Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day
Trump’s buying spree with China may not make up for the costs of his self-inflicted trade war, SoftBank’s Vision Fund employees are depicting a culture of recklessness in the firm and the U.S. House of Representatives is battling it out in a debate over whether Trump should — or shouldn't — be impeached. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
This doesn't happen often. Donald Trump’s legacy will be forever marked by his impeachment at the hands of House Democrats on Wednesday evening local time. The House convened Wednesday morning for what is expected to be hours of debate before a vote that is all but certain to result in Trump becoming the third U.S. president in history to be impeached. The lawmakers gathered in the well of the chamber, as their predecessors did when they voted to impeach Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. Opening the debate on the two articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump an “ongoing threat to our national security,” and declared that, “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.” Meanwhile, Republican Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, a leading defender of the president during Judiciary Committee hearings, said the president did nothing wrong. Trump, on the other hand, vented his anger on Twitter, writing that the allegations against him were “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS.” The House is currently in the full swing of the debate. Here’s how you can watch the process.
President Donald Trump is heading into an election year touting a trade deal that promises to double U.S. exports to China, which he says has pledged a $200 billion, two-year spending spree on everything from airplanes to pork chops and chicken feet. Yet the inescapable reality is that even this extraordinary splurge — if it happens — may not make up the economic cost of the trade war it seeks to defuse. The precise toll of an economic conflict (that is far from over, mind) is difficult to isolate. Everything from the direct cost of tariffs to intangibles like the role of uncertainty on business confidence gets factored in. It also gets at a theological debate in economics that sees ideological supporters of Trump’s tariffs argue that prior waves of protectionism are unfairly maligned by history. Economists who have calculated the impact of U.S. tariffs, most of which will remain in place, and China’s retaliatory measures have put the economic losses — including the impact of the resulting uncertainty — at a cost in lost output ranging from 0.3% to 0.7% of real gross domestic product this year alone. While a few tenths of a percentage point may not seem like much, it’s consequential in the world’s biggest economy.
Asian stocks looked set to drift as investors sit on the sidelines with little in the way of fresh catalysts, while treasuries retreated. Futures slipped in Japan and Australia, and were little changed in Hong Kong. U.S. stocks ended flat, a day after the S&P 500 Index reached another record amid encouraging economic data. With trade worries dormant, at least for now, after a partial U.S.-China deal was hashed out, investors are keeping an eye on impeachment proceedings in the U.S. The dollar strengthened against its major G-10 peers, and ten-year treasury yields climbed above 1.90% — the highest in more than four weeks. Global stocks are close to all-time highs, though with the U.S.-China trade accord announced Friday yet to be signed, traders are finding few reasons to bid prices higher. Meanwhile, West Texas crude rebounded after a bullish U.S. inventory report and the pound extended its losses after tumbling Tuesday on renewed concern that a no-deal Brexit is possible.
Masayoshi Son’s venture capital firm is famous for making outsize bets on tech startups. It has also been described as an environment of sycophancy and harassment. SoftBank’s Vision Fund employees are depicting a culture of recklessness in the firm, and Masa (as Son is universally known) is portrayed as volatile. The strategy that Son and his all-male phalanx of managing partners followed seemed less about any specific technology, and more about placing large bets on the buzziest startups: WeWork ($10.7 billion), Uber ($7.7 billion), on-demand pizza maker Zume ($375 million), and dog-walking app Wag ($300 million). The method seemed to be working — at least until earlier this year, when the fund’s most prominent investment, the office-sharing startup WeWork, operatically self-destructed. SoftBank’s starry-eyed investors convinced themselves that the that WeWork’s outrageous operating losses and the erratic behavior of co-founder Adam Neumann didn’t matter — until potential public-market investors reminded them that, actually, they did. But Vision Fund’s problems don’t stop with some bad bets. Here’s an exposé on the venture capital firm that has everyone talking.
A Chinese pipe maker endured a rollercoaster debut, finishing the day at a loss after almost doubling during its initial public offering in Hong Kong. Maike Tube Industry Holdings Ltd. surged as much as 84% on Wednesday morning, before closing down 5.7%. It’s the latest example of a stock seeing wild swings in its Hong Kong debut. Snack Empire Holdings Ltd. nearly tripled on its opening day two months ago before closing down 6.2%. Its shares are now 29% below their offer price. Maike Tube appeared to have stabilized by late-morning, but the weakness continued, capped by late-afternoon selling which pushed shares into negative territory. Trading volume was 60 million shares, versus the 98.4 million sold in the HK$224 million IPO. The offering had priced near the high end of expectations, and retail investors sought about 8.3 times the amount of stock made available to them. But after the initial surge Wednesday, enthusiasm quickly dissipated. Initial public offerings have slowed this month in Hong Kong, in what is a typical seasonal lull globally ahead of the Christmas period.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.
- The new Star Wars movie is reaping the worst reviews since ‘Phantom Menace’.
- Australia just experienced its hottest day on record.
- Here’s our optimist’s guide to 2020.
- The U.K.'s richest woman (and one of the world’s best-paid bosses) pocketed $422 million.
- Short-sellers are winning big this year with expensive bets against pot stocks.
- Why Hong Kong's property tycoons became Beijing's scapegoats.
- A rising demand for loans in China is concealing economic weakness.
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