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News From the Control Tower - 5/27/2020

This week’s reads feature:

1. The threat of the spread of infection complicates any return to the office.  Can a company risk having employees back if a whole floor of their office gets sick at one time?

Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office

2. You can now own a 20-year treasury bond.

The government is bringing back a bond from the 1980s to help pay off a record deficit

3. Many struggle to pay their bills, resulting in mortgage defaults.  The recently passed CARES Act does not provide relief for non-federally backed home loans.

Mortgage delinquencies surge by 1.6M in April, the biggest monthly jump ever

4. The Guggenheim in New York is closed, but curators had already installed a crop of cherry tomatoes as part of its upcoming “Countryside” show.  The “indoor crop specialist” works in the museum to harvest the tomatoes and donate them to City Harvest.

 The Museum Is Closed, but Its Tomato Man Soldiers On

5.  Our current economic downturn resulted from an event: coronavirus lockdowns.  Economies typically recover from event-driven recessions quicker than other types of recessions.  One danger lurking on the horizon is the high level of corporate debt, which has the potential to turn this into a structural recession with a much longer road to recovery. This New Yorker piece from John Cassidy gives a great overview of the state of our over-leveraged system.

 "Here we are, in an over-leveraged system that gets hit by a pandemic. It's hard to see how the Fed or the country can extract themselves from that in any reasonable time frame."

The Coronavirus Is Exposing Wall Street’s Reckless Gamble on Bad Debt

6. Ryan Cooper argues that inflation would be great for the American economy, allowing the Fed to raise interest rates and spur economic growth.  Much of his argument depends on policy choices by our current and future governments – a very difficult field to predict.

The coronavirus might cause inflation — and that's a good thing

Bonus: The disputed sale of the Ritz in London by the Barclays family unleashed a lot of drama – bugged conversations, private investigators, and a lawsuit. The billionaire patriarchs, twins David and Frederick Barclay, normally live a discreet life on a tiny island off the UK coast. The recent Ritz sale and subsequent squabble amongst their children and grandchildren have forced their family into the limelight.

Bugging the Ritz, Private Investigators and Billionaires at War