Nov 5, 2019

Analysis | The Finance 202: The economy remains Trump's bright spot with voters

By Tory Newmyer


President Trump. (Mandel Ngan/ AFP)
The economy remains a relative bright spot for President Trump a year before he faces voters, with twice as many saying conditions have improved since he took office as those who think things have gotten worse. 
The results, from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, continue a trend: While a majority of voters give Trump harsh reviews for his personal behavior in office — and his overall approval number among registered voters stands at 39 percent in the survey — voters give him his best marks for economic stewardship.
Still, the poll finds Trump has a lot of work to do to convince a significant chunk of the electorate the economy is on an upward trajectory and he deserves credit for it. Forty-four percent of respondents said economic conditions have improved; 22 percent said they have deteriorated; and another 31 percent report that things remain about the same.
The survey finds voters’ economic perceptions are heavily influenced by their partisan outlook, also continuing a trend since the start of Trump's presidency. More than three in four who said the economy has improved give Trump a good or great deal of credit for it. Likewise, more than eight in 10 who say conditions have worsened assign blame to the president.
And by 77 percent to 8 percent, Republicans reported improving economic conditions over Trump’s presidency. Only 13 percent of Democrats said the economy is better, compared to 43 percent who say it’s in worse shape.
Trump outperforms President Barack Obama on the measure at a different point in his first term. When the Post-ABC poll asked voters the same question just before Obama stood for reelection in 2012, only 32 percent said the economy had improved since he took office, while 43 percent said it had gotten worse. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hugs Trump at a rally in Lexington, Kentucky. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
The economic report card remains largely consistent in Midwestern battleground states that could decide whether Trump is returned to office next year. Matching the national result, 44 percent of voters in Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin said the economy has improved since Trump took office, while 24 percent said it has declined.
That’s an arguably surprising result, considering conditions in some of those states are lagging behind the national average. “Nationally, the economy looks healthy, with solid growthstocks at record highs and an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, near historic lows,” my colleagues Andrew Van Dam and Heather Long report. “But unemployment isn’t falling for everybody. New data released last week by the Labor Department reveals just how many places are struggling… Of the 10 closest states in the last election, four — Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina — have seen substantial rises in unemployment over the past year, according to the latest Labor Department data.”

It’s no mystery why those states are struggling: The manufacturing and agriculture sectors there have suffered disproportionately as a result of Trump’s trade war. But his supporters in those states don’t appear to be breaking from him in meaningful numbers. A New York Times Upshot and Siena College poll finds the president trailing former vice president Joe Biden by an average of two points in the six states he won most narrowly in 2016 — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina. That’s within the margin of error. He splits those states in head-to-head matchups with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and leads Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in three of them while tying her in two:

Nationally, Trump fairs worse in head-to-head matchups against his 2020 Democratic rivals, the Post-ABC poll finds:

And ominously for the president, "the national results represent a shift away from Trump since the summer, when only Biden had a clear advantage over the incumbent," The Post's Dan Balz and Scott Clement write. "With Republicans and Democrats mostly locked in on their voting intentions, the biggest difference between the results from July and those in the new poll is that independents have moved in the direction of the Democratic candidates."
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Stocks notch record highs. The Post's Taylor Telford: "U.S. stocks closed at fresh highs Monday, extending last week’s record-breaking run as investors reveled in strong economic data, blockbuster earnings and trade optimism.The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 115 points, or 0.4 percent, surpassing the record close of 27,398 set in July. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq indexes also rose from the record levels they had set last week.
"Markets have rallied in part because a better-than-expected jobs report last week showed the labor market was strong despite a lengthy strike by General Motors workers that stretched into October. Investors have also cheered positive assurances from U.S. and Chinese trade officials that a partial trade deal is forthcoming. The S&P 500 is up more than 20 percent for the year, headed for its best performance since 2013."

Things feel chillier in the executive suite than they do at the mall, and the future of a record expansion hangs in the balance.



U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) and Chinese Vice Premier Liu seen here in February.  (Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S., China talk about lifting tariffs. WSJ's William Mauldin and Alex Leary: "U.S. and Chinese officials are actively considering rolling back some tariffs to clinch the partial trade deal under negotiation, according to people familiar with the talks. 'If there’s a deal, [removing] tariffs will be part of it,' a senior administration official said late Monday. The U.S. and China have agreed in principle to what [Trump] has called the first of several phases of an accord to end the dispute that has penalized hundreds of billions of dollars of trade between the two countries...
"China’s foreign ministry sent positive signals about the trade talks on Tuesday, saying the two presidents are in contact and progress is being made on the negotiations. The Financial Times earlier reported that Trump administration officials were considering cutting tariffs of 15% on about $111 billion in Chinese imports imposed Sept. 1."
— Caterpillar lays off 120 workers: “Caterpillar Inc has laid off 120 temporary workers at a plant in Texas following its decision to cut production in the wake of a fall in sales due to [Trump’s] trade war with China,” Reuters’s Rajesh Kumar Singh reports.
“The layoffs, which took place at the hydraulic excavator facility in Victoria on Nov. 1, were confirmed to Reuters by a company spokeswoman on Monday. The facility had about 820 employees. Kate Kenny, Caterpillar’s spokeswoman, attributed the decision to ‘market conditions.’ ”

The Chinese leader backed Carrie Lam's crackdown on protests roiling the financial hub, amid reports she would be replaced, but offered no political solution to ease the unrest.
Gerry Shih

The U.S. Supreme Court. (Erin Schaff/File/Reuters)
A Supreme Court fight over Trump’s taxes is now more likely: A federal appeals court “rejected [Trump’s] effort to block New York prosecutors from accessing his tax records and Trump’s sweeping claims of presidential immunity,” my colleagues Jonathan O'Connell, Ann E. Marimow and Deanna Paul report.
“In trying to block a subpoena for his private financial records from New York prosecutors investigating hush-money payments made before the 2016 election, Trump’s attorneys have argued that as president Trump is immune not only from prosecution but from investigations. But in the decision, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that ‘any presidential immunity from a state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such subpoena.’ ”
  • The decision does not immediately force Trump to turn over his returns: “... Trump plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, according to Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president. That appeal is due 10 days from the appeals court decision, per an agreement between prosecutors and the plaintiffs. A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) declined to comment.”


Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. (Philip Pacheco/AFP/Getty Images)
Uber CEO predicts profitability by 2021: “Uber continues to burn through cash, but CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company could become profitable in about two years,” CNBC’s Annie Palmer reports.
“The ride-hailing company will be profitable on an adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) basis for the full year in 2021, Khosrowshahi said in an interview on Monday with CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa … Uber is facing pressure from Wall Street to turn a profit as investors have grown increasingly skeptical of money-losing tech companies. Rival ride-sharing platform Lyft announced last week that it expects to be profitable on an adjusted EBITDA basis by the fourth quarter of 2021. Both companies’ stocks are trading way below their IPO price from earlier this year.”
The company posted third-quarter loss of $1.2 billion. Per the NYT's Kate Conger, that was "wider than the $986 million loss a year earlier but less than the $5.2 billion loss in the previous quarter. Yet Uber’s stock fell more than 5 percent in after-hours trading because the number of new customers coming to the app and overall bookings — which are rides and food deliveries before the company pays commissions — were weaker than some Wall Street analysts had expected."
— Fired McDonald’s CEO barred from working for rival for 2 years: “Ousted McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook cannot take a job with a rival fast-food business for two years, according to a regulatory filing Monday, one day after the company announced he had shown ‘poor judgment’ by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee,” my colleague Hannah Knowles reports.
“Easterbrook’s separation agreement temporarily prohibits him from working for such competitors as Burger King, Yum Brands and Starbucks, as well as convenience store giants such as 7-Eleven and Wawa. He also will receive 26 weeks of pay, though the value of the severance package was not immediately clear. Easterbrook earned nearly $16 million in 2018, including a base salary of $1.35 million.”
  • The company also parted ways with its top human-resources officer: “McDonald’s said Chief People Officer David Fairhurst left the company … without providing any details of the reasoning behind his departure,” the Wall Street Journal’s Heather Haddon reports. “A McDonald’s representative said Mr. Fairhurst’s exit wasn’t related to the firing of Mr. Easterbrook.”
— WeWork is just SoftBank’s latest struggle: “SoftBank Group Corp.’s longtime strategy of dumping mountains of cash on promising young companies to create big winners failed dramatically at WeWork, and is showing cracks at a number of its other investments,” the WSJ’s Phred Dvorak, Rolfe Winkler and Heather Somerville report.
“SoftBank’s nearly $100 billion Vision Fund gave companies like dog-walking app Wag and indoor farm Plenty more cash than they wanted, but the investments failed to ignite growth. After a sizable bet on online car-lessor Fair, that company is struggling to stay afloat. Wag is for sale, people with knowledge of the companies say.”

It is the latest example of a growing global movement to experiment with the concept of a four-day workweek.
Jena McGregor

The valuation of the giant oil producer remains a critical question in the wake its decision to go public.


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Wall Street sounds alarm over Warren. NYT's Kate Kelly and Lisa Lerer: "Interviews with more than two dozen hedge-fund managers, private-equity and bank officials, analysts and lobbyists made clear that Ms. Warren has stirred more alarm than any other Democratic candidate. (Senator Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a socialist, is also feared, but is considered less likely to capture the nomination.)...
"While there’s no coordinated strategy, the industry is more or less united against Ms. Warren. With just months before the first voting begins, it is unleashing a barrage of public attacks, donating money to her rivals and scrambling to counter her blistering narrative about Wall Street. 'Everyone is nervous,' said Steven Rattner, a prominent Democratic donor who manages the wealth of Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor."
Rattner: Warren presidency is a "terrifying prospect." The former Obama Treasury official tears into the candidate in a New York Times op-ed, writing, "Left to her own devices, she would extend the reach and weight of the federal government far further into the economy than anything even President Franklin Roosevelt imagined, effectively abandoning the limited-government model that has mostly served us well. Ms. Warren may call herself a capitalist, but her panoply of minutely detailed plans suggests otherwise. She would turn America’s uniquely successful public-private relationship into a dirigiste, European-style system."
Billionaire investor tears up and tears into Warren: “Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman teared up ... as he discussed the political divide in the U.S. and his concerns about the American Dream,” CNBC’s Thomas Franck reports. "‘I care,’ the hedge-fund manager answered on CNBC’s 'Halftime Report,' tearing up after CNBC’s Scott Wapner asked why he has been so vocal about the 2020 election.”
“Cooperman’s response came in the midst of a political battle between the longtime investor and presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Cooperman has been a vocal critic of Warren’s proposed wealth tax and her general distrust of America’s richest individuals. ‘I don’t need Elizabeth Warren telling me that I’m a deadbeat and that billionaires are deadbeats. The vilification of billionaires makes no sense to me. The world is a sustainably better place because of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Rubenstein, Bernie Marcus, Ken Langone,’ Cooperman said.”
Warren responded on Twitter:
One thing I know he cares about—his fortune. He's a shareholder in Navient, a student loan company that has cheated borrowers and used abusive, misleading tactics. He even went so far as to ask how I might impact his investment in the last earnings call with Navient.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) November 5, 2019
Warren's willingness to continue to responding to Cooperman's criticism suggests he's exactly the kind of foil she's looking for. It's an approach she's demonstrated more broadly, wearing attacks from Wall Streeters as a badge of honor.


The Securities and Exchange Commission. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
SEC pushed on ratings agencies. WSJ's Cezary Podkul: "A panel of academics and former credit-ratings-firm executives urged the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday to finally end the industry’s 'issuer pay' business model in which entities that sell bonds also pay for ratings. 'The issuer-pay model that we have is fundamentally broken,' Jeffrey Manns, law professor at George Washington University, told the SEC at a hearing in the agency’s New York office...
"In August, a Wall Street Journal investigation found inflated credit ratings are making a comeback in the so-called structured-finance market. Bankers in this market create bonds from pools of loans such as commercial and residential mortgages, student loans and other consumer debts. In October, the Journal reported corporate-bond markets are showing signs of rating inflation, too."


  • The Commerce Department releases international trade figures for September
  • Peloton, Chesapeake Energy, Mallinckrodt, DaVita, Caesars Entertainment, Choice Hotels, Shutter Stock and Match Group are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger
  • Georgetown hosts its annual Financial Markets Quality conference, which will feature remarks from NYSE President Stacey Cunningham and FINRA president Robert Cook among others
  • The New York Times hosts its DealBook conference in New York, which features remarks from Bill Gates, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and others
  • Office Depot, CBS Health, CenturyLink, Lumber Liquidators, Expedia Group, Humana, Fossil, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, GoDaddy and the New York Times are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger
  • The CFPB hosts a symposium on Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which will feature remarks by director Kathleen Kraninger
  • AMC Entertainment, NewsCorp, Wynn Resorts, Yelp Inc., Activision Blizzard, Monster Beverage, Party City,  Ralph Lauren, Planet Fitness, Meredith and Nielsen are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger
  • The Senate Banking Committee hosts a hearing on bipartisan bills to promote affordable housing
  • Honda Motor, Duke Energy and Revlon are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger
  • China releases its latest trade figures, per WSJ

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