A new Times/Sienna poll shows the president behind in five of six key states. Voters cite his economic track record, indicators notwithstanding.
Economic perceptions are hurting Biden more than ever
There was little good news for President Biden in the latest Times/Siena poll of 2024 battlegrounds, which found him trailing Donald Trump in five of six key states one year before voters head to the polls. (That’s despite Trump being nearly as unpopular and fighting multiple legal battles; he is taking the stand on Monday in one of them. And, on PredictIt, which is watched by political experts, Biden holds a six-point lead on Trump.)
A glaring weakness for Biden remains the economy, despite signs that it’s doing well and efforts by the White House to promote its accomplishments. Experts say it’s still possible for the president to make a comeback — but when it comes to economic issues, that’s a tough task.
Just 2 percent of voters said the economy was excellent, the poll found. Worryingly for Biden, that discontent is being reflected in demographics crucial to his re-election: 48 percent of Black voters in the Times/Siena poll rated the economy as poor, as did 59 percent of voters under 30. Zero respondents in that age group in Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin rated the economy as excellent.
Biden’s struggles are Trump’s gain. Likely voters trust the former president on the economy more than the current one by wide margins: 57 percent of those under 30 prefer Trump, as do 55 percent of Hispanics, 52 percent of women and a majority of people in every income bracket.
Voters’ discontent comes despite numerous indicators that the economy is healthy, including a huge gain in third-quarter G.D.P. growth. And while Friday’s jobs data came in below expectations, the latest stats show that employers have been on a nearly three-year hiring spree.
But inflation remains a sticking point. While the Fed isn’t likely to raise borrowing costs at its next rate-setting meeting in December, its policymakers haven’t closed the door to future hikes. (Some commentators have written that the studiously apolitical central bank could end up helping Trump get re-elected.)
It’s unclear how Biden can turn around his fortunes. Multiple wars and global economic malaise are unlikely to stop weighing on the U.S. economy anytime soon. And voters appear to have soured on Biden himself, with an unnamed generic Democrat beating Trump by eight points.
The poll prompted David Axelrod, the former Obama adviser, to openly muse about whether Biden should run for re-election. While conceding that it’s late for Democrats to change candidates, he wrote of Biden, “What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it’s in HIS best interest or the country’s?”
A reminder: The DealBook Summit is on Nov. 29. Guests will include Elon Musk, who this weekend announced the launch of Grok, the first chatbot from his start-up xAI, which will draw on data from the X social network. You can apply to attend here.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Here’s what to watch this week. Corporate earnings return to the fore after last week’s big gains for stocks and bonds. Wednesday will see results from the chip designer Arm and the media giants Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery; SoftBank, the Japanese tech investor, reports Thursday. Meanwhile, on Friday the University of Michigan will publish its latest consumer sentiment report, a key inflation signpost.
Striking Hollywood actors weigh a new contract proposal by big studios. The SAG-AFTRA union said it had received a “last, best and final” offer that includes a substantial pay increase and more residual payments from streaming shows, The Times reports.
South Korean stocks jump as short-selling is banned again. Stocks on the Kospi, Seoul’s biggest index, gained nearly 6 percent on Monday after the country reimposed a ban on betting against share prices to earn a profit. Critics said the eight-month prohibition, seemingly tied to elections next year, could deter overseas investors from buying Korean stocks.
Berkshire Hathaway’s war chest reaches a record. Warren Buffett’s industrial conglomerate revealed in its latest earnings report that its cash balance now stands at $157 billion, giving the company ample financial ammunition for a big deal or more stock buybacks. But Berkshire also reported its first loss in a year as the paper value of stock holdings, including those in Apple, declined.
Donors keep up pressure on universities over antisemitism
The fight between Wall Street titans and universities over their handling of antisemitism on campus following last month’s Hamas attacks on Israel shows little sign of abating. The hedge fund manager Bill Ackman this weekend ramped up his criticism of Harvard, his alma mater, and donors continued to step back from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ackman published an excoriating open letter to Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay. “Four weeks after the barbaric terrorist attacks of October 7th, I have lost confidence that you and the university will do what is required,” he wrote. Ackman said he had met with Harvard students and faculty last week, and wrote that “Jewish students are being bullied, physically intimidated, spat on” and assaulted.
He called on the university to suspend those behind the abuse, even though the incidents have been referred to the police and the F.B.I.
Gay has spoken out against the attacks and the abuse on campus. Last week, she appointed a group of advisers to determine how to counter antisemitism at Harvard. But Ackman sees these actions as insufficient. The university didn’t engage directly with Ackman’s latest criticism, referring instead to previous statements.
Harvard’s diversity, equality and inclusion policy is also under scrutiny. Ackman pointed out that Harvard’s doesn’t explicitly include Jews, tapping into a growing argument on campuses and beyond. Adam Neufeld, a senior vice president at the Anti-Defamation League, told The Times last year that D.E.I. policies that don’t recognize Jews as a minority group reinforce the view that “Jews are not vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, more donors are expressing their anger at Penn’s handling of antisemitism. They include Neuberger Berman’s Steve Eisman, a longtime benefactor, who told CNBC that he had asked that his family’s name be removed from a scholarship he had established at his alma mater. “I do not want my family’s name associated with the University of Pennsylvania, ever,” he said. The university newspaper reported that dozens more benefactors no longer want to be associated with the school.
In related news: The authorities have opened a hate crime investigation after an Arab Muslim student was injured in a reported hit-and-run attack at Stanford; Israeli businesses are feeling the strain of the war.
An epic new antitrust fight for Google
Google is waging antitrust fights on many fronts, including a battle against the Justice Department over its dominance of online search.
On Monday, the tech giant will square off in a San Francisco courtroom to defend its app store strategy against a familiar face in Silicon Valley antitrust circles: Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite.
Epic argues that Google is unfairly forcing Android users into its Play Store, where it collects a cut from in-app subscriptions and purchases. Most developers generally pay a roughly 15 percent surcharge on such purchases, though big ones like Epic pay the maximum 30 percent.
Google “is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize,” Epic says in its complaint. (Google counters that “Epic wants all the benefits of Android and Google Play without having to pay for them.”)
Witnesses are set to include Sundar Pichai, Google’s C.E.O., and Tim Sweeney, Epic’s chief.
It’s a similar case to Epic’s unsuccessful fight with Apple — but with key differences. Google, unlike Apple, allows phone makers to include alternative app stores on their devices and users to download apps directly. And it is testing a program to let developers use other payment systems in their apps for a smaller fee.
And unlike the Apple case, which was decided by a judge, the Google lawsuit will be heard by a jury, adding a greater level of unpredictability.
Epic is hoping things go better this time. The 2021 trial over its Apple claims ended with the game maker losing on most of its accusations, a decision that a federal appeals court backed this year. Meanwhile, Google has also reached settlements over the app store issue with both a group of state attorneys general and the dating app developer Match Group.
“Big Finance is the problem”
As climate activists increase pressure on oil majors to halt new fossil-fuel exploration and rein in production, they’re increasingly looking to enlist support from another industry: Big Finance.
But it is a thorny problem, writes Vivienne Walt for DealBook, given that large asset managers have roundly rejected resolutions from climate-activist shareholders this year. “Big Oil is not the problem. Big Finance is the problem,” Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This, a shareholder activist group, told DealBook. “They tell oil companies, ‘Please continue with oil and gas as long as possible. We have your back.’”
Wall Street has rebuffed climate measures at a record clip. On Monday, Follow This released its annual tally of proxy climate votes. It showed the biggest U.S. asset management firms — including BlackRock, Vanguard, and Fidelity — siding with Big Oil on resolutions by activists that pushed the supermajors to commit to Paris accord emission reduction goals. The only (partial) support came from European investors including UBS and Allianz.
It’s a sharp departure from a few years ago. Larry Fink, the C.E.O. of BlackRock, said in 2020 that climate change would be “the defining factor” in his firm’s investment decisions. A year later, BlackRock helped lead a board revolt at Exxon over what critics called a lackluster climate plan. This year, the world’s biggest asset manager rejected climate resolutions targeting the oil majors, including at Exxon. “Our role is not to replace the judgment of management and the board,” it said.
The oil boom has been good business. With oil prices surging and a deal frenzy expected in the oil patch, Wall Street looks to reap billions in fees. It’s also backing new projects. Reclaim Finance, a French climate organization, notes that Citigroup and Bank of America funded tens of billions worth of oil exploration after they joined the U.N.-created Net Zero Banking Alliance in 2021. “We want them to stop giving new capital,” said Agathe Masson, the group’s stewardship campaigner in Paris.
Lobbying continues behind the scenes. The Rev. Kirsten Spalding, vice president of the investor network for Ceres, a Boston-based climate organization, said financial firms are still being tough on Big Oil. “I’m hearing a lot about capital expenditure: How much are they moving into climate solutions? How are they accounting for emissions?” she said.
THE SPEED READ
Telecom Italia agreed to sell its landline telephone network to KKR for $23.6 billion, a deal that may draw a legal challenge by the Italian company’s biggest shareholder, Vivendi. (Bloomberg)
Saudi Arabia reportedly could buy a $5 billion stake in the Indian Premier League cricket competition at a $30 billion valuation. (Bloomberg)
LVMH said it will buy the Los Angeles-based eyewear maker Barton Perreira, reportedly for about $80 million. (WSJ)
Will the Treasury Department’s decision to increase the size of longer-term debt by less than expected prove a turning point for markets? (WSJ)
“More Semiconductors, Less Housing: China’s New Economic Plan” (NYT)
Best of the rest
“The New Headache for Bosses: Employees Aren’t Quitting” (WSJ)
How corporate America is adjusting to a world of higher rates after years of piling up on cheap debt. (FT)
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