telecast. New advertisers this year include Apartments.com and Freshpet dog and cat food. Expedia and Adidas have bought commercial time to introduce new campaigns.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Ms. Ferro said, citing “the quantity, the caliber and the diversity of the advertisers in the show.”

A bitcoin ATM in an Istanbul shopping mall. Many Turks have turned to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation.
Credit…Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

A cryptocurrency exchange in Turkey suspended operations this week amid accusations of fraud, freezing an estimated $2 billion in investors’ money, and authorities said they were seeking the company’s founder.

Turkish authorities raided offices in Istanbul associated with Thodex, a cryptocurrency trading platform, on Friday morning and arrested more than 60 people, the private news agency Demiroren reported.

Thodex’s 27-year-old founder, Faruk Fatih Ozer, left Turkey for Albania on Tuesday, Turkish authorities said, who added that they were seeking his extradition.

The cryptocurrency firm has nearly 400,000 active users whose accounts were nominally worth a total of $2 billion, according to Oguz Evren Kilic, a lawyer in Ankara who is representing Thodex investors. If their money has gone missing, the losses would add another element of instability to Turkey’s already shaky economy.

Living standards in Turkey suffer from double-digit inflation and a wobbly currency. Though cryptocurrencies are inherently risky, many Turks have turned to them as a way to protect their savings as the Turkish lira lost more than one-quarter of its value against the dollar in the last year.

Last week, Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases, citing the “significant risks” involved.

Thodex had promoted itself with ads that featured female Turkish celebrities dressed in bright red outfits and draped over a highly polished black automobile.

“For sure the economic situation has an affect on this,” Mr. Kilic, the lawyer, said in an interview. “In such times of crisis, people want to diminish the loss of value of the assets they have.”

The sagging lira has raised the cost of imported goods and fueled inflation, leading to a steady erosion in living standards. In March, the annual rate of inflation was 16 percent, according to official figures, which many economists say understate the true rate.

In a statement on Thodex’s website, Mr. Ozer, the firm’s founder, insisted he had left the country merely to consult with foreign investors and would return. He said the accusations were a “smear campaign” and blamed the shutdown of the trading platform on a cyberattack.

Thodex “has not victimized anyone,” he said, adding that only about 30,000 accounts “have a suspicious situation.”

Mr. Kilic noted that none of Thodex’s customers could gain access to their accounts. “If you cannot access the account, then you are a victim,” he said.

On Twitter, people reacted to a statement from Thodex with crying face emojis. “There are people who trust and invest everything in you,” one user wrote.

“Companies are reading the writing on the wall,” said Thomas DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee for the state’s public pension fund.
Credit…Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

The riot at the Capitol in January prompted a reckoning on corporate political donations that will be a prominent feature of proxy season, with many shareholder proposals demanding greater disclosure of company spending. And shareholders already seem to be meeting with more success than in previous years, the DealBook newsletter reports.

“Companies are reading the writing on the wall,” said Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee for the state’s public pension fund. “Political and social polarization are bad for their business, and they need to decide if political donations are worth the risk.”

“Time will tell if their increased attention to these issues is lip service or if it represents a sincere change in corporate culture,” Mr. DiNapoli said. “At a minimum, investors need disclosure of this spending.”

New York’s public pension fund is the third-largest in the United States, and since 2010, it has filed more than 155 shareholder proposals on political spending, winning more than 40 adoptions or agreements, including from Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and PepsiCo. Three of five resolutions it has advanced this year have already been withdrawn, with the companies agreeing to make changes without putting them to a vote. That’s a 60 percent hit rate, and companies that wouldn’t engage before are now at least responsive, a spokesman for the fund said.

The fund got CMS Energy, a Michigan public utility, to agree to be more transparent about political spending, DealBook is first to report; First Energy, an Ohio utility, and the multinational brewer Molson Coors also agreed to more disclosure.

“Companies are now expected to have core values — almost personalities,” said Bruce Freed, the president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit organization that teams up with shareholders on proposals. Recent agreements, like the ones brokered by Mr. DiNapoli, are a “strong indication” that corporations are feeling “real pressure,” he said. Nine of 30 companies (including those noted above) have agreed this year to provide more disclosure on political donations. Last year, eight of 40 companies facing similar proposals agreed to act instead of putting the question to shareholders in a vote.

The Capitol riot “raised the stakes,” Mr. Freed said, and the pressure on companies has not relented since.

U.S. stocks rose at the start of trading on Friday, following a drop on Thursday after reports that the Biden administration was considering nearly doubling capital gains taxes and other taxes on the rich to fund child care and education projects.

Most European stock indexes were lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.5 percent even as data showed an improvement in manufacturing and services industries in April across the eurozone.

The S&P 500 opened 0.3 percent higher, after a 0.9 percent drop on Thursday. For the week, the benchmark index had fallen 1.2 percent, its first weekly decline in five weeks.

Volkswagen’s new electric ID.4. The company is investing $80 billion to develop E.V.s.
Credit…Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

As many as 100 new electric vehicle models are coming to showrooms by 2025 as automakers insist we’re “this close” to an E.V. tipping point.

But outside of Tesla, the American record for sales of an electric vehicles is the mere 30,200 Leafs that Nissan sold in 2014. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 annual buyers, compared with roughly 250,000 sales last year for all E.V.s combined — 200,000 of which were Teslas, Lawrence Ulrich reports for The New York Times.

Globally, Volkswagen is poised to pass Tesla as the world’s biggest electric vehicle seller as early as next year, according to Deutsche Bank, with Europe and China its key markets. In the United States, where the brand remains an underdog, VW and other legacy automakers are concentrating fire on the sales fortress of compact S.U.V.s.

The latest electric-S.U.V. hopefuls to reach showrooms are the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The Nissan Ariya, BMW iX and Cadillac Lyriq are set to arrive between late 2021 and next March.

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Canadian Rivals in Bidding War for U.S. Railroad: Live Updates

put forward last month by a rival railroad operator, Canadian Pacific.

The competing offers underline the riches expected to come from trade flows after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was passed into law last year. A merger with either suitor would create a railroad line that stretches from Canada to Mexico. In the already consolidated railroad industry, few lines are left to bid on — let alone deals that will be approved by regulators.

Canadian National said in a letter to Kansas City board that the company had spent “considerable time and resources analyzing a potential combination of our two companies.” It argues its offer represents “an unparalleled opportunity to create a premier railway for the 21st century.”

The offer gives Kansas City Southern a valuation 21 percent higher than Canadian Pacific’s bid, which had been agreed on by the companies’ boards.

For Canadian National, the proposal would be a chance to stop its smaller domestic competitor from gaining significant scale. Unlike Canadian Pacific, Canadian National already has track agreements extending to the Gulf of Mexico.

The rival bid is one further challenge to Canadian Pacific’s offer, which was already facing regulatory scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Justice has urged the Surface Transportation Board — which must approve the offer — to examine the deal under tough industry guidelines put in place in 2001 and expressed concern over its use of a voting trust that would it allow it close the deal even before getting regulatory approval.

Canadian Pacific has argued that there should be no regulatory trouble, given the two railroads have no overlap and in some cases create new markets. It said its smaller size compared with other major North American railroads should exempt it from the guidelines.

A Louis Vuitton store in Paris. The retailer’s parent company helped set up a digital ledger that provides a history of luxury goods bought by consumers.
Credit…Charles Platiau/Reuters

Three rival names in the European luxury sector have established a new blockchain consortium that will allow shoppers to track the provenance of their purchases and authenticate goods.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which first unveiled plans for a global blockchain-based system in 2019, will be joined by Prada Group and Compagnie Financière Richemont in the Aura Blockchain Consortium, a nonprofit group that will promote the use of a single blockchain solution open to all luxury brands worldwide.

Many sectors are looking at the possibility of using blockchain, the distributed ledger system that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Because blockchains are unchangeable and decentralized, the data stored on them is trustworthy and secure.

In this case, each product will be given a unique digital code during the manufacturing process that will be recorded on the Aura ledger. When customers make a purchase, they will be given login details to a platform that will provide the history of the product, including its origin, components, environmental and ethical information, proof of ownership, a warranty and care instructions.

Bulgari, Cartier, Hublot, Louis Vuitton and Prada are already using the system, with “advanced conversations” being held with a number of other luxury brands, according to a statement released Tuesday. Participating luxury brands pay an annual licensing fee and a volume fee. Aura, based in Geneva, was developed in partnership with Microsoft and ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company in New York.

“The Aura Consortium represents an unprecedented cooperation in the luxury industry,” said Cartier’s chief executive, Cyrille Vigneron, adding that he invited “the entire profession” to join the consortium.

“The luxury industry creates timeless pieces and must ensure that these rigorous standards will endure and remain in trustworthy hands,” he said.

“Businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base,” Andi Owen, chief executive of Herman Miller.
Credit…Emily Rose Bennett for The New York Times

Just as workers across the country begin to return to the office, two of the largest furniture design companies will merge.

Herman Miller agreed to acquire its rival Knoll in a cash and stock deal valued at $1.8 billion.

The merger combines two furniture giants that share a modern design element. Herman Miller, best known for its Eames chair and ottoman, and Knoll for its Barcelona chair, together hope to capture an even bigger share of the renovations occurring at home and in offices as many companies and employees look to a future of splitting their time between the two in the post-pandemic world.

“As distributed working models become the new normal for companies, businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base,” Andi Owen, president and chief executive of Herman Miller, said in a statement Monday. “At the same time, consumers are making significant investments in their homes.”

Based in Zeeland, Mich., Herman Miller traces its roots to 1905 when it began selling bedroom suites. During the depression, when the company was struggling to survive, its then-chief executive, Dirk Jan De Pree, met the designer Gilbert Rohde, who persuaded him to move away from traditional design and toward more modern design and the office furniture market. In 1942, Herman Miller introduced the Executive Office Group, designed by Mr. Rohde, that featured modular pieces that could be configured in different ways.

After Mr. Rohde died in 1944, Mr. De Pree worked with a range of designers, including Charles Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi. The Eames Executive Chair, a plush, padded, leather chair that was released in 1961 and commissioned for the ultramodern lobby of the Time Life building in New York, can be purchased today for $4,895.

Likewise, Knoll’s history in furniture dates back more than 80 years when the husband-and-wife founders, Hans and Florence Knoll, embraced the creativity of the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany, and later, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., teaming up with a variety of architects, sculptors and designers.

After the expected close of the transaction later this year, Ms. Owen will become the president and chief executive of the combined company. Andrew Cogan, Knoll’s chairman and chief executive, will depart after 30 years with the company.

Journalists watch a screen showing China's president, Xi Jinping, delivering a speech during the opening of the Boao Forum on Tuesday.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, called for cooperation and openness to an audience of business and financial leaders on Tuesday. He also had some warnings, presumably for the United States.

Speaking electronically to a largely virtual audience at China’s annual Boao Forum, Mr. Xi warned that the world should not allow “unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world.”

The audience included American business leaders including Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla, as well as two Wall Street financiers, Ray Dalio and Stephen Schwarzman. Long a platform for China to show off its economic prowess and leadership, the Boao Forum is held annually on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. (Last year’s was canceled amid the pandemic.)

In recent years, Mr. Xi has used the forum to portray himself as an advocate of free trade and globalization, calling for openness even as many in the global business community have become increasingly vocal about growing restrictions in China’s own domestic market.

On Tuesday, he also reiterated his earlier message opposing efforts by countries to weaken their economic interdependence with China.

“Attempts to ‘erect walls’ or ‘decouple’” would “hurt others’ interests without benefiting oneself,” Mr. Xi said, in what appeared to be a reference to the United States and the Biden administration’s plans to support domestic high-tech manufacturing in the United States.

The White House held a meeting with business executives last week to discuss a global chip shortage and plan for semiconductor “supply chain resilience.” Speaking to executives from Google, Intel and Samsung, Mr. Biden said “China and the rest of the world is not waiting, and there’s no reason why Americans should wait.”

China is pursuing its own program for self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing.

Mr. Xi also pledged to continue to open the Chinese economy for foreign businesses, a promise that big Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have clung to even as foreign executives complain that the broader business landscape has become more challenging.

The display at a crytocurrency ATM in Zurich, Switzerland. Prices of cryptocurrencies and related stocks slipped lower on Tuesday.
Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency started as a joke, now has a market value that can’t be laughed at: more than $50 billion. On Tuesday, traders of Dogecoin were trying to push up the price to coincide with 4/20, or April 20, a date associated with smoking cannabis.

On Twitter, the hashtags #DogeDay and #Doge420 were trending. Dogecoin’s price, which has surged lately, fluctuated between gains and losses on Tuesday, trading at about 40 cents, according to Coindesk. A month ago, it was about 5 cents.

The ripple effects of the boom in crypto markets are being felt far and wide. Coinbase, the cryptocurrencies exchange that went public last week and is helping the industry move into the mainstream, has a market value of $66 billion. Central banks have ramped up plans to explore digital currencies to offer people a secure alternative to cryptocurrencies, which are out of their control. On Monday, the Bank of England was the latest to announce it was looking into a central bank digital currency.

On Tuesday morning, prices of cryptocurrencies and related stocks slipped. Bitcoin fell 1 percent, trading just above $55,000. Shares in Coinbase and Riot Blockchain were slightly lower in premarket trading.

Exxon wants to capture carbon from industrial plants along the Houston Ship Channel and pipe it offshore.
Credit…Bronte Wittpenn for The New York Times

HOUSTON — Under growing pressure from investors to address climate change, Exxon Mobil on Monday proposed a $100 billion project to capture the carbon emissions of big industrial plants in the Houston area and bury them deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Exxon, the largest U.S. oil company, wants to create a profit-making business out of the capture of carbon emitted by petrochemical plants and other industries. But its plan would require significant government support and intervention, including the introduction of a price or tax on carbon dioxide emissions, an idea that has failed to attract enough support in Congress in the past.

The company already captures carbon, which it injects into older fields to produce more oil. Exxon now wants to use its expertise to store the carbon dioxide generated by other industries. But without a price on emitting carbon, many businesses would have little financial incentive to pay Exxon to capture and store their carbon.

The Obama administration failed to enact a cap-and-trade system, which raises costs for polluting companies by forcing them to buy tradable permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. California, the European Union and 11 states in the Northeast use versions of cap-and-trade. Other governments, including British Columbia and Britain, have imposed a per-ton tax on emissions.

Exxon wants to capture carbon from industrial plants along the Houston Ship Channel and pipe it offshore where it would stored up to 6,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico. The effort would be paid for by industry and the government, and would eventually store 100 million tons of carbon annually — equivalent to the emissions of 20 million cars, according to Exxon.

The company has discussed its idea with national and Texas policymakers and Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Exxon’s chief executive, Darren Woods, said in an interview. “They see the opportunity and appeal of this idea,” he said. “The question is, how do you translate the concept into practice?”

Exxon said its proposal complements President Biden’s climate efforts, but it would require the administration to embrace a price on carbon, something it has not done.

“The concept of a price on carbon is critical,” Mr. Woods said. “There has to be a way to incentivize the investment.”

Offshore storage has already gained traction in Europe, where governments have put carbon prices in place and lawmakers are more willing to spend taxpayer money to address climate change.

Mr. Woods said that, given the right policies, carbon capture projects could be a major business for Exxon around the world. “The potential for these markets is very, very large to the extent that demand continues to increase to decarbonize society,” he said.

A used-car dealership in Naperville, Ill. The average price paid for a used car is well above $20,000.
Credit…Nick Carey/Reuters

Last year’s pandemic-induced production delays, combined with a continued shortage of computer chips and other automotive components, have tightened the supply of new models — especially popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

That means it may be challenging to find a new ride with the colors and features you want at a price you can afford, Ann Carrns reports for The New York Times. “It’s harder to get exactly what you want,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. “Don’t expect heavy discounts.”

So if new cars are too expensive, you can just buy a used car, right?

Yes, but deals may be elusive there as well. Fewer people bought new cars last year, so fewer used cars were traded in. And the short supply of new cars is pushing more buyers to consider used cars, raising those prices, analysts say. The average price paid for a used car is well above $20,000, Edmunds says.

On the plus side, if you have a car to trade in, its value is probably higher, especially if it’s a popular model. The average value for trade-ins, including leased cars turned in early, was about $17,000 in March, up from about $14,000 a year earlier, according to Edmunds. The average age of trade-ins was five and a half years.

Various online services, like Kelly Blue Book, TrueCar and Carvana, will supply a trade-in estimate based on your location and your car’s age, mileage and general condition, and offer more tailored appraisals if you provide details like the vehicle identification number. Some even offer to buy your car outright.

Noting the power of digital platforms, Margrethe Vestager, a European Commission official, said in a recent speech that “we need something more to keep that power in check.”
Credit…Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet

Around the world, governments are moving simultaneously to limit the power of tech companies with an urgency and breadth that no single industry had experienced before.

Their motivation varies. In the United States and Europe, it is concern that tech companies are stifling competition, spreading misinformation and eroding privacy; in Russia and elsewhere, it is to silence protest movements and tighten political control; in China, it is some of both.

Nations and tech firms have jockeyed for primacy for years, but the latest actions have pushed the industry to a tipping point that could reshape how the global internet works and change the flows of digital data, Paul Mozur, Cecilia Kang, Adam Satariano and David McCabe report for The New York Times.

“It is unprecedented to see this kind of parallel struggle globally,” said Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan and an antitrust expert. Now, Mr. Crane said, “the same fundamental question is being asked globally: Are we comfortable with companies like Google having this much power?”

Underlying all of the disputes is a common thread: power. The 10 largest tech firms, which have become gatekeepers in commerce, finance, entertainment and communications, now have a combined market capitalization of more than $10 trillion. In gross domestic product terms, that would rank them as the world’s third-largest economy.

Governments agree that tech clout has grown too expansive, but there has been little coordination on solutions. Competing policies have led to geopolitical friction. Last month, the Biden administration said it could put tariffs on countries that imposed new taxes on American tech companies.

Tech companies are fighting back. Amazon and Facebook have created their own entities to adjudicate conflicts over speech and to police their sites. In the United States and in the European Union, the companies have spent heavily on lobbying.

Video

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CreditCredit…By Simoul Alva

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide looks at a health technology nonprofit organization that is turning the approach to vaccination credentials on its head.

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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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Corporate Leaders Urged to Wade Into Debate Over Voting Laws: Live Updates

across the United States. Snap polls during the call suggested that most of the participants favor doing something, though what that would be isn’t yet clear, the DealBook newsletter reports.

The voting-rights debate is fraught for companies, putting them at the center of an increasingly heated partisan battle. Ken Chenault, the former American Express chief, and Ken Frazier, the Merck chief executive, urged the executives on the call to publicly state their support for broader ballot access. The two had gathered 70 fellow Black leaders to sign a letter last month calling on companies to fight bills that restrict voting rights, like the one that recently passed in Georgia.

A survey this month of 1,221 Americans shows support for companies wading into politics. The data, provided by the market research firm Morning Consult, was presented to the business leaders on the call, which was convened by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale. Here are some highlights:

In a separate survey of 2,200 Americans by Morning Consult, 62 percent of “avid” fans said they supported Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Georgia in response to the state’s new voting restrictions. Support was lower among all adults (39 percent), but if the league was worried about the effect on its most dedicated fans, this is an important finding.

Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, which is pushing to expand its health care technology services.
Credit…Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

Microsoft said on Monday that it would buy Nuance Communications, a provider of artificial intelligence and speech-recognition software, for about $16 billion, as it pushes to expand its health care technology services.

In buying Nuance, whose products include Dragon medical transcription software, Microsoft is hoping to bolster its offerings for the fast-growing field of medical computing. The two companies have already partnered on ways to automate the process of transcribing doctors’ conversations with patients and integrating that information into patients’ medical records.

Nuance is also known for providing the speech recognition software behind Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. In recent years, however, it has focused on creating and selling software focused on the medical field.

Under the terms of the deal announced on Monday, Microsoft will pay $56 a share in cash, up 23 percent from Nuance’s closing price on Friday. Including assumed debt, the transaction values Nuance at about $19.7 billion.

The deal is Microsoft’s biggest takeover since its 2015 acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

“Nuance provides the A.I. layer at the health care point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise A.I.,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“We’re not talking about how the caregiving crisis is impacting the learning loss for kids and how it’s disproportionately impacting girls and girls of color,” said Reshma Saujani, the founder of the nonprofit group Girls Who Code.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

A year into the pandemic, there are signs that the American economy is stirring back to life, with a falling unemployment rate and a growing number of people back at work. Even mothers — who left their jobs in droves in the last year in large part because of increased caregiving duties — are slowly re-entering the work force.

But young Americans — particularly women between the ages of 16 and 24 — are living an altogether different reality, with higher rates of unemployment than older adults. And many thousands, possibly even millions, are postponing their education, which can delay their entry into the work force.

New research suggests that the number of “disconnected” young people — defined as those who are in neither school nor the work force — is growing. For young women, experts said, the caregiving crisis may be a major reason many have delayed their education or careers.

Last year, unemployment among young adults jumped to 27.4 percent in April from 7.8 percent in February. The rate was almost double the 14 percent overall unemployment rate in April and was the highest for that age group in the last two decades, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At its peak in April, the unemployment rate for young women over all hit 30 percent — with a 22 percent rate for white women in that age group, 30 percent for Black women and 31 percent for Latina women.

Those numbers are starting to improve as many female-dominated industries that shed jobs at the start of the pandemic, like leisure, retail and education, are adding them back. But roughly 18 percent of the 1.9 million women who left the work force since last February — or about 360,000 — were 16 to 24, according to an analysis of seasonally unadjusted numbers by the National Women’s Law Center.

At the same time, the number of women who have dropped out of some form of education or plan to is on the rise. During the pandemic, more women than men consistently reported that they had canceled plans to take postsecondary classes or planned to take fewer classes, according to a series of surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau since last April.

“We’ve focused in particular on the digital divide and the impact of that on the learning loss for kids,” said Reshma Saujani, founder of the nonprofit group Girls Who Code. “But we’re not talking about how the caregiving crisis is impacting the learning loss for kids and how it’s disproportionately impacting girls and girls of color.”

All of this can have long-term knock-on effects. Even temporary unemployment or an education setback at a young age can drag down someone’s potential for earnings, job stability and even homeownership years down the line, according to a 2018 study by Measure of America that tracked disconnected youth over the course of 15 years.

Decorating a restaurant before its reopening on April 12.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England, the next bounce began.

The pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.

Last March and April, there was an economic slump unlike anything ever seen before when schools, workplaces and businesses abruptly shut. Then a summertime boom, when restrictions eased and the government helped usher people out of their homes with a popular meal-discount initiative called “Eat Out to Help Out.”

Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government has spent about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, the government has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.

By the end of the year, the size of Britain’s economy will be back where it was at the end of 2019, the Bank of England predicts. “The economy is poised like a coiled spring,” Andy Haldane, the central bank’s chief economist said in February. “As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”

Even though a lot of retail spending has shifted online, reopening shop doors will make a huge difference to many businesses.

Daunt Books, a small chain of independent bookstores, was busy preparing to reopen for the past week, including offering a click-and-collect service in all of its stores. Throughout the lockdown, a skeleton crew “worked harder than they’ve ever worked before, just to keep a trickle” of revenue coming in from online and telephone orders, said Brett Wolstencroft, the bookseller’s manager.

“The worst moment for us was December,” Mr. Wolstencroft said, when shops were shut in large parts of the country beginning on Dec. 20. “Realizing you’re losing your last bit of Christmas is exceptionally tough.”

He says he is looking forward to having customers return to browse the shelves and talk to the sellers. “We’d sort of turned ourselves into a warehouse” during the lockdown, he said, “but that doesn’t work for a good bookshop.”

With the likes of pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and hotels shut for months on end, Brits have built up more than £180 billion in excess savings, according to government estimates. That money, once people can get out more, is expected to be the engine of this recovery — even though economists are debating how much of this windfall will end up in the tills of these businesses.

Monday is just one phase of the reopening. Pubs can serve customers only in outdoor seating areas, and less than half, about 15,000, have such facilities. Hotels will also remain closed for at least another month alongside indoor dining, museums and theaters. The next reopening phase is scheduled for May 17.

Over all, two-fifths of hospitality businesses have outside space, said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality, a trade group.

“Monday is a really positive start,” she said. “It helps us to get businesses gradually back open, get staff gradually back off furlough and build up toward the real reopening of hospitality that will be May 17.”

Part of Saudi Aramco’s giant Ras Tanura oil terminal. The company said it would raise $12.4 billion from selling a minority stake in its oil pipeline business.
Credit…Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.

The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.

Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.

Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.

The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.

Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.

The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.

From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.

Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.

Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.

Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said the economy was at an “inflection point.”
Credit…Pool photo by [PLEASE FILL IN]

Global stocks drifted lower from recent highs on Monday ahead of a batch of first-quarter earnings reports. The S&P 500 was set to open 0.4 percent lower, futures indicated, after reaching a record high on Friday.

Most European stocks indexes fell. The Stoxx Europe 600 also declined from a high reached on Friday. The index was 0.2 percent lower on Monday, with energy and airline stocks among the companies that fell the most. The FTSE 100 in Britain was down 0.2 percent.

Stocks have recently been propelled higher by expectations that the global economy will recover strongly from the pandemic this year. Much of the impetus is expected to come from the United States, where trillions of dollars are being spent on various economic recovery packages. On Sunday, Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, said the economy was at an “inflection point” and on the cusp of growing more quickly.

But there are still concerns about the uneven nature of the global recovery. For example, parts of Europe and South America are still struggling to contain outbreaks of the coronavirus and the vaccine rollout is slower than in the United States and Britain.

The deadline to file a 2020 individual federal return and pay any tax owed has been extended to May 17. But some deadlines remain April 15, Ann Carrns reports for The New York Times. So it’s a good idea to double-check deadlines.

Most, but not all, states are following the extended federal deadlines, and a few have adopted even more generous extensions.

But the Internal Revenue Service has not postponed the deadline for making first-quarter 2021 estimated tax payments. This year, the first estimated tax deadline remains April 15. Some members of Congress are pushing for the I.R.S. to reconcile the deadlines, but it’s unclear whether that will happen, with April 15 less than a week away.

Most states have retained their usual deadlines for first-quarter estimated taxes. One exception is Maryland, which moved both its filing deadline and the deadline for first- and second-quarter estimated tax payments to July 15.

During the pandemic, Amazon workers around the country have joined groups and staged walkouts to amplify their concerns about safety and pay.
Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York Times

Even as unionization elections, like the lopsided vote against a union at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., have often proven futile, labor has enjoyed some success over the years with an alternative model — what sociologist of labor calls the “air war plus ground war.”

The idea is to combine workplace actions like walkouts (the ground war) with pressure on company executives through public relations campaigns that highlight labor conditions and enlist the support of public figures (the air war). The Service Employees International Union used the strategy to organize janitors beginning in the 1980s, and to win gains for fast-food workers in the past few years, including wage increases across the industry, Noam Scheiber reports for The New York Times.

“There are almost never any elections,” said Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It’s all about putting pressure on decision makers at the top.”

Labor leaders and progressive activists and politicians said they intended to escalate both the ground war and the air war against Amazon after the failed union election, though some skeptics within the labor movement are likely to resist spending more revenue, which is in the billions of dollars a year but declining.

Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the retail workers union, said in an interview that elections should remain an important part of labor’s Amazon strategy. “I think we opened the door,” he said. “If you want to build real power, you have to do it with a majority of workers.”

But other leaders said elections should be de-emphasized. Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of a Teamsters local in Iowa, said the Teamsters were trying to organize Amazon workers in Iowa so they could take actions like labor stoppages and enlist members of the community — for example, by turning them out for rallies.

Unfair housing, zoning and lending policies have prevented generations of Black families from gathering assets.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

President Biden’s sweeping pandemic relief bill and his multitrillion-dollar initiatives to rebuild infrastructure and increase wages for health care workers are intended to help ease the economic disadvantages facing racial minorities.

Yet academic experts and some policymakers say still more will be needed to repair a yawning racial wealth gap, in which Black households have a mere 12 cents for every dollar that a typical white household holds.

The disparity results in something of a rigged game for Black Americans, in which they start out behind in economic terms at birth and fall further behind during their lives, Patricia Cohen writes in The New York Times. Black graduates, for example, have to take out bigger loans to cover college costs, compelling them to start out in more debt — on average $25,000 more — than their white counterparts.

The persistence of the problem affects the entire economy: A study by McKinsey & Company found that consumption and investment lost because of the gap cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

It also has deep historical roots. African-Americans were left out of the Homestead Act, which distributed land to citizens in the 19th century, and largely excluded from federal mortgage loan support programs in the 20th century.

As a result, the gap is unlikely to shrink substantially without policies that specifically address it, such as government-funded accounts that provide children with assets at birth. Several states have experimented with these programs on a small scale.

“We have very clear evidence that if we create an account of birth for everyone and provide a little more resources to people at the bottom, then all these babies accumulate assets,” said Michael Sherraden, founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which is running an experimental program in Oklahoma. “Kids of color accumulate assets as fast as white kids.”

A QR code in a London cafe, for use with the British government’s contact tracing app.
Credit…Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

An update to the contact tracing app used in England and Wales has been blocked from release by Apple and Google because of privacy concerns, renewing a feud between the British government and the two tech giants about how smartphones can be used to track Covid-19 cases.

In an attempt to trace possible infections, the update to the app would have allowed a person who tests positive for the virus to upload a list of restaurants, shops and other venues they recently visited, data that would be used by health officials for contact tracing. But collecting such location information violates the terms of service that Google and Apple forced governments to agree to in exchange for making contact tracing apps available on their app stores.

The dispute, first reported by the BBC, highlights the supernational role that Apple and Google have played responding to the virus. The companies, which control the software of nearly every smartphone in the world, have forced governments to design contact tracing apps to their privacy specifications, or risk not have the tracking apps made available to the public. The gatekeeper role has frustrated policymakers in Britain, France and elsewhere, who have argued those public health decisions are for governments, not private companies to make.

The release of the app update was to coincide with England’s relaxation of lockdown rules. On Monday, the country began loosening months of Covid-related restrictions, allowing nonessential shops to reopen, and pubs and restaurants to serve customers outdoors.

An older version of the contact tracing app continues to work, but the data is stored on a person’s device, rather than being kept in a centralized database.

To use the app, visitors to a store or restaurant take a photo of a poster with a QR code displayed in the business, and the software keeps a record of the visit in case someone at the same location later tests positive.

Apple and Google are blocking the update that would let people upload the history of the locations they have checked into directly to health authorities.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it is in discussions with Apple and Google to “provide beneficial updates to the app which protect the public.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. Google declined to comment.

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Saudi Aramco Sells Oil Pipeline Stake for $12.4 Billion

BJ’s Wholesale Club, died unexpectedly on Thursday of “presumed natural causes,” according to a statement released Friday by the company. He was 49.

“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” said Christopher J. Baldwin, the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”

Mr. Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He was promoted to president in 2019 and became chief executive last year. Before joining BJ’s, he was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Delaney earned a master’s in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued a double major in computer science and mathematics.

Mr. Delaney led the company through the unexpected changes in consumer demand spurred by the pandemic, with many customers stockpiling wholesale goods as they hunkered down at home. “2020 was a remarkable, transformative and challenging year that structurally changed our business for the better,” Mr. Delaney said in the company’s last quarterly earnings report.

The BJ’s board appointed Bob Eddy, the chief administrative and financial officer, to serve as the company’s interim chief executive. Mr. Eddy joined the company in 2007 and became the chief financial officer in 2011, adding the job of chief administrative officer in 2018.

“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Mr. Baldwin said. He said that the company would announce decisions about its permanent executive leadership in a “reasonably short timeframe.”

BJ’s, based in Westborough, Mass., operates 221 clubs and 151 BJ’s Gas locations in 17 states.

Revolut’s office in London in 2018. The banking start-up is offering its workers the opportunity to work abroad for up to two months a year.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

“Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

“There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

After its initial public offering imploded, WeWork went public through a SPAC deal.
Credit…Kate Munsch/Reuters

After weeks of wading into the debate over how to regulate SPACS, the popular blank-check deals that provide companies a back door to public markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission is sending its first shot across the bow.

John Coates, the acting director of the corporate finance division at the S.E.C., issued a lengthy statement on Thursday about how securities laws apply to blank-check firms, the DealBook newsletter reports.

“With the unprecedented surge has come unprecedented scrutiny,” Mr. Coates wrote of the recent boom in blank-check deals.

In particular, he is interested in a crucial (and controversial) difference between SPACs and traditional initial public offerings: blank-check firms are allowed to publish often-rosy financial forecasts when merging with an acquisition target, while companies going public in an I.P.O. are not. Regulators consider such forecasts too risky for firms as yet untested by the public markets.

Investors raise money for SPACs via an I.P.O. of a shell company, and those funds are used within two years to merge with an unspecified company, which then also becomes a publicly traded company. Because the deal is technically a merger, it’s given the same “safe harbor” legal protections for its financial forecasts as a typical M.& A. deal. And that’s why there are flying-taxi companies with little revenue going public via a SPAC while promising billions in sales far in the future.

The S.E.C. thinks allowing financial forecasts for these deals might be a problem. They can be “untested, speculative, misleading or even fraudulent,” Mr. Coates wrote. And he concludes his statement by suggesting a major rethink of how the “full panoply” of securities laws applies to SPACs, which could upend the blank-check business model.

If the S.E.C. does not treat SPAC deals as the I.P.Os they effectively are, he writes, “potentially problematic forward-looking information may be disseminated without appropriate safeguards.”

The letter serves as a warning, but perhaps not much else — yet. Unless the S.E.C. issues new rules (as it did for penny stocks) or Congress passes legislation, SPAC projections will continue. But this strongly worded statement could moderate or even mute them.

“The S.E.C. has now put them on notice,” Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant of the agency, said.


Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes

Either side needed 1,521 votes to win.

A total of 505 ballots were challenged; 76 were void.·Source: National Labor Relations Board

Amazon beat back the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the counting of ballots in the closely watched effort showed on Friday.

A total of 738 workers voted “Yes” to unionize and 1,798 voted “No.” There were 76 ballots marked as void and 505 votes were challenged, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The union leading the drive to organize, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said most of the challenges were from Amazon.

About 50 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse cast ballots in the election. Either side needed to receive more than 50 percent of all cast ballots to prevail.

The ballots were counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.

The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote — “Yes” for a union or “No” — for nearly four hours on Thursday.

Sophia June and Miles McKinley contributed to this report.

A screenshot of a “vax cards” page on Facebook. 

Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.

Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

An empty conference room in New York, which is among the cities with the lowest rate of workers returning to offices.
Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.

Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.

So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.

But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.

Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.

The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President Biden proposed a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

Mr. Biden’s first spending request to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.

It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget request the White House will release this spring.

Among its major new spending initiatives, the plan would dedicate an additional $20 billion to help schools that serve low-income children and provide more money to students who have experienced racial or economic barriers to higher education. It would create a multi-billion-dollar program for researching diseases like cancer and add $14 billion to fight and adapt to the damages of climate change.

It would also seek to lift the economies of Central American countries, where rampant poverty, corruption and devastating hurricanes have fueled migration toward the southwestern border and a variety of initiatives to address homelessness and housing affordability, including on tribal lands. And it asks for an increase of about 2 percent in spending on national defense.

The request represents a sharp break with the policies of President Donald J. Trump, whose budget proposals prioritized military spending and border security, while seeking to cut funding in areas like environmental protection.

All told, the proposal calls for a $118 billion increase in discretionary spending in the 2022 fiscal year, when compared with the base spending allocations this year. It seeks to capitalize on the expiration of a decade of caps on spending growth, which lawmakers agreed to in 2010 but frequently breached in subsequent years.

Administration officials would not specify on Friday whether that increase would result in higher federal deficits in their coming budget proposal, but promised its full budget would “address the overlapping challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.”

As part of that effort, the request seeks $1 billion in new funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws, including “increased oversight of high-income and corporate tax returns.” That is clearly aimed at raising tax receipts by cracking down on tax avoidance by companies and the wealthy.

Officials said the proposals did not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or for a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.

Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to White House requests. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.

Part of Saudi Aramco’s giant Ras Tanura oil terminal. The company said it would raise $12.4 billion from selling a minority stake in its oil pipeline business.
Credit…Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.

The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.

Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.

Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.

The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.

Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.

The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.

From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.

Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.

Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.

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