British retainer Marks & Spencer reported another big fall in sales of clothing and homeware in the Christmas quarter. The company blamed the slump on the UK governments as Covid-19 restrictions. Striking a pessimistic note, CEO Steve Rowe said the latest UK lockdowns, which could potentially extend until Easter, may further hit the company’s clothing and home sales.
US workers filed 787,000 applications for unemployment benefits in the first week of 2021. It is slightly less than the previous weeks jobless claims of 790,000 workers. The dip was unexpected as the Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst state in the country since it arrived in the US, in February-March 2020. The new jobless claims figure makes the total such applications to 73.8 million since March.
The United States’ trade deficit with the rest of the world widened by 8% to $68.1 billion in November, the Department of Commerce announced. This is its highest level since August 2006. This was a result of businesses boosting imports to replenish inventories. Imports rose by 2.9% to $252.3 billion. Goods imports jumped by 3.0% to $214.1 billion. Exports rose by 1.2% to $184.2 billion.
America’s services sector, which is the biggest employer in the US, grew for the seventh consecutive month last month despite the Covid-19 pandemic raged like wildfire through the holidays. The Institute for Supply Management index shows the sector grew to a reading of 57.2 in December month from a reading of 55.9 in November. Readings above 50 represent expansion in services industries.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made many couples in the United Kingdom cancel or, postpone their plans to have babies. Analysts fear that Britain, which already has an aging population, will have far more older people in the coming years. With a large number of unemployable old people and fewer young people driving consumption, even spending would dip. These two factors are a recipe for economic doom.
Riding on expectations that there would be more stimulus for the economy soon, stocks rose on Wall Street Wednesday. The Dow gained 437.80 points (1.4%) to 30,829.40 and the S&P 500 rose 21.28 points (0.6%) to 3,748.14. This is despite a violent attempt by thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters to storm the Capitol to overturn the election’s result. However, it did wipe out some gains.
The US government held the first auction for drilling rights for extracting oil from Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, after President Trump allowed it recently. However, it failed to attract big oil companies. An Alaskan state agency won the bid, drawing immediate flak from environmental groups. The sale raised less than $15 million – far less than the administration’s expectations.
Walgreens Boots Alliance said it will sell its wholesale drug business to AmerisourceBergen in a $6.5 billion cash-and-stock deal. Walgreens said the deal will allow it to focus more on its core retail pharmacy business that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Drug wholesalers typically buy medicines from manufacturers and then distribute them to customers, like drugstores and hospitals.
President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order prohibiting money transactions with the companies behind eight Chinese apps. These are: Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. The US Commerce Department confirmed that it will begin implementing the executive order’s directives before Trump leaves office on January 20, Reuters reported.
During negotiations with Russia and OPEC nations, Saudi Arabia announced it will cut production by 1 million barrels a day, during February and March. OPEC+ nations will maintain current output. Russia and Kazakhstan will slightly increase production.
The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 60.7% in December from 57.5% in the prior month, marking the highest level in almost two and a half years. Manufacturers have expanded for seven months in a row since the economy reopened last spring.
The New York Stock Exchange said it won’t delist three Chinese telecom giants that have been targeted by the US government. The NYSE, who made the announcement only last week to delist China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom Hong Kong, said it had made the decision ’in light of further consultation with relevant regulatory authorities.’ China had decried the move to delist the companies.
GM reported that their vehicle sales were down 12% for 2020 but up 5% in the fourth quarter over the same period in 2019. G.M. sold 2.5 million cars and light trucks in 2020, down from nearly 2.9 million in 2019. Auto sales fell sharply last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Luxury car maker Bentley had a record 2020 selling 11,206 cars powered by a 50% increase in sales to China to 2,880.
The shareholders of France’s PSA Group, the makers of Peugeot cars, approved the company’s merger with Italy’s Fiat Chrysler by a massive 99.85% majority. Fiat’s shareholders were expected to vote in favor of the deal Monday itself. The $52 billion deal is expected to be completed by the end of March. This will create the world’s fourth-largest carmaking company, which will be called Stellantis.
Paycheck Protection Program data analyzed by Associated Press show many minority business owners didn’t receive Covid-19 relief loans until the PPP’s last few weeks. Meanwhile, more white business owners were able to get loans earlier in the program. The first round of PPP saw $349 billion approved in just two weeks, but many minority-owned firms that applied to multiple banks early were rejected.
China said Saturday that it would take necessary countermeasures in response to the New York Stock Exchange’s announcement that it would delist three major Chinese telecoms - China Telecom Corp. Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. - with trading of the companies to be suspended between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11. The move stems from an executive order President Trump issued on Nov. 12.
In the last three months of 2020, Tesla announced record deliveries of its electric cars, coming within a whisker of achieving the half-million target set by its chief executive, Elon Musk. After a final quarter that met analysts’ estimates, the annual sales of the California-based producer increased by 36 percent, producing a total of 499,550 cars in 2020.
On Friday, 20 states and 32 cities and counties in the US will raise their minimum wage. In 27 of these places, the pay floor will reach or exceed $15 an hour. In New Mexico, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50, up $1.50. And in California, the rate for employers with 26 workers or more will rise from $13 to $14 an hour. In Minnesota, the gain is just 8 cents, to a $10.08 hourly rate.
US stocks hovered near record highs on Thursday as investors close the book on a tumultuous year. The S&P 500 index rose 24.03 points, or 0.6%, to 3,756.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 196.92 points, or 0.7%, to 30,606.48. The Nasdaq composite picked up 18.28 points, or 0.1%, to 12,888.28. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 5.14 points, or 0.3%, to 1,974.86.
A hedge fund named Alden, Tribune’s largest shareholder of the newspaper publisher, has offered to buy the rest at a price that values it at $520.6 million. Tribune publishes nine major daily papers, including the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. Alden wrote Tribune on Dec. 14, according to a regulatory filing, and has not received a response. Alden owns 31.6% of Tribune.
Set aside the pandemic; Ignore the collapse in demand; Forget about the time oil prices went negative; Look at everything else that happened this year, and Well. Oil still had a pretty terrible year. Between hurricanes, geopolitical rivalries, irate investors and climate pressures, oil producers faced a host of challenges that weren’t created by the coronavirus — and can’t be cured with a vaccine!
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the U.S. and global economies, U.S. long-term mortgage rates ticked up marginally this week but remain near record lows. According to mortgage giant Freddie Mac on Thursday, the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan increased to 2.67 percent from a record-low 2.66 percent last week. It stood at 3.72 percent a year ago.
Tesco, Pizza Hut, and Superdrug are among more than 100 companies that have been named and shamed by the UK government for failing to pay workers the minimum wage. 139 companies investigated between 2016 and 2018 failed to pay £6.7m to more than 95,000 workers. The minimum wage ranges from £4.15 an hour for apprentices, to £8.72 an hour for over-25s.
Bitcoin on Wednesday jumped to a record US $28,599.99, after the digital currency almost quadrupled in value this year amid heightened interest from bigger investors. The world’s most popular cryptocurrency was last up 2.3 per cent at US$28,012. It has surged by nearly half since breaking US$20,000 for the first time on Dec. 16.