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Crypto watershed, Amtrak Joe, China GDP and a $1.36m pixel | Arts and Culture News

If you’ve been day trading all week and glued to your monitor following Coinbase’s debut on the Nasdaq, we get it. The markets have been an interesting sandbox to play in recently — as long as you’re ready to lose your lunch money.

But what else is new? There are some big business and economic news stories you may have missed — from the United States’ riding-the-rails president and an $80bn gambit to a $16.8m extravaganza of auctioned-off NFTs created by a mysterious digital artist. So put on your happy Friday face and check out the numbers to know from this week.

18.3 percent

That’s how much China’s economy expanded in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period last year, when the country was in the grips of a crushing lockdown, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

But compared to the last three months of 2020, this year’s gross domestic product (GDP, which measures the total output of goods and services) grew by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021 – slower than the revised 3.2 percent expansion for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The slowdown is raising questions about the strength of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second-largest economy. And there are several factors that could influence growth going forward — including an ongoing semiconductor chip shortage and a complicated relationship with the US. Al Jazeera’s Asia Business Editor Azhar Sukri breaks it down here.

22 percent

The percentage of Japanese exports consumed by China in 2020, making it the country’s top export destination.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is the first person US President Joe Biden will host for an in-person summit, conveying that “Asia, and in particular Japan, is at the heart of US foreign policy,” writes Al Jazeera Asia Business Editor Azhar Sukri.

“While issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and North Korea are expected to be high on their list of talking points, another nation, though not physically present at Friday’s meeting, is likely to be top of mind: China. Beijing has already made its displeasure about the summit known.”

All eyes will be on Suga and Biden, who are both using the meeting as their first big steps on the geopolitical stage. Al Jazeera’s Azhar Sukri examines what’s at stake here.

13

The age — and under — that an advocacy group is urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg not to target with a new version of Instagram.   Yes, you read that right: the company reportedly wants ever-younger kids to start using their own version of the popular photo-sharing site, a move that has been slammed by non-profit organisation Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Facebook’s move to make a version of Instagram geared toward kids under the age of 18 has drawn ire from children’s rights advocates [File: Thomas White/Reuters]

“Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” the organisation wrote in a letter to Zuckerberg on Thursday.

$80bn

The amount US President Joe Biden plans to spend to upgrade the country’s ailing national rail system, affecting Amtrak, the for-profit, government-owned corporation that serves as the US’s major rail company.

It’s part of Biden’s American Jobs Plan that proposes spending $2.25 trillion to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.

But high-speed rail fans say Biden’s plan doesn’t quite make it out of the station. Al Jazeera’s Ben Piven points out that Biden’s “12,000-word document mentions ‘high-speed’ internet and broadband eight times, but not once does it cite ‘high-speed rail’”.

And that makes it a slow burn for rail enthusiasts like Jonathan Marty, an administrator of the New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens Facebook group.

“We’d like to break the global oil supply chain, decrease carbon emissions, revitalise certain regional economies and move away from auto and air travel,” Marty told Al Jazeera, arguing that high-speed rail at the centre of the Biden plan could “kill several birds with one stone”.

But will they still have those mini bottles of Robert Mondavi Chardonnay and the slightly overpriced cheese plate?

0.6 percent

That’s how much the consumer price index, which measures inflation, rose last month, marking the biggest one-month increase in eight years.

But why does the dreaded “i” word matter to you? Broadly speaking, inflation means prices go up and the money in your pocket doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. And while a little bit of inflation is no bad thing, but too much of it can be really, really damaging to economies and livelihoods.

There’s a lot more to know about inflation, though. We break down everything you need to know here.

$381

The opening share price for Coinbase Global Inc when it began trading on the Nasdaq Wednesday, becoming the first major crypto-centred startup to list on a US exchange.

Not so long ago, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were derided by many financial-world sceptics as a flash in the pan; a folly for aspiring anarchists and investors with an outsized appetite for risk, not to mention a cloak for criminals engaging in nefarious online activities.

Coinbase became the first major crypto-centred startup to list on a US exchange this week, adding legitimacy to the crypto sphere [File: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg]

Coinbase’s debut on the Nasdaq this week had those sceptics sitting up and taking notice; even after the stock fell 14 percent below its opening price, Coinbase’s $328.28 closing price blew away the Nasdaq’s listing reference price of $250.

It’s just the latest development in a rapidly evolving cryptosphere that includes digital currencies, as well as other digital assets such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and even virtual land.

One

The number of pixels in digital artist Pak’s work The Pixel, which fetched $1.36m after a 90-minute bidding war at a Sotheby’s auction of NFT art Wednesday.

All told, Pak’s complete collection of NFTs raked in a whopping $16.8m.

Last month, digital artist Beeple became the first to sell a purely digital piece of artwork at auction, fetching more than $69.3m for “Everydays – The First 5000 Days”, a stunning collage comprised of artwork he created every day for the past 13 years.

To prove its authenticity, ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ features what is known as a non-fungible token that digitally attaches the artist’s signature to it and can’t be altered, Christie’s said [Christie’s Images Ltd via Reuters]

The market for NFTs continues to be hot   — but even if you’re not convinced, it still makes for some fascinating digital window shopping.

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