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The Trump official who may lead the World Bank
President Trump plans to nominate David Malpass, the under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, to head the World Bank, according to administration officials.
He’s likely to land the gig. “The nomination must be ratified by the bank’s board,” writes Peter Baker of the NYT, “but by tradition, the United States, the largest shareholder, has long named its president.” Mr. Trump is expected to announce his pick tomorrow.
And he could well shake things up. “Like Mr. Trump, he has questioned the scope and mission of international institutions such as the World Bank, saying they have grown ‘more intrusive’ and need to be refocused,” Mr. Baker writes. “The larger trend toward multilateralism, he has said, ‘has gone substantially too far.’”
That makes him a contentious choice. “The prospect of such a steadfast critic of multilateral lenders leading the World Bank has already sparked concern and dismay within the institution and among international and former U.S. officials who deal with global finance and development,” write James Politi and Sam Fleming of the FT.
There were less controversial options. Indra K. Nooyi, the former C.E.O. of PepsiCo; Ray Washburne, the president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and Heidi Cruz, a Goldman Sachs executive and the wife of Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, were all reportedly considered.
Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jamie Condliffe in London.
What to expect from tonight’s State of the Union
After the government shutdown postponed his annual address to Congress, President Trump will finally deliver the speech tonight. (His theme? “Choosing Greatness.”) Here’s what’s coming up:
A trade plea. He will call on Congress to back the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, meant to replace Nafta. A draft of the speech described Americans as suffering “decades of flawed trade deals.”
Plus one for infrastructure. He’s also expected to urge lawmakers to find budget space for repairing and upgrading roads, bridges and more. But the WSJ reports that Mr. Trump feels iffy about some elements of his previous proposals, including private-public partnerships.
Border wall demands. Mr. Trump still plans to request money to pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, though he lost support during the shutdown. He is still considering declaring a national emergency to get it, despite an expected challenge from Democrats and growing opposition among Republican senators.
And the rebuttal. Democrats’ response will come from Stacey Abrams, a rising star who narrowly lost last year’s race for Georgia’s governorship. (Many in the party want her to run for Senate next year; she may do so.)
The onetime ‘bond king’ is retiring
For decades, Bill Gross was a titan of finance. He turned the investment firm Pimco into a $2 trillion giant. But by the time he announced his retirement yesterday from Janus Henderson Investments — the firm he joined in 2014 after a dispute with Pimco — he was at a low point.
The numbers prove it. “Pimco Total Return, the fund he once ruled, returned 2.54 percent, annualized, in the three years through Friday, trouncing the paltry 0.95 percent returned by his new fund, Janus Henderson Global Unconstrained,” Jeff Sommer of the NYT writes. His Janus fund shrank from a peak of $2.2 billion to under $1 billion last year.
Mr. Gross was an icon of the bond world. He drew investors by combining mathematical models and broad economic analyses. He advised the Treasury Department during the 2008 financial crisis and gained a reputation as a quirky oracle of the financial world.
But he made one fatal error. Robin Wigglesworth of the FT asks whether Mr. Gross was more lucky than brilliant and how much of his success was owed to former colleagues. He picks brilliance, but adds, “Even investing stars need a supporting cast to excel, and forgetting this can be hazardous.”
Inside an F.B.I. sting on Huawei
Need evidence that U.S. law enforcement is taking potential thefts of American technology seriously? Look no further than a report by Bloomberg Businessweek about an F.B.I. sting operation targeting Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant.
How it went down: An American start-up, Akahn, claims to have developed glass that can make smartphone screens nearly indestructible, and has shopped it around smartphone makers. But Huawei took suspicious liberties when testing a sample. The F.B.I. got involved, ultimately organizing a sting on Huawei executives in Las Vegas last month.
Businessweek got a ringside seat. Erik Schatzker, the article’s author, writes that he watched the sting operation from 100 feet away, “in front of a gelato stand.”
What now? Unclear. “It’s possible that the government will conclude there aren’t grounds for an indictment,” Mr. Schatzker writes. “If that’s so, it raises a question about the broader U.S. crackdown on Huawei: Is it based on hard evidence of wrongdoing or driven by a desperation to catch the Chinese company doing something — anything — bad?” But an indictment “would show just how far and wide Huawei is willing to go to steal American trade secrets.”
More Huawei news: Some telecom companies are standing by the company despite all the scrutiny. And Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany set out conditions that Huawei must meet to build 5G networks in her country.
How tech is splitting the U.S. work force
Automation is changing work, flushing people without a college degree out of productive industries like manufacturing and high-tech services and into low-wage dead-end jobs, Eduardo Porter of the NYT writes:
• “There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee.”
• But “the employment footprint of highly productive industries, like finance, manufacturing, information services and wholesale trade, has shrunk over the last 30 years.”
• “That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low.”
• “Recent research has concluded that robots are reducing the demand for workers and weighing down wages, which have been rising more slowly than the productivity of workers.”
Amazon’s New York hub could be in peril
Democrats in New York State’s Senate are fighting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $3 billion plan to bring Amazon offices to Queens — and may have the power to halt it altogether.
What happened: The Senate named Senator Michael Gianaris, who has called the incentives promised to Amazon “offensive,” to the little-known Public Authorities Control Board.
Why that matters: The board, as Mr. Cuomo has noted, will vote on Amazon’s so-called HQ2 plan, and could veto it. (It helped block Michael Bloomberg’s plan to build a stadium in Manhattan’s West Side 14 years ago.)
What’s next: The governor could reject Mr. Gianaris’s nomination, but it would lead to a political fight. Mr. Cuomo’s office said that the nomination put the self-interest of a flip-flopping opponent of Amazon “above the state’s economic growth.” Mr. Gianaris said he wouldn’t use the position to seek concessions from Amazon: “I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal.”
More Jeff Bezos news: Washington Post employees aren’t happy that their company’s owner paid over $10 million for a Super Bowl ad.
Jerome Powell’s birthday treat
The Federal Reserve’s chairman spent the evening of his 66th birthday dining at the White House with President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
On the agenda: “Recent economic developments and the outlook for growth, employment and inflation,” according to a Federal Reserve statement. “He did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy, except to stress that the path of policy will depend entirely on incoming economic information and what that means for the outlook.”
And on the menu? Steak, an anonymous source told the WSJ.
Michael O’Leary will become the C.E.O. of Ryanair’s parent company, but will relinquish that role at the airline.
The speed read
• The workplace messaging company Slack filed confidentially to go public. It’s skipping the traditional I.P.O. process in the same way Spotify did, by pursuing a direct listing. (NYT)
• Vivendi is reportedly considering selling a stake in Universal Music Group, valuing the business at $25 billion. (Bloomberg)
• Papa John’s received a $200 million investment from Starboard Value, the activist hedge fund, and named the investment firm’s chief, Jeffrey Smith, as its chairman. (WSJ)
• An investor group led by Hellman & Friedman agreed to buy Ultimate Software Group, an H.R. specialist, for about $11 billion. (WSJ)
• Gannett rejected a $1.3 billion hostile takeover bid by the hedge-fund backed publisher MNG Enterprises. (NYT)
• The E.U.’s expected rejection of a merger of Siemens’s and Alstom’s rail businesses raises questions about its antitrust policies. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
• Federal prosecutors ordered the Trump inaugural committee to hand over documents about its donors and finances. (NYT)
• President Trump plans to name a former oil lobbyist, David Bernhardt, as interior secretary. (NYT)
• “Soak the rich” tax proposals by Democratic lawmakers have drawn condemnation from colleagues in Washington — but polls show voters support them. (Politico)
• Howard Schultz will take three to four months to decide whether to run for president as an independent, and promised not to inadvertently help re-elect Mr. Trump. (Politico)
• A case that Congress and Mr. Trump should increase spending to prevent an economic slowdown. (NYT Op-Ed)
• Some trade hard-liners fear that President Trump is being played by China during current negotiations. If the talks fail, the U.N. warns that subsequent tariff increases could be “significantly negative” for global trade. (Bloomberg, BBC)
• How U.S. criminal laws became weapons in the China trade war. (DealBook)
• And how China’s online censorship helps stifle trade. (NYT Op-Ed)
• Google’s parent, Alphabet, reported that its profit margins shrank in the fourth quarter because of huge investments. Investors wiped 3 percent off its share price in after-hours trading. (FT)
• As Facebook turned 15 years old yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg complained that people “overly emphasize the negative” aspects of its impact. (Facebook)
• There’s interest in Silicon Valley in a wealth tax. But a major obstacle is how to value private-company assets. (Information)
• Instagram’s chief, Adam Mosseri, said that the social network hadn’t done enough to help prevent suicide and self-harm. (Telegraph)
• Quadriga CX, a digital money exchange, has about $145 million of its customers’ cryptocurrency locked with passwords its former C.E.O. took with him to the grave. (Bloomberg)
• Prime Minister Theresa May will head to Northern Ireland today to rally support for her Brexit deal with the E.U., and promises that she will “find a way” to keep the Irish border open. (Bloomberg)
• The issue has left the Bank of England uncertain whether to raise interest rates. (FT)
• Britain will ease import regulations to make a no-deal Brexit less problematic for its businesses. (WSJ)
• Reportedly, it could even cut import tariffs to zero in that scenario, which some British companies find far from reassuring. (HuffPo)
• The Bank of England and European regulators agreed to cooperate on oversight of clearinghouses to keep trades flowing smoothly if no deal is reached. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
• Australian banks overcharged clients, including clients who had died. (NYT)
• A Federal Reserve paper says that negative rates would have accelerated America’s economic recovery. (WSJ)
• Russia’s economic growth looks sensational. It may be too good to be true. (Bloomberg Opinion)
• Betting on low-volatility stocks is usually safe. Not now. (Bloomberg)
• An annual income of $81,000 puts you in India’s 1 percent; in the U.A.E., it’s $894,000. (Bloomberg)
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