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    Europe Has Fallen Behind the U.S. and China. Can It Catch Up?

    A “competitiveness crisis” is raising alarms for officials and business leaders in the European Union, where investment, income and productivity are lagging.Europe’s share of the global economy is shrinking, and fears are deepening that the continent can no longer keep up with the United States and China.“We are too small,” said Enrico Letta, a former Italian prime minister who recently delivered a report on the future of the single market to the European Union.“We are not very ambitious,” Nicolai Tangen, head of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, told The Financial Times. “Americans just work harder.”“European businesses need to regain self-confidence,” Europe’s association of chambers of commerce declared.The list of reasons for what has been called the “competitiveness crisis” goes on: The European Union has too many regulations, and its leadership in Brussels has too little power. Financial markets are too fragmented; public and private investments are too low; companies are too small to compete on a global scale.“Our organization, decision-making and financing are designed for ‘the world of yesterday’ — pre-Covid, pre-Ukraine, pre-conflagration in the Middle East, pre-return of great power rivalry,” said Mario Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank who is heading a study of Europe’s competitiveness.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    What Trump 2.0 Could Mean for the Federal Reserve

    A second Trump administration could shake up personnel and financial regulation at America’s central bank, people close to his campaign said.Former President Donald J. Trump relentlessly criticized the Federal Reserve and Jerome H. Powell, its chair, during his time in office. As he competes with President Biden for a second presidential term, that history has many on Wall Street wondering: What would a Trump victory mean for America’s central bank?The Trump campaign does not have detailed plans for the Fed yet, several people in its orbit said, but outside advisers have been more focused on the central bank and have been making suggestions — some minor, others extreme.While some in Mr. Trump’s circles have floated the idea of trying to limit the Fed’s ability to set interest rates independent of the White House, others have pushed back hard on that idea, and people close to the campaign said they thought such a drastic effort was unlikely. Curbing the central bank’s ability to set interest rates without direct White House influence would be legally and politically tricky, and tinkering with the Fed so overtly could roil the very stock markets that Mr. Trump has frequently used as a yardstick for his success.But other aspects of Fed policy could end up squarely in Mr. Trump’s sights, both former administration officials and conservative policy thinkers have indicated.Mr. Trump is poised to once again use public criticism to try to pressure the Fed. If elected, he would also have a chance to appoint a new Fed chair in 2026, and he has already made it clear in public comments that he plans to replace Mr. Powell, whom he elevated to the job before President Biden reappointed him.“There will be a lot of rhetorical devices thrown at the Fed,” predicted Joseph A. LaVorgna, the chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities America, an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and the chief economist of the National Economic Council during Mr. Trump’s administration.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Pay Later’ Lenders Have an Issue With Credit Bureaus

    Shoppers in recent years have embraced “buy now, pay later” loans as an easy, interest-free way to purchase everything from sweaters to concert tickets.The loans typically are not reported on consumers’ credit reports, however, or reflected in their credit scores. That has stoked concerns that users might be taking on an outsize amount of debt that is invisible to both lenders and financial regulators.So in February, when Apple announced it would start reporting loans made through its Apple Pay Later program to Experian, one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus, it looked like a watershed moment for the fast-growing “buy now, pay later” category.But none of the other major pay-later providers have followed Apple’s lead. And while credit bureaus and lenders say they are interested in finding a way to work together, the gulf between the two sides remains wide — so much so that some pay-later firms are exploring creating an alternative credit bureau to handle their loans.“I haven’t seen really meaningful progress,” said David Sykes, chief commercial officer of Klarna, one of the largest pay-later firms.“Buy now, pay later” loans allow consumers to pay for purchases over time, often in four installments over six weeks, interest free. They surged in popularity during the pandemic, when they helped fuel an online-shopping boom. The rapid growth has continued: The retail industry attributed its record-setting holiday sales in part to the popularity of pay-later products.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    The Global Turn Away From Free-Market Policies Worries Economists

    More countries are embracing measures meant to encourage their own security and independence, a trend that some say could slow global growth.Meeting outside Paris last week, top officials from France, Germany and Italy pledged to pursue a coordinated economic policy to counter stepped-up efforts by Washington and Beijing to protect their own homegrown businesses.The three European countries have joined the parade of others that are enthusiastically embracing industrial policies — the catchall term for a variety of measures like targeted subsidies, tax incentives, regulations and trade restrictions — meant to steer an economy.More than 2,500 industrial policies were introduced last year, roughly three times the number in 2019, according to a new study. And most were imposed by the richest, most advanced economies — many of which could previously be counted on to criticize such tactics.The measures are generally popular at home, but the trend is worrying some international leaders and economists who warn that such top-down economic interventions could end up slowing worldwide growth.The sharpened debate is sure to be on display at the economic lollapalooza that opens Wednesday in Washington — otherwise known as the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.From left, Adolfo Urso of Italy, Bruno Le Maire of France and Robert Habeck of Germany vowed to coordinate their economic policies.Yoan Valat/EPA, via ShutterstockWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    U.S. Judge Blocks Rule Extending Reach of Labor Law to Franchisers

    The ruling upends the National Labor Relations Board’s move to broaden the standard for determining when a company is liable for labor law violations.A federal judge, siding with business lobbying groups, has blocked a rule that would broaden the reach of federal labor law to make big franchisers like McDonald’s responsible for the conditions of workers they have not directly hired.The judge, J. Campbell Barker of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, on Friday vacated a rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board determining when a company is a joint employer, making it liable under labor law for the working conditions of those hired by a franchisee or provided by a staffing agency. He said the rule, which was to go into effect Monday, was too broad.The decision by Judge Barker, a nominee of former President Donald J. Trump, keeps in place a more business-friendly standard for assigning legal liability.Unions and employees support the rule because it makes it easier to bargain for better conditions, while franchisers say it would disrupt their business model.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which led a group of business groups challenging the rule, applauded the ruling. “It will prevent businesses from facing new liabilities related to workplaces they don’t control, and workers they don’t actually employ,” Suzanne P. Clark, chief executive of the chamber, said in a statement.The labor board’s chair, Lauren McFerran, who was named by President Biden, said in a statement that the ruling was “a disappointing setback,” but “not the last word” on the joint-employer standard. If the board appeals the ruling, the case would move to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The labor agency pushed for the case to be moved to Washington, but Judge Barker denied that request.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Bank Runs Spooked Regulators. Now a Clampdown Is Coming.

    Federal Reserve officials and other bank regulators could roll out a new proposal this spring to ward off a repeat of 2023’s banking turmoil.One year after a series of bank runs threatened the financial system, government officials are preparing to unveil a regulatory response aimed at preventing future meltdowns.After months of floating fixes at conferences and in quiet conversations with bank executives, the Federal Reserve and other regulators could unveil new rules this spring. At least some policymakers hope to release their proposal before a regulation-focused conference in June, according to a person familiar with the plans.The interagency clampdown would come on top of another set of proposed and potentially costly regulations that have caused tension between big banks and their regulators. Taken together, the proposed rules could further rankle the industry.The goal of the new policies would be to prevent the kind of crushing problems and bank runs that toppled Silicon Valley Bank and a series of other regional lenders last spring. The expected tweaks focus on liquidity, or a bank’s ability to act quickly in tumult, in a direct response to issues that became obvious during the 2023 crisis.The banking industry has been unusually outspoken in criticizing the already-proposed rules known as “Basel III Endgame,” the American version of an international accord that would ultimately force large banks to hold more cash-like assets called capital. Bank lobbies have funded a major ad campaign arguing that it would hurt families, home buyers and small businesses by hitting lending.Last week, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, vented to clients at a private gathering in Miami Beach that, according to a recording heard by The New York Times, “nothing” regulators had done since last year had addressed the problems that led to the 2023 midsize bank failures. Mr. Dimon has complained that the Basel capital proposal was taking aim at larger institutions that were not central to last spring’s meltdown.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Can a Tech Giant Be Woke?

    The December day in 2021 that set off a revolution across the videogame industry appeared to start innocuously enough. Managers at a Wisconsin studio called Raven began meeting one by one with quality assurance testers, who vet video games for bugs, to announce that the company was overhauling their department. Going forward, managers said, the lucky testers would be permanent employees, not temps. They would earn an extra $1.50 an hour.It was only later in the morning, a Friday, that the catch became apparent: One-third of the studio’s roughly 35 testers were being let go as part of the overhaul. The workers were stunned. Raven was owned by Activision Blizzard, one of the industry’s largest companies, and there appeared to be plenty of work to go around. Several testers had just worked late into the night to meet a looming deadline.“My friend called me crying, saying, ‘I just lost my job,’” recalled Erin Hall, one of the testers who stayed on. “None of us saw that coming.”The testers conferred with one another over the weekend and announced a strike on Monday. Just after they returned to work seven weeks later, they filed paperwork to hold a union election. Raven never rehired the laid-off workers, but the other testers won their election in May 2022, forming the first union at a major U.S. video game company.It was at this point that the rebellion took a truly unusual turn. Large American companies typically challenge union campaigns, as Activision had at Raven. But in this case, Activision’s days as the sole decision maker were numbered. In January 2022, Microsoft had announced a nearly $70 billion deal to purchase the video game maker, and the would-be owners seemed to take a more permissive view of labor organizing.The month after the union election, Microsoft announced that it would stay neutral if any of Activision’s roughly 7,000 eligible employees sought to unionize with the Communications Workers of America — meaning the company would not try to stop the organizing, unlike most employers. Microsoft later said that it would extend the deal to studios it already owned.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Amazon Argues National Labor Relations Board Is Unconstitutional

    The company made the novel claim, echoing arguments by SpaceX and Trader Joe’s, in a legal filing while fighting a case.In the latest sign of a growing backlash within corporate America to the 88-year-old federal agency that enforces labor rights, Amazon argued in a legal filing on Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board was unconstitutional.The move followed a similar argument by SpaceX, the rocket company founded and run by Elon Musk, in a legal complaint in January, and by Trader Joe’s during a labor board hearing a few weeks later.The labor board consists of a prosecutorial arm, which issues complaints against employers or unions deemed to have violated federally protected labor rights; administrative judges, who hear complaints; and a five-member board in Washington, to which decisions can be appealed.Amazon’s filing was part of a case before an administrative judge in which labor board prosecutors have accused Amazon of illegally retaliating against workers at a Staten Island warehouse known as JFK8, which unionized two years ago.The company’s lawyers repeatedly denied in their filing that Amazon had broken the law. Then, under a section titled “Other Defenses,” they argued that “the structure of the N.L.R.B. violates the separation of powers” by “impeding the executive power provided for in Article II of the United States Constitution.”The company also argued that the board or its actions or proceedings violated Articles I and III of the Constitution, as well as the Fifth and Seventh Amendments — in the last case because, the filing said, board hearings can seek legal remedies beyond what’s allowed without a trial by jury.Amazon declined to comment.The claims it made in the filing echo arguments that lawyers for SpaceX made in a federal lawsuit last month, after the labor board issued a complaint accusing the company of illegally firing eight employees for criticizing Mr. Musk. SpaceX sued in Texas, but a federal judge there on Thursday granted the board’s motion to transfer the case to California, where the company’s headquarters are located.In a statement, the board’s general counsel, Jennifer A. Abruzzo, said, “I am pleased that SpaceX’s blatant forum-shopping efforts in Texas attempting to enjoin the agency’s litigation against it have failed.”Wilma Liebman, a chairwoman of the labor board under President Barack Obama, called the arguments by Amazon and SpaceX “radical,” adding that “the constitutionality of the N.L.R.B. was settled nearly 90 years ago by the Supreme Court.”The arguments appear to align with a broader conservative effort to question the constitutionality of a variety of regulatory actions, some of which have resulted in cases before the Supreme Court.In January, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear a case brought by Starbucks, which is challenging a federal judge’s order reinstating employees who were fired during a union campaign. The outcome of the case could rein in the labor board’s longstanding practice of seeking reinstatement for workers while their cases are litigated, a process that can take years. More