with Brent D. Griffiths

Joe Biden is putting big banks on notice.

The presumptive Democratic nominee accused major financial institutions of favoring their big corporate clients in handing out taxpayer-backed loans intended to save small businesses from the coronavirus shock.

Biden, striking an unusually fierce tone in a weekend interview with Politico’s Mike Grunwald, called for more guarantees that the Paycheck Protection Program funds land in the hands of small-business owners. And he said he wants aid to larger corporations to come with stronger oversight and prohibitions against stock buybacks and executive bonuses.

“This is the second time we’ve bailed their a---s out,” the former vice president said, referring both to major financial institutions and big businesses generally.

Biden’s comments suggest a candidate who has been considered relatively friendly to Wall Street is taking a more populist tack into his general election fight against President Trump.

Per Grunwald, Biden “railed about banks like Wells Fargo that are ‘only alive because of the American taxpayer’ giving their large corporate clients the first shot at Cares Act aid intended for small businesses… ‘We knew from the beginning that the big banks don’t like lending to small businesses,’ Biden said. ‘I’m telling you, though, if Main Street businesses don’t get help, they’re gone.’ ”

He also called for a new round of stimulus spending that is “a hell of a lot bigger” than the $2 trillion Cares Act that kicked off the small-business loan program with $349 billion. That funding ran dry less than two weeks after the Small Business Administration began handing it out earlier this month. It is restarting today with an additional $310 billion that Congress approved last week.

But it already has become a lightning rod. Small-business owners who failed to secure one of the 1.6 million loans handed out in the first round are blasting a process they say allowed the banks to move major, long-standing clients to the front of the line. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, is demanding answers from big-bank chief executives, requesting detailed explanations of how they set up their application systems.

Biden’s critique of the banks implicates more than the federal response to the coronavirus.

It also points to Biden embracing “the rhetorical pillars of economic populism that defined the Sanders and Warren campaigns,” Compass Point’s Isaac Boltansky writes in a note.

The former vice president has made a similar case in some recent comments — minus the darts he aimed at top banks and corporate c-suites — as we noted here Friday.

He is arguing the crisis has exposed structural problems underlying the economy, telling Politico corporate America is “greedy as hell” and predicting it could face a backlash for rewarding shareholders over workers. Biden has also drawn endorsements from all of his major former rivals in the primary — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) among them. And he has moved left substantively in recent weeks, including by declaring his support for Warren’s bankruptcy plan.

Biden has made up ground on the left but may feel he has some left to cover. 

The candidate solidified suspicion among liberals last June when he reassured a room full of donors at a private New York City fundraiser that if he was elected “nothing would fundamentally change.” So did his history of clashing with Warren over bankruptcy protections; and his fundraising from the financial services industry. 

The bad blood was revived last week by the revelation that former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Biden’s campaign on economic policy. “Summers was the first name on the ‘Biden do not reappoint list’ published last month by the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, who wrote that Summers in 2009 ‘not only lowballed the necessary economic stimulus and ended it prematurely, but he successfully fought for rescuing the biggest banks rather than taking them into temporary receivership,’” Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein reported.

The news prompted a letter from two liberal groups, Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, calling on the campaign to cut ties to Summers. Biden, they wrote, “has a major trust gap that he must overcome with progressives and voters under 45 who voted overwhelmingly against him in the primary and who he’ll need to defeat Trump.”

The candidate has been far less specific about his economic agenda than Warren was. Boltansky writes that Biden’s “fiery tone in this interview suggests that he could embrace a more economically progressive platform in the weeks ahead, which could produce a considerable amount of headline risk for financials.”

Market movers

Global stocks rally. WSJ's Anna Isaac and Xie Yu: "Global stocks rose Monday, with investors anticipating that stimulus measures and the easing of coronavirus-lockdown measures in the U.S. and Europe may help kick-start economic activity. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1%. Last week, the benchmark for U.S. blue-chip stocks posted modest losses, dropping 1.9% after a massive rally from late March to mid-April.

“Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index ended the day up 2.7%. The Bank of Japan scrapped its target for government-bond purchases and said it would nearly triple its holdings of corporate debt to aid fundraising by companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic. European markets climbed as countries including Italy and Spain signaled that they may loosen restrictions in the coming weeks. The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 gauge rose 1.7%.”

A gut-punch first-quarter GDP number is on the way. And the second-quarter print will be worse. WSJ's Harriet Torry: "The Commerce Department’s tally of first-quarter gross domestic product, to be released Wednesday, will cover a period mostly preceding the coronavirus-driven shutdowns of American economic activity that became widespread in mid-March and are set to continue in most of the country at least through April. ‘This is just the beginning,’ said Beth Ann Bovino, S&P Global’s chief U.S. economist, who estimates that GDP dropped at a 7.5% annual rate in the first quarter.

“Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the department to say GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the country, fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.5% in the first three months of the year. That would mark the first quarterly economic contraction in six years, and the steepest rate of decline since the recession of 2007-2009.”

The latest on PPP

Public companies took even more PPP money than previously known.

More than 200 public companies applied for at least $854.7 million: That estimate is according to Washington- based data analytics firm FactSquared, CNBC's Hugh Son reports. “Even as the U.S. small business relief program is set to reopen [today] with fresh funding, the full extent that public companies tapped the emergency facility is only now becoming clear.”

“That includes $126.4 million for three public companies affiliated with Texas hotelier Monty Bennett. One of those firms, Ashford Hospitality Trust, applied for $76 million in 117 separate loans, the most by a single company, according to regulatory filings.”

Bank of America CEO says the program needs more money: “Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said [PPP] … should be expanded so that it no longer runs on a first-come, first-served basis,” CNBC's Jesse Pound reports.

“Moynihan, whose bank was the first major lender to launch its application portal for the first round, said there is ‘great debate’ as to how much the program needs but said the government should commit to fully funding it until the eligible businesses can get the money … Treasury Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin said earlier Sunday that he would like to see the money in the second round of funding run out quickly because that would mean it was getting to businesses that need it." 

  • SBA to set limit for banks: The SBA announced … it’s limiting the maximum dollar amount of loans each bank can issue to $60 billion, or 10 percent of $600 billion allocated so far in two rounds of funding for [PPP]. The cap is intended is to help all lenders have equal access for their small business clients, the SBA said,” Bloomberg's Mark Niquette and Hannah Levitt report.

Pelosi and Schumer want a carve-out for minority lenders and community banks: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are pressing the Trump administration to set aside at least $10 billion in small business rescue money … saying they're concerned the aid is not reaching underserved, low-income areas,” Politico's Zach Warmbrodt reports.

“The demand from the top Democrats comes as administration officials revealed plans to limit the flow of government-backed loans amid fears that the funding … will soon run dry.”

Trevor Milton, the founder and CEO of Nikola, said on "Power Lunch" that his company qualifies as a small business despite its high valuation.
CNBC

The reopening debate

Ready or not, America is opening back up.

The easing will not be universal and is split largely along party lines: Some Republican governors are moving to reopen key sectors, but Democrats are proceeding more slowly, Griff Witte, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Andrea Eger report.

“Even in places where restrictions are being relaxed, governors have emphasized the need to proceed cautiously, lest they unleash a second wave … Yet even the most tentative steps have unnerved public health experts, big-city mayors and others who worry that with case numbers continuing to rise, it is too soon to reverse course on a virus that has killed [54,400] Americans … The reopenings come at a time when stay-at-home rules still enjoy widespread support, despite acute economic pain. Polls show that majorities of Americans worry more about moving too quickly to get back to business than too slowly.” 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) eyes May 15. The Democrat laid out “a broad outline on Sunday for a gradual restart of the state that would allow some ‘low-risk’ businesses upstate to reopen as soon as mid-May,” NYT's Jesse McKinley reports. “The governor’s announcement, coming as the state recorded its lowest death daily toll in nearly a month, was filled with caveats, but nonetheless offered the clearest outline yet for recovery in New York, the national center of the outbreak, with nearly 17,000 dead.”

Major retailers ask for uniformity. “The top two trade groups representing major retailers such as Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. are calling on governors to adopt uniform reopening standards as the pandemic subsides, including allowing warehouses and distribution centers nationwide to reopen all at once, rather than state-by-state,” Bloomberg's Naomi Nix and Ben Brody report. They report the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation are sending governors a six-page memo outlining a three-phased plan for stores. 

Coronavirus fallout

In the U.S.:
  • At least 961,000 cases have been reported; and 54,400 people have died.
  • Trump dismisses reports he will fire HHS Sec. Alex Azar: “The Washington Post, along with other news outlets, reported early Sunday that White House officials are discussing possible replacements for Azar as frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, and the uproar that followed his removal of a top vaccine official in his agency last week,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey report.
  • President's daily briefings are in question: “The Post analysis of Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings over the past three weeks — from Monday, April 6, to Friday, April 24 — reveals a president using the White House lectern to vent and rage; to dispense dubious and even dangerous medical advice; and to lavish praise upon himself and his government,” Philip Bump and Ashley Parker report. Advisers are now considering cutting the number of briefings or limiting Trump's appearances.
  • White House economic adviser sees possible 16 percent unemployment rate: “This is the biggest negative shock that our economy, I think, has ever seen. We’re going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the Great Depression” of the 1930s, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on ABC's “This Week.”
  • Some good news in slowing case growth. From Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist Ian Shepherdson: “U.S. confirmed case growth rose 2.9% yesterday, the smallest increase since the crisis began, and down from a 3.6% rise on the same day last week… The proportion of positive tests is falling rapidly, confirming that the underlying case growth is slowing. Wider testing is not finding large numbers of previously unknown cases.”
Corporate impact:
  • Wall Street tries to reopen to the office: Citigroup, which operates in more countries than rivals, is emblematic of the talks behind the scenes. Facing a slew of challenges, it’s cautioning employees to expect a slow, gradual return with no set dates. Some might spend the rest of the year working from home,” Bloomberg News's Jennifer Surane and Michelle F Davis report.
  • How the Fed saved a cruise line: “Carnival may still founder if tourists shun cruises over the long term, and its new debt carries a far heftier price tag than previous offerings. But the immediate survival of the company, which employs about 150,000 people, is no longer in question,” the WSJ's Matt Wirz reports of how the Fed's “turning the debt spigot back on for large corporations” helped the company.
  • Airbus warns of cuts as it continues “bleeding cash”: With airline customers fighting to survive and unable to accept new aircraft, Airbus is juggling its delivery schedules while reassessing its long-term outlook for the aerospace industry, [Airbus SE chief Guillaume] Faury told staff in a letter sent Friday and seen by Bloomberg News, Charlotte Ryan and Siddharth Vikram Philip report. “A plan to slash production by one-third announced earlier this month may not reflect the worst-case scenario, he said.”
  • Workers say online orders are too risky to be a panacea for retailers: “For a growing number of companies, the Web business is all that separates them from bankruptcy … But it is causing workers to fulfill orders few need, with many resentful of the situation even if they need the paycheck,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
  • Ford is recalling a skeleton crew to begin factory prep: “The callbacks have a ‘volunteer’ status, which means workers are paid if they choose to work but they are not required to work. Ford declined to specify which sites are calling back workers,” the Detroit Free Press's Phoebe Wall Howard reports. The news comes even as United Auto Workers members express anxiety over their safety.
  • Sports arenas could require renovations to reopen: “[Don Barnum, of firm DLR Group] Barnum said the firm had a ‘variety of conversations’ with team owners who inquired about adjusting layouts for social distancing. The firm created renderings using a minor league baseball stadium to analyze seating arrangements,” CNBC's Jabari Young reports.
Around the world:
  • Japanese Central Bank pledges huge intervention: The bank said “it will buy an unlimited amount of government bonds and triple its holdings of corporate debt as the coronavirus threatens a sharp contraction in the world’s third-largest economy,” Teo Armus report.
  • More than 1 million Australians downloaded a contact tracing app: “Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that if enough people sign up for the app, the government will be able to lift some lockdown restrictions. But in order for the app to be maximally effective, at least 40 percent of the population will have to download it,” Antonia Farzan reports.
  • New Zealand prepares to end lockdown: “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned on Monday that easing some lockdown restrictions could lead new risks as more people come into contact with one another, and encouraged New Zealanders to keep their ‘bubbles’ small. Large gatherings and travel for anything than work, exercise and essentials are still banned,” Antonia Farzan reports.

Money on the Hill

Next phase remains murky as lawmakers and the White House disagree about what states need.

Pelosi promises stimulus funds for “impatient” governors: The speaker says that "the next coronavirus stimulus package will include federal funding for hard-hit cities and states ‘in a big way,’ a promise that came as [Mnuchin] was less committal about the level of aid,” Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler report.

“Asked about Cuomo’s recent remarks that he ‘would have insisted that state and local funding was in this current bill,’ Pelosi told [CNN anchor] Jake Tapper: 'Just calm down. We will have state and local [aid], and we will have it in a very significant way. It's no use going on to what might have been.' 

“Mnuchin, asked by ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace whether the Trump Administration supported providing states with $500 billion in relief to pay for ‘first responders and other workers,’ said ‘it will be something we discuss on a bipartisan basis’ with the House and the Senate. ‘This is something we’ll consider, but our focus right now is on execution.'”

Republican lawmakers and the White House also disagree: “Trump is promoting costly ideas such as infrastructure investment and a payroll tax cut as his top economic official plays down the impact of additional virus spending on the national debt. But at the same time, senior Senate Republicans are increasingly warning about the effect on the nation’s liabilities, even as some of their own members lobby for expensive proposals to rescue an economy still in a free fall,” Seung Min Kim reports.

“After years of pillorying the Obama administration over spending and blocking efforts to pump more money into the economy following the 2008 financial crisis, GOP leaders now find themselves struggling with how to balance the need to prop up the struggling economy ahead of the fall’s elections with concerns that too much spending could hurt them with their base of voters."

  • Key quote: "… My hope would be that it’s more fine tuning what we’ve already done rather than taking on big, aggressive new initiatives that are paid for by additional debt,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (S.D.), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told my colleague. He warned that at some point, “we’re going to run out of capacity at the federal level.”
Politics
The discontent among Democrats has increased pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to change long-standing rules to allow for remote deliberations and voting — or simply bring the House back to Washington.
Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane

Pocket change

JPMorgan looks to unlock trillions of liquidity with tech partnership.

The goal is to help global supply chains: “The bank is working with Taulia Inc., a platform that provides working capital solutions, to redistribute liquidity to smaller suppliers of large, investment-grade companies. The multinational firms will have the option to pay suppliers earlier with their own cash, or lean on JPMorgan’s balance sheet to keep money flowing through the network of providers,” Bloomberg News's Molly Smith and Michelle F Davis report.

While the partnership has been in the works since last fall, it comes at a compelling time now as global supply chains have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing governments to take unprecedented actions to prop up large and small businesses alike.” 

Trade fly-around

GOP senator suggest taking the trade war to the classroom.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) doesn't want Chinese students to study STEM in U.S.: “The Arkansas lawmaker deemed it a ‘scandal’ that China’s ‘brightest minds’ study in the U.S. only to return home ‘to compete for our jobs, to take our business, and ultimately to steal our property,’” Bloomberg News's Ros Krasny reports.

“ ‘The students should be allowed ’to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that’s what they need to learn from America,' he said. ‘They don’t need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.’ ”

Daybook

Today:

  • Keurig Dr Pepper is among the notable companies reporting its earnings, per Kiplinger

Tuesday:

  • 3M, Ford, Southwest Air, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Alphabet, BP, Caterpillar, UPS, Starbucks, Yum! China, Centene, Denny’s, UBS and TransUnion and Harley Davidson are among the notable companies reporting their earnings.

Wednesday:

  • Q1 U.S. GDP numbers are released 
  • The Fed concludes a policy meeting
  • Boeing, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Yum! Brands, Facebook, General Electric, Valero Energy Microsoft, Spotify, Tesla, Aflac, Hasbro and eBay are among the notable companies reporting their earnings.

Thursday:

  • The Labor Department releases the latest jobless claims numbers
  • Amazon, Apple, American Airlines, Gilead Sciences, ConocoPhillips, McDonald’s, Hanesbrands  MGM Resorts, Molson Coors, Visa, Twitter, Whirlpool, Six Flags, Dunkin’, Kellogg and Planet Fitness are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

Friday:

  • The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for April
  • Chevron, Clorox, AbbVie, Honeywell,  Phillips 66 and DISH Network are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

The funnies

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Bull session