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North American Morning Briefing: Stock Futures -2-

Fintech lender Affirm Holdings Inc. is relying more on financing from investors instead of lenders to fund its growth as its "buy now, pay later" installment plans are becoming more popular.

"Buy now, pay later" loans often appeal to customers who don't qualify for credit cards or prefer fixed-payment plans. Consumers spent between $15 billion and $20 billion using such loans on e-commerce purchases in 2020, up from $6 billion to $9 billion in 2019, according to estimates from credit ratings firm DBRS Morningstar.

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Retirement Savers Love the Backdoor Roth IRA Strategy. It Might Not Last.

Many Americans are using a previously little-known tax method to boost their savings. Now, the government is trying to stop it.

The tax strategy at issue is the mega-backdoor Roth conversion and it has allowed some Americans to amass sizable balances in tax-free Roth retirement accounts. On Sept. 15, the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation from House Democrats that would prohibit use of the mega-backdoor Roth conversion starting Jan. 1, 2022.

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Buying a Share of a Collectible Guitar? In This Market, You May Get Shredded.

Space-tourism companies, flying-taxi startups and pizza-related cryptocurrencies are among the unlikely ventures to have recently reached public markets. Now it is the turn of electric guitars.

This month, American guitar maker Gibson said it would use Rally, a site specializing in collectibles, to issue shares in prototype instruments designed in collaboration with famous players. Ownership of an EDS-1275 doubleneck model approved by Slash, of the band Guns N' Roses, was chopped into 13,000 parts and sold for $5 apiece to 562 investors in just two hours.

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China Evergrande Keeps Dollar Bondholders Guessing on Key Interest Payment

Global investors who own China Evergrande Group's U.S. dollar bonds were in the dark Thursday about whether the property giant would make a key interest payment, a major test of the highly indebted developer's ability to avoid a default.

Evergrande was on the hook to make $83.5 million in coupon payments on Sept. 23 on dollar bonds with a face value of $2.03 billion. As of late afternoon in New York on Thursday, bondholders hadn't received the money, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Democratic Leaders Scramble to Find Areas of Agreement on $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill

WASHINGTON-Democratic leaders raced Thursday to find enough agreement around a roughly $3.5 trillion spending package to assuage concerns between the party's dueling centrist and liberal factions that threatened to derail a separate vote on an infrastructure package next week.

Liberal Democrats have said the two bills are linked and have balked at voting for the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package on Monday in the House unless the broader healthcare, education and climate-change package has passed. The infrastructure bill has already cleared the Senate with bipartisan support, and moderates have urged leadership to bring it to the floor in the House.

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IMF Calls for Lending Clamps to Cool Australia's Housing Price Surge

SYDNEY--The International Monetary Fund has added to calls for regulatory steps to be taken to cool surging house price growth in Australia, warning of building "incipient risks" in the market.

In an Article IV discussion paper, the IMF said so-called macroprudential policy should be tightened to address gradually rising financial stability risks.

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Talking Markets: Europe Faces Challenging Winter Amid Energy Squeeze

Europe is in for a difficult winter: Energy prices are soaring, and power supply may not stretch far enough, threatening to cause outages, disrupt the continent's industry and hurt the economic recovery.

Electricity prices have risen to their highest levels in more than a decade in recent weeks, according to the International Energy Agency. This is largely attributable to prices for natural gas world-wide, which have soared due to demand being higher than expected, spurred by the global economic rebound, and because of crimped supply.

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German Business Sentiment Falls for Third Month Running in September

German business sentiment worsened again in September, as supply-chain bottlenecks clouded the short-term outlook.

The Ifo business-climate index decreased to 98.8 points in September from 99.6 points in August, data from the Ifo Institute showed Friday. This marks the third consecutive month of decline after it peaked at 101.8 in June.

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U.K. Consumer Confidence Wanes in September on Inflation Fears

Confidence among British consumers took a hit in September, falling to a five-month low, as concerns over high inflation and the end of government support soured consumers' mood.

GfK's consumer-confidence barometer came in at minus 13 in September, down five points from August and missing economists expectations, who had forecast a reading of minus seven when polled by The Wall Street Journal.

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Pelosi Says Government Funding Won't Lapse

WASHINGTON-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress wouldn't let government funding expire next week, the first hint that Democratic leaders might decouple the government's funding from a contentious increase in the debt limit, on the same day that the Biden administration began preparing for a possible partial shutdown.

The Biden administration said Thursday that federal agencies are reviewing contingency plans in the event that funding runs out at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1. The White House said it expects Congress to take action to fund the government after its current funding expires and is preparing out of an abundance of caution.

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America's Cash Might Stay on the Sidelines

If Americans ever feel comfortable again, they have a lot of money that they can spend. But who knows when that comfort will come?

The Federal Reserve on Thursday reported that the net worth of U.S. households was $134 trillion in the second quarter-up from $128.4 trillion in the first quarter. That figure stood at $110 trillion In the fourth quarter of 2019, before the pandemic took hold. Including nonprofits, accumulated household net worth in the second quarter hit a record $141.7 trillion.

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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Aims to Strengthen Business Ties With China

WASHINGTON-Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she would seek to improve U.S. business ties with China, seeing mutual benefit at a time of increasing tensions between the two nations over national-security and human-rights issues.

In an interview, Ms. Raimondo said she plans to lead delegations of U.S. chief executives overseas, including to China, to hunt for business and discuss longstanding trade issues, though nothing has yet been put on the calendar.

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Democrats Hunt for Redistricting Wins Despite GOP Tilt

DEMOCRATS CLAW FOR SEATS as they face an uphill battle in redistricting. Republicans hold the pen in 20 of the 35 states where legislatures control redistricting and the state has more than one congressional seat, compared with Democratic control of 11 such states, so Democrats are using legal, legislative and political maneuvers to try to improve their position as maps start to take shape.

In Oregon, the Democratic House Speaker withdrew from a deal with Republicans to have a bipartisan commission draw congressional districts, saying Republicans didn't engage constructively. The House will instead move to adopt a map as the state gains a new seat that will likely result in a 5-1 congressional advantage for Democrats, who currently have a 4-1 edge. Republicans are calling the moves shameful, but have little recourse to block the plan, though they will attempt to at least delay it. In Wisconsin, a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, Democrats have so far successfully advanced a pre-emptive federal lawsuit against Republican-drawn maps (which haven't been finalized). Republicans would prefer any court battles be fought in state courts, which tilt conservative. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would take up a similar lawsuit, as well.

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Trapped in Kabul, Prominent Afghan Women Fear Retribution Under Taliban Rule

KABUL-Nabila, a 31-year-old Afghan judge, used to grant divorces to the wives of militants while their husbands languished in prison. Two days after the Taliban captured Kabul on Aug. 15 and emptied prisons across the country, she received threatening calls from several of these men.

She broke her SIM card, packed light and went into hiding.

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North Korea Calls Peace-Deal Proposal by South's Moon Jae-in Premature

SEOUL-North Korea dismissed a proposal by South Korea's president for a peace declaration, calling the proposition premature as Pyongyang sees what it calls continuing aggression from Washington and Seoul.

During a speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested the adoption of a peace deal that would replace the armistice that halted hostilities in the 1950-1953 Korean War. He proposed that the U.S., along with the two Koreas and possibly China, agree to declare the war over.

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U.S. Officials Call for Fines Against Companies That Don't Report Hacks

Top U.S. cyber officials on Thursday urged Congress to add more teeth to any legislation forcing firms that operate critical infrastructure to disclose hacks, calling for a narrow reporting window after a breach and fines against companies that don't comply.

Such mandates could help federal agencies and critical economic sectors to respond to incidents, security experts say. But many businesses and some lawmakers are wary of the tighter regulation and potential penalties for which the Biden administration is advocating.

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Write to sarka.halas@wsj.com

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September 24, 2021 06:12 ET (10:12 GMT)

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