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One-Percenters Close to Surpassing Wealth of Middle Class…



One-Percenters Close to Surpassing Wealth of Middle Class...

(First column, 7th story, link)


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$45,000 Loan for $27,000 Ride: More Borrowers Going Underwater…
Cash-Strapped Small Businesses Turn to GOFUNDME…
This Red Alert Now Flashing on Bond Trader’s Radar Screen…

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This Red Alert Now Flashing on Bond Trader's Radar Screen…


(Bloomberg) — A bond-market warning light that glowed green for years is suddenly flashing red. The bad news for bondholders is that the last time this happened, it was accompanied by the biggest sell-off since the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

That indicator is the term premium, which, for both Treasuries and German bunds, has snapped back from last quarter’s record lows. The U.S. gauge is now on track for the biggest three-month increase since late 2016.

After a stellar rally through August, global bonds have pulled back in recent weeks as thawing trade tensions lightened the global economic gloom, sapping demand for the safety of sovereign debt. Rebounding term premiums now signal the sell-off has further to run — the measure of extra compensation for holding longer-term debt versus simply rolling over a short-tenor security for years is in an uptrend that investors and strategists say has only just begun.

The 10-year Treasury yield, a benchmark for world markets, climbed Thursday to a three-month high as investors’ animal spirits were sparked by the ebbing of the biggest headwind to global growth — the U.S.-China trade war. That came as its German counterpart surged to levels unseen since mid-July and those in France and Belgium climbed back above 0%. The Japanese equivalent jumped Friday to its highest since May.

Investor are increasingly worried about holding longer-term debt as easing economic anxiety raises the prospect of a capital flight out of haven assets into riskier ones. Such a trend is already driving up yields, which, combined with the Federal Reserve’s signal that it will hold interest rates steady for the time being, is boosting term premiums. In Europe, a still-accommodative policy is bolstering inflation prospects, adding to the upward pressure on the gauge.

“Term premium was extremely depressed due to trade uncertainty, Brexit and you name it,” said Roberto Perli, a partner at Cornerstone Macro LLC. “These risks have abated so there is room for about a 50 basis point move higher in term premium. And given the Federal Reserve is on hold — with no chance of lifting rates – there’s a lot of incentive for investors to take risk.”

Ten-year Treasury term premium has climbed about 42 basis points since the end of August, on track for the biggest three-month increase since 2016, according to the widely followed New York Fed ACM model created by Tobias Adrian, Richard Crump and Emanuel Moench. It rebounded this week to as little as minus 0.84% — from a record low of minus 1.29% in August, the least for NY Fed data provided back back through 1961.

Understanding the trend in term premium isn’t just an academic exercise for bond wonks as it also helps gauge what’s driving debt yields and valuations. That margin of safety is one of three components that make up the yield of any given bond, according to former Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke — the other two being market expectations for monetary policy and inflation. Basically, it’s an extra cushion against risk over the security’s relatively long lifetime.

To be sure, a resolution to the U.S.-China trade spat still looks far, with President Donald Trump downplaying Friday the amount of progress made in negotiations.

In Germany, the 10-year term premium began a swoon in mid-2014 after ranging from 100 to 250 basis points back since the euro was introduced in 1999, according to estimates by UniCredit SpA strategist Luca Cazzulani, using the methods as in the ACM model.

The gauge for bunds slumped to a record minus 100 basis points at the end of September before rising to minus 88 in October, according to UniCredit data updated at the end of each month. It has likely risen further this month.

“We have seen a continuation of upward in bund yields this month, and that should be related mostly to higher term premium,” Cazzulani said.

Long-term debt has a higher duration that those with shorter tenors. That means that for each move up in yield, prices will fall more sharply than for its short-term counterparts, increasing the risk of being in long-maturity debt.

QE Effect

The European Central Bank’s resumption of fresh bond purchases this month will exert marginal downward pressure on bund term premium, yet won’t be “a game changer,” according to Cazzulani. He estimates that quantitative easing will cause only a five basis point setback in the gauge, which would be too little to counter forces pushing it upward.

After cutting rates and unveiling debt-buying plans last month, the ECB has been pushing for governments to add budgetary support for growth. The prospects of fiscal stimulus along with an ongoing push for more European banking integration bode for more upside for term premium and yields in the region, according to Ronald van Steenweghen, a fund manager at a portfolio manager at DPAM.

“Term premium was driven to levels that were difficult to explain unless you think the economic outlook is very dire, which we don’t agree with,” DPAM’s van Steenweghen said during an interview at the firm’s Brussels office. “And the potential positive feedback loop on the economy of fiscal stimulus is very, very high. This, with stable ECB policy, improving growth and reduced uncertainty all will work to push yields higher.”

The 10-year bund yield is on course to rise from about minus 0.26% to between 0.50% and 1% over the next one to three years, predicted van Steenweghen.

That leaves him “more confident with having a shorter duration stance.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Liz Capo McCormick in london at emccormick7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, Anil Varma, Debarati Roy

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Cash-Strapped Small Businesses Turn to GOFUNDME…


Aimee Skier loves taking her 3-year-old son to story time at Books of Wonder in Manhattan. So when she got an email from the bookstore soliciting GoFundMe donations to help with moving costs, she was happy to chip in $25.

“It’s a quaint little independent store,” Ms. Skier said. “Story time, the programs and readings that they do—there’s no charge for those, and you can spend time there. To me, that’s worth something.”

Most people think of GoFundMe as a way to raise money for medical debt, funeral costs or natural disaster relief, but the crowdfunding website is increasingly used by struggling small businesses, said Chief Executive Rob Solomon. Thousands of small businesses, ranging from comic-book shops to drive-in movie theaters, have opened campaigns across 19 countries.

“These independent businesses become pillars in a community, and when they can’t stay open, the communities really rally,” Mr. Solomon said in an interview.

Books of Wonder’s campaign, which started Oct. 22, has raised more than $23,000 toward its $250,000 goal. The company has about 30 employees between its two stores and annual sales of just over $2 million.

Owner Peter Glassman said he can pay his current bills but needs money to move the bookstore’s flagship from 18th Street to a more affordable and high-trafficked space in the Flatiron District. He said he has struggled to pay the $600,000 annual lease at his current location, particularly after his most recent subtenant, City Bakery, entered financial trouble and folded.

The bookstore’s uptown store will remain in its current location.

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Mr. Glassman said there has been an outpouring of support for Books of Wonder, which first opened on Hudson Street in 1980 and has moved several times. A previous location served as the inspiration for the children’s bookshop in the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail,” prompting a GoFundMe donor to comment: “Meg Ryan made me do it.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Glassman has kept his doors open thanks to donations. In 2012, he raised $100,000 on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

So far, customers haven’t criticized the for-profit business for soliciting donations, Mr. Glassman said.

“They understand that the things that have gone wrong for us are things beyond our control,” he said. “The attitude is, ‘It’s a miracle you’re still here.’”

Unlike on other crowdfunding websites, GoFundMe organizers are able to cash out all of the money they raise, minus a 2.9% credit-card processing fee, regardless of whether they reach their goals.

Jessica Walker, president and chief executive of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, said small and midlevel independent businesses are squeezed by rising rents, minimum-wage increases and mandatory sick leave. Crowdfunding can help fill the gap.

“If a business is struggling, it’s much harder to get a bank loan,” Ms. Walker said. “It’s most helpful to people, such as women and people of color, who don’t necessarily have access to a ton of wealth within their networks or an abundance of angel investors waiting in the wings.”

Nicky Perry is using GoFundMe to keep Tea & Sympathy open and to help with rising operational costs.


Photo:

Gabriela Bhaskar for The Wall Street Journal

Nicky Perry, who owns a British grocery, the restaurant Tea & Sympathy and the fish-and-chip shop A Salt & Battery in Greenwich Village, said she started a GoFundMe page out of desperation a year ago. Her campaign has raised nearly $52,000 toward its $100,000 goal.

“We just couldn’t pay the rent,” Ms. Perry said. “The rent is so astronomical.”

Ms. Perry said her business has changed payroll companies, reduced head count and redone its menu to cut costs, but she would consider turning to GoFundMe again in the future. The reaction to her fundraiser has been overwhelmingly positive, with loyal customers stopping by the shop more often and neighbors offering to help out by working for free.

Items on sale at Tea & Sympathy.


Photo:

Gabriela Bhaskar for The Wall Street Journal

“We couldn’t believe it,” Ms. Perry said. “I’ve had little old ladies on two different occasions waiting for me outside on my bench to give me $50 checks.”

Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University, said even more important than cash is the validation business owners receive from GoFundMe campaigns. Two-thousand customers contributing $20 or $40 each might not be enough to keep a business open, but it can give owners reassurance.

After a successful GoFundMe campaign, owners might say to themselves, “‘I should hang on, I should keep going,’” Mr. Bachenheimer said.

Not every struggling business owner wants to ask customers for donations. Chris Doeblin, owner of the Book Culture shops in Manhattan, said he started a community lending program this summer after competition from Amazon, rising rents, the increasing minimum wage and an inability to borrow money pushed him to the brink of closing.

Mr. Doeblin has raised $600,000, which he plans to repay within five years at 4% interest, a far lower rate than he could get elsewhere. The support he has received from loyal customers will help him stock up for the busy Christmas season.

“People are recognizing that there’s a big downside to Amazon and buying things online,” he said. “I hope it’s not too late.”

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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India Top Court Rules in Favor of Hindus in Long Feud With Muslims Over Religious Site…


NEW DELHI—India’s Supreme Court, ruling on one of the country’s most divisive cases, paved the way for Hindu groups to build a temple on a religious site contested by Muslim groups seeking to rebuild a mosque that once stood in the same location.

The court granted control of the site to Prime Minister

Narendra Modi’s

government for its eventual placement into a trust made up of Hindu nationalist groups.

The court denied the petitions of Muslim groups. But it ordered an alternative location be provided to one of the groups to build a new mosque.

The ruling by a five-judge panel was unanimous.

The litigation, which began in 1950, revolved around the question of who would control a patch of land in Ayodhya, an ancient north Indian city, where a mosque stood for hundreds of years before a Hindu mob tore it down in 1992. Hindu activists believe the mosque had been built on top of a temple that had stood on the precise birthplace of an important Hindu deity, Ram.

Amid nationally televised coverage of the ruling, Hindu lawyers left the court building shouting, “Hail Lord Ram!” Hindu religious devotees gathered at the court blew conch-shell horns, a Hindu ritual to mark auspicious occasions.

In a series of tweets lauding the decision, Mr. Modi called the ruling “farsighted” and an indication that “any dispute can be amicably solved in the spirit of due process of the law.”

From the Archives: A centuries-long conflict between Hindus and Muslims in the ancient city of Ayodhya has had a profound influence on Indian life and politics. In 2012, WSJ’s Paul Beckett reported on the issue in depth.

Zafaryab Jilani, the main lawyer for Muslim litigants said they were “dissatisfied” that the court granted them no say over the most intensely disputed piece of the property where Muslims once prayed under the dome of the previously existing mosque. He said the ruling contained “contradictions,” but also portions “that will also set good examples for the secular fabric of the country.” He said the groups would review the ruling and could ask the court to review the decision.

Rajnath Singh, India’s defense minister, appealed to Indians to maintain calm and accept the court’s ruling “with humility.”

There were no reports of unrest immediately after the ruling was announced.

For all the case’s historical origins, its judgment will help shape India’s political and social landscape, and comes after recent changes made by Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party that core backers have long pursued.

For decades, various political parties have tried to use the emotions surrounding the case for political advantage, none more effectively than the BJP. Since winning a landslide victory in national elections in May, Mr. Modi’s government has stripped autonomy from India’s only Muslim-majority state and pushed to deny citizenship to some Muslim immigrants who have long resided in India.

Muslim groups saw the case as a litmus test for how vigorously the court would enforce protections for minority religions in an era when Hindu nationalists are pressing for the government to more-prominently advocate for the interests of the country’s Hindu majority.

But gaining control of the site has been a priority on the Hindu nationalist agenda for decades.

In its ruling, the court focused on the merits of the suit filed on behalf of the idol of baby Ram that was placed on the disputed site in 1949 by a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, or VHP. The group is a sister organization of the BJP under their ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, India’s main Hindu nationalist organization.

Since the late 1980s, the VHP has been at the forefront of a movement to build Ram’s temple at the disputed site.

The court directed the government to set up a trust and within three months hand over control of the disputed site for the construction of a Ram temple. The VHP and other Hindu groups already operate a similar trust in Ayodhya that runs a stonemasonry workshop near the disputed site where pillars intended for the hoped-for temple have been carved and stored since 1990.

“Our next step is to peacefully proceed toward building the temple,” said Sharad Sharma, a spokesman for the VHP in Ayodhya, after the court’s ruling on Saturday.

The issue has sparked violence before, in 1990 and again in 1992, when the mosque was torn down.

Mr. Modi had been involved in the movement to build a Ram temple there since he was a young activist with the country’s largest Hindu nationalist group. But his larger political fortunes became closely intertwined with the issue in 2002, shortly after he became the chief minister of Gujarat state.

Muslims in Ahmedabad prayed for peace ahead of the Ayodhya verdict.


Photo:

amit dave/Reuters

Almost 60 activists heading home to Gujarat from Ayodhya were killed when their train caught fire—the cause of the blaze is still disputed. Rioting broke out in Gujarat, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. Mr. Modi was criticized for not doing enough to stop the violence. He has said he wasn’t to blame.

Thousands of paramilitary troops were dispatched to Ayodhya to supplement thousands more local police and troops that have been stationed there for years to maintain order in a town that receives tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims annually. It is also home to thousands of Hindu priests and ardent devotees.

Authorities have also urged calm in other parts of the country and bolstered security forces. Leaders on both sides of the dispute have told supporters to avoid celebrations or protests and accept the court’s ruling. National news stations covered the ruling live outside the courtroom, where hundreds of journalists, lawyers and activists gathered.

Hindu activists insist the mosque was built at the behest of an important Muslim ruler on top of a temple that marked Ram’s birthplace. In 1949, activists smuggled a small statue of Ram into the mosque and began worshiping it, starting a dispute that soon landed in court, kicking off the long-running litigation.

After twists and turns and changes in the main litigants—the Hindu deity Ram was even officially granted legal standing—the case reached India’s highest court in 2010.

That came after all sides appealed a lower-court ruling that said the site should be divided up into different parts for Hindus and Muslims, leaving no one happy.

Write to Bill Spindle at bill.spindle@wsj.com and Krishna Pokharel at krishna.pokharel@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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Looming Electricity Shortage…


(Bloomberg) — As if California doesn’t have enough problems with its electric service, now regulators warn the state may be short on power supplies by 2021 if utilities don’t start lining up new resources now.

In the hopes of heading off a shortfall, the California Public Utilities Commission has ordered the state’s electricity providers to secure 3.3 additional gigawatts of reserve supplies. That’s enough to power roughly 2.5 million homes. Half of it must be in place by 2021 and the rest by August 2023.

The move comes as California is already struggling to accommodate increasingly large amounts of solar power that regularly send electricity prices plunging below zero and force other generators offline so the region’s grid doesn’t overload. The state is also still reeling from a series of deliberate mass blackouts that utilities imposed last month to keep their power lines from sparking wildfires amid strong winds. And its largest power company, PG&E Corp., went bankrupt in January.

Now as natural gas-fired power plants retire, officials are warning the state could run short on electricity on hot evenings, when solar production fades and commuters get home and crank up their air conditioners. “We have fewer resources that can be quickly turned on that can meet those peaks,” utilities commission member Liane Randolph said Thursday before the panel approved the order to beef up reserves.

The 3.3 gigawatts that utilities must line up is in addition to a state rule requiring them to sign contracts for 15% more electricity than they expect to need. Some critics question the need for added supplies, particularly after the state went on a plant-building boom in the 2000s.

But California’s grid managers say the risk of a shortfall is real and could be as high as 4.7 gigawatts. Mark Rothleder, with the California Independent System Operator, said the 15% cushion is a holdover from the days before big solar and wind farms made the grid more volatile. Now it may need to be increased, he said.

“We’re not in that world anymore,” said Rothleder, the operator’s vice president of state regulatory affairs. “The complexity of the system and the resources we have now are much different.”

The state’s three major utilities, PG&E, Edison International and Sempra Energy, will be largely responsible for securing new supplies. The commission banned fossil fuels from being used at any new power generators built to meet the requirement — though it left the door open for expansions at existing ones.

PG&E said in an emailed statement that it was pleased the commission didn’t adopt an earlier proposal to require 4 gigawatts of additional resources. Edison similarly said it was “supportive.” Sempra didn’t immediately respond with comment.

Extending Deadlines

The pending plant closures are being hastened by a 2020 deadline requiring California’s coastal generators to stop using aging seawater-cooling systems. Some gas-fired power plants have said they’ll simply close instead of installing costly new cooling systems. So the commission on Thursday also asked California water regulators to extend the deadline for five plants.

The Sierra Club, meanwhile, called on regulators to turn away from fossil fuels altogether, saying their decision Thursday “sets California back on its progress toward a clean energy future.”

The move to push back the deadline also faces opposition from neighboring towns. Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, whose city is home to one of the plants in line for an extension, told the commission it wasn’t necessary, since California utilities already have plenty of electricity reserves.

“It’s just piling on to that reserve margin,” Brand said.

(Adds California grid operator’s comment beginning in the sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: David R. Baker in San Francisco at dbaker116@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Joe Ryan, Reg Gale

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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$45,000 Loan for $27,000 Ride: More Borrowers Going Underwater…



John Schricker

took out a loan to buy a car in 2017. Then he took out another. And then another.

In two years, the 40-year-old electrician signed up for four auto loans, each time trading in the previous car and rolling the unpaid balance into the next loan. He recently bought a $27,000 Jeep Cherokee with a $45,000 loan from

Ally Financial Inc.


ALLY -0.75%

Consumers, salespeople and lenders are treating cars a lot like houses during the last financial crisis: by piling on debt to such a degree that it often exceeds the car’s value. This phenomenon—referred to as negative equity, or being underwater—can leave car owners trapped.

Some 33% of people who traded in cars to buy new ones in the first nine months of 2019 had negative equity, compared with 28% five years ago and 19% a decade ago, according to car-shopping site Edmunds. Those borrowers owed about $5,000 on average after they traded in their cars, before taking on new loans. Five years ago the average was about $4,000.

Rising car prices have exacerbated an affordability gap that is increasingly getting filled with auto debt. Easy lending standards are perpetuating the cycle, with lenders routinely making car loans with low or no down payments that can last seven years or longer.

Borrowers are responsible for paying their remaining debt even after they get rid of the vehicle tied to it. When subsequently buying another car, they can roll this old debt into a new loan. The lender that originates the new loan typically pays off the old lender, and the consumer then owes the balance from both cars to the new lender. The transactions are often encouraged by dealerships, which now make more money on arranging financing than on selling cars.

Consumer lawyers say borrowers are typically trading in their vehicles because they have to—often because their needs change, or because the vehicles have problems.

“These aren’t Rolls-Royces,” said

David Goldsmith,

a lawyer who defends consumers in auto cases. “They’re Ford Escapes.”

John Schricker adjusts his daughter’s car seat in the back of his Jeep Cherokee.


Photo:

Kristian Thacker for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Schricker would like to get a new car because the Jeep Cherokee started having mechanical problems this year. He recently discovered the vehicle was in an accident before he bought it, a fact he said the dealership didn’t disclose. The dealership, Rotolo Motors, didn’t return requests for comment.

Mr. Schricker hired a lawyer, who is trying to resolve the issue with the dealership. He estimates that even if he sold the vehicle, he would still owe Ally up to $18,000. Ally said it couldn’t comment.

Mr. Schricker, who lives in Bethel Park, Pa., said he didn’t intend to cycle through so many vehicles. He replaced one because it had 100,000 miles and another when he went through a divorce, and he changed cars again when his family was expanding.

Rollover

Car buyers who start out with negative equity, meaning they owe more than the car is worth, tend to have higher rates and higher monthly payments.

Average buyer with negative equity

Average buyer with positive equity

Price for vehicle purchased

Borrowers with negative equity at the time of purchase tend to get longer loan terms, higher interest rates and higher monthly payments, according to Edmunds. The higher rates and longer repayment periods mean a smaller share of their monthly payments goes toward paying down principal in the first few years of the loan. The result for some consumers is a cycle in which each new trade-in leaves them deeper underwater.

Underwater car loans are more prevalent among subprime borrowers, according to ratings firms. That is in part because consumers with lower credit scores often don’t have the means to pay off the remaining balance on one car loan before buying their next vehicle.

If borrowers default, lenders generally repossess the cars and try to resell them, then apply that money to the unpaid balance. Often, though, that isn’t enough to cover the borrower’s unpaid balance.

Yolanda Finley drives a GMC Yukon with more than 188,000 miles on it. She still owes thousands on a car that was repossessed.


Photo:

Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal

Yolanda Finley

of Pomona, Calif., bought a used 2011 Chevy Traverse with a loan of $25,585 from

Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc.


SC 0.08%

in 2014. The loan included a nearly $2,200 balance she owed on her Dodge Durango after she traded it in.

Share Your Story

For a continuing reporting project about debt in America, we’d love to hear from you. Fill out this form and tell us your story.

The Chevy broke down in 2017 shortly after Ms. Finley took it for an oil change and she couldn’t afford the repairs. She says that Valvoline installed a faulty oil filter and she is suing the company. Valvoline said it was aware of her allegations and had no comment.

Ms. Finley, a 38-year-old legal-support assistant, stopped making payments. Santander repossessed the Chevy in 2017 and resold it for $2,400. The lender soon after informed her that she still owed around $27,000, which she hasn’t paid. Santander said it couldn’t comment on a specific customer’s experience.

Ms. Finley currently drives a GMC Yukon with more than 188,000 miles. She bought it from a family friend for $3,500 out of pocket.

Yolanda Finley drives her car to pick up her dad in Pomona, Calif.


Photo:

Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal

She would like to buy another car, but the only loans she has been offered have high interest rates she can’t afford. Her credit reports state she defaulted on her car loan.

Most auto loans are originated at dealerships, which assign loans to a variety of lenders, including banks, credit unions and the finance arms of car manufacturers.

Lenders are typically willing to make the underwater loans, though they often charge high interest rates. Many of the loans are bundled into bonds and snapped up by Wall Street investors.

The added debt can make it difficult for borrowers to stay current. Some 5.2% of outstanding securitized subprime auto-loan balances were at least 60 days past due on a rolling 12-month average during the period ending in June, up from 4.8% the year before and 4.9% two years before, according to Fitch Ratings.

Nicole-Malia Tennent and

Shyanne Fernandez,

both in their early 20s, wanted to trade in the car they shared for something less expensive last year. The friends, who live in Hawaii, ended up splurging on a new vehicle and moving the unpaid loan balance of $12,500 from an older GMC into a new loan for a 2018 GMC Sierra truck.

The rollover debt helped drive up the new loan balance to more than $66,000. The friends now split the payment of more than $900 a month, which they owe to Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union for 84 months. Their old loan was about $500 a month.

Pearl Hawaii said in a statement that the dealership and the borrower worked out the sale agreement. The dealer, Cutter Buick GMC, declined to comment.

The friends have had to cut back elsewhere to pay for the truck.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com and Ben Eisen at ben.eisen@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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The Great Streaming Battle Is Here. No One Is Safe…


A new era is dawning in the entertainment world and you’re about to get a whole lot more choices—for better or worse. The streaming wars are here.

Titans of media and technology are wagering billions that consumers will pay them a monthly fee to stream TV and movies over the internet.

Walt Disney Co.


DIS 3.76%

is launching a $6.99-a-month service next week, following Apple Inc.’s entry earlier this month.

AT&T Inc.


T -0.10%

and

Comcast Corp.


CMCSA 1.10%

’s NBCUniversal next year will mount their own challenges to streaming juggernaut Netflix Inc.

The combatants are fighting on the same battlefield, all seeking to lure in subscribers, but they have radically different motivations—and some have far more at stake than others.

Legacy giants like Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia are racing to reinvent their core media business, which is under assault as consumers turn away from traditional broadcast and cable TV. For them, selling streaming subscriptions to consumers has to work—and has to be profitable. For Apple, while streaming can advance its business, failure is an option.

Consumers will have choices to make as new entrants join the fray: Americans are willing to spend an average of $44 monthly on streaming video and subscribe to an average of 3.6 services, according to a survey of over 2,000 people in recent days by The Wall Street Journal and the Harris Poll. That is up roughly $14 from what most people pay now.

But with so many existing players already in the market—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access and ESPN+, among others—not everyone can emerge victorious. “This market is going to have to shake out — it doesn’t feel like all these players can continue to play this game forever,” said David Wertheimer, a former president of digital products at Fox Networks Group who is now a media and tech investor.

Netflix is in an enviable position with a big head start, but may be in for some turbulence. Nearly one in three Netflix subscribers said they would likely cancel the service in the next three months to make room for a new entrant, according to the Journal-Harris Poll survey. Some 43% of parents with kids under 18 said they were likely to cancel, as did 44% of men ages 18 to 34.

Their stated intentions may not translate into an actual cancellation. There are currently 158 million Netflix subscribers globally.

Netflix, like any subscription business, has regular customer turnover, and some of those who cancel eventually return. “Like the competition, polls come and go,” a Netflix spokesman said. “But years of experience have taught us that consumers want control over when and how they watch—and a wide choice of quality stories across every genre. And that’s what we’ve always focused on providing.”

Streaming Views

The Wall Street Journal and the Harris Poll conducted a survey of roughly 2,000 adults to gauge how much they use streaming services now and how those habits might change as competition intensifies.

Respondents to WSJ-Harris Poll survey

are likely to subscribe

to Disney+.

are likely to subscribe

to HBO Max.

are likely to subscribe to Peacock*.

are likely

to subscribe

to Apple TV+

of Netflix subscribers likely to cancel to make way for new streaming services.

of Netflix subscribers are likely to cancel

to make way for new streaming services.

for parents

of minors.

89% of those likely to subscribe said Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel are major draws.

of those who have the HBO TV channel or HBO Now are likely to convert.

of those likely to subscribe say availability of older shows is important in their decision.

of millennial men are likely to subscribe.

The amount Americans are willing to spend per month to stream their entertainment.

of cable/ satellite TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord within the next year.

say new/original shows and movies make them more likely to subscribe to a service.

The number of streaming services Americans are willing to pay for.

Respondents to WSJ-Harris Poll survey

for parents of minors.

89% of those likely to subscribe said Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel are major draws.

are likely to subscribe

to Disney+.

of those who have the HBO TV channel or HBO Now are likely to convert.

are likely

to subscribe

to Apple TV+

are likely to subscribe to Peacock*.

of those likely to subscribe say availability of older shows is important in their decision.

of respondents are likely to subscribe to Apple TV+

of millennial men are likely to subscribe.

of Netflix subscribers are likely to cancel

to make way for new streaming services†.

of those pointed to popular old shows being available elsewhere.

The amount Americans are willing to spend per month to stream their entertainment.

The number of streaming services Americans are willing to pay for.

of cable/ satellite TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord within the next year.

say new/original shows and movies make them more likely to subscribe to a service.

Respondents to WSJ-Harris Poll survey

of Netflix subscribers are likely to cancel

to make way for new streaming services†.

are likely to subscribe

to Disney+.

are likely to subscribe

to HBO Max.

are likely to subscribe to Peacock*.

are likely

to subscribe

to Apple TV+

for parents

of minors.

89% of those likely to subscribe said Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel are major draws.

of those who have the HBO TV channel or HBO Now are likely to convert.

of those likely to subscribe say availability of older shows is important in their decision.

of millennial men are likely to subscribe.

of those pointed to popular old shows being available elsewhere.

The amount Americans are willing to spend per month to stream their entertainment.

of cable/ satellite TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord within the next year.

say new/original shows and movies make them more likely to subscribe to a service.

The number of streaming services Americans are willing to pay for.

Respondents to WSJ-Harris Poll survey

are likely to subscribe

to Disney+.

are likely to subscribe

to HBO Max.

are likely to subscribe to Peacock*.

are likely

to subscribe

to Apple TV+

of Netflix subscribers are likely to cancel

to make way for new streaming services†.

The amount Americans are willing to spend per month to stream their entertainment.

The number of streaming services Americans are willing to pay for.

say new/original shows and movies make them more likely to subscribe

to a service.

of cable/ satellite TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord within the next year.

Shots have already been fired, with Apple and Disney setting ultracompetitive prices and lavish spending by all parties to stock their services with the hottest programming, whether that is originals from a coveted producer or reruns of a 20-year-old TV classic. The explosion of options risks confusing consumers. Which service has the “The Office,” which has “Seinfeld” and which has “Friends”? How do you sign up?

“The next 18 months are going to be the most interesting in the history of the entertainment business—the grounds are shifting,” said Hollywood veteran Steve Mosko, chief executive of the production company Village Roadshow Entertainment, which is developing projects for multiple streaming outlets.

Franchises and Oldies

Disney surprised the media world with a low price for its Disney+ streaming service that is nearly half of Netflix’s most popular $12.99 monthly plan: Some 47% of survey respondents were likely to subscribe to Disney+. Many were especially enthusiastic about its big franchises—Star Wars and Marvel, for example—as well as its large catalog of children’s classics, from “Cinderella” to “Aladdin” to “Moana.” Disney acquired 21st Century Fox entertainment assets last year for $71.3 billion.

Disney is making a land grab for users now and worrying about profits later on—it expects to break even on the service in 2024. “They were brilliant thinking through the pricing. This is about aggregating consumers,” said analyst

Michael Nathanson.

Disney’s direct contact with its customer base has come mostly through theme parks, Mr. Nathanson said, and the streaming service will allow “a deeper set of connections.” Disney could market its consumer products, cruises or theme parks to streaming customers, some media executives said.

Walt Disney Co. is known for its hit movies and theme parks, like Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. But the company is looking to a new streaming service called Disney+ as a driver of future results.


Photo:

Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Zuma Press

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hulu, which is now controlled by Disney, will become the home to more adult and edgier fare. Disney announced earlier this week that its FX Networks would also produce original shows for Hulu.

Comcast is taking a different path from its peers, reflecting its identity as not just a content owner, but as the country’s leading cable distributor. Peacock, the streaming service from its NBCUniversal unit, is set to launch next April, featuring a bevy of classics like “The Office,” “Frasier” and “Cheers,” plus originals from talent in NBC’s stable. An ad-supported version will be free to people who subscribe to Comcast’s cable TV or broadband services. If the company can reach deals with other cable providers, it could be free to their customers, too.

To some observers, that suggests Comcast wants to protect a traditional cable business that is still lucrative, even if cord-cutting is siphoning customers gradually. “The streaming business puts them in a conflicted place,” said

Gary Newman,

a former chairman of Fox’s television group. “It’s hard to be in on streaming without being fully in on streaming.”

People close to Comcast said the company is deeply committed to the streaming business and is simply taking a different approach.

Comcast is debating various ways to sell Peacock to those who can’t get it through a cable provider. One idea is to offer a limited, free version with ads meant to draw users in—it might not have various hit shows or might limit the number of episodes available, people familiar with Comcast’s deliberations said. A second tier would charge a modest subscription fee and would make all content available, with ads, while a third tier would charge a higher subscription fee with no ads, the people said.

NBC’s prime-time broadcast shows now stream on Hulu. At launch, Peacock will be able to share much of that content, and in September 2022 NBCUniversal will be able to terminate the deal and have most NBC shows exclusively on Peacock, if it chooses, people familiar with the agreement said.

AT&T will be the last of the major entertainment companies to enter the fight, with its HBO Max service slotted for a May 2020 launch. Its biggest challenge: It will be at the top of the market at $14.99 a month.

HBO is in the name, and the service has its entire current and past lineup. But the goal is to have something much broader, for just about everyone—cartoons, superhero movies from the DC franchise (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman), “The Lord of the Rings” movies, and one of the largest and most popular catalogs of re-watchable TV shows, notably “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Some 41% of survey respondents said they would be likely to subscribe. But brand and service confusion might be an issue. The company will encourage people to switch from HBO Now, a different service offering just HBO programming at the same cost, over to HBO Max.

The proliferation of streaming options risks confusing consumers who want to know which service has TV shows like “Friends.” That series now belongs to AT&T’s HBO Max service, which is scheduled to launch in May 2020. The couch featured in the opening of each ‘Friends” episode was on display for investors last month in Burbank, Calif.


Photo:

Getty Images for WarnerMedia

What about people who get HBO on TV? AT&T hopes to get them onto HBO Max by cutting deals with cable and satellite TV providers. If HBO Max pulls in all existing U.S. HBO subscribers, it would have some 35 million subscribers—and from there, would try to build on its base.

900 Million Reasons Why

Apple’s TV+ service, which launched Nov. 1, is part of a broader push into services—including subscriptions and credit cards—as it tries to offset declining sales of iPhones.

The tech powerhouse is charging $4.99 per month for TV+. Its biggest advantage is a base of over 900 million mobile phone users globally. Apple is building a TV ecosystem where it can sell you subscriptions to its own original programs on TV+, plus the ability to add on streaming services run by others—Showtime, HBO and CBS All Access, for example.

The glaring challenge is that TV+ has just nine shows at launch, and no library of past hits, putting a lot of pressure on the company to find a successful show in the early crop.

Other streaming services including Amazon have found it hard to create a hit out of the gate. “There is a lot of pressure on them because of the quality of Apple products,” said Francis Lawrence, an executive producer of “See,” an Apple show about a world where a virus has left mankind blind.

Share Your Thoughts

What would motivate you to pay for a new streaming service? Join the conversation below.

In addition to the giants, startup Quibi next spring plans to launch its own streaming service, which will be tailored to mobile phones and feature short-form content from Hollywood talent.

Six in 10 consumers think the new streaming options are a good development, according to the Journal-Harris Poll survey. Still, those who cut the cable TV cord to save money may very well find themselves paying as much by signing up to multiple streaming services, said TV producer Mike Royce, whose credits include “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“It’s going to be cable again in five years, except it will be streaming services,” Mr. Royce said.

Newcomers

Reese Witherspoon in “The Morning Show,” which premiered November 1 on Apple TV+.


Photo:

Apple

APPLE TV+

Price: $4.99 per month

Launch: Nov. 1

Identity: Would you like some new TV shows with that iPhone?

Portfolio overview: Apple is offering a handful of shows at a low price (or free for a year to those who buy a new device) as well as access to other programming platforms such as HBO and Showtime.

Total programming: Launched with nine programs and plans to drop several more and some original movies in coming months.

Originals of note: “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston and

Reese Witherspoon

; “For All Mankind”

Classic movies: none

TV to rewatch: none

Biggest asset: access to 900 million potential customers (Apple device owners)

Biggest risk: Apple won’t be able to lean on a library of past TV and movie hits. No pressure, Jen and Reese! Apple’s new shows are getting mixed reviews.

Mary Poppins and The Mandalorian are among the entertainment options featured on Disney+.


Photo:

Everett Collection; Disney

DISNEY+

Price: $6.99/mo

Launch: Nov. 12

Identity: Darth Vader meets Elsa

Portfolio overview: TV and movie programming from across Disney’s brands, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, including originals and a deep library of animated classics

Total programming: 7,500 TV episodes, 500 movies

Subscriber target: 60 to 90 million by September 2024

Originals of note: Star Wars’s “The Mandalorian,” “High School Musical,” “Lady and the Tramp” remake

TV to rewatch: 30 seasons of “The Simpsons”

Movie classics: “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Frozen,” “Mary Poppins” and more

Biggest asset: built-in fan base for popular franchises

Biggest risk: Original programming doesn’t meet superfan expectations.

“The Office” will be available on Comcast’s Peacock streaming service in April 2020.


Photo:

NBCUniversal/Getty Images

PEACOCK

Price: Free for Comcast cable and broadband customers; subscription pricing not announced for non-cable customers.

Launch: April 2020

Identity: We are NOT the cable guy.

Portfolio overview: originals from NBC’s best-known creators, plus a big library of classics

Total programming: over 15,000 hours

Subscriber target: None disclosed yet.

Originals of note: “Battlestar Galactica” reboot; “Brave New World” featuring Demi Moore; comedy from Jimmy Fallon

TV to rewatch: “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Cheers,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Movie classics: “ET,” “Jaws,” “Back to the Future”

Biggest asset: rich library of classic programming

Biggest risk: Being late to the game; motivating customers to drop Comcast’s traditional cable service.

HBO Max will have classic movies like “When Harry Met Sally” and current hits like “Succession.”


Photo:

Everett Collection; HBO

HBO MAX

Price: $14.99/mo

Launch: May 2020

Identity: It’s not HBO. It’s…HBO Max!

Portfolio overview: all HBO content; collection of programs and movies across Warner Bros. and cable networks including TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network

Total programming: 10,000 hours

Subscriber target: 75 to 90 million by end of 2025

Originals of note: “College Girls,” a comedy from creator Mindy Kaling; “Strange Adventures,” a DC superhero anthology from producer Greg Berlanti

TV to rewatch: “Friends,” “The West Wing,” “The Big Bang Theory”

Movie classics: “Casablanca,” “When Harry Met Sally”

Biggest asset: the HBO brand

Biggest risk: Consumers may find the price too steep; will shows like “Big Bang Theory” and “Friends” fit easily under the HBO brand?

Incumbents

Netflix is still the streaming juggernaut, with classic movies like “Rocky” original shows like “Stranger Things.”


Photo:

Everett Collection; Netflix

NETFLIX

Price: $12.99 for most popular tier

Launch: streaming since 2007

Identity: Catch me if you can.

Portfolio overview: With a vast library of TV shows and movies and a growing number of popular originals, Netflix doesn’t want to replace one channel. It wants to replace them all.

Total programming: 1500 TV shows, 4000 movies

Subscribers: 158 million world-wide

Originals of note: “Stranger Things,” “The Crown,” “The Irishman”

TV to rewatch: “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and, coming soon, “Seinfeld”

Classic movies: “Rebel Without A Cause,” “Rocky”

Biggest asset: A giant head start

Biggest risk: Lower cost rivals eating into its subscription base; programming costs rising.

“This Is Us” is one of the popular offerings on Hulu, which offers live TV and on-demand entertainment in one place.


Photo:

NBC

HULU

Price: $5.99 with limited ads; $11.99 with no ads; $44.99 for 60+ live channels as well as ad-supported Hulu

Launch: 2008

Subscribers: 28.5 million paid subscribers; majority owner Disney projects 40 million to 60 million subscribers by fiscal 2024.

Identity: Disney after dark

Portfolio overview: Primarily adult dramas and comedies that are too risqué for family-friendly Disney+ or just aren’t a good fit.

Total programming: more than 86,000 TV episodes and 2,000 movies

Originals of note: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Castle Rock,” “Shrill,” “The Act” and “Little Fires”

TV to rewatch: “This Is Us” “Lost,” “ER,” “Rick and Morty”

Movie classics: “Hoosiers,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Fatal Attraction”

Biggest asset: Only streaming service that offers live TV and on-demand all in one place.

Biggest risk: Its strategy gets muddled under Disney’s control. It recently lost bidding wars to keep reruns of “Seinfeld” and “South Park.”

Amazon Prime Video launched in 2011 and now offers classic movies like “True Grit” and original programming like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”


Photo:

Everett Collection(2)

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Price: $8.99/month, or included for those who pay $119/year for Amazon’s Prime shipping service.

Launch: Streaming since 2011

Identity: Thank you for purchasing the book. Would you like to see the movie?

Portfolio overview: A growing slate of originals, plus a huge library of older shows and movies. The tech company’s video offerings are like the rest of the site: labyrinthine.

Total programming: Amazon doesn’t disclose this statistic. A

Barclays

2016 report estimated Prime Video had over 18,000 movies and nearly 2000 episodes of TV shows.

Originals of note: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Jack Ryan”

Classic movies: “True Grit,” “To Catch a Thief”

TV to rewatch: “Family Ties,” “Roseanne”

Biggest asset: Amazon Prime has over 100 million members, a huge potential audience.

Biggest risk: Dabbling in entertainment when its competitors are going all out against each other.

CBS All Access currently has 36 movies and 12,000 TV episodes, including “Star Trek: Discovery.”.


Photo:

CBS

CBS ALL ACCESS

Price: $5.99 (with limited commercials), $9.99 (commercial free); both include live stream of CBS network

Launch: 2014

Identity: This isn’t your father’s streaming service … really!

Portfolio overview: a large library of current and older TV shows, a smattering of movies and a growing number of originals

Total programming: 12,000 TV episodes; currently 36 movies

Originals of note: “The Good Fight,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “The Twilight Zone”

Classic movies: “An Officer and A Gentleman,” The Graduate,” “Moonstruck”

TV to rewatch: “The Brady Bunch,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “I Love Lucy.”

Biggest asset: experience, having been in the market for years

Biggest risk: Being able to keep pace with bigger competitors while also providing programming to Netflix and other streaming rivals.

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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BLOOMBERG TO SKIP IA, NH…


WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Bloomberg plans to skip early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire if he launches a presidential bid and instead focus his efforts on the crush of states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond. It’s a strategy that acknowledges the limitations of entering the race at this late stage and the opportunities afforded by the billionaire’s vast personal wealth.

Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson says other candidates already have a big head start in the first four states to vote — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and Bloomberg needs to be realistic about where he can make up ground.

“If we run, we are confident we can win in states voting on Super Tuesday and beyond, where we will start on an even footing,” Wolfson said. Nearly a quarter of primary delegates up for grabs in the March 3 Super Tuesday contests.

Bloomberg qualified Friday to get on the ballot in Alabama, one of the Super Tuesday states. His team is also making plans to file in Arkansas, which has a Tuesday deadline.

Bloomberg’s candidacy has the potential to upend the Democratic race less than three months before primary voting begins. The billionaire businessman initially ruled out a 2020 run, but began to reconsider in recent weeks, citing concerns about the ability of the current crop of contenders to defeat President Donald Trump.

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Bloomberg himself has called prominent Democrats to alert them to his likely run, and his staff is scrambling to meet fast-approaching primary filing deadlines.

Among those Bloomberg has reached out to: Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who remains popular in the state. Vilsack told The Associated Press that Bloomberg called him Thursday evening and left a voicemail indicating he plans to run.

“He is in,” Vilsack said of Bloomberg’s message.

Despite the outreach to Vilsack, advisers say Bloomberg would not make a serious play for votes in Iowa and the other early states. Other candidates in the crowded field have spent months courting voters there and building campaign operations.

The early states offer just a small percentage of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. But victories there typically give candidates crucial momentum that helps carry them into bigger states with more delegates on the line.

Bloomberg is calculating that he could build an advantage in those states now with his ability to quickly pour money into staff, television advertising and other campaign operations while other candidates are competing elsewhere.

Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic strategist based in Los Angeles, said he doesn’t think skipping the early voting states is ever a viable strategy.

“I don’t think you can just hopscotch around the calendar to suit your own political purposes,” Carrick said. “You skip the early states, you’re going to have a difficult time. I don’t see any evidence that strategy ever works.”

Officials in Iowa and New Hampshire said they were disappointed in Bloomberg’s decision. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said it was unfortunate that Bloomberg won’t “be tested the same way that the other Democratic candidates have been and will be.”

Bloomberg has spent the past few weeks talking with prominent Democrats about the state of the race, expressing concerns about the steadiness of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and the rise of liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to people with knowledge of those discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity to relay details of private conversations.

Biden, campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday, welcomed Bloomberg to the race.

“Michael’s a solid guy, and let’s see where it goes,” he told reporters. “I have no problem with him getting in the race.”

Bloomberg’s moves come as the Democratic race enters a crucial phase. Biden’s front-runner status has been vigorously challenged by Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are flush with cash from small-dollar donors. But both are viewed by some Democrats as too liberal to win in a general election faceoff with Trump.

Trump told reporters Friday that Bloomberg might well spend “a lot of money” but “doesn’t have the magic to do well.” Trump suggested he’d easily beat the former mayor and fellow billionaire.

“Little Michael will fail,” Trump said at the White House, adding, “There is nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael, that I can tell you.”

Despite a historically large field, some Democrats anxious about defeating Trump have been looking for other options. Former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick have quietly had conversations with supporters urging them to consider a run, but neither appears likely to get in the race.

Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who registered as a Democrat last year, has flirted with a presidential run before but ultimately backed down, including in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in that race and, in a speech at the Democratic Party convention, pummeled Trump as a con who has oversold his business successes.

Bloomberg instead plunged his efforts and his money into gun control advocacy and climate change initiatives. He again looked seriously at a presidential bid earlier this year, traveling to early voting states and conducting extensive polling, but decided not to run in part because of Biden’s perceived strength.

___

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Washington; Alexandra Jaffe and Kathleen Ronayne in Des Moines, Iowa; Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I.; and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.



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BIDEN PLAYS IT COOL…


Concord (United States) (AFP) – New York business tycoon Michael Bloomberg has paved the way for a shot at the US presidency, registering as a candidate in the Alabama Democratic primary race before Friday’s filing deadline.

Although the 77-year-old billionaire has not publicly announced his run, his inclusion among a crowded field kept his options open for mounting a concerted bid to topple a fellow New Yorker, President Donald Trump.

Analysts say a Bloomberg candidacy could do the most damage to the prospects of frontrunner Joe Biden, but the former vice president put on a brave face Friday and said he was not worried Bloomberg would draw away centrist voters.

Bloomberg’s name was posted among 17 candidates on the Alabama Democratic Party’s website only hours before registration closed.

Alabama is not one of the early primaries but it has the earliest deadline to register.

Biden, who will also turn 77 on November 20, has placed himself in the political center with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren run to his left.

“Michael’s a solid guy,” Biden told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire, while registering to take part in the February primary in the northeastern state.

“I have no, no problem with him getting in the race,” Biden said. “And in terms of he’s running because of me, last polls I looked at I’m pretty far ahead.

“If I’m not mistaken I’m doing pretty well, both relative to Trump and relative to all the people running,” he said.

Jason Mollica of American University said the entry of Bloomberg in the race could be “an indication that he believes the Democrats do not have a strong candidate that can defeat President Trump.”

“Mr Biden’s campaign isn’t the strength it was at the start and if Mr Bloomberg gains the support of the centrists in the Democratic Party, that is a big sign for Mr Biden the party doesn’t feel he’s the right candidate, either,” Mollica said.

Kyle Kondik of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia said a Bloomberg run could conceivably draw support away from Biden but it remains to be seen how much backing he’ll receive in a crowded field.

“At first blush, yes, one might think Bloomberg would hurt Biden more than others,” Kondik said. “But we have to remember that sometimes voters don’t fit neatly into ideological categories.

“While neither is running hard to the left and both are older white men, voters might perceive key differences between them,” Kondik said. “Bloomberg has to actually show he can draw significant support in order to hurt Biden.”

– ‘Doesn’t have the magic’ –

Trump weighed in Friday on a potential Bloomberg bid.

“Little Michael will fail,” Trump told reporters in a reference to the stature of the 5ft, 8in (1.73m) Bloomberg. “He doesn’t have the magic to do well.

“There’s nobody I’d rather run against than little Michael,” Trump added. “He’s not going to do well but I think he’s going to hurt Biden actually.”

Bloomberg said back in March he wouldn’t run, but has been toying for weeks with the idea of seeking the White House after all, according to advisors.

“We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated — but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

“Based on his record of accomplishment, leadership and his ability to bring people together to drive change, Mike would be able to take the fight to Trump and win,” Wolfson added, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg, co-founder and CEO of the media and financial information company that bears his name, is one of the richest people in the United States according to Forbes, worth $52.4 billion.

His huge personal wealth would likely shake up the contest at a time when Biden’s fundraising is sagging.

Bloomberg, who was elected mayor of the Big Apple in 2001 and served until 2013, is seen as close to Wall Street and opposed to some of the policies espoused by the more liberal Warren and Sanders.

His entry would bloat an already crowded field of contenders, with 17 candidates vying for the right to take on Trump in November 2020 as the Democratic nominee.

Bloomberg has switched between the Republican and Democratic parties over the years and also served as an independent mayor.

He has used some of his fortune to back Democratic politicians and fund policies that he believes in — including gun control and the fight against climate change.

Bloomberg considered running for president as an independent in 2016 but eventually opted not to for fear of splitting the Democratic vote.



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WSJ: Could be strong nominee…


Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Oct. 10.


Photo:

Martin Sylvest/EPA/Shutterstock

The news that Michael Bloomberg might compete for the Democratic presidential nomination is causing consternation on the political left. But that’s all the more reason to welcome his candidacy to challenge a vulnerable President

Trump

next year.

“Memo to Bloomberg: Democratic Voters Don’t Want More Candidates” blared a headline Thursday night on the left-wing Huffington Post urging the former New York Mayor to stay out. The piece was the first we saw of what will be many lecturing Democratic voters that they should be happy with their field and don’t need a billionaire. But if that’s true, then the party’s progressives have nothing to worry about.

The truth they don’t want to admit is that the Democrats now leading in the primary polls have major vulnerabilities.

Bernie Sanders

and

Elizabeth Warren

want to blow up American capitalism and replace it with their top-down, socialist designs. Their agenda might scare suburban voters more than four more years of Mr. Trump does.

Joe Biden

often stumbles with his words on the stump and can’t escape the Ukraine imbroglio if impeachment goes to a Senate trial. He’s also low on money.

Pete Buttigieg

is a glib and clever 37-year-old, but his only political experience is as the mediocre mayor of a small and struggling city.

Kamala Harris

has been exposed as unprepared for the national stage and is running on her identity far more than ideas. Others like

Amy Klobuchar

have appeal as potential Presidents, but they haven’t shown they can attract a large primary following.

No wonder Mr. Bloomberg thinks he might have a chance. As three-term mayor of New York, he has more executive experience than anyone of the field. As a successful entrepreneur, he understands the private economy better than any candidate other than

John Delaney,

also a former CEO. Those would both be significant campaign assets against Mr. Trump in a general election.

His bigger challenge would be getting the Democratic nomination. Success in business is a liability on the Democratic left that is increasingly detached from the private economy and wealth creation. Progressives resent his wealth more than see it as a sign of ability.

Mr. Bloomberg also clashed with the teachers unions by promoting charter schools and teacher accountability in New York. And his stellar record in reducing crime, including support for such policies as stop-and-frisk, isn’t popular with the social-justice left.

On the other hand, Mr. Bloomberg is no conservative. He is a down-the-line cultural liberal, he has become the leading national financier for candidates who support gun control, and he is a zealot on climate change who would regulate coal out of business (we’re not sure about natural gas). None of these would be obstacles in the Democratic primaries.

The main reason to welcome Mr. Bloomberg into the race is to shake up what has become a stagnant Democratic contest and give voters another choice. He has the money to educate the public about the folly of Medicare for All and other progressive dreams. Though at age 77 he’s a generational peer of Mr. Biden and would compete for some of the same voters, Mr. Bloomberg appears more vigorous.

As is his habit, Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Bloomberg’s chances on Friday, saying “there’s nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael.” But behind that familiar bluster, Mr. Trump knows (or should know) that he is in real danger of losing re-election.

Mr. Trump has never expanded his support beyond his base and by conventional measures for an incumbent he is the underdog. His average job approval is under 44% and millions of swing voters want an alternative who looks like a stable, safe choice. They’d also like a Democratic nominee who doesn’t want to hand over another 10% or 20% of the private economy to the federal government.

Mr. Bloomberg’s views and background are heterodox enough that as President he might even be able to break up some of the calcified status quo. The primaries would test if Mr. Bloomberg could be that candidate, which may be what Mr. Trump really fears.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s health-care plan let the cat out of the bag: Progressivism is just pie in the sky. Image: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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