Markets Rise Despite the Chaos in Washington: Live Business Updates

The crowd that gathered at President Trump’s rally, before members stormed Congress, was filled with Trump merchandise. At least two online stores associated with the president were shut down on Thursday.
The crowd that gathered at President Trump’s rally, before members stormed Congress, was filled with Trump merchandise. At least two online stores associated with the president were shut down on Thursday.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Shopify, the company that powers e-commerce sites for more than one million merchants, said on Thursday that it had closed two online stores tied to President Trump, including those run by the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign.

A company representative said that the sites violated a policy that prohibits the support of organizations or people “that threaten or condone violence to further a cause.” Users who navigated to sites like and were met with messages that the sites were unavailable.

Cached versions of the sites show that they had sold merchandise like $45 pairs of Trump-branded champagne flutes, $30 “Make America Great Again” hats and a $24 poster of a cartoon of Mr. Trump punching into the air.

Shopify, which said that it “does not tolerate actions that incite violence,” still appeared to be powering other sites selling Trump merchandise as of Thursday afternoon. For example, the sites and were among several that were still active, highlighting how difficult it can be for technology companies to begin policing websites. Shopify declined to comment on the additional sites.

“Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions by President Donald J. Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits promotion or support of organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause,” the Shopify representative said earlier on Thursday. “As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump.”

Shopify’s technology makes it simple for individuals to make retail websites with as little as an email address and a credit card. At the outset of the pandemic last year, the company closed thousands of sites that claimed to be selling virus-fighting products.

Stocks rose to another record on Thursday, a day after chaos erupted in Washington when a pro-Trump mob overran the Capitol building, as investors focused instead on chances for increased federal spending by a Biden administration and a Congress under unified Democratic control.

The S&P 500 climbed by 1.5 percent, adding to a string of records since President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the presidential election.

The S&P is up nearly 13 percent since that Nov. 3 vote, but only now, after Democrats won two Senate seats in runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, do investors feel they have a complete view of the implications of the political season.

Across stock, bond and commodities markets, they are betting that Democratic control will soon translate into another major round of Federal stimulus spending, raising the chances of a much stronger economic recovery over the coming months — a view that helped traders look past violence in Washington and to the impact of a government unified under Democratic leadership, analysts said.

“The political cycle of 2020 has ended. We’ve finished the senatorial elections. We’ve finished the House elections. We’ve finished the presidential elections,” said Randy Watts, chief investment officer for O’Neil Global Advisors, a financial advisory firm. “So I think the market is happy, as many investors are, to finally get that behind them and be able to focus on policy and economics and corporate profits.”

Investors are also banking on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines to eventually energize business activity that has been dormant during the pandemic, and, as they have for months, also looked past fresh evidence of the economic catastrophe unfolding. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 922,000 workers filed new state claims for unemployment benefits last week, while another 161,000 new claims were filed under a federal program.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose above 1.07 percent. While that is remarkably low by long-term historical standards, it is the highest level for yields since March, when the arrival of the coronavirus sent global markets into a tailspin.

“It’s a reflection that there’s going to be more stimulus. There’s going to be bigger supply, and there’s a bigger risk of inflation,” said James Bianco, president of Bianco Research, a financial market research firm based in Chicago.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said they expected Democrats to pass $750 billion in fiscal stimulus in the first quarter of the year. The U.S. investment bank also raised its forecast for economic growth this year to 6.4 percent from 5.9 percent.

Senator Josh Hawley on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled for release in June.Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Simon & Schuster said on Thursday that it would cancel the publication of an upcoming book by Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican and Trump ally who challenged the results of the presidential election and was accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints. At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”

The senator’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The subject of Mr. Hawley’s book, which was already available for preorder on Amazon and other retailers, is not about the election or Mr. Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Its cancellation was remarkably swift and raised questions about how publishers will approach future books by conservatives who have supported Mr. Trump’s efforts to invalidate the election.

Rebukes on Twitter aimed at Simon & Schuster for their plans to publish the book came from several writers and at least one Simon & Schuster author. But the conservative publisher Regnery, which released a book in the fall by Senator Ted Cruz, another leader of the push to overturn the election results, did not appear to be facing similar pressure.

Tom Spence, Regnery’s president and publisher, said the company did not have any further deals with Mr. Cruz at the moment but would work with him again. Mr. Spence also said that if Simon & Schuster canceled Mr. Hawley’s book deal, “We would be interested.”

American Airlines planes at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in November.
American Airlines planes at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in November.Credit…Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

American Airlines said on Thursday that it had banned alcohol on flights to and from Washington at least through Thursday night and was taking other precautions to keep its employees and passengers safe after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.

The company said it had increased staffing at the area’s three main airports. United Airlines said it has also stepped up airport staffing and had moved crews out of hotels in downtown Washington earlier in the week. American, United and Delta Air Lines said they were in close contact with local and federal authorities.

Even before the attack on the Capitol, airline crews and passengers had reported encountering unruly passengers headed to Washington early on Wednesday. Flight attendant unions expressed concern after members reported having to confront passengers who were being disruptive, behaving aggressively or flouting mask requirements. Video and photos posted on social media showed pro-Trump passengers cheering, singing and yelling at other passengers.

“We are incredibly concerned about recent politically motivated incidents on board passenger aircraft,” Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 27,000 American flight attendants, said in a statement. “Regardless of one’s political beliefs, the cabin of a commercial aircraft must, out of necessity, be a calm environment for the safety of everyone onboard.”

In a note to members on Wednesday, Ms. Hedrick said that the airline would move all layover crews to airport hotels through next Sunday and offer private transportation to area airports. “Remain extra vigilant on flights departing from the Washington, D.C., area for the next few days, and involve your fellow crew members if you have safety concerns,” she wrote.

In a separate statement, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which has tens of thousands of members at 17 airlines, called on airlines and law enforcement to take “all steps” necessary to keep passengers and crews safe.

“The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard,” she said in the statement on Wednesday.

A Freightliner truck, made by Daimler, ready for snow in Iowa City, Iowa. Daimler, which also makes Mercedes-Benz cars, employs more than 25,000 in the United States. 
A Freightliner truck, made by Daimler, ready for snow in Iowa City, Iowa. Daimler, which also makes Mercedes-Benz cars, employs more than 25,000 in the United States. Credit…Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen, via Associated Press

German car and truck maker Daimler, which operates factories in Alabama and other states, joined other Europeans on Thursday in expressing dismay at the storming of the Capitol in Washington, suggesting that political polarization is bad for the economy.

“The United States Congress has been a symbol of freedom and democracy around the world for centuries,” Daimler, which builds Mercedes-Benz cars at a factory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., said in a statement. “We are saddened to see lawlessness and violence on Capitol Hill and hope that there will now be a peaceful transition of power to the incoming administration.”

“As a company, we depend on a reliable and stable political framework that supports the creation of prosperity, employment and economic growth,” Daimler said.

Almost all of Alabama’s congressional delegation supported efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election. Representative Terri Sewell, a Democrat whose district includes Tuscaloosa, was an exception.

Besides being a major part of the Alabama economy, Daimler also builds Freightliner and Western Star trucks and Thomas Built Buses in Portland, Ore., and several other locations. The company employs more than 25,000 people in the United States, where it generated more than $20 billion in sales during the first half of 2020.

“We are an integral part of the economy and public in the U.S.A.,” Daimler said.

When Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, issued a statement condemning the violence in Washington on Wednesday, he urged “our elected leaders” to call for an end to it. He did not directly mention President Trump.

Nor did the Charles Scharf, the chief executive of Wells Fargo (“The behavior in Washington, D.C., today is unacceptable”) or the chief executives of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or Citigroup. Business leaders and organizations often instead referred to “leaders” or called for “the peaceful transition of power” to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Business leaders have rarely criticized Mr. Trump directly. When he announced, shortly before he was inaugurated, that Stephen K. Bannon would be his chief strategist in the White House, Democrats on the congressional committees that oversee the finance industry asked industry leaders to publicly oppose the appointment. The lawmakers called Mr. Bannon a “bigot beloved by white supremacists” and said the business leaders had “a moral obligation to speak out.”

None did.

After Mr. Trump took office, chief executives found themselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether to take part in so-called business advisory councils, common forums for business leaders to influence the policy of a new president, even as he was rolling out policies many saw as hateful. Several such councils disbanded after Mr. Trump declined in 2017 to condemn violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and said there were “very fine people” and “blame” on “both sides.”

With the president’s increasing efforts to subvert the election, organizations have grown bolder. On Monday, for example, 170 business leaders signed their names to a statement, organized by the business advocacy organization Partnership for New York City, urging Congress to certify the result of the presidential election, though some prominent members were missing.

On Wednesday, as a mob stormed the Capitol, organizations not known for vocal statements seemed to no longer worry about the political ramifications of speaking up against Mr. Trump.

The research group High Frequency Economics suspended regular publication of its research notes for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and sent a note to its clients: “We at High Frequency Economics are disgusted by the role of the president of the United States in inciting this riot, and we are saddened that he cannot find the character to stand up in front of the mob he has created, quell the violence and send everyone home.”

And the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives, including Mr. Dimon, from some of the nation’s largest companies, was direct as to the cause of the violence.

“The chaos unfolding in the nation’s capital is the result of unlawful efforts to overturn the legitimate results of a democratic election,” the group said. “The country deserves better. Business Roundtable calls on the president and all relevant officials to put an end to the chaos and to facilitate the peaceful transition of power.”

The Royal Divinity Food Bank in Birmingham, Ala., says it has been feeding hundreds more families each month since the pandemic began.
The Royal Divinity Food Bank in Birmingham, Ala., says it has been feeding hundreds more families each month since the pandemic began.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

New claims for unemployment benefits remained high last week, the government reported on Thursday, the latest evidence that the pandemic-racked economy still has a lot of lost ground to make up heading into a new year.

A total of 922,000 workers filed initial claims for state benefits during the final week of 2020, the Labor Department said, while another 161,000 new claims were filed under a federal pandemic jobless program. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 787,000.

The labor market has improved since the coronavirus pandemic broke out and closed down the economy. But of the more than 22 million jobs that disappeared in the spring, 10 million remain lost.

With a recently enacted $900 billion relief package that includes an extension of federal unemployment benefits, most of the unemployed can at least look forward to more financial help.

Still, “this winter is going to be very difficult,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics. “We’re seeing overall economic momentum is slowing, and that feeds through to the labor market.”

“Employers are very cautious about rehiring at the same time they have had to increase layoffs,” Ms. Bostjancic said, “but the resurgence of the virus is really the main culprit here.”

A fuller picture of December employment will come Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report, and most analysts are expecting minor payroll gains — or even the first net loss since April.

As for Thursday’s report, there was a sharp increase in claims for extended state benefits — payments to the long-term unemployed whose regular benefits have run out. But new claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program fell, most likely reflecting the exhaustion of benefits before Congress acted.

Some fuzziness surrounding the count could be related to the difficulty of seasonally adjusting the numbers over the holidays, said Ernie Tedeschi, the head of fiscal analysis at Evercore ISI. The unadjusted number for new state claims was up by 77,000 from the previous week, while the seasonally adjusted number scarcely budged.

But longer-term trends, Mr. Tedeschi noted, are more meaningful than any week-to-week changes.

Even with the arrival of vaccines, “employers are still cautious related to their work force strategy,” said Amy Glaser of the staffing firm Adecco USA.
Even with the arrival of vaccines, “employers are still cautious related to their work force strategy,” said Amy Glaser of the staffing firm Adecco USA.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

While the availability of vaccines will speed the economy’s return to normal, employers remain wary about hiring, job recruiters say.

Job postings and hiring typically fall off at the end of December, and the trend after the latest holiday season has been more pronounced than usual. “Right now, employers are still cautious related to their work force strategy,” said Amy Glaser, senior vice president at the staffing firm Adecco USA.

The rebound has been bumpy, and employers have responded in kind, retaining flexibility to increase or reduce their staffing through the use of temporary workers, Ms. Glaser said. That could mean more people are cycling through jobs.

Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the online job site ZipRecruiter, has seen the same caution.

“Employers are being apprehensive, and job seekers are not yet flocking back to the market in droves, either,” Ms. Pollak said. “The virus is still spreading, hospitalizations have hit a new record, and there is a pullback in demand for certain services. A lot of stay-at-home orders and restrictions are causing a further decline.”

Some industries have managed to thrive. A key measure of manufacturing, for instance, rose this week to its highest level since 2018. Construction spending and employment have grown along with a surge in home buying. Staffing agencies say they have seen hiring in the automotive business and financial services. The demand for warehouse and delivery workers also remains strong.

One of the biggest trends has been the increase in customer service workers and call center representatives operating from home, Ms. Glaser of Adecco said. Those jobs require greater digital literacy than in the past, she said, because individuals must be able to set up their computers and solve problems themselves.

“There is no tech person sitting down the hallway,” she said.

Credit…Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, is now the richest person in the world.

An increase in Tesla’s share price on Thursday pushed Mr. Musk past Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 wealthiest people.

Mr. Musk’s net worth was $195 billion by the end of trading on Thursday, $10 billion more than that of Mr. Bezos’s. Mr. Musk’s wealth has increased by more than $150 billion over the past 12 months, thanks to a rally in Tesla’s share price, which surged 743 percent in 2020. The carmaker’s shares rose nearly 8 percent on Thursday.

“How strange,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter. “Well, back to work,” he added.

Mr. Musk, a South African-born entrepreneur, would not have been able to edge out Mr. Bezos — who has held the title of the richest person in the world since Oct. 2017 — were it not for Mr. Bezos’ philanthropy, including his donation of $680 million worth of Amazon shares in November, as well as his divorce, which caused him to relinquish about 25 percent of his stock in the e-commerce giant to MacKenzie Scott, his ex-wife.

But the rally in Tesla’s stock price was also propelled by the company’s success last year. Tesla delivered nearly 500,000 cars in 2020 as sales rose 36 percent from the year before. The company reported profits in the last four quarters, and its stock was added to the S&P 500 index.

The Tiffany-LVMH saga has finally come to a well-polished, multifaceted end. LVMH, the French conglomerate, completed its acquisition of the American jewelry brand on Thursday, and it was out with the old and in with the new — executives, anyway. The fresh slate of power players comes with a pedigree steeped in LVMH tradition, and is sure to set off a new round of speculation over the future leadership of the world’s largest luxury group.

After a brief transition period, gone will be Reed Krakoff, Tiffany’s chief artistic officer and former New York Fashion Week designer, who tried to update the brand the blue box built with Lady Gaga as a celebrity face and ironic $1,000 silver “tin” cans. Also leaving will be Daniella Vitale, the chief brand officer, who joined from Barney’s after that retailer went bankrupt.

In their place comes Alexandre Arnault, the 28-year-old second son of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive. The younger Mr. Arnault has been named executive vice president, product and communications.

It’s the next step in the ascension of Alexandre Arnault within the family business. He was previously head of Rimowa, the LVMH-owned German luggage brand, and was also the only LVMH family member to accompany his father to the opening of a new Louis Vuitton factory in Texas where President Trump did the ribbon-cutting honors. (His younger brother, Frédéric, is chief executive of Tag Heuer; his elder half brother, Antoine, is chief executive of Berluti, chairman of Loro Piana, an LVMH board member and group director of communications; and his elder half sister, Delphine, is Louis Vuitton’s executive vice president and an LVMH board member.)

In addition, Michael Burke, the chief executive of Louis Vuitton and a longtime Arnault family consiglieri, will also become chairman of the Tiffany board of directors, and Anthony Ledru, executive vice president for global commercial activities at Louis Vuitton, will take Alessandro Bogliolo’s place as Tiffany chief executive.

They will start their positions at a good moment for Tiffany, which earlier this week reported its best holiday sales period in its history and announced it had acquired an 80-carat diamond that would become the largest such stone it had ever offered for sale. Gives new meaning to jewel in the crown.

A Wayfair distribution center in Cranbury, N.J., in 2017. More than 40 percent of the company’s U.S. workers received a pay increase.
A Wayfair distribution center in Cranbury, N.J., in 2017. More than 40 percent of the company’s U.S. workers received a pay increase.Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

Wayfair, the furniture and home goods e-commerce business, said on Thursday that all of its U.S. employees would be paid at least $15 an hour. The increase, which went into effect on Jan. 3, applies to full-time, part-time and seasonal workers at the company.

More than 40 percent of Wayfair’s hourly employees working across its U.S. supply chain and customer service operations received a pay bump.

“Throughout the challenges of the past year, we rolled out numerous initiatives to support our team including pay premiums, bonuses and a family dinner program,” Niraj Shah, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, said in a statement. “Now, as we enter 2021, we are continuing to build upon our steadfast commitment to our team and their families by increasing minimum pay for all hourly employees.”

The retailer, which has 16,700 employees, said it had also provided enhanced benefits to workers during the pandemic, including premium pay to frontline workers, bonuses, child care support and emergency paid time off.

The announcement comes after 20 states and 32 cities and counties raised their minimum wage on Jan. 1. In 27 of these places, the pay floor reached or exceeded $15 an hour, according to a report released by the National Employment Law Project, which supports minimum-wage increases. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t been increased since 2009. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has endorsed $15 an hour at the federal level and has backed other changes sought by labor groups, like ending the practice of allowing a lower minimum wage for workers who receive tips, such as restaurant workers.