Good Wednesday. Here’s what we’re following today:
• Disney’s pursuit of Fox is nearing its conclusion.
• The Fed still projects three rate increases next year.
• How will Doug Jones’s election affect the Trump agenda?
• But Mr. Jones’s arrival probably won’t affect the tax bill.
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That’s the answer to the main question investors had ahead of the Fed’s policy statement on Wednesday.
In a widely expected move, the Fed increased its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point, to a range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. It also offered improved forecasts for the United States economy.
• The central bank raised its forecast for economic growth this year and next to 2.5 percent from September’s projection of 2.4 percent and 2.1 percent.
• Fed officials lowered their projections for the unemployment rate at the end of 2018 to 3.9 percent from 4.1 percent.
Despite its improved outlook for the economy, the Fed remains cautious about raising rates too quickly. Two officials — Charles L. Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis — voted against Wednesday’s rate hike. The reason? Concerns about inflation.
Fed officials predicted that inflation would stay below the Fed’s 2 percent target next year, and then stay at 2 percent in 2019 and 2020. Those were unchanged from September.
Here’s how Wall Street economists reacted:
Ian Shepherdson, Pantheon Macroeconomics: “The key result of the growth revision to next year is that unemployment is now expected to end the year at 3.9%, down from the previous 4.1%. This looks hopelessly unrealistic to us. The Fed appears to be assuming either a surge in productivity growth or a leap in participation; they might happen but we think a more likely end-18 unemployment rate is 3.5% or less; had the Fed forecast that, they would have had to put in another rate hike in the dotplot for next year.”
Joseph Brusuelas, RSM US: “Investors should also take note that long run projections of growth at 1.8 percent and full employment at 4.6 percent, both of which suggest that the current economy is growing above trend and above full employment, also imply the risk of a much quicker pace of policy normalization via both the policy rate and the paring down of the balance sheet.”
Luke Bartholomew, Aberdeen Standard Investments: “Today was never really about the hike – that’s been in the bag for a while – it’s about what the Fed does next. It’s clear that the Fed thinks it can hike three more times next year. But that’s a forecast that markets don’t yet buy, and it’s data more than rhetoric that will ultimately convince investors.”
The Democratic candidate’s upset win over Roy Moore in Alabama poses several challenges:
• Republicans will have a harder time passing legislation — from infrastructure spending to potential cuts to programs like Medicaid and Medicare — with a Senate majority of just one seat.
• The Republican Party may split further between establishment figures like Mitch McConnell and dissidents in the vein of Mr. Moore whose allegiance aligns more closely alongside President Trump and shaking up the status quo.
• Democrats now have a more plausible, though still difficult, path to regaining a majority in the Senate.
“It should be a hurricane siren for every Republican,” Josh Holmes, a former aide to Mr. McConnell, told the WaPo. And Al Hunt of BloombergView writes, “The Alabama results diminish any clout the president has on Capitol Hill.”
That is, at least, if congressional Republicans can stick with their proposed timetable. Negotiators from the Senate and the House are working toward a compromise they hope to put forward for a vote next week.
The likely changes
• A corporate tax rate of 21 percent, slightly higher than what lawmakers had originally proposed
• A slight lowering of the top individual tax rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent
• Limiting the mortgage deduction to loans of up to $750,000, a compromise on levels set in the House and in the Senate proposals
What still needs work
• Whether to scrap the corporate alternative minimum tax
• A resolution on the estate tax
• How to treat state and local tax deductions.
And Senate Republicans must make sure that they keep their caucus together, since they can afford to lose only one vote. Both Susan Collins of Maine and Marco Rubio of Florida have expressed frustration with any attempt to lower the top individual tax rate.
Gaming the system: The Upshot took a look at some of the moneymaking opportunities in the current legislation.
The tax flyaround
• Michael Novogratz, the former Fortress executive, had some harsh words for his fellow Goldman Sachs alumni. “Steven Mnuchin never even modeled the thing — idiot, I-D-I-O-T,” he said, adding, “Gary Cohn shouldn’t be able to live with himself.” (Bloomberg)
• Tax cuts are not the secret sauce to power the American economy, Eduardo Porter asserts in his latest Economic Scene column. He writes, “They have, in fact, very little power to affect economic growth.” (NYT)
That’s the way negotiations are shaping up at the moment. (Here’s the standard deal-coverage caveat about last-minute snags.)
Here’s an encapsulation of the bigger picture, from Brooks Barnes and Michael of the NYT:
What was still being hammered out as of yesterday
• The price that Disney would pay for the Fox businesses it would acquire
• What role, if any, James Murdoch would take at Disney
• What sort of protections the companies would need in case antitrust authorities raise objections
Extra credit: Holman Jenkins Jr. of the WSJ op-ed page criticized the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to block AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner, arguing that the companies should be free to try a new business combination to compete in a changing landscape.
The F.C.C. is expected to vote tomorrow on rolling back the regulations. But Facebook, Google and their peers have been noticeably quiet. Why? They’re already on the defensive on other issues.
As Harold Feld of the advocacy group Common Knowledge told the NYT:
Ajit Pai, the F.C.C.’s chairman, again criticized online media platforms over what he said were decisions to restrict conservative political content. And Jon Liebowitz, a former Democratic head of the Federal Trade Commission, asserted in the WSJ that the F.C.C.’s move may not spell the end of net neutrality.
Extra credit: The WSJ found thousands of fraudulent comments on regulatory dockets at federal agencies, some of which used what appeared to be stolen identities. There were about 818,000 identical postings backing the F.C.C.’s new internet policy.
The site, which helped take crowdfunding mainstream, is hoping to do the same for initial coin offerings, according to the NYT. Its biggest benefit to those seeking to raise money by selling virtual tokens is registering those digital currencies as securities when appropriate — avoiding the kind of trouble that the restaurant review app Munchee encountered.
From Bloomberg’s Matt Levine:
Sign of the times: Look at what’s trending in Apple’s iOS App Store.
• Matt O’Brien writes, “Bitcoin has now graduated to being a Ponzi scheme for redistributing wealth from one person to another.” (Wonkblog)
• Kevin Roose — who laments missing a potential windfall by selling his sole Bitcoin holding in 2013 — writes, “There aren’t many investments that can produce outsize returns for the average person.” (NYT)
The tech giant will pay taxes on most of its international ad revenue in the countries where that money is collected, rather than funneling everything through its Irish subsidiary. There are several ways to think about this.
• The company will spread its wealth across more countries (and potentially earn some political good will at a time when it’s under heavy regulatory scrutiny).
• Its overall tax bill probably won’t go up by much.
• The move is a concession to political reality, when tax-lowering techniques like the “double Irish” are under assault.
From Joe Davidson of the WaPo, writing about a new study of diversity in the industry:
Extra credit: In September, the venture capitalist Aaron McClendon listed the African-American investors active in the V.C. community.
• Mr. Trump started a feud with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, over his contention that women who have publicly accused him of misconduct had “fabricated” their claims. (NYT)
• Ken Friedman, the restaurateur behind hugely successful restaurants like the Spotted Pig in Manhattan, has taken a leave of absence from his business after the NYT interviewed several former female employees who accused him of groping and harassment. (NYT)
• Tom Colicchio, the celebrity chef, said that the restaurant business needed a change in policy to prevent the kind of misconduct that Mario Batali is accused of conducting over the years. (Food & Wine)
• The movie could make at least $424 million in its first weekend, with $200 million alone at the North American box office, according to Deadline. (Yet it isn’t expected to perform as well as its predecessor, “The Force Awakens,” because the earlier film benefited from years of anticipation.)
• The “Star Wars” franchise remains one of Disney’s most valuable properties and would be a cornerstone of the company’s forthcoming video-streaming service, the LAT reminds us.
But really, we’re mentioning the movie here because Michael is stoked to see it. Manohla Dargis of the NYT writes, “Yes, the latest ‘Star Wars’ installment is here, and, lo, it is a satisfying, at times transporting entertainment.”
• Exxon Mobil has some room for creativity in its disclosures about how global warming may affect its business, so investors will have to do their homework on these estimates. (Breakingviews)
• Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal is set to rule on an appeal by Rurik Jutting, the British banker jailed for life for the murders of two Indonesian women. (Reuters)
• Iron Mountain, the data management company, agreed to buy I-O Data centers’ operations in the United States for $1.3 billion. (Bloomberg)
• General Electric conducted an internal review of who knew about the spare jet that followed Jeff Immelt on trips when he was its chief executive, according to people familiar with the matter. (WSJ)
• The surge in online purchases is testing the limits of delivery services and some have already warned that packages could be delayed. (WSJ)
• How to sort fact from fiction when it comes to debating economic policy: Start with information you can count on from statistics agencies. (NYT)
• The market is rendering its verdict on the gun industry: Remington Outdoor looks to be hurtling toward bankruptcy and it may not be alone. (Breakingviews)
• Toshiba has cleared one of the last remaining hurdles to a planned sale of its microchip subsidiary after settling a legal dispute with Western Digital that had threatened to block the deal. (NYT)
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