Kitco daily macro-economic/business digest - May 26
U.S. Debt-Limit Deal in Sight as Negotiators Work on $70,000 Gap
In Today's Digital Newspaper
U.S. core PCE inflation rises more than expected. Core PCE prices in the U.S., which exclude food and energy, rose by 0.4% month-over-month in April, above market expectations of 0.3%. The annual rate, the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation, inched up to 4.7%, also above market expectations of 4.6%.
Inflation data prompts dramatic swing in rate-hike expectations. CME Fed funds futures this morning swung to favoring a rate increase of 25 basis points at the June 13-14 Fed meeting. After the inflation data came in stronger than expected, probabilities for a 25-basis-point increase rose to 62% with odds for a steady rate decision falling to 38%. Those odds had moved to nearly even Thursday but had shifted back to favoring a steady rate decision ahead of the U.S. data.
Some possible key elements of a coming debt-limit package:
- Debt limit would be increased or suspended into 2025.
- Domestic spending over two years would be capped, though by how much is murky.
- Defense spending would be allowed to rise 3% per year, in line with President Biden's budget request.
- In a win for Republicans, Congress would take back $10 billion of the $80 billion it had allocated to the IRS. to bolster enforcement.
- Work in progress: Stiffer work requirements for social safety net programs.
- Almost complete: Overhauling how domestic energy and power projects are approved (permitting). Fast-tracking permits stands to greenlight new oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, a priority for many Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, including Sen Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) A compromise under discussion was to pair modest changes to NEPA, such as setting a mandatory time frame for approving energy projects, with measures to upgrade the nation's power grid for renewable energy.
- Agreement could include a measure to upgrade the nation's electric grid to accommodate renewable energy.
- Tuesday is emerging as the likely day for a House vote. The Senate would then have to act quickly to send it to President Biden's desk before June 1, the date by which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said her department could run out of cash.
- Major unknown: Will the votes be there in both chambers to clear a package that will have big numbers of naysayers from each political party.
The Treasury Department said its cash balance had sunk to just under $50 billion, down from $140 billion on May 12 and the lowest since 2021. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government could run out of cash as soon as June 1.
The Biden administration is looking at a contingency plan that was created after the 2011 debt-ceiling impasse. Under the plan, federal agencies would submit payments to the Treasury no sooner than the day before they're due. By contrast, under the current system payment files may be submitted well before their due dates. If the Treasury doesn't have enough funds to make a full day's worth of payments, it would likely delay paying them until it does. The Treasury has been preparing for possibly delaying some payments after June 1.
China's top rating firm has been the first to pull the trigger on a ratings downgrade of the U.S.
Supreme Court further restricts EPA' s power. The high court limited the agency's authority over wetlands (WOTUS rule), in the second decision over the past year to circumscribe the regulator's powers. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with liberal colleagues in warning that a majority-backed test for determining EPA jurisdiction contradicted previous Supreme Court rulings and could lead to more pollution. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the significant nexus test and Kavanaugh clerked for him, so some speculate he likely took a stance in deference to his old boss. Details in Policy section.
Report: Farm bill is a high-stakes climate fight flying below the radar. Details in Policy section.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, met amid tensions over China's ban of the U.S. chipmaker Micron. Details in China section.
Major agriculture traders mull merger. One of the world's largest grain traders Bunge is reportedly in talks to merge with rival trading company Viterra, part-owned by the Switzerland-based major Glencore, six years after a failed takeover attempt by the latter. More in Markets section.
Russia and China are looking to increase their trade in agricultural goods, with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin stating that Russian farmers are prepared to significantly increase exports to China.
More wheat in Chinese feed rations. See China section.
North Africa is currently facing a significant drought that is severely impacting wheat harvests, leading to the region's largest record of imports. See Markets section.
Dow, New Energy Blue unveil deal to make renewable plastic from corn residue. Details in Energy section.
The number of scheduled meetings regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final plan for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2023 and beyond has increased to 22. Details in Energy section.
Could Democrats redraw New York's House map for 2024? It's complicated, says Dave Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.
Memorial Day weekend will kick off a busy summer travel season. Around 42 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, up 7% from last year. It will be another test for airlines and the FAA.
Equities today: Asian and European stock markets were mixed overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward mixed openings. In Asia, Japan +0.4%. Hong Kong -1.9%. China +0.4%. India +1%. In Europe, at midday, London +0.2%. Paris +0.2%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
U.S. equities yesterday: U.S. equities ended narrowly mixed with the Dow weaker and gains in the Nasdaq and S&P 500. The Dow was down 35.27 points, 0.11%, at 32,764.65. The Nasdaq gained 213.93 points, 1.71%, at 12,698.09. The S&P 500 rose 36.04 points, 0.88%, at 4,151.28.
The record $279 million whistleblower award issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month stemmed from a bribery case against telecommunications company Ericsson, Risk & Compliance Journal reports (link).
Market quotes of note:
- Boston Fed President Susan Collins said the Fed may have reached or be approaching the point at which it can halt rate increases, citing “some promising signs of moderation" in prices.
- Finding fault. “I think that there's a lot less forgiveness in the marketplace where you can't just blame supply chain issues for things and you're being forced to account for your decisions." — Aaron Alpeter, founder of supply-chain consulting company Izba.
- Feels like a recession. X “We've been seeing a consumer who is, whether or not you call it a recession, exhibiting some recessionary behaviors." — Best Buy CEO Corie Barry.
- “Our industry is obsessed with these huge batteries, and I think that is maybe not the right approach. We should make the battery as small as possible." — Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford. On a Twitter Spaces event yesterday with Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, to announce a charging-station alliance, Farley acknowledged that electric carmakers may need to rethink battery design to reduce charging times and vehicle prices.
On tap today:
• U.S. consumer spending for April is expected to increase 0.4% from the prior month. Personal income is also forecast to rise 0.4%. (8:30 a.m. ET)
• Personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy for April is expected to increase 0.3% from one month earlier and 4.6% from one year earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET) UPDATE: Core PCE prices in the U.S., which exclude food and energy, increased 0.4% month-over-month in April 2023, above market expectations of a 0.3% gain. The annual rate, the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge to measure inflation, unexpectedly accelerated to 4.7%, compared with market expectations of 4.6%.
• U.S. durable goods orders for April are expected to fall 0.8% from the prior month. (8:30 a.m. ET)
• U.S. advance economic indicators report for April is out at 8:30 a.m. ET.
• University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for May is expected to hold at 57.7, unchanged from a preliminary reading. (10 a.m. ET)
• Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
• CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.
Inflation in Tokyo slowed more than expected in May, an outcome that offers support for the BOJ's view that price gains will slow toward the autumn. Consumer prices excluding fresh food climbed 3.2%, slowing from the previous month and coming in below consensus.
Germany has worst outlook in G7. Decades of flawed energy policy, the demise of combustion-engine cars and a sluggish transition to new technologies are converging to pose the most fundamental threat to Germany's prosperity since reunification, says a Bloomberg item.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index was weaker, with the euro and British pound firmer against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was lower, trading around 3.79% ahead of economic data, with a mostly lower tone in global government bond yields. Crude oil futures continued to work higher ahead, with U.S. crude around $72.50 per barrel and Brent around 76.75 per barrel. Gold and silver futures were higher, with gold around $1,952 per troy ounce and silver around $23.31 per troy ounce.
• U.S. dollar index is trading near two-month highs above 104, heading towards its third consecutive weekly gain. This surge is driven by increasing expectations that U.S. interest rates might remain high for an extended period, contrary to previous forecasts. Despite the Federal Reserve's aggressive tightening policy, indicators show the U.S. economy's resilience, reducing speculation about interest rate cuts this year.
• The Turkish lira dropped to a record low ahead of the presidential run-off on Sunday, falling to 20 to the dollar. Since the election on May 14, in which President Recepp Tayipp Erdogan gained a narrow lead, the Turkish lira has fallen by 2.1%. Foreign investors in the country are deeply skeptical of Erdogan's flawed economic policies.
• The average price of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. was $3.57 a gallon on Thursday, according to energy-data and analytics provider OPIS, down from a record high above $5 a gallon last June.
• Some oil bulls lose faith. Morgan Stanley, which once spearheaded Wall Street's calls for $100 crude, says the sharp inventory declines widely expected by the market won't happen. And Pierre Andurand's oil hedge fund is headed for its worst year ever.
• Diesel switcheroo. Saudi Arabia is snapping up millions of barrels of Russian diesel that Europe no longer allows, while simultaneously sending its own supplies back to buyers in the EU. The kingdom imported 174,000 barrels a day of the diesel and gasoil from Russia in April and even more so far this month. Simultaneously, it became Europe's top supplier, leapfrogging Russia since February.
• Glencore Plc-backed Viterra is in talks to merge with Bunge Ltd., one of the world's largest crop merchants, according to Bloomberg. It says one option being discussed envisions a stock deal where Bunge shareholders would own a majority of the combined group.
• North Africa is currently facing a significant drought that is severely impacting wheat harvests, leading to the region's largest record of imports. The drought is characterized as the "worst seasonal drought" in recent history by the European Union's Monitoring Agricultural Resources Unit. Wheat yields in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are expected to fall 17% to 24% below the five-year average, with crop failures being a high probability in certain areas. This lack of domestic crops could increase the region's imports to a record 31.7 million tons in the 2023-24 season, as predicted by USDA. North Africa, one of the world's top wheat buyers, has already been sourcing large quantities from overseas due to another severe drought last year.
• Ag trade: Taiwan purchased 56,000 MT of U.S. milling wheat.
• Japan is planning to tackle heat-wave-related deaths. The country has one of the oldest populations in the world, with almost 30% of its citizens over the age of 65. In 2020, 86% of its heatstroke deaths were of people 65 and older.
• NOAA expects near-normal Atlantic hurricane season with ‘a lot of uncertainty'. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected (link) a “near normal" Atlantic hurricane season, though officials cautioned unusually high sea-surface temperatures and a likely El Niño complicates the forecast. NOAA said the season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, could bring between 12 and 17 named storms. Five to nine of those could become hurricanes, with one to four hitting Category 3 or higher.
— Wagner says it is leaving Bakhmut. The Wagner private military company, a mercenary force that has been aiding the Russian Army, has announced its withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. This comes just days after Wagner declared victory in the city, and its departure could usher in a new phase in the protracted battle for Bakhmut. With Wagner's withdrawal, the Russian Army now faces the challenge of maintaining control over the city without the assistance of the mercenary group. Ukrainian forces have advanced to the outskirts of Bakhmut and are planning a more extensive counteroffensive, potentially testing the capabilities of the Russian Army.
Ukraine has admitted that despite its considerable efforts to retain Bakhmut, where tens of thousands are estimated to have died, the city is now largely under Russian control. The Ukrainian forces are now shifting their focus towards making it difficult for Russia to keep hold of Bakhmut and prevent further incursions into Ukraine.
Footage has emerged of Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, indicating that the Russian Army should not expect further assistance from his group in Bakhmut. In the video, Prigozhin is seen visiting Wagner's positions in the city, instructing his fighters to turn them over to the Russian troops. He advises his men to "Leave them soap, but take away your toothbrushes," suggesting a complete withdrawal from the city.
— Russia is using Soviet-era bombs on Ukraine. The New York Times says they are proving much harder to shoot down than faster, modern missiles, which Ukrainians have become adept at intercepting.
— Russia and China are looking to increase their trade in agricultural goods, with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin stating that Russian farmers are prepared to significantly increase exports to China. Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng also expressed China's interest in enhancing industrial and agricultural cooperation with Russia. These comments were made during a bilateral business forum held in Shanghai, Bloomberg reports.
Amid growing international isolation over the war in Ukraine, Russia is seeking to deepen its trade ties with China, which has refrained from joining the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia. This situation has led to a boom in trade between the two nations, with Beijing's purchases of energy and aluminum surging due to sanctions restricting supplies to the West. Furthermore, China's exports to Russia reached a record high in April, amounting to $9.6 billion, a 153% increase from a year earlier.
While the western sanctions do not directly target food and fertilizers, there is considerable potential in these sectors. During the forum, wheat and meat shipments were reportedly on the agenda. This comes at a time when China is aiming to reduce its import reliance on crops like soybeans, primarily sourced from Brazil and the US, and needed to feed its substantial pork herds.
Over the past year, China has increased its purchases of food items from Russia. For instance, Russian edible oils, primarily sunflower and rapeseed oils, constituted a quarter of China's total imports in the first four months of the year, up from 13% a year earlier.
However, wheat is an exception to China's increased buying from Russia, Bloomberg points out. Despite a surge in wheat imports by over 60% to about 6 million tons in the first four months of the year, Russia only supplied 30,000 tons. Despite Beijing's announcement last year that it would allow wheat imports from all parts of Russia, trade has been impeded by issues like phytosanitary regulations, transportation challenges, and geographic constraints. The primary wheat-growing area in Russia is located in the south, near the Black Sea, a considerable distance from China.
— Debt-limit update:
- Progress. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that while “outstanding issues" remain, Republicans were making progress toward a deal with the White House to raise the debt ceiling while cutting federal spending. A Reuters report suggested that significant progress was made in these discussions on Thursday, with only $70 billion in spending yet to be agreed upon. McCarthy said he will stay in Washington during Memorial Day weekend to ensure a deal gets done.
- Republicans said differences with the White House are narrowing and President Biden expressed optimism, but there's still no deal. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), McCarthy's top debt limit negotiator, said Thursday evening that House Republicans and the White House have “serious issues still to work out," and it will “take some time" to get these disputes settled. He added: “There are certain terms that have to be met to make its way through the House of Representatives. And those things need to be dealt with."
- Timeline: McCarthy vowed to work through the holiday weekend, and lawmakers to announce a deal by late tonight or tomorrow.
- Lingering issue: House Republicans and the White House remained at odds over the extent and duration of new restrictions on federal spending. Republicans keep insisting on higher spending for defense and reduced spending for nondefense areas. Democrats have suggested a freeze in spending should go as long as the hike to the debt ceiling.
- Emerging framework: roughly a doubling of the debt increase, beyond the $1.5 trillion increase in a bill the House approved last month, while trimming most of their conservative policy demands. “What we're talking about, allegedly, is $3.5 trillion to $4 trillion debt ceiling increase, for a whole lot less of those things. So yes, my antenna is up," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
The framework for these talks, according to House Republicans, is that the U.S. government needs to spend less this year than last year, and they're asking for energy permitting reform, work requirements for social safety-net programs and clawing back unspent Covid dollars.
- Negotiators are discussing a mechanism that would incentivize Congress to pass all 12 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year, Punchbowl News reported. If the annual spending bills aren't completed by that date, a continuing resolution would snap into place at the agreed-upon spending caps.
- The Associated Press reported that Republicans may accept Pentagon spending levels proposed by President Joe Biden in his fiscal year 2024 budget — under terms of the emerging pact, defense outlays would be permitted to rise 3% next year in line with Joe Biden's budget request — after Republicans set aside demands for larger increases. But in turn, the White House would agree to roll back some of the $80 billion in new money for the IRS that was included in last year's Inflation Reduction Act. Those funds could be used on other domestic programs.
- Any final package will likely disappoint lawmakers in both parties. “I don't think everybody is going to be happy at the end of the day," McCarthy said, noting mounting concerns among some hard-right Republicans that their party was making too many concessions. Some Democrats, too, voiced anxiety that Biden would go too far in accepting Republican demands.
- Former president Donald Trump weighed in on the talks Thursday, saying at his golf course in Virginia that he had spoken to McCarthy earlier in the day. “I think he's doing a really good job. Tough situation," Trump said. “They spent too much money — way, way too much money on nonsense. It'll get worked out."
- Morningstar noted in a research report Thursday that it has placed U.S. debt in review “with negative implications," noting that it could decide on a downgrade even if the Biden administration and congressional Republicans reach a deal. Fitch similarly said Wednesday evening that it is watching U.S. debt because of “debt ceiling brinkmanship," and could decide on a downgrade. Morningstar said it expected a deal and that any default would probably be over soon. A downgrade in 2011, when the U.S. narrowly averted a default, wound up costing more than $1 billion in higher interest costs in the ensuing years.
- House members left for their Memorial Day recess. The House isn't scheduled to come back until Tuesday, but GOP leadership told members that they would have 72 hours to review any legislation and 24 hours' notice to return to Washington if an agreement is reached. So, next Tuesday is the earliest day on the schedule for them to pass a bill, unless House leaders take back part of the Memorial Day weekend. The Senate is on break now and scheduled to return next Tuesday. President Joe Biden is scheduled to leave this weekend for Camp David and Delaware.
- Discharge petition: House Democratic leaders announced that their entire caucus — 213 Democrats — has signed onto a long-shot procedural maneuver that could force the House to vote on raising the debt ceiling even over McCarthy's objections, known as a discharge petition. Democratic leadership said it would take five moderate Republicans to join them and lift the ceiling.
— China's central bank may cut the reserve requirement ratio for major banks sooner than expected as the economic recovery loses steam, a Bloomberg survey shows. The PBOC may cut the RRR by 25 bps to 10.5% by the end of the third quarter, a survey showed. Economists had earlier predicted a cut in the final quarter of the year. Respondents saw the ratio likely to stay on hold through 2024 if cut.
Of note: Traders ratcheted up bets on Chinese monetary easing to the most since November. The cost of 12-month interest-rate swaps slipped to 2.06% this week, down from as high as 2.47% just over two months ago. Benchmark 10-year bond yields dropped to a six-month low of 2.70% this week.
— U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and her Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao agreed to strengthen communications even as they traded complaints about each other's policies. Wang raised concerns about U.S. export controls in areas such as semiconductors, as well as a proposal to review outbound investments for security purposes, according to a statement from Beijing's ministry of commerce. The U.S. Commerce Dept. said the officials had “candid and substantive" discussions, including on the “overall environment in both countries for trade and investment and areas for potential co-operation." “Secretary Raimondo also raised concerns about the recent spate of PRC actions taken against U.S. companies operating in the PRC," the department said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
Next up: The countries could be trying to create the conditions for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit the U.S. in November for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Wang is also expected to meet U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the sidelines of an APEC meeting in Detroit, which ends on Friday.
— More wheat in Chinese feed rations. A surplus of cheap wheat in China is replacing corn and soymeal in feed rations — and reducing demand for imports. China's corn ratio in feed dropped to 36.6% in April, while soymeal fell to 12.5%, according to China's Feed Industry Association, well under year-ago levels.
— China/South Korea relations are currently strained and could further deteriorate, according to Xing Haiming, China's ambassador to Seoul. A major point of contention lies in the mutual respect of core interests, particularly regarding the issue of Taiwan. Considering the tense diplomatic situation, a meeting between President Xi Jinping and South Korea's leader Yoon has been ruled out for the time being. Xing asserted that Seoul must first fully respect China's core concerns on matters like the Taiwan issue before further discussions can take place.
The current strain in relations reflects South Korea's foreign policy shift under Yoon, who has aligned the country more closely with the U.S. and Japan, especially amidst tensions over North Korea's weapons testing. This tension was exacerbated by a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima where leaders expressed serious concerns about the situation in the East and South China seas and called for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. South Korea, while not a member of the group, was invited as an observer.
In a meeting last week, South Korean Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho expressed interest in upcoming discussions with ministers responsible for the economy. Both sides reaffirmed the principle of maintaining the security and stability of the supply chain following China's ban on US memory chip manufacturer Micron Technology. South Korea is home to two of the world's largest chip suppliers, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.
— Taiwan to fully open Canadian beef trade. Canadian beef exporters will have full access to the Taiwanese market in a few weeks, a Canadian government spokesperson said, after the countries' top trade officials met at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. Canadian Ag Minister Mary Ng met with Taiwan's John Deng to discuss trade issues on Thursday.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— Dow, New Energy Blue unveil deal to make renewable plastic from corn residue. Dow Inc. and New Energy Blue have announced a long-term supply agreement to produce bio-based ethylene from renewable agricultural residues, specifically corn stover, which comprises stalks and leaves. The financial specifics of the deal were not disclosed.
This agreement is a first in North America, as it enables the production of plastic source materials from corn stover. It also marks Dow's inaugural agreement in the region to use agricultural residues for plastic production.
Under the agreement, Dow will aid the design of New Energy Freedom, a new Iowa facility that aims to process 275 kt/year of corn stover. This facility is expected to yield commercial quantities of second-generation ethanol and clean lignin. Almost half of the produced ethanol is planned to be converted into bio-based ethylene feedstock for Dow's products.
Moreover, the agreement includes potential commercial supply options for the next four New Energy Blue projects, aiming to expand production and support farmers by providing a stable market for agricultural residues. The five projects combined are projected to reduce over 1M tons/year of greenhouse gas emissions.
— Hyundai Motor and LG Energy Solution will invest $4.3 billion to make electric-vehicle batteries in Bryan County, Georgia. It will have annual capacity of 30 GWh, enough to power 300,000 EVs, and production will begin as early as the end of 2025.
— RFS update. The number of scheduled meetings regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final plan for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2023 and beyond has increased to 22. These discussions, which began on May 25, are scheduled to conclude on June 12, two days prior to the June 14 deadline for the EPA to finalize the plan.
Newly added meetings involve organizations such as Clean Energy Fuels (scheduled for June 5), the American Biogas Council (June 8), Business Council for Sustainable Energy (June 9), and Ag-Grid Energy (June 14). Ag-Grid Energy is noteworthy as it has developed a carbon-negative system that uses anaerobic digestion to produce electricity and renewable natural gas from cow manure and various types of food waste.
In comparison, there were only 15 meetings at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) over the EPA's proposed levels under the RFS in November 2022. The current sessions cover a broad range of issues related to the RFS, including the contentious topic of using renewable energy to power electric vehicles. It's expected that this issue has been removed from the final rule currently under review at the OMB, despite indications that the EPA will issue a separate rulemaking on this topic.
The finalized rule will cover RFS levels for 2023, 2024, and 2025.
— Researchers have identified a set of symptoms that can reliably diagnose long Covid, a significant development that could facilitate more research and improved treatments for the debilitating condition. This breakthrough is the first research output from a nearly $1.2 billion investment into the disease. The study involved tracking over 13,000 adults at more than 200 study sites, forming part of the National Institutes of Health's Covid research initiative. The new criteria include 12 symptoms of long Covid, such as fatigue, brain fog, heart palpitations, and chronic cough. These symptoms are ranked based on how likely they are to appear in people with long Covid compared to those without the condition. This advancement is particularly crucial given the absence of a biomarker for long Covid. A biomarker, which doctors can test for or measure, is unavailable for several known diseases, including long Covid. As a result, physicians often must assess a series of symptoms to reach a diagnosis. This newly codified list of symptoms provides a more precise tool for diagnosing long Covid.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— The Republican presidential primary field isn't set yet — but it's slowly sliding into focus. The Washington Post evaluates the state of the race.
— Could Democrats redraw New York's House map for 2024? It's complicated. So says David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter. Wasserman writes: “The North Carolina Supreme Court's recent decision to throw out a previous ruling against gerrymandering paves the way for Republicans to eliminate up to four Democratic seats — nearly doubling the GOP's slim cushion in the House heading into 2024. But it's also emboldened talk among Democrats of retaliating in New York, the only place a state court struck down a Democratic legislature's brazen gerrymander, costing them multiple seats in 2022."
— House appropriators released lists of earmarks included in the Agriculture-FDA and Homeland Security bills, which were supposed to be marked up Wednesday before Republicans canceled those plans. Lawmakers included 395 earmarks totaling $482.4 million in the Agriculture-FDA bill. Republicans included 199 earmarks totaling $336 million, Democrats included 193 earmarks totaling $142.9 million, and there were three bipartisan earmarks totaling $3.5 million. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), the Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee chairman, stands to bring home the most funding, including six projects totaling slightly more than $11 million, mostly for water infrastructure.