November 25, 2020

The Week in Business: Where Are the $300 Checks?

The French call it la rentrée — the ramp-up period after summer holidays end, when school starts and that buzzy September energy hits the air. To call this season different is an understatement, but rentrée we shall, as best we can. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech for the week ahead.

New unemployment claims remain stubbornly high, hovering over 1 million for the second week in a row. (The number briefly dipped below that level earlier this month for the first time since the pandemic began, but then the trend reversed.) What’s particularly worrisome is that federal aid to the unemployed all but disappeared at the end of July. Earlier this month, President Trump promised an additional $300 in jobless pay, but those checks may not show up until mid-September in many states.

Normally, a big part of the Federal Reserve’s job is to prevent inflation. By tweaking interest rates, the Fed stabilizes the value of the dollar and helps keep the economy steady. But things are not normal right now, obviously, so the central bank is relaxing its stance — a historic move. On Thursday, the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said he would be willing to tolerate higher inflation if it meant creating and maintaining more jobs. In policy terms, that could translate to years of rock-bottom interest rates to drive cheap mortgages and business loans, even if it devalues the dollar in the process.

The movement to protest police violence reached a new level on Wednesday when N.B.A. players refused to take the court in response to the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by officers in Kenosha, Wis. Athletes in the W.N.B.A., Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the N.H.L. and professional tennis quickly canceled their events as well. (They agreed to resume later.) Striking for social justice is nothing new, but such fast and wide-scale organization across the multibillion dollar sports world reflects an unprecedented commitment, and may spark similar action in other industries too.

The wildly popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok sued the Trump administration on Monday after the president threatened to ban it unless the company sells off its U.S. operations. An interesting mix of suitors has come knocking — most notably Microsoft and Walmart, which have teamed up on a potential bid. The tech giant Oracle may also make an offer. The price tag is said to be in the $20 billion to $30 billion range, and there’s no time to lose: Mr. Trump set a Sept. 15 deadline for the sale.

The Trump administration is refusing to back down on keeping 25 percent tariffs on more than 100 major European products (basically all the ones worth caring about, like French chocolate and wine). To make matters worse, the government is adding more items to that list starting Sept. 1, including fruit preserves and German baked goods. The point is to pressure the European Union into capitulating on a long-running dispute over subsidies given to the European airline Airbus. So stock up on your strawberry jam and linzer cookies today.

This summer’s racial reckonings have spurred shake-ups in the magazine publishing industry, particularly at the Condé Nast food title Bon Appétit, where the editor in chief resigned in June after an old photo of him wearing an offensive costume circulated on Instagram. In the aftermath, the magazine’s employees spoke openly about a culture of racial and cultural insensitivity in their workplace. Several also resigned from Bon Appétit’s popular test kitchen video series, a cornerstone of Condé Nast’s video business. This week, the company announced that Dawn Davis, a prominent Black executive in book publishing, would take over the editor in chief role in November.

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