The daily business briefing: April 21, 2023
SpaceX's Starship rocket explodes during 1st test flight, BuzzFeed shuts down its news division, and more
SpaceX's Starship rocket explodes during its first test flight
SpaceX's massive Starship rocket exploded Thursday minutes after liftoff for its first test flight. The nearly 400-foot rocket, which Elon Musk's space-flight company hopes will one day carry astronauts to the moon and then Mars, wasn't carrying any people or satellites. Several of the 33 main engines failed to fire as the rocket left the launch pad in Texas and climbed 24 miles before exploding four minutes into its flight. Musk tweeted that SpaceX had "learned a lot" from the "exciting test launch," and would put the lessons to use for the next flight in a few months. "To get this far is amazing," SpaceX's Kate Tice said on the livestream. "Everything after clearing the tower was icing on the cake."
BuzzFeed shuts down its news division
BuzzFeed announced Thursday that it is closing its news division and shifting its news coverage to HuffPost, which the company acquired from Verizon in 2020. The digital media company said the change is part of a plan to reduce its workforce by 180 positions, or 15 percent, in its second round of job cuts. The latest cuts will affect people in its business, content, technology, and administration departments, CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in an email, according to Reuters. BuzzFeed cut 12 percent of its staff in a first round of cuts in December. Peretti said the company had "faced more challenges than I can count" during the pandemic and the economic downturn for digital advertising that followed.
Twitter starts removing blue checks from users who don't pay
Twitter on Thursday started following through on owner Elon Musk's plan to remove the blue checks from the accounts of previously verified users who haven't started paying a monthly fee. The social media platform had about 300,000 verified users, including journalists, athletes, and other public figures, under its old system, which verified that Twitter had confirmed the users were who they said they were. The platform has imposed a fee — from $8 per month for individuals to $1,000 for organizations — for the blue checks. Twitter also no longer verifies the accounts. Beyoncé, Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey, and former President Donald Trump were among the high-profile users stripped of the checks on Thursday. Twitter separately dropped the "government-funded" label on some media accounts, like NPR.
Chile to nationalize lithium industry
Chilean President Gabriel Boric said Thursday he plans to nationalize the South American country's lithium industry. "This is the best chance we have at transitioning to a sustainable and developed economy. We can't afford to waste it," Boric said in a nationally televised speech. The surprise move introduced a new challenge for electric-vehicle makers already competing to get enough raw materials for batteries. Chile is the world's second-largest producer of lithium, a metal essential for EV batteries. Chile's lithium output is now controlled by industry giants SQM and Albemarle.
Stocks struggle after mixed week of corporate earnings
U.S. stock futures slipped early Friday at the end of a big week of corporate earnings reports. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, at 7 a.m. ET, on track for slight weekly losses. The Nasdaq was down 0.5 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, on Thursday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, weighed down by Tesla's 10 percent decline after the electric-vehicle maker reported that price cuts hurt its profit margins, fell 0.8 percent. "The tone of earnings reports has been pretty downbeat," Edward Park, chief investment officer at London-based Brooks Macdonald, told The Wall Street Journal.