Business briefing

The daily business briefing: July 21, 2021

Bezos makes quick space trip in Blue Origin first, Netflix announces plan to start offering video games, and more

1

Bezos makes brief trip to space in first Blue Origin flight with people

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, took a brief flight into suborbital space Tuesday in a spacecraft developed by his rocket company, Blue Origin. The flight marked the first time Blue Origin's spacecraft, dubbed New Shepard after American space pioneer Alan Shepard, had carried people, a big step toward the company's plans for space tourism. Three others joined Bezos in the capsule: Bezos' brother, Mark; Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student who was Blue Origin's first paying passenger and the youngest person to go to space; and aviator Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk, who at 82 was the oldest person to reach space. "Best day ever," Jeff Bezos said after the capsule had parachuted to the ground in Texas near the launch site.

2

Netflix to offer video games

Netflix confirmed Tuesday that it plans to start offering video games to subscribers at no additional cost, as its subscriber growth slows. "We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation, and unscripted TV," the company said in a letter to investors. Netflix said it would initially "be primarily focused on games for mobile devices," without providing further detail. The company said the change amounted to an expansion of its previous "efforts around interactivity," including a choose-your-own adventure special episode of Black Mirror, and its games based on Stranger Things.

3

Stocks rebound from worst day of 2021

U.S. stocks bounced back Tuesday after Monday's drop, which was the steepest of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 550 points or 1.6 percent, regaining more than two-thirds of its 725 point Monday decline. The S&P 500 rose by 1.5 percent after dropping by 1.6 percent on Monday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped by 1.6 percent, after falling by nearly 1.1 percent the day before. Some strategists warn that the market is entering a volatile period due to fears of an economic downturn fueled by surging Delta variant coronavirus cases. Futures tied to the three main U.S. indexes made further gains before the opening bell Wednesday, with Dow futures up by nearly 200 points or 0.6 percent.

4

Study suggests J&J vaccine is far less effective against new variants

A single dose of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine is significantly less effective against the Delta and Lambda variants of COVID-19 than against prior variants, according to a small study published online Tuesday. The authors said the 13 million people inoculated with the vaccine might need a booster shot, and this second dose should preferably be one of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. A spokesperson for J&J disputed the findings, telling The New York Times the data "do not speak to the full nature of immune protection," and adding that the company's research shows the vaccine generated a strong immune response against the Delta variant. The study has yet to be peer reviewed. 

5

Lawyers say $26 billion opioid settlement near

Lawyers for cities, counties, and states said Tuesday that they were near a $26 billion settlement with major opioid distributors. Under the proposal, three major drug distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — would pay $21 billion over 18 years, following allegations that they ignored indications that billions of painkiller pills were making their way to the black market and fueling addictions. Johnson & Johnson, which used to supply raw material for opioids in the U.S., would pay $5 billion over nine years, The Washington Post reported. The deal, if it goes forward, would settle more than 3,000 lawsuits filed by cities, counties, states, and other jurisdictions. Other suits will continue. The government announced last week that a record 69,710 people died of overdoses involving opioids last year.

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