Business briefing

The daily business briefing: July 28, 2021

Apple posts record spring-quarter profit, Biden plans to propose return to Obama-era mileage standards, and more

1

Apple reports record spring-quarter profit 

Apple on Tuesday reported its biggest spring-quarter profit in its 45-year history, thanks partly to strong iPhone sales. Apple earned $21.7 billion in profit on better-than-expected revenue of $81.4 billion, which was up by 36 percent from a year earlier. Apple was not the only tech giant to reap record earnings despite the latest surge in coronavirus cases. Google-parent Alphabet said its quarterly profit more than doubled to $18.5 billion as pandemic-driven online shopping boosted its digital advertising business. Microsoft reported record sales thanks to an increase in customers for its cloud-computing business. Despite the strong earnings, Apple and Microsoft shares fell in after-hours trading.

2

Biden to restore Obama-era mileage standards

President Biden is proposing to restore aggressive Obama-era vehicle mileage standards rolled back by former President Donald Trump, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing industry and government officials briefed about the plan. Biden also reportedly intends to impose even tougher anti-pollution rules after that as part of his push to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goal of getting 40 percent of U.S. drivers into electric vehicles by 2030. Environmental groups called for more drastic action, saying recent heat waves, devastating wildfires, and floods showed the urgency of aggressively fighting climate change. "The world isn't the same as it was in 2012 when President Obama signed the clean car standards," said Katherine Garcia, acting director of Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign.

3

Walmart to offer workers free college tuition

Walmart said Tuesday that it would offer its 1.5 million U.S. employees free college tuition and books. The retail giant said that over five years it would put nearly $1 billion into career training and development for workers majoring in business administration, supply chain, cybersecurity, and other high-demand fields. Workers previously had to pay $1 a day to participate in the program. The change was the latest move by Walmart, the nation's biggest private employer, to attract and keep employees in a highly competitive labor market. Walmart's three-year-old Live Better U education program will be free starting Aug. 16. Walmart has boosted pay, but its starting wage of $11 per hour is below those of rivals Target and Costco, which pay at least $15 an hour.

4

Stock futures mixed after Wall Street's five-day winning streak ends

U.S. stock index futures struggled for footing early Wednesday after snapping a five-day winning streak and pulling back from record highs on Tuesday. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up by about 0.2 percent. The busiest week of earnings season continues Wednesday with quarterly reports from Pfizer, McDonald's, Facebook, and Ford, among others. So far, 89 percent of S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings have beaten analysts' expectations. Investors also are awaiting the Federal Reserve's statement at the close of its two-day policy meeting, looking for clues on its plans for dialing back its efforts to support the economic recovery.

5

Shkreli's one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album sold to cover debts

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that a one-of-a-kind album recorded by the Wu-Tang Clan purchased at auction by disgraced pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli had been sold to an anonymous buyer to cover Shkreli's debts. There is one known copy of the album, "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin." Prosecutors seized it three years ago. The identity of the buyer and the price were not immediately disclosed. Shkreli's lawyer, Brianne E. Murphy, said she was pleased that Shkreli was "closing this chapter" by covering the balance of his debts. Shkreli became notorious in 2015 after dramatically hiking the price of a drug used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection.

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