Business Updates: Coal Miners Seek Voice in Move to Renewable Energy
The country’s largest mine workers union signaled on Monday that it would accept a transition away from fossil fuels in exchange for new jobs in renewable energy, spending on technology to make coal cleaner and financial aid for miners who lose their jobs.
“There needs to be a tremendous investment here,” Cecil E. Roberts, the president of the United Mine Workers of America, said in an interview. “We always end up dealing with climate change, closing down coal mines. We never get to the second piece of it.”
The mine workers’ plan, which Mr. Roberts is presenting at an event with Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, calls for the creation of new jobs in Appalachia through tax credits that would subsidize the making of solar panel and wind turbine components, and by funding the reclamation of abandoned mines that pose a risk to public health.
The mine workers are also calling for spending on research on carbon capture and storage technology, which would allow coal-fired plants to store carbon dioxide underground rather than release it into the atmosphere, and for policies that allow coal plants to remain open if they commit to installing the technology.
The union wants the federal government to support miners who lose their jobs through retraining and by replacing their wages, health insurance and pensions.
Many of these proposals appear in President Biden’s $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, including funding for research into carbon capture, which critics deride as prohibitively expensive, and money for reclaiming mines.
“Change is coming, whether we seek it or not,” stated a document that the mine workers union released on Monday, titled “Preserving Coal Country.” It notes that employment in the coal industry had dropped to about 44,000 as of last December, down from 92,000 at the end of 2011.
Mr. Roberts said the union would resist any climate legislation that did not help ensure a livelihood for its members.
“We’re on the side of job creation, of a future for our people,” he said. “If that isn’t part of the conversation at the end of the day, we’ll be hard pressed to be supportive.”
The union that was soundly defeated in its efforts to organize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama is seeking to overturn the results of the election, accusing the company of corrupting the voting process by intimidating and surveilling workers
On Monday, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union filed objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the voting-by-mail process last month.
The union lost its bid to organize the warehouse by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Many workers said that the union failed to persuade them of the benefits of organizing and that they were largely satisfied with the pay, benefits and working conditions at Amazon.
In a statement on Monday, Amazon said, “Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”
At the heart of the union’s complaint is a mailbox that Amazon installed in the warehouse parking lot where workers could drop off their ballots. The union said Amazon brought in the collection box without approval from the labor board. The company also used video cameras that could monitor the workers who dropped off their ballots there and encouraged them to drop the ballots in the box rather than mail them from home, the union said.
The union said these actions by Amazon “created the impression that the collection box was a polling location and that the employer had control over the conduct of the mail ballot election.”
The union also accused Amazon of other tactics that may have intimidated workers, such as hiring local police to patrol the parking lot area while organizers were outside and pulling possibly pro-union workers out of “captive audience” meetings that the company held to address the organizing drive among the staff.
The company “would request the employee to come forward, have them identified and then removed from the meeting in the presence of hundreds of other employees, thereby interfering with and/or chilling the right of employees to freely discuss issues related to the union organizing campaign,” the union said in its filing with the labor board.
The union has asked the labor board to hold a hearing on its petition to set aside the results. If the union is successful with its legal challenges, the labor board could order that another election be held.
A dozen of Europe’s top soccer clubs announced plans to create a new league that would rival the longstanding Champions League, The New York Times’s Tariq Panja reports. The plan would concentrate the sport’s wealth with just a handful of teams — if it survives potential legal challenges.
The Super League, as it is known, was hatched in secrecy over several months. Among the founding clubs are Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United of England; Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain; and AC Milan and Juventus of Italy. More teams are expected to round out the league’s 15 slots for founding, permanent members.
The idea is for the league to hold exclusive midweek matches in between domestic league matches. The largely closed league would operate more like the N.F.L. or the N.B.A., doing away with a new set of teams appearing in the tournament each year, based on their domestic league performance. Five spots in the 20-team league would be filled by an annual qualifying mechanism.
Big money is at stake: The Super League’s founding clubs would split 3.5 billion euros, or more than $4 billion, as part of its formation. That implies that they would make far more than what the Champions League winner took home last year.
JPMorgan Chase, which has lent money in the past to several of the clubs, is leading financing to support the league’s formation, starting with an initial $4 billion in debt, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. That debt would be paid back over 23 years and carry an interest rate of 2 percent to 3 percent.
The share prices of publicly traded clubs, like Juventus and Manchester United, jumped more than 10 percent in early trading.
The news spurred an outcry from the establishment. The organizer of the Champions League, UEFA, criticized the proposal as a “cynical project” and has been exploring ways to block it. The governing body of European soccer also noted that FIFA, the global soccer governing body, has threatened to expel players who participate in unsanctioned leagues from tournaments like the World Cup.
But the organization behind the Super League said on Monday that it had taken legal action to counter any efforts to block the project’s formation — though it also said it wanted to work with existing soccer organizations.
The British government and Bank of England will look into creating a central bank digital currency, the two institutions announced on Monday, the latest in a string of initiatives the government is taking to try to ensure Britain holds on to its position as a leading destination for financial services.
A task force will explore the uses and risks of a digital currency, the Bank of England and Treasury said. They haven’t made a decision on whether to introduce one.
But the move will let Britain catch up with other central banks. The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have already started researching a digital dollar and a digital euro.
Rishi Sunak, Britain’s top finance official, also said on Monday that the Treasury would make changes to the financial technology industry and public listings process based on the recommendations of two recent reviews. The changes are intended to make it more appealing for tech companies to go public in London instead of New York, and let founders retain more control of their companies when they do. There will be more regulatory help for growing fintech companies and those experimenting with distributed ledger technology like blockchain.
Since Britain left the European Union on Dec. 31, some trading in shares and derivatives has moved from London to other financial centers, and the financial industry is wondering what will go next. The government has sought to reestablish the City of London’s reputation as a financial hub. Sweeping reviews and consultations have been introduced in a range of areas, from capital markets to making finance more green.
A report by New Financial, a London-based research firm, found that more than 440 companies had moved or are planning to move staff, assets or other business out of London because of Brexit. “While this is higher than previous estimates, it underestimates the real picture,” the report published on Friday said.
Bank assets worth more than 900 billion pounds, or $1.3 trillion, about 10 percent of the total assets in Britain’s banking system, have been moved or are being moved, the report said. Its authors, Eivind Friis Hamre and William Wright, wrote that these numbers might be smaller than the reality because their analysis might have missed banks and assets managers already based in the European Union. And fewer European firms than previously expected will open an office in Britain.
“Over time we expect there to be a drip-feed of business and activity from the U.K. to the E.U.,” the report said. It recommended that the city consider the Brexit losses as unrecoverable, and set its sights on opportunities further afield.
First-quarter earnings season picks up steam this week, with analysts expecting that profits for S&P 500 companies rose roughly 27 percent in the three months through March, compared with a year earlier when the pandemic sent corporate earnings into a tailspin.
Companies such as Coca-Cola, United Airlines, Netflix, AT&T and American Express all slated to issue results this week, offering a relatively well-rounded look at the state of corporate America in the early days of what could be a powerful year for the U.S. economy. It might also help set expectations for the stock market, after a big rally already this year.
The consensus among 76 economists polled by Bloomberg is that gross domestic product will expand by 6.2 percent in 2021, which would make it the best year for economic growth since 1984. And sentiment among analysts covering the stock market is almost universally bullish, given that strong economic tailwind.
“You’d almost have to be self-deceiving to expect U.S. companies overall to underperform consensus, given how the macro backdrop is driving revenues so well,” wrote John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management.
The expectations for profit growth are even more elevated for the current quarter: Analysts expect that the three months ending in June will see companies in the S&P 500 notch a 54-percent rise in profits, compared with the prior year.
That increase, of course, reflects a rebound from the worst of the pandemic-bred downturn. But it also is a result of “economic re-acceleration, and a rebound in commodity prices,” said Jonathan Golub, a stock market analyst at Credit Suisse.
Of course, if everyone is expecting such a surge in profits, the good news could already be fully incorporated into stock prices — and that means anything short of perfect results would make for a difficult stretch for stocks.
That has certainly been the case with some of the banks that reported earnings last week. Shares of Morgan Stanley, for example, dropped 2.8 percent on Friday even though the bank reported record revenue and profit.
The S&P 500 is already up more than 11 percent in 2021, and hit yet another record high on Friday.
That could mean the market is due for a pullback anyway. The index is relatively expensive by metrics such as the price-to-earnings ratio, which compares stock prices as a share of expected corporate profits over the next 12 months.
The S&P 500 is trading at nearly 23 times expected earnings. That’s roughly the valuation the index has held for most of the past year, but it’s very high by historical standards.
Over the last 20 years, the S&P 500 has traded at an average of 16 times expected earnings.
By comparison, a valuation of 23 times expected earnings is closer to where stock market valuations stood at the tail-end of the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. When that ended, the S&P 500 fell roughly 50 percent before it hit bottom.
Journalists at Insider, the news site formerly called Business Insider, said on Monday that they had formed a union, joining a wave that has swept digital media companies.
A majority of more than 300 editorial workers, a group that includes reporters, editors and video journalists, voted in support, union representatives said.
Insider, which changed its name this year, was co-founded by Henry Blodget in 2007 as a business-focused publication with an emphasis on the tech industry. In recent years, it has expanded its areas of coverage.
Axel Springer, a digital publishing company based in Berlin, paid $343 million for a 97 percent stake in the company in 2015 and bought the remaining 3 percent in 2018. Mr. Blodget stayed on as chief executive. Insider, which has grown during the pandemic, bumped up the minimum annual salary for staff members to $60,000 in February.
The Insider Union is asking the company for voluntary recognition. It is represented by The NewsGuild of New York, which also represents editorial employees at The New York Times and other publications.
“I’ve seen how we’ve moved from the start-up energy of a young company into a much larger, much more formal corporation,” said Kim Renfro, an entertainment correspondent who has worked at Insider since 2014. “I see the union as being a natural part of that progress.”
William Antonelli, an editor at Insider, said that the union would focus on diversity and inclusion, pay equity and more transparency on how company executives rate employees.
Nicholas Carlson, Insider’s global editor in chief, said in a statement: “The satisfaction, job security and happiness of our journalists is extremely important to us. We will fully respect whatever decision our newsroom ultimately makes.”
The formation of a union at Insider is part of a broader industry trend, following organizing efforts at BuzzFeed News, Vice, The New Yorker and Vox Media. Last week, a group of more than 650 tech workers at The Times formed a union.
Gary Gensler, the new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was sworn in on Saturday. That makes Monday the first day on the job for the former M.I.T. professor, commodities regulator and Goldman Sachs banker.
“Every day I will be animated by our mission: protecting investors, facilitating capital formation, and promoting fair, orderly, and efficient markets,” Mr. Gensler said in a statement. He didn’t offer specifics, but the S.E.C.’s recent activities suggest three major priorities, the DealBook newsletter reports.
The S.E.C. has increased its focus on environmental, social and governance issues. It is responding to the increase in investor demand for company disclosures on things like climate-related risks, board and leadership diversity and political donations. Most recently, it issued a risk alert about the “lack of standardized and precise” definitions of E.S.G. products and services. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Gensler appeared inclined toward more expansive disclosures, noting that “it’s the investor community that gets to decide” what is material.
Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have been proliferating, raising many regulatory concerns. These include “risks from fees, conflicts, and sponsor compensation, from celebrity sponsorship and the potential for retail participation drawn by baseless hype, and the sheer amount of capital pouring into the SPACs,” John Coates, the acting director of the S.E.C.’s corporate finance division, said in a statement. Given Mr. Gensler’s strong enforcement credentials, many predict more scrutiny of SPACs in the months ahead.
The mainstreaming of cryptocurrency is something Mr. Gensler will also have to address. He was confirmed on the day that the crypto exchange Coinbase went public, signaling a new era of legitimacy at a time when crypto rules are in flux. Blockchain executives and their growing lobby said that they welcomed working with Mr. Gensler, who is more versed in financial technology than most other policymakers. Clarity on when a digital asset qualifies as a commodity or a security tops Coinbase’s wish list, according to its chief counsel, Paul Grewal: He’s “hopeful” about Mr. Gensler’s tenure, noting that he will be informed and engaged on crypto issues, “even if we won’t always agree.”
By: Ella Koeze.Data delayed at least 15 minutes.Source: FactSet
Stocks on Wall Street dipped on Monday, while European stock benchmarks were mixed, at the start of a week in which hundreds of public companies will report earnings, including Coca-Cola, Netflix and United Airlines.
The S&P 500, which hit a record on Friday, fell about 0.2 percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.1 percent, pushing further into record territory. The European index has climbed for the past seven weeks.
European government bond yields climbed higher on Monday as investors awaited the European Central Bank’s latest monetary policy decisions, which will be announced on Thursday. Last month, the central bank said it would quicken the pace of its asset purchases to tamp down an increase in bond yields.
Elsewhere in markets
Peloton shares dropped nearly 4 percent after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an “urgent warning” about the exercise equipment company’s treadmill. The agency said users with small children at home should stop using the machine after reports of injuries and one fatality.
Coinbase shares slipped nearly 4 percent with other crypto-related stocks. Over the weekend, the price of Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, plummeted by more than $7,000, or about 9 percent.
GameStop shares rose 9 percent as the video game retailer announced that its chief executive would be stepping down by the end of July. The company, which was at the center of a retail trading frenzy earlier this year, has been shaken up by the incoming chairman, Ryan Cohen, who is an activist investor in the company pushing for a digital turnaround.
Oil prices were slightly higher. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose slightly to just above $63 a barrel.