Friday's economy & business stories

NBCUniversal to shut down its sports cable network

The NBC Sports car sits on pit lane before the start of a race at the Kentucky Speedway. Photo: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Comcast's NBCUniversal will shut down its sports cable channel, NBCSN, at the end of the year and move some of its premium programming, including NHL playoff games and NASCAR races, to its USA Network, Axios confirmed Friday.

Driving the news: The company is "hoping to solve two problems with one move: Get rid of an underperforming asset and boost an already powerful one," noted the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.

Robbie Diamond: U.S. should not depend on China for rare earth minerals

Axios' Joann Mueller (right) and SAFE's Robbie Diamond. Photo: Axios

The United States should wean itself from dependence on China for its rare earth minerals and metals supply, Robbie Diamond, CEO of Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), said on Friday in an Axios virtual event.

Why it matter: Rare earths are crucial in the manufacturing of commercial electronics, military technologies and the batteries and magnets used in electrical vehicles — and China is the world's leading processor and exporter of those materials.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

GameStop stock continues to defy gravity

Expand chart
Source: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Shares in GameStop surged as high as $76.73 on Friday in what has been described as an "epic short squeeze."

Why it matters: The GameStop fight, with Redditors and TikTok influencers on the long side and investment professionals like Citron Research's Andrew Left on the short side, has turned ugly in recent days. But for the time being, the amateur investors are winning.

Jan 22, 2021 - Health

Stabenow: U.S. must put pandemic relief before EV manufacturing

Photo: Axios screenshot

The U.S. needs to focus on helping people get through the coronavirus pandemic before turning to manufacturing, including electric vehicles, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said on Friday at an Axios virtual event.

What she's saying: "We've got to deal with getting our arms around the vaccine, around the pandemic with the vaccines, helping people survive. And ... then robustly reopen the economy. And certainly, clean energy, jobs, is a big part of that."

Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Lucid Motors' methodical manufacturing plan

Lucid Motors manufacturing plant in Casa Grande, Ariz. Photo: Lucid

The U.S. auto industry is spreading west, with electric vehicle companies opening factories far from Detroit, in places like California, Arizona and Texas.

Why it matters: With hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital, along with newly issued public stock symbols, many are unproven newcomers with ambitions to become the next Tesla.

Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

What we're driving: 2021 Mazda6 Carbon edition

2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition. Photo: Mazda

This week I'm driving the 2021 Mazda6 Carbon edition, the most fun I've had in a midsize sedan in a while.

The big picture: Sedans are passé these days, as most buyers are gravitating toward SUVs and crossovers. Even so, Mazda is by far the most fun-to-drive car in its segment — engaging and athletic yet also quiet and refined.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Chinese e-cigarette maker RLX raises $1.4 billion in IPO

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

RLX Technology, a Chinese e-cigarette maker, raised $1.4 billion in its IPO after pricing above its anticipated range. The company's initial market value is around $18.6 billion, and it will trade on the NYSE (RLX).

Why it matters: It's a reminder that vaping continues to flourish, despite receding from the headlines as COVID-19 became a more immediate public health crisis. The IPO also comes as investors wait to see if President Biden will continue on the Trump administration's efforts to stem U.S. listings of Chinese companies.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Yellen says Biden is "fully supportive" of carbon pricing

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Janet Yellen, President Biden's nominee to run the Treasury Department, has made clear to senators that her boss supports carbon pricing, but how that backing translates to policy is unknown.

Driving the news: "I am fully supportive of effective carbon pricing and I know that the President is as well," Yellen said in written answers to Senate Finance Committee members' questions published Thursday.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Stuart Haselden steps down as CEO of luggage startup Away

Away co-founder Jen Rubio, who will step in as interim CEO. Photo:f Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Glamour

Stuart Haselden is stepping down as CEO of smart luggage-maker Away, Axios has learned. He'll be succeeded on an interim basis by company co-founder Jen Rubio, and an outside search firm has been retained to find a permanent successor.

Why it matters: Haselden, formerly with Lululemon, appeared to have established executive stability at Away, whose co-founder Steph Korey previously resigned as CEO before retaking the reins alongside Haselden and then resigning again.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Charging network EVgo is going public via SPAC

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

EVgo, a big player in electric vehicle charging, said this morning that it's going public via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Driving the news: The Los Angeles-based company, which has charging stations in 34 states, expects the deal will bring in $575 million that will "be used to fully fund and accelerate EVgo’s growth strategy and network buildout."

Fears about a market bubble creep up on investor worry list

Data: BofA Global Research; Note: Percentage of investors that cite respective events as fears; Chart: Axios Visuals

Fears of an asset bubble are gaining ground among investors, Bank of America surveys out this week show.

Why it matters: The coronavirus is still the top fear, followed by rising interest rates. But there was the biggest jump among investors that mentioned "asset bubble" as a concern.

Big bank bond trading soared in 2020

Data: Analysis of company filings; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic helped to pull big banks’ bond trading revenue out of a multi-year slump.

Why it matters: Revenue within the so-called fixed income, currency and commodity (FICC) divisions has been slowing for years.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Fox News anchor Bret Baier's 13-year-old has 4th open-heart surgery

Bret Baier's son Paul is recovering from his fourth open-heart surgery, and has "made leaps and bounds" since the 10-hour procedure last month, the Fox News anchor tells PEOPLE in the issue out today.

  • Paul, born with five congenital heart defects, had his first procedure as a newborn — then two more at 10 months old and 6 years old.

Biden's centrist words, liberal actions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden talks like a soothing centrist. He promises to govern like a soothing centrist. But early moves show that he is keeping his promise to advance a liberal agenda.

Why it matters: Never before has a president done more by executive fiat in such a short period of time than Biden. And those specific actions, coupled with a push for a more progressive slate of regulators and advisers, look more like the Biden of the Democratic primary than the unity-and-restraint Biden of the general election.

Banks cash in as Wall Street blows out Main Street

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America’s big banks capped off a winning year, led by soaring Wall Street-facing business lines.

Why it matters: Banks cashed in on the white-hot IPO market, record debt issuance, and sky-high trading volume — all of which played out as economic peril softened the consumer side of their businesses.

Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

What Biden's EV push could mean for jobs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's swift effort to re-establish stricter fuel efficiency mandates, along with his broader push toward vehicle electrification, is as much about creating new jobs as it is protecting the environment.

Why it matters: The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in electric vehicle adoption. Catching up will require big investments in EV production — including battery cell manufacturing and mining of raw materials — to avoid dependence on imports and foreign supply chains.

Instacart cuts nearly 1,900 in-store jobs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Instacart is laying off nearly 1,900 of its part-time employees who assemble customer orders at grocery stores, including a 10-person union at a Kroger-owned store in Skokie, Illinois, as Motherboard first reported and the company confirmed to Axios.

The big picture: Instacart is cutting positions that come with employment status and related benefits — an anomaly within the gig economy and even Instacart's own business, which relies on independent-contractor delivery drivers.

Jan 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Biden inauguration TV ratings top Trump's

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's swearing in and inaugural address drew nearly 40 million viewers, beating Trump's 38.35 million viewers in 2017, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen.

Details: CNN led the main cable and broadcast networks, followed by ABC, MSNBC, NBC and CBS. Fox News, which led ratings during almost every major presidential event in 2020, finished last.