July 19, 2019

With Interest: The Week in Business: Let the Apple vs. Facebook Battle Begin, and China Goes Soybean Shopping

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Which kind of Super Bowl watcher are you? One who A) cares about the actual game, B) is in it for the snacks, or C) wants to see how the $5.3 million ads stack up? That’s the top asking price for a 30-second commercial during CBS’s broadcast, although some spots are going for the relative steal of $5.1 million. (Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m a solid C, plus B if spicy wings are available.) This is the first year in a decade that the cost of a Super Bowl ad hasn’t increased — NBC charged $5.25 million in 2018 — mostly owing to waning viewer numbers. You can drop that factoid when the cheese-dip conversation hits a lull, or any of the other business and tech tidbits you’re about to devour in this email. You can have a nachos-and-beer hangover on Monday and still be on top of the news.

Jan. 27-FEB. 2

Which would be more fearsome in a dark alley: Apple or Facebook? We may soon find out as the companies face off over privacy standards. Both announced their fourth-quarter earnings last week, and as expected, Apple’s numbers were a flop (to blame: China’s economic lethargy and a dwindling consumer demand for iPhones). Facebook, on the other hand — or thumb? — reported record profits. It would seem that Facebook won this round — until Apple rained on its parade by shutting down an app that Facebook was using to snoop around in users’ online activity. Apple hasn’t been shy about policing privacy issues before, but this move is downright aggressive, and a convenient distraction from its bad week.

One fear you can put to rest, if you have it: higher interest rates on your loans. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said last Wednesday that “the case for raising rates has weakened somewhat,” signaling that rates may not go up this year after all. This was an about-face from the Fed’s previous indications that it was planning to raise rates twice more in 2019. The markets were cheered by Mr. Powell’s remarks, and American stocks surged to their best January levels in 30 years. But some investors were puzzled by the Fed’s sudden change of heart, and others worried that it revealed the risk of a recession on the horizon.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela issued a threat to the United States last Wednesday, saying if the Trump administration doesn’t quit trying to oust him and install the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, its officials would get “a Vietnam worse than they can imagine.” He’s widely viewed as an illegitimate dictator who drove his once-prosperous country into an economic catastrophe, but he’s got some heft on his side. Russia, which has provided financial and military backing to Venezuela for years, is also none too pleased about the United States’ oil sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s government. Not by coincidence, the Russian state owns part of Venezuela’s energy sector — a cash cow that it doesn’t want to lose.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/03/business/the-week-in-business-let-the-apple-vs-facebook-battle-begin-and-china-goes-soybean-shopping.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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