The economy: A short-lived growth spurt?
The U.S. gross domestic product grew at a “heady” 5.7 percent in the final quarter of 2009, the largest growth spurt in six years, said Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times. But a closer look at the numbers raises doubts “that a full-scale recovery is underway or that substantial job growth would soon follow.” Much of the growth was attributable to companies’ replenishing their inventories after depleting them during the recession; that activity isn’t likely to be sustained. And with most federal stimulus programs winding down, private-sector demand may prove too weak to “pick up the slack.”
Given the economy’s underlying weakness, firms are unlikely to resume hiring anytime soon, said Simon Kennedy and Erik Schatzker in Bloomberg.com. New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, whose downbeat forecasts have proved prescient in recent years, expects the U.S. will eke out “very dismal and poor” growth this year. He also predicts that U.S. unemployment will rise from its current 10 percent rate—a pessimistic outlook shared by many chief executives. In a recent survey by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, one in four executives said they planned to cut jobs this year.
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Publishing: Macmillan wins pricing showdown
“After a weekend of brinksmanship,” Amazon.com has agreed to raise prices on Macmillan’s electronic books, said Motoko Rich and Brad Stone in The New York Times. Amazon “shocked the publishing world last week” by refusing to sell print and electronic books from Macmillan, which wanted to raise prices on e-books above Amazon’s standard price of $9.99. Analysts said Amazon capitulated after Macmillan threatened to shift all its e-book business to Apple’s new iBooks store, where publishers can, within limits, set their own prices.
Luxury retailing: Bloomingdale’s debuts in Dubai
Bloomingdale’s, the U.S. luxury retailer, this week opened its first stores outside the U.S., unveiling two new outposts in Dubai, said Meris Lutz in the Los Angeles Times. The stores, one for fashion and the other for home furnishings, take up 200,000 square feet in the same mall. Bloomie’s had agreed to open the stores in 2007, “well before Dubai’s much-publicized debt freeze and bailout late last year.”
Green business: Target nixes farmed fish
Discount chain Target this week became the first big U.S. retailer to stop selling farmed salmon, “citing the negative impact of salmon farming on the environment,” said Jonathan Birchall in the Financial Times. Until now, “retailers have generally argued that they need to use farmed salmon to meet demand for affordable fish.” Environmentalists hailed Target’s announcement, saying that “an increase in demand for wild-caught salmon would support the development of fisheries.” Farm-raised fish supply about three-quarters of the U.S. demand for fresh and frozen salmon.
Movies: Miramax is no more
Walt Disney Co. has shut down Miramax, the film studio that launched the independent-film revolution in Hollywood, said Stephen Whitty in the Newark Star-Ledger. Founded 31 years ago by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and sold to Disney in 1993, Miramax rose to movie-industry prominence on the strength of offbeat fare such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Pulp Fiction. Those films may have been “too successful” for the studio’s own good, raising unrealistic expectations that every Miramax film would be a money-spinning hit.
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