The daily business briefing: December 4, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

Google co-founders hand over daily leadership of Alphabet

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping back from the daily operations of Google-parent Alphabet, where Page is CEO and Brin is president. Both will remain on the board of the company, the co-founders announced in a Tuesday letter. Google's CEO Sundar Pichai will take over Page's role leading the Google parent company and remain in his current job. "With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies," Brin and Page wrote, "Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a president." So Pichai, who has "worked closely with us for 15 years," will assume Page's role and keep the one he's in. Pichai has reportedly already been the company's de facto leader in recent years. [NBC News, Google]

2.

Record 189.6 million Americans shopped over 5-day Thanksgiving weekend

A record 189.6 million Americans joined in the five-day Thanksgiving weekend shopping frenzy, the National Retail Federation said Tuesday. The figure amounted to a 14 percent jump compared to last year. About 48 million people only shopped in brick-and-mortar stores, while 66 million shopped only online and 77 million bought in stores and online. "Americans continue to start their holiday shopping earlier in the year, and Thanksgiving is still a critical weekend for millions," said Matthew Shay, president of NRF. Cyber Monday has overtaken Black Friday as the biggest day for sales, causing retailers to rethink the way they offer discounts to kick off the crucial holiday shopping season. [The Washington Post]

3.

Stock futures rise on report of progress in U.S.-China tariff talks

U.S. stock index futures rose slightly early Wednesday after Bloomberg reported progress toward an agreement on rolling back some new tariffs under a "phase one" U.S.-China trade deal. The U.S. is due to impose a new round of tariffs on Dec. 15, and Bloomberg reported that U.S. negotiators expect a deal before then. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all were up by 0.4 percent or more several hours before the opening bell. The three main U.S. indexes dropped on Tuesday after President Trump said a trade agreement might not come until after next year's presidential election. Investors also are monitoring Trump's meetings with key allies during a NATO summit in London, as the Western military alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary. [CNBC, Bloomberg]

4.

Musk explains 'pedo guy' tweet in defamation trial

Elon Musk, leader of Tesla, The Boring Company, and SpaceX, acknowledged on the witness stand in his defamation trial that he had referred to a British cave diver as a "pedo guy" in a rash tweet, but insisted that he didn't really mean to call the man, Vernon Unsworth, a pedophile. Musk said he merely wanted to call Unsworth a "creepy old man" in an off-the-cuff insult in response to what Musk perceived as a disrespectful and disparaging response to Musk's offer to have his engineers develop a mini-submarine last year to rescue boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. Unsworth ridiculed the effort as a "PR stunt" and suggested Musk stick the submarine "where it hurts." Unsworth is suing Musk for unspecified damages. [The Associated Press]

5.

GoPro shares surge thanks to record Hero8 Black holiday sales

GoPro Inc. shares jumped by more than 4 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday after the company said its new camera, the Hero8 Black, "sold at record levels" during the launch of the holiday shopping season last weekend. "We planned for a big Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and according to the sell-through data from our large U.S. and European retail partners as well as our results on GoPro.com, we crushed it," Chief Executive Nick Woodman said in a news release. Hero8 sales, which accounted for 90 percent of sales on the GoPro website, positioned the company well to report a profit this year, and improve earnings and revenue in 2020, Woodman said. Camera unit sales were up by 120 percent compared the same period last year. [MarketWatch]