The Week in Review: Brinkmanship, Bankrupcies, and Taco Bell

Troy Hoffman Contributor
The Week in Review: Brinkmanship, Bankrupcies, and Taco Bell
Read Time: approx. 4:31

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After the U.S. and Iran backed away from the brink, all three major U.S. indices marched towards record highs last week. For a brief moment the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached the 29000 milestone for the first time on Friday, but then retreated. It closed down 133.13 points, or 0.5%, at 28823.77. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite rose earlier in the day as well before giving up some ground towards the closing bell. The S&P 500 lost 9.35 points, or 0.3%, to 3265.35. The Nasdaq Composite fell 24.57 points, or 0.3%, to 9178.86. Despite their declines Friday, all three major indexes notched weekly gains. Oil did get hit by the geopolitical tension, however. Over the course of the week, it declined 6%, recording its worst weekly performance since July of 2019. The end of the week gave us important economic data, namely the U.S. Labor Department’s December jobs report, which showed that employers added 145,000 jobs in December. Not only did these figures assuage any concerns about a near-term recession, but they also capped a 10th straight year of payroll gains. Here are other headlines that you may have missed:

The first Monday of 2020 did not shine brightly on two American companies. In the home furnishing and decor space, Pier 1 Imports on Monday said it intends to shut up to 450 locations, or almost half of its fleet of 942 stores, as it unexpectedly reported quarterly earnings amid bankruptcy rumors. The home furnishings giant has lost market share to the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Target and Wayfair. It has struggled to court shoppers to stores. 

In the dairy aisle, Borden Dairy, a 163-year-old milk producer known for its spokes-cow Elsie, has filed for bankruptcy with plans to erase millions of dollars in debt from its books, becoming the second major player in the industry to seek protection from creditors in two months. Flashback: In November, Dean Foods, the nation’s biggest milk producer filed for bankruptcy. 

Speaking of closings, Macy’s said Wednesday it will shutter nearly 30 stores, in an effort to boost its profitability and focus on its most profitable stores. 

Out west, thousands of people flocked to Las Vegas this week for CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, a massive marketing event where technology companies show off their newest innovations.

Overseas, Paris and Washington have set a two-week deadline to end a row over a French proposal to tax multinational tech giants, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday. The deadline coincides with a scheduled meeting on the topic at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan. 21 to 24, he said.

Speaking of trade and tariffs, China’s chief trade negotiator will travel to Washington early this week to sign a phase-one trade deal with the U.S., Beijing said, in its first official confirmation over the signing of an agreement that could help ease bilateral tensions.

In the auto space, Tesla shares rose almost 5% to end at a record $492.14 on Wednesday. They ended the week at 478.15, with a market cap of $86.18 billion. For context, General Motors market cap is $49.51 billion and Ford’s is $36.80 billion, meaning Tesla is currently worth more than those two companies combined.

More tellingly, on Wednesday the Wall Street Journal Business section had adjacent headlines that summed up the future of American cars in China in under twenty words. The first headline read: “Tesla Set to Expand China Assembly With Model Y Compact SUV“. Directly underneath it, the second said: “GM Posts Its Biggest China Sales Decline“. In regards to the former, Tesla said it has begun preparing its new China factory for the auto maker’s next all-electric vehicle, a compact SUV, only a week after delivering its first locally made Model 3 sedans. And as it relates to the latter, General Motors warned of another tough year ahead, underscoring the challenges that U.S. carmakers are facing in China as the world’s largest auto market suffers its first protracted decline in nearly three decades. Why it matters: In roughly two sentences the Journal outlined how the future of American automobiles in China will be led by electric vehicles.

Speaking of car companies, Toyota announced it has plans to build a “prototype city of the future” on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan to test and develop new emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, according to CNBC.

And last but not least ex-Nissan chief, Carlos Ghosn railed against his former employer and colleagues, Japanese prosecutors, and the media in a long press conference on Wednesday morning, his first public comments since he fled to Lebanon from Japan last year.

In Silicon Valley, Facebook has announced it will remove videos modified by artificial intelligence, known as deepfakes, from its platform, The Washington Post writes. That being said, the social media company will still allow altered content according to the Wall Street JournalWhy it matters: Social-media companies have come under increased pressure to stamp out false or misleading content on their sites ahead of this year’s American presidential election, but walk a fine line when trying not to come in the cross-hairs of the first amendment, which protects free speech.

Audio company Sonos has sued Google for allegedly copying its patented speaker technology while undercutting it at market, according to The New York Times.

U.S. music streams on services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube rose 30% last year topping one trillion for the first time, according to Nielsen Music’s annual report.

And last, but not least, Taco Bell will test a 6-figure salary for managers and roll out paid sick leave as fast food’s war for talent continues to rage.