Stocks hold steady ahead of impeachment vote

By CNN Business

Updated 5:41 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021
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12:39 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Online lender Affirm is latest unicorn IPO to soar

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Max Levchin during an interview in San Francisco, California, in 2018.
Max Levchin during an interview in San Francisco, California, in 2018. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The red hot initial public offering market is picking up in 2021 right where it left off at the end of last year. Buzzy online lending startup Affirm, which lets people buy now and pay later for goods, soared about 90% in its market debut Wednesday.

Affirm (AFRM), whose CEO and founder is PayPal (PYPL) co-founder Max Levchin, sold $1.2 billion in the stock offering and is now worth more than $22.5 billion. The surge for Affirm follows the big jumps for Airbnb (ABNB), DoorDash (DASH) and Palantir (PLTR) when they began trading late last year.

The company, like many startups, is growing rapidly. Sales in its latest fiscal year nearly doubled to more than $500 million. But like most unicorns, Affirm is not yet profitable.

Still, the successful IPO is the latest feather in the caps of the so-called PayPal mafia, former executives at the digital payments giant who went on to even bigger things in the world of tech and finance.

That list includes venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a Palantir co-founder and one of the few high-profile Republican/Trump donors in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Yelp (YELP) CEO and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman and YouTube co-founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim.

And oh yeah, some guy named Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, was part of that group, too.

12:26 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

No letting up for jobless claims

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Tomorrow is jobless claims day, and the data is unlikely to show signs of improvement.

Economists polled by Refinitiv expect that another 780,000 Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits last week. That would only be 7,000 fewer than in the prior week. Ugh.

Weekly first-time jobless claims haven't shown improvement for weeks. After dropping below 1 million in late August, they have stayed in a tight range for an economy that's meant to be recovering.

Worse still, these numbers don't include claims from workers such as the self-employed who filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which are counted separately.

There's no letting up for America's jobs crisis. The last stimulus package has extended the pandemic-specific benefits introduced in the CARES Act and added a weekly $300 to regular aid. But more will likely need to be done once President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week.

12:10 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Stocks are mixed at midday

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Tech stocks are among the winners today, and the Nasdaq Composite is up 0.4% at midday.

But it doesn't look that cheery across the other indexes. The S&P 500 is up a modest 0.1% around noon, while the Dow is down 0.1%, or 16 points.

Intel (INTC), which said this morning that its CEO Bob Swan is being replaced, is the best performer in the S&P.

10:36 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Stocks inch higher

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

An hour into the trading day, stocks are modestly higher across the board as the focus remains on Washington.

The Dow is up 0.1%, or 24 points, and the S&P 500 is also trading 0.1% higher. The Nasdaq Composite is up 0.3%.

While all three indexes are in record territory, they remain at arm's length from the all-time highs they hit Friday.

10:36 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Koch network signals it could cut funding to lawmakers based on conduct before insurrection

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

Charles Koch photographed in 2007.
Charles Koch photographed in 2007. Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Americans for Prosperity, the powerful political arm of the network founded by GOP megadonor Charles Koch, is signaling it could cut funding to some lawmakers based on their actions prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.

“Lawmakers’ actions leading up to and during last week’s insurrection will weigh heavily in our evaluation of future support," Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.

Americans for Prosperity is the policy organization of Stand Together, formerly known as the Koch network.

The announcement is especially noteworthy because Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by billionaire Charles Koch, was one of the biggest backers of the 147 Republicans who objected to the Electoral College results.

During the 2020 election cycle, Koch Industries donated $931,500 to those Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.

“We will continue to look for ways to support those policymakers who reject the politics of division and work together to move our country forward,” Seidel said.

However, Americans for Prosperity is not going as far as other major companies. Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Facebook, and others have suspended political donations altogether. Amazon, Verizon, CNN owner AT&T and others promised not to give money to those 147 Republicans.

11:43 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Stocks open flat

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks opened little changed on Wednesday as all eyes are on the impeachment proceedings in Washington.

The Dow and the S&P 500 opened flat.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%.

That said, the stock indexes remain in record territory.

9:27 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Intel stock soars after reported CEO changes

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Intel (INTC) shares soared about 13% following a report that CEO Bob Swan is being replaced.

CNBC said Wednesday that VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger will take over the position February 15. VMWare's (VMW) stock slipped 5% on the news.

The reported change comes after activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point wrote a letter in December calling on Intel to hire an investment adviser to explore "strategic alternatives" aimed at regaining market share from competitors -- particularly Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung.

CNBC added the changes will be announced "later on Wednesday."

8:53 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Consumer prices rose 1.4% in 2020

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Inflation data for 2020 is in, and consumer prices rose 1.4% without seasonal adjustments last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's ever so slightly above what economists expected -- but it was also down sharply from the 2.3% increase in 2019. In fact, that was the smallest December-to-December price increase since 2015.

Without food and energy, inflation was 1.6% last year. The index of food prices alone rose 3.9% (remember how everything got more expensive at the grocery store?), while the energy index dropped 7% (the collapse in oil brought gas prices down, even though they rose again at the end of the year).

In December alone prices rose 0.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis, which was in line with expectations. As happens so often, most of the price increase was due to rising gas prices. Stripping out volatile food and energy components, prices rose only 0.1% in December.

8:14 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

The climb in bond yields hits pause

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond is a touch lower at 1.12% today as the recent ascent in yields is taking a breather.

I think the Treasury sell-off and the steepening trade may well have run their course for now," said Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at BDSwiss Group.

A quick reminder: Last year in March, the 10-year yield fell below 1% for the first time in history as investors fled to the safety of the asset. Bond yields and prices move opposite to each other, so when the price goes up, the yield goes down.

After a rocky March, yields remained tepid, and the Federal Reserve's commitment to keep interest rates near zero to support the economy helped with that.

But since the start to the new year, yields have been on the rise, climbing above 1% for the first time last week. Until today.

Market watchers think the pause is due to investors being reminded that the Fed isn't going to raise rates anytime soon after some sobering words from the central bank's officials yesterday. Strong demand in an auction of fresh Treasuries Tuesday was another, they said.