The daily business briefing: August 12, 2020

Harold Maass
A woman participates in a vaccine trial in Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

1.

Trump says U.S. will buy 100 million doses of Moderna vaccine

President Trump said Tuesday that the federal government will purchase 100 million doses of Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine, now in late-stage human trials. Moderna said separately that the deal is worth $1.5 billion, bringing the U.S. investment in Moderna's vaccine development to $2.5 billion. The new deal gives the government the option to buy up to 400 million doses, Moderna said. The U.S. has similar arrangements with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and other drug makers for early access to their potential COVID-19 vaccines. "We are investing in the development and manufacture of the top six vaccine candidates to ensure rapid delivery," Trump said. "The military is ready to go, they're ready to deliver a vaccine to Americans as soon as one is fully approved by the FDA." [CNBC]

2.

Tencent Holdings earnings beat expectations as gaming surges in lockdowns

Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent Holdings on Wednesday reported quarterly sales and profit that exceeded expectations. Tencent is the world's largest gaming firm by revenue, and owner of the WeChat messaging app. The company said its second-quarter net profit rose by 37 percent thanks to surging demand for its video games during coronavirus lockdowns. Revenue rose by 29 percent. The report came days after the Trump administration said it would ban U.S. transactions involving WeChat. Tencent didn't address the sanctions in its earnings outlook, but executives are signaling that the company can handle White House pressure that has already targeted other Chinese tech companies, including Huawei Technologies. [Reuters, Bloomberg]

3.

Scientists warn Russia's fast-tracking of coronavirus vaccine is dangerous

Scientists in Russia and other countries warned Tuesday that Russia's claim to have registered the first coronavirus vaccine was not the breakthrough that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed. They noted that the vaccine had not gone through final-stage, Phase 3 trials, which are expected to take months and are the only way to be sure an experimental drug is safe and effective. "Fast-tracked approval will not make Russia the leader in the race, it will just expose consumers of the vaccine to unnecessary danger," said Russia's Association of Clinical Trials Organizations, which urged government officials to delay approval until the advanced trials are completed. Russian officials say large-scale production of the vaccine is scheduled for September, with vaccination of doctors starting as early as this month. [The Associated Press]

4.

Stock futures rise after S&P 500 falls for 1st time in 8 days

U.S. stock index futures rose early Wednesday, suggesting a rebound after the S&P 500 snapped a seven-day winning streak. Futures for the S&P 500 were up by 0.8 percent several hours before the start of trading, while those of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq gained about 0.9 percent. Wall Street opened with gains Tuesday on optimism fueled by hopes that new stimulus measures would give the U.S. economy a lift, and Russia's claim that it had become the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, even though it has not completed final trials. The three main U.S. indexes lost ground as the day went on, all closing down as big technology stocks such as Apple and Microsoft declined. The S&P 500 lost 0.8 percent, while the Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 0.4 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. [CNBC, USA Today]

5.

U.K. recession sharpest among leading economies

The British economy has fallen into the deepest coronavirus-triggered recession of any of the world's leading industrial economies. The U.K. Office for National Statistics on Wednesday released data showing that Britain's economy showed a 20.4 percent quarter-to-quarter decline from April through June, the sharpest such drop since the country began keeping records in 1955. The British economy contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter. The second quarter drop officially placed the country in a recession, which is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction. Comparable economies in Europe such as Germany, France, and Italy have shown less severe declines, as has the U.S. Japan and Canada haven't reported second quarter data yet, but economists expect their numbers to be better than Britain's. [The Associated Press]