Stocks Fall, as Crypto’s Volatility Bleeds Into Broader Markets: Live Updates

Here’s what you need to know: Wall Street and corporate America have finally bought into Bitcoin, just in time for one of the ugly cr...


Wall Street and corporate America have finally bought into Bitcoin, just in time for one of the ugly crashes the cryptocurrency regularly experiences.

Stocks slumped for a third day as a bust in the world of crypto — until recently considered a side show to actual financial activity — bled into the broader markets and hammered shares closely linked to the difficult-to-define digital assets.

The S&P 500 was down about 1 percent by midday, after dropping 0.9 percent on Tuesday with a sudden sell-off in the final hour of trading. The Nasdaq composite was down about 0.8 percent. Technology stocks led the declines.

But the decline in the mainstream stock markets was a faint echo of the crash in the market for cryptocurrencies in recent days.

Bitcoin was down 15 percent on Wednesday after recovering from an even steeper drop. Ethereum, another cryptocurrency, was down 20 percent. The tumble followed an announcement from the People’s Bank of China that seemed to effectively ban Chinese financial institutions or payment companies from offering services that touch cryptocurrencies.

In years past, traditional traders and fund managers on Wall Street might have merely shaken their head at such wild volatility and returned to their trading day.

But as the world of cryptocurrencies has exploded over the last year, so has its impact on actual companies and therefore financial markets. Some on Wall Street have been increasingly focused on potential risks the growth of cryptocurrency could pose.

Analysts at JPMorgan recently noted that the market value of cryptocurrencies, as a share of the economy, are larger than the total outstanding amount of subprime real estate debt before the financial crisis.

A research note published this week by Bank of America Merrill saw the plurality of the nearly 200 money managers it surveyed spotlighted being “long bitcoin” as the most crowded trade in the markets. Crowded trades are often seen as potential signs that a downturn is coming.

Tesla was one of the worst-performing stocks in the market on Wednesday, tumbling more than 4 percent. The company had once positioned itself as a prominent supporter of cryptocurrencies, and in March, it announced that it would accept Bitcoin in exchange for cars, helping to set off a surge in the asset.

Last week, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, reversed that decision, citing concerns about the energy consumption needed to produce cryptocurrencies. That process, known as mining, involves a using computers to create new Bitcoin by having them solve complex computational problems.

The hard drive maker Seagate Technology — which has a stake in cryptocurrency company Ripple, the creator of the XRP currency — tumbled more than 2 percent. Shares of Seagate and Western Digital, another maker of hard drives, had been on a tear in recent days, as analysts spotlighted surging demand for its computer products, in part, from cryptocurrency miners. Western Digital was down nearly 3 percent.

Bitcoin wasn’t the only element moving the markets. Crude oil tumbled roughly 4 percent, on lingering concerns that the still-spreading coronavirus in India, as well as Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, could prompt new restrictions that could curtail economic activity.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index was 1.5 percent lower, while the FTSE 100 in Britain was down 1.3 percent. Stock markets in Asia ended the day mainly lower, with the Nikkei in Japan down by 1.3 percent.

Volatility in the stock markets lately has been driven by sentiment about inflation. Investors are nervous that a jump in prices —  coming as global economies reopen and as the government continues to pump stimulus funds to spur growth — could push the Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates or take other measures to cool growth. That would be bad news for riskier investments like stocks.

The Fed and other central banks have said they see the recent increases as transitory caused partly by supply chain issues as economies revive from lockdowns, and that they have no plans to remove emergency support for the economy.

Federal Reserve policymakers will release the minutes from their April meeting on Wednesday.

A homebound resident in the Bronx receives a dose of coronavirus vaccine. A new initiative is pushing for federally funded family and medical leave, and affordable child care and elder care.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

JPMorgan Chase, Spotify, Uber, McDonald’s and almost 200 other businesses have formed a coalition focused on ensuring that women are not held back in the labor force because they bear the brunt of caregiving in the United States.

The new Care Economy Business Council, the creation of which was announced on Wednesday, portrays the effort in stark economic terms, arguing that fixing the crumbling child and elder care systems is essential to the economic recovery.

Led by Time’s Up, the advocacy organization founded by powerful women in Hollywood, the council aims to bring executives together to share ways to improve workplace policies and to pressure Congress to pass policy changes that would help people — particularly women — get back to work. The council will push for federally funded family and medical leave, affordable child care and elder care, and elevated wages for caregiving workers.

“What I’m seeing now that I have not seen in the many years I’ve been working on this constellation of issues is a realization by employers that they have a stake in this,” Tina Tchen, the chief executive of Time’s Up, said.

The pandemic laid bare the faults in caregiving in the United States, particularly the problems with child care. Many child-care centers either shuttered or cut back on hours to save on costs, leaving parents without reliable and safe places for their children while they worked. The lack of child care support was a major reason that hundreds of thousands of women left the work force in the past year, bringing female labor participation rate to its lowest level since 1986.

Companies scrambled to cobble together solutions, from flexible work hours to additional child care stipends. But for many executives, the crisis made it clear that the entire system needed an overhaul.

The issue is “bigger than something we can solve on our own,” said Christy M. Pambianchi, the chief human resources officer at Verizon, which is part of the council.

President Biden’s two-part infrastructure plan proposes pumping $425 billion into expanding and strengthening child-care services and an additional $400 billion to help expand access for in-home care for older adults and those with disabilities. His plan also offers businesses a tax credit for building child-care centers in their workplaces.

Members of Congress have also introduced three separate but similar child-care bills.

A restaurant in Athens prepared to reopen earlier this month. In countries reliant on tourism, like Greece, many businesses will be burdened by accumulated debt, the European Central Bank said.
Credit…Maria Mavropoulou for The New York Times

The European Central Bank warned Wednesday that the eurozone could face a rocky economic recovery from the pandemic because many companies have gone deep into debt, financial markets are overheated, and climate-related catastrophes loom.

The central bank’s twice-yearly catalog of risks that could blow up the eurozone financial system rarely makes for comforting reading, but the one issued Wednesday featured a particularly long list of hazards.

“We are optimistic that financial and economic conditions will bounce back,” Luis de Guindos, the vice president of the European Central Bank, said in an introduction to the Financial Stability Review, the semiannual report. But he added: “The pandemic will leave a legacy of higher debt and weaker balance sheets, which — if unaddressed — could prompt sharp market corrections and financial stress or lead to a prolonged period of weak economic recovery.”

One big worry, the central bank said, is that many firms have been kept alive by short-term government support or loan repayment holidays. When those measures expire the firms could go under, defaulting on their debts and putting their employees out of work. The pain will be especially acute for restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues, and in countries including Greece, Spain and Italy, where tourism is a big part of the economy.

The debt risk is exacerbated by Europe’s slow recovery from the pandemic, a result of bungled vaccine programs. Market interest rates are rising in the United States because investors expect the economy to bounce back faster, and inflation to rise. The higher rates lead to higher borrowing costs in the rest of the world and increase the burden on companies and consumers.

The central bank also expressed concern about “exuberant” financial markets that have fueled speculation by inexperienced investors and by hedge funds using unusually high levels of borrowed money. The central bank singled out investments such as cryptocurrencies, as well as blank-check shell corporations known as SPACs that raise large sums of money before they have figured out how to spend it.

The bank likened investment in cryptocurrencies to the tulip mania of 1637, a famous episode in economic history when speculators drove up the price of Dutch tulip bulbs to fantastic levels, leading some to suffer horrendous losses when the price inevitably collapsed.

The central bank devoted a chapter of the report to the financial risks from climate change, an indication of the increasing focus on that issue since Christine Lagarde became president in late 2019.

Climate change is a serious risk to eurozone banks because many have lent money to mining companies, energy producers or manufacturers classified as high emitters of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. Over the long term, these firms could have more trouble repaying their debts as policies force them to bear the cost of the environmental damage they cause. The companies may also have trouble getting insurance.

Only about 25 banks in the eurozone account for most of the exposure to high emitters, according to the central bank report. “A potential concentration of climate-related physical risks among a few, more vulnerable banks could have implications for financial stability,” the central bank said.

Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter gave $12.8 million in cryptocurrency to GiveDirectly, a global aid group.
Credit…Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Charities have an inherent interest in cryptocurrencies because, increasingly, their fates are intertwined. Nonprofit groups benefit from financial windfalls and people have recently been getting rich with crypto, the DealBook newsletter reports.

“There’s no question” that the price of cryptocurrency is linked to the volume of giving, said Joe Huston, the managing director of GiveDirectly, a global aid group. Crypto is volatile, especially in the past few days, but philanthropies have seen consistent growth in digital asset donations over time. (Bitcoin is still up 30 percent for the year, even after a torrid few trading sessions). Donations in crypto to Fidelity Charitable went from $13 million in 2019 to $28 million in 2020.

GiveDirectly has seen a “big uptick,” Mr. Huston said. The Twitter founder Jack Dorsey gave the group $12.8 million, the co-founder of the Ethereum platform Vitalik Buterin donated $4.8 million and Elon Musk of Tesla gave “some.” The cryptocurrency exchange FTX donates 1 percent of its fees and encourages traders to channel returns to charity.

But newfound riches donated in novel ways also raise questions. Mr. Buterin recently gave $1.2 billion to fund pandemic relief efforts in India. The gift was in SHIB, a crypto token named after a Shiba Inu dog that’s a derivative of the onetime joke crypto Dogecoin. These tokens were sent unbidden to Mr. Buterin to bolster their value. (To stop promoters from sending him free crypto with uncertain motives, he “burned” $6 billion worth of the tokens, taking them out of circulation permanently.)

His approach in donating tokens was “impressively lightweight and fast,” Mr. Huston said, showing how frictionless crypto-based philanthropy can be. Previously, it was unimaginable to transfer such an enormous sum without an institutional intermediary. This lack of friction also makes crypto giving prime territory for fraudsters.

“There are a lot of young people with stupid amounts of money,” said Austin Detwiler, a consultant at American Philanthropic, a consulting firm. Fund-raisers should make giving from this new generation easier, mindful that “it’s easy to start accepting crypto, but it’s volatile, so have a policy,” he said. Some donors place conditions on token gifts and some charities simply can’t tolerate the risk of holding assets that rise and fall so rapidly.

Modern Fertility’s flagship product is a $159 finger prick test that can estimate how many eggs a woman may have left, which can help determine which fertility method might be best.
Credit…Modern Fertility

Ro, the parent company of Roman, the brand that is best known for delivering erectile dysfunction and hair loss medication to consumers, announced on Wednesday that it would acquire Modern Fertility, a start-up that offers at-home fertility tests for women.

The deal is priced at more than $225 million, according to people with knowledge of the acquisition who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. It is one of the largest investments in the women’s health care technology space, known as femtech, which attracted $592 million in venture capital in 2019, according to an analysis by PitchBook.

Modern Fertility was founded in 2017 with its flagship product: a $159 finger prick test that can estimate how many eggs a woman may have left, which can help determine which fertility method might be best.

“We essentially took the same laboratory tests that women would take in an infertility clinic and made them available to women at a fraction of the cost,” said Afton Vechery, a founder and chief executive of Modern Fertility, noting that her own test at a clinic set her back $1,500.

The company now also sells an at-home test, available at Walmart, to help track ovulation, as well as standard pregnancy tests and prenatal vitamins.

Ro, which was founded in 2017 with a focus on men’s health and was valued in March at about $5 billion, has in recent years expanded into telehealth, including delivering generic drugs by mail. In December, Ro acquired Workpath, which connects patients with in-home care providers, like nurses.

The global digital health market, which includes telemedicine, online pharmacies and wearable devices, could reach $600 billion by 2024, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. And yet, by one estimate, only 1.4 percent of the money that flows into health care goes to the femtech industry, mirroring a pattern in the medical industry, which has historically overlooked women’s health research.

“Gender bias in health care research methods and funding has really contributed to sexism in medicine and health care,” said Sonya Borrero, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research and Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh. “I think we’re seeing again — gender bias in the venture capital sector is going to exactly shape what gets developed.”

That underinvestment was part of the reasoning behind the acquisition, said Zachariah Reitano, Ro’s chief executive. The company developed a female-focused online service in 2019 called Rory.

“We’re going to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years into women’s health,” Mr. Reitano said, “because ultimately I think women’s health has the potential to be much larger than men’s health.”

A new management setup at JPMorgan Chase creates an unusual situation in which two executives competing for the top job are sharing a leadership role.
Credit…Mike Segar/Reuters

The major management shuffle announced Tuesday by JPMorgan Chase renewed chatter about who will succeed Jamie Dimon as chief executive.

Marianne Lake, the bank’s head of consumer lending, and Jennifer Piepszak, its chief financial officer, were made joint heads of the consumer and community bank. The promotions solidify both women’s positions as contenders for chief executive.

The new setup also creates an unusual situation in which two executives competing for the top job are sharing a leadership role. That may be tricky to navigate, management experts say, and whether it’s a good test of leadership skills is debatable.

In a 2012 paper, Ryan Krause of the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, examined how sharing power affected the performance of public companies. Estimating the relative power of co-chief executives using proxies such as tenure and stock ownership, he and his co-authors concluded that executives who had more equal levels of power performed worse than those with disproportionate power.

“We interpret this as being evidence that, basically, having co-C.E.O.s really only works if they’re not really co-C.E.O.s,” Mr. Krause said. Co-leaders of a division, he said, may be more successful because they can more easily divide responsibilities instead of sharing authority. Such setups are not uncommon at JPMorgan.

It could highlight the ability to work collaboratively, said Steve Odland, the head of the Conference Board and the former chief executive of Office Depot and AutoZone.

“Whenever you’re in a C.E.O. successor position, it’s difficult because there are a lot of things that have to go right and you’re under the microscope,” Mr. Odland said. “But to do so with your competitor, and have to compete with your co-head, at the same time you’re making it work is especially stressful. Which is why it’s an interesting test, because the person who succeeds at this should be amply able to succeed in the C.E.O. role.”

But is it a good idea? Dan Ciampa, an adviser to chief executives and directors during leadership transitions, said that he generally would not recommend such a test.

“It may make sense to have co-division leaders or co-unit leaders and maybe even co-C.E.O.s,” Mr. Ciampa said. “But to use that as a way to determine who the next person should be to run the entire organization, to me it says that the board and the sitting C.E.O. and the head of H.R. have probably not done their homework.”

Handy Kennedy, a farmer in Cobbtown, Ga., and founder of a cooperative of Black farmers. Debt relief approved by Congress in March aims to make amends for decades of financial discrimination against Black and other nonwhite farmers.
Credit…Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Biden administration’s efforts to provide $4 billion in debt relief to minority farmers is encountering stiff resistance from banks, which are complaining that the government initiative to pay off the loans of borrowers who have faced decades of financial discrimination will cut into their profits and hurt investors.

The debt relief was approved as part of the stimulus package that Congress passed in March and was intended to make amends for the discrimination that Black and other nonwhite farmers have faced from lenders and the Department of Agriculture over the years.

But no money has yet gone out the door.

Instead, the program has become mired in controversy and lawsuits. In April, white farmers who claim that they are victims of discrimination sued the U.S.D.A. over the initiative, writes The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport.

Now, three of the biggest banking groups are waging their own fight and complaining about the cost of being repaid early. Their argument stems from the way banks make money from loans and how they decide where to extend credit.

By allowing borrowers to repay their debts early, the lenders are being denied income they have long expected, they argue. The banks want the federal government to pay money beyond the outstanding loan amount so that banks and investors will not miss out on interest income that they were expecting or money that they would have made reselling the loans to other investors.

Bank lobbyists have been asking the Agriculture Department to make changes to the repayment program, a U.S.D.A. official said. They are pressing the U.S.D.A. to simply make the loan payments, rather than wipe out the debt all at once. And they are warning of other repercussions.

In a letter sent last month to the agriculture secretary, the banks suggested that they might be more reluctant to extend credit if the loans were quickly repaid, leaving minority farmers worse off in the long run. The intimation was viewed as a threat by some organizations that represent Black farmers.

The U.S.D.A. has shown no inclination to reverse course.

  • Amazon said Tuesday that it would indefinitely prohibit police departments from using its facial recognition tool, extending a moratorium the company announced last year during nationwide protests over racism and biased policing. When Amazon announced the pause in June, it did not cite a specific reason for the change. The company said it hoped a year was enough time for Congress to create legislation regulating the ethical use of facial recognition technology. Congress has not banned the technology, or issued any significant regulations on it, but some cities have.

  • Google held its I/O developer conference on Tuesday. And, as usual, it was a dizzying two-hour procession of new features, products and services across the company’s vast array of businesses, from its smartphone software to its artificial intelligence systems. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, revealed the company’s next so-called moonshot: Google aims to power the entire company using carbon-free energy by 2030. It will require using artificially intelligent software systems to allocate energy wisely as well as investments to tap into geothermal energy in addition to wind and solar.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump, disputing the results of the election won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Fox News Media, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled cable group, filed a motion on Tuesday to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against it in March by Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that accused Fox News of propagating lies that ruined its reputation after the 2020 presidential election.

The Dominion lawsuit and a similar defamation claim brought in February by another election company, Smartmatic, have been widely viewed as test cases in a growing legal effort to battle disinformation in the news media. And it is another byproduct of former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless attempts to undermine President Biden’s clear victory.

In a 61-page response filed in Delaware Superior Court, the Fox legal team argues that Dominion’s suit threatened the First Amendment powers of a news organization to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims in a high-stakes political contest.

“A free press must be able to report both sides of a story involving claims striking at the core of our democracy,” Fox says in the motion, “especially when those claims prompt numerous lawsuits, government investigations and election recounts.” The motion adds: “The American people deserved to know why President Trump refused to concede despite his apparent loss.”

Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox News presented the circumstances in a different light.

Dominion is among the largest manufacturers of voting machine equipment and its technology was used by more than two dozen states last year. Its lawsuit described the Fox News and Fox Business cable networks as active participants in spreading a false claim, pushed by Mr. Trump’s allies, that the company had covertly modified vote counts to manipulate results in favor of Mr. Biden. Lawyers for Mr. Trump shared those claims during televised interviews on Fox programs.

“Lies have consequences,” Dominion’s lawyers wrote in their initial complaint. “Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.” The lawsuit cites instances where Fox hosts, including Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, uncritically repeated false claims about Dominion made by Mr. Trump’s lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

A representative for Dominion, whose founder and employees received threatening messages after the negative coverage, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.

Fox News Media has retained two prominent lawyers to lead its defense: Charles Babcock, who has a background in media law, and Scott Keller, a former chief counsel to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. Fox has also filed to dismiss the Smartmatic suit; that defense is being led by Paul D. Clement, a former solicitor general under President George W. Bush.

“There are two sides to every story,” Mr. Babcock and Mr. Keller wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The press must remain free to cover both sides, or there will be a free press no more.”

The Fox motion on Tuesday argues that its networks “had a free-speech right to interview the president’s lawyers and surrogates even if their claims eventually turned out to be unsubstantiated.” It argues that the security of Dominion’s technology had been debated in prior legal claims and media coverage, and that the lawsuit did not meet the high legal standard of “actual malice,” a reckless disregard for the truth, on the part of Fox News and its hosts.

Media organizations, in general, enjoy strong protections under the First Amendment. Defamation suits are a novel tactic in the battle over disinformation, but proponents say the strategy has shown some early results. The conservative news outlet Newsmax apologized last month after a Dominion employee, in a separate legal case, accused the network of spreading baseless rumors about his role in the election. Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” a day after Smartmatic sued Fox in February and named Mr. Dobbs as a co-defendant.

Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Stocks Fall, as Crypto’s Volatility Bleeds Into Broader Markets: Live Updates
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