The daily business briefing: April 14, 2020

Harold Maass
The Castro Theater in SF
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Governors unite to plan for reopening regional economies

Two groups of governors, one from the East Coast and the other from the West, announced Monday that they were joining forces to develop coordinated plans to eventually reopen their economies. The governors plan to roll back coronavirus restrictions slowly, to avoid new spikes of infections. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island are forming the Eastern regional council, while California, Washington, and Oregon are forming the Western one. The announcement came as the White House unveiled its new council to stimulate the federal economy and reopen businesses. President Trump, who has called for reopening parts of the economy as soon as possible, said he had "total" authority to overrule the governors. "The president of the United States calls the shots," he said. [Axios, The New York Times]


Roku shares rise on streaming surge

Roku shares jumped by more than 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday after the video streaming company raised its forecast for first-quarter revenue. The company said it saw an increase in streaming hours toward the end of the quarter as Americans started "sheltering at home" under measures aiming to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Roku said that helped fuel account growth, which rose by about three million since the first of the year to an estimated 39.8 million active accounts by the end of March. The company also started rolling out its "Are you still watching" feature that stops streaming after user inactivity, which should ultimately curb growth in terms of streaming hours. [CNBC]


ESPN asks highest paid talent to take pay cut

ESPN on Monday asked about 100 of its highest paid commentators, writers, and analysts to accept a voluntary pay cut to help save the jobs of colleagues as college and professional sports remain on hiatus due to the coronavirus crisis. The cuts would last three months and amount to 3.75 percent of the affected employees' annual salaries. "Today, I am asking you something that I never imagined I would," ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said to the selected employees in a Monday email that was obtained by The Washington Post. The sports broadcaster's executives already have taken a pay cut of 20 percent to 30 percent, depending on their seniority level. ESPN's parent company, Disney, recently announced it would furlough thousands of workers due to the crisis. [The Washington Post]


Stock futures rise ahead of earnings season

U.S. stock index futures jumped early Tuesday following a mixed day on Monday ahead of the start of what is expected to be a rough earnings season. Three hours before the start of trading on Tuesday, futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all up by about 1 percent. The Dow fell by 1.4 percent on Monday, while the S&P 500 dropped by 1 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.5 percent. Earnings season gets started Tuesday morning with results from JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Johnson & Johnson. Investors will be watching the reports for early clues on the damage corporations have seen due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Analysts expect a drop of 10.2 percent in year-over-year earnings growth for S&P 500 companies. [CNBC]


Amazon fires two workers who raised health concerns

Amazon said Tuesday it had fired two employees who raised concerns about health and safety at the online retail giant's warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon said it backed "every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions," but that the two terminated user-experience designers in Seattle had "repeatedly" violated internal policies. The firing of the employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, followed last month's dismissal of another Amazon employee, Christian Smalls, who raised concerns about the health of Amazon employees continuing to work as online orders surge under widespread "stay-at-home" policies for the general public. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the city's Human Rights Commission to look into the Smalls case. [Reuters]