Elizabeth Warren spent the first 10 months of her campaign studiously avoiding attacking her fellow Democratic contenders by name. No longer.
With Mike Bloomberg making a splashy entrance into the race — breaking a one-week spending record with a $34 million ad buy — the Massachusetts Democrat now has what her campaign views as an ideal foil for her message that the hyper-rich have too much control over the political system.
Bloomberg, Warren said as she campaigned in Iowa, is “making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn’t need people. He only needs bags and bags of money … His view is that he doesn’t need people who knock on doors. He doesn’t need to get out and campaign with people … And if you get out and knock on 1,000 doors, he’ll just spend another $37 million to flood the airways. And that’s how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party.”
The billionaire former New York mayor responded to the criticism as he made the first stop of his campaign at a diner in Norfolk, Va.. “For years I’ve been using my resources for the things that matter to me. I was lucky enough to build a successful company. It has been very successful and I’ve used all of it to give back to help America,” he told reporters, pointing to his spending on efforts promoting gun safety, combating climate change and helping Democrats retake the House. “I’m now in the race; I’m fully committed to defeating Donald Trump. I think he’s an existential threat to our country. I’m going to make my case and let the voters, who are plenty smart, make their choice.”
Warren appears primed to keep pressing her attack. “Her message is rich people have rigged the system by buying influence, and here comes a rich person trying to rig the system by buying influence,” one person close to the campaign tells me.
The sudden offensive underscores the extent to which Warren — and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has also been sharply critical of Bloomberg — aims to force a reckoning between a populist vision and the party’s more traditional, industry-friendly approach.
Warren for weeks has made hay from a series of confrontations with Wall Street billionaires going public with criticisms of her proposed wealth tax. Bloomberg likewise opposes the plan — unlike Tom Steyer, the Democratic field’s other billionaire, who has offered his own version. And the ex-mayor's entry in the race gives Warren a fixed target with name recognition beyond CNBC’s viewership.
“She’s the most widely liked candidate in the race,” the source close to her campaign says. “And Bloomberg’s the most widely disliked candidate in the race and represents a widely disliked phenomenon, which is rich people trying to buy influence in elections. She’s got a wide berth here to go negative in a way that redounds to her benefit.”
Warren can draw a straight line from her opening argument in the race to her Bloomberg critique. On a visit to Iowa back in January, she said Democrats “ought to be building a movement, and the way we do that is with lots of involvement from lots of people, not having billionaires buy these campaigns, whether we’re talking about super PACs or self-funding.”
But the Bloomberg camp argues the candidate’s ability to self-fund is a strength. “He has never taken a political contribution in his life. He is not about to start,” Bloomberg chief adviser Howard Wolfson told the AP’s Steve Peoples. “He cannot be bought.”
Per Peoples, "Bloomberg’s team insists that his wealth allows him to be more responsive to the concerns of everyday people because he isn’t beholden to special interests. Wolfson said Bloomberg would work for only $1 a year as president, just as he did when he was New York City mayor for more than a decade… Bloomberg ‘is wholly independent of special interests, will not take a dime in any contribution, and never has in any of his three races,’ Wolfson said.”
— Powell: Fed cut because economy was weaker than expected. The central bank chief suggested the moves weren't just an insurance policy. WSJ's Nick Timiraos: Powell "has repeatedly cited risks from global growth and trade uncertainty, together with muted inflation, in explaining why the Fed was lowering its benchmark rate, which is currently in a range between 1.5% and 1.75%. The central bank raised rates four times in 2018 based on expectations inflation would strengthen as solid hiring gains pushed unemployment lower.
"In his speech Monday, Mr. Powell walked through a separate, additional justification for the rate reductions: how a reassessment of the economy’s presumed momentum last year warranted rate cuts as it became clear the economy might not have been nearly so strong."
- But he adds the labor market could get stronger. NYT's Jeanna Smialek: "While the job market is strong, benefiting low-wage workers and pulling prime-age adults back into the labor pool, 'there is still plenty of room for building on these gains,' he told a room full of local business leaders assembled in Providence."
— Market notches new high. CNBC's Fred Imbert: "Stocks rose on Monday as the market’s rally to record highs resumed amid increasing expectations that China and the U.S. will reach a so-called phase one trade deal. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite hit all-time closing highs as they rose 0.8% to 3,133.64 and 1.3% to 8,632.49, respectively. Both indexes also notched intraday records. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also had a record close, gaining 190.85 points, or 0.5% to 28,066.47... Monday’s gains come after the market’s rally took a pause last week, with the S&P 500 snapping a six-week winning streak. The Dow fell for the first week in five while the Nasdaq ended a seven-week run."
Trump sent a celebratory tweet early in the session:
Another new Stock Market Record. Enjoy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2019
Ivanka Trump waited until after the close:
Stocks Hit New Highs! 🔥— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) November 25, 2019
— U.S., China negotiators have constructive call. CNBC's Evelyn Cheng: "The leaders of the U.S.-China trade negotiations held another phone call on Tuesday morning, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in an online statement. 'Both sides discussed resolving core issues of common concern, reached consensus on how to resolve related problems (and) agreed to stay in contact over remaining issues for a phase one agreement,' the Chinese-language statement said, according to a CNBC translation. Liu He, China’s top negotiator on trade, spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the statement said."
NY Fed study: Americans are paying tariffs, not Chinese. Reuters's Howard Schneider: "When the Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese imports last year, officials insisted China would pay the cost - implying Chinese firms would have to cut their prices to absorb import 'taxes' of up to 25% when the goods hit U.S. shores.
"Instead, the prices Chinese firms charge have barely budged, meaning U.S. companies and consumers are paying the tariff costs, estimated at around $40 billion annually, New York Fed Reserve Bank researchers found in a study released on Monday... 'The continued stability of import prices for goods from China means U.S. firms and consumers have to pay the tariff,' the Fed research team wrote."
— Pelosi says USMCA deal is "within range": "House Democrats have come 'within range' of reaching a North American trade agreement they can support, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reports.
"'Now, we need to see our progress in writing from the [Office of the U.S.] Trade Representative for final review,' the California Democrat said in a statement ... On Monday, the House speaker said the version of USMCA the three countries crafted last year 'still left American workers exposed to losing their jobs to Mexico, included unacceptable provisions to lock in high prescription drug prices, and fell short of key environmental standards.' She contended it also lacked 'concrete, effective enforcement mechanisms.'"
- Earlier in the day Trump slammed her for slowing down the deal: The president “put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal through the House, saying it’d be ‘her fault’ if the U.S.’s partner nations pull out,” Market Watch’s Robert Schroeder reports. “Speaking in the Oval Office alongside Bulgaria’s prime minister, the president said it appeared California Democrat Pelosi was ‘incapable of moving’ the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. On Friday, Pelosi said she wasn’t sure there would be enough time to finish by the end of the year, even if lawmakers and the Trump administration struck an agreement on the deal. Democrats and the White House have been negotiating for months.
— Grenell fires back in back-in-forth over Huawei: “[Trump’s] ambassador to Germany called comments by officials in Berlin who compared the threat of U.S. and Chinese espionage an ‘insult’ to American troops stationed in the country,” Bloomberg News’s Patrick Donahue and Stefan Nicola report.
“The volley by U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist who has stoked trans-Atlantic tensions with pointed comments on German-U. S. divisions, is likely to compound controversy over the participation of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. in Germany’s fifth-generation mobile technology … The U.S. envoy didn’t identify specific officials. But the statement comes a day after Economy Minister Peter Altmaier defended the government’s decision not to impose a ban on Huawei, saying it didn’t issue a ‘boycott’ of U.S. companies in the wake of espionage accusations by the U.S. National Security Agency dating to 2013.”
— SCOTUS blocks Dems from obtaining Trump's financial records: The Supreme Court "blocked a House committee from immediately reviewing [Trump’s] financial records, after the president’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower-court ruling granting access," my colleague Robert Barnes reports.
"The court’s action signals that, even as Congress considers impeaching Trump, the court will undertake a more complete consideration of the legal powers of Congress and state prosecutors to investigate the president while he is in office.The court instructed Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 stating why the court should accept the case for full briefing and oral argument. If the petition is eventually denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect. If accepted, the case probably will be heard this term, with a decision before the court adjourns at the end of June."
— Trump ordered review of sanctions on Turkish bank: “Trump told the Treasury Department and Justice Department to look into the impact of U.S. sanctions on a Turkish state-owned bank after being lobbied by Turkey’s president, a Treasury official acknowledged in a letter last week to a top Democratic senator,” Bloomberg News’s Joe Light reports.
“The letter, sent in response to queries by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, outlined seven meetings Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had with senior Turkish officials from April 2017 through this month, but didn’t detail what was discussed or answer other questions posed by Wyden, who is the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.”
IMPEACHMENT MINUTE: A speed read on the latest from the congressional impeachment inquiry.
“Schiff says report will be forwarded to Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns next week.” By The Post's John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Brittany Shammas
“Former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena, judge rules.” By The Post's Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow
— Schwab will acquire TD Ameritrade for $26 billion: “Charles Schwab will acquire TD Ameritrade in a $26 billion, all-stock deal as the brokerage giants dramatically change a business model that has been crushed by the race to zero commissions,” my colleagues Thomas Heath and Rachel Siegel report.
“The tie-up of the discount brokerage giants — which helped revolutionize stock trading by making it affordable and more accessible to the masses — reflects the industry’s shift from a commission-heavy revenue stream to one more reliant on interest income and client services … The combined company is expected to serve 24 million brokerage accounts and oversee more than $5 trillion in client assets … The combined company also would oversee more than $2 trillion, or 51 percent of the market, of what’s known as custody assets for registered investment advisers.”
- Financial advisers are nervous: “ … The proposed deal isn’t sitting well with one key group: the financial advisers who park their clients’ money with the big online brokerages,” the Wall Street Journal’s Alexander Osipovich reports. “Registered investment advisers, or RIAs, rely on brokerages including Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity Investments to execute trades, hold clients’ assets and perform related services such as record-keeping, a business known as custody.”
— Activist investor takes stake in CVS: “Activist investor Starboard Value LP has taken a stake in CVS Health Corp. CVS and held talks with the drugstore-and-insurance giant’s management, according to people familiar with the matter,” WSJ’s Corrie Driebusch reports.
“The stake appears to be relatively small and the people said the talks, held recently, are amicable. How much Starboard currently owns and what it has discussed with the company couldn’t be learned. But Starboard is one of the top activist-investment firms and its presence in a stock usually causes a company to sit up and take notice.”
— McDonald’s to pay $26 million to settle California wage suit: “McDonald’s Corp agreed to pay $26 million to settle a nearly seven-year-old lawsuit accusing the fast food chain of underpaying U.S. staff at its corporate-owned restaurants in California,” Reuters’s Jonathan Stempel reports.
“The preliminary settlement resolves claims that the company used a timekeeping system that cheated workers out of overtime, barred workers from taking rest breaks during their shifts, and forced workers to clean and iron their uniforms out of pocket. It resolves claims by about 38,000 cashiers and cooks in California, and is the largest wage settlement against Chicago-based McDonald’s in the United States, representatives for the plaintiffs said.”
— A post-Brexit Europe is already happening in one capital: “The disruption of a final Brexit is impossible to calculate, and its full dimensions will take years to become clear. Even so, in tiny, orderly Amsterdam, it is already possible to glimpse what post-Brexit Europe might look like — because it is already here,” Fortune’s Vivienne Walt reports.
“About 100 companies with operations in Britain have opened offices in the Netherlands because of Brexit, according to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Of those, at least 65 are in Amsterdam, a city with a population of 800,000 — a sliver of London’s 9 million. City officials say the influx will create about 3,500 jobs in the next three years. And that could be a trickle compared with a future flood.”
— Like the London bridge, Uber’s stock falls after ban: “Uber Technologies Inc. shares slumped … after the ride-hailing company lost its license to operate in London when the city’s transport regulator said it failed to address safety concerns,” Bloomberg News’s Esha Dey reports.
MONEY ON THE HILL
— Gridlock is good, Goldman says: “Goldman Sachs told clients … that the longest bull market in modern U.S. history will continue in 2020 and mark its 11th anniversary in part thanks to an expected political stalemate in Washington,” CNBC’s Thomas Franck reports.
“In a note subtitled, ‘United we fall, divided we rise,’ the firm’s chief U.S. equity strategist, David Kostin, outlined his market predictions for 2020, including the implications of the upcoming presidential election. Goldman Sachs’ analysis shows that since 1928, the median S&P 500 12-month return under a divided government is 11% versus 8% under a unified government. That’s because a gridlocked government — hamstrung from passing either party’s initiatives or reforms — tends to generate better returns than when one political party controls Congress.”
— Sanders balks at MLB’s plan: “Bernie Sanders is crying foul over a proposal from owners of Major League Baseball franchises to close 42 Minor League teams in more than three dozen cities, a 25 percent cut that the Democratic presidential contender says would be ‘an absolute disaster for baseball fans,’” Bloomberg News’s Laura Litvan reports.
“In a letter … to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Sanders urged a rethinking of the plan that he says would hurt lower-paid players and deprive families in small and mid-sized cities of a chance to partake of the sport at a time when major team owners are ‘making record-breaking profits.’ ”
— SEC unveils derivatives rules. WSJ's Paul Kiernan: "The Securities and Exchange Commission is taking another stab at regulating the use of derivatives by investment funds, after an attempt by the Obama administration to establish stricter rules was shelved amid industry opposition.The SEC said Monday its members had voted to propose a new rule on the use of swaps, options, futures and other derivatives by mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. If enacted, the proposed rules would replace a patchwork of guidelines issued over recent decades to enable funds to work around a 1940 law that restricts their use.
"Among the proposed changes would be the elimination of a requirement that funds set aside enough liquid assets to cover any obligations under their derivatives positions. Instead, the new rule would require funds to implement a derivatives risk-management program and hire a derivatives risk manager."
- HP, Dollar Tree, Dell Technology, Cracker Barrel, Dick's Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Abercrombie & Fitch are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger.
- The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on synthetic data set for tax policy analysis.
- Deere and Daktronics are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger.
- The market is closed for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!
- The market closes early at 1 p.m.