Business

Chaos in Washington Adds to Market Jitters

A far-right mutiny on Capitol Hill has sent markets into a tailspin. Skittish investors have dumped stocks and bonds this morning on fears that chaos in the Republican Party will cause a government shutdown next month and all but squash the fleeting hopes of a soft-landing economic recovery heading into an election year.

The markets had been wobbling well before the latest turmoil in the House. But the move on Tuesday to oust Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, as speaker, raised the prospect of a prolonged leadership vacuum. That could doom negotiations to fund the government beyond Nov. 17, when a temporary deal agreed last week will expire, adding to investor anxieties. (More on what’s next for the House below.)

Economists at Goldman Sachs called a shutdown next month their base case, saying in a note on Tuesday that “a $120 billion difference between the parties on the preferred spending level for FY2024” is one of the big sticking points. A lengthy shutdown could dent growth, and put the country’s credit rating at risk.

Investors are spooked. Stocks and bonds in Asia and Europe fell this morning. Those slides came after the S&P 500 closed at a four-month low on Tuesday. The benchmark index is lurching toward correction territory, having dropped nearly 8 percent since a high in July.

That is “the biggest sell-off so far this year, having now surpassed the scale of the losses in February and March at the time of SVB’s collapse,” Jim Reid, a strategist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in an investor note this morning, referring to Silicon Valley Bank.

The Treasury rout is raising wider fears. The yield on a 30-year Treasury note topped 5 percent this morning, a 16-year high, before rebounding. Yields rise when prices fall, and when T-bill yields rise, so do interest rates on many long-term loans, including mortgages — another blow to households and businesses that have seen borrowing costs soar since the Fed began raising rates 18 months ago.

Jeffrey Gundlach, the billionaire investor and C.E.O. of DoubleLine Capital, warned that the bond slump “should put everyone on recession warning, not just recession watch.”

The fallout could hit banks. Deutsche Bank analysts warned on Tuesday that the bond spillover could compound the balance-sheet losses of vulnerable midsize banks, forcing them to pull back on lending. But Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, sounded a more optimistic note, saying that the higher-for-longer scenario of lending rates was “by no means a given.”

What next? Friday’s jobs data may give signs of whether high interest rates and inflation are hitting the labor market and wider economy. On Tuesday, the so-called JOLTS jobless claims report showed a rebound in job openings for August, more evidence for investors increasingly concerned that the Fed will raise interest rates again this year.

Donald Trump is ordered to stop badmouthing court staff. The judge presiding over his New York civil fraud trial issued a gag order after the former president posted a picture of the court clerk to his Truth Social platform, mocking her as “Schumer’s girlfriend,” in a reference to the Senate majority leader. Experts say violations could lead to fines for Trump — or even jail time.

Jury selection continues in Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are likely to pick a jury of 12, as well as alternates, as soon as Wednesday. Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, has pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges, which include fraud and money laundering.

Drugmakers agree to negotiate with Medicare over prices. Ten pharmaceutical companies, including Janssen, Novartis and Novo Nordisk, will begin talks with the federal government as part of a discounted price regime introduced by the Inflation Reduction Act, even as several sue to stop it. The Congressional Budget Office projects that a breakthrough in negotiations would save taxpayers about $100 billion over a decade.

A strike threat looms over Kaiser Permanente. More than 75,000 employees at the health care giant have threatened to walk off the job as soon as Thursday, after their contract expired last weekend. It would be the sector’s biggest strike in recent memory, and follow labor disputes that have hobbled Hollywood and the auto industry.

The removal of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker thrust Washington into a new level of uncertainty, as half of Congress was left without a leader, effectively halting all legislation. (“Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos,” Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, an ally of McCarthy, warned before Tuesday’s vote.)

It’s unclear who can rally enough support both from Republican moderates and from hard-liners like Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the coup. And there are just six weeks left before the federal government is set to shut down.

Republicans wrung their hands at the anarchy. “I really am crushed because I don’t know how a guy could lose his job for doing the right thing,” Representative David Joyce of Ohio told Politico. Representative Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma said that the move “will put this House in a stalemate and paralyze our ability to fight for our constituents and instead create a fight amongst one another.”

Even Donald Trump weighed in: “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our country,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform. (Whether he tacitly backed the rebellion is unclear.)

There’s no obvious successor to McCarthy, who spent his nine months as speaker perpetually at risk of being ousted by the far-right colleagues who dragged out his nomination in the first place. Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is speaker pro tempore, but only has the power to supervise the selection of a permanent speaker.

Potential candidates include Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, who is undergoing chemotherapy; Elise Stefanik of New York, the top woman in the party’s House leadership; and Cole, who is respected on both sides of the aisle. But whether any of them can corral the likes of Gaetz (whom some Republicans now want to eject from their caucus) is another question.

Lawmakers are worried about how to avert a shutdown, given that McCarthy’s 11th-hour deal to stave one off cost his job. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, lamented that the House putsch undermined last weekend’s agreement “because now they’re going to be mired in a speaker election for who knows how long.”

Some Republicans said that they now had less negotiating leverage with Democrats over a compromise. “Today’s actions actually empower those who want to increase spending and those who want to give a blank check to Ukraine,” said Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.


Masa Son, the founder of SoftBank. At a presentation at his company’s annual corporate conference Tuesday predicting huge advances in artificial intelligence, the billionaire technology investor showed a slide featuring a goldfish trapped in a bowl looking at a question mark, suggesting what he thought of those who ignored A.I. “Take advantage of it or be left behind,” he added.


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looks like it might survive an extraordinary challenge from the payday lenders it regulates. On Tuesday, Supreme Court justices sounded skeptical of the industry’s claims that the agency’s funding model was unconstitutional, in a case that threatens its regulations and enforcement actions and raises questions for other federal agencies.

The C.F.P.B. is financed directly by the Fed. Industry groups say that this is unconstitutional because the budget for the agency, which was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and has become a lightning rod for conservative lawmakers, is not determined annually by Congress. A lower court agreed.

Noel Francisco, a former solicitor general representing the lenders, said the structure was “a blueprint” for funding agencies in a way that “unconstitutionally strips Congress of its power of the purse.” But Elizabeth Prelogar, the current solicitor general, noted that other agencies avoid the appropriations process, yet their constitutionality has never been questioned.

Conservative and progressive justices pushed back against the lenders’ case. They suggested that the funding practice had roots in history, and that the Constitution allowed Congress to exercise its authority by delegating some of it.

“We’re all struggling to figure out what the standard is that you would use,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson questioned the court’s role in the argument. “I’m a little worried, I think, about the separation-of-powers problem that may occur if the judiciary gets involved with telling Congress when and under what circumstances it can exercise its own prerogatives concerning funding,” she said.

Another hopeful sign for the agency: There was little talk of what would happen if the funding mechanism was rejected, a sign that it may well survive.

Deals

  • Intel plans to split off a division that makes reprogrammable computer chips as part of a turnaround. (WSJ)

  • Brookfield Asset Management raised $12 billion for its latest private equity fund, its biggest ever. (Bloomberg)

  • Atomico, the European venture capital firm run by the Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, raised $1.1 billion for its latest fund. (FT)

  • The disappointing market debuts of companies like Instacart underscore the losses that late-stage growth investors are likely to face in an era of diminished valuations. (Bloomberg)

Policy

Best of the rest

  • Campbell Brown, the former journalist who oversaw Meta’s partnerships with news organizations, is leaving. (Axios)

  • Pixar’s “Elemental” was initially derided as a flop. But it has since proved a success, raising questions about the conventional animated film business model. (NYT)

  • “Without a College Degree, Life in America Is Staggeringly Shorter” (NYT Opinion)

  • Dave Portnoy, who amassed wealth and fame by founding Barstool Sports, is now the most influential person in American pizza. (NYT)

  • The musician Grimes, mother of three of Elon Musk’s children, has sued the billionaire tech executive, seeking a “parental relationship.” (San Francisco Standard)

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