Business briefing

The daily business briefing: October 6, 2021

Whistleblower tells lawmakers Facebook undermines democracy, J&J asks the FDA to authorize its COVID vaccine booster, and more

1

Whistleblower: Facebook boosts profits with harmful content

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on Tuesday testified to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection that the company's platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, harm children, and spread misinformation and hate. "Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy," said Haugen, a data scientist hired at Facebook's civil integrity unit in 2019. "The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people." Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called coverage of Haugen's claims misleading, saying it would be "deeply illogical" for Facebook to prioritize harmful content because that would drive away advertisers. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who led the hearing, said he would call for federal regulators to investigate Facebook.

2

J&J asks FDA to authorize its COVID vaccine booster

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization to give a booster dose of its single-shot coronavirus vaccine to people aged 18 or older. The request came as the Biden administration pushes to make added vaccine doses available to more people to increase protection as the effectiveness of initial vaccinations fades. Johnson & Johnson believes it has "enough data to support a boost," said Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for the Janssen Pharmaceuticals division of Johnson & Johnson. The company said data from a Phase 3 trial found that an extra shot two months after the primary dose resulted in 94 percent protection against severe COVID-19, compared to the 73 percent protection seen in the United States. Protection reached 100 percent two weeks after the booster.

3

Trade deficit hit record in August

The U.S. trade deficit grew to a record $73.3 billion in August from $70.3 billion in July, narrowly exceeding the previous record of $73.2 billion set in June. The deficit's growth came as U.S. consumer demand for foreign pharmaceutical products, toys, clothing, and other goods, along with business demand for industrial supplies, lifted imports by 1.4 percent in August to a record-high $287 billion. Exports grew by just 0.5 percent to $213.7 billion as overseas economies lagged behind the U.S. in their coronavirus recoveries. But overseas demand will bounce back and domestic consumption growth is slowing, so "we still think goods exports will start to catch up with imports soon," Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist for research firm Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

4

Stock futures fall after Tuesday's rebound

U.S. stock index futures fell early Wednesday after Tuesday's tech-led rebound. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 1.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. Tuesday's broad rally lifted the Dow and the S&P 500 by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq closed up by 1.3 percent, led by big tech stocks. A better-than-expected manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management fueled optimism about the economic recovery as the Delta-variant-driven surge in coronavirus cases appears to be slowing. Private payroll figures are set to be released Wednesday, with the federal September jobs report scheduled to be released Friday.

5

Trump falls off 'Forbes' list of richest Americans

Former President Donald Trump's fortune has fallen to about $2.5 billion, enough to get him bumped off of Forbes' list of America's richest people. Trump was $400 million short of enough to make the list, which was released Tuesday. It was the first time in 25 years he failed to make the cut. Trump was on the top half of the list from 1997 to 2016. Trump's financial decisions played a role in his fall. For example, he decided to hold onto his assets when he took office in 2017, costing him about $2 billion. If he had put his money into an index fund, he could have piled up $4.5 billion by 2021. The coronavirus pandemic also reduced his wealth, much of which is in big-city properties that were hit hard by lockdowns that kept people out of offices.

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