Bitcoin continued its recent rise, fueled by Tesla’s announcement on Monday that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of the digital currency and would start accepting Bitcoin payments. Bitcoin rose above $48,000 per coin early on Tuesday, a record, according to CoinDesk, a trading platform for digital currencies.
It is up more than 45 percent in 2021, and other cryptocurrencies are rising, too — including Dogecoin, which was started as a joke before it rose about 1,000 percent over the past week.
The momentum has been building as more stock-trading apps allow users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies, reported Nathaniel Popper for The New York Times: “The rally is a moment of euphoria for the thousands of different versions of digital money, which years ago were dismissed as little more than online Beanie Babies caught in a speculative bubble,” he wrote.
Wall Street is expected to open lower when trading starts later on Tuesday, taking a cue from European markets that were generally lower. Asian markets closed mixed.
The S&P 500 on Monday closed higher for the sixth consecutive day, gaining 0.7 percent and moving further into record territory.
But that momentum slowed in Asia. The Nikkei in Japan gained 0.4 percent, while the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.2 percent.
European market were moderately lower. The DAX in Germany fell 0.6 percent, the FTSE in Britain lost 0.1 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.4 percent.
Oil futures struggled to keep gains made on Monday, when prices finally recovered to their prepandemic levels. West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark, was down about 0.2 percent, while the global benchmark, Brent crude, was flat, still above $60 a barrel.
Total, the French oil producer, reported better-than-expected earnings, with adjusted net income of $4.06 billion for all of 2020. Its shares rose 1 percent.
Democrats in the House on Monday proposed legislation to send stimulus checks of $1,400 to Americans earning up to $75,000 and households with incomes up to $150,000. The direct payments are a critical part of President Biden’s stimulus plan, although the proposal may run into opposition from Republicans and some Democrats who want to focus the payments on lower-income Americans.
House committees on Tuesday are expected to begin considering the overall $1.9 trillion package, aimed at supporting the economy through the pandemic.
Benefits of lockdown
Ocado, the online supermarket based in Britain, reported a 35 percent rise in sales over the past year. As the company invests in new warehouses, “The landscape for food retailing is changing, for good,” said the chief executive, Tim Steiner.
Still, the company reported a net loss of 44 million pounds (about $60 million), down from 215 million pounds the previous year. Shares were down 2.6 percent.
Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, will tell a Senate committee this morning that she would “work in good faith with all members of Congress” if confirmed, in a bid to head off Republican complaints about her past criticisms of conservatives.
Ms. Tanden is the president of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, a veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations and a former top aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She is set to testify on Tuesday morning before the Senate Homeland Security committee, with a second hearing scheduled for Wednesday before the budget committee.
Republicans in the Senate have criticized Ms. Tanden for past statements, including Twitter posts, in which she criticized Republicans in Congress and elsewhere. Ms. Tanden will nod to those criticisms in the opening statement she has prepared for delivery.
“The role of O.M.B. director is different from some of my past positions,” she plans to say. “Over the last few years, it’s been part of my role to be an impassioned advocate. I understand, though, that the role of O.M.B. director calls for bipartisan action, as well as a nonpartisan adherence to facts and evidence.”
Ms. Tanden will also stress her qualifications for the job, including her experience being raised by an immigrant single mother who was forced to draw on the government safety net at times.
“We relied on food stamps to eat, and Section 8 vouchers to pay the rent,” Ms. Tanden will say. “At school, I remember being the only kid in the cafeteria line who used 10-cent vouchers from the Free Lunch Program. I remember using food stamps at the grocery store.”
“If I am privileged to serve as director,” she will say, “I would ensure that O.M.B. uses every tool at its disposal to efficiently and effectively deliver for working Americans, small businesses, and struggling communities.”
The race to distribute vaccines and the emergence of more contagious variants of the coronavirus have put a renewed spotlight on the plight of grocery workers in the United States.
The industry has boomed in the past year as Americans have stayed home and avoided restaurants. But in most cases, that has not translated into extra pay for its workers, Sapna Maheshwari and Michael Corkery report for The New York Times. After Long Beach, Calif., mandated hazard pay for grocery workers, the grocery giant Kroger responded last week by saying it would close two locations.
And now, even as experts warn people to minimize time spent in grocery stores because of new coronavirus variants, The Times found only 13 states that had started specifically vaccinating those workers.
“Kroger is sending a message, more than anything else,” said Andrea Zinder, president of Local 324 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents about 160 employees at the two stores. “They are trying to intimidate workers and communities: If you pass these types of ordinances, there will be consequences.”
Kroger, which operates about 2,750 stores, has attracted particular attention because it pursued stock buybacks last year and because its chief executive, Rodney McMullen, earned more than $20 million in 2019. The median compensation of a Kroger employee that year was $26,790, or a ratio of 789 to 1, according to company filings.
“I’ve been writing about the auto industry for 19 years, and I’ve really never seen anything like this,” Neal E. Boudette, who covers the auto industry for The New York Times, told Shira Ovide in this week’s On Tech newsletter.
“When I saw the G.M. news, I sat back in my chair and reflected on how revolutionary this was,” Mr. Boudette said. “G.M., for more than a century, has been producing internal combustion engine vehicles, and soon it won’t be.
“We’re on the cusp of one of those big industrial transformations in which we shift from an old way of doing things to a completely new one, and everything will be turned upside down.”
They discussed the future of cars and whether traditional automakers or tech-focused companies, like Tesla and Apple, would rule the next generation of the roads.
“It’s not either-or,” Mr. Boudette said. “The companies that succeed will need to think like the other side. Auto companies need to adapt the mind-set and expertise of tech firms, and vice versa.”
For weeks, policy veterans have been fretting among themselves over the scale of President Biden’s proposal for more pandemic aid, in private emails and text chains, Neil Irwin reports for The New York Times.
Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary, made those concerns public with an op-ed article in The Washington Post last week. The article received some support on Twitter from another economist from the Obama administration and from a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.
The core question is whether the administration’s $1.9 trillion plan is too big. Is action on that scale needed to contain the economic damage from the pandemic? Or is it far too big relative to the hole the economy’s in, thus setting the stage for a burst of inflation followed by a potential recession?
Mr. Summers argues that the plan’s total size reaches a scale that risks major future problems. That implies that much of that spending will just slosh around the economy, causing prices to rise.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other top officials argue that their proposal is prudent and appropriately scaled and that the United States is in a do-whatever-it-takes moment. They do not dismiss the possibility that there will be higher inflation down the road — but say it is a manageable risk.
The economy is in uncharted territory. There is a lot of money poised to be spent, and some things may reduce the supply of goods and services. Lots of money chasing finite supply is an Economics 101 recipe for surging prices.
But for the medium term, the more important question is whether any inflation surge would be a temporary not-so-harmful phenomenon or the start of something more lasting.
House Democrats on Monday rolled out a key plank of President Biden’s stimulus plan, proposing legislation to send direct payments of $1,400 to Americans earning up to $75,000 and households with incomes up to $150,000.
The plan, drafted the day before key committees are scheduled to being meeting to consider it, is at odds with proposals from some Republicans and moderate Democrats who want to curtail eligibility for direct payments, targeting it to lower income people. Mr. Biden has said he is open to such modifications.
For now, the measure would allow individuals earning up to $100,000 and households earning up to $200,000 to be eligible for some payment, though the size of the checks would phase out gradually for those with incomes above $75,000, or $150,000 for a family.
The bill, unveiled by Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was one of a series that Democrats presented on Monday ahead of a week of legislative work to solidify the details of Mr. Biden’s stimulus proposal.
The decision to keep the income cap at the same level as the last round of stimulus payments comes after days of debate among the House Democratic caucus over the size of the checks, as some moderates pushed to restrict the full amount to those who make $50,000 or less and households earning up to $100,000.
The legislation also includes a series of significant changes to the tax code and an increase in an extension of weekly federal unemployment benefits. It would raise the $300-a-week payment to $400 a week and continue the program — currently slated to begin lapsing in March — through the end of August.
The $1.9 trillion plan would also provide for billions of dollars for schools and colleges, small businesses and a provision that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, a progressive priority.