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    Carried Interest Is Back in the Headlines. Why It’s Not Going Away.

    Changes demanded by Senator Kyrsten Sinema will preserve a tax loophole that Democrats have complained about for years.For years, Democrats and even some Republicans such as former President Donald J. Trump have called for closing the so-called carried interest loophole that allows wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives to pay lower tax rates than entry-level employees.Those efforts have always failed to make a big dent in the loophole — and the latest proposal to do so also faltered this week. Senate leaders announced on Thursday that they had agreed to drop a modest change to the tax provision in order to secure the vote of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, and ensure passage of their Inflation Reduction Act, a wide-ranging climate, health care and tax bill.An agreement reached last week between Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, would have taken a small step in the direction of narrowing carried interest tax treatment. However, it would not have eliminated the loophole entirely and could still have allowed rich business executives to have smaller tax bills than their secretaries, a criticism lobbed by the investor Warren E. Buffett, who has long argued against the preferential tax treatment.The fate of the provision was always in doubt given the Democrats’ slim control of the Senate. And Ms. Sinema had previously opposed a carried interest measure in a much larger bill called Build Back Better, which never secured the 50 Senate votes needed — Republicans have been unified in their opposition to any tax increases.Had the legislation passed in the form that Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin presented it last week, the shrinking of the carried interest exception would have brought Democrats a tiny bit closer to realizing their vision of making the tax code more progressive.What is carried interest?Carried interest is the percentage of an investment’s gains that a private equity partner or hedge fund manager takes as compensation. At most private equity firms and hedge funds, the share of profits paid to managers is about 20 percent.Under existing law, that money is taxed at a capital-gains rate of 20 percent for top earners. That’s about half the rate of the top individual income tax bracket, which is 37 percent.The 2017 tax law passed by Republicans largely left the treatment of carried interest intact, after an intense business lobbying campaign, but did narrow the exemption by requiring private equity officials to hold their investments for at least three years before reaping preferential tax treatment on their carried interest income.What would the Manchin-Schumer agreement have done?The agreement between Mr. Manchin and Mr. Schumer would have further narrowed the exemption, in several ways. It would have extended that holding period to five years from three, while changing the way the period is calculated in hopes of reducing taxpayers’ ability to game the system and pay the lower 20 percent tax rate.Senate Democrats say the changes would have raised an estimated $14 billion over a decade, by forcing more income to be taxed at higher individual income tax rates — and less at the preferential rate.The longer holding period would have applied only to those who made $400,000 per year or more, in keeping with President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on those earning less than that amount.The tax provision echoed a measure that was initially included in the climate and tax bill that House Democrats passed last year but that stalled in the Senate. The carried interest language was removed amid concern that Ms. Sinema, who opposed the measure, would block the overall legislation.Why hasn’t the loophole been closed by now?Many Democrats have tried for years to completely eliminate the tax benefits private equity partners enjoy. Democrats have sought to redefine the management fees they get from partnerships as “gross income,” just like any other kind of income, and to treat capital gains from partners’ investments as ordinary income.Such a move was included in legislation proposed by House Democrats in 2015. The legislation would also have increased the penalties on investors who did not properly apply the proposed changes to their own tax filings.The private equity industry has fought back hard, rejecting outright the basic concepts on which the proposed changes were based.“No such loophole exists,” Steven B. Klinsky, the founder and chief executive of the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, wrote in an opinion article published in The New York Times in 2016. Mr. Klinsky said that when other taxes, including those levied by New York City and the state government, were accounted for, his effective tax rate was between 40 and 50 percent.What would the change have meant for private equity?The private equity industry has defended the tax treatment of carried interest, arguing that it creates incentives for entrepreneurship, healthy risk-taking and investment.The American Investment Council, a lobbying group for the private equity industry, described the proposal as a blow to small business.“Over 74 percent of private equity investment went to small businesses last year,” said Drew Maloney, chief executive of the council. “As small-business owners face rising costs and our economy faces serious headwinds, Washington should not move forward with a new tax on the private capital that is helping local employers survive and grow.”The Managed Funds Association said the changes to the tax code would hurt those who invested on behalf of pension funds and university endowments.“Current law recognizes the importance of long-term investment, but this proposal would punish entrepreneurs in investment partnerships by not affording them the benefit of long-term capital gains treatment,” said Bryan Corbett, the chief executive of the association.“It is crucial Congress avoids proposals that harm the ability of pensions, foundations and endowments to benefit from high-value, long-term investments that create opportunity for millions of Americans.”Jim Tankersley More

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    Start-Up Funding Falls the Most It Has Since 2019

    SAN FRANCISCO — For the first time in three years, start-up funding is dropping.The numbers are stark. Investments in U.S. tech start-ups plunged 23 percent over the last three months, to $62.3 billion, the steepest fall since 2019, according to figures released on Thursday by PitchBook, which tracks young companies. Even worse, in the first six months of the year, start-up sales and initial public offerings — the primary ways these companies return cash to investors — plummeted 88 percent, to $49 billion, from a year ago.The declines are a rarity in the start-up ecosystem, which enjoyed more than a decade of outsize growth fueled by a booming economy, low interest rates and people using more and more technology, from smartphones to apps to artificial intelligence. That surge produced now-household names such as Airbnb and Instacart. Over the past decade, quarterly funding to high growth start-ups fell just seven times.But as rising interest rates, inflation and uncertainty stemming from the war in Ukraine have cast a pall over the global economy this year, young tech companies have gotten hit. And that foreshadows a difficult period for the tech industry, which relies on start-ups in Silicon Valley and beyond to provide the next big innovation and growth engine.“We’ve been in a long bull market,” said Kirsten Green, an investor with Forerunner Ventures, adding that the pullback was partly a reaction to that frenzied period of dealmaking, as well as to macroeconomic uncertainty. “What we’re doing right now is calming things down and cutting out some of the noise.”The start-up industry still has plenty of money behind it, and no collapse is imminent. Investors continue to do deals, funding 4,457 transactions in the last three months, up 4 percent from a year ago, according to PitchBook. Venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, are also still raising large new funds that can be deployed into young companies, collecting $122 billion in commitments so far this year, PitchBook said.The State of the Stock MarketThe stock market’s decline this year has been painful. And it remains difficult to predict what is in store for the future.Grim Outlook: The stock market is on track for its worst first six months of the year since at least 1970. And that’s only part of the horror story for investors and companies this year.Advice for Investors: Bear markets and recessions are far more common than many people realize. Being prepared can minimize hardship and even offer investing opportunities, our columnist says.Recession Risks: As investors focus on the threat that inflation and higher interest rates pose to the economy, they are betting that volatility is here to stay.Crypto Meltdown: Amid a dire period for digital currencies, crypto companies are laying off staff and freezing withdrawals, raising questions about the health of the ecosystem.Start-ups are also accustomed to the boy who cried wolf. Over the last decade, various blips in the market have led to predictions that tech was in a bubble that would soon burst. Each time, tech bounced back even stronger, and more money poured in.Even so, the warning signs that all is not well have recently become more prominent.Venture capitalists, such as those at Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners, have cautioned young firms to cut costs, conserve cash and prepare for hard times. In response, many start-ups have laid off workers and instituted hiring freezes. Some companies — including the payments start-up Fast, the home design company Modsy and the travel start-up WanderJaunt — have shut down.Shares of Bird Global, the scooter start-up, have tumbled from a high last year.Tara Pixley for The New York TimesThe pain has also reached young companies that went public in the last two years. Shares of onetime start-up darlings like the stocks app Robinhood, the scooter start-up Bird Global and the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase have tumbled between 86 percent and 95 percent below their highs from the last year. Enjoy Technology, a retail start-up that went public in October, filed for bankruptcy last week. Electric Last Mile Solutions, an electric vehicle start-up that went public in June 2021, said last month that it would liquidate its assets.Kyle Stanford, an analyst with PitchBook, said the difference this year was that the huge checks and soaring valuations of 2021 were not happening. “Those were unsustainable,” he said.The start-up market has now reached a kind of stalemate — particularly for the largest and most mature companies — which has led to a lack of action in new funding, said Mark Goldberg, an investor at Index Ventures. Many start-up founders don’t want to raise money these days at a price that values their company lower than it was once worth, while investors don’t want to pay the elevated prices of last year, he said. The result is stasis.“It’s pretty much frozen,” Mr. Goldberg said.Additionally, so many start-ups collected huge piles of cash during the recent boom times that few have needed to raise money this year, he said. That could change next year, when some of the companies start running low on cash. “The logjam will break at some point,” he said.David Spreng, an investor at Runway Growth Capital, a venture debt investment firm, said he had seen a disconnect between investors and start-up executives over the state of the market.“Pretty much every V.C. is sounding alarm bells,” he said. But, he added, “the management teams we’re talking to, they all seem to think: We’ll be fine, no worries.”The one thing he has seen every company do, he said, is freeze its hiring. “When we start seeing companies miss their revenue goals, then it’s time to get a little worried,” he said.Still, the huge piles of capital that venture capital firms have accumulated to back new start-ups has given many in the industry confidence that it will avoid a major collapse.“When the spigot turns back on, V.C. will be set up to get back to putting a lot of capital back to work,” Mr. Stanford said. “If the broader economic climate doesn’t get worse.” More

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    E. Gerald Corrigan, Who Helped Ease ’87 Stock Crash, Dies at 80

    As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he favored flooding the financial system with cash to restore confidence among investors.E. Gerald Corrigan, who as the aggressive president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank helped cushion Wall Street’s crash in the late 1980s, died on May 17 in a memory-care center in Dedham, Mass. He was 80.The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his daughter Elizabeth Corrigan said.As president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis from 1980 to 1984 and then of the New York Fed from 1985 to 1993, Mr. Corrigan used his prerogatives as a regulator to help resolve national and global financial crises, and to remedy some of the causes of episodic market instability.“He played a crucial role providing the psychological reassurance for a few critical days after the stock market crash,” Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman, said when Mr. Corrigan retired from the Fed in 1993, referring to his actions after the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 22 percent in a single day in October 1987.In that upheaval, Mr. Corrigan urged the Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, to reassure the markets that the Federal Reserve would pump whatever money was necessary into the financial system to reduce volatility. He also played vital roles in other crises: He helped the Fed to address the collapse of the investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert in 1989 and of Salomon Brothers in 1991, and to deal with rising inflation, emerging market debt and the need to regulate worldwide credit risk.After Mr. Corrigan retired from the Fed, he joined Goldman Sachs, where he became managing director in 1996 and later chairman of the firm’s international advisers, co-chairman of its business standards committee and the first nonexecutive chairman of its commercial bank, now known as Goldman Sachs Bank. He retired from Goldman in 2016.Edward Gerald Corrigan, known as Jerry, was born on June 13, 1941, in Waterbury, Conn. His father, Edward, was a restaurant manager. His mother, Mary (Hardy) Corrigan, was a librarian.He earned a Bachelor of Social Science degree in economics from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 1963. At Fordham University in New York, he received a master’s degree in economics in 1965 and a doctorate in the same subject in 1971. (Years later, he donated $5 million to each university to establish professorships.)After teaching for a year at Fordham, he joined the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a researcher in 1968 while still working on his doctorate. When Mr. Volcker, the New York Fed’s president, became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1979, he recruited Mr. Corrigan as a special assistant.During his tenure at the Fed, Mr. Corrigan was named chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision by the governors of the world’s central banks, a position he held from 1991 to 1993. He also served as vice chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee from 1984 to 1993. In 1992 he was named a co-chairman of the Russian-American Bankers Forum, which helped the former Soviet Union develop a market-driven banking and financial system.In addition to his daughter Elizabeth, Mr. Corrigan is survived by another daughter, Karen Corrigan Tate, from his marriage to Linda Barlow, which ended in divorce; his wife, Cathy Minehan, who was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston from 1994 to 2007; his stepchildren, Melissa Minehan Walters and Brian Minehan; a sister, Patricia Carlascio; and five grandchildren.Mr. Corrigan’s romance with Ms. Minehan raised questions of a possible conflict of interest when she was at the Fed and he was at Goldman Sachs in the mid-1990s, but he said at the time that they had consulted lawyers to prevent leaks of sensitive information that might benefit his company.During his stewardship, the Fed was criticized for failing to curb abuses by the scandal-scarred Bank of Credit and Commerce International. But Mr. Corrigan said when he retired that “if it wasn’t for the Fed, there is a pretty good chance that B.C.C.I. would still be in business.”In his remarks in 1993, Mr. Volcker said Mr. Corrigan had “a good conceptual understanding of the financial world, but most importantly he knows how to get things done.”“That’s a rare quality in the bureaucratic world in which he has grown up,” Mr. Volcker added.When the market crashed in 1987, for example, Fed officials planned to deliver a turgid technical response.“I said that’s the last damn thing we need,” Mr. Corrigan was quoted as saying in Sebastian Mallaby’s “The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan” (2016). “What we need is a statement that has about 10 words in it.”Mr. Greenspan took Mr. Corrigan’s advice, saying (in 30 words) that the Fed would make available whatever money was needed while Mr. Corrigan importuned major banks to continue lending to undergird the markets.When Mr. Corrigan retired from the Fed, he said he would take a job in private industry where “I’ll try to limit myself to working six days a week, instead of seven.” The aftermath of the market crash in 1987, he said, had been his most memorable moment.“In terms of my pulse rate,” he said, “that one takes the prize.”Mr. Corrigan at a meeting of a European Union committee in Brussels in 2010 to discuss the Greek economy. George Gobet/AFP — Getty Images More

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    Stocks Return to Earth, With the S&P 500 Nearing a Bear Market

    Until very recently, the stock market seemed to defy gravity, producing double-digit returns that provided many Americans with financial comfort even as everything else crumbled around them.When the pandemic began upending society, the market sank for a few weeks and then recorded one of the greatest rallies in history. Stock prices rose the day rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, and they were up during the week that protests roiled many American cities after the murder of George Floyd. During this time of great upheaval, the market seemed to flash a contrarian signal that things were going to be OK — economically, at least.But real world problems have finally crashed the stock market’s party. Soaring inflation, fueled by rising food prices and the war in Ukraine, has prompted the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates significantly for the first time in many years, which has sent stock prices plummeting to earth.Stocks rose 2.4 percent on Friday, but not enough to make up for a week of declines. It was the sixth consecutive week of losses for the stock market, the first time that has happened since 2011. The S&P 500, which has been flirting with a bear market, or a drop of 20 percent, is down more than 16 percent since its peak in January. It may fall further as inflation persists and a recession looms.Even after the bleeding stops, stock market investors, who include more than 50 percent of Americans, could face years of relatively meager returns that will leave them with substantially less money to pay for their children’s college education and support themselves in retirement.This reckoning comes just months before the midterm elections, deepening problems for Democrats who are already struggling to convince voters that their party and President Joseph R. Biden are steering the economy on the right track.Former President Donald J. Trump often took credit for the stock market’s meteoric rise. Now, Mr. Biden and his party will almost certainly take some of the blame for its recent fall.In reality, the stock market is not a perfect measure of the real economy. Unemployment is low and consumer spending is still holding up, but more than a month of punishing losses can damage the country’s financial psyche.“People look at the stock market as a barometer of the economy and how they are faring financially,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “They feel good when they see green on the screen and crummy when they see red.”Years of low rates have been rocket fuel for stock prices, partly because other investments, like bonds, that are pegged to interest rates produce such minimal returns. The stock market became one of the few places where investors could make big money.Understand Inflation and How It Impacts YouInflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Inflation Calculator: How you experience inflation can vary greatly depending on your spending habits. Answer these seven questions to estimate your personal inflation rate.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates for the first time since 2018. Here is what the increases mean for consumers.State Intervention: As inflation stays high, lawmakers across the country are turning to tax cuts to ease the pain, but the measures could make things worse. How Americans Feel: We asked 2,200 people where they’ve noticed inflation. Many mentioned basic necessities, like food and gas.During the pandemic, rates went even lower, as policymakers sought to support businesses and consumers through the shutdowns — and it worked. Investors piled into companies’ stocks and kept them flush with capital, which allowed them to keep hiring, paying rent, ramping up production and, of course, rewarding shareholders with ample dividends and stock buybacks.But inflation, which puts a heavy burden on families trying to make ends meet, also helped kill the market’s mood. Steadily rising food costs and record high gasoline prices prompted the Fed to raise rates and try to slow the economy.The stock price of Alphabet, Google’s parent, is down about 20 percent since the start of the year.Laura Morton for The New York TimesWall Street has been expecting this moment to come for a long time. But the market’s reaction — which some refer to as a “reset” and others call a necessary “comeuppance” for stock investors — is painful nonetheless.“I don’t think people recognized how fragile of a foundation the stock market was resting on,” said Emily Bowersock Hill, founder of Bowersock Capital Partners and chairwoman of the investment committee of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, a pension fund with more than $20 billion.Ms. Hill said some of the declines were probably good for the market because it was clearing out the froth that created the conditions for “meme stocks”: companies with dubious business prospects like AMC Theatres, BlackBerry and Bed Bath & Beyond, whose share prices were driven up by speculators.But the downdraft has sunk the share prices of companies that represent innovation and the future, too; Amazon is down more than 30 percent since the start of the year and Alphabet, Google’s parent, is off about 20 percent, as investors rethink those companies’ real value.Virtually no stocks have been spared from losses. The market decline has “gone on and on, and it’s depressing,” Ms. Hill said.Perhaps no one understood that emotional symbolism of the market better than Mr. Trump.“The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me,” Mr. Trump said in November 2017 — one of many statements in which he boasted about rising stock prices or publicly pressured the Fed to further lower interest rates to juice the economy.Early in the pandemic, in April 2020 — with stores, offices and churches shut, children marooned at home attempting remote school, and morgues running out of space for virus victims — Mr. Trump tweeted that the United States had “the biggest Stock Market increase since 1974.”While a majority of Americans have some money invested in the stock market, it remains a rich person’s game. According to an analysis by the New York University economics Professor Edward Wolff, the top 5 percent of American wealth holders own 72 percent of all stocks.But the stock market’s symbolic value matters. “It’s the one story that makes the news every night,” said Richard Sylla, a professor emeritus of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business.Is the market up or down? Are we winning or losing today, this week, this year, this presidency?On Friday, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell lower than expected, a drop that some economists attribute partly to stock market losses. The index is now 13 points below the low when Covid first hit, noted Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. Such deep pessimism “suggests that people have short memories,” Mr. Shepherdson wrote in a research note.It also suggests trouble for the Biden administration. Not only is the stock market party ending under President Biden’s watch, it could be a while before another one gets going.“Now nobody is going to be getting much richer from stocks,” one market historian predicts.Gili Benita for The New York TimesMr. Sylla, who co-wrote a book about the history of interest rates and tracked two centuries of stock market returns, correctly predicted in September 2011 that the coming decade would produce high returns.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    Fear and Loathing Return to Tech Start-Ups

    Workers are dumping their stock, companies are cutting costs, and layoffs abound as troubling economic forces hit tech start-ups.Start-up workers came into 2022 expecting another year of cash-gushing initial public offerings. Then the stock market tanked, Russia invaded Ukraine, inflation ballooned, and interest rates rose. Instead of going public, start-ups began cutting costs and laying off employees.People started dumping their start-up stock, too.The number of people and groups trying to unload their start-up shares doubled in the first three months of the year from late last year, said Phil Haslett, a founder of EquityZen, which helps private companies and their employees sell their stock. The share prices of some billion-dollar start-ups, known as “unicorns,” have plunged by 22 percent to 44 percent in recent months, he said.“It’s the first sustained pullback in the market that people have seen in legitimately 10 years,” he said.That’s a sign of how the start-up world’s easy-money ebullience of the last decade has faded. Each day, warnings of a coming downturn ricochet across social media between headlines about another round of start-up job cuts. And what was once seen as a sure path to immense riches — owning start-up stock — is now viewed as a liability.The turn has been swift. In the first three months of the year, venture funding in the United States fell 8 percent from a year earlier, to $71 billion, according to PitchBook, which tracks funding. At least 55 tech companies have announced layoffs or shut down since the beginning of the year, compared with 25 this time last year, according to, which monitors layoffs. And I.P.O.s, the main way start-ups cash out, plummeted 80 percent from a year ago as of May 4, according to Renaissance Capital, which follows I.P.O.s.An Instacart shopper at a grocery store in Manhattan. The company slashed its valuation to $24 billion in March from $40 billion last year. Brittainy Newman/The New York TimesLast week, Cameo, a celebrity shout-out app; On Deck, a career-services company; and MainStreet, a financial technology start-up, all shed at least 20 percent of their employees. Fast, a payments start-up, and Halcyon Health, an online health care provider, abruptly shut down in the last month. And the grocery delivery company Instacart, one of the most highly valued start-ups of its generation, slashed its valuation to $24 billion in March from $40 billion last year.“Everything that has been true in the last two years is suddenly not true,” said Mathias Schilling, a venture capitalist at Headline. “Growth at any price is just not enough anymore.”The start-up market has weathered similar moments of fear and panic over the past decade. Each time, the market came roaring back and set records. And there is plenty of money to keep money-losing companies afloat: Venture capital funds raised a record $131 billion last year, according to PitchBook.But what’s different now is a collision of troubling economic forces combined with the sense that the start-up world’s frenzied behavior of the last few years is due for a reckoning. A decade-long run of low interest rates that enabled investors to take bigger risks on high-growth start-ups is over. The war in Ukraine is causing unpredictable macroeconomic ripples. Inflation seems unlikely to abate anytime soon. Even the big tech companies are faltering, with shares of Amazon and Netflix falling below their prepandemic levels.“Of all the times we said it feels like a bubble, I do think this time is a little different,” said Albert Wenger, an investor at Union Square Ventures.On social media, investors and founders have issued a steady drumbeat of dramatic warnings, comparing negative sentiment to that of the early 2000s dot-com crash and stressing that a pullback is “real.”Even Bill Gurley, a Silicon Valley venture capital investor who got so tired of warning start-ups about bubbly behavior over the last decade that he gave up, has returned to form. “The ‘unlearning’ process could be painful, surprising and unsettling to many,” he wrote in April.The uncertainty has caused some venture capital firms to pause deal making. D1 Capital Partners, which participated in roughly 70 start-up deals last year, told founders this year that it had stopped making new investments for six months. The firm said that any deals being announced had been struck before the moratorium, said two people with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the record.Other venture firms have lowered the value of their holdings to match the falling stock market. Sheel Mohnot, an investor at Better Tomorrow Ventures, said his firm had recently reduced the valuations of seven start-ups it invested in out of 88, the most it had ever done in a quarter. The shift was stark compared with just a few months ago, when investors were begging founders to take more money and spend it to grow even faster.That fact had not yet sunk in with some entrepreneurs, Mr. Mohnot said. “People don’t realize the scale of change that’s happened,” he said.Sean Black, the founder and chief executive of Knock. “You can’t fight this market momentum,” he said.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesEntrepreneurs are experiencing whiplash. Knock, a home-buying start-up in Austin, Texas, expanded its operations from 14 cities to 75 in 2021. The company planned to go public via a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, valuing it at $2 billion. But as the stock market became rocky over the summer, Knock canceled those plans and entertained an offer to sell itself to a larger company, which it declined to disclose.In December, the acquirer’s stock price dropped by half and killed that deal as well. Knock eventually raised $70 million from its existing investors in March, laid off nearly half its 250 employees and added $150 million in debt in a deal that valued it at just over $1 billion.Throughout the roller-coaster year, Knock’s business continued to grow, said Sean Black, the founder and chief executive. But many of the investors he pitched didn’t care.“It’s frustrating as a company to know you’re crushing it, but they’re just reacting to whatever the ticker says today,” he said. “You have this amazing story, this amazing growth, and you can’t fight this market momentum.”Mr. Black said his experience was not unique. “Everyone is quietly, embarrassingly, shamefully going through this and not willing to talk about it,” he said.Matt Birnbaum, head of talent at the venture capital firm Pear VC, said companies would have to carefully manage worker expectations around the value of their start-up stock. He predicted a rude awakening for some.“If you’re 35 or under in tech, you’ve probably never seen a down market,” he said. “What you’re accustomed to is up and to the right your entire career.”Start-ups that went public amid the highs of the last two years are getting pummeled in the stock market, even more than the overall tech sector. Shares in Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, have fallen 81 percent since its debut in April last year. Robinhood, the stock trading app that had explosive growth during the pandemic, is trading 75 percent below its I.P.O. price. Last month, the company laid off 9 percent of its staff, blaming overzealous “hypergrowth.”SPACs, which were a trendy way for very young companies to go public in recent years, have performed so poorly that some are now going private again. SOC Telemed, an online health care start-up, went public using such a vehicle in 2020, valuing it at $720 million. In February, Patient Square Capital, an investment firm, bought it for around $225 million, a 70 percent discount.Others are in danger of running out of cash. Canoo, an electric vehicle company that went public in late 2020, said on Tuesday that it had “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business.Baiju Bhatt, left, and Vlad Tenev, founders of Robinhood, at the New York Stock Exchange last year for the company’s initial public offering. Robinhood recently laid off 9 percent of its workers.Sasha Maslov for The New York TimesBlend Labs, a financial technology start-up focused on mortgages, was worth $3 billion in the private market. Since it went public last year, its value has sunk to $1 billion. Last month, it said it would cut 200 workers, or roughly 10 percent of its staff.Tim Mayopoulos, Blend’s president, blamed the cyclical nature of the mortgage business and the steep drop in refinancings that accompany rising interest rates.“We’re looking at all of our expenses,” he said. “High-growth cash-burning businesses are, from an investor-sentiment perspective, clearly not in favor.” More

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    Hot Job Market, an Economic Relief, Is a Wall Street Worry

    This year’s decline in stock prices follows a historical pattern: “When unemployment is ultra low, the uppity times are behind us,” a bank research chief said.The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.6 percent — only a hair above its level just before the pandemic, which was a 50-year low. Corporate profits rocketed by 35 percent in 2021, and profit margins were at their widest since 1950. Yet stocks have been hammered lately: Two key stock indexes, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100, have been deep in negative terrain since the start of the year.What may seem a contradiction is actually a historical pattern: Hot labor markets and hot stock markets often don’t mix well.In fact, times of low unemployment are correlated with somewhat subdued stock returns, while valuations trend higher on average during periods of high unemployment. Analysts explain this phenomenon as a plain function of the unemployment rate’s status as a “lagging indicator” — letting people know how the economy was faring in the immediate past — while the stock market itself constantly serves as a “leading indicator,” coldly, if somewhat imperfectly, projecting an evolving consensus about the fate of companies as time goes on.“When unemployment is ultra low, the uppity times are behind us, and when it’s super high, there are good times ahead,” said Padhraic Garvey, a head of research at ING, a global bank.Stocks outperform on average when unemployment is high.Average annual returns in the S&P 500 index from 1948 to 2022, by the concurrent rate of unemployment

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    Average annual returns
    Note: The S&P 500 index was formally introduced in 1957. The performance of companies prior to 1957 that joined the index later are included in this analysis.Sources: Ben Koeppel, BXK Capital; Ben Carlson, Ritholtz Wealth By The New York TimesIn 2007, for instance, unemployment sank as low as 4.4 percent, but the annual return for the S&P 500 index was only 5.5 percent. Stocks plunged during the financial crisis the next year — and then, in 2009, as unemployment ripped higher to 10 percent, the index gained 26.5 percent. (Breaks in the pattern occur, since various tailwinds for big business, such as the tech boom of the 1990s, can briefly overpower historical trends.)When recoveries peak, investor exuberance can lead to excessive risk taking by businesses, which plants the seeds of the next downturn — just as workers are benefiting from being in high demand, with their higher wages cutting into corporate cash piles built up during good times, putting pressure on near-term profits. Financial investors also have to contend with the Federal Reserve’s response to the cycle — if there’s inflation, as there is now, a strong labor market may give it room to raise interest rates. A weak one can pressure it to cut rates. Action in either direction affects stock valuations.The State of Jobs in the United StatesJob openings and the number of workers voluntarily leaving their positions in the United States remained near record levels in March.March Jobs Report: U.S. employers added 431,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent ​​in the third month of 2022.Job Market and Stocks: This year’s decline in stock prices follows a historical pattern: Hot labor markets and stocks often don’t mix well.New Career Paths: For some, the Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity to change course. Here is how these six people pivoted professionally.Return to the Office: Many companies are loosening Covid safety rules, leaving people to navigate social distancing on their own. Some workers are concerned.This year, in addition to those forces, the war in Ukraine has slowed global growth and added to the pandemic’s strain on global supply chains, increasing the cost of raw materials.Senior executives at Morgan Stanley wrote in a recent note that their “strategists see higher wages amid the tightening labor market and related labor shortages posing a risk to 2022 corporate profit margins,” adding a reminder that “what matters for markets isn’t always the same as what matters for the aggregate economy.”Wage growth, milder in recent history, has spiked quickly.Median wage growth for hourly workers from the prior year, three-month average

    Note: Gaps in the data are due to methodology changes in the Current Population Survey that prevent year-over-year comparisons.Source: Federal Reserve Bank of AtlantaBy The New York TimesEven though large companies achieved record profit margins last year, earnings estimates for many firms are declining compared with expectations set earlier this year. Recent “wage inflation,” as many frame it, is seen by countless stock traders as adding one burden too many — rapid enough to worry not only executives but also some prominent liberal economists who typically shrug off complaints about labor expenses as overplayed.Federal Reserve data shows that median annual pay increases are within the range — 3 to 7 percent — that prevailed from the 1980s until the 2007-9 recession. But a variety of leaders in business and in government, including the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, have become more wary of their brisk pace.Corporate profits hit new highs last year.After-tax profits for U.S. corporations, seasonally adjusted

    Notes: Profits are in current dollars, not adjusted for inflation, minus capital consumption adjustment or inventory valuation adjustment (IVA). Sources: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis; Federal Reserve Bank of St. LouisBy The New York TimesIn the nonfinancial “real” economy, intense competition for workers that leads to greater choice and compensation is positive “because we’re making more money, we have more money to spend, we can absorb inflation better because we’ve gotten raises,” said Liz Young, head of investment strategy at SoFi, a San Francisco-based financial services company. At the same time, she acknowledged, “The other thing with a tight labor market is that when wages increase somebody has to pay for that.”Through most of the swift recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, money managers made a simple bet on the strengthening labor market as a signal that more people earning more disposable income would lead to even more spending on goods and services sold by the companies they trade, enhancing their future earnings.Now, the calculus on Wall Street isn’t so simple.In the coming months, many financial analysts say they’ll pay less attention to data on job creation and focus instead on growth in average hourly earnings — cheering for them to flatten or at least moderate, so that labor costs can ebb.Stocks have tumbled so far in 2022.S&P 500 daily close through April 26

    Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLCBy The New York TimesAfter three years of outsized returns, the down year in markets is compounding the sour mood among the nation’s broadly defined middle class, whose wage gains have generally not kept up with inflation, and whose retirement savings and net worth (outside of home equity) are partly tied to such indexes. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index has been hovering near lows not reached since the slow jobs recovery after the 2008 financial crisis.Ultimately, this cranky disconnect between strong jobs data and the national mood may stem from an initial lag between relative winners and losers in this robust-but-rocky recovery: The economic benefits of tightening an already-tight labor market are, in the short run, relatively concentrated — accruing to those with lower starting wages and less formal education, and to demographic cohorts like Black Americans, who are often “last hired, first fired” during business cycles. In the meantime, the downsides of even temporary high inflation are diffuse — spread broadly across the population, though frequently damaging the finances of lower-income groups the most.It remains true that the increased demand for labor has helped millions of workers come out ahead. After adjusting for inflation, wages have fallen for middle- and high-income groups but risen for the bottom third of earners on average: The wages of the typically lower-paid employees of the leisure and hospitality industry — the broad sector focused on travel, dining, entertainment, recreation and tourism — have risen nearly 15 percent over the past year, far outpacing inflation.A substantial bloc of economists are contending that wages are receiving too much blame for inflation. A recent analysis across 110 industries by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank based in Washington, concluded that wage growth wasn’t correlated with the surge in costs that suppliers dealt with last year, suggesting that much of inflation could still be stemming from other forces, like supply chain imbalances.Many analysts believe that if unemployment stays low enough for long enough, the fruits of a hot labor market will widen — creating a virtuous cycle in which employers increase pay for various rungs of workers, while economizing their business models to become more efficient, increasing capacity, productivity and the health of corporate balance sheets.That hope is under threat, as the Federal Reserve proceeds with a plan to increase borrowing costs by quickly raising interest rates to rein in some lending, consumer spending, business investment and demand for labor.Despite various challenges, the most optimistic market participants predict that employers, workers and consumers can experience a so-called “soft landing” this year, in which the Fed increases borrowing costs, helping inflation and wage growth moderate without a painful slowdown that kills off the recovery: Morgan Stanley strategists, for instance, expect real wages to turn positive overall by midyear, outpacing price increases, as inflation eases and pay rates maintain some strength. That could be a boon for stocks as well.“It’s possible that over the next few quarters the labor market continues to be tight despite the Fed hiking,” said Andrew Flowers, a labor economist at Appcast, a tech firm that helps companies target recruitment ads. He still sees an “overwhelming appetite” for hiring.Although especially low unemployment isn’t typically a bullish sign for stocks, some recent years have bucked the trend. In 2019, when the S&P 500 returned roughly 30 percent, unemployment by year’s end had fallen to 3.6 percent, in line with present levels.In such an uncertain environment, forecasts for how stocks will fare by the end of the year are varying widely among top Wall Street firms. By several technical measures, the market’s trajectory is currently near “make or break” levels.Public companies have “become massively efficient, so from an operating performance basis, they’ve been able to take on these extra costs,” said Brian Belski, the chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets. The outlook from Mr. Belski’s bank is among the most confident, with a call that the S&P 500 index will finish 2022 at 5,300 — 27 percent above Tuesday’s close, and far above most estimates.“At the end of the day, I think for the economy it’s good that we are seeing these sort of wages,” he said. “Don’t ever bet against the U.S. consumer, ever.” More