The daily business briefing: July 23, 2020

The U.S. orders 100 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, Tesla reports its fourth straight quarterly profit, and more 

1. Government orders 100 million doses of Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday announced that the federal government had placed a nearly $2 billion order for 100 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. will be able to order up to another 500 million doses after the drug receives approval or authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech said that depending on how studies of the vaccine go, they aim to "be ready to seek Emergency Use Authorization or some form of regulatory approval as early as October 2020." If that goes forward, they'll look to manufacture up to 100 million doses globally by the end of the year and "potentially more than 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021." Pfizer shares rose by 5 percent after the announcement, and BioNTech's U.S.-listed shares jumped by nearly 14 percent.


2. Tesla posts 4th straight quarterly profit

Tesla shares rose 4 percent in after-hours trading Wednesday after the company beat expectations, reporting its fourth straight profitable quarter. Tesla also announced Wednesday that it had selected the Austin, Texas, area as the future home of the electric-car maker's biggest assembly plant. The new factory will employ at least 5,000 workers and build Tesla's new Cybertruck pickup. It also will become the company's second production facility for the Model Y small SUV. Tesla will receive more than $60 million in tax breaks to build the factory on a 2,100-acre site near Austin. The company has promised to invest $1.1 billion in the facility, and pay workers at least $15 an hour plus health insurance and other benefits. Tesla CEO Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket company also has operations in Texas.

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CNBC The Associated Press

3. Stock futures edge higher with focus on corporate earnings

U.S. stock index futures gained early Thursday as investors continued to focus on corporate earnings reports. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by about 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. The Nasdaq rose by about 0.8 percent. Software giant Microsoft fell by as much as 3 percent in after-hours trading after problems at its subsidiary LinkedIn due to the coronavirus crisis' impact on the job market. Tesla shares rose sharply after the electric-car maker reported its fourth straight quarterly profit. The three main U.S. indexes all closed higher on Wednesday with a boost from positive news on a COVID-19 vaccine, and apparent progress on Capitol Hill toward a new coronavirus relief bill.


4. United: Revenue won't rise over half of pre-pandemic level without vaccine

United Airlines executives said Wednesday that they expected air travel demand to increase once the number of new coronavirus infections starts dropping, but that their revenue would not rise above 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels until a vaccine was available. United reported this week that its revenue plummeted by 89 percent in the second quarter as the pandemic decimated the travel industry, resulting in a $1.6 billion loss. Air travel had started recovering but fell again when coronavirus cases started spiking in the South and West in late June. About 530,000 people passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Tuesday, a drop of 78 percent from the traffic level a year earlier.

The Associated Press

5. Unilever sales fall less than expected

Consumer goods giant Unilever reported that its second-quarter sales fell by less than expected as coronavirus lockdowns forced people to eat at home more, increasing demand for such products as Knorr soups and Breyers ice cream. The Anglo-Dutch company's sales fell by 0.3 percent in the three months that ended June 30. Analysts on average had forecast a 4.3 percent drop due to shutdowns of restaurants, schools, movie theaters, and other outlets offering the company's goods. Unilever shares surged by as much as 8.7 percent early Thursday after the company released its results. Despite the good news, the sales decline was the company's first since the third quarter in 2004, according to Jefferies analysts.


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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.