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Wall Street Rallies to New Highs as Biden Transition Begins

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By: Ella Koeze·Source: Refinitiv

Stocks on Wall Street rallied to records on Tuesday, as key states certified Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election and news that Janet L. Yellen will be the next Treasury secretary raised expectations for a big push for government spending to bolster the economy.

The S&P 500 rose 1.6 percent, passing a high reached earlier in the month. The Dow Jones industrial average topped the 30,000 mark for the first time, also besting a record reached not long ago.

Stocks have been buoyed this month — with the S&P 500 up about 11 percent so far — by a number of factors. Mr. Biden’s clear victory both in the popular vote and the Electoral College, and the Trump campaign’s failed efforts to undermine that result, mean the political uncertainty that had once concerned investors is largely gone. And promising developments in the race for a coronavirus vaccine — with three companies now disclosing successful trials — have investors focusing on the prospect of a return to normal economic growth next year.

Those growth expectations were bolstered by the news late Monday that Ms. Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve and a proponent of government intervention in the economy, is Mr. Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary.

Ms. Yellen said in October that the economy needed “extraordinary fiscal support” during the pandemic. After two decades at the central bank, analysts say, she would be able to foster a close relationship between the two institutions.

“The former Fed chair is a welcome choice for investors, increasing the chances of strong coordination of fiscal and monetary policy,” analysts at UBS Global Wealth Management wrote in a note. “Relations between the Fed and Treasury have recently been strained by moves by the Trump administration to close some Fed emergency lending facilities.”

The gains on Tuesday on Wall Street reflected optimism about the growth outlook. The Russell 2000 index of small stocks, which are geared toward economic expansion in the United States, jumped nearly 2 percent and an index of bank stocks gained more than 5 percent.

Also sharply higher on Tuesday were shares of companies that stand to gain as the pandemic comes under control once a vaccine is effectively deployed, including cruise lines, airlines and casino operators.

In energy markets, West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures surged more than 4 percent to nearly $45 a barrel, and shares of oil producers were higher.

Though stocks were already higher on Tuesday, the lurch into record territory came shortly after Pennsylvania certified its election results in favor of Mr. Biden. On Monday, Michigan, another state where the Trump campaign had been challenging results, did the same and President Trump said his administration would allow a transition to proceed.

Mr. Trump, who has consistently warned that markets would tumble if he lost re-election, claimed credit for the record on Tuesday.

“The stock market’s just broken 30,000 — never been broken, that number,” Mr. Trump said in brief remarks at the White House, referring to the Dow Jones industrial average. “That’s a sacred number, 30,000, nobody thought they’d ever see it.”

Shares in Europe and Asia were also higher Tuesday. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was up 0.8 percent, led by gains in financial and energy stocks. In Britain, the FTSE 100 index climbed 1.6 percent.

Aviation and hospitality stocks were among the big gainers in the FTSE 100 after England said it would cut its 14-day quarantine time down to five days if newly arrived visitors get a negative coronavirus test result.




Change in the S&P 500 since the 2016 election

Up six percent

since election

day 2020.

BULL

MARKET

–33.9%

BEAR

MARKET

–10.2%

CORRECTION

Amid the

coronavirus

pandemic

Amid fears

of interest

rate hikes

–29.8%

CORRECTION

Amid Trump’s

trade war

Up six percent

since election

day 2020

Change in the S&P 500 since the 2016 election

BULL

MARKET

–10.2%

CORRECTION

BULL

MARKET

Amid fears

of interest

rate hikes

–33.9%

BEAR

MARKET

–19.8%

CORRECTION

Amid the

coronavirus

pandemic

Amid Trump’s

trade war

Up six percent since election day 2020

Change in the S&P 500 since the 2016 election

BULL

MARKET

–10.2%

CORRECTION

BULL

MARKET

–33.9%

BEAR

MARKET

–19.8%

CORRECTION

Amid fears

of interest

rate hikes

Amid Trump’s

trade war

Amid the

coronavirus

pandemic


As Inauguration Day approaches, President Trump’s grip on the collective psyche of investors appears to be receding.

Investors of all political persuasions say they are ready to turn the page on what was a profitable but extraordinarily politicized and stressful period for the financial markets, where they had to contend with an unpredictable force whose pronouncements frequently moved stock prices, The New York Times’s Matt Phillips reports.

The president’s trumpeting of market records, hectoring of executive whose decisions he disagreed with and surprise policy announcements via Twitter stood in stark contrast to the behavior of past presidents.

Since taking office, he has sent tweets or retweets with stock market references more than 200 times, and made scores of statements spotlighting the market’s rise under his administration.

Mr. Trump has disclosed market-moving information after private discussions with executives, he has demanded that the Fed cut interest rates to prop up the market, and he has unveiled his changing positions in the trade war with China in a hail of unexpected tweets that sent share prices tumbling.

He has publicly threatened and castigated major American companies, facing off with Amazon.com over its tax payments and deals with the U.S. Postal Service; with General Motors, Ford and Carrier — then a subsidiary of United Technologies — over plans to shutter plants; and with Lockheed Martin and Boeing over the costs of fighter jets and replacements for Air Force One.

For some investors, it means @realDonaldTrump has become an unwelcome distraction that they’re looking forward to being able to ignore soon.

“I just want my life to go back to normal,” said Barry Ritholtz, a money manager in New York who did not vote for Mr. Trump. “I just want the noise level to quiet down.”

Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Janet Yellen knows Wall Street, and Wall Street knows Janet Yellen.

Ms. Yellen has spend decades in public service, both at the Federal Reserve and on the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers. She was at the Fed when the central bank turned to array of unconventional policies, like its bond-buying program known as quantitative easing, in the wake of the financial crisis and the deep 2007 to 2009 recession. And she was chair of the central bank between 2014 and 2018, as it very slowly withdrew that support — caution many analysts believe helped to lay the foundation of a strong labor market that pushed the unemployment rate to a 50-year low before the coronavirus pandemic derailed the economy.

Now, as President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s expected pick for Treasury secretary, she’s being received by economists as someone who will favor an assertive government role in addressing the economic damage wrought by the pandemic.

“While the pandemic is still seriously affecting the economy, we need to continue extraordinary fiscal support,” Ms. Yellen said in a Bloomberg Television interview in October.

In the immediate future, that could mean revamping programs meant to help businesses, municipalities and financial markets weather the pandemic — ones that Steven Mnuchin, the current secretary, is allowing to end. It could also mean negotiating with Congress to secure renewed government spending to support the economy.

Ms. Yellen, 74, has in the past made a case that Congress should consider giving the central bank the power to buy a broader array of assets, like corporate bonds or even stocks — a response that progressives have at times painted as pro-corporate. Investors may see it as a sign that she is likely to be an activist policymaker.

But she also might favor slightly tighter financial regulation, given her recent track record as a critic of Trump-era rollbacks of constraints on banks.

Here’s what people had to say about the news of her likely nomination and possible confirmation:

  • “She’s obviously incredibly competent, experienced and also someone we know quite a bit about. It takes out any surprise factors. ” — Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan.

  • “Especially in times of crisis, it’s important to have a united front between fiscal and monetary policy, and Chair Yellen understands that better than anyone.” — Michelle Meyer, Chief U.S. Economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

  • “She’s an extraordinary person — she’s got an amazing intellect, incredible work ethic which puts us all to shame” and “she cares deeply about what she’s doing. It matters.”— John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

  • “Yellen will likely work well with Fed Chairman Jay Powell. Powell was a Fed governor when Yellen was chair. And while they may have some small disagreements, they are on the same page regarding the need for economic stimulus. Yellen’s experience as Fed chair should also be comforting to markets, since she knows how the Fed works and won’t undermine it.” — Ian Katz, financial policy analyst at Capital Alpha Partners.

  • “Her nomination is historic for many reasons, from breaking yet another glass ceiling, to the dire economic situation she will inherit on the first day on the job. Perhaps most importantly is how qualified Yellen is to meet this challenge head-on.” — Tim Adams, chief executive of the Institute for International Finance.

  • Ms. Yellen “will have a tough job ahead of her, but she has the experience, talent, credibility and relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to make a real difference.” — Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush.

  • “Janet Yellen would be an outstanding choice for Treasury Secretary. She is smart, tough, and principled. As one of the most successful Fed Chairs ever, she has stood up to Wall Street banks, including holding Wells Fargo accountable for cheating working families.” — Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts.

  • “Janet Yellen will be the kind of deeply thoughtful, caring leader our country needs as Treasury Secretary. She understands that a high pressure economy where workers are in short supply is the best social program.” — Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton.

  • “Janet Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times.” — Gary Cohn, the former Trump economic adviser and Goldman Sachs president.

Credit…Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS

A Wall Street trade association wants to put the brakes on any plan by Treasury officials to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the waning days of the Trump administration.

The Structured Finance Association, which represents nearly 400 institutional investors, banks and other market participants, sent a letter on Monday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying the “political calendar” shouldn’t drive changes affecting the two federal government-controlled mortgage firms.

Mr. Mnuchin should “avoid the potentially destructive effects” of privatizing Fannie and Freddie too quickly, said the letter, which was signed by Michael Bright, the association’s chief executive.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Mnuchin was being urged by the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the regulator of Fannie and Freddie — to end the conservatorship as soon as possible. An agency spokesman declined to comment.

Fannie and Freddie, which went under government control in September 2008 during the worst of the financial crisis, are the main drivers of the nation’s mortgage market. They effectively guarantee roughly half of all mortgages against default, which helps keep a lid on interest rates.

The trade group favors the eventual release of the mortgage firms from government control. But, Mr. Bright wrote, “a hastily thrown together exit from conservatorship based on the political calendar risks undoing the positive work that has been accomplished.”

Various plans for turning Fannie and Freddie back into private companies have been debated during both the Obama and Trump administrations, but there has never been a decisive course of action.

“The wise thing to do would be not to rattle the markets on the way out the door,” Mr. Bright, who previously served as interim president of Ginnie Mae, another government mortgage firm, said in an interview.

Mark Calabria, the F.H.F.A.’s director, has long favored a plan to end the conservatorship, but he may be replaced after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is inaugurated on Jan. 20. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that could decide the ability of a new president to fire an F.H.F.A. director before his five-year term expires. Mr. Calabria’s term began in April 2019.

Last week, the F.H.F.A. approved a plan that would require the mortgage finance firms to raise more than $200 billion in capital. That is seen by many as a precursor to ending conservatorship, but Mr. Calabria has said it is necessary to keep Fannie and Freddie from taking on too much risk and needing another bailout.

Some housing policy advocates have objected to the so-called capital rule, saying it will diminish the ability of Fannie and Freddie to package loans into guaranteed securities and make it harder for them to keep mortgage rates low.

Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

The Trump administration is weighing several policy actions aimed at thwarting China as President Trump and his advisers use their final weeks in office to try to curb America’s economic ties with the country.

The measures, which may be announced as soon as this week, could place more limitations on Americans looking to sell products or invest in certain Chinese companies, though their scope remains to be seen and could be relatively limited, according to people familiar with the plans.

The most likely moves include placing dozens of additional Chinese companies, including China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, on a Defense Department list of companies with ties to the Chinese military, the people said.

Mr. Trump issued an executive order this month barring companies on that list from receiving American investment, saying such funding posed a risk to national security. Only a handful of these companies are listed on American exchanges, but several are components of exchange-traded funds, which must exclude the designated companies from American portfolios after Jan. 11.

The administration is also weighing other measures, including additional sanctions related to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, or restrictions on goods imported from Xinjiang, where Beijing has detained and surveilled local Muslim populations.

The administration may also designate a list of 89 Chinese companies in the aerospace and other sectors as “military end users,” which would limit their ability to purchase certain American goods and technology. The proposed list, which includes the Chinese aircraft manufacturers Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, known as Comac, and Aviation Industry Corporation of China, was first reported by Reuters.

That action would not be as broad in scope as placing the companies on the entity list, which sets wider limitations on American exports to the companies, a move that was also considered in meetings at the Commerce Department in recent weeks. And the rules would place no restrictions on American companies supplying goods to the Chinese companies through their foreign subsidiaries.

“As President Trump has continually said, ‘Economic security is national security,’” Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, said Tuesday in a statement that neither confirmed nor denied the policy moves.

“The Department of Commerce ensures the U.S. economy continues to grow, while coordinating with our partner agencies to hold foreign adversaries accountable,” the statement said. “Active and constructive dialogue with industry is an important step in this process.”

Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Over the past four years, General Motors has emerged as one of President Trump’s favorite corporate targets. He attacked the company repeatedly for closing a plant in Ohio and lashed out at it even when the automaker offered to make ventilators this spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Mr. Trump ridiculed the company’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, one of the few women to lead a large U.S. corporation. “Always a mess with Mary B,” he wrote on Twitter in March.

The company and Ms. Barra have not responded to the presidential wrath, but on Monday G.M. broke ranks with the White House on the one major issue where they were aligned. The automaker said it would no longer back the Trump administration in a fight with California over clean-air standards.

California has sought tougher standards on tailpipe emissions to battle climate change. The Trump administration loosened Obama-era standards and revoked the authority of California and other states to set their own rules, which led to a lawsuit from several states. G.M., Toyota Motor and Fiat Chrysler intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the administration. A few other automakers, including Ford Motor, BMW and Volkswagen, sided with California.

G.M.’s support for the Trump administration surprised many auto experts given the president’s repeated attacks on the company and Ms. Barra. It also seemed to be an odd position for G.M. to take because the automaker has outlined ambitious plans to add nearly two dozen electric models to its lineup.

In a letter to the leaders of some of the nation’s largest environmental groups on Monday, Ms. Barra indicated G.M. was now backing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his plan to cut emissions and support the use of electric vehicles.

“We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” she wrote. “To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the pre-emption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”

The letter came a week after Ms. Barra announced plans to spend $27 billion over the next five years to develop electric vehicles, including 20 models that will be sold in the United States. It also came on the same day that Michigan certified Mr. Biden’s electoral win in the state, helping to cement his victory.

Credit…Charles Sheehan/Associated Press

The spice maker McCormick & Company will acquire Cholula Hot Sauce for $800 million, the companies announced on Tuesday.

The deal is a bet on the growing popularity around the world for spicy flavorings, three years after McCormick acquired the Frank’s RedHot brand, as part of a $4.2 billion takeover of Reckitt Benckiser’s foods business. As people eat more at home — and cook more adventurously — during the pandemic, sales and profits have risen for McCormick, which is based in Hunt Valley, Md. Its share price rose by more than 1 percent in early trading on Tuesday, and is up about 10 percent so far this year.

The company’s chief executive, Lawrence E. Kurzius, told analysts in September that the company hoped to generate about a third of its growth through acquisitions. With Cholula, McCormick, which describes itself as “a global leader in flavor,” has added another flavorful brand in its cupboard, which also includes French’s mustard.

“Hot sauce is an attractive, high-growth category and, as an iconic premium brand, Cholula is outpacing category growth,” Mr. Kurzius said in a statement on Tuesday.

The private equity firm L Catterton acquired Cholula in late 2018 from investors that included the tequila producer Jose Cuervo. Under its ownership, Cholula expanded its distribution with retailers and partnerships with restaurants. The sauce, which is made in Mexico and packaged in wooden-capped bottles, first entered the United States in 1989. It now sells in flavors that include Jalapeño Green Pepper, Chipotle and Chile Lime.

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Americans have agonized over Thanksgiving this year, weighing skyrocketing case numbers and blunt warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against the need, after a grim and worrying year, to gather with family for a traditional, carbohydrate-laden ritual.

Around 27 percent of Americans plan to dine with people outside their household, according to interviews conducted by the global data and survey firm Dynata at the request of The New York Times.

Views on whether to risk Thanksgiving gatherings appear to track closely with political views, with respondents identifying as Democrats far less likely to be planning a multi-household holiday.

Megan Baldwin, 42, had planned to drive from New York to Montana to be with her parents, but at the last minute, she canceled her plans.

“I thought I would get tested and take all the precautions to be safe, but how could I risk giving it to my parents who are in their 70s?” she said, adding that they were not happy with the decision.

“All they want is to see their grandkids, but I couldn’t forgive myself if we got them sick,” she said. “It’s not worth it.”

Others decided to take the plunge, concluding that the emotional boost of being together outweighed the risk of getting sick.

“We all agreed that we need this, we need to be together during this crazy, lonely time and we are just going to be careful and hope that we will all be OK,” said Martha Dillon, who will converge with relatives from four different states on her childhood home in Kentucky.

Thanksgiving travel is clearly down compared to 2019.

The AAA has forecast a 10 percent overall decline in Thanksgiving travel compared to last year, the largest year-on-year drop since the recession of 2008. But the change is far smaller, around 4.3 percent, for those traveling by car, who make up the vast majority of those who plan to travel — roughly 47.8 million people.

About 917,000 people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration on Monday, according to federal data published on Tuesday, less than half of what it was on the same day in 2019.

Demand for travel by train is down more sharply, at about 20 percent of what it was last year, said Jason Abrams, a spokesman for Amtrak.

Susan Katz, 73, said she canceled plans to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter last Friday, after watching a monologue by Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, describing her partner’s bout of coronavirus and her fear that it would prove fatal.

“Her emotion, Rachel Maddow’s emotion, made it so real, it just moved us,” Ms. Katz said. “I probably called her within a few hours of seeing that.”

Ms. Katz, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., said she will spend the holiday alone with her husband. She is trying to decide whether to bother thawing a turkey breast.

But the question of Thanksgiving is a sensitive one, she said.

“I had a friend who got very annoyed with me when I said that for us, Thursday was just going to be another day,” she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, has strongly discouraged holiday travel as the number of new infections surges across the country

“Do you really want to have that gathering?” he said, in an interview with PBS. “Or should you say, I know it hurts not to do it, because this is such a beautiful, traditional season, but hang in there with us, because there will be future times when you can do it?”

Interest in travel generally has increased after recent announcements by pharmaceutical companies that their coronavirus vaccine candidates have been effective at preventing infections, according to preliminary data.

Travel bookings increased by about 25 percent after Pfizer said in early November that a vaccine it was developing with BioNTech was more than 90 percent effective, according to Skyscanner, a travel search engine.

The increase in travel during the holidays has been encouraging for airlines. But they collectively reported tens of billions of dollars in losses so far this year, and analysts expect demand to remain weak for a couple of years or more.

  • JPMorgan Chase is paying a $250 million fine after its regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said it had not properly managed the conflicts of interest it faced when handling customers’ funds. The penalty relates to trillions of dollars the bank manages in investments and other related assets for customers. While the O.C.C. said that JPMorgan had fixed the problems, they were serious enough to still warrant the fine. “We have invested significantly in and enhanced our controls platform over the last several years to address the issues identified,” a bank spokesman, Darin Oduyoye, said in an email.

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods retailers in the nation, announced on Tuesday that Edward W. Stack would step down as president and chief executive, effective Feb. 1. Lauren R. Hobart, company’s president, will take over the roles, while Mr. Stack will remain at the company as executive chairman. Mr. Stack, who has led Dick’s since 1984, was considered a model for business leaders wading into social issues after he shifted the company away from gun sales in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. Under Mr. Stack’s leadership, Dick’s has grown to more than 850 stores and nearly $9 billion in annual revenue, the company said.

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Retailers are succumbing to the dominance of e-commerce and scrambling to salvage increasingly irrelevant physical shopping spaces by turning them into fulfillment centers to process online orders and returns, rather than stores where customers can browse and shop.

The forces propelling online shopping were set in motion long before the pandemic. But in the future, 2020 will be seen as a major inflection point for retail, The New York Times’s Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari report:

  • Across the industry, online sales are expected to increase at their fastest rate in 12 years, accounting for 20 percent of all retail purchases this year. That’s up from 16 percent in 2019, according to Forrester Research.

  • Earlier this month, the number of stores announced for closure in 2020 climbed to a high of 10,991, according to the CoStar Group, a data provider for the real estate industry. Many malls are teetering as tenants reduce the number of stores, fail to pay rent or exit through bankruptcies.

  • Across Manhattan, the number of retail leases signed or renewed dropped 31 percent in the third quarter from a year ago and rents fell 13 percent in the major shopping corridors, according to CBRE, a real estate services company.

  • But warehouse leases were up 70 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter, and more than a dozen e-commerce warehouses are being built to feed New York’s insatiable need for same-day deliveries.

  • In June, Amazon signed a lease on a 285,000-square foot “delivery station” in the Maspeth section of Queens. Amazon has also vastly expanded the space it is leasing in a string of giant warehouses on Staten Island. In addition to the 855,000-square foot fulfillment center that the company opened in 2018, Amazon this fall expanded into 1.4 million additional square feet of space on the Staten Island site. In the Bronx, the company is taking over a building recently vacated by its rival Walmart.

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