Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of April 19, 2021.
China’s big bounce. China’s economy is reportedly strengthening, joining the U.S. as a leader in the global economic recovery from the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, gross domestic product (GDP) grew 18.3% from the previous year, slightly below the prediction of 18.5%. The Chinese economy is also set to grow by 6% this year. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 6.2%. China saw promising signs at the end of 2020, with the real estate industry driving growth in industrial goods. Exports of medical products and electronics from China also increased at the end of the year.
- The takeaway: With this latest data, China and the U.S. have become the leaders in pulling the global economy out of the pandemic. Americans have spent a record $220 billion on imported goods in recent months, bolstering other economies around the world. Part of that spending has been attributed to stimulus payments to Americans from the federal government. Still, some experts are concerned about the long-term effects of this boom. The current influx of cash, coupled with low interest rates, could create higher inflation. And the surge in investment in the U.S. economy has led to an exit of more than $5 billion from developing countries.
Ball in play. About a dozen of Europe’s largest soccer clubs announced over the weekend plans to form a breakaway league that would compete directly with the Champions League, the dominant European soccer tournament since the 1950s. Among the members of the new league are Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Manchester United and Liverpool in England, and Juventus and A.C. Milan in Italy, according to reports.
- The takeaway: The new league, reportedly negotiated in secret by proposed new members, is described as a closed membership organization more similar to the National Football League and National Basketball Association in the U.S. It could pose an economic challenge to the Champions League, a multi-billion euro franchise that currently dominates European soccer. The founding teams will make upfront payments of 3.5 billion euros, approximately $4.2 billion, and could begin the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in sports history, according to reports. FIFA, the international governing body that organizes the World Cup, said it would ban players who take part in the breakaway league.
Musk’s moonshot. SpaceX announced it has won a contract with NASA to send astronauts to the moon, beating out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics. Tesla founder Elon Musk is also the founder of SpaceX. NASA had initially asked for bids from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics, before awarding the final $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX. SpaceX will reportedly use its Starship aircraft to put astronauts on the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Recently, SpaceX has successfully sent cargo, supplies, and astronauts to the International Space Station, while also claiming to reduce the cost of such missions.
- The takeaway: By winning this contract, SpaceX becomes one of the most prominent aerospace companies in the U.S. The win also demonstrates how NASA continues to outsource space exploration to the private sector. Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, and since that time it has reportedly become the dominant company in private space exploration. After three unsuccessful launches of the Falcon 1 craft in 2008, SpaceX was able to put the rocket into orbit on the fourth attempt. After two separate explosions of Falcon 9 rockets in 2015 and 2016, and unusual behavior from Musk, NASA ordered a safety review of SpaceX.
You might need a boost. People will most likely need a booster shot of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine within a year of the initial two-shot regimen, the chief executive of the pharmaceutical company said last week. While data from Pfizer and Moderna has shown that the shots are effective in protecting against the virus for at least six months, a third shot might be needed nine to 12 months after the initial vaccination for both types of vaccine, according to an official from President Biden’s Covid-19 task force. Currently, those who receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines need two shots about three weeks apart. A third shot could protect against new variants of the virus, and help maintain immunity.
- The takeaway: Widespread vaccination is considered the path to reopening the U.S. and global economies fully. President Biden has urged states to make vaccines available to all adults by May 1, 2021 in an attempt to get the country on a path to normalcy by July 4. That goal could be complicated by a recent warning from the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control, suggesting a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women who received it developed a rare blood clotting issue, and leading to at least one death.
Bezos says goodbye. Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, sent his final shareholder letter as CEO last week, committing Amazon to becoming, “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” He urged the company’s customers to create more than they consume, and wrote that his focus as the new executive chairman of Amazon’s board would be on improving the safety of Amazon’s warehouses to protect employees from work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive tasks. The letter also discussed Amazon’s climate pledge, among other things. Bezos added that the company’s proposed new mission would not diminish Amazon’s ongoing focus on customer satisfaction. Bezos, who announced in February, 2021, that he would step down from his CEO role, will be replaced by Andy Jassy, the current head of Amazon Web Services (AWS).
- The takeaway: This pivot is thought to be a response to an increased push among Amazon workers to unionize. Employees at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama tried to unionize, but Amazon won a vote allowing the company to put a stop to unionization efforts. Currently, no employees have unionized at any Amazon facility. Amazon has come under fire in recent years for reportedly overworking and underpaying its warehouse and delivery workers.
Find out what we covered in last week’s Scan.