Daily Musings — Notable News of the Day

January 14, 2021

Jobless, Selling Nudes Online and Still Struggling

“It is already an incredibly saturated market…The idea that people are just going to open up an OnlyFans account and start raking in the dough is really misguided.”

Some Uber, Lyft drivers sue over California ballot measure

The measure granted the delivery services an exemption from the law that would have required providing drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses.

Millennials double wealth to more than $10T despite pandemic, debt

Indeed, millennials are reported to have $4.3 trillion in debt from consumer loans, such as credit card debt or student loans, that may be thwarting mortgages for home buying and real-estate investment opportunities. That compares to their $10.3 trillion in assets.

California exodus intensifies as retirees, teachers, musicians seek cheaper, less-crowded pastures

California’s beachy lifestyle and creative energy in entertainment, the arts and technology still exert a strong pull — but increasingly, only the wealthy can afford these perks.

US consumer prices rose 0.4% in December

Gasoline prices rose 8.4% over the month, accounting for more than 60% of the overall increase in prices, according to the Labor Department.

US budget deficit up 60.7% in first 3 months of budget year

The shortfall for the 2020 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, climbed to an all-time high of $3.1 trillion. Beginning in the spring, Congress passed trillion-dollar-plus spending measures to combat the harm being done to the economy from a pandemic-induced downturn.

Federal Spending Sets Record Through December

The Department of Health and Human Services spent the most money of any federal department in the first three months of the fiscal year. It spent $356,639,000,000 in October through December. The Social Security Administration spent the second most, with expenditures of $321,748,000,000. The Department of Defense-Military Programs spent the third most, with expenditures of $195,059,000,000.

Unilever says global consumption will remain depressed in first half of year

“We still hold that the first half of this year will be a continued period of suppressed consumption … with that starting to come back in the second half of this year and then next year.”

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 13, 2021

Upbeat Xi Says Time on China’s Side as Turmoil Grips U.S.

Besides the Capitol Hill chaos last week and the worsening coronavirus outbreak in America, a forecast released by the Centre for Economics and Business Research last month projected that China would overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in dollar terms in 2028, five years earlier than a year ago.

U.S. labor market losing speed as COVID-19 spirals out of control

“Stripping out the wild monthly swings of the coronavirus recession, the rise in layoff activity is historically large and surpasses the increases seen at the height of the Great Recession.”

KC Fed’s George: Vaccine delays among most substantial risks to U.S. recovery

“Much of the optimism for eventual recovery this year is tied to a successful and widespread vaccination program. One of the most substantial risks to the outlook is a significant delay or disruption…It is difficult to imagine a sustained and robust recovery until the virus no longer interferes with day to day decisionmaking.”

The U.S. Should Invest in the Jobs of the Future

Even before the pandemic hit, the U.S. economy was in much worse shape than the low unemployment rate suggested. Almost all the income gains of the past several decades had gone to the wealthiest tenth of the population, leaving the bottom half hardly better off.

$2,000 stimulus checks would be a massive boost for America’s poorest

“That’s going to be a significant boost in their income…For people who work for Congress or people who work in policy, we can easily forget just how little money some people have.”

Measuring the stress in the rental industry

Rental income actually started declining in the fourth quarter of 2019, before anyone knew about COVID-19. So, there may be more to the story here than the pandemic.

Gunmakers see stock price increases in days after riots at US Capitol

It’s unclear whether investors believe gun manufacturers will benefit from Trump supporters purchasing weapons, general concern among other Americans about civil unrest, both or other reasons.

Jabs equal jobs? Fed sees possible economic boom if vaccine gets on track

“The recovery is directly linked to the pace of vaccinations and its effectiveness both in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the confidence it instills in consumers.”

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January 12, 2021

The Case for American Optimism

Yet despite all the wailing, the United States is not so much declining as reinventing itself — and, as usual, doing so from the ground up. America as a whole is not a “failed state” but a place where people move from areas of limited opportunity to those with more. The pandemic has accelerated this process.

U.S. coffee shops will only return to pre-pandemic sales in 2023 – report

“The U.S. coffee shop market is enduring the worst trading environment in living memory. However, with a changing political situation, mass vaccinations and operators rapidly adapting with new trading formats, there is light at the end of the tunnel…We expect trading to begin stabilizing from summer 2021, however it will take a number of years for operators to fully readjust to the ‘new normal’”.

Just 39% of Americans could pay for a $1,000 emergency expense

The results mark a slight decline in Americans’ ability to over emergencies compared to past years. In 2020, 41% of respondents said they could afford an unexpected $1,000 bill, while 40% said the same in 2019.

It Was a Joke’: Some Small Businesses Got $1 Relief Loans

The tiny sums were equally frustrating for the banks and other lenders that made the government-backed loans. For each, they were paid 5 percent of the value — meaning they collected just pennies on the smallest loans, far less than they cost to make.

Once again, job losses fall unequally across the US economy

“Such differences in … employment loss between the highest- and lowest-wage workers are almost certainly unprecedented among U.S. recessions over the past 100-plus years.”

Siemens boss expects U.S. to join 2021 global economic recovery

“The United States is an eco-system which always finds its way out, and I am very optimistic this time too…The country has been busy with elections and with everything else, as Europe has been busy with Brexit and the like, you have to say that Asia has been taking that time and using it to move full speed ahead in terms of economic development and growth.”

Nuclear power backers hopeful Biden’s climate focus will boost industry

The United States has about 94 traditional reactors, out of the 440 worldwide, but rising costs have forced many plants to shut with five more expected to close this year in Illinois and New York. Nuclear power faces competition from electricity stations that burn cheap, plentiful natural gas and from renewable power, including wind and solar.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 11, 2021

Nearly 4 million Americans have been out of work for at least six months

“They’re stuck and they start to face discrimination…Employers believe they are damaged goods.”

U.S. Economy in Spotlight Amid Optimism on More Aid

“Economic slack in general and labor slack in particular will stifle any sustained pickup in price pressures. This will yield the Fed an extremely long runway before officials will need to legitimately contemplate reducing accommodation.”

mRNA Vaccines Could Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow

It can tell our cells to make whatever protein we want. That includes the antigens of many other diseases besides Covid-19.

54% of part-time workers think retirement is unrealistic: Saving might be tough but not impossible

People without full-time jobs do face greater challenges with respect to retirement planning. Lower income is only the most obvious one. It can be hard enough even on a full-time salary to find money in your budget to save for the future.

One chart highlights how the 2020 recession and recovery are like no other

“In all the progress that we’ve made, we’re still slightly worse off than we were at the worst point in the Great Recession.”

America Is Pumping Out Too Many Ph.D.s

The overproduction of Ph.D.s has been an issue for years in the U.S., which has a higher rate of doctorate holders than almost any other rich country.

Joe Biden’s $2,000 stimulus checks: How soon could you get yours?

Biden says “immediately,” but he’s not scheduled to take office until Jan. 20. So, if there will be fresh relief payments, you’re not likely to get one until February, at the earliest.

Did Covid Lockdowns Really Clear the Air?

Satellite monitoring and roadway data show that nitrogen oxides linked to automobiles were down worldwide after lockdowns began, sometimes by as much as 50% in certain locations.

Finding a job won’t be easy for months: economist

“We have seen the slowing momentum in jobs created every month coming into the winter months and it really has to do with COVID-19. It’s inescapable that the pandemic is still in the driver seat.”

Auto industry unlikely to return to normal anytime soon as COVID-19 lingers

“What we know of 2020, that was so unforgettable about it, started in mid-March — and the trauma that came out of COVID-19 is by no means over…We have the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s very unclear as to how long it’ll be until we reach that light.”

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 8, 2021

U.S. labor market recovery faltering; layoffs hit record in 2020

Layoffs announced by U.S. companies surged 18.9% in December, other data on Thursday showed. Though services industry activity accelerated last month, employment fell. The reports followed on the heels of news on Wednesday that private companies shed workers in December, heightening the risk that the economy lost jobs last month for the first time since April.

Moderna CEO says vaccine likely to protect for ‘couple of years’

“The nightmare scenario that was described in the media in the spring with a vaccine only working a month or two is, I think, out of the window…The antibody decay generated by the vaccine in humans goes down very slowly…We believe there will be protection potentially for a couple of years.”

Fed’s Daly: ‘Dangerous’ to pick one metric for full employment

“There’s a danger in computing a number and saying, that means we are there,” Daly said at a Shadow Open Market Committee virtual event, adding that the Fed needs to look at a range of indicators, a “dashboard” of metrics.

U.S. wants faster vaccinations as pandemic worsens, job market suffers

As of Thursday, roughly 6 million people across the United States had received a first injection of the two-shot vaccines, accounting for less than one-third of more than 21 million doses shipped to date, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Democratic wins in Georgia Senate races could mean more stimulus checks, small boost to Biden’s economic plan

“This all has got to be done with Democratic votes,” Gardner says. “Can you do this by keeping all Democrats – no defections? I’m very skeptical.”

Global Food Prices at Six-Year High Are Set to Keep On Climbing

A United Nations gauge of food prices has jumped 18% since May, as adverse weather, government measures to safeguard supplies and robust demand helped fuel rallies across agricultural commodities from grains to palm oil. Prices will likely climb further, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Want a new car? Get ready to pay more than $40,000 as prices continue to rise

“It’s almost like we have two different countries within this country of people who are buying new houses, buying new cars, versus other folks who are perhaps in the service industry and are struggling.”

Rich Americans Bracing for Higher Taxes Await Biden’s First Move

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on a variety of tax-rate hikes and other changes aimed at squeezing trillions of dollars from corporations and Americans earning more than $400,000.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 7, 2021

Amazon.com to spend $2 billion in homebuilding near key U.S. offices

The company said it intends to create at least 20,000 affordable housing units in Puget Sound area of Washington State, Virginia’s Arlington and Nashville in Tennessee. A large proportion of Amazon’s investment will be through low-cost loans to preserve or build affordable housing for moderate-to-low income families, the company said.

U.S. private payrolls post first decline in eight months as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

The ADP National Employment Report on Wednesday showed job losses across all industries last month as the coronavirus outbreak kept many consumers and workers at home. While the report underscored the magnitude of the crisis, the economy was unlikely to slide back into recession, thanks to additional fiscal stimulus approved in late December.

Delivery by jet: Amazon buys 11 Boeing jets for first time to ship orders faster

“Having a mix of both leased and owned aircraft in our growing fleet allows us to better manage our operations.”

Michelin scrapping 2,300 jobs over next three years

“The plan is part of a broad co-construction and social dialogue approach and will rely on negotiating a three-year framework agreement that will not entail any layoffs.”

So long big city! Handling a pandemic often means calling the movers

“I’m getting people in their 20s who’ve lost their jobs and are moving back to their parents…I’m getting families with small children who are tired of California’s high cost of living. They can work from home now — which means anywhere. And I’m getting people in their 40s, especially if they have elderly parents back east who need help.”

US Newsrooms Lost a Record 16,160 Jobs in 2020, Study Finds

The grim numbers come as multiple news organizations and TV news networks…announced layoffs across their news and business divisions in 2020. For many newsrooms — and particularly for local newspapers — advertising revenue had taken a big hit with the cancellations of major events, the closures of businesses and the precipitous drop in ad spending.

Heartland calling: Half of Americans now want to live in small town or rural setting: Gallup poll

48% of U.S. adults say they would prefer to live in a rural area or town, given a choice; 66% of Republicans, 47% of independents and 33% of Democrats agree; and 52% of men and 44% of women also agree.

New Mercedes screen to stretch nearly full width of car

Kallenius said the forthcoming EQS luxury sedan would showcase the company’s efforts in digitalization and electrification, two trends that are shaking up the industry. It’s the first Mercedes car built on its all-electric framework rather than sharing components with an internal combustion model.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 6, 2021

US risks years of higher mortality from COVID-19’s economic fallout

The new data highlight the recession’s reach, with long-lasting effects, even after a vaccine is widely available and short-term aid from the federal government supports people’s incomes.

Pandemic haunts new year as virus growth outpaces vaccines

England headed back into lockdown. Mexico City’s hospitals hold more virus patients than ever. Germany reported one of its highest daily death tolls to date Tuesday. South Africa and Brazil are struggling to find space for the dead. Even pandemic success story Thailand is fighting an unexpected wave of infections.

Late sales rebound helps US automakers avoid 2020 disaster

But as the summer came, people with jobs started splurging on loaded-out cars, trucks and SUVs late in the year. That and low interest rates drove sales up and pushed the average auto sales price to a record of just over $38,000 in December, according to J.D. Power.

Divorces and Marriages Tumbled in U.S. During Covid, Study Shows

If trends in Florida and other states — Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon — were repeated nationwide, the U.S. had an estimated “shortfall” of 339,917 marriages and 191,053 divorces.

Nearly 30% of working professionals would quit if they had to return to office after pandemic

Forty-two percent of the U.S. workforce has been working from home full-time during the pandemic, according to a Stanford University study.

COVID-19 sparks more than 1,000 workplace-related lawsuits in 2020 as employees complain about safety, wages

Among the 1,005 workplace lawsuits sparked by the outbreak, well over half – 690 – dealt with layoffs and firings, with employees arguing they were victims of age or racial discrimination, for example.

Germany extends lockdown until Jan 31 and toughens curbs

Germany launched a nationwide partial shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities. That failed to reduce infections, and the current lockdown — which also closed nonessential shops and schools — took effect Dec. 16. It was initially due to run through Jan. 10.

Opioid Use Hits Construction Industry as Overdoses Soar

Bricklayers, carpenters and laborers carry heavy loads and perform the same tasks day in and day out, leading to injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, strained shoulders and bad backs. Seeking relief, workers can get hooked on strong prescription drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine, and street drugs like heroin.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 5, 2021

Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Third Payment In Your Future?

It’s already clear that the House and President-elect Joe Biden support putting more money into the hands of Americans…Biden referred to the latest stimulus as a “down payment” for dealing with the pandemic.

2021 Will Be the Year of Guaranteed Income Experiments

At least 11 direct-cash experiments will be in effect this year, from Pittsburgh to Compton. Another 20 mayors have said they may launch such pilots in the future, with several cities taking initial legislative steps to implement them.

The Fed Is Powerful, Except in Fighting Wealth Inequality

The power to narrow the yawning gaps in the world’s largest economy begins and ends in the walls of Congress. Unfortunately, for more than a decade, lawmakers have ceded much of that responsibility to the Fed, an institution that is particularly ill-equipped to address wealth inequality.

UK scientists worry vaccines may not protect against S.African coronavirus variant

Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while both variants had some new features in common, the one found in South Africa “has a number additional mutations … which are concerning”.

Breakingviews – “Big Four” U.S. airlines may go down to three

Most other countries have a single flag carrier implicitly or explicitly backed by the state. America doesn’t, but pandemic bailouts have made the Big Four quasi-government-owned, giving the public a stake in their future.

Drugmakers kick off 2021 with 500 U.S. price hikes

They include more than 300 price increases from companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline reported by Reuters late last week. Nearly all the increases were below 10%, and the median hike was 4.8%

To ‘Keep Sharp’ This Year, Keep Learning, Advises Neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta

“The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that’s typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells…We want to constantly be using new paths and trails and roads within our brain.”

Georgia Runoff Elections Have Huge Implications For Stock Market Outlook

Unified Democrat control of Congress would hinge on a Senate tiebreaking vote by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Yet even that margin could have huge implications for tax and spending policy, the shape of the coronavirus recovery and the stock market outlook.

Where Is Jack Ma? Former Alibaba CEO Suspected to Be Missing for Weeks

Ma appeared to call for a reform of China’s banking system and criticize Beijing financial officials for stifling innovation. “We can’t use yesterday’s methods to regulate the future,” he said on stage.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

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January 4, 2021

Not to ruin the party, but the 2021 forecast is nightmarish

America was severely broken and fundamentally changed during 2020 and it will take a long time to fix it — a job that President-elect Biden is unprepared to handle.

Fauci sees U.S. gaining control over pandemic by next autumn

“As we get into January, the feeling is that we’re going to gain momentum to be able to catch up.”

Moving Into the Long Term

With remote learning moving into the long term, experts say the mental, emotional and academic impacts of that shift are likely to be challenging.

Ten Ways Covid-19 Has Changed the World Economy Forever

The takeover of factory and service jobs by robots will advance, while white-collar workers get to stay home more. There’ll be more inequality between and within countries. Governments will play a larger role in the lives of citizens, spending—and owing—more money.

Shopping malls were struggling before COVID-19 and now have more empty stores. What’s next after the pandemic?

“In 2021, the good malls will continue to do well…It’s the weaker ones that will suffer…The future of the mall isn’t doomed or completely redundant. It’s just that 2021 will be a year of reckoning for underperforming properties.”

More store closings in 2021? These are the most vulnerable major retailers of 2021 as pandemic continues

“If you’re in a sector like department stores or specialty or off-price or apparel, you suffered the most in 2020.”

Are you willing to pay for email? How about podcasts? Here are our tech predictions for 2021

As of June 1, Google will no longer allow users to upload their photos and videos to Google Photos for free.

US home prices rise nearly 8% — fastest pace in more than 6 years — driven by COVID-19 pandemic moving trends

“The data from the last several months are consistent with the view that COVID has encouraged potential buyers to move from urban apartments to suburban homes.”

Is a Home Office Actually More Productive? Some Workers Think So.

While roughly 27% said they would have considered such a setup to be ideal before the coronavirus pandemic started, 80% said they would like to continue working remotely for three days of the week or more once the pandemic is over.

Read more at VicNapier.com and my Medium.com page.

Links may lead to sites where the author has an affiliate relationship.