Why Stocks Soared While America Struggled

You would never know how terrible the past year has been for many Americans by looking at Wall Street, which has been going gangbusters since the early days of the pandemic.

“On the streets, there are chants of ‘Stop killing Black people!’ and ‘No justice, no peace!’ Meanwhile, behind a computer, one of the millions of new day traders buys a stock because the chart is quickly moving higher,” wrote Chris Brown, the founder and managing member of the Ohio-based hedge fund Aristides Capital in a letter to investors in June 2020. “The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming at times.”

The market was temporarily shaken in March 2020, as stocks plunged for about a month at the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak, but then something strange happened. Even as hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, millions of people were laid off and businesses shuttered, protests against police violence erupted across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the outgoing president refused to accept the outcome of the 2020 election — supposedly the market’s nightmare scenario — for weeks, the stock market soared. After the jobs report from April 2021 revealed a much shakier labor recovery might be on the horizon, major indexes hit new highs.

The disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street, between corporate CEOs and the working class, has perhaps never felt so stark. How can it be that food banks are overwhelmed while the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits an all-time high? For a year that’s been so bad, it’s been hard not to wonder how the stock market could be so good.

To the extent that there can ever be an explanation for what’s going on with the stock market, there are some straightforward financial answers here. The Federal Reserve took extraordinary measures to support financial markets and reassure investors it wouldn’t let major corporations fall apart.

Congress did its part as well, pumping trillions of dollars into the economy across multiple relief bills. Turns out giving people money is good for markets, too. Tech stocks, which make up a significant portion of the S&P 500, soared. And with bond yields so low, investors didn’t really have a more lucrative place to put their money.

To put it plainly, the stock market is not representative of the whole economy, much less American society. And what it is representative of did fine.“No matter how many times we keep on saying the stock market is not the economy, people won’t believe it, but it isn’t,” said Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist. “The stock market is about one piece of the economy — corporate profits — and it’s not even about the current or near-future level of corporate profits, it’s about corporate profits over a somewhat longish horizon.”

Still, those explanations, to many people, don’t feel fair. Investors seem to have remained inconceivably optimistic throughout real turmoil and uncertainty. If the answer to why the stock market was fine is basically that’s how the system works, the follow-up question is: Should it?

“Talking about the prosperous nature of the stock market in the face of people still dying from Covid-19, still trying to get health care, struggling to get food, stay employed, it’s an affront to people’s actual lived experience,” said Solana Rice, the co-founder and co-executive director of Liberation in a Generation, which pushes for economic policies that reduce racial disparities. “The stock market is not representative of the makeup of this country.”

Inequality is not a new theme in the American economy. But the pandemic exposed and reinforced the way the wealthy and powerful experience what’s happening so much differently than those with less power and fewer means — and force the question of how the prosperity of those at the top could be better shared with those at the bottom. There are certainly ideas out there, though Wall Street might not like them.

How the stock market boomed when American life soured

Many on Wall Street, like many people in America, were in denial about the realities of Covid-19 when it first began to take hold internationally in early 2020. In an interview with Vox last April, CNBC host Jim Cramer recalled wondering whether “another shoe will drop on this coronavirus outbreak” in early February, only to see stocks keep rising steadily. “But nothing happened. The market kept quiet,” Cramer told Vox. Indeed, stocks continued to reach record highs.

While stocks often rise slowly, they also fall fast. And once Wall Street caught on to the realities Covid-19 might bring, the market tumbled, wiping off some 30 percent of its value from mid-February to mid-March. “No one had any idea of what the future was going to be, how deep this is, how long it would be, how wide it would be,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The S&P 500 bottomed out on March 23, just a week into New York’s shutdown, and after that, it made a remarkably strong recovery, month after month.

Most analysts and experts point to the Fed as the most important factor in supporting market confidence. The central bank announced a series of big measures to help support the economy and markets in March 2020, including saying that it would buy both investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (basically, debt that is risky and debt that is not).

“Not dissimilar to the global financial crisis, the Fed stepped in, and that was really a catalyst for a stock market recovery,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. “The Fed can be very, very powerful, almost omnipotent, when it comes to the stock market.”

Throughout the crisis, the Fed and Chair Jay Powell have made clear they will support markets and use every tool in their toolkit to do it. Powell has taken an extremely dovish tone and repeatedly said the Fed won’t raise interest rates — which would presumably slow down the economy and markets — preemptively. Basically, the markets let the Fed take the wheel.

Even if it didn’t buy bonds itself, the knowledge that it would if necessary reinforced the markets — private investors swept in to take up corporate bond offerings from companies such as Boeing and Nike. Continued confidence in a dovish Fed has only reinforced market bullishness; while a bad jobs report may be bad for businesses and workers, to investors, it’s also more reassurance that low interest rates aren’t going anywhere.

The issue is, the Fed is a much more powerful force on Wall Street than it is Main Street. Its programs to help small and midsize businesses and states and cities have been far less effective than those set up to help corporations and asset prices.

“It now feels like policy, be it the Fed or something else, that the stock market should really never go down,” said Dan Egan, vice president of behavioral finance and investing at Betterment.

To be sure, the Fed’s role is monetary policy, and it would have been bad if markets were allowed to crash or a litany of major corporations went bankrupt. And luckily for many struggling people and businesses, Congress stepped in with fiscal policy that could be more effective in helping the broader economy — a move that, no doubt, also helped markets. It’s good for corporations that people have money to spend.

Still, some wonder whether the Fed couldn’t have tried to go further to make sure its programs to support corporations flow to people other than shareholders. “Obviously it was good, the Fed needed to do something,” said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform. “But the criticism I would weigh was that there were no real conditions that workers were protected or rehired, that all the gains just didn’t go to the top.”

Goldstein pointed to a September report from the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that found the Fed bought corporate bonds from at least 95 companies that issued dividends to shareholders while also laying off workers. “Surely the Fed is also so powerful that it can say, look, we need you all to prioritize rehiring your workers or we’re not necessarily going to rescue you, we’re going to rescue other companies, and that should be impactful,” Goldstein said.

Companies have been ruled by the mantra of shareholder primacy, where maximizing profits for investors is the end-all, be-all, for decades. Worker pay has severely lagged gains in productivity. Those trends were unlikely to change during a pandemic.

“Shareholder primacy means the job of corporations is to increase their share prices for this very small elite, and that means downward pressure on costs, including workers, where possible,” said Lenore Palladino, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “The fact that the stock market is booming is because of the financialization of our goods- and services-producing companies, not because the real economy is doing so well.”

The market felt better about the pandemic than you probably did

Jack Ablin, the founding partner of Cresset Capital, recalls calling clients in the spring of 2020 and telling them they didn’t know how long the lockdowns and virus would last, but they were “confident” that within a year, it would be done. “Of course, it wasn’t,” he told Vox. But the general attitude remains: The markets figured things would get better, sooner or later. “Part of it was saying, look, this is temporary, we will eventually get back to business. So we were trying to look past the valley to the other side of normality.”

Not everything had to break in Wall Street’s favor for the market rally to continue — as mentioned, between the Fed and the future promise of corporate profits, investors had plenty of reasons to be confident — but it doesn’t hurt that it kind of did. The vaccine, which at the outset of the pandemic some experts warned might be years away, appeared by the end of 2020. Donald Trump did not want to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, which some investors feared would spark chaos before voting day, but by and large, the US saw a peaceful transfer of power (with the exception of a riot at the Capitol, that, while disturbing, didn’t have anything to do with the Dow).

Investors also seemed confident that Congress would come through with more fiscal support for the economy. This, too, was not a given. The $900 billion package passed in the lame-duck session in December for months seemed highly unlikely. Had Democrats not taken both US Senate seats in Georgia, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law in March, would not have happened. While neither provided direct support to the markets, they did support the broader economy that the markets have for months been bullish on. Putting money in people’s pockets means they’ll spend it. It’s good for Wall Street that Main Street America doesn’t fail.

Some people in the industry point to a certain level of faith in America, like the type legendary investor Warren Buffett channeled during the financial crisis and Great Recession when he told people to “buy American.”

“You have to have an existential faith in America in order to be in stocks over the long term,” said Nick Colas, the co-founder of DataTrek Research.

“What has happened in the last 14 months or so is we’re believing in America again, we’re believing in our companies,” said Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets. “From every bear market and every depression, we transition from despair to hope, and the hope was defined by American companies.”

It does look like the US is poised to emerge from the pandemic much before the rest of the world and spend its way to an economic recovery that many other countries could not. Now, it’s the investors who sold out of the market when it was falling last year who have been left out.

“There are two lessons to be learned over the past year. The first is that economic headlines are lagging and not leading indicators of the market; and second, market timing is a losers’ game,” said Saira Malik, chief investment officer of global equities at Nuveen, an asset manager.

Nuveen is currently interested in emerging markets for potential investment possibilities on the horizon — including countries such as Brazil, which continues to be ravaged by the pandemic. “We do feel like in the near term they are going to struggle. But the vaccines are becoming more and more available, and while they’re lagging a bit behind, we do think they’ll catch up, and they’ve tended to have the cheaper valuations to go with that,” Malik said.

At this point, it’s hard to wonder what, if anything, will truly unnerve investors.

There are still plenty of risks to the market, including that in the US, President Joe Biden and Democrats may take steps to raise taxes that would mean a hit for the bottom lines of corporations and investors. When chatter of the president’s capital gains tax proposal kicked up in late April, the markets took a small dip, but it was hardly catastrophic.

“We have an administration that clearly has ambitions and wants to pay for them by taxing capital, taxing corporate profits, now taxing capital gains. The resilience of the market in the face of all that is kind of interesting,” Krugman said. “There may be a little bit of determined resilience; there may be some element of when people are determined to be optimistic, facts don’t matter.”

Hooper, from Invesco, offered up the explanation of the Fed. “I do think on a short-term basis, we could see a sell-off if there is a risk that appears imminent, but we have to recognize that all current risks are being cushioned by this incredibly accommodative Fed, which does have an impact. It’s a powerful upward force on stocks that can counteract the downward forces.”

What the stock market does and doesn’t represent

How the stock market does matters to a lot of people. A little over half of all Americans report owning stocks, including in their retirement or pension plans. And during the pandemic, plenty of people got into day trading, for better and for worse. But some groups have much higher stakes in the market than others. More than 80 percent of stocks are owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, meaning when markets go up, they’re the ones who reap the most gains. White people are also the overwhelming majority of market beneficiaries — by Palladino’s estimates, 92 percent of corporate equity and mutual fund value is owned by white households, compared to less than 2 percent each by Black and Hispanic households.

“People often forget how concentrated corporate equity holdings are,” Palladino said. “They’re held mainly by wealthy white households.” Those are the people who disproportionately reaped the benefits of the stock market’s pandemic run, while people of color disproportionately suffered the health and economic consequences of the disease.

If the US wants to create a fairer, less extractive economy where corporations and shareholders aren’t living a very different reality than people trying to pay their rent or find a job, there are ways to do it. The federal government could raise corporate taxes and tax income from investments in the same way it does income from labor and seek to rein in CEO pay.

It could also clamp down on shareholder primacy and make sure companies base their decisions not only on making their investors rich but also on the well-being of their workers, customers, communities, and suppliers. In 2019, the Business Roundtable, a major business lobbying group, issued a statement that it would redefine the “purpose of a corporation” as one that fosters “an economy that serves all Americans.” The government and the public could find ways to hold them to it. Palladino, in her work, has outlined a number of proposals that would curb shareholder primacy, including requiring corporate boards to have worker representatives, banning stock buybacks, and boosting unions.

Beyond policy fixes, there’s also just the reality that the market measures very one specific thing — how investors think (rightly or wrongly) corporate profits are going to be in the future. And for many people, that measure is meaningless. “If you can assess that the economy is good when we’re in one of the worst economic moments of American history, then it’s a useless measure,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, co-executive director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy.

The past year has been a truly wild ride in America and for the stock market, though in different directions. Investors are reaching almost exuberant levels, from the GameStop saga to the crypto craze. Stocks are continuing their bull run, with no clear end in sight. There are plenty of warnings that investors are out over their skis, but then again, there always are.

It’s a far cry from a little over a year ago, when billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman went on TV to warn that “hell is coming” because of Covid-19. Or maybe it did — just not for Wall Street.

Source: Why the stock market went up during the Covid-19 pandemic and high unemployment – Vox

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References

 

Saefong, Myra P.; Watts, William (28 February 2020). “U.S. oil futures suffer largest weekly percentage loss in over a decade”. MarketWatch. Dow Jones & Company. Archived from the original on 1 March 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.

U.S. Economic Growth Is Peaking And That Means Stocks Could Struggle This Year, Goldman Warns

As the economic benefits of massive fiscal stimulus and businesses reopening reach their peak in the coming weeks, Goldman Sachs analysts are warning that U.S. economic growth will slow, leading to “paltry” stock returns over the next year and an end to the market’s massive pandemic rally.

U.S. economic growth will peak within the next two months, Goldman analysts said in a Thursday morning note, forecasting that gross domestic product will grow by an annualized 10.5% rate in the second quarter, the strongest expansion since 1978 aside from the economy’s stark mid-pandemic rebound in the third quarter of last year.

Economic growth will then “slow modestly” in the third quarter and continue to decelerate over the next several quarters, the analysts predicted, adding that such deceleration is typically associated with weaker stock returns and higher market volatility.

In a sign that fiscal stimulus effects and economic activity are peaking, the ISM Manufacturing index, a monthly economic indicator measuring industrial activity, registered at 65 in March—above the threshold of 60 that Goldman says typically represents peak economic growth.

Coming off the worst quarter in history, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic put itself back together. Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at NatWest Markets, Stephanie Kelton, professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, join “Squawk Box” to discuss. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic
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According to Goldman, the S&P 500 has historically fallen an average of 1% in the month after the ISM Manufacturing index registers more than 60, and in the subsequent 12 months, it’s gained a “paltry” 3%—significantly less than the 14% annualized return over the last 10 years.

Goldman expects the S&P will end the year at 4,300 points—implying just a 4% increase from Thursday’s close, lower than some other market forecasters who expect the index could soar to as high as 5,000 points by year’s end.

Crucial Quote

“Equities often struggle in the short term when a strong rate of economic growth begins to slow,” a group of Goldman strategists led by Ben Snider said Thursday, noting that during the last 40 years. “It is not a coincidence that ISM readings have rarely exceeded 60 during the last few decades; investors buying U.S equities at those times were buying stocks at around the same time as strong economic growth was peaking—and starting to decelerate.”

Surprising Fact

The most recent ISM reading is the highest since a level of 70 in December 1983—after which the S&P inched up just 0.2% in the following 12 months.

Key Background

Trillions of dollars in unprecedented fiscal stimulus during the pandemic have helped lift the stock market to new highs over the past year, and though President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan could add even more fuel to the economy, Anu Gaggar, a senior investment analyst for Commonwealth Financial Network, said Thursday that “investors have been quick to recognize [that] much of the upside has already been priced.”

That’s evidenced by the growing divergence in performance between the broader market and growth stocks this year, Gaggar says, echoing the sentiment from Goldman analysts Thursday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which far outperformed the broader market by surging 44% last year, has climbed about 9% this year, underperforming the S&P and Dow Jones Industrial Average, which are up roughly 12% each.

Further Reading

S&P 500 Passes 4,000—And These Market Experts Think It Can Keep Climbing Higher. Here’s Why. (Forbes)

Dow Jumps 200 Points: Stocks Fend Off Third Day Of Losses Despite Biotechs, Netflix Falling (Forbes)

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com.

Source: U.S. Economic Growth Is Peaking And That Means Stocks Could Struggle This Year, Goldman Warns

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Key quotes

“Economists predict 10.5% GDP growth for the second quarter, the strongest quarterly growth rate since 1978.”

“Growth in the third and fourth quarters of this year will clock in at 7.5% and 6.5%, respectively. Growth is then seen slowing in each quarter of 2022 — by the fourth quarter Goldman is modeling a mere 1.5% GDP increase.”

“Although our economists expect U.S. GDP growth will remain both above trend and above consensus forecasts through the next few quarters, they believe the pace of growth will peak within the next 1-2 months as the tailwinds from fiscal stimulus and economic reopening reach their maximum impact and then begin to fade.”

FX implications

The US dollar index drops 0.10% to trade at 91.25, as of writing. The dollar gauge resumes its downside momentum after facing rejection just below 91.50 in the US last session.

Latest Forex News

As Pandemic Fatigue Sets In at Work, Employers Try to Help

People are tired. Between a global pandemic, economic crisis, social unrest, & political upheaval, the past year has been physically and emotionally draining for just about everyone, and perhaps most for essential workers.

Across industries, workers struggling with pandemic fatigue are facing burnout more than ever. For leaders, keeping these employees engaged and motivated is a challenge in itself. While some leaders are turning to incentives like gift cards and cash to help support employees, others are taking a softer approach, investing in relationships and focusing on workplace communication.

Money Talks

When the pandemic began, the hospitality industry fell off a cliff, says Liz Neumark, founder and CEO of Great Performances, a catering company in New York City. She knew keeping everyone employed would be difficult until her business could find another source of revenue apart from events, which eventually came in the form of preparing meals for essential workers and people unable to quarantine at home. While some of her employees, such as those in sales or event production, saw salary reductions, chefs, kitchen staff, and other employees making food for essential workers kept their full salaries and got help with transportation as well.  

The founders of P. Terry’s, an Austin, Texas-based fast-food restaurant chain, give employees gift cards and cash to help pay for groceries and offer them interest-free loans. They also incentivize employees to participate in community and civic causes, including paying hourly wages for volunteer work.

Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer of Unique Snacks, a sixth-generation, family-operated hard pretzel maker in Reading, Pennsylvania, increased hourly wages by $2 for all 85 of his employees. The company also hired additional temporary employees to provide a backup workforce. Spannuth says the move helped persuade employees with possible symptoms to stay at home by easing the guilt that employees can have about not coming in and potentially increasing the workload on their colleagues. 

“The last thing we wanted our employees to do was get worn out from working too many hours and then have their immune system compromised because of it,” says Spannuth.

Helping Employees Connect

Andrea Ahern, vice president of Mid Florida Material Handling, a material handling company in Orlando, Florida, says it was difficult to keep morale up when the business was clearly struggling; employees were uncertain about the company’s future, and their own. To help ease the stress, the company held a wide array of picnic-style meals in the company’s parking lot. It was a light distraction that still followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Now, she says, morale has started to rise.

“With the release of the vaccine and the so-called ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ we’re starting to see the industry get a lift in activity, and associates feel good when they know their jobs aren’t at risk. However, it wasn’t always this way.”

These kinds of events can, of course, also take place virtually. Company leaders across industries are encouraging staff to treat Zoom as a virtual water cooler. But while casual online gatherings after work can help colleagues maintain friendly relationships, they can also contribute to “Zoom fatigue”–the drained feeling that comes after a long day of video calls, which often require more concentration than in-person meetings.

Matt McCambridge, co-founder and CEO of Eden Health, a primary/collaborative care practice based in New York, says while his teams hold regular virtual water coolers, they switch it up. For example, the company hosted an interactive “dueling pianos” virtual event over the holidays, as well as a magic show. 

Better Communication From the Top

Communicating support work-life balance at a time when many people are remote and facing trauma is critical. Neumark notes that when her catering company was pivoting and in the process of providing hundreds, if not thousands, of meals, the team was relying mostly on sheer adrenaline. Months later, now that the novelty is gone and fatigue has fully set in, the boundaries she set are crucial.

One rule, for example, is weekends off, unless there’s an urgent, unavoidable request. “The weeks are still so intense, and people need their private time right now,” says Neumark.

It’s essential that leaders understand the issues their employees may be facing and not try to gloss over them, says Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, a psychologist and chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, a foundation aimed at advancing mental and social health. “When your boss is pretending that everything is OK, it doesn’t create a conducive work environment for someone to talk about having a bad day,” says Miller. That’s one reason virtual water coolers often fail, he notes. While they’re great at getting people together, there’s little benefit if people can’t speak openly and honestly.

It’s also OK to tell employees that you, as a leader, are not having an easy time. Showing vulnerability doesn’t show weakness, Miller adds. You’re setting an example that shows that it’s OK to be honest and acknowledge that not everyone is not having the best time. If you aren’t aware that someone is in a crisis, he says, you may lose the opportunity to reach out to that person and help.

By Brit Morse@britnmorse

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U.K. Hit By Worst Economic Contraction On Record Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

Britain’s economy shrank by a record-breaking 9.9% in 2020, new figures by the Office of National Statistics show, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, employment uncertainty and reduced demand, with limited growth in the final quarter narrowly avoiding a double-dip recession.  

The Office for National Statistics said Friday that the U.K.’s economic output fell by 9.9% in 2020, the largest annual fall on record.

Though the economy grew 1% in the last quarter when looser restrictions boosted the services industry, overall output was down 7.8% from the last quarter of 2019, the ONS said. 

The slump is twice that of the 2009 financial crisis and is possibly the worst in 300 years, with models from the Bank of England suggesting a decline of 13% during the Great Frost of 1709.

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U.K. finance minister Rishi Sunak said the figures show that the U.K. has suffered a “serious shock” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” Sunak said, adding that his focus “remains fixed on doing everything we can to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”

Key Background

The pandemic and associated public health restrictions made for an economically bumpy 2020, especially in economies like the U.K. which are heavily reliant on services. In the U.K., the first and second quarters of 2020 shrunk the economy by 2.9% and 19% respectively, but there was record growth of 16.1% in the third as restrictions were lifted. 

Tangent

In contrast, the U.S. economy shrank by a record 3.5% in 2020, the worst year since the aftermath of World War 2.    

What To Watch For

Strict public health measures and a resurgent wave of Covid-19 infections driven by a dangerous new variant of the virus have the U.K. economy likely falling again in 2021. While the U.K. has the worst coronavirus death rate in the world, it also has one of the best vaccination records, priming the country for an economic comeback. The BBC reported Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane describing the economy as a “coiled spring” ready to release large amounts of “pent-up financial energy”.

 Further Reading

GDP first quarterly estimate, UK: October to December 2020 (ONS)

UK economy suffered record annual slump in 2020 (BBC)

UK economy shrinks by most in 300 years (Financial Times) Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com 

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BBC News

The “economic emergency” caused by Covid-19 has only just begun, according to the UK’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as he warned the pandemic would deal lasting damage to growth and jobs. Please subscribe HERE http://bit.ly/1rbfUog​ Official forecasts now predict the biggest economic decline in 300 years. The UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% this year and not return to its pre-crisis size until the end of 2022. Government borrowing will rise to its highest outside of wartime to deal with the economic impact.

The government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the number of unemployed people to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of next year. It means the unemployment rate will hit 7.5%, its highest level since the financial crisis in 2009. Newsnight’s Political Editor Nick Watt and Policy Editor Lewis Goodall report. #BBCNews#Newsnight#Coronavirus​ Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews. Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsnight​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight​ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnewsnight

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With Russia’s Help, China Becomes Plastics Making Power In Pandemic

After giving up on recycling — American recycling that is — China is still in love with the plastics biz. In fact. their companies are becoming dominant in all things plastic, one of the most important supply chains in the world.

In other words, it will be yet another segment in global business that the world will need Chinese companies to get supply.

The pandemic has helped the petrochemicals industry make up for losses in oil and gas demand. Plastics are tied to the fossil fuels industry. Stay-at-home orders throughout the U.S. and Europe has led to more take-out food orders and a lot of that is being placed in plastic containers.

I’d like to highlight one thing though: China’s Sinopec is the behemoth in this space, and although you can buy into Sinopec on the U.S. stock market, if the incoming Biden Administration makes good on a Trump order to delist Chinese companies that are not compliant with the financial audit rules under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, then Sinopec will probably leave the NYSE.

According to industry consultant Wood Mackenzie, petrochemicals will account for more than a third of global oil demand growth to 2030 and nearly half through 2050.

The growth in both plastics consumption and production is mostly coming from Asia where economies are catching up with the western levels of plastics consumption, and becoming a source for plastics exports to the U.S. and Europe.

Within Asia of course, China is the powerhouse. Last year Exxon Mobil XOM -4.8% began constructing its $10 billion petrochemical complex in Huizhou, China.

Russia Joins China, Wants To Be ‘Indispensible’

Russia’s petrochemical giant Sibur is also locked into China, mainly through a Sinopec partnership. The two companies began work on one of the world’s largest polymer plants for plastics making last August, spending $11 billion on the Amur Gas Chemical Complex in Russia.

The two sides are intimately connected in the global plastics biz.

“Amur is a milestone in the cooperation between Sinopec and Sibur,” Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of Sinopec, says in a press statement, calling it a “model for Sino-Russian energy cooperation.”

The entire industry, while not exactly the sexy and green industry the Davos crowd is promoting heavily in the Western world, is seen by China and still-emerging markets like Russia — as a development tool for regions far away from the big city hubs of Moscow or Shanghai. This is as much about job creation as it is pumping out plastic molds and the ethylene needed to make it.

Russia recently introduced negative excise tax on LPG and ethane used in petrochemicals which was a meaty financial bone thrown to Sinopec and Sibur’s Amur project, among others in the Russian far east. 

The Sibur Russia angle has gained momentum recently due to the ramp up in production from the new ZapSib Siberian facility last year. They make polyethylene and 500 thousand tons of polypropylene there; all must-have ingredients for plastics manufacturers.

Their relationship with Chinese investors, buyers and counterparties was one of the main reasons to even build that manufacturing plant in the first place, and is something the Moscow market likes to give as one of the best reasons to be bullish about a rumored initial public offering for Sibur.

Sibur has said in press statements that they expect “another jump in scale” of plastics chemicals output with the addition of the Sinopec project, Amur.

“Sibur has long built relationships with Chinese clients, partners, and investors and Sinopec has been our strategic partner since 2013,” says Dmitry Konov, Chairman of the Management Board for Sibur. Konov told Reuters recently that there was no timeline for any IPO in the Moscow Exchange. Moscow was home to one of the top four largest IPOs last year, shipping firm Sovcomflot.

Konov said their logistical advantages in the far east, near China, and competitive pricing for its polymers means they will “scale up these relationships to further expand the delivery of high-quality petrochemicals from Siberia to China.”

VTB Capital, a Russian investment bank, says those projects would allow Russia to become one of the world’s top four producers of ethylene by 2030. Russia wants to position itself as the indispensable partner to China in this space, much in the way that China has positioned itself as the key source for numerous key inputs, whether its cobalt used in electric vehicle car batteries, or solar panels now expected to criss-cross the U.S. in the Biden Administration.

Due to the pandemic, China has been focused on industries of the future alongside those needed to get itself, and its trading partners, out of the pandemic rut — those polypropylene Olive Garden to go containers might not come from China, but the plastics that made it sure might.

China remains the place for growth in this space, too. Plastics-use patterns and penetration are rising. Figure the Asians are a good 10 to 20 years behind the U.S. in terms of plastics use. They’re gaining fast.

China As Plastics Demand Driver

Plastics aren’t made from tree bark, that’s for sure. It comes from fossil fuels and non-organic chemical compounds that make the stuff designed to last hundreds of years.

And China now accounts for roughly 40% of the demand for the chemicals used in making it, an increase of just 20% in 2005. 

China’s ethylene demand grew by 8.6% between 2014-17 while global demand grew by only half that. 

Looking out five years, Deutsche Bank industry analysts said in a November 25 report that China will account for over half of global consumption growth for ethylene (to which Sibur and Russia are happy as their go-to for now). 

China has 50% self-sufficiency in ethylene and derivative products – the domestic desire to expand capacities and increase self-sufficiency remains high. Russia is a solution. But Sinopec will invest domestically, as will the big Western multinationals who are frowned upon doing similar work back home. Exxon is case in point.

China was a relatively late entrant to the global petrochemical industry, but that does not mean much. They ramp up, and rev up fast due to state subsidies and state-owned companies’ ability to obtain raw materials and pass them along downstream for pennies on the dollar. These are loss leaders, but China doesn’t care about that stuff. They are looking to produce plastics for the locals, and for the export markets, especially U.S. and Europe, which are increasingly disinterested in anything fossil fuels related, at least on paper. 

In the 1990s, the Chinese petrochemical industry was significantly smaller than the U.S. In 1995, China’s ethylene capacity totaled 3% of global capacity. In comparison, Japan had 9% of global ethylene capacity and Korea had 5% of global capacity. Ethylene is naturally occurring.

During the 2000s, China’s petrochemical industry grew substantially driven by government support and strong demand from government-directed infrastructure spending, a burgeoning middle class with rising disposable incomes, expanding residential construction and exports of course.

Between 2004 and 2012, China’s ethylene capacity — the flammable gas used to make ethanol for cars, fruit ripeners, and — more importantly, plastics — doubled to 11 million tons per year. Within 25 years, China’s capacity has moved from 3% of global to 16% of global. Who thinks they’re going to slow that down? Need plastic? China will have it. For now, Russia has the chemicals. China might just gain on that next. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Kenneth Rapoza

Kenneth Rapoza

I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.

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Business Casual

📚 Get your free copy of “Poorly Made in China” from Audible, in addition to a free 30-day trial! → https://amzn.to/3dkzN9T (Note: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases). China has been the leader of the recycling industry for over 30 years, importing materials more than any country in the world and making billions of dollars in the process. But recently, the Chinese government took a tougher stance on recycling, effectively disrupting the global recycling industry. More importantly, China’s decision has caused major problems for many Western countries, since they were the ones exporting millions of tons of recyclable waste to China. ⭑

Subscribe to Business Casual → http://gobc.tv/sub ⭑ Enjoyed the vid? Hit the like button! 📚 If you enjoyed this video about #China and want to learn even more, we also recommend you read the book “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade Kindle” by Adam Minter 👉 https://amzn.to/2M4wY0z (note: as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases). Your support makes our content possible! ❤️ Follow us on: ► Twitter → http://gobc.tv/twtr ► Instagram → https://gobc.tv/ig ► Facebook → http://gobc.tv/fb ► LinkedIn → https://gobc.tv/linkedin ► Reddit → https://gobc.tv/reddit ► Medium → https://gobc.tv/medium ⬇️Exclusive Sponsor Offers (Only For BC Fans) ⬇️ ✪ Sign-up for Acorns! 👉 https://gobc.tv/acorns ✪ Skillshare (get 2 months free) 👉http://gobc.tv/skillshare ✪ Try DollarShaveClub (just $5!) 👉http://dollarshaveclub.com/bc ✪ Try Blinkist free for 7 days! 👉https://gobc.tv/readblinkist

Five Lessons From The Pandemic Light A Path Forward To The Future Of Work

Finally, we are nearing the end of the 2020 tunnel and seeing encouraging glimmers of light. While the pandemic is not yet under control, we do have promising vaccine news as 2021 approaches, and many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have returned to on-site work. We see stabilization in US government after months of uncertainty, and the beginning of commitment and action to address longstanding racial and social justice inequities.

At a more granular level, these months of operating in survival mode have provided valuable insight into how organizations and people can truly move forward from this disruption and position themselves to navigate the future disruptions that are bound to occur. In short, we see a path toward thriving, not merely surviving.

The lessons learned over the past eight months bring sharp focus to global human capital trends that have been evolving for years—trends in well-being, reskilling, superteams (combining humans with machines), workforce strategies, and the role of HR. Even more, these lessons reinforce the overarching need to build the human element into everything an organization does in order to create lasting value for workers, organizations, and society at large.

1. Human potential is our greatest untapped asset.

Organizations have tended to think about what people can do in terms of the bullet points on their resumes and job descriptions. But none of us really knows what we’re capable of and what our limits are until we’re tested and pushed to those limits. The past eight months have been a defining test. They’ve taught us that people can operate differently. They can adapt and perform in ways far beyond what their jobs and roles specifically call for and do what has to get done.

We must now challenge how we think about the workforce and use technology to help identify and unleash human potential within and beyond the organization. This includes retaining the magic that comes from empowering people to break through hierarchy and bureaucracy, lead at all levels, and roll up their sleeves to get the job done.

2. True top-of-the house leadership looks like nothing we’ve seen before.

For years we’ve talked about “tone at the top” and the importance of top-down leadership. Now we have stellar examples of what that looks like: examples of CEOs being more transparent and human than they’ve ever been before. This includes opening dialogues on tough issues like racism and well-being and allowing them to be front and center, and generally leaning into issues that go way past the traditional C-suite agenda.

Senior leaders now have the opportunity to embody the organization’s purpose—its set of values supporting economic, social, and human interests—to infuse meaning into work that mobilizes employees around common, meaningful goals.

3. Leadership and culture are about connection and empowerment.

As people isolated at home, team leaders became the organization’s lifeline. It became their responsibility to not only focus on outcomes and organize the work accordingly, but also think about the moments that mattered culturally and foster trust in the organization. If they didn’t have empathy, listening skills, the trust of their teams, and the ability to communicate, manage, and lead, work suffered or at times didn’t get done at all.

Going forward, leaders and teams at all levels (not just higher levels) must develop capabilities that enable them to work and lead effectively while supporting the human needs of their team and representing the organization’s culture.

4. Work is the most underutilized source of value.

Work is more than simply the output it produces. It’s a powerful human force—a way for people to connect to a purpose, feel motivated, build relationships, and showcase their true capabilities. Yet no one is responsible for driving work transformation, keeping up with the pace of change, or harnessing what it can bring to the enterprise.

Organizations now have the opportunity to re-architect work for the future, not as a mechanized process, but as a flow that aligns with ways humans think and engage, and that continues to evolve. By its handling of COVID-19 challenges, HR has earned the right to spearhead this effort on behalf of the organization.

5. Ecosystems are essential to extend organizational capabilities.

The sheer enormity of the past year’s challenges proved the value of being able to leverage external partners and resources to accomplish what organizations couldn’t do on their own. For example, one transportation industry CEO related to us that, given the company has no Chief Medical Officer, he was able to enlist a top academic medical center to provide that guidance. In another example, we’re working with a group of 10 CHROs to build a cross-organizational learning program aimed at moving Black and Latinx professionals from the director to the executive level.

Going forward, organizations should deliberately cultivate an ecosystem of partners, vendors, alternative workers, and professional networks, realizing it’s the new reality of how work gets done.

From hard-learned experience to a leap forward

It would be a tremendous waste to treat the past year as a detour—a momentary delay that leads us right back to the path we were on. Instead, we need to treat 2020 as a shortcut that showed us how to leapfrog to our desired destination: a place where we’re not merely surviving, but thriving.

With the end of 2020 in sight, we have the means to createthe light we want to step into. There’s no “waiting for a better time”—the time is now. We’ll be sharing more insights on how organizations can get this done in the coming weeks in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends (sign up to receive a copy here).

This piece was co-authored by Jeff Schwartz, principal and US leader for the Future of Work, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Erica Volini

Erica Volini

Erica Volini is the Global Human Capital leader for Deloitte Consulting. Throughout her career, she has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations to link their business and human capital strategies. She is a frequent speaker on how market trends are shaping the future of work and the HR profession and is a recognized thought leader in the trends shaping the world of human capital today.

Steve Hatfield

Steve Hatfield

Steve Hatfield is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting and serves as the Global Leader for Future of Work for Deloitte. He has over 20 years of experience advising global organizations on issues of strategy, innovation, organization, people, culture, and change.

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IAEAvideo

A new global initiative will use nuclear science to better manage pandemic threats, such as COVID-19. The IAEA Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) project will establish a global network to help national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, avian influenza and Zika. ZODIAC is based on the technical, scientific and laboratory capacity of the IAEA and its partners and the Agency’s mechanisms to quickly deliver equipment and know-how to countries. Subscribe for more videos: http://goo.gl/VxsqCz Follow IAEA on social media: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/iaeaorg/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/iaeaorg Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+iaea Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/iaeaorg/ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/iaea © IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication http://iaea.org

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How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives in 2020

To say that 2020 was a year unlike any other would be putting it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic left few parts of daily life unscathed. From forcing legions of children to attend school via Zoom to revising how we work, travel, and shop for food, here’s a look at some of the most notable ways life changed in 2020.

Related: Americans’ Top 10 Biggest Fears About the Coronavirus Pandemic

With urban hubs like New York City making headlines for being COVID-19 hotspots, the suburbs have never been quite so appealing. A variety of studies have found that Americans of all demographics began adopting suburban life during 2020. In particular, the moving resources and information company MyMove conducted a study of change of address data from the U.S. Postal Service and found that more than 15.9 million people moved during coronavirus. The MyMove report notes that “people are leaving big, densely populated areas like Manhattan, Brooklyn and Chicago and spreading out to suburbs or smaller communities across the country.”

Related: Pandemic Phrases That Have Infected Our Vocabulary

COVID-19 also triggered a massive shift in how we work. At the onset of the pandemic, countless Americans created home offices overnight in order to adapt to the new normal. And while it seemed initially that the shift would be temporary, more than a few of America’s most well-known employers have since announced long-term work from home plans and policies. In fact, Flexjobs has said working remotely may very well be the way of the future, pandemic or not, with some companies even deciding to let employees work from home permanently, including Coinbase, Infosys, Lambda School, Nationwide Insurance, and Nielsen.

Related: 18 Big Companies Letting People Work From Home Long-Term

Students of all ages have seen their worlds altered dramatically. Remote learning has become the norm for all ages, from elementary school through college. As 2020 draws to a close, the remote learning continues for many, with many school districts around the country — from San Diego to Chicago and Boston — pushing back any plans to return to in-person education as the pandemic rages. Zoom classes, it seems, are here to stay for a while longer.

Related: 25 Top-Rated Products on Amazon for Working From Home and Remote Learning

School and work aren’t the only parts of life that have moved almost entirely online. More Americans than ever are grocery shopping online, we’re holding virtual happy hours, and even taking part in Zoom doctors’ appointments more routinely. Computers have likely never played a more central role in our lives. An article from MyMove calls it the “telepresence boom” noting that entire families are now performing basic functions from their homes via a computer and an internet connection. And many of those changes are not likely to ease any time soon.

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Ah, the good old days when we attended big concerts without a second thought, as well as weddings, festivals or sporting events. The year 2020 significantly altered this part of life with social distancing and lockdowns being the rule. As an article in Physician Sense notes, all of these things will be back at some point, but even after the pandemic has subsided, large gatherings are likely to be forever altered in some ways.

Related: 12 Things You Likely Won’t See at the Next Wedding You Attend

The pandemic of course, changed our eating habits, a topic worthy of an entire article of its own. But let’s start with the renewed or increased focus on beans. This humble, protein-filled staple has taken on new importance amid COVID-19. The New York Times reported in March a huge boom in bean sales, which makes sense, right? Beans are filling, nutritious, and inexpensive.

Related: Best Beans and Rice Recipes From Around the World

The past year has been stressful, unnerving, boredom-filled, and more. So, it’s no surprise that we’re reaching for comfort food more regularly. A poll released in September found that two out of three people are eating more comfort food. This includes an increase in the consumption of pizza (55 percent), hamburgers (48 percent), ice cream (46 percent), and more.

Related: 20 Comfort Food Recipes That Freeze Well

While we’re seeking out the comfort food, we’re ditching the healthy stuff. Forbes found Google Trends data suggesting that searches for terms like “salads” and “veggies” were lower in 2020 than at the same time in 2019.

Related: Top Google Searches Before & After Covid-19

With restrictions on dining inside restaurants in 2020 thanks to social-distancing guidelines, drive-thru became the next best thing for many people. Restaurants far and wide responded by redesigning their customer experience to include many adding drive-thru lanes or creating spaces for curbside pickup — even if they already had drive-thru lanes. What’s more, a recent article from Forbes says that curbside pickup is here to stay, even after the pandemic ends. The publication reported that Starbucks CFO Pat Grismer says curbside service is part of the chain’s plans for longer-term recovery.

Related: How Drive-In Restaurants Are Catering to Customers Amid the Pandemic

Before COVID-19 altered our world, about 20 percent of Americans shopped for food more than three times each week. A study by consulting firm McKinsey, however, found that number was down to 10 percent by June 2020. Meanwhile, Supermarket News reported that online grocery sales skyrocketed, rising from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020.

Related: Online Grocery Delivery Comparison: Is One of These Services Right for You?

Remember when it seemed almost rude not to greet the individual who delivered food to your home? The days when we would meet him or her at the door and perhaps provide a cash tip. That’s a distant world, isn’t it? Now we practically cower inside our homes fearing human contact, requesting the delivery driver drop our food on the doorstep and be gone. Close contact with strangers became a health hazard in 2020 and we have adapted accordingly. Doordash, Seamless, and many smaller delivery services offer a contact-free option.

Outdoor dining used to be far more prevalent in Europe than the U.S., but with social distancing being the new normal and the fact that the hazards of COVID-19 are reduced in fresh-air environments, restaurants that never before considered al fresco offerings have scurried to set up tents and tables in parking lots, on sidewalks and in roadways. Some 67 miles of streets were closed to vehicular traffic in New York City, with more 2.6 miles dedicated to the city’s Open Restaurants program, which has been made permanent. Some restaurants are also making structural alterations, building patios and decks. As Architectural Digest reported: “Masked waiters, tables spaced six feet apart, plexiglass barriers, and even stuffed animals occupying seats — these are some of the changes you might encounter the next time you dine out.”

Related: Beloved Restaurants and Bars That Closed Permanently This Year

A Statista survey conducted during the earliest days of the pandemic revealed our personal hygiene habits had also begun to change significantly in 2020. Back in April, 79 percent of the Statista survey participants said they wash their hands more regularly. Not surprising under the circumstances. And the reality is that stepped-up hand washing is still a necessity as the pandemic rages on.

Related: How to Disinfect Without Harming Your Stuff (or Yourself)

Headline-grabbing protesters aside, it seems the need for making face masks a part of our lives has begun to sink in as the year draws to a close. A HealthDay/Harris Poll found that “more than nine in 10 U.S. adults (93%) said they sometimes, often or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who said they always do so.” And until vaccines become more widely distributed, masks will continue to be an important part of life.

Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable

To say the travel experience changed in 2020 would be an understatement. This is a topic that has received immense coverage. Some of the most immediate impacts to our lives include the lack of travel altogether and the bans on Americans visiting many countries around the world because of the COVID-19 rates in this country. But travel has changed in more subtle ways as well, with some airlines blocking middle seats from being used to keep passengers from sitting too close together, and cruise lines practically ceasing operations, while hotels are redoubling efforts to provide clean, sanitized rooms when you check-in.

Meanwhile, more Americans are taking road trips and rediscovering America again. A survey conducted by Cooper Tires and reported by the New York Post earlier this year found that 43 percent of those surveyed had replaced canceled travel plans with a road trip of some sort.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country During the Pandemic — Here’s What I Learned

Another sign of the times, public transportation has become a highly undesirable way to get from place to place. A Statista survey conducted in April found 38 percent of respondents said they had begun avoiding crowded modes of public transport. It’s a shift that’s not likely to reverse course any time soon.

The gym industry has also taken a beating this year as have the exercise habits of Americans in general, with many hesitant to spend extended periods of time in confined spaces with fellow exercisers who are sweating and breathing heavily.

As Time reported, sweeping and repeated lockdowns have made Americans more sedentary than ever before and the effects are likely long-lasting. One survey reported by Time revealed a 32 percent reduction in physical activity among U.S. adults who had previously been meeting recommended exercise guidelines. Meanwhile, many gyms and personal trainers began offering virtual exercise sessions in 2020 in order to stay afloat, bringing their services to our living rooms for a change. No more rushing to get to your gym in time for an exercise class.

Related: 18 Fitness Challenges to Keep Pace (and Your Distance) During the Pandemic

While carrying cash was largely becoming a thing of the past prior to 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has hastened this trend. It’s not unusual to walk into a store these days and see a sign that says “Credit cards preferred.” That April Statista survey found that cash is being used far less day-to-day by 36 percent of survey respondents. For those still not clear on the why behind this shift in daily life — a scientific study explains that “paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact.” And as we all know so well now — human contact is the big no-no of 2020.

Related: Cash-Based Businesses That Must Change to Survive in the COVID-19 Era

By: Mia Taylor

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Billionaire Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus Raises $200 Million To Bring Personalized Medicine To New Diseases

On the surface, Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus sounds much like every other AI-powered personalized medicine company. “We try to infuse as much data and technology as we can into the diagnosis itself,” Lefkofsky says, which could be said by the founder of any number of new healthcare companies.. But what makes Tempus different is that it is quickly branching out, moving from a focus on cancer to additional programs including mental health, infectious diseases, cardiology and soon diabetes. “We’re focused on those disease areas that are the most deadly,” Lefkofsky says. 

Now, the billionaire founder has an additional $200 million to reach that goal. The Chicago-based company announced the series G-2 round on Thursday, which includes a massive valuation of $8.1 billion. Lefkofsky, the founder of multiple companies including Groupon, also saw his net worth rise from the financing, from an estimated $3.2 billion to an estimated $4.2 billion.

Tempus is “trying to disrupt a very large industry that is very complex,” Lefkofsky says, “we’ve known it was going to cost a lot of money to see our business model to fruition.” 

In addition to investors Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, Novo Holdings, and funds managed by T. Rowe Price, Lefkofsky, who has invested about $100 million of his own money into the company since inception, also contributed an undisclosed amount to the round. Google also participated as an investor, and Tempus says it will now store its deidentified patient data on Google Cloud. 

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“We are particularly attracted to companies that aim to solve fundamental and complex challenges within life sciences,” says Robert Ghenchev, a senior partner at Novo Holdings. “Tempus is, in many respects, the poster child for the kind of companies we like to support.” 

MORE FOR YOUTony Hsieh’s American Tragedy: The Self-Destructive Last Months Of The Zappos VisionaryWhy 40 North Ventures Bought GE Ventures’ Stakes In 11 Industrial StartupsAt-Home Health Testing Company Everlywell Raises $175 Million Series D Round At A $1.3 Billion Valuation

Tempus, founded by Lefkofsky in 2015, is one of a new breed of personalized cancer diagnostic companies like Foundation Medicine and Guardant Health. The company’s main source of revenue comes from sequencing the genome of cancer patients’ tumors in order to help doctors decide which treatments would be most effective. “We generate a lot of molecular data about you as a patient,” Lefkofsky says. He estimates that Tempus has the data of about 1 in 3 cancer patients in the United States. 

But billing insurance companies for sequencing isn’t the only way the company makes money. Tempus also offers a service that matches eligible patients to clinical trials, and it licenses  de-identified patient data to other players in the oncology industry. That patient data, which includes images and clinical information, is “super important and valuable,” says Lefkofsky, who adds that such data sharing only occurs if patients consent. 

At first glance, precision oncology seems like a crowded market, but analysts say there is still plenty of room for companies to grow. “We’re just getting started in this market,” says Puneet Souda, a senior research analyst at SVB Leerink, “[and] what comes next is even larger.” Souda estimates that as the personalized oncology market expands from diagnostics to screening, another $30 billion or more will be available for companies to snatch up. And Tempus is already thinking ahead by moving into new therapeutic areas. 

While it’s not leaving cancer behind, Tempus has branched into other areas of precision medicine over the last year, including cardiology and mental health. The company now offers a service for psychiatrists to use a patient’s genetic information to determine the best treatments for major depressive disorder. 

In May, Lefkofsky also pushed the company to use its expertise to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The company now offers PCR tests for Covid-19, and has run over 1 million so far. The company also sequences other respiratory pathogens, such as the flu and soon pneumonia. As with cancer, Tempus will continue to make patient data accessible for others in the field— for a price. “Because we have one of the largest repositories of data in the world,” says Lefkofsky, “[it is imperative] that we make it available to anyone.” 

Lefkofsky plans to use capital from the latest funding round to continue Tempus’ expansion and grow its team. The company has hired about 700 since the start of the pandemic, he says, and currently has about 1,800 employees. He wouldn’t comment on exact figures, but while the company is not yet profitable he says Tempus has reached “significant scale in terms of revenue.” 

And why is he so sure that his company’s massive valuation isn’t over-inflated? “We benefit from two really exciting financial sector trends,” he says: complex genomic profiling and AI-driven health data. Right now, Lefkofsky estimates, about one-third of cancer patients have their tumors sequenced in three years. Soon, he says, that number will increase to two-thirds of patients getting their tumors sequenced multiple times a year. “The space itself is very exciting,” he says, “we think it will grow dramatically.” Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Leah Rosenbaum

Leah Rosenbaum

I am the assistant editor of healthcare and science at Forbes. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s of Journalism and a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialty in infectious disease. Before that, I was at Johns Hopkins University where I double-majored in writing and public health. I’ve written articles for STAT, Vice, Science News, HealthNewsReview and other publications. At Forbes, I cover all aspects of health, from disease outbreaks to biotech startups.

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Eric Lefkofsky

To impact the nearly 1.7 million Americans who will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and CEO of Tempus, discusses with Matter CEO Steven Collens how he is applying his disruptive-technology expertise to create an operating system to battle cancer. (November 29, 2016)

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U.S. Households’ Net Worth Hits Record $123.5 Trillion As Stocks Boom, But Debt Is Also Surging

While unemployment has remained stubbornly above pre-pandemic levels, record highs in the stock market have pushed the net worth of all households in the U.S. to a new high, despite the fast growth in household debt.

The net worth of households in the United States climbed to $123.5 trillion in the third quarter, up 8% from a year ago, the Federal Reserve said in a report Wednesday.

The Fed, which calculates net worths by subtracting overall debt held from the sum of assets like savings and equities, attributed the gains to the surging value of stocks, which jumped $2.8 trillion in the third quarter, as well as real estate, which increased in net value by $400 billion.

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Meanwhile, household debt, which includes mortgages, credit card debt and personal loans, jumped at an annual rate of 5.6% in the third quarter, reaching $16.4 trillion; that’s the fastest growth this decade, beating out a 3.9% increase in 2017.

Business debt fell 0.9% to $17.5 trillion in the third quarter, while federal government debt jumped 9.1% to $26 trillion.

CRUCIAL QUOTE 

“We’ve seen home prices rise, market prices for tradable instruments rise and savings increase… but those gains skew to upper income people,” KPMG Chief Economist Constance Hunter told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she added of the pandemic’s disparate impact on lower-income Americans. “Not only are lower-income households more impacted, they also are less likely to have the resources to draw upon to support their families.”

KEY BACKGROUND

The S&P 500 jumped 8% in the third quarter, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite soared nearly 12%, and both have reached record highs in the fourth quarter–as has the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But far from everyone benefits from those gains. According to a Gallup poll in March and April, just 22% of Americans making less than $40,000 annually said they owned any stocks, compared to 84% of people making at least $100,000 per year.

TANGENT

There were 10.9 million unemployed people in the country last month, when the U.S. economy added a much lower-than-expected 245,000 jobs, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week. The number of unemployed people in the U.S. remains more than three times higher than it was before the pandemic, during which 22 million Americans have been forced into unemployment.

FURTHER READING

U.S. Household Net Worth Hits Record in Third Quarter (WSJ)

Unemployment Claims Spike Again As Covid-19 Spreads And Americans Wait For Federal Relief (Forbes)

10.9 Million Americans Are Still Unemployed—Rate Ticks Down To 6.7%, But Job Market Could Take Years To Recover (Forbes)Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tipJonathan Ponciano

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com.

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Wall Street Journal

What’s News: American household net worth jumps $10 trillion to $80.7 trillion. Prosecutors charge four former leaders of defunct law firm Dewey & LeBeouf with fraud. Staples is closing 225 stores. Joanne Po reports. Photo: Getty Subscribe to the WSJ channel here: http://bit.ly/14Q81Xy Visit the WSJ channel for more video: https://www.youtube.com/wsjdigitalnet… More from the Wall Street Journal: Visit WSJ.com: http://online.wsj.com/home-page Follow WSJ on Facebok: http://www.facebook.com/wsjlive Follow WSJ on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+wsj/posts Follow WSJ on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WSJLive Follow WSJ on Instagram: http://instagram.com/wsj Follow WSJ on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/wsj/ Follow WSJ on Tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/wall-str… Don’t miss a WSJ video, subscribe here: http://bit.ly/14Q81Xy More from the Wall Street Journal: Visit WSJ.com: http://www.wsj.com Visit the WSJ Video Center: https://wsj.com/video On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/wsj/videos/ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/WSJ On Snapchat: https://on.wsj.com/2ratjSM

5 Years of Market Action In One Year

It has become a cliché during the COVID-19 pandemic to declare that “10 years of change are happening in one year.”

But clichés so often endure because in the end, they’re mostly true.

The almost overnight move to employees working from home pulled forward the expected fracturing of an increasingly digital workforce.

Forced changes to the educational system, to home buying, car buying, grocery shopping, and so on have all brought what had been almost exclusively in-person activities online.

And so any area of the economy or society that technologists had deemed behind the adoption curve pre-pandemic, that industry, consumer habit, or business demand has now been digitized.

Everything, it seems, has happened faster and more dramatically during this crisis than any previous disruption to our economy and daily lives. And so it makes sense to see the stock market essentially go through a multi-year cycle in just a few months.

Torsten Sløk, chief economist at Apollo Global Management, sent around the following chart Thursday morning noting that the global stock market is at a record high with the total value of the world’s publicly trading equities hitting $95 trillion.

Despite a global pandemic, a global recession, and a highly uncertain future, global stocks are at a record high. (Source: Apollo Global Management)
Despite a global pandemic, a global recession, and a highly uncertain future, global stocks are at a record high. (Source: Apollo Global Management)

But as my Morning Brief co-author Sam Ro noted on Twitter, this chart looks almost exactly the same as the stock market from 2008-2013.

And indeed, looking at the S&P 500 from mid-2007 when the market peaked through the end of 2013 when stocks hit new highs for the first time since the crisis, the pattern is almost the same.

The stock market's path from mid-2007 through the market hitting new highs in 2013 looks eerily similar to the market's path this year. It just took a lot longer to play out. (Source: Yahoo Finance)
The stock market’s path from mid-2007 through the market hitting new highs in 2013 looks eerily similar to the market’s path this year. It just took a lot longer to play out. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

These similarities call to mind a favorite idea here at the Morning Brief, which says you can zoom in on any chart and make it scary or zoom out and make it look benign.

Ultimately, what is “true” in financial markets merely depends on your timescale.

But that investor behavior charted a similar course as the financial crisis — but did so in about one-fifth the time — really just sums up how this crisis is likely to be remembered by investors.

As a time when deep uncertainty hit the markets seemingly overnight.

AdChoices

And almost just as quickly did markets start doing what they do best — look ahead.

By Myles Udland, reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him at @MylesUdland

What to watch today

Economy

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: PPI final demand month-over-month, October (0.2% expected, 0.4% in September)
  • 8:30 a.m. ET: PPI excluding food and energy month-over-month, October (0.2% expected, 0.4% in September)
  • 8:30 a.m. ET: PPI final demand year-over-year, October (0.4% expected, 0.4% in September)
  • 8:30 a.m. ET: PPI excluding food and energy year-over-year, October (1.2% expected, 1.2% in September)
  • 10:00 a.m. ET: University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment, November preliminary (82.0 expected, 81.9 in October)

Earnings

  • 7:00 a.m. ET: DraftKings (DKNG) is expected to report an adjusted loss of 62 cents per share on revenue of $131.74 million

Top News

European stocks fall as COVID-19 numbers worry investors [Yahoo Finance UK]

Disney swings to a quarterly loss as pandemic pressures parks, while Disney+ subscribers top estimates [Yahoo Finance]

TikTok gets reprieve on Trump’s demand for a ban on the app [Bloomberg]

Palantir earnings beat expectations, here’s what the secretive data company does [Yahoo Finance]

YAHOO FINANCE HIGHLIGHTS

Andrew Yang ‘surprised and disappointed’ that more Asian American voters didn’t renounce Trump

Unemployment hits these states the hardest as coronavirus recovery drags on

Tesla rival Xpeng is differentiating itself in the electric car market

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The Rum Rebellion

Seeing as this is my first Friday rant of the New Year, it’s important to remind you that historically the first five days of market action are indicative of the direction we’ll take for the next 12 months.

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