The daily business briefing: August 14, 2020

Harold Maass
AMC movie theaters are planning to reopen.
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images


New jobless claims fell below 1 million for 1st week since March

New applications for unemployment benefits fell to 963,000 last week, marking the first time that jobless claims have dipped below 1 million since the coronavirus crisis hit the United States in March, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The figure was still far above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000. Initial unemployment claims first hit a peak of nearly 7 million in March. They've dropped significantly since then, but lingered above 1 million for weeks as the summer spike of COVID-19 cases in the South and West triggered new lockdowns. About 15.5 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, more than double the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million. At the end of July, unemployed Americans stopped receiving the extra $600-per-week included in the coronavirus relief package. [The Wall Street Journal, USA Today]


AMC to start reopening its movie theaters next week

AMC Theatres announced on Thursday that it will start reopening its U.S. cinemas on Aug. 20. The company closed its theaters nationwide in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. On reopening day, AMC will sell tickets for just 15 cents, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of its founding by offering 1920 prices. The promotion also is designed to encourage moviegoers to return to theaters that have been shuttered for months. AMC will only be reopening its theaters in areas of the country where it's permitted to do so, excluding numerous major cities. AMC had pushed back its reopening date several times as spiking coronavirus cases forced businesses and other institutions to adjust to evolving data. AMC now plans to open more than 100 locations on Aug. 20 and another 300 in the following weeks. [Variety, CNN]


Apple, Google remove Fortnite from app stores

Apple removed Epic Games' Fortnite from its iPhone App Store on Thursday after the developer started its own in-app payment system, sidestepping Apple's 30 percent fee. Apple said Epic violated its software distribution platform guidelines. Epic Games responded with a lawsuit accusing Apple of anti-competitive practices. Apple said its policies are "applied equally to every developer." Epic Games said in its lawsuit that Apple's decision to kick Fortnite out of its app store was "yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100 percent monopoly" over in-app purchase payments. The dispute is the latest fight over Apple's App Store, which offers the only way to install iPhone apps. Google's Play Store for Android phones, which has a similar policy, also removed Fortnite on Thursday. [MarketWatch, CNBC]


Stock futures fall as S&P struggles to set record

U.S. stock index futures fell early Friday as the S&P 500 flirted with a new record high. Futures for the S&P 500 were down by 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq fell by 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. The S&P fell by 0.2 percent on Thursday after briefly trading above the high it set in February before the coronavirus crisis hit and stocks plunged. Tech shares that have soared as the pandemic forced shopping, entertainment, and socializing online continued to make gains, with Facebook, Netflix, and Alphabet all closing higher. Apple reaching a record high. If the S&P manages a new record close, it will mark the fastest rebound from a 30 percent decline in its history. [CNBC]


Daimler reaches $2.2 billion diesel-emissions cheating settlement

German automaker Daimler said Thursday that it had agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle allegations of cheating on diesel emissions tests involving its Mercedes-Benz cars and vans sold in the United States. The penalty includes $1.5 billion in fines going to the federal government and California, and $700 million for Mercedes owners included in a class-action lawsuit. It is far less than the $20 billion-plus Volkswagen paid to settle charges that it used software to rig tests by regulators, but the amount is expected to hurt as Daimler faces a sharp drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. The VW settlement involved 600,000 diesel vehicles, while Daimler's covers about 250,000. [The New York Times, The Verge]