CNN Business/Anneken Tappe
The unemployment rate hasn’t budged in months as America’s jobs crisis drags on

The jobs recovery has hit a roadblock: The US jobless rate hasn’t improved since the fall and economists don’t have high hopes that this changed in January.

Economists predict the US jobless rate stayed put at 6.7% in the first month of 2021, which would be the third month in a row with no change. Eleven months into the pandemic, ten months into the jobs crisis and nine months into the ostensible recovery, this is a very bad sign.

The average expectation for jobs added in January is 50,000. That would be a welcome turnaround from the 140,000 jobs lost in December, which was the first monthly loss of jobs since April. If the January forecast holds true, America will still be down nearly 10 million jobs since last February.

America’s jobs market has gone through a tremendous rebound since the economy ground to a halt last spring, adding back millions of jobs over the summer. Even so, the nation remains in a jobs crisis.

More than 18 million people received some form of government benefits in the week ended January 9, according to the Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, the hospitality and leisure industry — which includes restaurants and all kinds of in-person entertainment — continues to bear the brunt of the job crisis.

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CNBC/Kevin Stankiewicz
Silver is a ‘turbo-charged version of gold’ due to use in solar panels, Goldman’s Jeff Currie says

Silver as a key component in solar panels makes it a better investment than gold for investors who are interested in the metals market, Goldman Sachs’ commodities chief Jeffrey Currie told CNBC on Thursday.

Currie laid out his case in an interview on “Fast Money: Halftime Report,” and it didn’t have anything to do with the recent reports of an attempted silver short squeeze possibly sparked by Reddit users.

“I like to say that it’s a turbo-charged version of gold,” said Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, adding that silver could benefit from more green energy spending down the line.

Both gold and silver can offer protection for investors who are worried about currency debasement, Currie said. Those concerns have taken on greater saliency in the last year as the coronavirus pandemic prompted major injections of fiscal stimulus, as well as highly accommodative monetary policy from world central banks, including the Federal Reserve in the U.S.

“What silver has that gold doesn’t have: It goes into solar panels,” Currie said. Silver is used in solar cells given its strength as a cost effective conductor of heat and electricity.

That’s relevant because climate advocates have called on governments around the world to include green investments in their coronavirus pandemic-related spending efforts.

In December, Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, told CNBC the Covid stimulus packages represented “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to kickstart a green recovery.”

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Kitco/Neils Christensen
Precious metals prices will see double-digit gains in 2021; silver to steal the show – LBMA price forecast

The bull run in precious metals is expected to continue through 2021 with double-digit gains across the board, according to analysts participating in the London Bull Market Association’s (LBMA) annual price forecast report.

Thursday, in its annual report, the LMBA said that 38 market analysts participated in this year’s forecast survey. Gold prices are expected to average $1,973.80 an ounce, up 11% from the 2020 average. However, the outlook is only a modest 4.5% increase compared to the average price seen in the first half of January.

“Gold is expected to be subjected to a high level of volatility in 2021, with the widest forecasts predicting a high/low range of $1,192 compared to $780 in 2020,” the LBMA said in the report.

With the gold market expected to be relatively tame through 2021, the LBMA said it expects all eyes to be on silver. Precious metals analysts expect silver prices to average $28.50 an ounce this year, an increase of 38% from the 2020 average price and up 8% from the average price since the first half of January.

The volatility seen in the silver market this past week could foreshadow the price action through the rest of the year.

“Silver is undoubtedly the star of the show,” the LBMA said. “Silver is forecast to be the best-performing metal in 2021, but with a trading range of $38.5, nearly five times its range forecast last year, it looks as if it’s in for a real rollercoaster ride in 2021.”

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CNBC/Bob Pisani
Wall Street worries about regulatory fallout from the GameStop saga

Wall Street is concerned about the Yellen regulator super summit, and with good reason, market watchers say.

“The Street should be worried,” said Jamie Selway, former head of electronic brokerage at ITG and now an investment advisor. “There’s clearly questions about gamification, and whether a lot of these approaches are suitable and inducing unnecessary trading activity. Regulators are starting to look at what kind of behaviors can be induced through those apps.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has announced she will be meeting with the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve board, the New York Fed and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to discuss “whether recent activities are consistent with investor protection and fair and efficient markets.”

The meeting could take place as early as Thursday.

Several of those regulators have already made preliminary statements.

The SEC has a three-fold mission: protect investors; maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation.

The commission already has put Wall Street on notice that it is concerned investors may not have been protected.

“We will act to protect retail investors when the facts demonstrate abusive or manipulative trading activity that is prohibited by the federal securities laws,” the SEC said in a statement. “Market participants should be careful to avoid such activity.”

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