“There is no playbook for this,” said Logan Wright, director of China research at Rhodium Group, a consulting firm. China’s regulators are now faced with the challenge of following through with a promise to clean up the financial system while also preventing a possible meltdown, he said.

“You’re pitting Beijing’s new rhetoric that they are cracking down against the assumption that they will ensure the stability of the system,” he said.

The government is likely to inject some money into whatever reorganized company eventually emerges from Huarong’s difficulties, but it is not prepared to inject enough money to pay off all of the bonds, the two people familiar with the government’s plans said.

Even as the government crafts a plan to downsize Huarong, the company has sought to calm investors’ nerves, promising that it can pay its bills. Speaking to state media, Xu Yongli, vice president of Huarong, likened his firm to other critically important Chinese financial institutions.

“The government support received by Huarong is no different,” he said.

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li reported from Hong Kong and Keith Bradsher reported from Beijing.

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The Week in Business: A Ransom for Fuel

Good morning and happy Sunday. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

A cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, one of the biggest fuel arteries in the United States, pushed the average price of gas above $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014. Fearing a shortage, panicked buyers lined up at the pump, which, of course, made the problem worse. To appease the hackers, who are believed to be part of a foreign organized crime group, Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in ransom — a capitulation that could embolden other criminals to take American companies hostage. The pipeline’s operators restored service late last week but said the supply chain would need several days to return to normal.

A new report from the Labor Department confirmed what you may have noticed: Prices for consumer goods like clothes, food and other household goods were up 4 percent in April from a year ago, blowing past forecasts. Economists are attributing the spike to pandemic-related issues like higher shipping and fuel costs, supply disruptions, rising demand and understaffing at factories and distribution centers. The Federal Reserve tried to assuage fears of inflation by insisting that the increase was temporary. But the news spooked the stock market all the same. And retail sales in April fell short of expectations, holding steady but showing a slowdown in growth after a blockbuster March.

address concerns from U.S. officials that it could be used for money laundering and other illegal purposes. The company is also moving the project to the United States from Switzerland after a stalled attempt to gain approval from Swiss regulators. In other crypto news, Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, abruptly reversed his support for Bitcoin, tweeting that his company would no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment because of the fossil fuels used in its mining and transactions. After his tweet, the price of Bitcoin dropped more than 10 percent.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

As part of an effort to get 70 percent of American adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4, federal and state governments are adding extra incentives. (In case keeping yourself and others safe, and the ability to go maskless, wasn’t a good enough reason.) The Biden administration has partnered with the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft to provide free transportation to vaccination sites nationwide starting May 24. West Virginia is working on a plan to offer $100 savings bonds to people ages 16 to 35 who get their shots. And those who receive the vaccine in Ohio will be entered into a lottery that awards a $1 million prize each week for five weeks, starting May 26.

Ellen DeGeneres will end her talk show next year after nearly two decades on the air. Her program has seen a steep decline in ratings after employees complained of a toxic workplace and accused producers of sexual harassment. The accusations looked particularly bad in light of Ms. DeGeneres’s tagline, “Be Kind,” which has become a branded juggernaut used to market merchandise to her fans. Although Ms. DeGeneres apologized publicly in September for the incidents, the show has since lost more than a million viewers, a 43 percent decline from about 2.6 million last season. It also saw a 20 percent decline in advertising revenue from September to February compared with the previous year.

In the battle to recruit workers in a tight job market, McDonald’s has become the latest fast-food company to raise hourly wages, following in the recent footsteps of chain restaurants including Chipotle and Olive Garden. But the McDonald’s pay increase applies only to its company-owned restaurants, which make up a small fraction of its business. About 95 percent of its U.S. restaurants are independently owned and set their own wages.

apply for a $50 monthly discount on high-speed internet services. Hearst Magazines sold the American edition of Marie Claire to a British publisher. And after more than a year of trying to figure out what to do with the embattled retailer Victoria’s Secret, the brand’s parent company has decided to split itself into two independent, publicly listed entities: Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.

Join Andrew Ross Sorkin of The Times in conversation with Dame Ellen MacArthur and other economic experts to explore what it will take to transform the economy in the battle against climate change. May 20 at 1:30 p.m. E.T. RSVP here.

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Stocks Rally but End the Week With a Loss

Wall Street ended Friday higher at the close of a broad rally, an upbeat conclusion to whipsaw week of buying and selling as signs of a rebounding economy did battle with mounting inflation jitters.

All three major U.S. indexes built on Thursday’s gains, when the S&P 500 notched its biggest one-day percentage bump in over a month.

“It’s a ‘buy everything’ day,” said Chuck Carlson, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors in New York.

Still, the indexes suffered their biggest weekly declines since late February.

Big swings this week were stoked by economic data, which fanned concerns that near-term price spikes could translate into long-term inflation, despite assurances to the contrary from the Federal Reserve.

Economic data released on Friday showed retail sales growth stalling and consumer sentiment dipping as prices continue to rise, suggesting that while the demand boom might be taking a breather, inflation has not.

But in an indication that economic activity could return to normal, revised guidance this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks outdoors and could avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

The S&P 500 gained 1.5 percent on Friday, but ended the week 1.4 percent below last week’s close. The Nasdaq composite jumped 2.3 percent on Friday.

All 11 major S&P sectors ended the session green, with energy, boosted by rebounding crude oil prices, enjoying the largest percentage gain.

Walt Disney Company shares dropped after the subscriber additions to its Disney+ streaming service fell short of expectations.

Airbnb reported a 52 percent jump in bookings, driving its stock higher.

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Faith-Based Investing Makes Up Ground in Gains and Convenience

One is to avoid any investment prohibited by Islam, which includes banks, insurance, tobacco, alcohol and pornography. But Mr. Salam said he also looked at the companies themselves. So he can invest in Islamic banks, for instance, or in beverage makers like Monster, which may have been excluded under a broad screen.

He said he also looked for companies that did not have excessive debt, because debt is acceptable only in cases of necessity. He steers away from companies that are cash rich, because there is a prohibition on trading in them when more than 45 percent of their balance sheet is in cash. While a portfolio with Apple holds lots of cash, it is not enough to violate the prohibition, but it is a number the fund monitors.

He also screens companies that have a small portion of their earnings in forbidden revenue, like an airline that sells alcohol. In that case, the fund will look to see if the company gets less than 5 percent of its revenue from something that is prohibited.

“In an ideal world, we’d be buying something that is 100 percent compliant, but that’s just not possible,” Mr. Salam said.

To add diversification, Saturna has recently added the Islamic equivalent of a fixed-income fund, which invests in the market for sukuk, which are bondlike instruments. Instead of earning interest on the bonds, investors receive a lease payment from the sukuk. For example, if an airline like Emirates needs a new plane, it can borrow the money from the sukuk market and the obligation is structured as a lease of that plane to the sukuk.

Saturna’s oldest fund, the Amana Income Fund, has a five-year return of 13 percent, compared with more than 17 percent for the S&P 500. But the Amana Growth Fund has a five-year return of 21 percent. The sukuk fund has just hit its five-year benchmark, returning just over 3 percent.

“The difference between Islamic and non-Islamic investors is not in what they’re looking for but in what products are available to them,” Mr. Salam said.

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He’s a Dogecoin Millionaire. And He’s Not Selling.

Last February, when Glauber Contessoto decided to invest his life savings in Dogecoin, his friends had concerns.

“They were all like, you’re crazy,” he said. “It’s a joke coin. It’s a meme. It’s going to crash.”

Their skepticism was warranted. After all, Dogecoin is a joke — a digital currency started in 2013 by a pair of programmers who decided to spoof the cryptocurrency craze by creating their own virtual money based on a meme about Doge, a talking Shiba Inu puppy. And investing money in obscure cryptocurrencies has, historically, been akin to tossing it onto a bonfire.

But Mr. Contessoto, 33, who works at a Los Angeles hip-hop media company, is no ordinary buy-and-hold investor. He is among the many thrill-seeking amateurs who have leapt headfirst into the markets in recent months, using stock-trading apps like Robinhood to chase outsize gains on risky, speculative bets.

In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. Then, he watched his phone obsessively as Dogecoin became an internet phenomenon whose value eclipsed that of blue-chip companies like Twitter and General Motors.

disavowed the coin, and even Mr. Musk has warned investors not to over-speculate in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Musk recently sent the crypto markets into upheaval again, after he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin.)

What explains Dogecoin’s durability, then?

There’s no doubt that Dogecoin mania, like GameStop mania before it, is at least partly attributable to some combination of pandemic-era boredom and the eternal appeal of get-rich-quick schemes.

But there may be more structural forces at work. Over the past few years, soaring housing costs, record student loan debt and historically low interest rates have made it harder for some young people to imagine achieving financial stability by slowly working their way up the career ladder and saving money paycheck by paycheck, the way their parents did.

Instead of ladders, these people are looking for trampolines — risky, volatile investments that could either result in a life-changing windfall or send them right back to where they started.

posted a screenshot of his cryptocurrency trading app, showing that he’d bought more. And on Thursday, when the value of his Dogecoin holdings fell to $1.5 million, roughly half what it was at the peak, he posted another screenshot of his account on Reddit.

“If I can hodl, you can HODL!” the caption read.

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The Gateses’ Public Split Spotlights a Secretive Fortune

The fortune of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates exceeds the size of Morocco’s annual economy, combines the value of Ford, Twitter and Marriott International and is triple the endowment of Harvard. While few know how their wealth will be divided in the divorce, one thing is clear: breaking it up can’t be easy.

Mr. Gates built one of the great fortunes in human history when he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. The Gateses’ net worth is estimated to be more than $124 billion, and includes assets as varied as trophy real estate, public company stocks and rare artifacts.

There’s a big stake in the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and ranch land, including Buffalo Bill’s historic Wyoming ranch. There are billions of dollars’ worth of shares in companies like AutoNation and Waste Management. There’s a beachfront mansion in Southern California. And one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.

“The amount of money and the diversity of assets that are involved in this divorce boggles the imagination,” said David Aronson, a lawyer who has represented wealthy clients in divorce cases. “There have rarely been cases that are even close to this in size.”

2019 divorce between the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife, the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, was bigger. Mr. Bezos had an estimated fortune of $137 billion, though mostly in Amazon stock, and Ms. Scott kept 4 percent of Amazon’s shares, worth $36 billion at the time.

But Mr. Gates has for decades been diversifying his holdings; he owns just 1.3 percent of Microsoft. Instead, his stock portfolio includes stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies. He is the largest private owner of farmland in the country, according to The Land Report. In addition to the Four Seasons, he has stakes in other luxury hotels and a company that caters to private jet owners. His real estate portfolio includes one of the largest houses in the country and several equestrian facilities. He owns stakes in a clean energy investment fund and a nuclear energy start-up.

Forbes, or $146 billion, according to the research firm Wealth-X. Including the Gates Foundation’s endowment and the Gates personal fortune, Cascade most likely oversees assets that put it on par or beyond some of the world’s biggest hedge funds in size.

Mr. Larson operates Cascade with an obsessive level of secrecy, going to great lengths to cloak the firm’s transactions so that they can’t easily be traced back to the Gateses. In a 1999 interview with Fortune magazine, Mr. Larson said he chose the name “Cascade” because it was a generic-sounding name in the Pacific Northwest.

that questions about the future of the Gates Foundation immediately arose following news of the divorce. The foundation directs billions to 135 countries to help fight poverty and disease. As of 2019, it had given away nearly $55 billion. (In 2006, Mr. Buffett pledged $31 billion of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, greatly increasing its grant making.)

Since he stepped down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008, Mr. Gates has devoted much of his time to the foundation. He also runs Gates Ventures, a firm that invests in companies working on climate change and other issues. Over the decades, Mr. Gates shed the image of a ruthless tech executive battling the United States government on antitrust to be viewed as a global do-gooder. And he appears to be keenly aware of the stark contrast between the scale of his wealth and his role as a philanthropist. “I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for the work I’ve done — while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by,” he acknowledged in a year-end blog post from 2019.

told The New York Times last year. “There’s just none.”

Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.

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Inflation News: Consumer Prices Jump in April as Investors Worry

Consumer prices jumped at the fastest pace in more than a decade in April, surprising economists and intensifying a debate on Wall Street and in Washington over whether inflation might reach levels that would squeeze households and ultimately undermine the recovery.

Investors and politicians are worried that prices will keep climbing — potentially causing the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates sharply. That could slow economic growth and send stock prices plummeting. But some economists and central bank officials said the jump in the Consumer Price Index reflected pandemic-driven trends that would most likely prove temporary.

Stocks slumped more than 2 percent on Wednesday, their biggest decline since late February.

Hanging over the debate is America’s inflationary experience in the 1960s and 1970s, when big government spending, an oil crisis, a slow-moving Fed and the final end of the gold standard converged to send price gains to double-digit heights. The central bank got things under control only by lifting interest rates to punishing levels, at a grave cost to the housing market and ultimately the job market.

Few analysts expect a return to such huge price gains, in part because the Fed has pledged to act to keep inflation under control. But if officials are prodded to withdraw economic support quickly in order to prevent another “Great Inflation,” it could spur a downturn, as sudden Fed changes have done in the past.

showed that job gains slowed sharply in April, vastly disappointing economists’ expectations.

“We have not made substantial further progress toward our labor market objective,” Mr. Clarida said Wednesday, speaking to business economists on a webcast.

Fed last year redefined its 2 percent inflation target to make it clear that it will aim for periods of slightly faster price gains to make up for months of slow ones.

Fed officials have been clear in recent weeks that as inflation pops, they need to focus on both risks: that it might take off, but also that it might sink back down after a 2021 reopening jump.

“The Fed has a fundamentally different framework. I mean, we cannot apply the playbook of the Fed in the previous recovery to what’s happening now,” said Jean Boivin, head of the BlackRock Investment Institute. “I think each time we get a number that surprises in the upside, we get an extrapolation, too much extrapolation, into a Fed tightening coming sooner.”

Matt Phillips, Jim Tankersley and Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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Consumer Prices Rose in April as Investors Worried About Inflation

Consumer prices are expected to jump sharply in April data that will be released on Wednesday, a move resulting mainly from a technical quirk — but one that investors will be watching carefully as they try to determine if inflation could alter Federal Reserve policy.

The Consumer Price Index probably climbed by 3.6 percent in the year through April, economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect. The increase in prices from March to April is expected to be more muted, at 0.2 percent. The Labor Department will release the figures at 8:30 a.m.

The annual jump would be the fastest increase since 2011, and a sign that prices are shooting higher as inflation figures lap extremely weak readings from 2020 and, to a lesser extent, as supply chain disruptions begin to bite and demand climbs.

Central bankers think the jump in prices will be short-lived, and have made it clear that they plan to look past a temporary increase when setting policy. The technical quirks at work in April will last only a few months, officials point out, and while it is less clear when shortages will be resolved, they are expected to eventually work their way through the system as businesses ramp up production to meet demand.

uncomfortably low levels, where they have been mired for much of the past decade.

said during a speech on Tuesday that “remaining patient through the transitory surge associated with reopening will help ensure” the economic momentum to “reach our goals.”

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The Stock Market Loves Biden More Than Trump. So Far, at Least.

From the moment he was elected president in 2016 through his failed campaign for re-election, Donald J. Trump invoked the stock market as a report card on the presidency.

The market loved him, Mr. Trump said, and it hated Democrats, particularly his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. During the presidential debate in October, Mr. Trump warned of Mr. Biden: “If he’s elected, the market will crash.” In a variety of settings, he said that Democrats would be a disaster and that a victory for them would set off “a depression,” which would make the stock market “disintegrate.”

So far, it hasn’t turned out that way.

To the extent that the Dow Jones industrial average measures the stock market’s affection for a president, its early report card says the market loves President Biden’s first days in office considerably more than it loved those of President Trump.

Mr. Biden would get an A for this early period; Mr. Trump would receive a B for the market performance during his first days as president, though he would get a higher mark for much of the rest of his term.

signs that the United States is recovering briskly from the pandemic, early returns for Mr. Biden’s actual time in office have also been exceptional. The stock market’s rise from its close on Inauguration Day to its close on Thursday marked the best start for any presidency since that of another Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson.

For those too young to remember the awful day of Nov. 22, 1963, Johnson, the vice president, was sworn in as president that afternoon after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Measuring stock market performance from the end of the day they were all sworn into office allows us to include Johnson as well as Theodore Roosevelt, who became president on Sept. 14, 1901, after President William McKinley died of gunshot wounds.

The Republican Party has long claimed that it is the party of business, and that Republican rule is better for stocks. But the historical record demonstrates that the market has generally performed better under Democratic presidents since the start of the 20th century.

Over all, the market under President Biden ranks third for all presidents during a comparable time in office since 1901, according to a tally through Thursday (the Biden administration’s 109th day) by Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group.

These are the top performers:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, inaugurated March 4, 1933: 78.1 percent.

  • Johnson, inaugurated Nov. 22, 1963: 13.8 percent.

  • Mr. Biden, inaugurated Jan. 20, 2021: 10.8 percent.

  • William H. Taft, inaugurated March 4, 1909: 9.6 percent.

Note that three of the top four — Roosevelt, Johnson and Mr. Biden — were Democrats. That fits an apparent pattern. Since 1900, the median stock market gain for Democrats for the start of their presidencies is 7.9 percent; for Republicans, only 2.7 percent.

cited an investment analysis that suggested the stock market might perform quite well in a Biden presidency, despite Mr. Trump’s claims to the contrary. Those factors included more vigorous and efficient management of the coronavirus crisis, which would promote economic recovery and corporate profits; generous fiscal stimulus programs, with the possibility of colossal infrastructure-building; a return to international engagement accompanied by a reduction in trade friction; and a renewal of America’s global climate-change commitments.

So far, that analysis is holding up. But will it lead to strong returns through the Biden administration?

I have no idea. Alas, none of this tells us where the stock market is heading. All we know is that it has risen more than it has fallen over the long run, but has moved fairly randomly, day to day, and has sometimes veered into long declines. Another decline could happen at any time, regardless of what any president does.

The only approach to investing I’d actively embrace is passive: using low-cost stock and bond index funds to build a well-diversified portfolio and hang on for the long run. And I’d try to ignore the exhortations of politicians, especially those who would tie their own electoral fortunes to the performance of the stock market.

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S.E.C. Chair Gensler Emphasizes Transparency in Markets

Gary Gensler is putting transparency in the markets and the need to understand the impact of new technology at the top of his priority list as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“I think transparency is at the heart of efficient markets,” Mr. Gensler said during his first testimony on Capitol Hill as the nation’s top securities cop.

Mr. Gensler, speaking from his living room, appeared by video before the House Committee on Financial Services to discuss the S.E.C.’s response to the tumultuous trading in shares of GameStop in January. The massive run-up in the stock price of the video game retailer was fueled by small investors who bought its shares on Robinhood and other commission-free trading apps and banded together on social media to cause big losses for a hedge fund that had bet GameStop shares would fall. Some investors who bought shares of GameStop at the peak later lost money.

Mr. Gensler said the S.E.C.’s staff has been working on a report addressing the issues raised by the episode that will be released this summer. He also said new rules may be needed for brokerage apps that turn stock trading into a game or contest, a method called gamification.

the collapse of Archegos Capital Management, which caused more than $10 billion in losses for Wall Street banks, pushed regulators to consider whether traders should be required to disclose derivatives — the financial trading instruments that allowed Archegos to take massive positions in stocks without attracting attention. Archegos’s losses were mostly attributed to the firm investing heavily in total return swaps, a type of highly leveraged derivative that can give a trader exposure to a stock without actual ownership.

Mr. Gensler’s tenure got off to a rocky start after Alex Oh, his pick to serve as director of enforcement, had to resign just days after being named because Paul, Weiss, the big law firm she had worked for, was facing potential sanctions in a case in which she was heavily involved.

The hearing with Mr. Gensler was the third and final one focusing on GameStop and the frenetic trading in the markets held by the House Financial Services Committee. The first hearing on Feb. 18 was held when shares of GameStop were trading around $40 a share after falling from a high of $347 a share. Since then, the stock has soared again, rising nearly 300 percent to $160 a share.

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