Biden in Florida, Dreams of Utopia: Your Saturday US Briefing

Something for the weekend.

(Bloomberg) — All hail Labor Day Weekend, when we honor workers by taking off Monday to enjoy what may be the last of the summer cookouts. Makes total sense to me.  The rest of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1, while Hawaii adds a flowery twist by honoring Lei Day on May Day.

Although August overall was a stock market disappointment, the S&P 500 index added a healthy 2.5% last week, the second straight gain and its best showing since June. Investors shrugged off concern about higher interest rates as reports showed everything from wage growth to consumer confidence cooled just enough to boost the Fed’s policy stance, without portending a recession.US stocks are a better bet than investments in Europe or China, according to Max Kettner, HSBC’s chief multi-asset strategist. Inflation here is cooling even as the economy grows at just over 2%, and excitement around artificial intelligence more than compensates for recession fears. In contrast, higher interest rates threaten to mire Europe in 1970s-style stagflation and real estate issues in China continue to crush consumer spending. For more on China’s economic slowdown, check out our newsletter from Beijing.  

President Biden will be spending today in Florida, surveying the damage from Hurricane Idalia with Republican Senator Rick Scott. Governor Ron DeSantis, who hopes to represent the GOP in the 2024 presidential election, isn’t expected to join them. Biden has asked Congress for a total of $16 billion in aid for the hurricane-hit Southeast and other regions slammed by fires or flooding including Maui, Louisiana and Vermont. That’s $4 billion more from just a few weeks ago. The request faces Republican opposition on Capitol Hill. Bloomberg Opinion columnist Jonathan Levin has written a thoughtful editorial on manufactured-home parks in the Sun Belt and why lawmakers need to improve the planning and oversight of this form of affordable housing and the investors that control them.  Over in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is facing calls to step down by the conservative National Review after the 81-year-old minority leader had a second public freeze in as many months. Some Republicans question whether their top tactician and fundraising magnet is up to the task of reclaiming the majority in the 2024 elections. 

Remember NFTs? It’s only two years or so since a Singapore-based collector paid $69.3 million for a non-fungible token of a digital artwork by Beeple (aka Mike Winkelmann). Then, NFTs were the next big thing in crypto. Now, not so much. Also worth noting is that the overall size of the stablecoin universe contracted in August for a 17th consecutive month, dropping 0.4% to around $125 billion, CCData said.  Still, at least the  technology that underpins NFTs and cryptocurrency is gaining traction in the world of luxury. Via your phone, blockchain will now tell you if your Miu Miu bag is a fake.

Jimmy Buffett, the all-American musician turned mogul who spun his beach bum folk-rock hits into a prolific business empire, has died at 76. With songs like “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Buffett created a light-hearted and chilled-out brand characterized by cocktails and good times. 


And lastly, you may have heard about the group of super-rich tech people secretly buying up farm land in Northern California with a plan to build a utopian city. Good luck to them. Rezoning agricultural land for residential and commercial use will be no easy task and could take years. Also, the locals are furious. “We’re going to do everything we can to stop this,” says Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy.Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

–With assistance from Adam Majendie.

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