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Business could be on the precipice of an automation explosion

Automation is hardly a new threat to workers. Long before the arrival of COVID-19 disrupted businesses, many manufacturing executives were already changing how their companies assembled products, and other industries were considering following suit.

But as the global crisis has dragged on, the pandemic could be accelerating that shift.

“Every time there’s a disruption it forces people to make decisions,” says Tom Smith, an associate professor of finance at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “I would put money on the fact that this has sped up at least the decision-making process. When, all of a sudden, you’re in a crisis, smart and creative people find solutions. Creative people don’t let the crisis take everything down if they can help it.”

Just under 40% of U.S. jobs are at significant risk of being automated, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). More than 10% of the country’s jobs are at high … Read the rest

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Look out L.A. and New York: the migration wave lead by Gen Z and city dwellers is real

Across the nation major central business districts in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle remain eerily empty as employers continue to keep staff working remotely. Heading into the holidays, only 1 in 10 office workers had made their way back into Manhattan.

But is the disruption caused by the pandemic—and the work from home boom—actually convincing Americans to pack their bags and move?

To find out, Fortune and SurveyMonkey polled 2,098 U.S. adults in November.* This poll, which has a modeled error estimate of +/-3%, is an even deeper study than our August look at migration

The finding? Millions of Americans moved as a result of the pandemic—and millions more plan to do so. Among U.S. adults, 16% say they have either moved out of their city/county during the pandemic (6%) or plan to move in the next 12 months (12%). Around 2% of Americans who moved … Read the rest

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What job security? Americans are feeling worn down and fearful of layoffs

The vaccine rollout and incoming Democratic administration has Wall Street feeling pretty darn optimistic: Goldman Sachs is even going as far to project 2021 GDP growth of over 6%—which, if it occurred, would be the highest growth rate since 1984.

But don’t pencil it in just yet. Look no further than the jobs report on Friday, which found that the nation lost 140,000 jobs in December—our first net job loss since April.

To sustain an economic recovery, it requires more than just a confident Wall Street. Main Street, or American consumers who make up two-thirds of GDP, would also need to feel confident enough to spend on big-ticket items and take risks. To get a pulse on how Americans are feeling, Fortune analyzed data from more 30 surveys conducted since the onset of the crisis by Civis Analytics.

We found that Americans are slightly more optimistic now … Read the rest

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Sequoia’s Doug Leone turns on Trump

Doug Leone, a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital, was among the few prominent supporters of President Donald Trump in the tech community.

While quiet to the media in his support, the investor has donated hundreds of thousands to Trump-related re-election campaigns and reportedly sought to use his ties in a bid to help keep a Sequoia portfolio company, Chinese-backed social media company ByteDance, from being banned in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the investor at the influential venture capital firm came out to publicly denounced Trump’s actions following the storming of Capitol Hill last week.

“I strongly condemn the attack on the US Capitol and all acts of violence,” Leone wrote in a statement as first reported by Recode. “After last week’s horrific events, President Trump lost many of his supporters, including me. The actions of the President and other rally speakers were responsible for inciting the rioters.”… Read the rest

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Target’s strong holiday numbers prove retailers don’t need Black Friday anymore

Target has announced that in 2021, it will once again stay closed on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s easy to understand why the retailer is confident enough to state its plans for a key holiday this far in advance: it doesn’t need to be open on Turkey Day anymore.

Target said on Wednesday that comparable sales, a metric that blends online sales and business at stores in operation for at least a full year, rose 17.2%, continuing its red-hot streak of sales gains since the pandemic broke. And that was despite being closed on Thanksgiving, a day that had become in the 2010s the kick-off to the Black Friday shopping extravaganza as store openings started at an earlier and earlier time. (Walmart set the tone in July 2020 by being the first major chain to say it would skip Thanksgiving store hours, giving Target and others cover to do the same. … Read the rest

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3 things to watch for in A.I. in 2021

New developments in artificial intelligence may seem trivial compared to recent events like the Capitol riots in which pro-Trump rioters attempted to subvert the election.

But 2021 will likely be a big year for A.I., and with a new White House administration soon in place, there may be a clearer set of national A.I. policies that will trickle down to the business world. 

Here are three key themes to watch out for:

Federal A.I. funding gets a boost

On New Year’s Day, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act and authorize $741 billion for defense spending, including the creation of a number of A.I.-related polices. Among the reasons Trump opposed the defense bill was the absence of a provision to repeal Section 230, which gives legal protections to Internet companies that host user-generated content. 

Although the defense bill was mostly geared toward … Read the rest

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These Fortune 500 companies are halting contributions to Republicans (and Democrats) in the wake of Capitol attacks

For years, Wall Street, and Corporate America more broadly, were willing to put up with President Trump’s often erratic behavior because he delivered the tax cuts, deregulation and tariff reforms they wanted.

But last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol in which mobs of his supporters stormed the heart of American democracy, egged on by the departing President and some of his allies in Congress, as lawmakers sought to ratify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, was a step too far.

Now, some large corporations, like hotel operator Marriott International and insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield are halting donations to Republican lawmakers who sought to disrupt the certification of Biden’s victory. Others, notably Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are temporarily halting political donations altogether.

“We will not support candidates who do not support the law,” Citi head of global government affairs Candi Wolff told staff in an internal … Read the rest

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Apple, Amazon remove Parler over accusations the platform helped incite Capitol attacks

Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are removing Parler from their services, part of a growing backlash after the social media network was among those used to organize Wednesday’s riots at the Capitol.

Apple dropped Parler from its App Store, while Amazon’s cloud unit decided to stop hosting the social media company starting Sunday night. They joined Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which removed the app from its Google Play store on Friday, saying that it created an “ongoing and urgent public safety threat.”

Parler, which is popular with extremist groups seeking an alternative to more mainstream social media sites, has come under fire since the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The move by the tech companies will leave Parler ending the weekend without easy access to virtually all of the world’s smartphone users, and scrambling to find a new company to host its services.

Apple’s decision came a day after the … Read the rest

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How a data scientist beat the polls by nailing the Georgia senate race

The week of the Georgia senatorial elections, I’ve been following the forecasts by Northwestern University data scientist Tom Miller, who bested most of the polls in the presidential race by missing the margin of Joe Biden’s victory by just 12 electoral college votes. In fact, Miller’s only major wrong call was forecasting a Trump win in Georgia. This time, Miller learned from his misreading of the Peach State and the nailed the outcomes of the two senatorial races. Just after midnight on January 5, Miller predicted Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff would sweep both races, defeating Senators would Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue by 2% and 1% respectively.

In the final count, Warnock prevailed 50.9% to 49.1%, a margin of 1.8 points, while Ossoff won 50.5% to 49.5%, or by 1 point. Miller was just .2% off on Warnock vs Loeffler, and hit the precise mark on … Read the rest

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Investing legends Carl Icahn and Jeremy Grantham see a stock market bubble

During the week of Jan. 4, two of the all-time great stock market sages—who’ve been expert at calling market frenzies for decades—charged that the bulls had lost their marbles. Carl Icahn and Jeremy Grantham went public claiming that equities are vastly overpriced and due for a steep selloff. The same week, the cockeyed optimists from Wall Street money managers to Gen Xers hooked on day trading ignored their warning, staging still another buying frenzy that on Thursday, Jan. 7, pushed the S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq to fresh records.

Between them, Icahn, who’ll turn 85 next month, and Grantham, at 82, have a total of around 120 years of experience navigating the markets and skirting just the kinds of disasters they see coming. Icahn owns over 90% of industrial conglomerate and investment vehicle Icahn Enterprises (market cap: $11.8 billion), and holds billions more in shares of companies as diverse as … Read the rest