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    Bernadette Bartels Murphy, Pioneering Wall Street Trader, Dies at 86

    Starting out as a secretary, she became a sought-after financial adviser in a male world and found a national platform for her views on public television.Bernadette Bartels Murphy, a rare woman on Wall Street in the 1950s whose work as a trader helped legitimize a once-derided approach to anticipating market trends, making her a respected voice in the financial world and giving her a platform on television, died on March 3 in Nyack, N.Y. She was 86.Her death was confirmed by her niece Mary Ann Bartels. Ms. Murphy died at her niece’s home.Ms. Murphy began her career at the investment bank Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. as a secretary — one of the few roles then available to women in the financial industry. But over time she became a trader and analyst who found a national audience as a regular panelist on Louis Rukeyser’s long-running “Wall Street Week,” a public television side gig of hers for 25 years.Toiling as a secretary, Ms. Murphy found that it was the work of the traders on her desk that interested her more. She began studying the movements of stocks and the overall market as a way to anticipate future trends, an approach known as technical analysis.At the time, that method of anticipating market movements was looked down on by traditionalists, who favored an approach called fundamental analysis: forecasting a shift in a stock price by gleaning the intrinsic value of a company and its shares. They referred, often derisively, to technical analysts as “chartists,” for the graphs and data tables they pored over to make their forecasts.“I had to keep my charts in the bottom drawer of my desk,” Ms. Murphy recalled in a 1992 interview with an industry magazine. “In those days, technical analysis was not considered an acceptable discipline, not in a conservative firm.”To learn more, she took classes at the New York Institute of Finance and began creating her own charts. She used the trading floor around her as her training ground, soaking up information on the interactions between the various markets her firm worked in, like corporate and municipal bonds, equities and trade orders from overseas. (After Ladenburg she went on to work for two more Wall Street firms.)She also started sharing her ideas with co-workers and industry contacts in a newsletter, “This Is What I Think,” which became her calling card, prompting clients of her firm to ask her bosses for her views on trades they were considering. By the early 1970s, she was monitoring stock portfolios for customers and sharing her forecasts with them.Her breakout moment came in 1973, when a market crash and global economic crisis sent stocks tumbling in a 21-month-long swoon.“My readings were very accurate,” Ms. Murphy said in the book “Women of the Street: Making it on Wall Street — The World’s Toughest Business” (1998), by Sue Herera. She anticipated, for example, a sharp plunge in a popular group of stocks known as the “nifty 50,” which included household names like Coca-Cola and Polaroid.“My timing was right, my anticipation of what was going to happen to stocks was on the money, so I started getting phone calls from institutions and invitations to lunch,” Ms. Murphy said in the book. “And that’s how my business began to build.”Ms. Murphy, who encouraged women to pursue Wall Street careers, appeared on the cover of a business publication for women in 1994. via Murphy familyShe started appearing on “Wall Street Week,” which aired on Friday evenings, in 1979.Within the industry, Ms. Murphy was known for her contributions to trade groups and civic organizations. She was, at various times, the president of the Chartered Market Technicians Association, the New York Society of Security Analysts and the Financial Women’s Association. She was a founding member and governor of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, a trustee of Pace University and a board member of the American Lung Association of New York City.“Everyone who belonged to an organization always tried to get Bernadette to join, which she often did, being a social bee,” said Sheila Baird, a founding partner of the investment firm Kimelman & Baird, where Ms. Murphy worked as the chief market analyst for many years.Bernadette Bartels was born on April 9, 1934, on City Island in the Bronx to Joseph Francis Bartels, a stationary engineer (maintaining industrial machinery and systems), and Julia (Flynn) Bartels, a nurse. She was the youngest of four children. She is survived by her sister, Julia Campbell. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Our Lady of Good Counsel (now part of Pace University) in White Plains, N.Y. She credited her father with urging her to use her education to pursue a career.“I certainly knew that before I married I was going to accomplish something. That was my driving force,” she told Ms. Herera. “I wanted to be a fulfilled person, confident in myself.”In 1982 she married Eugene Francis Murphy, whom she had met on Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays, N.Y., after he rescued her from a riptide. Dr. Murphy, an orthodontist, died in 1997.Ms. Murphy, who retired from Kimelman & Baird in 2015, encouraged women to pursue Wall Street careers, whether she was speaking at high schools or colleges or informally among friends and family. One of them was her niece, Mary Ann Bartels, who became a managing director at Bank of America.Ms. Bartels recalled a story Ms. Murphy often told. As a child, she said, she stopped at a waterside arcade on City Island and put a coin in a vending machine to get her horoscope. “It said her element was fire, her color was red and that, ‘You are an Aries, the ram — a trailblazer and pioneer,’” Ms. Bartels said. “She told us that story so many times, and she really lived by that every day.”Sheelagh McNeill contributed research. More

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    Fed Lets Break for Banks Expire but Opens Door to Future Changes

    The central bank had exempted safe assets from a crucial regulatory requirement, in a bid to keep markets chugging last year.The Federal Reserve said on Friday that it would not extend a temporary exemption of a rule that dictates the amount of capital banks must keep in reserve, a loss for big banks and their lobbyists, who had been pushing to extend the relief beyond its March 31 expiration.At the same time, the Fed opened the door to future tweaks to the regulation if changes are deemed necessary to keeping essential markets functioning smoothly. Banks are required to keep easy-to-access money on hand based on the size of their assets, a requirement known as the supplementary leverage ratio, the design of which they have long opposed.The Fed introduced the regulatory change last year. It has allowed banks to exclude both their holdings of Treasury securities and their reserves — which are deposits at the Fed — when calculating the leverage ratio.The goal of the change was to make it easier for the financial institutions to absorb government bonds and reserves and still continue lending. Otherwise, banks might have stopped such activities to avoid increasing their assets and hitting the leverage cap, which would mean having to raise capital — a move that would be costly for them. But it also lowered bank capital requirements, which drew criticism.As a result, the debate over whether to extend the exemptions was a heated one.Bank lobbyists and some market analysts argued that the Fed needed to keep the exemption in place to prevent banks from pulling back from lending and their critical role as both buyers and sellers of government bonds. But lawmakers and researchers who favor stricter bank oversight argued that the exemption would chip away at the protective cash buffer that banks had built up in the wake of the financial crisis, leaving them less prepared to handle shocks.The Fed took a middle road: It ended the exemption but opened the door to future changes to how the leverage ratio is calibrated. The goal is to keep capital levels stable, but also to make sure that growth in government securities and reserves on bank balance sheets — a natural side effect of government spending and the Fed’s own policies — does not prod banks to pull back.“Because of recent growth in the supply of central bank reserves and the issuance of Treasury securities, the Board may need to address the current design and calibration of the S.L.R. over time,” the Fed said in its release. It added that the goal would be “to prevent strains from developing that could both constrain economic growth and undermine financial stability.”The Fed said it would “shortly seek comment” on measures to adjust the leverage ratio and would make sure that any changes “do not erode” bank capital requirements.“The devil’s going to be in the details,” said Jeremy Kress, a former Fed regulator who teaches at the University of Michigan. “I want to make sure any changes the Fed makes to the supplementary leverage ratio doesn’t undermine the overall strength of bank capital requirements.”The temporary exemption had cut banks’ required capital by an estimated $76 billion at the holding company level, although in practice other regulatory requirements lessened that impact. Critics had warned that lowering bank capital requirements could leave the financial system more vulnerable.That is why the Fed was adamant in April, when it introduced the exemption, that the change would not be permanent.“We gave some leverage ratio relief earlier by temporarily — it’s temporary relief — by eliminating, temporarily, Treasuries from the calculation of the leverage ratio,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said during a July 2020 news conference. He noted that “many bank regulators around the world have given leverage ratio relief.”Other banking regulators, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, took longer to sign on to the Fed’s exemption, but eventually did.Even though the exemption had been a tough sell in the first place, persistent worries over Treasury market functioning had raised the possibility that the Fed might keep it in place.The government has been issuing huge amounts of debt to fund pandemic relief packages, pumping Treasury bonds into the market. At the same time, reserves are exploding as the Fed buys bonds and the Treasury Department spends down a cash pile it amassed last year. The combination risks filling up bank balance sheets. The fear is that banks will pull back as a result.That’s because the supplementary leverage ratio measures a bank’s capital — the money it can most easily tap to make through times of trouble — against what regulators call its “leverage exposure.” That measure counts both its on-balance sheet assets, like Treasurys, and exposures that do not appear on a bank’s balance sheet but may generate income.If banks fail to keep capital on hand that matches with their assets, they are restricted from making payouts to shareholders and handing executives optional bonuses.Banks desperately want to avoid crossing that line. So if there is any danger that they might breach it, they stop taking on assets to make sure that they stay within their boundaries — which can mean that they stop making loans or taking deposits, which count on their balance sheets as “assets.”Alternatively, banks can pay out less capital to make sure their ratio stays in line. That means smaller dividends or fewer share buybacks, both of which bolster bank stock prices and, in the process, pay for their executives.The Financial Services Forum, which represents the chief executives of the largest banks, has argued that the temporary exemption should be rolled off more slowly and not end abruptly on March 31. Representatives from the group have been lobbying lawmakers on the issue over the past year, based on federal disclosures. And the trade group — along with the American Bankers Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association — sent a letter to Fed officials asking for the exemptions to be extended.“Allowing the temporary modification to leverage requirements to expire all at once is problematic and risks undermining the goals that the temporary modification are intended to achieve,” Sean Campbell, head of policy research at the forum, wrote in a post this year.Some banks have themselves pushed for officials to extend the exemption.“This adjustment for cash and Treasury should either be made permanent or, at a minimum, be extended,” Jennifer A. Piepszak, JPMorgan Chase’s chief financial officer, said on the bank’s fourth-quarter earnings call.Ms. Piepszak added that if the exemption for reserves was not extended, the supplementary leverage ratio would become binding and “impact the pace of capital return.” She has separately warned that the bank might have to turn away deposits.Prominent Democrats have had little patience for such arguments.“To the extent there are concerns about banks’ ability to accept customer deposits and absorb reserves due to leverage requirements, regulators should suspend bank capital distributions,” Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, both powerful Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, wrote in a letter to Fed leadership.Banks and their lobbying groups had little to say about the Fed’s move to kill the exemption. The eight largest banks have enough capital to cover their leverage ratios.“A few weeks ago, it seemed like the consensus was that they would do an extension,” said Ian Katz, an analyst at Capital Alpha. He added that the Fed’s thinking might have been: “The banks were in solid enough shape to absorb this, they were going to have to end this some time, and this seemed like a good time to do it.”Stacy Cowley More

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    Biden Highlights Small-Business Help, as Problems Persist With Lending Program

    President Biden visited a Black-owned flooring company as he continued his weeklong push to highlight the $1.9 trillion economic relief package.President Biden dropped by a flooring company in the Philadelphia suburbs on Tuesday to promote an assortment of measures in his $1.9 trillion aid package that are aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.But Mr. Biden’s most immediate and sweeping small-business initiative — changes he made last month to the Paycheck Protection Program — has been mired in logistical challenges. With the relief program scheduled to end in just two weeks, the effect of his modifications will be blunted unless Congress extends it.Last month, Mr. Biden abruptly altered the rules of the $687 billion program to make business owners who employ only themselves eligible for more money. The move was intended to address a clear racial and gender disparity in the relief effort: Female and minority owners, who are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, were disproportionately hobbled by an earlier rule that based the size of sole proprietors’ loans on their annual profit.Many companies were shut out of the program because of that restriction, while others got loans as small as $1. The administration switched to a more forgiving formula that lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a change that significantly increased the money available to millions of business owners. Its implementation, though, has been a mess.The program’s government-backed loans are made by banks. The largest lender, JPMorgan Chase, refused to make the change, saying it lacked the time to update its systems before March 31, the program’s scheduled end date. The second-largest lender, Bank of America, decided to update all of its applications manually, causing anxiety and confusion among its borrowers. Wells Fargo released its revised application on Tuesday and told borrowers with pending applications that they had just three days to reapply using the new form.Compounding the problem is that Mr. Biden’s change was not retroactive, which has prompted backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a $1,900 loan in February. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”Officials at the Small Business Administration, which manages the program, said only Congress could fix that disparity. Absent legislative action, loans that were completed before the rule was revised “cannot be changed or canceled,” said Matthew Coleman, an agency spokesman.On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Mr. Biden’s nominee to run the Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman, by an 81-to-17 vote.Despite the concerns, Mr. Biden was met with praise in Chester, Pa., when he visited Smith Flooring, a Black-owned business that supplies and installs flooring. White House officials said the shop cut payroll over the last year, from 22 union employees to 12, after revenues declined by 20 percent during the pandemic. It has survived, the officials said, thanks in part to two rounds of loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress established last year during the Trump administration to help small businesses.“This is a great outfit. This is a union shop,” Mr. Biden said in brief remarks. Its employees, he said, “work like the devil, and they can make a decent wage, a living wage.”The owners of Smith Flooring, Kristin and James Smith, secured their second loan from the program as part of one of the Biden administration’s changes, which created a two-week exclusive period for certain very small businesses to receive loans. They thanked Mr. Biden for his efforts and for visiting Chester.Mr. Biden’s aid bill, signed last week, added $7 billion to the program and funded others to help struggling businesses, including a $28 billion grant fund for restaurants. The law also set aside additional money for other relief efforts run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses, which the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.Lenders are scrambling to carry out the administration’s changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and finish processing a flood of applications before March 31. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants called the deadline “unrealistic,” and 10 banking groups sent a letter to lawmakers urging Congress to give them more time.Advocacy groups are also calling, with increasing urgency, for both an extension and a fix to make the rule change for sole proprietors retroactive.Mr. Biden met with the owners of Smith Flooring, Kristin and James Smith, in Chester, Pa., on Tuesday.Doug Mills/The New York Times“We absolutely need those changes,” said Ashley Harrington, the federal advocacy director at the Center for Responsible Lending. In December, Congress made retroactive changes to Paycheck Protection Program loans for farmers that allowed those borrowers to recalculate and increase previously finalized loans..css-yoay6m{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-yoay6m{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1dg6kl4{margin-top:5px;margin-bottom:15px;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}#masthead-bar-one{display:none;}.css-1cz6wm{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1cz6wm{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1cz6wm:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1cz6wm{border:none;padding:20px 0 0;border-top:1px solid #121212;}Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus PackageThe stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more. Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read moreThis credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.“To have that change be made for one group and not be made for another — especially for a group that has so many Black and Latino business owners that have struggled so much in this crisis — really raised alarms and red flags for us,” Ms. Harrington said.Some key Democratic lawmakers said they were willing to extend the date. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee, said she was working with the Small Business Administration and congressional Republicans “to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”“For those sole proprietors who applied before the new rules took effect, we understand their concerns and are eager to work with Congress to resolve them,” said Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy director of the National Economic Council and the White House’s point person on the relief program.Mr. Ramamurti said that “tens of thousands” of loans had been approved by around 4,000 lenders using the new formula, and that some large lenders — including the online lender Biz2Credit and two banks, Cross River Bank and Customers Bank, that make loans for dozens of partner companies — said they had successfully made the needed updates.But many applicants are struggling. Chase’s refusal to make the change provoked outrage on social media from its customers. “What a slap in the face,” one tweeted at the bank. “Please make this right,” another begged.And some Bank of America customers are mired in confusion over the bank’s process, which required loan seekers to apply in writing for an incorrect amount — one that used the older formula — and rely on the bank’s staff to correct their applications by hand.Asim Khan, an environmental consultant in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been trying for two weeks to get his Bank of America application untangled. He has spent hours on the phone and on hold. “I’ve had two reps tell me they’ve seen it work for people, but yet they can’t make it work for me,” he said. “It’s all super clumsy.”Bill Halldin, a Bank of America spokesman, said the bank was “working with each individual client to manually update their loan information, which is the best way for us to help them take advantage of the recently announced rule change.”While the program still has two weeks left, the big banks are already shutting down. Bank of America stopped accepting new applications last week, and Chase plans to close its application system on Friday. More

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    The Financial Crisis the World Forgot

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutGuidelines After VaccinationCredit…Jasper RietmanSkip to contentSkip to site indexThe Financial Crisis the World ForgotThe Federal Reserve crossed red lines to rescue markets in March 2020. Is there enough momentum to fix the weaknesses the episode exposed?Credit…Jasper RietmanSupported byContinue reading the main storyMarch 16, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETBy the middle of March 2020 a sense of anxiety pervaded the Federal Reserve. The fast-unfolding coronavirus pandemic was rippling through global markets in dangerous ways.Trading in Treasurys — the government securities that are considered among the safest assets in the world, and the bedrock of the entire bond market — had become disjointed as panicked investors tried to sell everything they owned to raise cash. Buyers were scarce. The Treasury market had never broken down so badly, even in the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.The Fed called an emergency meeting on March 15, a Sunday. Lorie Logan, who oversees the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s asset portfolio, summarized the brewing crisis. She and her colleagues dialed into a conference from the fortresslike New York Fed headquarters, unable to travel to Washington given the meeting’s impromptu nature and the spreading virus. Regional bank presidents assembled across America stared back from the monitor. Washington-based governors were arrayed in a socially distanced ring around the Fed Board’s mahogany table.Ms. Logan delivered a blunt assessment: While the Fed had been buying government-backed bonds the week before to soothe the volatile Treasury market, market contacts said it hadn’t been enough. To fix things, the Fed might need to buy much more. And fast.Fed officials are an argumentative bunch, and they fiercely debated the other issue before them that day, whether to cut interest rates to near-zero.But, in a testament to the gravity of the breakdown in the government bond market, there was no dissent about whether the central bank needed to stem what was happening by stepping in as a buyer. That afternoon, the Fed announced an enormous purchase program, promising to make $500 billion in government bond purchases and to buy $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt.It wasn’t the central bank’s first effort to stop the unfolding disaster, nor would it be the last. But it was a clear signal that the 2020 meltdown echoed the 2008 crisis in seriousness and complexity. Where the housing crisis and ensuing crash took years to unfold, the coronavirus panic had struck in weeks.As March wore on, each hour incubating a new calamity, policymakers were forced to cross boundaries, break precedents and make new uses of the U.S. government’s vast powers to save domestic markets, keep cash flowing abroad and prevent a full-blown financial crisis from compounding a public health tragedy.The rescue worked, so it is easy to forget the peril America’s investors and businesses faced a year ago. But the systemwide weaknesses that were exposed last March remain, and are now under the microscope of Washington policymakers.How It StartedThe Fed began to roll out measure after measure in a bid to soothe markets.Credit…John Taggart for The New York TimesFinancial markets began to wobble on Feb. 21, 2020, when Italian authorities announced localized lockdowns.At first, the sell-off in risky investments was normal — a rational “flight to safety” while the global economic outlook was rapidly darkening. Stocks plummeted, demand for many corporate bonds disappeared, and people poured into super-secure investments, like U.S. Treasury bonds.On March 3, as market jitters intensified, the Fed cut interest rates to about 1 percent — its first emergency move since the 2008 financial crisis. Some analysts chided the Fed for overreacting, and others asked an obvious question: What could the Fed realistically do in the face of a public health threat?“We do recognize that a rate cut will not reduce the rate of infection, it won’t fix a broken supply chain,” Chair Jerome H. Powell said at a news conference, explaining that the Fed was doing what it could to keep credit cheap and available. But the health disaster was quickly metastasizing into a market crisis.Lockdowns in Italy deepened during the second week of March, and oil prices plummeted as a price war raged, sending tremors across stock, currency and commodity markets. Then, something weird started to happen: Instead of snapping up Treasury bonds, arguably the world’s safest investment, investors began trying to sell them.The yield on 10-year Treasury debt — which usually drops when investors seek safe harbor — started to rise on March 10, suggesting investors didn’t want safe assets. They wanted cold, hard cash, and they were trying to sell anything and everything to get it.How It WorsenedNearly every corner of the financial markets began breaking down, including the market for normally steadfast Treasury securities.Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York TimesReligion works through churches. Democracy through congresses and parliaments. Capitalism is an idea made real through a series of relationships between debtors and creditors, risk and reward. And by last March 11, those equations were no longer adding up.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Fed Chair Powell Offered a Patient Message. Markets Quivered Anyway.

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }Biden’s Stimulus PlanWhat’s NextReconciliation, ExplainedFact Check$15 Minimum WageWhere Trump Voters StandAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyFed Chair Powell Offered a Patient Message. Markets Quivered Anyway.Stocks fell and bond yields rose after the Fed leader reiterated that the central bank did not plan to pull back policy support soon.Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in Washington in December.Credit…Al Drago for The New York TimesMarch 4, 2021Updated 5:41 p.m. ETJerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said he and his colleagues have a “high standard” for what full employment means, underscoring that the central bank is likely to be patient in removing its support for the economy.Mr. Powell pointed out that the virus has pushed many people out of the job market and said that “4 percent would be a nice unemployment rate to get to, but it will take more than that to get to maximum employment.” It is unlikely the job market will return to full speed this year, he added, speaking in an online question-and-answer session hosted by The Wall Street Journal.In fact, Mr. Powell’s entire message on Thursday centered on how cautious the central bank plans to be in dialing back economic policies — low interest rates and large-scale bond buying — that are meant to help the economy recover from the painful coronavirus shock.But antsy markets appeared unconvinced: Rates jumped and stocks slumped as the Fed chair spoke. The S&P 500 index, which had been up more than half a percent earlier in the day, fell into negative territory — eventually closing with its third consecutive day of decline.Investors have begun to pencil in faster growth and higher inflation in recent weeks, betting that a cocktail of big government spending, widespread vaccinations and rock-bottom interest rates are setting the stage for rapid growth and faster price gains. Market players have begun to speculate that the Fed might lift interest rates earlier than expected, even as the central bank’s top officials pledge patience.“The message, which he sent very clearly, was lower for longer,” said Subadra Rajappa, head of rates strategy at Société Générale. “It was the market reaction I was quite surprised by.”Ms. Rajappa said investors might have expected Mr. Powell to signal that the Fed was prepared to counteract recent market moves — perhaps by shifting toward longer-term bond purchases, among other policy options. He may have disappointed them by declining to tee up such a change.The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, an important benchmark that influences the cost of borrowing for companies and households alike, crept higher as the Fed chair spoke. It ended the day at 1.55 percent.Stock indexes fell as that happened. Higher interest rates can weigh on stock prices by making bond investing more comparatively attractive — higher yields can mean higher investment returns for buyers — and by nibbling into corporate profits.The Fed chair did acknowledge on Thursday that the Fed was watching the market fluctuations, saying that sharp bond market moves last week were “notable” and caught his attention and that he “would be concerned” by disorderly conditions or a persistent change that makes credit expensive and threatens the Fed’s goals.He rejected the idea that the central bank was poised to remove its policy support soon, saying at one point that the Fed was committed to “staying on the playing field, with our tools, until the job is really done” and the economy is healed.“My best guess is that he was trying to push back against the expectations of early rate hikes that have dominated the markets this year,” Roberto Perli, a partner and economist at Cornerstone Macro, said in an email. “What he said was no different from what he said so far, and the market needs something more convincing.”The central bank is currently buying $120 billion in government debt and mortgage-backed securities each month, and officials have said that they need to see “substantial further progress” before slowing that pace.Love’s Furniture and Mattresses in Warren, Mich., advertised its closing on Monday.Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York TimesMr. Powell reiterated on Thursday that the Fed would communicate “well in advance” when it thinks it is reaching that threshold, while declining to put a date on when that might happen.“There’s reason to think that we’ll begin to make more progress, soon,” Mr. Powell acknowledged. “But even if that happens, as now seems likely, it will take some time to achieve ‘substantial’ further progress.”When it comes to lifting shorter-term interest rates, their classic policy tool, officials have been clearer about precisely what they want to accomplish before adjusting their cheap-money stance.“That’s going to depend entirely upon the path of the economy,” Mr. Powell said of the plan for interest rates. He said the country had to get to maximum employment, inflation must sustainably reach 2 percent, and those price gains must be on track to exceed 2 percent for some time.“Those are the conditions,” he said. “When they arrive, we will consider raising interest rates. We’re not intending to raise interest rates until we see those conditions fulfilled.”Even as many analysts anticipate higher inflation this year after very weak price increases in 2020, Mr. Powell was careful to draw a distinction between a short-term pop and a sustained acceleration.“If we do see what we believe is likely a transitory increase in inflation” then “I expect that we will be patient,” Mr. Powell said. “There’s a difference between a one-time surge in prices and ongoing inflation.”And when it comes to the job market, he pointed out that American employers now report 10 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic, leaving a lot of room for a labor rebound. The unemployment rate, which will be updated Friday, stood at 6.3 percent in January — still well above its 3.5 percent rate last year. And that understates the pandemic’s labor market cost, since many people have stopped looking for work altogether and are not counted into the official jobless number.Initial jobless claims increased last week after a big drop the prior week, the latest report showed, showing that the labor market’s recovery remains rocky for now, though a better performance might lie ahead as vaccines allow the economy to reopen more fully.“There’s good reason to expect job creation to pick up in coming months,” Mr. Powell said. “We need that.”Mr. Powell, whose term as Fed chair ends early next year, declined to comment on whether he would like another term. He was originally appointed as a governor by President Barack Obama, then elevated to chair by President Donald J. Trump. He said he was focused on the job at hand.“There’s a lot left to, we have a lot of ground left to cover,” he said. But given the advent of widespread vaccinations, there’s “good reason for optimism.”Matt Phillips contributed reporting.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Treasury to Invest $9 Billion in Minority Communities

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyTreasury to Invest $9 Billion in Minority CommunitiesTreasury Secretary Janet Yellen is making Community Development Financial Institutions central to achieving an inclusive economy.Sunshine Foss at her wine and spirits store, Happy Cork, in Brooklyn in November. Her store focuses on Black- and other minority-owned labels.Credit…Joshua Bright for The New York TimesMarch 4, 2021Updated 4:13 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — The Biden administration unveiled a plan on Thursday to invest $9 billion in minority communities, taking an initial step in fulfilling its promise to ensure that those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic have access to loans as the economy recovers.The Treasury Department said it was opening the application process for its Emergency Capital Investment Program, which will provide a major infusion of funds to Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions as they look to step up lending.The effort is a priority of Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who has warned that the fallout from the pandemic is exacerbating inequality in the United States.“America has always had financial services deserts, places where it’s very difficult for people to get their hands on capital so they can, for example, start a business,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement. “But the pandemic has made these deserts even more inhospitable.”She added: “The Emergency Capital Investment Program will help these places that the financial sector hasn’t typically served well.”Ms. Yellen has for years been an advocate for Community Development Financial Institutions, arguing that they are an important tool for fostering a more inclusive economy.The relief programs that were rolled out in 2020, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, for small businesses, drew criticism from minority groups, who said Black- and other minority-owned businesses were at a disadvantage in applying for a limited pool of funds because many had weaker banking relationships than their white-owned counterparts. A Federal Reserve Bank of New York study last year found that Black-owned businesses suffered the sharpest rate of closures in the first part of 2020.The Treasury Department is using funds that were approved in the $900 billion stimulus package that was passed in December and signed by former President Donald J. Trump.Community Development Financial Institutions, which provide affordable lending options to low-income consumers and businesses, were largely neglected under Mr. Trump and his Treasury Department. President Biden and Ms. Yellen have signaled that they will be critical for improving racial equity in the United States.The new program will make direct investments in local lenders that support small businesses and consumers in low-income communities. The investments will have low interest rates and provide lenders with greater incentives to offer small loans to those who are most in need, both in rural areas and in places where poverty is persistent.Treasury officials said they wanted the new program to reinforce the health of Community Development Financial Institutions. The department is also putting in place two separate programs to that will provide an additional $3 billion in grants and other support to the lenders.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Investors Are Focused on Treasurys. Here’s What the Fed Could Do.

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyInvestors Are Focused on Treasurys. Here’s What the Fed Could Do.Central bankers have said they aren’t worried about a pop in longer-term bond yields. If they do become concerned, they have some options.The Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, may be asked about higher bond yields during a scheduled event on Thursday.Credit…Al Drago for The New York TimesMarch 4, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETLonger-term interest rates have jumped in recent weeks, a move that has been broadly interpreted as a sign that investors are betting higher growth and slightly faster inflation may be right around the corner.Federal Reserve officials have mostly brushed off the increase to date, saying it is a signal of economic optimism. But many investors have wondered whether the central bank might feel a need to intervene. The adjustment has at times roiled stock markets, which tend to sink when interest rates increase, and it could weigh on consumer spending and growth if it is sustained and borrowing becomes more expensive.Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, is set to speak at noon on Thursday at a Wall Street Journal event, where he may be asked to address the recent bond activity.Many on or adjacent to Wall Street have begun to put forward a two-part question: They are curious whether the Fed will step in to keep rates low and, if so, how. Below, we run through a few of the most likely options, along with plain-English explainers of what they mean and how they work.First, a little background.The yield on a 10-year Treasury note, a reference point for the cost of many types of borrowing, has popped since the start of the year. After dropping as low as about 0.5 percent in 2020, the yield jumped to 1.6 percent during the day last Thursday. It hovered around 1.5 percent by Wednesday.That is still very low by historical standards: The 10-year yield was above 3 percent as recently as 2018, and in the 1980s it was double digits. But a rapid adjustment in longer-term rates around the world has drawn attention. Global officials like Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, have voiced concern about the increases.U.S. officials have generally painted the adjustment as a sign that investors are growing more optimistic about growth as millions of Americans begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines and the government supports the economy with spending. And while markets appear to be penciling in slightly higher inflation, Fed officials had been hoping to push price expectations — which had been slipping — a little bit higher.“If you look at why they’re moving up, it’s to do with expectations of a return to more normal levels, more mandate-consistent levels of inflation, higher growth, an opening economy,” Mr. Powell said of rates during a hearing on Feb. 23.But last week’s gyrations prompted U.S. officials to make clear they’re watching to make sure that market moves don’t counteract the Fed’s policies, which make borrowing inexpensive to encourage spending and help the economy recover more quickly.“I am paying close attention to market developments — some of those moves last week and the speed of those moves caught my eye,” Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, said at a Council on Foreign Relations webcast on Tuesday. “I would be concerned if I saw disorderly conditions or persistent tightening in financial conditions that could slow progress toward our goal.”The question is what the Fed could do if rates get too high.Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, said she was monitoring market developments. Credit…Brian Snyder/ReutersBuying longer-term bonds is one option.The Fed’s most obvious choice to push back on a surge in longer-term bond yields is to just buy more of the bonds in question: If the central banks snaps up five-year, 10-year or 30-year securities, the added demand will push up prices, forcing yields — which move in the opposite direction — lower.The Fed is already buying $120 billion in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds each month, a program it started last year both to soothe markets and to make many types of credit cheaper. Right now, it’s purchasing many types of bonds, but it could shake up that approach to focus on longer-term debt.There’s precedent for such a maneuver. The Fed bought long-term bonds to push down interest rates and bolster the economy in 2011. A similar policy was used in the 1960s. Economists and business networks often call such policies either “maturity extension” — shifting future purchases toward longer-dated debt — or “Operation Twist,” which tends to refer to selling short-term notes while buying longer-term bonds.Promising to ‘cap’ certain yields is another.The Fed’s more drastic option is called “yield curve control.” While it sounds nerdy, the approach is simple. The central bank could just pledge to keep a certain rate — say the five-year Treasury yield — below a certain level and buy as many bonds as necessary to keep that cap in place.Other central banks around the world, including the Bank of Japan and the Reserve Bank of Australia, have used yield curve control. But the tool carries risks: For example, it could force the Fed to buy huge sums of bonds and vastly expand its balance sheet in a worst-case scenario. That could matter for perceptions, since politicians sometimes criticize the Fed’s growing holdings, and it might have implications for market functioning.Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, told reporters on Tuesday that she was not worried about the yield curve yet. But she suggested that if the Fed did need to do something, shifting to long-term purchases would probably be preferable.“Right now I don’t think of yield curve control as something we would implement, myself, right away,” she said.The Fed can take several steps to deal with rockiness in the bond markets.Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via ShutterstockAdvertisementContinue reading the main story More