Feb 23, 2021

Axios Closer

🔔 Welcome back to Axios Closer, your look into the most important business stories of the day. Thanks for joining me for day 2.

  • Got feedback, questions or tips for what we should be covering? Hit reply or find me on Twitter (DMs are open).

📈 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up slightly (0.13%).

  • Biggest gainer? Marathon Oil (+10%). Biggest decliner? Defense and aviation company Leidos (-9%).

Today's newsletter is 715 words, or a 2½-minute read.

1 big thing: More signs of life in the housing boom

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Home Depot has been a proxy for the white-hot housing market.

What's going on: The company rode the coattails of the pandemic building boom — and just gave us a hint that it hasn't slowed down.

Details: Home Depot said today vinyl flooring, appliances and moldings drove sales at the end of last year.

  • Sales for DIY projects continued at a breakneck pace.
  • Professional builders' purchases of housing supplies jumped the most since the pandemic began.

A fresh data point illuminates the boom: U.S. home prices soared in December at the fastest pace in six years — the latest sign of strong demand.

  • Catch up quick: Home demand has soared, but supply is still tight — sending prices soaring.
  • Builders are racing to keep up with the demand for new homes.
  • Borrowing rates plummeted when the pandemic hit, enticing locked-down residents to seek out bigger or different homes.

The other side: As people spent more time in their homes, they put extra cash in them too, fueling a home-improvement frenzy.

What they're saying: "It took us 19 years ... to get the first $20 billion in total sales," but sales jumped by more than that in one year alone, Home Depot CEO Craig Menear told analysts today.

2. Latest on Tiger Woods car wreck

The SUV driven by Tiger Woods after a rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Tiger Woods, one of the top endorsers in the world, had an SUV accident while in LA to film for Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has a contract, AP reported.

  • Woods suffered leg injuries and was listed in serious condition during surgery, after his SUV rolled over in a single-vehicle accident near Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Latest update.

3. Charted: Bitcoin tantrum
Source: YCharts, CoinMarketCap; Chart: Axios Visuals

The handful of companies that have hitched their wagon to the bitcoin phenomenon may feel good when the cryptocurrency is soaring.

  • Less so when it's tanking.

What's going on: Bitcoin fell over 12% and broke below $50,000, day two of a sell-off.

  • Tesla, which earlier this month said it would invest a small percentage of its cash in bitcoin, fell as much as 13% before recovering almost all of its losses.
  • One analyst warned today that Tesla and Bitcoin are now tied "at the hip."

Another sign of the bitcoin pinch: Shares of MicroStrategy — which became the talk of Wall Street for how much cash it's plowed into bitcoin — fell 23%.

Worth noting: The tech-heavy Nasdaq staged a massive comeback after dropping as much as 3.9% today.

  • "Stay-at-home" stocks like Roku and Zoom were under pressure, before gaining back ground.
4. What’s moving

Square said it bought more bitcoin. After buying another $170 million worth last quarter, about 5% of its cash is invested in the cryptocurrency. (CoinDesk)

Macy's turned a profit for the first time in a year, though its sales lagged in its final quarterly report of 2020 shows. (CNBC)

HSBC says it will eventually have 40% less office space — the latest company that plans to shut offices thanks to a more "work from home" future. (Reuters)

👀 Also on the radar: NTSB says “metal fatigue” caused Boeing 777 engine failure ... Pfizer and Moderna executives tell Congress they plan to double vaccine shipments by spring ... The foundation behind Black Lives Matter took in $90 million last year.

5. What they’re saying
"Even after you account for ... stimulus payments, unemployment insurance, renters experienced a greater than 10% drop in income, suggesting that they are really struggling."
— Heather Higginbottom, JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter

What's new: The JPMorgan Chase Institute — the bank's internal think tank of sorts — and its new policy arm are pushing for policy changes for the first time, the company shared exclusively with Axios.

  • The institute is sending its recommendations to Washington, as Congress hashes out a pandemic stimulus package.

Details: "We're trying to use our data and analysis to inform some of those conversations," Higginbottom said on the Axios Re:Cap podcast.

What they're proposing...

  • Raise the federal minimum wage, though they don't say by how much.
  • Add wage benefits for working parents — particularly women of color disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
  • Switch off expanded unemployment benefits only when certain economic conditions improve and state unemployment rates fall to a certain level.

🎧 The Axios Re:Cap full episode airs tomorrow. Listen here.

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  • In the meantime, here's a crossover no one saw coming: Legendary singer Michael Bolton serenading Reddit traders.
    • "How am I supposed to live without you" became "How am I supposed to trade without you." See it.