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January 08, 2021 View Online | Sign Up

Daily Brew

H&R Block

Good morning. As many readers know, we've got a real soft spot for Alex Trebek, the legendary Jeopardy! host who died November 8 of pancreatic cancer. Well, his final episode airs tonight. 

If you've still got some energy for trivia on a Friday night, gather up your loved ones and give it a watch.

MARKETS

NASDAQ

13,049.99

+ 2.43%

S&P

3,805.56

+ 1.53%

DOW

31,092.92

+ 0.85%

GOLD

1,917.50

+ 0.47%

10-YR

1.071%

+ 3.20 bps

OIL

50.92

+ 0.57%

*As of market close

  • Transition: In a video last night, President Trump acknowledged that a "new administration" would take over on Jan. 20. He condemned the rioters at the Capitol, and said "my focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power."
  • Markets: Stocks shrugged off the unrest in D.C. and surged to record highs. The Nasdaq closed above 13,000 for the first time.
  • Economy: Jobless claims inched downward last week, but remain at elevated levels. The big December jobs report will arrive at 8:30am ET.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media Companies Mute Trump's Megaphone

Locked phone

Francis Scialabba

If you're like us, you spent yesterday trying to cope with Wednesday's siege on the U.S. Capitol.

Also doing that: social media companies. In response to the anti-democracy invasion by pro-Trump extremists, platforms on which Trump has gargantuan followings placed unprecedented restrictions on his ability to communicate. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Trump would be blocked from posting on both Facebook and Instagram at least until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration in about two weeks. 

Zuckerberg explained that, given the events that took place Wednesday, the risk of allowing Trump to post was too great. "The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden," Zuck wrote.

  • It was a notable switcheroo for Zuckerberg, who in the past has supported a more hands-off approach to content moderation. 

Twitter was under pressure to apply similar measures; on Wednesday night it suspended Trump's account for 12 hours and demanded the removal of three tweets. 

Google-owned YouTube removed the video Trump recorded while the siege was still underway, in which he repeated lies about the election. 

And Amazon-owned Twitch disabled President Trump's account indefinitely.

The reaction 

Some experts said it was too late to get serious about preventing violence after the national legislature had been breached and four people had died. Other critics suggested the companies were repositioning in anticipation of a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House. 

Former Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya drew a connection between Facebook's consistently stellar financial performance and its lackadaisical attitude about moderation: "...we optimized for short-term profitability at the sake of our democracy," he told CNBC. 

Bottom line: It's symbolic that Trump's term is concluding with a referendum on his social media activity. He's used the platforms, to various ends, like no president—or world leader—we've seen before.

        

WEALTH

Elon Musk and Bitcoin Yesterday

Kirk Cousins

Giphy

Elon Musk and bitcoin—you either think they're a joke or you have a neck tattoo of them. What can we agree on? Both hit major milestones yesterday.

Let's start with Musk

Yesterday, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX became the richest person in the world, topping Jeff Bezos with a net worth of $188.5 billion. 

Musk has gained more than $150 billion in net worth over the past 12 months, amounting to "possibly the fastest bout of wealth creation in history," writes Bloomberg. 

  • What happened? As Tesla shares rise, so does Musk's fortune. Tesla stock gained 743% last year and rose nearly 8% yesterday, thrusting Musk past his rocket rival Bezos (if he hadn't ceded ~25% of his wealth in a 2019 divorce, Bezos would still be No. 1).

Now to bitcoin 

The cryptocurrency everyone wishes they didn't sell in 2018 broke through $40,000 yesterday, bringing the total value of cryptocurrencies past $1 trillion. 

Zoom out: Bitcoin's starting out 2021 even better than its legendary 2020, when it gained more than 300%. It's doubled its value in less than a month. 

        

PHARMA

China Puts Best Shot Forward

One year ago, we wrote about how a new coronavirus strain was expected to disrupt travel and shopping during China's Lunar New Year. Twelve very disruptive months later, Beijing is executing an ambitious plan to vaccinate 50 million frontline workers ahead of the holiday in February. 

It has two vaccines to help, both of which use inactivated viruses to create immune responses (Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines use mRNA). 

  1. CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac Biotech, was 78% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, officials said yesterday. The vaccine is already approved for limited use in China.
  2. BBIBP-CorV, from state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm, needs a nickname. But last week it was the first to receive commercial use approval from Chinese regulators; it's reportedly 79% effective.

China's thinking globally

Western governments, skeptical of Chinese vaccines, have opted for approved vaccines from U.S. firms Pfizer and Moderna. That's left Chinese (and Russian) vaccines as the best available options for some developing countries. 

  • Developing countries have already purchased 300 million CoronaVac doses.

Bottom line: For China, "vaccine diplomacy" is a new front to extend influence abroad, particularly in Africa, where it's made infrastructure investments for years. 

        

SPONSORED BY H&R BLOCK

News Flash: It's Tax Season

H&R Block

Put away the holiday lights and throw out the fruitcake. It's time to get down to business.

Tax business.

This tax season, we're teaming up with the know-it-alls from H&R Block (seriously, their tax pros have an average of 10 years' experience) to get you the friendly financial help you need.

So even if you took on a side gig, got a promotion (congrats, btw), or want to expense a Norwegian ergonomic cushion, Block can get you the refund you deserve

Block's got many options for you this season, so you can file:

  • However: Us cool millennials can go the DIY route and do everything on a smartphone.
  • Wherever: File from the couch or head to one of Block's offices across the country.
  • Whenever: Block's open early and late. Make an appointment or just stop in. 

See? Taxes don't have to be tedious. Let Block have your back this tax season.

FINANCE

SoFi Feeling Spactacular

Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital Partnership speaks onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY.

TechCrunch

Yesterday, SoFi confirmed it's going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a deal valuing the startup at $8.7 billion. Quick background:

  • SoFi: a fintech company that's moved beyond student loan refinancing to mortgages, insurance, wealth management, and even crypto trading. 
  • SPAC: a shell company that raises money through an IPO and then acquires or merges with a private company, thereby taking the private company public. 

SoFi is doing the deed with the mastermind behind last year's SPAC craze, Chamath Palihapitiya (second appearance in today's newsletter, congrats). A prolific investor, Palihapitiya's firm Social Capital Hedosophia has completed several high-profile SPACquisitions, including Virgin Galactic, Opendoor, and Clover Health (a deal that closed yesterday).

Zoom out: SPACs have been around for years, but took off in 2020 with over 240 of them announced and an average deal size of $335 million. But some investors have questioned massive payouts to SPAC managers, who often receive 20% equity, as well as mixed returns.

Looking ahead...Palihapitiya reserved tickers IPOA through IPOZ. The SPAC merging with SoFi, IPOE, gained 58% yesterday. Bets on who goes public through IPOF?

        

QUIZ

First News Quiz of 2021

Weekly news quiz

Francis Scialabba

Getting a 5/5 on the Brew's Weekly News Quiz is like taking an outdoor shower after a beach day. 

It's that satisfying. Ace the quiz.

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Boeing will pay more than $2.5 billion to settle charges with the DOJ that it misled the FAA about the safety of the 737 Max.
  • CNN said Wednesday's coverage of the Capitol riot was the network's most-watched day in history.
  • The U.S. trade deficit hit a 14-year high in November as retailers imported all your holiday gifts.
  • President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly finalized his cabinet, nominating Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as labor secretary, and California economic development official Isabel Guzman as head of the Small Business Administration.
  • Mortgage rates hit another record low last week.
  • Mercedes-Benz unveiled a 56-inch (not a typo) Hyperscreen display for its upcoming EQS luxury electric car.

BREW'S BETS

Do you have $49? Would you like to potentially turn it into much more than $49? Then we think you need to see this list of 5 Growth Stocks Under $49 put together by The Motley Fool. Sign up to see the list.*

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Hear from Fauci: Today, the nation's leading infectious disease official will join OZY's Carlos Watson Show to share how the AIDS epidemic prepared us for the coronavirus, what the next pandemic might look like, and who his favorite basketball player is. Catch it on YouTube or in podcast version.

Friday follows: A wholesome gardener on Twitter, the best soccer account ever on Instagram, and three skincare accounts also on Instagram. Also, check out our guide to fact checking your social media feed.

Food ideas: This Sidekick interview of Pop Up Grocer's Emily Schildt will introduce you to dozens of amazing new grocery brands. 

*This is sponsored advertising content

GAMES

Friday Puzzle

Complete the words below using three consecutive letters in alphabetical order.

Example: _ _ A _ U S; add A B and C it would become ABACUS.

1. F _ _ R I _

2. T H I _ _ _

3. A _ U _ _ A

4. _ _ _ I N E

5. A _ _ _ T E

6. _ _ _ A C K

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ANSWER

1. Fabric
2. Thirst
3. Alumna
4. Define
5. Astute
6. Hijack

              

Written by Alex Hickey, Eliza Carter, and Neal Freyman

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