Welcome to your Thursday business news wrap, where we’re catching you up on the essentials. Also Hot Pockets, the leading economic indicator that we’ve all given up on 2020.
As expected, President Trump fired off an executive order on Thursday that takes aim at what he calls the “unchecked power” of social platforms, particularly Twitter, his preferred megaphone.
In case you’ve been snoozing through this escalating war of words, here’s a quick recap:
- It started on Tuesday when Twitter, for the first time ever, fact-checked several of Trump’s posts and flagged them as misleading. Trump was not pleased.
- Facebook, for its part, said it wasn’t going to follow suit on similar posts on its platform.
- Trump then threatened — in a tweet! — to regulate or shut down social media companies, which he has long accused of concealing a far-left liberal agenda.
- WAIT, can he really do that? Probably not. My colleague Brian Fung talked to some lawyers who say the White House is quickly going to stumble over some First Amendment roadblocks.
- Meanwhile, the knives came out between Twitter and Facebook. CEOs Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg traded criticism in public appearances, and several former employees posted their own jabs on social media.
- Shares of both Twitter and Facebook were down on Thursday as investors anxiously awaited Trump’s order.
WHAT’S NEXT? We’re still parsing the order itself, but you can expect to see a lot of constitutional law scholars on TV in the next few days, plus (presumably) more trash talk between Zuck and Jack and the president of the United States.
BULLS ARE READY TO RUN
On Thursday we learned that 1 in 4 American workers have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
At the same time, gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the US economy, shrank at a rate we haven’t seen since the worst of the 2008 financial crisis. Bankruptcies and layoffs are piling up. To call the status on Main Street grim would be a massive understatement.
But here’s the cheery position (magical thinking?) I’m clinging to this week: About two-thirds of business leaders say they expect the American economy will recover within one year, according to a survey.
That optimism is shared by Wall Street, which has been getting drunk on tech stocks and flying high even as things get worse for everyday Americans. Maybe delusion is partly fueling this optimism, but at least for now I’m cracking open a beer and rooting for Team Things Will Get Better Soon.
TOPPLING KING COAL
Here’s a spot of sunny news: The United States consumed more energy last year from renewable sources like solar and wind than from coal. That hasn’t happened since the ’80s — the 1880s.
The country’s dramatic shift away from coal is notable in part because of the efforts President Trump has made to prop up the industry since he took office — including installing a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA. But market forces have been hard to fight as the costs of wind, solar and natural gas have steadily declined.
BEWARE THE BANKRUPTCY BARGAIN
With all the bankruptcy headlines in the news, you might find yourself wondering whether now’s the time to go bargain shopping for stocks and pray that those companies can emerge like phoenixes from the ashes of Chapter 11.
Who doesn’t love a good bargain? And who wouldn’t love to get rich off a good comeback story? I wish it were that easy, but my colleague Paul R. La Monica explains why it’s incredibly risky to bet on these corporate zombies.
You wouldn’t want to pull a Carl Icahn and lose $2 billion betting on Hertz. (Yes, he just did that.)
EVIDENCE WE’VE ALL STOPPED CARING
At the start of this quarantine, those of us who were able to stay home couldn’t help Instagramming our homemade sourdoughs and hand-churned butter. We all became contestants in our very own reality cooking show called “Your Fridge is Overflowing With Corona-Panic Perishables.”
But Americans’ pantry stocks have dwindled. Our excitement about phrases like “let it prove” and “feed the starter” has fallen flatter than my failed focaccia.
The test of time has shown that underneath our amateur chef hat is a dejected, unskilled human who, if they’re being honest, really likes junk food, hates yoga and doesn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder (Don’t bother explaining it to me; I’ll never remember and I do not care).
And the reason I know all this to be true is because Hot Pockets are popular again. My, how the mighty have fallen.
IN OTHER NEWS
- After exchanging some cheeky messages on social media, Adidas and Allbirds are linking up.
- Amazon says it’s keeping most of the jobs it created in the pandemic.
- Plummeting demand for travel is forcing Delta and American to gut their workforces.
- Nissan is cutting production capacity by 20% after suffering its worst year since 2009.