What would Jesus buy?

That question is spreading in the investing world, as evangelicals and other Christians seek investment management and financial planning to match their interpretation of biblical principles. The latest sign of the rise of faith-based investing was the launch of the Inspire International ESG exchange-traded fund on Sept. 30. Its ticker symbol? WWJD, short for the popular expression “What would Jesus do?”

Many socially responsible investors favor companies that recruit LGBT workers or donate to Planned Parenthood and the like. By contrast, biblically responsible investors shun companies that profit from or support abortion, pornography, gambling, or LGBT issues.…

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Over the past decade, various Vatican offices have produced several documents addressing the vexed topic of finance and banking. Given the turmoil and scandals characterizing the world’s financial sectors over the past two decades, such interventions are to be expected, even welcomed. But while these texts often set out useful principles for approaching this topic, they’ve tended to reflect a selective and, at times, questionable grasp of the subject-matter. This pattern is, alas, replicated in the Church’s latest official statement about the financial sector, this time jointly issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Entitled “Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones [Economic and Monetary Questions]: Considerations for an ethical discernment on certain aspects of the current economic-financial system,” this text is divided into four parts. The first, second, and fourth sections contain what I think is a sound set of criteria for analyzing the morality of finance and financial markets. These are the parts in which the CDF’s imprint upon this document is very obvious.

Read more at The Catholic World Report.

 

“YOU cannot serve both God and money,” admonishes the Bible. But the church has always tried. In the Middle Ages monasteries were what would now be termed social enterprises. They would produce bread, books or other goods. A Franciscan monk is credited with codifying double-entry book-keeping.

These days the Catholic church and related institutions control many billions of dollars. Some is invested to earn income; some is given away for good works. The two activities have been seen as separate. But, in the pontificate of Pope Francis, that divide is blurring. “Impact” investing—intended to make money and do good at the same time—is growing in importance. It is also creating some controversy.

Read more at The Economist.

Like Warren Buffett, JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon thinks the U.S. economy has the “secret sauce.”

To Dimon, however, the public’s current view of what businesses and the corporate world are all about risks taking this away from the U.S. economy. Because to Dimon, the “secret sauce” that powers the American economy is all about one thing: trust.

Read more at Yahoo! Finance.

Paul Tudor Jones II loves capitalism. It’s a system that has done him very well over the last few decades. Nonetheless, the hedge fund manager and philanthropist is concerned that a laser focus on profits is, as he puts it, “threatening the very underpinnings of society.” In this thoughtful, passionate talk, he outlines his planned counter-offensive, which centers on the concept of “justness.”

See the full Ted Talk here.

Pope Francis praised the free market and the role of businesses in the creation of wealth and in the promotion of the common good in an address before 7,000 businesspeople Saturday.

Although Pope Francis is often portrayed as anti-capitalist, he keeps his critics guessing with occasional praise for the free enterprise system and the importance of business as a “vocation.” His harshest criticisms seem to focus on the idolatry of money and consumption, rather than the free market itself.

Read more at Breitbart.

Cboe Global Markets Inc. is seeking to introduce a brief delay on one of its markets, becoming the latest U.S. stock-exchange group to attempt to hit the brakes on high-frequency traders, people familiar with the situation said.

The plan shows how “speed bumps” have proliferated among U.S. exchanges in recent years, even at market operators that initially opposed them. IEX Group Inc., the upstart exchange featured in Michael Lewis’s book “Flash Boys,” kicked off the trend and has since been followed by the New York Stock…

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Should the fight against inequality be the Democrats’ defining cause? The party’s rising tribe of left-wing economic populists — headed up by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — would answer with a resounding “yes.”

But another tribe in the party has very different ideas.

Jon Cowan is the president of the Democratic think tank Third Way, the “intellectual heir to President Bill Clinton’s centrist politics,” as The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter put it in a new profile. Cowan acknowledges that “income inequality is severe” and “parts of the economic system are unfair.” But he also insists that “these are not the central problems vexing most Americans. Many of the solutions proposed to meet them are not responsive to the aspirations, needs, and values of those Americans.” Cowan would prefer that increasing opportunity become “the great moral cause of our time.”

Read more at The Week.

American corporations are simply raking in profits. Some are so bloated and cash-rich they literally can’t figure out what to do with it all. Apple, for instance, is sitting on nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars — and that’s down a bit from earlier this year. Microsoft and Google, meanwhile, were sitting on “only” $132 billion and $63 billion respectively (as of March this year).

However, American corporations in general are taking those profits and kicking them out to shareholders, mainly in the form of share buybacks. These are when a corporation uses profits, cash, or borrowed money to buy its own stock, thus increasing its price and the wealth of its shareholders. (Big Tech is doing this as well, just not fast enough to draw down their dragon hoards.) As a new joint report from the Roosevelt Institute and the National Employment Law Project by Katy Milani and Irene Tung shows, from 2015 to 2017 corporations spent nearly 60 percent of their net profits on buybacks.

Read more at The Week.

Over the past eight years, high-stakes negotiations in Congress over the federal debt limit have repeatedly brought Washington to the verge of default. We were on opposite sides of these debates, as senior policy advisers to President Obama and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and we continue to disagree about taxes and the proper size of government. Yet we both believe that the statutory debt limit has outlived its usefulness as a mechanism for restraining the size of the national debt. Or, put more precisely, we think that whatever residual value the debt limit may have is far outweighed by the risk that a…

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.