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The best shot yet at averting a new shutdown
Democratic and Republican negotiators said last night that they had an “agreement in principle” on border security funding that could keep the federal government open.
The deal includes $1.38 billion to pay for 55 miles of new fencing, technology and staffing for border protection. It’s not the $5.7 billion that President Trump had demanded to build a 200-mile wall. Democrats waived their demand for limits on detention capacity for immigrants.
But there’s no guarantee that it will go through. The House and Senate would have to vote on the pact, and Mr. Trump would have to sign it. “I think everyone will say, ‘Good work,’ ” Representative Kay Granger of Texas, one of the Republican negotiators, said. Still, at a rally in Texas last night, Mr. Trump insisted that he will build a wall. And influential Republican commentators like the Fox News host Sean Hannity called the deal a “garbage compromise.”
The remaining alternatives are hugely unattractive. Politico notes that a potential White House plan to redirect unspent federal funds toward the wall would “create a firestorm.” And another government shutdown could hit the U.S. economy and endanger aviation safety.
Theresa May wants more time
The British prime minister is scheduled to update lawmakers later today on progress in negotiations on withdrawing from the E.U.
She has a big favor to ask. Mrs. May is focused on making changes to the so-called backstop in her exit deal, which is designed to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. She has made little headway. Bloomberg explains her plan for today:
• Mrs. May will “update Parliament on the progress of talks with the E.U. and outline a motion she’ll put before M.P.s for debate on Thursday, her office said.”
• She “is expected to ask Parliament to restate its demand to remove the backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement and to promise a further vote if she hasn’t brought a renegotiated deal back to Parliament by Feb. 27.”
• The aim is “to reassure members from across the House of Commons who are concerned that May is deliberately running down the clock and risking a potentially disastrous no-deal divorce.”
But the E.U. still isn’t budging. Its chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said yesterday that “something has to give on the British side.”
Paul Volcker’s fight to fix Washington
The former Fed chairman recently sat down with Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Capital for a wide-ranging conversation, with topics from the state of the U.S. to the principles of good government. Don’t have time to watch? Here are the highlights:
On Washington: Mr. Volcker lamented the condition of the U.S. government, repeating past criticisms. “You’ve got presidents who don’t seem to mind either personal behavior or making outrageous statements, true or not,” he told Mr. Dalio. “You have a Congress that’s been unable to function effectively.”
On the Civil Service: For the former Fed chairman, an important problem to solve now is how to make government work again appear to be honorable. “Public administration’s a bad word now,” he told Mr. Dalio, leaving important government departments without effective leaders.
What Mr. Volcker is doing: He has set up the Volcker Alliance, which is meant to help schools train future government officials. “It’s a great trick,” Mr. Volcker said. “How can you get the expertise and leadership you need and still respect the popular desire?”
Americans are thrilled about their finances
Optimism about personal finances hasn’t been this high in more than 16 years, according to a study by Gallup.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans expect to be better off this time next year. That is “only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71 percent, recorded in March 1998,” according to Gallup. That’s in a survey carried out between Jan. 2 and Jan. 10, in the middle of the government shutdown.
Half of respondents say they’re better off than they were a year ago. That figure had been consistently under half since 2007, Gallup says.
The optimism is hard to overstate. “Only 11 times in 109 polls stretching back to 1976 have at least half of those polled said they were in better financial shape than they had been a year prior,” Gallup notes. “Only once in 114 polls going back to 1977 have Americans been more optimistic about their personal finances in the coming year than they are today.”
George Soros has a warning for Europe
“Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late,” George Soros writes in an opinion piece on Project Syndicate:
• “Neither our leaders nor ordinary citizens seem to understand that we are experiencing a revolutionary moment, that the range of possibilities is very broad, and that the eventual outcome is thus highly uncertain.”
• “The next inflection point will be the elections for the European Parliament in May 2019. Unfortunately, anti-European forces will enjoy a competitive advantage in the balloting.”
• “The first step to defending Europe from its enemies, both internal and external, is to recognize the magnitude of the threat they present. The second is to awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilize it to defend the values on which the E.U. was founded.”
Morgan Stanley bets on future millionaires
The firm said yesterday that it would buy Solium Capital, which manages stock paid out to corporate employees, for $900 million. It’s the biggest deal by a major Wall Street firm since the financial crisis — so what’s the rationale?
The bank wants in on millennial wealth. Solium’s clients include start-ups, like Instacart and Stripe, which could go public at multibillion-dollar valuations — making some employees very rich.
Wall Street approves of the strategy. Analysts at Evercore ISI wrote yesterday that Solium gives Morgan Stanley “a real path towards the organic growth and next generation of clients that many investors have been questioning.” Matthew Klein of Barron’s wrote last week that millennials could hold the key to improving American productivity — and wealth.
And banks seem newly hungry for deals. Days before Morgan Stanley’s acquisition, BB&T agreed to buy SunTrust in the biggest bank merger since the 2008 crisis. Banking chiefs seem heartened by loosened regulations on their sector — and eager to capitalize through acquisitions. “We’d like to do more,” James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s C.E.O., told the WSJ. (And JPMorgan Chase has reportedly considered buying the asset manager WisdomTree, according to Bloomberg.)
Who will run the E.C.B. after Mario Draghi?
It’s just eight months until Mario Draghi’s finishes his nonrenewable term as president of the European Central Bank. Choosing his successor is both important and difficult, the WSJ reports:
• Investors have trusted Mr. Draghi, the WSJ says, as they navigate “a toxic mix of risks in Europe, from Brexit to trade wars.”
• “At least five unofficial candidates appear to be in the running to replace him, according to European officials: two Frenchmen, two Finns and a German. The candidates have very different economic philosophies, and there is no clear front-runner.”
• The winner might be chosen to balance the nationalities of the E.U.’s leadership, rather than purely on merit. The WSJ quotes Karel Lannoo, chief executive of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels think tank, on the risks of that. “It’s the most systemically important job in Europe, this man controls the show,” he said. “It can go badly wrong.”
Grading China’s slowdown
WSJ reporters scoured fourth-quarter results from U.S. companies in an attempt to better understand the slowing of China’s economic growth.
What they found: Many companies are “struggling with weaker demand from export manufacturers in China, which are pulling back amid fears that trade tensions will worsen,” Austen Hufford and Theo Francis of the WSJ report. “Retailers and other companies catering to Chinese consumers face signs of weakness among the country’s growing middle class. They are buying fewer cars, phones and are traveling less.”
The conclusion: “The indications are that slowing growth there is broad, if still modest,” Mr. Hufford and Mr. Francis write.
Just half of PG&E’s directors will stand for re-election this year after the utility filed for bankruptcy amid the California wildfires.
Colgate-Palmolive named Noel Wallace, its C.O.O., as chief executive, replacing Ian Cook.
GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet, hired David Schenkein, the former C.E.O. of Agios Pharmaceuticals, as its co-head of life sciences.
Apple named Frank Casanova, a longtime iPhone executive, as its first head of marketing for augmented reality.
Sony appointed Jim Ryan as C.E.O. of its PlayStation business.
The speed read
• Colony Capital, the investment firm founded by the real estate mogul Tom Barrack, will explore selling assets after an activist hedge fund, Blackwells Capital, took a stake. (Colony)
• SoftBank’s Vision Fund led a $940 million investment in Nuro, a driverless delivery start-up. (FT)
• Amazon agreed to buy Eero, which makes wireless routers, to advance its smart-home ambitions. (Reuters)
• Peloton, which makes video-streaming stationary bikes and treadmills, is reportedly interviewing banks to prepare for an I.P.O. (WSJ)
• DoorDash, the delivery start-up, is reportedly in the process of raising $500 million at a $6 billion valuation. (WSJ)
• Reddit raised $150 million from Tencent — and its users now fear censorship. (Verge)
Politics and policy
• President Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York will meet today to discuss revising a cap on deductions for state and local taxes. (Bloomberg)
• Democratic presidential contenders see small donors, rather than traditional wealthy backers, as a test of viability for the 2020 race. (WaPo)
• Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Trump’s presidency has hurt America’s gun lobby. (NYT editorial)
• President Trump is reportedly eager to meet with President Xi Jinping of China to discuss a trade deal. (Bloomberg)
• American tariffs on Chinese goods have reduced the two countries’ trade imbalance — without helping U.S. companies. (Axios)
• Chinese investments in Israeli tech companies are raising security concerns. (WSJ)
• What’s it like to be a contractor at one of Apple’s less glamorous offices? Not much fun. (Bloomberg)
• Mars One Ventures, which promised one-way trips to the red planet, is bankrupt. (Verge)
• If New York doesn’t want a new Amazon campus, Newark does. (Bloomberg)
• Alphabet and Microsoft are discreetly warning that A.I. could harm their brands. (Wired)
The Jeff Bezos saga
• The American Media Inc. lawyer who reportedly sought a deal over Mr. Bezos’s private photos was once an Amazon Kindle executive. (WSJ)
• American Media reportedly asked the Justice Department whether it needed to register as a foreign agent because of its ties to Saudi Arabia. (WSJ)
• The WaPo has found itself in a tricky situation: reporting on its owner’s fight with The National Enquirer, while being a cause of the battle. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• Could leveraged loans sink the U.S. economy? (FT)
• For two years, Goldman Sachs bet on companies with strong balance sheets. Not anymore. (CNBC)
• The hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones says there’s a “mania” for share buybacks, and that he’s worried about the social consequences. (CNBC)
• Toys ‘R’ Us is planning a comeback later this year. (NYT)
• Is corporate America headed toward an earnings recession? (DealBook)
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