Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 6, 2017

Fed minutes show support for trimming balance sheet, Amazon strikes deal to livestream NFL games, and more


Fed support for trimming balance sheet puts investors on edge

Most Federal Reserve policy makers are in favor of trimming the central bank's $4.5 trillion in federal bonds on its balance sheet this year as long as employment and inflation data continue to show that the economy is improving, according to minutes from the Fed's March meeting that were released on Wednesday. The Fed acquired most of the bonds through a monthly bond-buying program that was intended to boost the economy. The news of the Fed's apparent willingness to speed up rolling back its economy-stimulating policies, combined with investor concerns that President Trump might not be able to deliver all of his promised tax cuts, caused stocks to reverse course after they rose in early trading. U.S. futures edged down further early Thursday, pointing to a lower open. European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said Thursday that stimulus programs were still needed in the 19-country euro zone despite economic improvement.


Amazon wins $50 million deal to livestream NFL games

Amazon has struck a $50 million deal with the NFL to livestream games next fall. Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to livestream 10 Thursday Night Football games. The NFL made a similar deal with Twitter last year, but Twitter paid just $10 million. Twitter had expressed interest in carrying the games again next season, as had Facebook and YouTube, but Amazon won out. "For us, this is about starting to bring live sports to our Prime members all around the world," said Amazon's head of business development and entertainment, Jeff Blackburn. CBS and NBC will each broadcast five of the games, and Amazon will stream their coverage, ads and all. Amazon will get to sell some ad slots, too.


Report: Companies added 263,000 jobs in March, exceeding expectations

Private companies added a better-than-expected 263,000 jobs in March, continuing a strong start for hiring in 2017, according to a report released Wednesday by ADP and Moody's Analytics. Economists had predicted gains of 185,000. The March figures exceeded February's gains of 245,000 private sector jobs, which the report revised down from the whopping 298,000 jobs originally reported. The March numbers boosted hopes that the Labor Department would deliver more good news when it releases government figures on the employment picture on Friday. "Job growth is off to a strong start in 2017," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. "The gains are broad-based but most notable in the goods producing side of the economy including construction, manufacturing, and mining."


Bezos says he sells $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund his space venture

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Wednesday that he is financing his rocket company, Blue Origin, by selling about $1 billion worth of Amazon stock annually. Blue Origin is aiming to start sending paying passengers on 11-minute rides in space starting next year, although its plan to start test flights was pushed back from 2017 to next year, Bezos said at the annual U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Blue Origin hopes to become profitable while cutting the cost of space travel, but Bezos has the cash to carry it for a while. His 80.9 million shares in his giant online retail company are worth $73.5 billion at Wednesday's closing price.


Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner commercial after widespread criticism

Pepsi announced Wednesday that it had yanked a new commercial in its "Live For Now" campaign in which reality TV star Kendall Jenner left a modeling shoot to join protesters, then handed a Pepsi to a stone-faced police officer, making him smile and protesters cheer. The spot provoked a backlash on social media, with critics saying the ad was insensitive and mocked protests against police violence against minorities, and exploiting a serious civil rights issue to sell soda. Pepsi issued an apology, saying it "was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue."


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