The daily business briefing: September 27, 2019

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Harold Maass
The Beyond Meat package
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

1.

Beyond Meat shares jump as McDonald's tests plant-based burger

Beyond Meat shares surged 12 percent higher on Thursday after McDonald's announced plans to start testing a Beyond Meat plant-based burger in 28 restaurants in Canada. McDonald's shares made modest gains. The burger, developed at McDonald's Chicago global headquarters, will go on sale Sept. 30 and be available for 12 weeks. The sandwich will be called the P.L.T. (plant, lettuce, and tomato). It will have two pickles, slivered onions, cheese, mustard, ketchup, "mayo-style sauce," and a Beyond Meat patty, all on the bun McDonald's uses for its Quarter Pounder burgers. Other restaurant chains, including Carl's Jr. and Yum's KFC, also are trying out meatless products. [Yahoo Finance, TheStreet.com]

2.

U.S. income inequality surges to record level

U.S. income inequality grew last year to its highest level in the more than 50 years the government has tracked the data, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday. The Gini Index, which measures the gap between the haves and have-nots, rose from 0.482 in 2017 to 0.485 in 2018. On the scale, a score of 0 would indicate perfect and total wealth equality. A 1 would mean a single household has all the income. "Top income earners got even larger increases in their income, and one of the reasons for that might well be the tax cut," said Hector Sandoval, a University of Florida economist. The change came as median household income rose to nearly $62,000, a record high in the American Community Survey. [The Associated Press]

3.

Peloton shares fall in market debut

Peloton shares dropped by 13 percent after making their market debut Thursday. The shares started out trading at $27, below the IPO price of $29 per share. The listing raised $1.2 billion and initially valued the exercise equipment and digital fitness company at $8.1 billion, although the stock's fall brought its market value down to $7 billion. Peloton is one of several closely watched billion-dollar startups, or unicorns, to hold IPOs this year. Last week, WeWork parent We Company postponed its IPO after investors balked at the company's losses. Shares of pet supply company Chewy have fallen by more than a quarter since the stock's market debut in June. [CNBC]

4.

Senate confirms Eugene Scalia as labor secretary

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Eugene Scalia as labor secretary. Scalia, son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, will take over a job vacated by Alex Acosta, who resigned in July under intense criticism for his role back in his days as a prosecutor in a lenient plea deal for multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in prison awaiting trial on new charges of sex trafficking. Scalia is a lawyer in a Washington firm that has represented giant companies including Walmart, Ford, and UPS in worker-rights cases. Democrats opposed Scalia's confirmation in the 53-to-44 vote, arguing that he had shown himself to be "anti-worker" when he represented big corporations. Scalia said he was an advocate of workers. [The Washington Post]

5.

Stock futures edge higher despite uncertainty over impeachment inquiry

U.S. stock index futures made modest gains early Friday as stocks struggled for footing in the face of political turmoil in Washington. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by about 0.3 percent. Stocks fell on Thursday as investors cautiously watched developments in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, which House Democrats opened after a whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 rival for the presidency. The Dow closed down by 0.3 percent. World stocks struggled on Friday as developments surrounding the whistleblower complaint offset optimism about progress toward ending the U.S.-China trade war. MSCI's world equity index fell by 0.1 percent. [CNBC, Reuters]