Business briefing

The daily business briefing: July 12, 2021

Virgin Galactic shares jump after Branson's flight, Pfizer to make the case for booster, and more

1

Branson's trip to space boosts Virgin Galactic shares

Billionaire Richard Branson and five crew members successfully flew to the edge of space Sunday on board a spacecraft made by Branson's own private space company, Virgin Galactic. The plane reached "the threshold of space," climbing more than 53 miles above Earth during the hour-long journey. The flight came nine days before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to make his own trip to space on board a craft designed by his firm Blue Origin, and marks a major stride toward these companies' ultimate goal of turning private space flight into a successful business venture; fares for a flight on Virgin's space plane will cost more than $250,000 per seat, and Virgin has more than 600 confirmed customers for flights set to begin in 2022. Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. surged by more than 20 percent in pre-market trading Monday after Branson's flight. "Welcome to the dawn of a new space age," Branson said.

2

Pfizer to discuss third vaccine dose with Washington

Drugmaker Pfizer will meet with top Food and Drug Administration officials Monday to request federal approval to offer a third COVID-19 shot as a booster for the initial two shots in its vaccine regimen. The company says its research indicates a third dose dramatically increases antibody levels, but National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci said Sunday he isn't convinced the government should advise a third dose at this time. The daily case rate remains far below its winter peak as vaccination continues to provide effective protection, but a surge is presently being fueled by an uptick of cases in a handful of states, driven largely by the Delta variant as it makes its way through unvaccinated pockets of the population.

3

TikTok IPO reportedly delayed indefinitely over data security risks

ByteDance, the parent company of popular video app TikTok, has indefinitely suspended its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States or Hong Kong, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Chinese officials told the Beijing-based company to "focus on addressing data-security risks," the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with ByteDance's plans. The decision was made last March, at which point the company also lacked a chief financial officer, which has reportedly also contributed to the delay. Beijing has recently tightened regulation of IPO candidates for foreign markets.

4

G-20 finance ministers endorse global tax agreement

Finance ministers met in Italy on Sunday to discuss plans for a global tax deal. The Group of 20 ministers gathered in Venice and endorsed the plan, which takes aim at corporate tax avoidance by setting a minimum global corporate tax rate, and is "crucial" to President Biden's goal of raising corporate taxes. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised the collaboration, saying, "These past six weeks have really been momentous for economic diplomacy. We're seeing a revival of multilateralism on a whole host of issues." The plan will have to go to Congress later this year, where it faces Republican opposition. 

5

Stock futures mixed before earnings season kick-off

Stock futures were mixed early Monday as second-quarter earnings season kicks off this week. Futures for the S&P 500 fell by 0.3 percent after reaching a record high Friday. Futures for the Nasdaq rose slightly by 0.1 percent and Dow futures edged down 0.5 percent. Investors this week will be watching for signs of corporate profitability to justify companies' high valuations. Financial giants, including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, will report first. European markets were subdued Monday, as anxiety about the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 put a damper on investor enthusiasm. "Sentiment in equities remains bullish, but the Delta variant is a headwind for that," said John Roe, head of multiasset funds at Legal & General Investment Management. "There's an ongoing concern, what if reopening is difficult to do?" 

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