From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, these are the top stories that moved markets and had investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs talking this week on Cheddar.
The S&P 500 ended down for the week with the Dow and Nasdaq slightly higher as the Street wrapped up early Thursday for the Christmas holiday. A stimulus package from Congress looked like it was going to emerge as a gift early in the week, but the president threw that plan into turmoil Wednesday when he demanded payments to Americans be jacked up from $600 to $2,000, a plan GOP House members officially derided Thursday. Still, the need for major economic relief became even more apparent in the data this week. Another 800,000 Americans joined the ranks of the unemployed last week. If the stimulus bill is not signed into law soon, federal unemployment benefits expire in a week, leaving millions of people without any income. Consumer spending dropped in November for the first time since the pandemic started, consumer confidence is at a four-month low, and even the resilient housing market is faltering with sales of new single-family homes dropping sharply in November.
The U.S. Postal Service is buckling under the weight of an absolute deluge of mail and package volume that is causing widespread delivery delays across the country. On-time performance was 86 percent last week, and perhaps even lower now. Foot traffic at retail stores was down 40 percent last weekend compared to last year. Everyone is doing their shopping online, and it has created a logjam that is cresting at the worst possible time. FedEx and UPS have instituted limits on their networks, leaving the USPS as the shipper of last resort. Best Buy is even experimenting with sending its own employees out to deliver items. As one meme going around puts it: "Stop trying to track that package. It's in God's hands now."
APPLE V. TESLA
Apple is reportedly jump-starting its plans to build a self-driving car from scratch. The iPhone maker is said to be targeting 2024 for the launch of an autonomous vehicle that will include a supposed breakthrough in battery technology. Apple's self-driving car strategy, codenamed Project Titan, has gone through fits and starts over the past several years, but the company is reinvigorating the project thanks to a "radical" new battery design. If those plans materialize, Apple would be going head-to-head with Tesla. CEO Elon Musk said this week that he had offered to sell Tesla to Apple three years ago as the company was faltering with the Model 3, but Apple boss Tim Cook "refused to take the meeting." Tesla shares closed the week down slightly after its first week as a member of the S&P 500.
Peloton closed at another all-time high this week after the fitness bike maker announced it was buying Precor, the commercial fitness equipment manufacturer, for $420 million. The deal gives Peloton access to 625,000 square feet of new manufacturing space in the U.S. that it desperately needs to keep up with the demand for its at-home products. Peloton will end 2020 as one of the top "stay-at-home" stocks of the pandemic, up an astonishing 470 percent on the year.
WALMART OPIOID LAWSUIT
Walmart will have to answer for its purported role in the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the U.S. The Justice Department filed suit against the superstore this week alleging that its pharmacies filled thousands of suspicious prescriptions that it "knew were invalid." Walmart already began fighting back, saying the DOJ's investigation has been "tainted by historical ethics violations." Walmart's stock dipped after the suit was announced.