Canine cryptocurrency, race to Mars and the Year of the Ox

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.

As families around the world welcome the Year of the Ox, traditional celebrations and travel have once again been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]
As families around the world welcome the Year of the Ox, traditional celebrations and travel have once again been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

If you’ve been glued to the impeachment proceedings unfolding in the United States, you’re far from alone. But as the news out of Washington winds down for the weekend, why not take a few minutes to catch up on the biggest business and economic news stories you might have missed?

Pour yourself a cup of tea (or take that coffee out of the microwave … again) and dig into these must-know numbers. We promise they’ll make you the smartest person on your group text.

11 days

The span in which three separate missions to Mars were launched last year, and as those spacecraft arrive this week and next, the Red Planet is getting a little more crowded, writes Al Jazeera’s David Child.

China, the United Arab Emirates and the US all launched uncrewed missions to Mars last year in the hopes of learning more about the cosmos and scanning for signs of extraterrestrial life.

An image of Mars captured by China’s probe Tianwen-1 [File: China National Space Administration/AFP]
The UAE’s probe — named Al Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic — was the first to arrive in Mars’s orbit on Tuesday after a journey of 494 million kilometres (307 million miles). Chinese spacecraft Tianwen-1 was next to join the Martian party and sent back some souvenir video.

The US’s mission is scheduled to touch down on Mars on February 18. Scientists are eager to analyse the planet’s atmosphere and surface as well as look for signs of past life.

Eight cents

The value in US dollars of one Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency with a fuzzy Shiba Inu logo that got a major boost when Tesla CEO Elon Musk started talking it up on Twitter.

In addition to tweeting that he had bought some Dogecoin for his baby son, Musk lauded the joke currency with a number of memes — “D is for Dogecoin!” and “Who let the Doge out” among them. But the world’s richest person has also suggested that the “people have spoken” about the pitfalls of fiat currency and put his money where his mouth is when it comes to investing in cryptocurrency, writes Al Jazeera’s Ben Piven.

Tesla’s announcement that it had bought $1.5bn in bitcoin and would accept the cryptocurrency as payment sent its value rocketing this week.

$50,000

And we mean rocketing. Bitcoin neared $50,000 for the first time and cryptocurrencies across the board have been basking in the Tesla glow this week.

Cryptocurrency Dogecoin got a major boost this week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked it up on Twitter [File: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images Europe]
Bitcoin has gained 1,150 percent since its March 2020 lows as intrigued investors hop on the crypto bandwagon. The world’s most popular cryptocurrency also got a boost after Mastercard Inc and Bank of New York Mellon Corp announced they would make it easier for customers to use cryptocurrencies.

But some analysts warn the crypto bubble could very well burst, leaving pumped-up fans feeling deflated — and their digital wallets a little lighter, too.

793,000

The number of out-of-work Americans who filed for state unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to the US Department of Labor. New claims for assistance were down 19,000 from the week before but still remain stubbornly high nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic.

The US unemployment situation is definitely better than it was at the start of the pandemic, when claims hit 6.867 million. But nearly a year after parts of the country first went into lockdown, 10 million of the jobs that were lost simply haven’t come back and some businesses have closed permanently.

Low-wage service sector workers, as well as African-American and Latino workers and women, have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic job losses, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that more aid is needed to prevent the COVID-19 crisis from becoming a “generational setback for racial equality”.

1.15 billion

The number of trips that China’s Ministry of Transport estimates that people will make during this year’s Lunar New Year. That represents a 20-percent decrease from 2020, and a more-than-60-percent slump compared with 2019, writes Al Jazeera’s Asia business editor Azhar Sukri.

This Lunar New Year – which falls on Friday – is turning out to be anything but normal for a second consecutive year. While families across Asia and in the Asian diaspora are normally busy repainting and cleaning their homes to prepare for family gatherings, many don’t want to bother this year as COVID-19 keeps people home.

But just because big in-person gatherings are out doesn’t mean revellers can’t enjoy traditional treats like oranges and cookies. So to all who are celebrating — happy Year of the Ox!

Source: Al Jazeera

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