Economy & Business

Why it matters: After a record economic expansion, the coronavirus pandemic sent the U.S. economy into a recession as unemployment soared to staggering heights. The country now faces urgent questions about how much stimulus is needed for reeling consumers and businesses, and what a recovery might look like.

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Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Varsity Tutors in talks to go public via TPG SPAC

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nerdy, the parent company of online learning platform Varsity Tutors, is in talks to be acquired by a SPAC affiliated with private equity giant TPG, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: In less than a year, SPAC acquisitions have evolved from a niche market into a widely-accepted alternative to initial public offerings (IPOs).

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

China's Ant Group seeking buyer for U.S. biometric security firm EyeVerify

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ant Group, the Chinese fintech affiliate of Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), is seeking a buyer for Kansas City-based biometric security firm EyeVerify, per the Financial Times.

Why it matters: This reflects festering tech tensions between Beijing and D.C., particularly when it comes to things like facial recognition software. It's also part of Ant's efforts to generate liquidity after being forced to scrap what was to be the largest-ever IPO.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya eyes run for California governor

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The new king of SPACs has his eyes on a different title: Governor of California.

Driving the news: Chamath Palihapitiya is very seriously considering a run for gov, if incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom succumbs to a burgeoning recall effort.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
7 hours ago - Economy & Business

What to watch for in Tesla's Q4 earnings report

Data: FactSet; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Tesla will report Q4 2020 earnings after markets close today, with analysts expecting a sixth consecutive quarterly profit for the electric vehicle maker that was reeling just a few years ago.

Why it matters: Tesla is the country's dominant EV company, and its trajectory affects overall adoption of the tech, even as more and more models from other companies are hitting the market.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
8 hours ago - Economy & Business

Everybody loves the hybrid workweek

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The longer people spend working from home, the more they're embracing the idea of a hybrid post-pandemic workplace.

Why it matters: Working from home a few days a week was once a fringe idea, and many managers would never have allowed it. Now it's the norm.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
8 hours ago - Technology

Tech companies gobble up office space

Facebook leased a whopping 730,000 square feet in Manhattan's iconic Farley building in 2020. Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images

The pandemic-induced shift to remote work has pushed Corporate America to rethink the need for office space.

By the numbers: The signing of new leases and the renewals of existing leases fell 36% in 2020, compared with 2019, according to a new report from the commercial real estate firm CBRE, shared exclusively with Axios.

Small businesses receive $35 billion in new round of PPP loans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Small Business Administration said last night that so far this year, it has approved 400,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $35 billion — out of the $284 billion of total available funding.

Driving the news: These are the first figures on the status of the forgivable loan program since it relaunched on Jan. 11.

The rebellion against Silicon Valley (the place)

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Silicon Valley may be a "state of mind," but it's also very much a real enclave in Northern California. Now, a growing faction of the tech industry is boycotting it.

Why it matters: The Bay Area is facing for the first time the prospect of losing its crown as the top destination for tech workers and startups — which could have an economic impact on the region and force it to reckon with its local issues.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Telework's tax mess

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As teleworkers flit from city to city, they're creating a huge tax mess.

Why it matters: Our tax laws aren't built for telecommuting, and this new way of working could have dire implications for city and state budgets.

11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden's car shopping list may be too picky

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

President Biden's plan to replace the government’s fleet of 650,000 cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. by union workers is easier said than done.

Why it matters: The populist "Buy American" message sounds good, but the vehicles Biden wants are still several years away and his purchase criteria would require an expensive overhaul of automakers' manufacturing strategies, not to mention a reversal of fortune for labor organizers long stymied by Tesla and other non-union companies.

11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Wanted: New media bosses, everywhere

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, HuffPost and Wired are all looking for new editors. Soon, The New York Times will be too.

Why it matters: The new hires will reflect a new generation — one that's addicted to technology, demands accountability and expects diversity to be a priority.

Wall Street's own populist revolt

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

A popular rebellion, organized by the powerless against the powerful. It might have failed in Washington, but it certainly seems to be working on Wall Street.

Driving the news: The market value of GameStop closed at more than $10 billion on Tuesday, on record volume of more than $26 billion.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

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