Good morning. A financial tip: When someone on the internet asks for Bitcoin and promises double your money back, it’s probably a lie. Here’s what else you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead.
What’s Up? (July 12-18)
About That Hack
In perhaps the most brazen cyberattack in history, hackers commandeered dozens of Twitter’s most high-profile accounts on Wednesday afternoon — including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. But what could have provoked international havoc turned out to be a relatively benign scam. (The hackers made off with over $100,000 in Bitcoin from gullible Twitter users.) The platform was re-secured after partially shutting down for several hours. Now the company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are trying to learn who the hackers are, how much information they gained access to and what they could do with it. Then there’s the question of whether they’ll strike again — with far more damaging results.
Banking While Black
Government data shows that businesses in Black communities were disproportionately less likely to receive loans under the Paycheck Protection Program than those in predominantly white areas. And a new study confirms what you might expect — that the disparity was at least partly the result of discrimination. When Black and white “mystery shoppers” with similar qualifications sought the relief loans from multiple branches of 17 different banks, Black customers had a harder time getting aid than their white counterparts. Separately, Senate Democrats have proposed a $350 billion package to boost economic growth in Black and other minority communities over the next five years, funded partly by unspent money from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs.
No Mask, No Service
It’s hard to believe that masks are still being politicized after health officials have deemed them a “critical tool” to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but here we are. While state and local officials battle over mask mandates (particularly in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas), businesses are making their own rules. Starting Monday, customers at Walmart, the country’s largest retailer and private-sector employer, will be required to wear masks in all of its stores, regardless of state regulations. Business groups view the move as a major statement about the importance of wearing masks if retailers are to operate safely. Walmart joins Apple, Kroger, Best Buy and Starbucks in requiring masks for entry, and Target and CVS quickly followed suit.
What’s Next? (July 19-25)
The Protests Aren’t Over
A coalition of labor unions and racial justice groups have planned a mass walkout from work on Monday to protest systemic racism and police brutality. The Strike for Black Lives is expected to include tens of thousands of workers in industries ranging from fast food to nursing homes, spread across at least 25 American cities. Those who can’t strike for the full workday will walk out for about eight minutes — the amount of time a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck — in remembrance of Black men and women who have died in police custody.
There Go the Jobs Again
The United States continued to break its own records for new coronavirus cases for the third week in a row, and the economic fallout ensued. A weekly census survey showed 1.3 million fewer Americans held jobs last week than the previous one. Other recent data showed that business activity plunged in the second week of July. And jobless claims are spiking in Florida, California and Georgia, where virus cases are surging. The report for retail sales in June was rosy, but that was before the virus roared back.
The Banks Buckle Up
Three of the country’s biggest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — announced last week that they had squirreled away billions of dollars since March to cover potential losses on loans. Collectively, they’ve put aside over $25 billion in cash, signaling that they expect consumers and corporations to default on their debts in the coming months as the pandemic continues to gut the economy. Holding onto cash instead of investing or lending it is usually a losing business proposition for banks, and this time was no exception — all three companies saw their quarterly profits plunge. It was Wells Fargo’s first quarterly loss since 2008, and reflects a gloomy forecast for the country’s recovery.