The cost of everything is up
Prices are rising for airfares, used cars, burritos and much more. New data due later today will provide a crucial signal as to whether these increases are temporary — or something investors and policymakers should worry about, writes The Times’s Jeanna Smialek.
Economists expect a big number, with the Consumer Price Index for May predicted to have risen 4.7 percent in May versus the previous year, which would be the biggest jump since 2008. “It’s going to be another shocking report,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, a founding partner at MacroPolicy Perspectives.
In part, this is because of technical factors, since last May’s price level was particularly depressed by pandemic lockdowns. The Times’s Ella Koeze made an excellent chart to explain how these “base effects” work:
Whatever the latest number, the debate about inflation won’t die down. A sharp increase in April was enough to make many anxious about how long a period of elevated inflation will last. Short-lived bursts of inflation that are tied to supply chain bottlenecks, as in the case of cars, or stimulus-check spending wouldn’t do lasting damage to the economy. But entrenched price rises, which would show up in things like rent, could force the Fed to cut its support of the economy sooner than expected and crimp the White House’s expansive spending plans.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Lawmakers weigh tax changes in the wake of the ProPublica report. Democrats and Republicans alike suggested that the scoop — which revealed how billionaires like Elon Musk drastically lower their tax bills — should lead to changes in the tax code. Separately, Attorney General Merrick Garland said investigating the leak of private tax data “will be at the top of my list” of priorities.
The U.S. and Europe close in on a tariff truce. The two sides are working to end disputes over aircraft subsidies and metals tariffs that led to a trade war under Donald Trump, aiming to reach a deal by mid-July.
The U.S. will send 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses abroad. The Biden administration will buy the shots at a not-for-profit price and donate them to about 100 countries over the next year. (It’s in talks with Moderna over a similar deal.) Skeptics say the U.S. must also help other countries manufacture vaccines.
JBS concedes it paid a ransom to end a hacking attack. The meat processor said it transferred $11 million worth of Bitcoin to criminals who disrupted several of its plants. But the revelation that the F.B.I. had recovered most of the Bitcoin ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline showed that, contrary to popular belief, crypto can be tracked.
The Keystone XL pipeline is officially dead. The pipeline, which would have stretched from Canada to the Gulf Coast, was formally terminated yesterday by its owner, TC Energy. It was at the center of years of political controversy, but its days had been numbered since President Biden took office and rescinded a key construction permit.
GameStop shops at Amazon
You can get just about anything at Amazon these days, including, in the case of GameStop, a new set of executives. The latest overhaul at the video-game retailer comes amid the windfall of becoming one of the most popular “meme stocks.”
Will the Amazon playbook revive the struggling retailer? GameStop’s new C.E.O., Matt Furlong, and C.F.O., Mike Recupero, who are both Amazon veterans, join an executive committee that also includes ex-Amazon staffers as C.O.O. (Jenna Owens), chief technology officer (Matt Francis) and chief growth officer (Elliott Wilke). It helps that GameStop’s tricky shift to e-commerce from bricks-and-mortar stores will be bolstered by money raised from selling its turbocharged stock, which is up some 1,600 percent this year. The company said yesterday that it plans to sell 5 million more shares.
An index of 15 meme stocks, including GameStop, AMC, BlackBerry, is up more than 50 percent in the past month, reaching a stratospheric price-to-earnings ratio of 1,200. (Amazon’s own P/E ratio is around 60.) The recent run-up reflects “broader adoption and retail flow” than during the initial January spike, according to Ben Laidler of the online brokerage eToro, which compiled the index.
Will regulators put a stop to meme-stock mania? GameStop disclosed in a filing that the S.E.C. had asked it to volunteer documents and information about “trading activity in our securities and the securities of other companies,” though it didn’t believe the inquiry would “adversely impact” its business.
Meanwhile, the S.E.C.’s chairman, Gary Gensler, said yesterday that the agency would examine the gamification of trading by brokers and “payment for order flow” between brokers and market makers. Both are believed to be factors in the recent meme-stock frenzy, which has made regulators nervous.
Daily Business Briefing
“We know firsthand the challenge dedicated I.R.S. employees face each day as they work to administer tax laws while hamstrung by inadequate funding and support.”
— Five former Treasury secretaries (Tim Geithner, Jacob Lew, Hank Paulson, Bob Rubin and Larry Summers) in a joint essay for Times Opinion about how to stop tax evasion.
Easing up on TikTok, not China
President Biden revoked a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban TikTok and WeChat in the U.S., which could have led to the forced sale of TikTok to an Oracle-Walmart consortium. But that doesn’t mean the White House is taking the pressure off Chinese tech giants.
Biden administration officials are planning a broader directive, aimed at creating “clear intelligible criteria” for reviewing the national security implications of tech tied to foreign governments. (The Trump ban, they said, hadn’t been carried out “in the soundest fashion,” and had been dealt numerous legal setbacks.)
China remains squarely in Washington’s sights. The TikTok announcement came after lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill allocating $250 billion for research into emerging technologies in which the U.S. competes with China. And last week, the White House expanded a Trump-era order barring Americans from investing in Chinese businesses with links to that country’s military. The president is also working with Britain and other countries on other ways to counter China.
Goldman asks bankers if they’ve been vaccinated
Goldman Sachs wants to know how many of its bankers have gotten a Covid shot. The bank sent a memo this week informing employees in the U.S. that they must report their vaccination status by noon today. “Registering your vaccination status allows us to plan for a safer return to the office for all of our people as we continue to abide by local public health measures,” said a section of the memo, sent to employees who have not yet reported their status, which was obtained by DealBook.
Disclosing vaccination status has been optional until now. In May, Goldman told employees that they could go maskless in the Manhattan office if they reported their vaccination status. Now, all U.S. employees, regardless of whether they are in the office or choose to wear a mask while there, will need to log their status in the bank’s system. Bankers do not need to show proof of vaccination, but will be asked to record the date they received their shots and the maker of their vaccine. (The E.E.O.C. made clear this month that asking employees for their vaccination status is legal, so long as the data is kept confidential.)
Companies are trying to find out how many workers are vaccinated ahead of full office reopenings. They’re doing it by conducting surveys, giving out cash rewards upon proof of vaccination or making reporting compulsory, as with Goldman. That data can inform the need for new incentives to get more people vaccinated or potentially to impose a mandate. (Goldman, for its part, said in the memo it “strongly encourages” vaccination, though the choice “is a personal one.”) The Wall Street firm, which began to bring more workers back into the office this month, has been offering bankers paid time off to get the shots.
Your questions about the post-Covid workplace, answered
Cubicles. Cafeterias. Meeting rooms. Awkward elevator moments.
Remember when the office was still the office?
More than a year into the pandemic, the rules of office life have fundamentally changed.
As companies try to get back to normal by calling employees back to the office, that’s raising a lot of questions: Are hybrid offices here to stay? If you work remotely, can you still get promoted? How do you speak up in a meeting when you’re the only one on Zoom?
We want to hear what’s on your mind as offices open up. DealBook and the In Her Words newsletter are teaming up to answer your questions in an upcoming special report. Submit them using this form.
THE SPEED READ
The French telecom billionaire Patrick Drahi bought a 12 percent stake in BT of Britain, worth about $3 billion, to help it expand its broadband network. (Bloomberg)
Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPACs hired SoFi as an underwriter to their stock sales, to help them offer shares to retail investors. (Bloomberg)
Speaking of SPACs, here is a video about how Bill Ackman’s complex deal with Universal Music Group works, featuring a sock puppet with a penchant for profanity. (Reddit, naturally)
Politics and policy
Volkswagen’s former C.E.O., Martin Winterkorn, agreed to pay about $13.7 million over his role in the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal. (NYT)
Two advisers on an F.D.A. panel resigned after the agency controversially approved an Alzheimer’s drug; one called it “a sham process.” (WaPo)
The collapse of bipartisan talks on infrastructure could threaten the Biden administration’s pledges on climate change. (NYT)
Facebook’s ad sales chief, Carolyn Everson, unexpectedly quit, prompting speculation about where she might end up next. (Insider)
Uber and Lyft are lobbying state governments to pass laws that classify drivers as contractors, months after winning a ballot initiative in California. (NYT)
Best of the rest
“Welcome to Wall Street’s ‘Summer of Anxiety’” (Insider)
How Yashar Ali, a Twitter personality connected to politicians and celebrities alike, became an influential power broker. (Los Angeles)
A Southwest Airlines flight attendant had a conversation about race with a man who turned out to be the C.E.O. of American Airlines. A year later, he attended her wedding. (CNN)
Correction: In yesterday’s newsletter, we conflated real-estate tax loopholes. The “like-kind exchange” allows taxpayers to perpetually defer capital gains by trading one property for another. A different loophole allows property owners to depreciate the value of their investments for tax purposes even when the actual value of a property appreciates. Both practices could use more scrutiny.
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