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The London Stock Exchange buys Refinitiv

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 09:33

AROUND 2AM, as the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) hammered out an agreement with Blackstone to buy Refinitiv, a data-provider, mice scurried out of the corners. Unfair tactics, quipped the Blackstone side. But the American private-equity firm still struck a superb deal. On July 27th the LSE said it would buy Refinitiv (including its debt) for $27bn in shares. Blackstone has doubled its money in ten months after buying 55% of the data firm in a consortium last year.

The prospect of a 321-year-old British champion shaking off the Brexit gloom to buy a big international firm caused much glee in London. On July 29th the LSE’s shares closed up 15% on the day. Refinitiv’s sales span most asset classes, with three-fifths coming from North America and Asia. “The London Stock Exchange is turning away from Europe and endorsing Global Britain,” crowed one commentator.

Truth be told, the LSE might still have snapped up Refinitiv had the referendum of 2016 gone the other way. The rationale is clear. Several years ago it pivoted from listings towards selling financial-markets data and analytics, for which demand is voracious. And Refinitiv is the owner of Eikon data terminals, used by traders and fund managers, and Elektron, a data-feed business. Other stock exchanges have seen the same opportunity: in 2015, for example, ICE, the...

The Fed cuts rates for the first time in over a decade

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 20:52

INTEREST RATES set by the Federal Reserve have been rising since 2015. The gradual approach, explained the Fed’s chairman, Jerome Powell, last September, was intended to leave time to see how well the economy could absorb each raise. “So far the economy has performed very well, and very much in keeping with our expectations,” he said back then.

Now America is being treated to what some are calling “Powell’s pirouette”. On July 31st Mr Powell announced America’s first interest-rate cut in over a decade, of 0.25 percentage points (see chart). At the press conference after the announcement he blamed weak global growth, trade policy uncertainty and muted inflation. “We’re trying to sustain the expansion,” he said.

The move was widely expected, though not universally understood. By many measures America’s economy still seems buoyant. After dipping a little, earlier in the year, consumer confidence is almost back to its post-recovery peak. Figures published on July 26th revealed that Americans are still...

What Wall Street thinks of Elizabeth Warren

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 14:37

CONVERSATIONS WITH bankers about the Democratic primaries invariably turn to Elizabeth Warren, a senator for Massachusetts. That is not because they like her. Most would prefer to see the Democratic ticket headed by Joe Biden, who leads the polls, or Pete Buttigieg, a business-friendly mayor from Indiana. They know Ms Warren as the candidate who wants to break up big banks, bring in a wealth tax and make private-equity firms liable for the debt of companies they buy. After the crisis of 2008-09 she was instrumental in creating the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, an agency to police shady practices at banks. “I took on Wall Street, and CEOs, and their lobbyists, and their lawyers,” she boasted during the second Democratic debate on July 30th—“and I beat them.”

But mutual contempt has bred familiarity. Perhaps surprisingly, bankers are fretting just as much about a candidate who is a racing certainty to make it onto the ballot: President Donald Trump.

Wall Street’s finest think they have already got all they are ever going to get from Mr Trump. They hoped for two things from his election in 2016: a big corporate-tax cut and sweeping revisions to Dodd-Frank, the post-crisis regulatory bill. They got their tax cut. And though Dodd-Frank was tweaked only modestly, they think there may not be much more to be...

The Mittelstand’s corporate success comes at a cost

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:32

THE MITTELSTAND, exports and thrift—all are matters of German national pride. Thanks to them Germany has run the world’s biggest current-account surplus since 2016, last year just shy of $300bn (7.3% of GDP). This sign that it saves more than it invests at home, and sells abroad more than it imports, has earned the ire of President Donald Trump, who would like thrifty Teutons to buy American.

The IMF has long wrung its hands at the savings glut. Last month, in its annual report on global imbalances, it repeated a warning that Germany’s current-account surplus was “substantially” stronger than warranted by economic fundamentals. In a separate paper it presented evidence that the growing current-account surplus was accompanied by increasing inequality (see chart). The link, it says, is high corporate profitability.

Around the turn of the millennium Germany’s exports took off, as rapidly growing emerging economies started to buy its high-value-added manufacturing goods in bulk. That,...