Disney-Fox? Apple-CBS? Facebook-Bravo?

Today’s Agenda

  • Media-merger frenzy
  • The statistics of death
  • History of Trade Wars
  • World Cup winners and losers
  • The Goldman Sachs scales of justice

Calm Before the Media Mega Merger Storm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The media-merger frenzy took a breather today. So far this week, a judge has ruled AT&T Inc. can buy Time Warner Inc. with no conditions, and Comcast Corp. offered $65 billion to buy 21st Century Fox Inc. entertainment assets, outbidding Walt Disney Co. So who’s next? There has been an annoying lack of media-merger news in the past 24 hours!

Expect Disney, for one, to make another try at those Fox assets, writes Tara Lachapelle. Comcast left plenty of room in its offer for Disney to trump it without much trouble, Tara points out. Speaking of Trump, the president's Justice Department might have an easier time looking the other way at a Fox deal with Disney than one with Comcast, which owns NBC News, a frequent target of the president’s rage. And Comcast probably lacks the financial wherewithal for a real bidding war with Disney.

You know who doesn’t lack financial wherewithal? Giant tech companies, that's who. And some of them also seem to feel an urge to produce content. Apple Inc. may be about to buy the rights to a big budget animated movie, for example. So will any of them splurge on a Fox or something? Shira Ovide thinks not – “Apple could hire 70 potential Ryan Murphys for less than the cost of buying CBS Corp.,” she writes. 

But hey, anything seems possible these days.

Tallying the Dead Can Save the Living

Nearly 60 million people died in 2015, according to the latest World Health Organization numbers available. That ignores millions of deaths that weren’t counted. And less than a quarter of those 60 million died with a reliable record of what, exactly, caused their death. Keeping track of such things can save lives, Bloomberg’s editors write. It really shouldn’t be so hard.

We Have Always Been at War With Canada

Because all the news feels so freaky and weird right now, it's easy to think President Donald Trump trashing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and threatening a trade war with the Snow Americans to the North means we've tumbled into some weird parallel universe full of unthinkable twists.

But in fact, historian Stephen Mihm points out, the U.S. and Canada have a very long, very dumb history of fighting over trade. For many years, in fact, Canadians thought free trade might lead to annexation by the U.S. (which invaded it a couple of times, after all).

Decades of sniping culminated in the epically dumb Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930, which were partly aimed at the poutine-eaters. This helped worsen the Great Depression. But it also finally brought everybody to their senses. So, between 1947 and 2017, both countries traded more and more freely with each other.

And now here we are, with Trump seemingly rushing us back to the Smoot-Hawley days. Stephen points out that this time, Canada has another robust trading partner waiting to be its new best friend once its friendship with America is ended: China.

Ah, but Trump has that covered, too; his administration is expected tomorrow to unveil tariffs on hundreds of Chinese goods. If one of his goals is to force China to buy more American stuff, then tariffs could very much backfire, warns David Fickling – because China's economy seems to be slowing down already, leaving consumers with less cash to spend on Hummers and Levi's.

Their Cups Do Not Exactly Runneth Over

The World Cup kicked off today, with a sloppy match (though there were some beautiful goals) between two of the worst teams in the tournament, Russia (this year’s host) and Saudi Arabia. They also happen to be the world’s biggest oil exporters; and Leonid Bershidsky notes their troubles on the football pitch (fancy British talk for “soccer field”) in some ways mirror the societal problems that come with that status.

The World Cup’s likeliest winners are the TV networks showing it; sportsball is one of the few things that gets people to sit around and watch TV with commercial breaks any more, writes Alex Webb. Oh, and let's don't forget bankers, who will be doing basically nothing for the next month but making World Cup predictions, notes Matt Levine.

Depends What You Mean By ‘Just’

Goldman Sachs has an … unusual idea of what constitutes “just business behavior,” writes Stephen Gandel. To a great extent, it involves paying bankers a whole bunch of money – which just so happens to place Goldman Sachs very highly on a new social-justice investment index it helped launch. 

Chart Attack

Amazon's creeping influence in the grocery store is squeezing the profits and stocks of packaged-foods makers such as Campbell Soup Co., writes Tara Lachapelle 

Bond guru Bill Gross’s “trade of the year” just took a beating, writes Brian Chappatta.

Speed Round

James Comey thinks he did the right thing in the Clinton case; the Justice Department inspector general thinks otherwise. The IG has the better case. – Noah Feldman

The new Obamacare lawsuit is probably not going to succeed. – Ramesh Ponnuru

Conor Sen and Noah Smith talk about why Americans seem so bummed despite economic indicators being so good.

Trump is killing a program, fostered by past Republican and Democratic presidents, to encourage immigrant entrepreneurs – not because it’s illegal or hurts the economy but because of that word “immigrant.” All immigrants are bad, you see. – Doug Rand and Stuart Anderson 

Italy shouldn’t have turned away a boatload of refugees, but then Emmanuel Macron shouldn’t have jumped down Italy’s throat. – Ferdinando Giugliano 

ICYMI

Emerging markets are submerging. New York sued the Trump Foundation. Millionaires have half the world’s wealth.

Kickers

FiveThirtyEight previews the World Cup’s Group H and predicts the whole thing

NSFW: This is what it sounds like when baseball managers argue with umps (WARNING: CURSE WORDS AHOY).

Jerry Seinfeld and some special guests join Zack Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns.

Want to invest in North Korea? Good luck with that.

Note: Please send curses, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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