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Friday, October 30, 2020
For unemployed theater artists, there has been one bright spot during a pandemic that has prevented live performance: streaming.But now two major entertainment industry unions are locked in a battle over that work, with compensation, health insurance, and even permission to perform at stake.Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union that represents 51,000 theater actors and stage managers, is accusing SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents 160,000 people who work in film, television and radio, of raiding its turf and undercutting its contracts by negotiating lower-paying deals with theaters for streaming productions.SAG-AFTRA, in turn, says that work made for broadcast has always been its domain, and that it has offered to work with Equity through the pandemic but that the stage union has refused all efforts at compromise.The two organizations have been sparring privately about the issue almost since the start of the pandemic. According to Equity, during that time SAG-AFTRA has signed contracts for at least 60 streaming productions made by theaters that normally present work to live audiences.The casts are often the same, regardless of which union is involved, but Equity says they are paid less well, and lose contributions toward Equity health and pension benefits, when SAG-AFTRA takes over.
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve officials were counting on Congress and the White House to pass additional aid for households and businesses hit by the pandemic as they laid out an optimistic forecast for the economic recovery last month. Now, that outlook is in jeopardy.In September, the Fed revised its economic forecasts to reflect a much rosier scenario than officials had penciled in earlier in the pandemic recession: Unemployment was seen dipping to 7.6 percent by the end of the year, down from a forecast of 9.3 percent in June. Growth was seen recovering by more, after plummeting early in the year.But Fed officials “noted that their economic outlook assumed additional fiscal support and that if future fiscal support was significantly smaller or arrived significantly later than they expected, the pace of the recovery could be slower than anticipated,” according to minutes from the Sept. 15-16 meeting, which were released on Wednesday.The Fed’s staff, likewise, “assumed the enactment of some additional fiscal policy support this year” without which “the pace of the economic recovery would likely be slower.”Now, the bet that more public money is right around the corner is crumbling. President Trump pulled the plug on stimulus negotiations on Tuesday,
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, delivered a message to his fellow policymakers on Tuesday: Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic that has inflicted economic pain on millions of households, go big.“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Mr. Powell said in remarks prepared for virtual delivery before the National Association for Business Economics.“Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth,” he said. “By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller.”While the unemployment rate has fallen more rapidly than many economists expected, dropping to 7.9 percent in September, millions of Americans remain unemployed as the coronavirus pandemic keeps many service industries operating below capacity. Consumer spending is holding up, but Mr. Powell underlined — as he has before — that the economy’s resilience owes substantially to strong government support for households and businesses.“Taken together, fiscal and monetary policy actions have so far supported a strong but incomplete recovery in demand,” Mr. Powell said, adding that they have “muted the normal recessionary dynamics that occur in a downturn,” like a hit to
IN USE FOR over six decades, the “investor-state dispute-settlement” (ISDS) clauses of international trade and investment agreements might have been designed to wind up critics of globalisation. Typically they give foreign investors the right to resort to a secretive tribunal of well-remunerated corporate lawyers to seek compensation when they are in disagreement with a host government. Proponents argue that some such provision is essential, to protect foreign investors against arbitrary government discrimination, or even expropriation. But what if a government wants to pass a law that seems self-evidently in its country’s, and even the world’s, interests—such as discouraging smoking, or protecting the environment? This last consideration, and in particular the fear that ISDS might make it hard for governments to meet their commitments to curb carbon emissions, have brought new pressures for ISDS reform. In Vienna this week a United Nations working group, under its Commission on International Trade Law, or UNCITRAL, is to resume discussions on the reform of ISDS, which is already a feature of more than 2,600 international agreements, and is a contentious issue whenever a new bilateral or plurilateral one is under negotiation. The meeting comes as the European Union and some of its members are
There is a straightforward narrative of the economy in 2020: The world shut down in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, causing an economic collapse without modern precedent. A sharp recovery began in May as businesses reopened.That is accurate as far as it goes. But the snapback effect over the summer has masked something more worrying: We’ve entered a longer, slower grind that puts the economy at risk for the indefinite future.In the details of government employment data — covering hundreds of industries — can be seen a jobs crisis that penetrates deeply into the economy. Sectors that in theory shouldn’t be much affected by the pandemic at all are showing patterns akin to a severe recession.Business news headlines are reflecting a drumbeat of layoffs normally seen in recessions. In the last few weeks alone, the oil giant Shell said it was cutting 9,000 positions, with Disney eliminating 28,000 and the defense giant Raytheon 15,000.After shedding jobs in the spring, these sectors have brought workers back slowly, or not at all, through the summer. Some have continued cutting positions. Employment at corporate headquarters — “management of companies and enterprises,” in the official terminology — fell by 92,000 in March
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Friday suggested that President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis could help to break a stalemate over a stimulus package to counter the economic toll of the pandemic, even as she remained far from an agreement with the administration on the contours of a bipartisan compromise.Congressional aides and Washington policy analysts remained more pessimistic, saying that Mr. Trump’s diagnosis and a monthly jobs report that fell short of forecasters’ expectations were unlikely to motivate Democrats and Republicans to break a monthslong deadlock and make a deal. But after several days of lengthy conversations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Ms. Pelosi sounded upbeat on Friday about the prospects of an eventual agreement.“This kind of changes the dynamic, because here they see the reality of what we have been saying all along: This is a vicious virus,” Ms. Pelosi said on MSNBC. She later urged airlines to delay furloughing tens of thousands of employees, vowing that the House would soon pass relief for those workers either as stand-alone legislation or as part of a broader package.Financial markets have surged and receded over the past week as news reports raised, then dashed, hopes that an agreement could soon be
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday opened an investigation into Vietnam’s trade practices, a step that could result in tariffs on the country’s products and potentially open a new front in the Trump administration’s global trade war.The Office of the United States Trade Representative said it would begin looking into two issues: Vietnam’s importation and use of timber, which it said was illegally harvested and traded, and whether Vietnam has undervalued its currency, making its products unfairly cheap abroad.“President Trump is firmly committed to combating unfair trade practices that harm America’s workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers,” Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, said in a statement. “We will carefully review the results of the investigation and determine what, if any, actions it may be appropriate to take.”The investigation will be carried out under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, the same legal provision that the Trump administration used to start its trade war against China. If the agency determines that Vietnam’s trade practices unfairly undermined American businesses, the United States could move to place tariffs on the country. The agency did not announce a timeline for the investigation, but it appears unlikely to conclude before the
Six months after the coronavirus pandemic tore a hole in the U.S. economy, the once-promising recovery is stalling, leaving millions out of work, and threatening to push millions more — particularly women — out of the labor force entirely.The latest evidence came Friday, when the Labor Department reported that employers added 661,000 jobs in September, far fewer than forecasters expected.It was the third straight month of slowing job growth, a worrying trend given the scale of the challenge ahead. The economy has nearly 11 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic, a bigger loss than the 8.7 million at the depth of the recession a decade ago.Economists said the report underscored the need for more federal help. “It’s disturbing that we’re seeing such a dramatic slowdown in employment gains as we head into the fall,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist for the accounting firm Grant Thornton. “This is a red flag. We need aid now.”The September slowdown was partly a result of public-sector job losses, particularly in school districts, where payrolls fell by more than 200,000. Economists said some of those jobs would come back if more schools opened for in-person instruction. But further cuts could be looming
In a normal time, a month in which employers added 661,000 jobs would represent an absolute blockbuster — the kind of thing an incumbent president could happily promote as evidence his policies were working.These are, of course, not normal times. And the 661,000 positions employers added to their payrolls in September are paltry relative to the 22 million positions slashed in March and April, and relative to the seven-figure monthly job growth experienced from May through August.If the rate of September job creation outlined by the Labor Department on Friday were to be sustained indefinitely, it would take another 17 months for the economy be back to its pre-pandemic levels of employment. That milestone would be reached in only eight months at August’s rate of job creation.To make sense of where the economy stands on the verge of the election, it’s essential to keep a clear view of the distinction between three concepts: the level at which the economy is functioning, how fast it is improving, and whether that speed is accelerating or decelerating. And in a shambolic year, it’s not totally clear which of these concepts will matter most to voters, or how heavily the state of the economy
WITH THE economy battered by coronavirus, risk capital has dried up in India. In the past six months assets in credit-focused mutual funds, which play a crucial role as buyers forAA- to A-rated bonds, have declined from $13bn to $4bn. Lending by commercial banks, burdened by dud loans even before the pandemic, has withered. Thankfully, for some companies this domestic dry spell is being offset by a stream of foreign capital. Reliance, a telecoms and energy giant, is a glitzy example of overseas equity investment made on the premise of growth. But a quieter wave of capital is seeking out different sorts of assets, serving to stabilise local companies while offering foreign investors high returns. As a result, many of the world’s largest insurers, private-equity (PE) firms and pension and sovereign-wealth funds have become influential. Such inflows have been a boon for India’s financial institutions. Edelweiss, a big lender and asset manager, had already been suffering after the collapse of one non-bank, IL&FS, tightened domestic credit for the others. Covid-19 only made matters worse. But over the summer Edelweiss has struck a series of deals, selling, for instance, its corporate loans to Singaporean and American asset managers, and a
EARLY IN SEPTEMBER Evergrande, China’s biggest home-builder, announced the kind of sale more commonly seen in clothing stores: “30% off all properties, one month only!” Some debated whether it was a gimmick or a genuine discount. But its motivation was clear. Deep in debt, Evergrande needed cash—and quickly. Events since then have highlighted the urgency, and also raised the question of whether its struggles threaten the wider economy. Evergrande, after all, has more debt—nearly $120bn—than any other non-financial listed company in China. Having built as many as 600,000 homes annually, it has amassed a debt load 56 times bigger than a decade ago. And it has strayed far from its core business, founding a colossal football academy, a bottled-water brand (which it later sold) and an electric-car company. On September 24th a letter spread online suggesting that its giant edifice was shaky. Written on Evergrande stationery, it warned of a cash crunch and appealed to the government of Guangdong, its home province, to push through approval of a backdoor-listing plan. According to a previous agreement, Evergrande would owe investors 130bn yuan ($19bn) if its subsidiary failed to list on the Shenzhen stock exchange, where it would obtain a higher
THE GREATEST accolade a payment system can aspire to is to be forgotten about. “People don’t want to make payments,” says Diana Layfield, an executive on Google’s payments team. “They want to do what a payment facilitates.” The industry’s biggest battles therefore often happen in the shadows. The latest struggle, which sees card networks, tech firms and governments vie to control the virtual pipes along which digital money flows, is no exception. Recent manoeuvres by governments, card networks and even SWIFT, the main interbank messaging service for cross-border payments, show how the battle lines are shifting. An electronic-payment system used to resemble a postal service for money. Many countries have a low-cost, national payment network, mandated by the government, that transfers funds between banks. Like post, the money could take days to arrive; tracking it was tricky. So automated clearing-houses (ACH), as the national systems are known, were mostly used to disburse recurring payments, such as payrolls or benefits, which do not need immediate authorisation. For one-off transactions, like shopping, people used private card networks, which allow for instant checks via technology embedded in terminals. As the digital economy has boomed, however, many governments have upgraded the pipes so