The uber-wealthy are doing just fine and Wall Street is cashing in

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Worries of a possible global recession are deepening as heightened inflation and interest rates act as a brake on spending, while geopolitical strife adds to a sense of profound economic uncertainty.

But that’s not the case for everyone: The ultra-wealthy are doing just fine, and Wall Street firms are taking advantage of that.

What’s happening: Economic growth in China and the United States is wobbling. The US economy grew far below expectations in the first quarter of the year and factory activity in China fell in May to its weakest level since the country ended its zero-Covid policy five months ago.

Germany, the largest economy in Europe, has slipped into recession as energy price shocks took their toll on consumer spending.

But the one-percenters are still finding exactly what they need, even in a slowing economy.

JPMorgan Chase said this week that it is building out a new business unit meant to cater to the ultra-wealthy. The group, called 23 Wall, focuses on about 700 families together worth more than $4.5 trillion, Andy Cohen, the team leader, told Bloomberg.

In the past 10 weeks, JPMorgan Global Wealth Management opened 40,000 new accounts. Last year, it added around one new client with assets of $100 million or more per day, Mary Erdoes, head of asset and wealth management at the bank, told investors last week.

It’s not just JPMorgan that sees opportunity in catering to the super rich. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have grown their private banking services this year.

The moves make sense. Even as the International Monetary Fund lowers its global growth outlook and employers in the United States brace for recession, about 75% of family offices — wealth management firms for ultra-rich families — report that they’re increasing certain investments to take advantage of volatile markets, according to a recent BlackRock survey.

Demand for luxury: In the year through April, US food prices went up by 7.7%, with grocery prices jumping 7.1% and menu prices increasing 8.6%. That caused food insecurity for food-stamp recipients to rise to “unprecedented levels” in May for the second consecutive month, according to a new survey from Propel, an app that allows users to track food stamps.

Meanwhile, brands that cater to the wealthy have been thriving.

Luxury car brand Lamborghini announced that it has sold out of all of its vehicles until 2024.


, the parent company of brands like Louis Vuitton, Dom Pérignon, and Dior, reported strong results for the first quarter of the year with sales up 17%. The luxury firm became the first in Europe with a $500 billion market valuation in April and is now among the 10 largest companies in the world.

Huw Roberts, head of analytics at Quant Insight, noted that while LVMH cited softer luxury demand trends in the United States and Europe during its April earnings call, the company — along with rival brands like Richemont and Hermes — have been among the strongest performers year-to-date in Europe, up around 25% compared to the broader index up 9%. Roberts said that makes it one of the most expensive “growth” segments in Europe.

“Will luxury continue to grow mid-to-high teens forever? No, that’s not the logic,” wrote Erwan Rambourg, global head of consumer and retail research at HSBC, in a note. “You will see some moderation at some stage.”

Two-pronged recession: A K-shaped recession is what happens when separate communities experience economic downturns to differing degrees. Some sectors of society may continue to experience growth, while others lag behind.

These changes are usually defined by employment, wealth and geographic differences and are exacerbated by increased rates of inequality.

Something similar could be happening now, said Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY.

“Recent data on household spending and credit growth point to a K-shaped consumer spending pattern in 2023 with low- and median-income families exercising more spending restraint, and families at the higher end of the income spectrum still spending, albeit with more discretion,” he said.

Dollar General customers turn to food banks

Dollar General

stock had one of its worst days ever on Thursday.

The discount retailer’s shares fell 20% Thursday after the company slashed its earnings forecast for the year, reports my colleague Allison Morrow.

Dollar General now expects sales to rise between 1% and 2% (down from an earlier forecast of about 3%) and expects earnings to fall 8% year over year.

“Unfortunately, our customers are saying they’re having to rely more on food banks, savings, credit cards,” CEO Jeff Owen said on a call with analysts Thursday.

The company says its “core customer” makes less than $40,000 a year. Owen also said he believes customers were caught off guard by reduced tax refunds and food assistance benefits, “which exacerbated the inflationary pressures they were already experiencing.”

Other retailers like Macy’s

and Target

have also reported consumer pullbacks, but Dollar General customers are unable to shift their spending to less-expensive retailers and tend to pull back completely — a very troubling sign for the economy.

In desperate bid for cash, the Treasury is auctioning one-day bills

For the first time since 2007, the US Treasury is set to auction $15 billion worth of one-day cash management bills on Friday that will be issued on June 5.

Cash management bills mature in a relatively short time frame, ranging from a few days to a year, according to the Treasury. They’re used to help manage the Treasury’s short-term financing needs.

This comes as the Treasury’s cash balances hover around $37 billion, the lowest level since 2017, reports my colleague Elisabeth Buchwald.

Since the debt ceiling was initially breached in January, the Treasury hasn’t been able to borrow more money to pay its bills.

President Biden is expected to sign the debt limit deal into law on Friday, which will suspend the cap on the nation’s borrowing through January 1, 2025 to avert what would have been a first-ever US default.