Business Briefs – December 22, 2020

Congress’ Rescue Aid: A Dose Of Support, but Is It Enough?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress’ rescue aid package will provide urgently needed benefits to the unemployed, loans to help small businesses stay open and up to $600 in cash payments to most individuals. It will also help families facing evictions remain in their homes. The measure includes no budgetary help, though, for states and localities that are being forced to turn to layoffs and service cuts as their tax revenue dries up — a potential long-run drag on the economy. Months from now, economists say, the widespread distribution and use of vaccines could potentially unleash a robust economic recovery as the virus is quashed, businesses reopen, hiring picks up and consumers spend freely again.

Year-End Could Make Or Break Struggling Stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Clothing stores and specialty retailers are offering big discounts and heavily promoting curbside pickup in hopes of rescuing a lackluster year-end shopping season. For some, it could be their last chance at survival. And even a last-minute sales boost could be too late to save them. The year-end season, which accounts for about 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales, has always been make-or-break for struggling stores. But it’s even more important this year as they look to make up for sales lost since the pandemic forced them to temporarily close locations.

High-Flying Tesla Stock Takes A Hit on 1st Day In S&P 500

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla had a rough first day in the S&P 500 index with its shares tumbling 6.5% Monday. The decline muted some of its astronomical appreciation so far this year of nearly 700%. The electric vehicle maker has come a long way since the middle of last year when there were doubts about its ability to pay bills. Fans say sales and income are up, debt has been cut and CEO Elon Musk’s company is the leader in battery technology and software. But critics say there is a limited number of markets in which to sell high-priced Tesla vehicles, and if it weren’t for the sale of pollution credits the company wouldn’t make money. Tesla’s shares closed Monday at $649.86.

Report: Social Media Manipulation Affects Even U.S. Senators

BRUSSELS (AP) — A vast, globalized industry of low-cost social media manipulation service providers continues to flourish, distorting both commerce and politics — including the verified social media accounts of two U.S. senators. That’s according to a new investigation by researchers from the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence. They paid just 300 euros for 337,768 fake likes, views and shares of posts on various social media outlets, including content from the verified accounts of Senators Chuck Grassley and Chris Murphy. Both senators consented to participate in the experiment.

Trump’s Final Trade Policy May Be Tariffs on Vietnamese Goods

WASHINGTON/HANOI (Reuters/Hamodia) – President Donald Trump is likely to unveil proposed tariffs on Vietnamese goods before he leaves office in January, currency and trade experts say, after the U.S. Treasury branded the growing U.S. trade partner a “currency manipulator” last week. U.S. companies that import goods from Vietnam should brace for significant tariffs from the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) “Section 301” investigation into currency valuation practices, experts say.

Results of the probe, running in parallel with the Treasury review announced last week, could be public as soon as Jan. 7.

Congress Agrees to Expand Payroll Assistance to Local News Outlets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional leaders said on Sunday that lawmakers agreed to expand forgivable government loans to additional struggling local news outlets as part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the measure would expand eligibility “for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters.”

Thousands of local media outlets and newspapers had been ineligible for the initial “Paycheck Protection Program” approved by Congress in March because they were owned by larger parent companies.

U.S. local news outlets, which already faced a decline in print revenue in recent years, have seen advertising revenue plummet in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apple Targets Car Production By 2024 and Eyes ‘Next Level’ Battery Technology

(Reuters) – Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc., returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.

Since then, Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service.

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