U.S. stock futures signal a rebound as bond yields fall back.
The S&P 500 is expected to open stronger after dropping 2 percent on Tuesday, the most since May.
Daily Business Briefing
Sept. 29, 2021Updated Sept. 29, 2021, 7:17 a.m. ETSept. 29, 2021, 7:17 a.m. ET
The S&P 500 is expected to open stronger after dropping 2 percent on Tuesday, the most since May.
Ozy’s board starts an investigation after a Times report raises questions about the company.Navient, with six million borrowers, asks to stop servicing federal student loans.Mastercard will provide a buy-now, pay-later option to lenders.As China’s video game industry booms, restrictions get tighter.Are you still not working because of the pandemic? We want to hear from you.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned lawmakers Tuesday of dire consequences if Congress did not raise or suspend the statutory debt limit.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
European stocks and Wall Street futures rebounded on Wednesday as government bond yields retreated lower, a day after a sell-off rattled markets.
The S&P 500 is expected to open 0.7 percent stronger after dropping 2 percent on Tuesday, the most since May. An increase in bond yields incited a sell-off in technology stocks, which dragged markets down. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes climbed above 1.5 percent on Tuesday for the first time since June.
Stocks didn’t completely recover their losses from earlier in the week. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.8 percent after falling 2.2 percent the previous day.
Markets have been more volatile in recent weeks as investors prepare for the Federal Reserve to reduce stimulus, something policymakers have signaled will come this year. Traders are also adapting to the economic recovery from the pandemic, which includes an unusual combination of supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages in some industries, higher unemployment and rising consumer prices.
In Washington, lawmakers remain deeply divided over spending and raising the nation’s debt limit. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences if Congress failed to raise or suspend the statutory debt limit.
A measure of stock market volatility rose sharply on Monday but was only the highest in about a week, as stocks have stumbled in September. Last week, traders were unnerved by potential fallout from a default of China’s Evergrande Group, a beleaguered residential developer with $300 billion in debt. The Chinese government has shifted away from the policies that have guided its economy in recent years, tightening regulation on online gaming, data sharing by tech companies, and property developers.
Despite Wednesday morning’s tentative recovery in futures, stocks in the United States are still on track for a decline in September, which would end seven consecutive months of gains. The S&P 500 is down 3.8 percent this month. Nasdaq futures rose 0.9 percent on Wednesday but the index closed 4.7 percent lower for the month on Tuesday.
The board of directors of Ozy, a digital media company, said on Tuesday that it had hired a law firm to investigate its “business activities” after a New York Times report raised questions about the company’s practices.
In a statement, the board said it had hired Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a large international firm with headquarters in New York, to conduct the review. The board also said it had asked Samir Rao, the chief operating officer of Ozy, “to take a leave of absence pending the results of the investigation.”
“We will continue to review the company’s leadership in the coming months,” the board said in the statement.
Founded in 2013, Ozy has a general interest news site, publishes a raft of newsletters and produces interview programs and documentaries, some of which appear on YouTube. The Times’s media columnist, Ben Smith, reported that Mr. Rao had apparently impersonated a YouTube executive during a conference call in February with Goldman Sachs bankers who were considering a deal to invest $40 million in Ozy. On the call, the person posing as the executive told the bankers that Ozy’s videos were a great success on YouTube.
Ozy’s founder, Carlos Watson, told The Times and posted on Twitter that Mr. Rao had been going through a mental health crisis at the time of the call. He added that Mr. Rao took some time off work afterward but had since returned to the company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif. Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager, a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team and chairman of the Ozy board, told The Times in a statement for the article published on Sunday that “the board was made aware of the incident, and we fully support the way it was handled.”
After the conference call, Goldman Sachs called off its potential investment in Ozy, and Google, which owns YouTube, alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (The F.B.I.’s San Francisco field office would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.)
On Tuesday, Ozy’s board said that Harry Hawks, a former executive president and chief financial officer of Hearst Television, would serve as an interim chief financial officer while the company’s leadership was under review.
News of the investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
A second major federal student loan servicer is calling it quits, a decision that will force the Education Department to transfer the accounts of millions of borrowers just as the government begins to resume collecting payments early next year.
Navient said on Tuesday that it wanted to end its contract with the federal government and offload its responsibilities to Maximus, another federal loan servicer. Navient services the accounts of around six million borrowers.
Jack Remondi, Navient’s chief executive, said the company wanted to “provide a smooth transition to borrowers” as it shifted its focus to businesses other than federal student loan servicing.
The Education Department “is reviewing documents and other information from Navient and Maximus to ensure that the proposal meets all legal requirements and properly protects borrowers and taxpayers,” Richard Cordray, the chief operating officer of the department’s Federal Student Aid office, said in statement.
Two months ago, another large federal servicer, FedLoan, said it, too, wanted out. The departures will leave the Education Department scrambling to move more than 15 million borrowers to new servicers — a process that has in the past been chaotic and error prone.
Nearly all federal student loan borrowers have been skipping their payments thanks to a moratorium on collections that the government imposed in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But those bills are about to return: The Biden administration has said it intends to restart collection on Jan. 31.
Navient won’t be entirely done with the federal student loan business if its request succeeds. The company is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2017 over what the federal agency said was a pattern of misdeeds and mistakes that hindered borrowers trying to repay their loans.
“That case just continues to grind its way through the slow — very, very slow — court process,” Mr. Remondi told analysts on a recent earnings call. “We’re eager to have our day in court.”
The buy-now, pay-later services that let shoppers settle up for their purchases in four interest-free installments have so far been the domain of start-ups. But now a traditional financial player is moving in with an option of its own: Mastercard.
The company announced plans on Tuesday for a new pay-later offering that it said would enable banks, financial technology companies, digital wallets and other lenders to provide a variety of installment payment options to their customers, whether they are making purchases online or in a store.
Given Mastercard’s infrastructure that processes credit and debit payments, the program has the potential to ramp up competition in a segment dominated by upstarts like Afterpay, Sezzle, Klarna and Zip.
“Merchants are able to accept this with zero effort on their part, either for online transactions or in-store,” Craig Vosburg, Mastercard’s chief product officer, said in an interview.
Mastercard said it was already working with several financial institutions, including Barclays, Fifth Third, Huntington, SoFi and Synchrony, to offer products of their own. The program will become available in the first quarter of next year in the United States, as well as in Australia and Britain.
Even existing pay-later players could plug into Mastercard’s program, if they chose to, which could broaden their reach — one of their biggest challenges.
“Mastercard brings its existing global acceptance network to the table, potentially giving buy-now, pay-later solutions the ubiquity they have been seeking,” said Ginger Schmeltzer, a senior analyst for the research and advisory firm Aite-Novarica.
Customers using pay-later options through Mastercard’s program will be provided with preapproved offers through their lender’s mobile banking app, or they may be granted instant approval at checkout. Mastercard will be able to help lenders with the underwriting process: If consumers give consent to the pay-later lender, Mastercard can provide a window into their checking and other transactional accounts — and that information can be considered as part of the approval process.
The pay-later industry had been expanding rapidly before the coronavirus pandemic, but as Americans shifted most of their shopping online during lockdowns and beyond, its growth only accelerated. The little buttons offering the pay-later option are hard to ignore — they’re popping up everywhere as more retailers and providers team up to offer the service integrated into the checkout process.
Amazon, the nation’s largest retailer, recently began a partnership with Affirm, which will provide pay-later options. And Square, the payments firm run by the Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, agreed to acquire Afterpay, another provider, for $29 billion in early August, a deal that will open installment payments to millions of small businesses that process sales through Square’s app.
Visa, another payment processor, said it had teamed with several pay-later companies to help them expand and offer new products, including virtual cards. Visa also furnishes technology to Commerce Bank that provides certain Visa cardholders with an installment payment option. Visa said it expected to expand that program to more issuing banks next year.
Pay-later options still account for only 1.7 percent of online sales in the United States, a segment dominated by credit cards, which accounted for 30.4 percent last year, according to Worldpay, a payment processing firm.
But pay-later’s share is expected to nearly triple to 4.8 percent of U.S. sales — or $79.7 billion — by 2024, Worldpay estimates. They’re already more established overseas: Pay-later accounts for 23 percent of online transactions in Sweden and almost 20 percent in Germany, and the method is also popular in Australia, Finland, New Zealand and Norway.
Mastercard’s program will provide consumer protections commonly associated with credit cards, including zero-liability fraud protection and the ability to challenge unrecognized charges, the company said.
“Mastercard is a trusted brand, as are its bank partners, and that counts for a lot with consumers,” Ms. Schmeltzer said. “That being said, brands like Klarna and Afterpay have a large and growing — and apparently very loyal — consumer base. It is going to be a very interesting race to watch.”
Hundreds of millions of Chinese play video games each day. Minors still find ways around government blocks. Chinese tech companies, like Tencent, are cornerstones of the global gaming industry. The country has also been quick to embrace competitive gaming, building e-sports stadiums and enabling college students to major in the topic.
Yet China’s relationship with games is decidedly complex. A major source of entertainment in the country, games offer a social outlet and an easily accessible hobby in a country where booming economic growth has disrupted social networks and driven long work hours. The multiplayer mobile game Honor of Kings, for example, has more than 100 million players a day.
For years, though, officials — and many parents — have worried about the potential downsides, like addiction and distraction, Paul Mozur and Elsie Chen report for The New York Times.
As a more paternalistic government under the Chinese leader Xi Jinping has turned to direct interventions to mold how people live and what they do for fun, gaining control over video games has been high on the priority list. In addition to other pursuits, like celebrity fan clubs, Mr. Xi’s government has increasingly deemed games a superfluous distraction at best — and at worst, a societal ill that threatens the cultural and moral guidance of the Chinese Communist Party.
The economy has begun to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, but millions of people still haven’t returned to work. Some are looking but haven’t been able to find jobs. Others can’t work because of child care or other responsibilities. Still others say the pandemic led them to rethink how they prioritize their careers.
What is keeping you on the sidelines right now? How are you getting by financially without a steady paycheck? How has your time away from work changed your life, both now and in the future?
Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) and Erin Woo (@erinkwoo), two of our tech reporters, are covering the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford University to create the blood testing start-up Theranos at age 19 and built it to a $9 billion valuation and herself into the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire — only to flame out in disgrace after Theranos’s technology was revealed to have problems.
Follow along here or on Twitter as she is tried on 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The trial is generally held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Rosendorff asked for a bathroom break, and we are instead ending for the day! Will pick back up at 9 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow.
Important content: The custom-built laboratory information system was named Super Mario. (Other fun names: Jurassic Park = the lab with all of the standard machines, Normandy = the lab with Theranos machines.)
Cross examination has been much slower and calmer now that we’re back from break. Less pressing Rosendorff to answer specific questions and more jokes.
Wade is holding up a copy of the book and talking about the importance of its PR and marketing efforts, as well as its secrecy.
Rosendorff read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography and liked the excitement of Silicon Valley, which helped lead him to Theranos. (That Steve Jobs biography was a favorite of Holmes’s, too.)