Mickey to DeSantis: Fuggedaboutit 

Walt Disney Co. ended its impasse with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, withdrawing one lawsuit and putting another on hold, while it draws a new map for a planned $17 billion investment in Disney World, the company’s Orlando-based theme park. In 2022, Disney took offense at DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law, pledging to roll it back. In turn, DeSantis replaced the Disney-controlled special commission that ran the roads and sewers in and around the park, calling it an illegal private government, and Disney’s investment plan ground to a halt. 

This week, as a concession, DeSantis has installed a more Disney-friendly leadership at the commission — renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. 

Both sides declared it a victory. “It looks to me like both sides called ‘uncle,’” Richard Foglesong, who wrote a book about Disney and the Florida government, told the Associated Press. “Disney has an interest in ending this and so does the oversight board,” he said. “So, they both win.”

BlackRock’s chief, worried about America aging into poverty, asks if it’s time to raise the retirement age

Larry Fink runs BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, managing more than $10 trillion. He’s also 71 years old, and an aging America weighs on his mind. In his annual letter to the company’s investors released this week, Fink warns that while the U.S. is great at devising drugs and medical procedures to help people live longer, fewer and fewer of us will be able to afford a comfortable life when we retire. Fink says it’s no surprise millennials and Gen Z are economically anxious. “They believe my generation — the Baby Boomers — have focused on their own financial well-being to the detriment of who comes next. And in the case of retirement, they’re right… before my generation fully disappears from positions of corporate and political leadership, we have an obligation to change that,” he wrote. 

Fink has a plan to make that change. 

Part one: Get more people invested in the capital markets, he says, noting a 2022 Census survey that showed half of Americans don’t have a single dollar in retirement savings. Fink wants new government-backed programs like ones already operating in 22 states, and obligating companies to automatically enroll workers in 401(k) plans.

Part two: Raise the retirement age. “We should start having the conversation," Fink wrote. “When people are regularly living past 90, what should the average retirement age be?” 

Can China bounce back?

China’s supreme leader, President and Communist Party Chair Xi Jinping, is anxious to reassure investors, especially Americans, that his country is still a good place to do business. Yet he is facing down an economy that is struggling to rebound from three years of pandemic isolation, hampered by a massive real estate crisis, high local government debt, industrial overcapacity, youth unemployment and lackluster consumer consumption. Last year’s 5.2 percent growth rate was well below pre-pandemic averages and is set to decline for the next four years, while foreign direct investment collapsed in 2023. 

On Wednesday Xi told CEOs from several major U.S. firms, including Blackstone, Bloomberg, Fedex and Qualcomm, that he is working to make China more attractive to them. But that’s going to be a hard sell, as Xi is simultaneously increasing the Communist Party’s grip on business, with state-sponsored hacking, raids on consulting firms, and new national security laws. In August, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimundo said U.S. firms told her China was “uninvestable because it’s become too risky.” It may also just not be the hot market it once was. 

Noticeably absent from the meeting with Xi: Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose iPhones are facing competition from China’s Huawei, and from new rules barring some government workers from buying Apple phones — February shipments to China were down 33 percent from 2023. 

Baltimore bridge collapse expected to have huge knock-on effect on U.S. economy

When a Singapore-registered container ship called the Dali smashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge in the early hours of Tuesday morning, it not only brought down a vast span of the 1.6-mile-long bridge, it also brought chaos to America’s already stretched logistics and supply chains. Docks including Dundalk, made famous in the second season of David Simon’s HBO hit, “The Wire,” will be shut for at least three weeks as salvage crews fish the bridge’s 1,200-foot-long steel span from the Patapsco River to open a safe shipping channel. 

As the 17th busiest port in the country, and the leading port for roll-on, roll-off cargo (like cars — nearly 850,000 last year), Baltimore’s port received $59 billion in imports, and exported $22 billion of goods last year. Ten ships are reported stuck in port, and dozens more have had to reroute. The cargo they’re scheduled to pick up will have to be moved to a new port by truck or rail. Some 15,000 people work in the port, which supports another 140,000 jobs, so every week the port is closed will be a hit to families in the area. A Towson University economist says the closure will cost the region’s economy about $15 million a day. 

The bridge’s collapse will have an even bigger effect. It took four years to build the bridge, which carries about 35,000 cars a day, many of them passing through Baltimore on Interstate 95, traveling toward Florida or New England. And there’s not much hope of making the ship’s owners pay for much of the damage. They’re hidden behind an international chain of shell companies and a 19th-century law that limits liability to the value of the ship and its cargo. That law was famously invoked in 1912 by the owners of the Titanic.

It’s a nepo world: Young homebuyers expect parents to make their down payment

It’s not just interest rates and record prices that are blocking a new generation of homebuyers. Many millennials and Gen Zers have no savings to use for a down payment on a new home. More than one-third (36 percent) of Gen Zers and millennials who plan to buy a home soon say they expect to receive a cash gift from their family to help fund their down payments, according to a survey last month of 3,000 homeowners and renters by the online brokerage Redfin. 

That’s up from 18 percent in a similar survey taken in 2019. Sixteen percent of Gen Zers and millennials say they’ll use an inheritance to help fund their down payments, and 13 percent appear to have given up on buying and even renting, saying they plan to live with their parents or other family members. For those who are going to fund their own down payments in whole or in part, 6 percent said they will fund it from their paychecks, and 39 percent say they’ll work a second job (there’s some major overlap in that category). 

The causes are multiple and manifest: This generation’s wages are lower than their parents’ were, they are struggling under a record $610 billion in student debt (just for those under age 35), and home prices are up about 40 percent from before the pandemic. 

“Young Americans who don’t have family money are often shut out of homeownership,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “The American Dream is just as much about class mobility as it is the home with a white-picket fence, and the housing affordability crisis has made both elements of the dream harder to attain.”

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