The Fed, women entrepreneurs and the Kardashians’ long goodbye

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

Hard work and social media: The secrets to the success of Keeping Up With The Kardashians as the long-running reality TV show enters its final season [File: Matt Sayles/AP Photo]
Hard work and social media: The secrets to the success of Keeping Up With The Kardashians as the long-running reality TV show enters its final season [File: Matt Sayles/AP Photo]

If you have even a passing interest in economic news, you would have picked up on the buzz around the week’s big story: The United States Federal Reserve’s decidedly more upbeat outlook as the economy starts to pick up steam.

As COVID-19 vaccine shots go into arms around the world many people are starting to look forward to once again travelling, partying and shopping, all of which has gotten folks in the financial markets worrying about the ‘i’ word: Inflation.

Crucially, one person who is not worried about imminent inflation is Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. More on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has a new, rosier forecast on the world economy, but with some serious warnings to policymakers.

This week, we also revisited the women entrepreneurs who have suffered disproportionately more than men during the coronavirus pandemic to see how they are doing.

But if all that is making your head spin or your friends really do not care about the spread between two-year and 10-year US Treasury yields, catch up with the latest and – gasp – FINAL season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Our story on the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s enduring success gives you the numbers you did not even know you needed.

Near zero

That is where the US Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate after a closely watched meeting of its rate-setting committee.

And the US central bank says it is likely to leave it at that level through to 2023, good news for businesses and individuals with loans to service.

It also said it would continue to buy $120bn in bonds each month to keep longer-term borrowing costs down.

US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell [File: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg]

Those decisions had been anticipated by the markets but analysts were more eager to hear the Federal Reserve’s expectations of how fast the US economy is likely to grow by and how quickly consumer prices will rise.

The central bank says it sees the economy growing by 6.5 percent this year, sharply higher than its previous projection in December of 4.2 percent. And it boosted its forecast for inflation by the end of this year from its previous estimate of 1.8 percent to 2.4 percent as the economy gains momentum.

But the Federal Reserve sees the growth in consumer prices drifting back down to nearer its 2-percent target over the next two years, meaning the pressure to start raising interest rates remains benign, at least for now.

If the world’s largest economy heats up faster than that, the Federal Reserve may be forced to rein in its stimulus measures, potentially denting the prices of assets such as stocks and real estate.

$5.8 trillion

The amount of income lost last year globally due to COVID-19, according to the UN trade body.

In its latest report, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also said more than a quarter of a billion jobs have been lost so far because of the pandemic.

But based on trillions of dollars of stimulus measures and vaccine roll-outs, it raised its global economic growth forecast for this year to 4.7 percent, 0.6 percentage points higher than its 2020 projection.

UNCTAD does have a stark warning for policymakers, though: Do not let concerns about inflation and budget deficits tempt you to start trimming back stimulus measures before jobs and wages recover fully.

5,596,457

The number of Syrians registered with the UN as refugees, as the country marks 10 years since peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government erupted.

Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq have become home to more than 5.3 million Syrian refugees [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

More than 5.3 million Syrian refugees have been integrated into urban and rural communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, as Al Jazeera’s Radmilla Suleymanova wrote.

Over the years, aid agencies have had to find innovative ways to pay refugees the money they need for basics such as food, rent and education.

“We cannot be wasteful,” Alex Tyler, a senior liaison adviser at the Regional Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told Al Jazeera. “I think that all of the targeting and the biometrics and the banking systems are helping us to be as efficient as possible.”

$17.5bn-$50bn

Estimates of the value of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and others that flowed out of China in 2020, as Ben Piven wrote this week.

Stephen Diehl, a United Kingdom-based software engineer who researches Bitcoin, told Al Jazeera that people in China – whether engaged in gang-related laundering of illegally earned money or simply seeking to dodge the limit of 80,000 renminbi ($12,258) on currency outflows – can also get around the restrictions by converting cryptocurrencies into British pounds or Japanese yen that they can then freely take abroad.

25 percent

The drop in business activity among businesses run by women in the US between February and April 2020, as Al Jazeera’s Americas business editor Kaelyn Forde wrote in a two-part series of articles this week.

Women entrepreneurs who had built businesses around delivering treasured, memorable in-person experiences – from wedding planners and travel agents to birth doulas and yoga teachers to caterers and bartenders – suddenly found themselves scrambling to adapt to a new virtual world [Al Jazeera]

A year after lockdowns began, Al Jazeera asked 10 small businesswomen to reflect on the challenges and unexpected silver linings they have found. We checked in on women who had shared their stories with us earlier on in the pandemic and opened up the question to new entrepreneurs, too.

“It is difficult for women and in particular, minority women, to be taken seriously in business ownership,” Leonya Harris, 51, a chef and catering company owner in Illinois, told Al Jazeera.

You can read part one here, and part two here.

$780m

Kim Kardashian’s estimated net worth, according to Forbes magazine.

Kim Kardashian [File: Willy Sanjuan/Invision via AP]

As Keeping Up With The Kardashians enters its 20th and final season – think about that for a second: 20 seasons of Kim and her family’s pouting, partying and swearing – Anna Davies wrote about how the show has created an entire world anchored in social media.

So what made the Kardashians stand out while other reality TV families fizzled out? Hard work and connecting authentically with their fans, say the experts.

“Prior to the Kardashians, celebrities would see social media as something they had to tick off a box to get done. They would hire a social team to do it,” Eric Dahan, the CEO of Open Influence, an influencer marketing agency, told Al Jazeera. “The Kardashians saw the value in speaking organically to their fans.”

We’ll “katch” up with you next week.

Source: Al Jazeera

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