Mr. Beddor added:
“The question is how much tighter the job market can get before pulling wages, and inflation, higher. Minutes from the December FOMC meeting, released this week, suggest some members worry tighter labor market conditions could start feeding into inflation. The readout also showed uncertainty about the extent that tax cuts might stimulate the economy and boost prices. Already companies including AT&T, American Airlines and Wells Fargo have announced bonuses or wage increases after President Donald Trump signed the cuts into law last month.”
Spotify’s chief content officer is exiting ahead of its I.P.O.
Recode’s Peter Kafka reports that “Stefan Blom, Spotify’s chief content officer, announced his departure via an internal memo Friday.”
The NYT and others reported earlier this week that Spotify had filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in the first quarter of this year.
“The timing of Blom’s exit may raise questions for investors as they look at Spotify.
“Last year, the executive helped Spotify secure critical licenses with the big music labels that paved the way for the company’s IPO. But he has also been in charge of the company’s attempted push into video, which has stopped and started a few times without gaining traction.”
Afternoon speed reads
• F.B.I. agents have renewed asking questions about the dealings of the Clinton Foundation amid calls from President Trump and top Republicans for the Justice Department to take a fresh look at politically charged accusations of corruption. (NYT)
• The first known criminal referral has emerged from Congress’s Russia inquiries. The target is the author of the Trump-Russia dossier. (NYT)
• The nation’s political and financial capitals have never felt so far apart. Washington is kicking off the new year with a fresh round of Trump-fueled chaos. On Wall Street, meanwhile, the sky hardly seems the limit. (WaPo)
• Gary Cohn told Bloomberg TV that the Trump administration may try to block potential plans by high-tax states including New York and California to shield residents from state and local tax break changes. (Bloomberg)
• American cannabis startups raised a record amount of venture capital last year, with 69 companies snaring nearly $274 million. (Axios)
• Netflix shares jumped 1.4 percent to an all-time high after the video-streaming service announced a Jan. 12 premiere for the new show from longtime talk-show host David Letterman. (FastFt)
• Lionel Messi has written a clause into his contract with FC Barcelona allowing him to leave the team if Catalan independence means he can’t play top-league soccer. (Bloomberg)
• Berkshire Hathaway’s Class A shares closed above $300,000 for the first time Thursday, marking a new record for the world’s most expensive stock. Here are some items you can buy from Berkshire businesses for the price of one A share. (MoneyBeat)
How soft was the jobs report?
The headline number of 148,000 jobs added came in well below the 198,000 expected by Wall Street economists. But don’t read too much into the miss. The trend remains strong. The United States economy has added jobs for 87 straight months, an unparalleled run, and the unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low.
On top of all that, the number may be revised upward in the coming months. Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, writes:
“The details of the data does leave some doubt that the first estimate of job creation in December, in particular the estimate that retail hiring declined by 20,000 during the holiday shopping season and a decline of 10,000 in trade and transport. Thus we think that there will be material upward revisions to the BLS estimate when the next monthly data is published. Outside of the two aforementioned categories, job creation was strong across the board.”
But this jobs report was all about wages, and growth there remained lackluster. Year over year, earnings increased by around 2.5 percent.
“We expect a clear upturn over the first half of this year, but it isn’t happening yet,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
This mysterious lack of earnings growth has helped provide cover for Federal Reserve officials to slowly raise rates.
So what does this mean to the Fed’s rate plan? “At the margin, this report reduces the odds of a March rate hike, but two more reports are due before the FOMC meeting, by which time these numbers will be ancient history,” wrote Mr. Shepherdson.
Fitbit makes its first start-up investment.
Fitbit is investing $6 million into Sano, which is developing a patch to track a person’s blood sugar level, reported Christina Farr of CNBC.
The move could help Fitbit reverse declining sales. Via CNBC:
“Building blood-sugar tracking into a future device could dramatically increase the market for Fitbit devices since more than 100 million Americans are now living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fitbit has recently suffered declining sales: It sold 3.6 million devices in the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from 5.3 million a year earlier.
Keeping pace with Apple: Last month The New York Times reported that device manufacturers are tapping into new features on the Apple Watch to develop medical accessories. Apple is also looking for its own medical breakthroughs, such as a noninvasive continuous glucose reader, the NYT reported.
Can the markets keep rising?
David Tepper of Appaloosa Management thinks so, telling CNBC:
“Explain to me where this market is rich? It’s not rich with the tax thing that just changed earnings projections. With earnings forecasts going up and interest rates where they are, how is this market expensive? I don’t see the overvaluation. World growth is higher.”
A dissenting voice: The market historian James Stack told Jim Stewart of the NYT: “A correction would be healthy. The longer we go without one, the greater the risk this will end badly. A lot of people will get hurt.”
The next thing to look out for: It’s Jobs Friday today. A Reuters survey of economists expects the nonfarm payroll report to show a gain of 190,000 for December.
What constitutes obstruction of justice?
Legal experts are poring over the question, after a report by Mike Schmidt of the NYT that President Trump told the White House’s top lawyer to stop Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
From Mr. Schmidt’s story:
Legal experts said that of the two primary issues Mr. Mueller appears to be investigating — whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — there is currently a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction.
But the experts are divided about whether the accumulated evidence is enough for Mr. Mueller to bring an obstruction case.
About that Michael Wolff book: “Fire and Fury” is to go on sale today, ahead of schedule — and despite legal threats from Mr. Trump.
So a steady drip of excerpts — from Steve Bannon calling a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians “treasonous” to the former adviser suggesting that money laundering charges were in the offing — is about to become a flood.
The most damaging may be the book’s descriptions of Mr. Trump’s erratic behavior and of aides’ private contempt for their boss. Many Washington reads are underway (you start in the index, looking for your name).
The firestorm has also propelled Mr. Wolff from local media gadfly into national newsmaker.
The fallout for Mr. Bannon: Rebekah Mercer, the adviser’s longtime benefactor, disavowed him in a rare public statement. And Breitbart’s board members have debated whether to oust him as the media organization’s chairman, according to the WSJ, citing unnamed sources.
About that money-laundering accusation: Tim O’Brien of Bloomberg View says that Mr. Bannon’s allegation is as serious as any claim of “treason.”
The Washington flyaround
• Mr. Trump may have dismantled his voter fraud commission, but he wasn’t happy about it. (NYT)
• Bipartisan talks on protecting the young immigrants known as Dreamers are starting to fray amid disagreements on a border wall and other immigration policies. (Politico)
• Ajit Pai, the chairman of the F.C.C., canceled his speaking appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show, citing death threats, according to unnamed sources. (Recode)
Has the Justice Dept. set fire to the marijuana industry?
Already, its decision to let prosecutors more freely enforce federal law against the drug has taken its toll on publicly traded pot-related companies.
• Shares in Scotts Miracle-Gro, whose C.E.O. has courted marijuana growers, dropped as much as 5 percent yesterday.
• Those in Cannabis Sativa Inc., which produces edibles and other pot-related products, plunged 24 percent.
• And shares in GrowGeneration, a cannabis farming company, fell 21 percent.
It’s a shocking turnaround, too. Cannabis-related shares had rallied this week as California began recreational marijuana sales.
• Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, threatened to hold up Justice Department appointments.
• The head of California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, Lori Ajax, said the state was legalizing as planned.
Weekend pot reading: If you’re a budding cannabis entrepreneur and need financing, you’ll probably have to turn to a small credit union outside Denver.
About those companies warning of hits from tax cuts …
Yes, corporations like Apple will have to repatriate overseas earnings under the new code. And the tax analyst David Zion estimates that they will pay some $235 billion.
But he also reckons that the new repatriation treatment alone is worth $500 billion more compared with the old law. And analysts in general think the overhaul will help corporate America.
As J. Richard Harvey, a Villanova law professor, told Jesse Drucker of the NYT, multinationals have sought a change like this for over a decade:
“We wouldn’t have the legislation if they didn’t want it.”
Who’s cheering the reopening of U.S. offshore drilling?
Energy companies, obviously. And the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, Randall Luthi, called the offshore leasing proposal “bold and broad.”
But investor reaction yesterday was fairly muted: American depositary receipts in Royal Dutch Shell and BP, for instance, each rose less than 1 percent.
What the proposal will do
From Lisa Friedman of the NYT:
The plan would give the energy industry broad access to drilling rights in most parts of the outer continental shelf, including Pacific waters near California, Atlantic waters near Maine and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke had a simpler explanation: “We’re going to become the strongest energy superpower.”
What it won’t
Immediately green-light drilling.
Environmental activists, obviously. But also nearly a dozen governors, including the Republicans Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott of Florida.
Travis Kalanick is on track to become an actual billionaire.
That is, if he follows through on his plan to sell about 29 percent of his stake in Uber to a group led by SoftBank, as Bloomberg reports. (We hear that the report is accurate.)
What he stands to make: about $1.4 billion.
More from Eric Newcomer of Bloomberg:
Kalanick, who owns 10 percent of the company, had offered to sell as much as half of his stake — the maximum board members were allowed to tender. He had to pare back the amount because of limits outlined in the agreement between Uber and the buyers, the people said.
The tech flyaround
• Intel struggled for months to address Meltdown, one of two computer chip security flaws that came to light this week. Apple said that nearly all of its computing devices, including iPhones, were vulnerable and that it was issuing updates. (WSJ)
• What you can do to protect your devices against the flaws. Briefly: Update! (NYT)
• A close look at Iran’s hackers, who have begun cyberespionage campaigns against the U.S. and others. (NYT)
• China’s internet users increasingly want privacy. Their government wants more data and more control. (NYT)
• Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 personal goal: “fix” Facebook. He’s also looking closely at encryption and digital currencies. (Reuters)
• Don’t rush to regulate A.I., Andrew Burt, the chief privacy officer of the data management company Inmuta, writes in an NYT Op-Ed. (NYT)
Will the Weinstein Company be sold this time?
A deal is reportedly close, according to the WSJ, citing unnamed people. But the eventual buyer is expected to pay less than $500 million, and shareholders like the Weinsteins, the advertising giant WPP and SoftBank could be wiped out. (Remember that Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital had agreed to buy the embattled studio, but backed out.)
Who’s in the running, according to Ben Fritz and Keach Hagey of the WSJ:
The bidders include a group led by businesswoman Maria Contreras-Sweet; production company Killer Content working with philanthropist Abigail Disney; studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; and investment firms Vine Alternative Investments and Shamrock Capital Investments.
The media flyaround
• Disney’s proposed acquisition of Fox assets has raised questions about the future for Fox’s television properties, including, “Am I going to have to put Mickey Mouse in ‘American Horror Story’?” (NYT)
• Newsroom employees at the L.A. Times began voting on unionization yesterday. (NYT)
• H. Brandt Ayers, the former publisher of The Anniston Star in Alabama, resigned on Thursday as chairman of the newspaper’s parent company after admitting to spanking a reporter in the 1970s. (NYT)
• Jimmy Iovine will leave Apple in August, roughly four years after he and Dr. Dre sold Beats to the tech giant. (Hits)
• Neiman Marcus’s C.E.O., Karen Katz, plans to step aside, according to unnamed people, as the luxury retailer struggles with weak sales growth and heavy debts. (WSJ)
• Hassim Dhoda, a senior money manager at Moore Capital Management, will leave Louis Bacon’s hedge fund to start his own firm. His old boss is investing. (Bloomberg)
• Sprint named Michel Combes, the C.E.O. of Altice until two months ago, as its new chief financial officer. (FT)
Quote of the Day
“This is crypto, and everyone in the industry is now slinging crack crypto cocaine to retail addicts.”
— The analyst Ryan Selkis on the digital currency craze that briefly made the C.E.O. of Ripple richer than Mark Zuckerberg.
The Speed Read
• Brookfield bet $4.6 billion on Westinghouse, which faces few major competitors while building nuclear reactors is out of fashion. (Bloomberg)
• Insurers are set to pay out a record $135 billion on losses from natural disasters in 2017, according to Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer. (NYT)
• Brendan Byrne, who as governor of New Jersey governor brought in the state’s first income tax, died on Thursday. (NYT)
• HNA has walked away from late-stage negotiations for a stake in Value Partners Group, a Hong Kong fund house, according to people with knowledge of the matter. (Bloomberg)
• Google led a $120 million investment to help the Chinese online gaming platform Chushou reach more overseas viewers. (Reuters)
• Aurora, a self-driving car start-up, agreed to supply technology to the Volkswagen Group and Hyundai. (NYT)
• The owner of Quiksilver surfwear has agreed to buy Billabong for $315 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. (WSJ)
• The private equity firm Silver Lake has agreed to buy a majority stake in the online education company Weld North Education from K.K.R. (WSJ)
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