Let’s start with the good news: The December jobs report showed that unemployment remained at a 50-year low and that the economy seemed to be on solid footing. But while the labor market is robust, it’s uneven, and wage growth is still lagging. Read on for the rest of the top stories in business and tech, and what to know for the week ahead.
What’s Up? (Jan. 5-11)
When Cabs Fly
It’s 2020 — why are cars still driving on the ground? Weren’t we supposed to be motoring around by jet pack by now? Uber and Hyundai are on the case. They have teamed up to build a fleet of flying taxis — sorry, an “aerial ride-share network” — that could supposedly cruise up to 2,000 feet above ground at 180 miles per hour, for trips as long as 60 miles. The companies presented a small-scale model of the concept at CES, the giant tech trade show in Las Vegas, this past week, and Uber said it planned to make the service commercially available by 2023. But there’s a long line of regulatory hoops between now and then, not to mention many competitors for the same airspace.
Ghosn’s Going Nowhere
In a rambling two-hour news conference in Beirut, Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive former chairman of Nissan and chief executive of Renault who escaped house arrest in Japan last month, claimed that he was a victim of a corporate coup plotted by his subordinates. He railed against executives at Nissan and said the financial crimes charges against him were part of an elaborate effort by the company to prevent a merger with Renault (which, he also said, he’d had no intention of carrying out). Either way, sales and stock prices at both companies have suffered badly since his departure, dragging down Mr. Ghosn’s fortune with them. His net worth has shrunk an estimated 40 percent since his arrest.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, celebrated the company’s new factory in Shanghai by dancing onstage — badly — in front of a cheering crowd. (The internet was less impressed.) Known as the Gigafactory 3, the plant is Tesla’s first outside the United States and will produce its Model 3 sedan and, eventually, the Model Y sport utility vehicle. It also helps Tesla tap into the Chinese market without paying tariffs caused by trade rifts with the United States. The company’s stock price mirrored Mr. Musk’s enthusiasm, rocketing past the combined market values of General Motors and Ford on Thursday for the first time.
What’s Next? (Jan. 12-18)
Do We Have a Deal?
President Trump is to sign the “Phase 1” trade deal with China in Washington this week. But there’s already more trade trouble on the horizon, this time with the European Union. On Tuesday, Europe’s new trade chief will meet with American officials in an effort to patch up relations that were strained by a new French tax on American tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, which do a lot of digital business in France but have managed to keep their physical footprint — and taxes — to a minimum. In retaliation, Mr. Trump threatened punitive tariffs of up to 100 percent on French imports like wine, cheese and handbags. Let’s hope they get this straightened out, for all of our sakes.
Another Strike Against Boeing
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for Boeing, the company turned up yet another bunch of damning internal emails. The latest included messages that mocked regulators and joked about safety flaws in the company’s 737 Max jets — two of which later crashed, killing everyone on board and costing the company billions of dollars in lost business and legal fees. “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,” one employee wrote in 2017. The exchanges certainly won’t help Boeing win back customer trust, or get its 737 Max fleet, which has been grounded since last year, back in the air anytime soon.
Brexit Gets the Green Light
British lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal by a wide margin this past week, paving the way for the country to split from the European Union by the Jan. 31 deadline — finally! But don’t expect a clean break. Brexit’s second phase will require the country to wrangle a trade agreement with the European Union by the end of the year, which could be even trickier than getting Parliament on board. Given how messy this process has been so far, European officials have already offered to push the deadline to 2022, but Mr. Johnson is having none of it. So British businesses are still on alert for a “no-deal” Brexit at the start of 2021, which could disrupt trade and hurt the country’s economy.
And the 2020 Oscar Nominees Should Be …
She Was a Star of New York Real Estate, but Her Life Story Was a Lie
Real Men Don’t Rent
Continue reading the main story
JetBlue announced plans to become carbon neutral on all domestic flights by July 2020. It will do so partly by using fuel derived from sustainable oil crops as well as wood and waste biomass. On that note, plant-based meat substitute companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are going after the white whale of markets — China, the world’s largest meat consumer — with mixed results. Back in New York, Ken Friedman, the restaurateur behind the Spotted Pig, will pay $240,000 and a share of his profits to 11 former employees who accused him of sexual harassment.