A paradox at the heart of the American economy is that consumers are feeling squeezed even when growth indicators look strong, and they are taking it out on President Biden’s approval ratings.

So the White House likely applauded a move by the FTC and several states on Monday to block Kroger’s $25 billion bid to buy Albertsons, arguing that the largest supermarket merger in U.S. history would raise prices and would affect the bargaining power of union workers.

The Biden administration has little influence over inflation, but it is still receiving criticism. Consumers are spending the highest share of their income on food in 30 years, and an internal White House analysis found that grocery prices had the biggest impact on consumer confidence.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to a 20-year high in an effort to cool inflation, but progress in that regard has slowed in recent months.

Biden blames big business. In a video posted on Super Bowl Sunday, he attacked “counterinflation,” attacking companies for reducing food packaging and portion sizes without reducing prices. Biden is expected to reiterate that view in his State of the Union address next month.

The president could point to the FTC’s tough approach to mergers and acquisitions. The agency operates independently, but FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan has taken the most aggressive and expansive antitrust stance in decades. That may help Biden’s message to voters that she is fighting for their best interests.

“When large corporations are not controlled by healthy competition, they too often fail to pass on cost savings to consumers and exploit their workers,” a National Economic Council official said Monday.

Some companies are not helping themselves. Kellogg’s, for example, markets cereal as an affordable food option for cash-strapped families. “Dinner cereal is something that’s probably more trendy now, and we expect that to continue as the consumer is under pressure,” Kellogg’s CEO Gary Pilnick told CNBC last week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his comments sparked recoil on social networks.

Another big test arrives on Thursday and a new batch of inflation data will be released. Economists expect inflation to rise again.

Macy’s will close almost a third of its stores. The closure of 150 Macy’s brand stores, along with the expansion of the Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury brands, is a bid by Tony Spring, the retailer’s new CEO, to transform the company. Macy’s has struggled for years with a downturn and an unwanted takeover bid.

Chipmakers are seeking more than $70 billion in federal subsidies. Semiconductor companies have asked for about double the money set aside to help boost domestic chip production, according to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. She added that the United States will produce about 20 percent of the most advanced types of logic chips by the end of the decade.

Exxon Mobil threatens to derail Chevron’s $53 billion acquisition of Hess. Exxon and China’s CNOOC said they had a right of first refusal on a stake in a Guyana oil project held by Hess, Chevron disclosed in a regulatory filing. Chevron disagreed; The two parties are in talks. Much of what Chevron finds attractive about Hess lies in the Guyana project, one of the most promising sources of oil in the world.

It was a coup for Citigroup to poach Vis Raghavan from JPMorgan Chase to run its banking division. The hire marks the latest prominent leadership position created by a sweeping overhaul of the Wall Street giant.

It means Jane Fraser, Citi’s chief executive, now has her team in place and is expected to prove she can transform the company.

Fraser has already been under pressure to produce results. His restructuring was intended to give him greater hands-on control over the bank’s core businesses (and led to at least 20,000 job cuts companywide). Citi’s board recently increased his annual salary to $26 million, citing his announcement what he called “the most significant set of changes in its organizational and management model since the 2008 financial crisis.”

Analysts have doubts that this time will be different. “I count 12 restructurings at Citigroup. And I count 12 restructurings that have failed at Citigroup,” Mike Mayo, the veteran banking analyst, said on an earnings call last month. “Why is this time different?”

Raghavan is a crucial hire. He will oversee one of Citi’s most prominent businesses. He will also have the title of executive vice president, meaning he will “help shape and drive our strategy across the company and assist me with key strategic initiatives,” Fraser wrote in an internal memo on Monday.

It is a step forward for Raghavan. The longtime JPMorgan veteran became sole head of the investment banking division just last month. He was also the head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

But he remained several levels away from Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive. At Citi, he will report directly to Fraser.

Can he help Citi return to the elite of Wall Street investment banking? The firm has long lagged behind JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in key areas: It has not ranked in the top three in mergers and acquisitions. or equity capital markets, by transaction volume, over the last 10 years, according to Dealogic.

It has fared better in the debt capital markets, ranking second or third during that time.

Fraser knows he is under scrutiny. “I recognize that ’24 is a critical year,” he said on an earnings call last month. But while Citi’s share price is up 32 percent since she revealed her reorganization plan, it is down 19 percent since she took over as CEO in March 2021.


Microsoft’s latest deal with an artificial intelligence startup is already raising concerns among regulators. The Windows maker presented its partnership with France’s Mistral as a bid to expand beyond its relationship with OpenAI and help innovation in AI, but skeptics say it is the latest example of Big Tech trying to stifle competition.

Now, European regulators say they may investigate the relationship.

Mistral is one of the great European hopes in AI. The company was founded last year by a trio of former Google and Meta researchers and a former French digital minister, and has raised hundreds of millions of euros at a valuation of $2 billion.

It has billed itself as a rival to OpenAI, and its backers include Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google.

Microsoft and Mistral signed a “multi-year partnership” but released few details. The tech giant will reportedly invest around €15 million ($16.2 million) and provide the cloud computing power needed to scale the new company’s algorithms.

Mistral services will also be offered on the Azure cloud platform.

Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are already on high alert. US, British and European authorities are investigating Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI, in which Microsoft has already invested $13 billion and has a non-voting board seat.

A representative of the European Commission has said that regulators will analyze the agreement once they have a copy of the agreement. That could lead to a formal investigation, according to Reuters.

Microsoft downplayed regulatory concerns about its investment in Mistral. The company likely hopes that partnering with another startup will please regulators investigating its ties to OpenAI.

However, Max von Thun, director of the Open Market Institute, a competition policy think tank, said that could be counterproductive if Mistral were now prevented from competing with OpenAI and Microsoft. “If you want a truly competitive AI ecosystem, you don’t want an OpenAI rival to rely on Microsoft’s infrastructure and investment,” he told DealBook.


Ruth Gottesman’s billion-dollar donation to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, which will make the school’s tuition free, stands out for more than just its staggering figure. She is also part of the legacy of her late husband, financier Sandy Gottesman, a close friend of Warren Buffett.

Gottesman made billions by investing early in Berkshire Hathaway. (He also founded and ran First Manhattan, a wealth management firm that now oversees about $20 billion.) When he died in 2022, Forbes estimated his net worth at $3 billion.

“There has probably never been a better performance for any stock held for 44 years in the history of Wall Street,” Gottesman wrote of Berkshire a decade before his death.

He and Buffett were close for almost 60 years. From Gottesman’s obituary in the Times:

From 1963 to 1965, Gottesman flew frequently to Omaha, Buffett’s base, meeting him in the afternoon, meeting him for dinner, and then talking with him until 2 or 3 in the morning. On one occasion, they talked so late that they found themselves locked inside Buffett’s office building. Gottesman typically took early morning flights back to New York.

Gottesman reportedly inspired Berkshire’s investment in Apple. When Gottesman lost his iPhone in a taxi in 2016, Buffett learned about the incident, according to the book “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost its Soul” by Tripp Mickle, a technology reporter for The Times. .

Buffett saw his friend’s anguished reaction as a sign that the iPhone and its maker had become indispensable. He soon built up Berkshire’s stake in Apple, shares now worth $174 billion.

Gottesman left an unexpected package of Berkshire shares to his wife when he died. he told The Times. His instructions were simple: “Do what you think is right.”

Dr. Gottesman, a former Einstein professor who chairs its board of trustees, decided to help the school. When asked what her husband would think of her gift, she said: “He gave me the opportunity to do this and I think he would be happy, I hope so.”

Offers

  • Shein is reportedly considering going public in London or Asia instead of New York as the China-founded retailer faces tough scrutiny in the U.S. (Bloomberg)

  • Charter Communications is said to be weighing a takeover bid from a rival cable operator, Altice USA. (Bloomberg)

Policy

The best of the rest

  • How the deal to make Donald Trump’s social media platform public could give him a financial lifeline for his legal problems. (NY)

  • Jacob Rothschild, who broke away from his famous family’s banking empire to create his own financial firm, has died; he was 87 years old. (NYT)

We would like to receive your comments! Email your ideas and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.