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Here’s your quick rundown of the week’s biggest stories in business and tech, so you can spend more of your weekend hours enjoying the sun on the longest days of the year. (Or, you know, sit inside and watch season 2 of “Dark” on Netflix. You do you.)
What’s Up? (June 16-22)
Maybe you don’t trust Facebook with your personal information. But what about your money? On Tuesday, the tech giant announced an ambitious vision for its new digital currency, Libra, which it has been secretly working on for over a year and plans to roll out in early 2020. Unlike Bitcoin, Libra will be backed by actual currency (the dollar, the euro and so on), ideally making it more stable. Facebook’s larger goal: to create a global financial system that enables people to send and receive funds online without dealing with banks at all — effectively cutting out (or replacing) the middleman. But the plan already faces an uphill battle with government officials, who have no idea how they’ll regulate it.
Same Rates, New Story
The stock market hit a record high on Thursday after the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome H. Powell, said he might be open to lowering interest rates — but not just yet. The Fed chose last week to keep rates where they are for now. Their decision defied the wishes of President Trump, who has been pushing for decreased rates to juice the slowing economy, weaken the dollar and help with his trade wars. Still, Mr. Powell indicated that rate cuts might be on the horizon if “increased uncertainties” continue to weigh on American businesses and consumers. Many investors are now predicting that cuts could happen as soon as this summer.
The Slack Surprise
Silicon Valley darlings like Uber, Lyft and Pinterest got a ton of hype when they went public earlier this year. So how did the tech start-up Slack — a workplace messaging platform so widespread that it has become a verb (“I’ll Slack you”) — manage to sneak onto the trading floor on Thursday with little to no anticipatory fuss? Also unlike Uber and Lyft, whose stock prices have dropped since their initial public offerings, Slack’s valuation proceeded to blow past estimates. The difference may be that Slack took an unusual route called a direct listing, in which a company does not issue new shares or raise capital; its stock simply begins trading. In the process, Slack may have inadvertently modeled a more successful I.P.O. than its larger, splashier counterparts.
What’s Next? (June 23-29)
Ready to winnow down the giant pack of Democratic presidential candidates? That process will begin this week, when 20 potential nominees are split across two nights of primary debates in Miami. The candidates have outlined wide-ranging plans to improve health care, reduce income inequality and tackle climate change. Big Tech is another potential talking point. Or more specifically, how to better regulate it to protect users’ privacy and shield platforms from illegal activity (like, say, Russian hackers). Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a sweeping plan that would break up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. As for everyone else … we’ll find out.
They Meet Again
When the Group of 20 summit begins this week in Japan, Mr. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China will come face to face for the first time since their delegates’ trade talks fell apart in May. Not awkward at all! If they can rekindle negotiations in sideline meetings during the conference, it would be a major forward step for a global economy that is becoming increasingly fractured. The World Trade Organization says that G-20 economies are imposing new trade barriers at a rate well above the historical average, with no sign of letting up, unless Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi can shift the trend.
A Close Call
What’s scarier than a trade war? An actual war with a country that controls a big chunk of the world’s oil supply. Tensions between the United States and Iran got so heated last week that Mr. Trump approved military strikes on a handful of Iranian targets — and then pulled back abruptly on Thursday night. Days earlier, Iran announced that it would break the conditions of its 2015 nuclear deal on June 27 unless other countries in the pact — like Germany, France and Britain — will help defend it against the crippling oil sanctions that Mr. Trump reimposed in 2017. To hammer home the point, Iran then shot down an American surveillance drone. Whose side will the world powers take? One thing’s for sure: No one wants more destabilization in the petroleum market.
The list of humans worth over $100 billion has grown to three from two. Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has officially joined Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Microsoft’s Bill Gates in the world’s 12-figure-fortune club. Speaking of big money, Google will invest $1 billion to ease the housing crisis it helped create in the San Francisco Bay Area. The funds will go toward at least 15,000 new, more “affordable” homes for those getting priced out of the neighborhood. In other news, the director and producer Janet Mock became the first known transgender woman to get a major Hollywood deal by signing a three-year, multimillion-dollar agreement with Netflix.
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