Does anyone really know what’s going on in the global economy? The Fed, apparently, does not. While still expressing confidence in its economic forecast, the central bank changed its guidance for interest rates yesterday, projecting the fed funds rate will rise no further than 2.375% by the end of 2018 – rather than the 3% they projected in March. And many analysts are questioning whether the Fed is willing to raise rates even that much. “It is unclear how the FOMC will ever be able to guide the markets to expect an official rate hike since they have a pattern of never following through on their words or guideposts,” said AllianceBernstein’s Joe Carson.
The Fed’s uncertainty is driven by a dismal May jobs report and a possible Brexit vote. By the fall, the worriers will be focused on U.S. elections, or some other wayward data point. The bottom line is that we are stuck in a low interest rate world, and seem likely to remain there for the indefinite future.
The full ramifications of this adventure in monetary policy are impossible to predict. But there will be ramifications. We are in uncharted waters, and the pilot needs new glasses.
More news below.
• Uber’s China rival raises billions
Ride-hailing startup Didi Chuxing has closed on a financing round worth $7.3 billion, including an investment from Apple, as a battle to control the world’s second-largest economy continues to heat up with Uber. The total round was formed from a $4.5 billion equity raise from Apple, which invested $1 billion into Didi, as well as other investments, a syndicated loan and long-term debt investments. Didi is planning to use the funds to upgrade technology for big data research and operations as well as investing in improving rider and driving experience, as well as exploring new business opportunities. While the Chinese start-up has raised around $10.5 billion in total, Uber has raised more with $14.11 billion. CNBC
• Walmart is cutting jobs
The world’s biggest retailer is cutting more jobs in its push to improve in-store efficiency. Walmart is eliminating three administrative jobs related to accounting and invoicing at each of 500 stores, mostly West of Colorado, in a test to see if those functions can be replaced by workers in the home office and machines. The cuts come as Walmart looks to shift more of its spending to employees who work on the store floor stocking shelves and interacting with customers. The jobs that are being eliminated, which involve counting cash or managing invoices for suppliers, could be expanded to other stores. Fortune
• Envision Healthcare, AmSurg to merge
Envision Healthcare and AmSurg agreed to merge in a deal that will create a company worth about $10 billion that provides a range of hospital-related services. The all-stock deal, which the companies confirmed on Wednesday, will result in Envision shareholders owning about 53% of the new company, which is to be named Envision Healthcare Corp. The new firm will be led by Envision Chairman and Chief Executive William Sanger, who will become executive chairman, and AmSurg CEO Christopher Holden, who will maintain that role. The deal is part of a bigger tend of consolidation in the hospital and health-insurance industries in recent years, as there has been pressure to bulk up to keep up with customers, rivals and suppliers. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Iran deal to buy Boeing jets worries Washington
A deal between Iran and Boeing for the purchase of more than 100 commercial airliners prompted some strong objections in Congress, even before the agreement is finalized. “To say we have national security concerns would be an understatement,” said U.S. Rep. Peter J. Roskam, R-Ill. If approved, the multi-billion-dollar agreement would mark the first time new American aircraft have been sold to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which led to four decades of estrangement between the two nations. The deal with Boeing would also be the largest commercial agreement between a U.S. firm and Tehran since some sanctions were lifted six months ago. Rival Airbus, meanwhile, signed a deal several months ago to sell 73 wide-body planes and 45 single-aisle planes to Iran for commercial use in a deal that media reports said was worth $27 billion. USA Today
• FireEye rejects takeover bids
FireEye hired Morgan Stanley to explore a sale but has since rejected at least two takeover offers this year, including one from Symantec, as they were both reportedly below expectations. The cyber security company is looking for offers of around $30 per share – the stock currently sits at a little over $16, valuing FireEye at about $2.66 billion. Symantec, meanwhile, on Sunday said it would buy privately held cyber security company Blue Coat for $4.65 billion to ramp up its enterprise security business. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
• GM testing rear seat sensors
General Motors has developed a new sensor technology for the automaker’s GMC Acadia crossover SUV that alerts drivers to check the backseat. Why? That technology could help keep kids and pets from dying in hot cars, the company says. The rear seat reminder is activated anytime either rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or if the doors opened and closed while the vehicle is running (two signs that children or pets are being placed in the back seat). The next time the vehicle is turned off after door activation, the Acadia makes chimes and displays a message: “Look in Rear Seat.” Fortune
• Disney’s China theme park marks debut
Disney marked the official ribbon cutting at the company’s new park in Shanghai on Thursday, toasting the company’s largest overseas investment at around $5.5 billion – a big bet on the nation’s middle class and booming domestic tourism. The company is hoping success in China can help offset an otherwise lackluster international theme park performance. Disney estimates that 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai will be able to afford to come to the park. The gala was rained off on Wednesday night, while at Disney’s park in Orlando, Florida, a young boy was grabbed by an alligator and killed, generating top headlines for most of the day as a search was conducted to locate the child’s body. Reuters