America needs jobs. It's now up to Democrats to deliver

Posted January 8, 2021 7:47 a.m. EST

— The latest US jobs report, due Friday, is set to include an alarming figure.

Economists polled by Refinitiv expect to learn that just 71,000 jobs were created last month, by far the weakest figure since the labor market recovery kicked off in May.

What's happening: The United States is experiencing another explosion in coronavirus cases. In less than two weeks, the country has recorded its five deadliest days since the pandemic started, with more than 4,000 virus-related deaths reported Thursday. That's weighing on job creation as business restrictions rise and more people choose to stay at home.

The numbers will expose the extent of the challenge facing President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress. This much is clear: In addition to uniting the country after rioting at the US Capitol this week, political leaders need to focus their attention on an economy that remains in crisis.

"Rising COVID-19 caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths means our health and economic woes are far from over," said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. "President-elect Biden is inheriting an exceedingly troubled economy with millions of families just trying to stay afloat."

Wall Street, however, is looking past this winter's woes, betting that vaccination programs can boost growth and corporate profits starting this spring. Stocks rallied to all-time highs on Thursday despite violence at the Capitol the previous day and a raging pandemic.

That's in part because of high expectations for Democrats. Now that the party has taken control of the Senate — as well as the House of Representatives and the White House — after winning both seats in Georgia, investors are betting that another stimulus package can be passed swiftly.

Deutsche Bank predicts that Congress will shortly approve a $900 billion stimulus package "built around further stimulus checks, funds for state and local governments and enhancements to unemployment benefits," which it sees lifting US economic growth to 6.3% in 2021, about two percentage points higher than the bank's previous forecast.

Watch this space: There's a decent chance the jobs report could be even worse than expected, which could jolt investors. Goldman Sachs expects to learn that the US economy lost 50,000 jobs in December, which would mark its first month of losses since a devastating April.

Hyundai's stock skyrockets on reports it could build Apple car

Even talk of teaming up with Apple, the world's most valuable company, pays off.

Hyundai's stock recorded its best day in at least two decades after the South Korean automaker was reported to be in early talks with Apple to develop self-driving electric cars, my CNN Business colleague Jill Disis reports.

Details, details: Nothing has been finalized. But several media outlets reported Friday that Hyundai has confirmed that it's having conversations with Apple. The news was initially reported by Korea Economic Daily TV, and later confirmed by Reuters and Bloomberg.

CNN Business has been unable to confirm the nature of the discussions. Hyundai said in a statement only that "we are receiving proposals for cooperation from various companies, but no decision has been made yet." Apple declined to comment.

Even so, shares in the automaker are surging. Its stock finished up more than 19% in Seoul.

Both companies have reason to consider a partnership. Talk of Apple's interest in electric, self-driving cars has been ramping up. A Reuters report last month said that Apple plans to produce a passenger vehicle by 2024. Bloomberg reported this week that Apple has begun early development work on an electric vehicle, but any resulting product would be at least five years away.

In an increasingly internet-connected world, selling services for next-generation cars could become a huge business for Apple.

Hyundai, meanwhile, has pledged top dollar to join the race to build such vehicles. The company said last October that it plans to invest 41 trillion won ($37 billion) into "future mobility technology" by 2025 — a commitment that puts it on par with major players like Volkswagen.

Bitcoin tops $40,000 just days after passing $30,000

Bitcoin first topped $19,000 in December 2017 before crashing spectacularly to around $3,200 a year later. But those who have held onto the cryptocurrency are likely feeling pleased.

The latest: The price of one Bitcoin rose above $40,000 Thursday, my CNN Business colleague Paul R. La Monica reports. It shot past the $30,000 threshold for the first time less than a week ago.

Prices fell back toward $39,000 Friday morning. But the value of all Bitcoins in circulation remains eye-popping, coming in at roughly $738 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. The value of all cryptocurrencies is now approaching $1.1 trillion.

Investors have flocked to Bitcoin in recent months, with the cryptocurrency increasingly regarded as a maturing asset. Grayscale Investments, the world's biggest crypto asset manager, says interest is growing from establishment players like pension funds and endowments.

"It's encouraging to see more serious consideration of Bitcoin and the digital currency asset class broadly, because it has real potential to reshape global finance as we know it," CEO Michael Sonnenshein said in an email to CNN Business.

There are still plenty of questions about the price, though. In a note published Thursday, Bank of America told clients that Bitcoin's rally over the past two years "blows the doors off prior bubbles." Alex Mashinsky, CEO and founder of Celsius Network, a crypto asset manager, thinks Bitcoin could plunge to $16,000 before the end of the first quarter.

Up next

The US jobs report for December arrives at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Coming next week: Earnings season kicks off with top US banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

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