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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

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Elon Musk beats Jeff Bezos to become world’s richest person

Elon Musk, the outspoken entrepreneur behind Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, is now the richest person on the planet.

A 4.8% rally in the electric carmaker’s share price Thursday boosted Musk past Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 wealthiest people.

The South Africa-born engineer’s net worth was $188.5 billion at 10:15 a.m. in New York, $1.5 billion more than Bezos, who has held the top spot since October 2017. As chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, Musk is also a rival to Bezos, owner of Blue Origin LLC, in the private space race.

The milestone caps an extraordinary 12 months for Musk. Over the past year his net worth soared by more than $150 billion in possibly the fastest bout of wealth creation in history. Fueling his rise was an unprecedented rally in Read the rest

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Vaccinating the world against COVID is off to a slow start. These firms think A.I. and blockchain could help

Vaccinating the global population against COVID-19 is one of the most immense distribution and logistical challenges humanity has ever faced. Some are hoping that artificial intelligence and blockchain technology can help with the task.

“This is about trying to solve the biggest data puzzle of our lifetime,” says Jason Kelley, who heads blockchain services for IBM.

So far, solving that puzzle has proved painstakingly slow. Only about 4 million people in the U.S.—just over 1% of the population—have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Worldwide, the progress is even more sluggish, with some countries yet to vaccinate any of their citizens. Even Israel, which has vaccinated the largest portion of its population so far, has given first jabs to just 12%.

The distribution of the COVID vaccine involves at least four separate but related problems: how much vaccine to ship where and when. That’s demand forecasting. … Read the rest

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Online lender Affirm to be valued as high as $9.2 billion in planned IPO

Affirm, which provides installment loans to online shoppers, is seeking to raise up to $934.8 million in an initial public offering, signaling last year’s record listings run is carrying over to 2021.

The San Francisco-based company said in a filing Tuesday that it planned to sell 24.6 million shares for $33 to $38 each. With the so-called green shoe shares, it is offering 28.2 million shares, the filing showed.

At the top of the range, Affirm would have a market value of $9.22 billion based on the outstanding shares listed in its filing. Including employee stock options and restricted share units, Affirm would have a valuation of more than $11 billion, the filing showed.

Its value could still change following discussions with potential investors on the roadshow for its IPO. The listing is expected later this month.

Affirm follows consumer technology companies including Airbnb. and DoorDash Inc. that propelled … Read the rest

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Health tech platform Color is a unicorn after new funding round values it at $1.5 billion

Health technology company Color today announced a $167 million Series D fundraising round that values the company at $1.5 billion.

The funding round, which brings the startup’s total funding to $278 million, was led by venture firm General Catalyst with participation from Viking Global Investors and funds managed by T. Rowe Price. Viking and T. Rowe also participated in a January 2020 funding round that raised $75 million.

Color has not disclosed a valuation with recent rounds, making this the first official confirmation that the company is a “unicorn,” a colloquial industry term for a private startup worth over $1 billion.

Color was founded in 2015 with a focus on gene testing. The company uses genetic data to advise patients about inherited health risks and connects them to health counselors to help them respond to those risks. In contrast to retail services like 23andMe, Color works directly with … Read the rest