Here’s what you need to know:
Bitcoin is surging. Even after a decline of as much as 10 percent on Monday, the price of Bitcoin is up so far this year to about $31,000, adding to a furious rally at the end of 2020 that pushed the cryptocurrency near $30,000 a coin, a level it breached over the weekend. In March, it was trading below $4,000.
The euphoria stands in contrast to regulatory doubts about cryptocurrencies.
Digital money enthusiasts have been submitting comments to the Treasury Department on a proposed new disclosure requirement for certain crypto transactions “aimed at closing money laundering regulatory gaps.” The deadline for comments is Monday, and more than 3,500 submissions are already in.
The Blockchain Association sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter requesting more time to consider the rule, arguing that “difficult and momentous” issues were being handled hastily. Eight House lawmakers also wrote to Mr. Mnuchin, asking that the review period be extended by several weeks.
The staggering 2020 rally highlights Bitcoin’s speculative appeal but also expectations of its lasting value to some investors. The run that has lifted Bitcoin to its current price came as some big institutions said they would begin to buy or allow use of Bitcoin.
In May, Paul Tudor Jones, one of Wall Street’s best-known hedge fund managers, said he had put almost 2 percent of his portfolio in Bitcoin. He said the cap on Bitcoin production made it an attractive alternative to the declining value of traditional currencies, which he thought was inevitable as central banks printed more money to encourage an economic recovery.
In July, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an American regulator, said this summer that banks would be allowed to hold cryptocurrencies for customers.
In August, MicroStrategy, a software company in Virginia, said it bought $250 million of Bitcoin to store some of the cash it had in the corporate treasury.
In October, Square said it was putting $50 million of its corporate cash into Bitcoin. In 2018, Square also began offering the digital currency on the Cash App, its phone app that people use to send money between friends and family.
Soon after Square did, PayPal announced in October that it would allow people to buy and hold Bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies.
Of course, none of that offers any indication of how high Bitcoin could go, or when this rally may end. The last time this kind of speculative fever hit the cryptocurrency — in 2017 and 2018 — it doubled in value before halving again in just a few months.
Shareholders of PSA, the French maker of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars, voted on Monday to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in an effort to acquire the scale necessary to survive in an industry gripped by technological change.
Fiat Chrysler shareholders are expected to vote later in the day to approve the merger. The new company, to be called Stellantis, would include the Jeep and Ram Truck brands, and would be the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, after Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, based on vehicle sales during the first nine months of 2020.
Executives of Fiat Chrysler and PSA agreed to merge at the end of 2019 and have been working out the details since then.
Together, the two companies believe they stand a better chance of surviving a transition to electric vehicles, which is happening faster than most analysts predicted. But the new company would face major challenges. Neither Fiat Chrysler nor PSA has a strong presence in China, the world’s largest car market, and they have been slow to introduce electric vehicles.
Both companies have been hard hit by the pandemic. PSA’s vehicle sales were down 30 percent in the 11 months through November, while Fiat Chrysler sold 30 percent fewer cars and trucks in the nine months through September, the most recent reporting period.
Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of PSA, would hold the same title at the new entity. John Elkann, a scion of Italy’s Agnelli family and descendant of the man who founded Fiat in 1899, is in line to be chairman. Mike Manley, the chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, would manage the combined company’s American operations.
“We are ready for this merger,” Mr. Tavares said during the meeting of shareholders, which was conducted online.
Stocks have embraced the start of 2021, with several European indexes jumping more than 1 percent on the first day of trading, and futures indicated that stocks on Wall Street would also open higher.
Some of the first economic data of the year showed manufacturing activity continuing to expand across Europe and Asia, giving investors a reason to stay optimistic, even as the number of coronavirus cases around the world climbs higher and countries from Japan to Britain are contemplating more social restrictions that will weigh on economic growth.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index climbed 1.7 percent on Monday. Last year, the index fell 4 percent, a stark contrast to the strong gains in U.S. stock markets. The CAC index in France rose 1.7 percent, the DAX in Germany rose 1.3 percent and the FTSE 100 index in Britain jumped 2.7 percent.
In Asia, most indexes ended the day higher. The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong and the Shanghai composite index rose 0.9 percent but the Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.7 percent.
Oil prices fluctuated on Monday. Futures in West Texas Intermediate and Brent futures, the European benchmark, wavered between gains and losses before an OPEC Plus meeting to decide whether the oil-producing nations should keep adding to output levels.
Other commodities gained as the U.S. dollar declined as investors across markets were willing to look for some riskier investments. Gold rose 1.6 percent to its highest level in two months, and metals including silver and copper also kept climbing. Mining companies, such as Fresnillo and Glencore, were among the biggest gainers on the FTSE 100 index.
Last year, the S&P 500, the U.S. benchmark index, gained 16 percent as investors confidently poured money into stocks after the central bank stepped in to support financial markets, Congress spent trillions on unemployment and business support programs, and vaccinations began, showing a sustainable way out of the pandemic.
Many investors still expect stocks to climb higher, even though the recovery will be bumpy. Already questions about how to speed up the vaccination rollout are emerging as governments and their citizens have grown weary of lockdown measures.
On Tuesday, two runoff Senate elections in Georgia will settle control of the upper house of Congress, and finally determine how hard it will be for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to move forward on his agenda.
The cryptocurrency Bitcoin hit a record high of $34,000 on Sunday, and then promptly slumped 11 percent on Monday to below $30,000, in its biggest single-day fall since March.
Officials from OPEC, Russia and other major oil producing countries are expected to meet by videoconference on Monday to consider allowing further increases in output in the face of reduced demand from the pandemic.
During a difficult meeting in December, the group, known as OPEC Plus, reached a compromise that permitted production to increase by 500,000 barrels a day starting Jan. 1, instead of a previously agreed two million barrels a day. The group also agreed to meet monthly to consider whether further increases were warranted.
The members are still keeping about seven million barrels a day, or about 7 percent of global supply in normal times, off the market. The prospect of opening taps could quickly depress oil prices.
Analysts say that the gradual recovery of the global economy and demand for oil may test the group’s cohesion in the coming months. Producers like Russia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates have their reasons for wanting to lift production, but there are also arguments for proceeding cautiously, including the worsening pandemic in areas like Europe and the United States and what appears likely to be a slow rollout of vaccines.
Jerome H. Powell, the 67-year-old chair of the Federal Reserve, will face pressure from all sides in 2021, and he could find himself auditioning for his own job. His term expires in early 2022, which means that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will choose whether to renominate him.
Mr. Powell, a Republican who was made a Fed governor by President Barack Obama and elevated to his current position by President Trump, has yet to say publicly whether he wants to be reappointed, reports The New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek.
His chances could be affected by the Fed’s coronavirus crisis response, which has been credited as early and swift.
“We crossed a lot of red lines that had not been crossed before,” Mr. Powell said at an event in May.
The Fed rolled out nearly the entire menu of emergency loan programs it used during the 2008 financial crisis, and it teamed up with the Treasury Department to announce programs that had never been tried — including plans to support lending to small and medium-size businesses and buy corporate debt. In early April, it tacked on a plan to get credit flowing to states.
But the Fed’s extraordinary actions in 2020 weren’t aimed only at keeping credit flowing. Mr. Powell and other top Fed officials pushed for more government spending to help businesses and households, an uncharacteristically bold stance for an institution that tries mightily to avoid politics. As the Fed took a more expansive view of its mission, it weighed in on climate change, racial equity and other issues its leaders had typically avoided.
In Washington, reactions to the Fed’s bigger role have been swift and divided. Democrats want the Fed to do more, portraying the attention to climate-related financial risks as a welcome step but just a beginning. Republicans have worked to restrict the Fed to ensure that the role it has played in this pandemic does not outlast the crisis.
The ski industry already took a hit in the spring when the pandemic struck and many resorts had to close early, leading to $2 billion in losses and causing layoffs or furloughs of thousands of employees, according to the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group. The industry saw its lowest number of visits, 51 million, since the 2011 to 2012 season, the association said.
Now resorts are setting their expectations low for the new ski season, reports Kellen Browning for The New York Times.
Mike Pierce, a spokesman for Mount Rose Ski Tahoe, a resort in western Nevada, said the mind-set was “to just maintain status quo and survive.” He declined to provide any financials, but said, “if we break even, that’s almost considered a success.”
Even before the pandemic, the ski industry was laboring to build interest in the sport. The number of skiers has stagnated in the past decade, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
How the ski resorts do this winter will have a domino effect on tax revenue for state economies. In New Mexico, the truncated ski season last winter and this spring generated $41 million in taxes, but George Brooks, the executive director of the state’s ski association, said he expected no more than 40 percent of that number in the coming months.
Vail Resorts, the world’s largest ski company with 37 resorts around the globe, including 34 in the United States, reported in an earnings call on Dec. 10 that it lost $153 million from August through October, wider than the loss of $106.5 million in the same period a year ago. Rob Katz, chief executive of Vail Resorts, said that season pass sales were up about 20 percent, but he expected fewer visitors and less revenue this winter than in previous seasons.
Personal income increased
Would have been sharply negative without P.P.P.
Would have been sharply negative without P.P.P.
Note: Data from March to November 2020 compared with the same time period in 2019.·Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
To understand why the markets are buoyant even as 3,000 people a day are dying of coronavirus, The New York Times’s Neil Irwin and Weiyi Cai dig into the data.
Salaries and wages fell less in 2020, in the aggregate, than even a careful observer of the economy might think. Total employee compensation was down only 0.5 percent for those nine months, more akin to a mild recession than an economic catastrophe.
That might seem impossible. How can the number of jobs be down 6 percent but employee compensation be down only 0.5 percent?
It has to do with which jobs have been lost. The millions of people no longer working because of the pandemic were disproportionately in lower-paying service jobs. Higher-paying professional jobs were more likely to be unaffected, and a handful of other sectors have been booming, such as warehousing and grocery stores, leading to higher incomes for those workers.
The arithmetic is as simple as it is disorienting. If a corporate executive gets a $100,000 bonus for steering a company through a difficult year, while four $25,000-per-year restaurant workers lose their jobs entirely, the net effect on total compensation is zero — even though in human terms a great deal of pain has been incurred.
Combine soaring personal income and falling spending, and Americans in the aggregate were building savings at a startling rate. It had to go somewhere.