Bloomberg - Evening Briefing - It’s all about November

Bloomberg Weekend Reading

US politics—and the government itself—are now officially about little else than the potential rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump (though Nikki Haley may have something to say about that). As ever, most of the attention is focused on Trump. An uncommonly unified Supreme Court signaled it’s prepared to reject efforts to bar him from the ballot over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The court may soon be asked to weigh in on another highly consequential issue: whether the Republican can be prosecuted for trying to subvert the 2020 election. The US Court of Appeals ruled decisively that the twice-impeached Trump—the subject of four felony indictments that could land him in prison—is not immune from prosecution, saying it would be an “unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.” Polls show Trump would lose substantial support if he’s convicted. “The law is the law, the court said, and every American is subject to it,” Timothy O’Brien wrote in Bloomberg Opinion. Congressional Republicans meanwhile—having helped reach a bipartisan deal on border security and Ukraine funding that satisfied most of their demands—backed out after Trump told them to. Democrats accused the GOP of killing the deal so they can continue to use the issue against Biden, but Biden pledged he would wield the failed legislation as a political cudgel. At the same time, the lack of funding for a beleaguered Ukraine may encourage Vladimir Putin to redouble his war effort.

Joe Biden Photographer: Samuel Corum/Sipa

Biden had his own troubles this week, amid White House concerns about wavering Black voters and fury from Arab-Americans over the carnage in Gaza and Biden’s support for Israel. At the same time, a report by a Trump appointee picked by US Attorney General Merrick Garland to review Biden’s handling of classified information closed the book on the probe—but parted with some scathing allegations about Biden’s memory. The 81-year-old Biden, who like the 77-year-old Trump faces age-related voter worries, fired back in anger while Vice President Kamala Harris called the report by Robert Hur “politically motivated.” Hur, however, made a point of distinguishing Biden’s case from the prosecution of Trump for his handling of classified files. Hur noted in his report that Trump refused to return secret files and allegedly obstructed the investigation. Both sides are casting the November election as one with stark consequences for America’s future, not unlike a similar vote in 1860. Court rulings notwithstanding, the fight between Biden and Trump will likely end at the ballot box. “Elections belong to the people,” said Abraham Lincoln, who won that year. “It’s their decision.” 

What you’ll want to read this weekend

No news was good news when it came to inflation revision data this week, with the Consumer Price Index mostly unchanged. CPI rose at a 3.3% annualized rate in the final three months of 2023—matching the previous reading, government data showed. Focus now shifts to January’s CPI on Tuesday, and if price pressures continue to recede, as the market is expecting, that may help pave the way for the Federal Reserve to begin cutting interest rates sooner rather than later. And while the US labor market is still chugging along, mass firings of workers have hit some industries, including media and Big Tech. Companies have been opting for euphemistic and vague synonyms for terminating their employees other than layoffs, like “rightsizing” and “org changes.”

Chinese stocks have dropped by almost $5 trillion since their 2021 peak, while global equities are approaching records. Authorities in crisis mode have tightened trading restrictions, taking aim at short sellers. Xi Jinping’s government also unexpectedly replaced the head of its securities regulator. Then there is the 1-cent-on-the-dollar price of China Evergrande Group bonds, which has sent a warning to investors as other Chinese companies, including Country Garden, as the crisis starts to ripple around the world. China’s market rout has evoked memories of 2015, when Beijing took drastic steps to stem a crash. This time, investors say, the problems are much more entrenched. 

Boeing found more problems with its 737 Max jet, setbacks that could further slow deliveries on a critical program already restricted by regulators. The defect follows a string of manufacturing lapses, including a near-catastrophic panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max last month. Underground, TikTok’s “Tunnel Girl” has focused fresh attention on the amateur excavators who build their own underground infrastructure—often in defiance of local laws. 

Hobby tunneler Eric Sutterlin shows off part of his homemade underground labyrinth in Wisconsin. Photographer: Micah McMullin, courtesy of Eric Sutterlin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fired his army chief, stoking uncertainty over the direction of his bogged-down defense against Russia’s invasion. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, popular with the public and the troops, will be replaced by Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi at a time when Ukraine’s allies are wavering in their support. US aid continues to be held up by Republicans in Congress while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned of the dangers of a Russian victory. 

The world is staring down a potential catastrophe of its own making, with the effects of climate change apparent in everything from food security to weather patterns. Scientists, startups and communities all across the globe are quietly discovering new ways—and rediscovering old ones—to try to slow or even reverse the impacts. On the first episode of this Bloomberg Originals series, An Optimist’s Guide to the Planet, host Nikolaj Coster-Waldau travels from Australia to Greenland to find new solutions to climate change. 

In Episode 1, Dusk or Dawn, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau explores the consequences of global warming along the Greenland ice sheet.

What you’ll need to know next week 

  • The Super Bowl in Las Vegas. Will Taylor Swift make it?
  • US inflation data for January as the Fed keeps its options open.
  • Indonesia picks a new president in its first three-way race in 20 years.
  • UK unemployment, wages, inflation and economic growth.
  • Putin visits Turkey, his first trip to a NATO country since his war.

Singapore Has a Dirty Money Problem

Singapore has long been a haven for the super wealthy, with its low taxes, safety and stability. Threatening to upend that carefully crafted image, however, is a sprawling $2.2 billion money laundering scandal. Though the vast majority of investment in the city-state is above board, on this week’s mini-documentary by Bloomberg Originals, Singapore’s Dirty Money Problem, we explore how the city-state’s famous openness to inflows is now increasingly under scrutiny. 

Singapore faces a sprawling $2.2 billion money laundering scandal. Photographer: Roslan Rahman/Getty Images

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