Bitcoin highs, retail lows and 48 creatures saved from extinction

We round up the numbers to know from the week’s biggest economic and business news stories so you can impress yourself and your friends.

Bitcoin smashed through the $20,000 mark this week and kept on going [File: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]
Bitcoin smashed through the $20,000 mark this week and kept on going [File: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

As vaccine campaigns get under way in several countries, it seems like the world is finally rounding a corner when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. But continuing surges in several countries mean many of us will be at home and glued to our phones well into 2021.

Why not learn something from all that doom-scrolling? Each Friday, we’re rounding up the biggest economic and business news stories to keep you up to date – and guarantee you’ll have the perfect fun fact for that know-it-all family member on the group text.

$20,000

The major milestone crossed by Bitcoin this week. The world’s largest cryptocurrency smashed through the $20,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday and kept powering ahead to breach $23,000 on Thursday.

Bitcoin has soared more than 200 percent this year, driven largely by demand from big investors, as well as its move towards becoming a mainstream payment method. Famously volatile, the digital currency has boomed in the past only to bust.

2.4 percent

Projections from the United States Federal Reserve released on Wednesday painted a rosier picture than the one policymakers had previously released in September.

The new Fed estimate expects the US economy to shrink 2.4 this year – a marked improvement over its September estimate for a 3.7 percent contraction.

The Fed also sees the economy rebounding to 4.2 percent growth in 2021. But there’s a long way to go yet to get the US economy back to pre-pandemic levels.

While unemployment is projected to fall to 5 percent next year, the Fed doesn’t expect it to return to its pre-pandemic level of 3.7 percent until 2023 – making for a few tough years for many unemployed workers and their families.

$546.5bn

One sign of those tough times right now? Slumping US retail sales.

US retail and food services sales were just $546.5bn in November, the US Commerce Department said on Wednesday, marking a 1.1 percent fall from the previous month.

Retail sales gauge consumer spending – the main engine of the US economy accounting for some two-thirds of growth. November’s slowdown is especially concerning given the importance of holiday sales to the nation’s retailers, who coined the term “Black Friday” to describe how they expect their balance sheets to look after big holiday shopping sprees.

Without more stimulus aid, many Americans are feeling financially insecure – and more than 10 million jobs lost at the start of the pandemic still haven’t come back yet.

$900bn

That’s the reported price tag on a proposed coronavirus relief aid package that’s wending its way through the US Congress as the clock ticks down to the end of the year.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been sparring over a stimulus package for months, while millions of struggling American families and small businesses anxiously await much-needed financial aid.

The bill is expected to include stimulus cheques for qualifying Americans, loans and grants to small businesses, extended unemployment benefits and funding for vaccine distribution. But it ain’t a deal until the deal is done.

Time is of the essence. Key federal protections like a moratorium on evictions and unemployment benefits for the self-employed and gig workers are set to expire on December 31.

48

The number of bird and mammal species saved from extinction by international conservation efforts since 1993, according to a study published this fall in the journal Conservation Letters.

Fifteen species went extinct during that same time period, but the number could have been three to four times higher had conservation campaigns not acted. This week, the World Economic Forum rounded up nine positive developments from 2020 – and this good news was among them.

The saved species include the California condor, pink pigeon, orange-bellied parrot, red wolf and pygmy hog. Here’s hoping these victories serve as inspiration for future conservation efforts.

 

Source: Al Jazeera

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