Business Briefs – November 25, 2020

U.S. Brands Vietnam, Switzerland As Currency Manipulators

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department has branded Vietnam and Switzerland as currency manipulators while putting China and nine other countries on a watch list in an annual report designed to halt countries from manipulating their currencies to gain unfair trade advantages.

It marked the first time that the United States has labeled another country as a currency manipulator since August 2019 when it called out China at a time when the world’s two largest economies were locked in tense trade negotiations.

“The Treasury Department has taken a strong step today to safeguard economic growth and opportunity for American workers and businesses” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Treasury will follow up on its findings with respect to Vietnam and Switzerland to work toward eliminating practices tat create unfair advantages for foreign countries.”

Bitcoin Surges Past $20,000, Erasing 3 Years Of Deep Losses

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The price of bitcoin rose above $20,000 for the first time Wednesday, as the speculative digital currency topped its previous peak reached shortly after it became tradable on Wall Street three years ago this month.

Like other instruments used to store value in times of uncertainty, bitcoin has benefited from the pandemic that has pushed other commodities like gold, silver, platinum to multiyear highs. Because of bitcoin’s structure, few coins are being created anymore and there is relative scarcity.

One bitcoin is worth roughly $20,700, according to Coinbase, a major digital currency exchange that also trades other tokens and currencies.

But the value of bitcoin is volatile and moves hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the course of a week. A month ago, it was worth less than $17,000 and a year ago it was worth less than $7,000.

Retail Sales Fell 1.1% in November, Biggest Drop In 7 Months

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans held back on spending during the start of the end-of-year shopping season, a troubling sign for retailers and the state of the U.S. economy.

U.S. retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in November, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It was the biggest drop in seven months, and a steeper decline than Wall Street analysts had expected.

The report points to a weak start to the all-important end-of-year shopping season, which can usually account for a quarter or more of a retailer’s annual sales. It is also another sign that the pandemic is slowing the U.S. economy as retailers face tighter restrictions and people stay away from stores.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday also revised October’s report, saying that retail sales fell 0.1% that month, instead of rising 0.3% as it previously reported. Retailers had tried to get people to shop early, with Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and others offering special deals in October.

Little-Known SolarWinds Gets Scrutiny Over Hack, Stock Sales

(AP) – Before this week, few people were aware of SolarWinds, a Texas-based software company providing vital computer network monitoring services to corporations and government agencies around the world.

But the revelation that elite cyber spies have spent months secretly exploiting SolarWinds’ software to peer into computer networks has put many of its highest-profile customers in national governments and Fortune 500 companies on high alert. And it’s raising questions about how soon company insiders knew of its security vulnerabilities as its biggest investors sold off stock.

From Restaurants To Retailers, Virus Transformed Economies

NEW YORK (AP) — It would be just a temporary precaution.

When the viral pandemic erupted in March, employees of the small insurance firm Thimble fled their Manhattan offices. CEO Jay Bregman planned to call them back soon — as soon as New York was safe again.

Within weeks, he’d changed his mind. Bregman broke his company’s lease and told his two dozen or so staffers they could keep working from home — possibly for good.

The gains were at once unexpected and immediate. Bregman is saving money on rent. He no longer has to persuade recruits to relocate to a crushingly expensive city. He’s increased his staff by 20% and for the first time added new hires in Texas and California.

Like no other event in memory, the pandemic has upended economies in the United States and across the world — transforming how people work, travel, eat, shop and congregate. It has changed how students are educated, how people communicate, how households are entertained and which industries, geographic areas and categories of people will thrive and which will suffer.

India Receives Bids To Buy State-Owned Air India Airline

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s government says it has received “multiple expressions of interest” in buying its 100% stake in debt-laden national carrier Air India to shore up falling government revenues after an initial attempt in 2018 failed to attract any bidders.

The deadline for submission of formal bids was Monday and the government is expected to announce qualified bidders on Jan. 5. It did not reveal the identity of the bidders or the number of bids received.

“Multiple expressions of interest have been received for strategic disinvestment of Air India. The transaction will now move to the second stage,” Department of Investment and Public Asset Management Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey tweeted.

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