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Weeks of drama over the social media app TikTok left investors and others wondering what it was all for.
TikTok was set to be banned in the United States starting at midnight on Sunday. But in a deal announced on Saturday, the app said it would separate itself from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and become an independent entity called TikTok Global. Oracle would become TikTok’s new cloud provider, while Walmart would offer its “omni-channel retail capabilities,” the companies said.
Oracle and Walmart would own a cumulative 20 percent stake in TikTok Global, which said it planned to hire 25,000 people in the United States over an undisclosed period and go public sometime in the next year. TikTok also promised to pay $5 billion in “new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury,” according to a joint announcement from Oracle and Walmart.
Mr. Trump initially pronounced the agreement a success and blessed it, saying on Saturday that TikTok would “have nothing to do with China, it’ll be totally secure, that’s part of the deal,” only to reverse course on Monday morning with a threat to kill the deal.
The deal puts more control of TikTok into the hands of Americans, with four of the five members of the new entity’s board being American, but the agreement does not deliver on Mr. Trump’s original demand of a full sale of TikTok and it does not eliminate China from the mix. Under the initial terms, ByteDance still controls 80 percent of TikTok Global, two people with knowledge of the situation have said, though details may change.
Lawmakers, policy specialists and others said the way that TikTok’s deal got done also deserved more scrutiny.
“There’s no there there,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who focuses on federal courts and the constitution. “Is this really about trade, or about the political benefit of trying to bash China and show how tough the administration can be?”
Global markets fell on Monday, with several indexes having their worst day in months, as the rising prospect of tighter economic restrictions to control the surge in coronavirus infections turned investors sour.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 dropped nearly 2 percent in early trading. In Europe, the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 was down 2.6 percent. The FTSE 100 in London was 3.4 percent lower, and in Frankfurt, the DAX lost 3.2 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.1 percent, and the Shanghai Composite fell 0.6 percent.
Among the reasons for the swoon: Countries around the world are reporting significant increases in coronavirus cases, just as cooler weather comes to the northern hemisphere, drawing more people inside. In the United States, the daily count is climbing again as universities and schools reopen. Over all, at least 73 countries are seeing surges in newly detected cases.
The new cases have forced authorities to impose new restrictions on social and economic activity. These come as some government efforts to assist business and workers, such as Britain’s furlough program to prevent workers from being laid off, are about to expire or be scaled back.
On Monday, shares of companies most likely to be hit by new restrictions led the decline. United Airlines, Wynn Resorts, and the travel site Booking Holdings were all among the worst performing shares in the S&P 500. In Europe, IAG, the parent of British Airways and Iberia, was down nearly 15 percent.
Shares of banks also slumped after BuzzFeed News exposed a cache of documents, known as suspicious activity reports, that show major banks helped suspected terrorists, drug dealers and corrupt foreign officials move trillions of dollars around the world.
In the United States, shares of JPMorgan Chase were down more than 3 percent. In Europe, HSBC, the Asia-facing lender based on London, dropped more than 5 percent in Hong Kong, after a report in China said the bank may be added to Beijing’s Unreliable Entity List, a tally of businesses that could be subject to restrictions because of actions that harm the country’s interests.
U.S. stocks have already tumbled for three consecutive weeks. By Friday that drop had left the S&P 500 down 7 percent from its Sept. 2 record.
One reason for the downturn in September has been Washington’s inability to advance a new coronavirus relief bill, as Republicans and Democrats disagree on the size and focus of more spending. The tension between the two parties increased over the weekend after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left open a seat and a disagreement over whether she should be replaced before or after the election in November.
Investors moved into fixed-income securities, with the U.S. 10-year Treasure note gaining in price. Oil futures fell about 2 percent.
European energy companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell and others have lately been selling off oil fields and investing billions in renewable energy, a response to plunging oil prices and growing concerns about climate changes.
But the American oil giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil are going in a far different direction. They are doubling down on oil and natural gas and investing what amounts to pocket change in innovative climate-oriented efforts like small nuclear power plants and devices that suck carbon out of the air.
The disparity reflects the vast differences in how Europe and the United States are approaching climate change, a global threat that many scientists say is increasing the frequency and severity of disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. European leaders have made tackling climate change a top priority while President Trump has called it a “hoax” and has dismantled environmental regulations to encourage the exploitation of fossil fuels.
The big American and European oil and gas companies publicly agree that climate change is a threat and that they must play a role in the kind of energy transition the world last saw during the industrial revolution. But the urgency with which the companies are planning to transform their businesses could not be more different.
“Despite rising emissions and societal demand for climate action, U.S. oil majors are betting on a long-term future for oil and gas, while the European majors are gambling on a future as electricity providers,” said David Goldwyn, a top State Department energy official in the Obama administration. “The way the market reacts to their strategies and the 2020 election results will determine whether either strategy works.”
As car sales collapsed in Europe because of the pandemic, one category grew rapidly: electric vehicles.
One reason is that purchase prices in Europe are coming tantalizingly close to the prices for cars with gasoline or diesel engines. For example:
An electric Volkswagen ID.3 for the same price as a Golf.
A Tesla Model 3 that costs as much as a BMW 3 Series.
A Renault Zoe electric subcompact whose monthly lease payment might equal a nice dinner for two in Paris.
This near parity is possible only with government subsidies that, depending on the country, can cut more than $10,000 from the final price. Carmakers are offering deals on electric cars to meet stricter European Union regulations on carbon dioxide emissions. Electric vehicles are not yet as popular in the United States, largely because government incentives are less generous.
As electric cars become more mainstream, the automobile industry is rapidly approaching the tipping point when, even without subsidies, it will be as cheap, and maybe cheaper, to own a plug-in vehicle than one that burns fossil fuels. The carmaker that reaches price parity first may be positioned to dominate the segment.
A few years ago, industry experts expected 2025 would be the turning point. But technology is advancing faster than expected, and could be poised for a quantum leap. Elon Musk is expected to announce a breakthrough at Tesla’s “Battery Day” event on Tuesday that would allow electric cars to travel significantly farther without adding weight.
The balance of power in the auto industry may depend on which carmaker, electronics company or start-up succeeds in squeezing the most power per pound into a battery, what’s known as energy density.
“We’re seeing energy density increase faster than ever before,” said Milan Thakore, a senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultant which recently pushed its prediction of the tipping point ahead by a year, to 2024.
A cache of thousands of reports that major banks filed with federal regulators shows that they helped suspected terrorists, drug dealers and corrupt foreign officials move trillions of dollars around the world, despite the banks’ concerns about the suspicious nature of the transactions.
The documents, known as suspicious activity reports, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with a worldwide consortium of journalists. The more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports, filed by major U.S. and international banks, relate to more than $2 trillion of transactions from 1999 to 2017.
Banks are required to file the reports with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about transactions that they believe could be part of a money laundering scheme, fraud or other illegal activity.
BuzzFeed obtained suspicious activity reports filed by the largest U.S. lenders — including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America — and major international institutions like Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. Many of those banks have been repeatedly penalized by United States and other authorities for their roles in money laundering.
Among BuzzFeed’s main findings were that Standard Chartered, which operates primarily in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, appears to have helped move funds on behalf of a Dubai-based company that reportedly had ties to the Taliban. JPMorgan, Bank of New York Mellon and other banks appear to have helped move more than $150 million for companies tied to the North Korean regime, according to a companion report by NBC News.
As of late 2013, officials at JPMorgan Chase had also submitted at least eight suspicious activity reports on banking activity connected to Paul Manafort, President Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. JPMorgan also moved more than $1 billion for the alleged mastermind of a giant fraud involving a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
Patricia Wexler, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, said: “We have played a leadership role in anti-money-laundering reform that will modernize how the government and law enforcement combat money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes.”
A spokesman for Standard Chartered, Chris Teo, said, “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”
A representative for Bank of New York Mellon and Standard Chartered did not immediately respond to a request for comment.