It has been an eventful week for the stock market, and not in a good way. Catch up on the latest business here, and then head over to the Styles section, where we’re collecting your stories about the weird, awkward world of workplace culture. After all, nothing soothes economic fears quite like lighthearted office gossip.
What’s Up? (Aug. 11-17)
A Shame About Your Stock Portfolio
If you’re one of the many people fretting about a recession, last week gave you more cause for concern. Markets around the world took a bruising after new data showed that Germany’s economy — Europe’s biggest — was barreling toward a recession of its own, while China’s factory output fell to its slowest pace in 17 years. As spooked investors rushed to safe government bonds, returns on those bonds plunged to a level not seen since 2007, stoking fears that another 2008 is around the corner (or a downturn, at least). The culprit? Analysts are pointing to the trade war between the United States and China, which doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.
Christmas in August
Speaking of the trade war: After a call with Chinese officials on Tuesday, President Trump scaled back his latest threat to aggressively expand tariffs on Chinese goods on Sept. 1. Instead, he delayed the new tariffs on several products — including cellphones, toys and laptop computers — until Dec. 15, and scrapped plans for other levies entirely. His decision gives stores time to stock their shelves for the holidays. (Not even a trade war can get between Americans and their Christmas shopping.) It also shows that Mr. Trump is increasingly caught between his promise to play hardball with China and mounting pressure to keep the American economy strong heading into the 2020 election.
The Epstein Aftermath
What secrets did the financier Jeffrey Epstein claim to know about the most powerful people in the tech and Wall Street worlds? We’ll never find out. But investigations into his relationships, business and otherwise, will continue after his death by apparent suicide last weekend. Federal prosecutors will now focus on the people whom Mr. Epstein’s accusers have implicated in schemes to exploit underage girls, which date back more than a decade. And if Mr. Epstein really knew what he said he did about the illicit affairs of his elite circle, there are some big names who would rather their secrets went to the grave.
What’s Next? (Aug. 18-24)
General Electric has been accused of a $38 billion accounting fraud, equivalent to 40 percent of its value. The whistle-blower is Harry Markopolos, who was behind the first reports of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. He claims that G.E. is “a bankruptcy waiting to happen” and that the fraud is “bigger than Enron and WorldCom combined.” G.E.’s chief executive, Larry Culp, vigorously denied the allegations in Mr. Markopolos’s 170-page report, calling them “market manipulation — pure and simple.” But you can bet that he’ll be in the hot seat in the coming weeks.
WeWork Takes the Floor
WeWork, the business that transforms giant buildings into shared office and living spaces for freelancers and entrepreneurs (with slick décor and free beer on tap, naturally), is gearing up to go public. Its financial prospectus, which was filed with regulators on Wednesday, revealed huge growth — and disturbing losses. WeWork is backed by funding from Saudi Arabia, which may raise red flags for some investors. Others might take issue with the company’s lack of profits, despite its rapid expansion. Currently valued at nearly $50 billion, it’s the second-largest “unicorn” — a privately held start-up valued at $1 billion or more — to make an initial public offering this year. The biggest was Uber, whose I.P.O. didn’t go so well, as you may recall.
What the Fed Knows
Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July meeting will be released Wednesday, shedding more light on the discussions that led to the Fed’s first interest rate cut since the financial crisis. Scintillating stuff! But now that the economy is showing even more signs of weakness, analysts will be looking for hints about how soon the Fed may cut rates again, and by how much. The topic will surely be up for discussion this week among the who’s who of monetary policy gathering for the annual central banking symposium in a secluded area of Jackson Hole in Wyoming. The theme of this year’s summit is “Challenges for Monetary Policy,” so it sounds like things could get wild out there.
Facing a backlash about warehouse conditions, Amazon has unleashed a phalanx of employee representatives, known as “FC ambassadors,” to tweet about how great it is to work there. Unsurprisingly, critics aren’t buying their claims. Also mired in P.R. troubles: Patrick Byrne, the chief executive of the e-commerce giant Overstock.com. On Wednesday, he revealed that he had been romantically involved with Maria Butina, the Russian agent who is serving prison time after being accused of spying on the United States. Now for some good news: Scientists have cracked the avocado genome, which could help the $13 billion avocado market by increasing the productivity of avocado trees and improving disease resistance. (No word on whether they can genetically modify them to grow tortilla chip leaves, but let’s assume they’re working on it.)