This Week in Business: Amazon Won Christmas

It was a pretty sleepy week for business news, except for the brisk business done by Amazon, which broke all kinds of records. This coming week looks rather quiet, too, but don’t underestimate the economic fallout of several laws set to take effect on Jan. 1. In the meantime, have a happy New Year.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

After months of crisis stemming from two deadly crashes of its 737 Max jet followed by an embarrassing botched spacecraft launch this month, Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, finally got his walking papers. Boeing’s board said that “a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company” as it tries to boost confidence with regulators, customers and other stakeholders. Mr. Muilenburg was an engineer who had spent his whole career at Boeing and was known for keeping his optimism in the face of a challenge — perhaps too much at times. He will be replaced by David L. Calhoun, the board’s current chairman, on Jan. 13.

Uber’s former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, built Uber into one of Silicon Valley’s original unicorns. Then he lost his job in 2017 as the company drowned in lawsuits over its toxic, sexist “bro” culture, which was the subject of a recent settlement that included a $4.4 million fund for current and former Uber employees who were sexually harassed at work. But Mr. Kalanick still held shares in the company as well as a position on its board of directors — until this past week, when he sold the rest of his Uber stock (worth an estimated $2.5 billion) and resigned from his board seat. He says he plans to focus on his new food delivery business, CloudKitchens.

An unstoppable force, the American shopper — particularly when armed with a gift list and a Wi-Fi connection. Holiday shopping grew 3.4 percent over last year, according to one retail survey, with online purchases swelling 18.8 percent. Amazon also broke records, with billions of items shipped and tens of millions of Amazon devices sold, causing its stock value to soar. Amazon also said that the number of items delivered with same-day or one-day shipping quadrupled from last year. There’s nothing like our gifting habits to reveal us for the procrastinators we really are.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Mexico is raising its minimum wage by 20 percent on Jan. 1, on top of a 16 percent jump last year. That might seem like a lot, but workers will still only earn about $6.50 a day at current exchange rates, less than a dollar an hour. Mexico has gotten heat for keeping wages artificially low to lure jobs from the United States, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has faced an uphill battle persuading business leaders to raise them. While the wage increases are intended to help ease the country’s problems with inequality and poverty, Mr. López Obrador said they were just a small step for Mexican workers. “I am aware that we still have a long way to go, because we feel behind.”

A California law banning sales of alligator skin shoes, clothing and purses is set to go into effect this week, and has already led to a steep drop in the skins’ prices. But a community of alligator farmers in Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against the bill, saying it will destroy the industry they depend on for their livelihood. They also point out that it may hurt the state’s wetlands, which are protected in large part because of the economic value of the alligators living there. Perversely, wearing alligator could be a way to preserve its habitat.

While you’re still recovering from New Year’s Eve, the who’s who of economics will be flying to San Diego for the American Economic Association’s annual meeting, where they’ll be addressed by luminaries like the former Fed chair Janet Yellen. (Her speech has the daunting title, “How Can Economics Solve Its Race Problem?”) Another presumably hot topic: the minutes from the Fed’s last meeting on Dec. 11, which will be released on Friday. The Fed’s interest rate cuts have helped sustain the country’s steady economic growth, but long-term concerns remain, especially as big-picture trade tensions with China are still unresolved.

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