The daily business briefing: August 26, 2021
Johnson & Johnson's COVID booster, Delta's surcharge for unvaccinated employees, and more
J&J: COVID booster shot increased antibodies 9-fold
Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that booster shots for its one-dose coronavirus vaccine produced a nine-fold increase in antibodies compared to 28 days after the first shot. The company said the data came from two Phase 2 studies conducted in the United States and Europe in which some of the roughly 2,000 participants got booster doses six months after their first shots. "We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses that are durable and persistent through eight months," Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for Janssen, said in a statement. "With these new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses."
Delta announces $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated workers
Delta Air Lines told employees in a Wednesday memo that unvaccinated people on the company's health plan would have to start paying a $200 monthly surcharge to cover possible COVID-19 medical bills. "The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. "This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company." The company said the fee would take effect Nov. 1, which would give workers plenty of time to get fully vaccinated if they don't want to pay. Bastian framed the charge as a security deposit to cover potential expenses, but the memo also noted that vaccinations are part of the company's effort to prevent the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus to the airline's destinations.
Treasury: 11 percent of federal rental assistance distributed so far
States and local governments have distributed just 11 percent of the $46.5 billion in federal rental assistance Congress approved earlier this year, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. The data indicated that the distribution sped up in July compared to June. So far, the assistance has reached nearly a million households, but as of Aug. 16 about 3.5 million people said they could face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. Housing advocates fear that with the Supreme Court reviewing a challenge to the federal eviction moratorium, the nation could see a wave of evictions before the bulk of the rental assistance gets out.
Stock futures fall slightly after Wednesday's records
U.S. stock index futures edged down early Thursday following fresh records for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on Wednesday. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat several hours before the opening bell, but S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were down by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. The S&P 500 broke the 4,500 barrier for the first time in history on Wednesday before closing at 4,496.19, a gain of 0.2 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by nearly 0.2 percent. The Dow gained 0.1 percent. Investors are awaiting fresh economic data and the Federal Reserve's annual Jackson Hole symposium, which starts Thursday. The Fed could provide updates on its plans to taper the monthly purchases of $120 billion of bonds it has been making to boost the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Western Digital nearing $20 billion merger with Japan's Kioxia
Western Digital Corp. has entered advanced talks about a potential $20-billion-plus merger with Japan's Kioxia Holdings Corp. in what could be the latest in a series of acquisitions among chip makers, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing to people familiar with the matter. The companies have been discussing a potential deal for months, but the negotiations intensified in recent weeks. The two sides could reach an agreement by mid-September, although Kioxia still could proceed with an initial public offering of stock it had been planning, the Journal reported. A deal, which would require approval by the Japanese government, would help a U.S. push to boost chip-making capacity and increase America's competitiveness with China.