The daily business briefing: September 18, 2020
Oracle, ByteDance agree to Treasury terms on TikTok deal, weekly jobless claims fall slightly to 860,000, and more
Oracle and ByteDance agree to Treasury terms for TikTok deal
Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance have accepted terms proposed by the Treasury Department for Oracle's bid to take over TikTok's U.S. operations. Under the plan, Oracle would take a minority stake in a new TikTok, with headquarters in the U.S. and an independent, U.S. government-approved board. China's ByteDance selected Oracle as its partner, rejecting an acquisition bid by Microsoft in favor of a deal that kept majority ownership in ByteDance's hands. President Trump has threatened to shut down TikTok in the U.S., citing national security concerns. The White House and Treasury declined to comment on the latest development. A final deal will require approval by Trump and China, which has accused the Trump administration of "economic bullying."
Weekly jobless claims fall, but slightly
The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell by 33,000 to a seasonally adjusted 860,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Weekly jobless claims soared to the highest on record when the coronavirus hit, then fell for much of the spring and summer as businesses started reopening after coronavirus lockdowns. The numbers have been holding steady or inching down since August. AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at job search site Indeed, said the labor market's recovery has "stalled out" even though the economy has improved significantly. "While there is some rehiring going on, longer term labor market scarring is occurring as well," she said.
Moderna, Pfizer release details on vaccine trials
Drug companies Moderna and Pfizer on Thursday took the unusual step of abandoning the traditional testing secrecy and releasing details on trials for their coronavirus vaccine candidates. The two companies spelled out how they are selecting and monitoring trial participants, what could cause them to halt the tests, and what evidence researchers will use to determine whether the vaccines protect people from COVID-19. Moderna will have 30,000 trial participants, and Pfizer will have 44,000. Moderna said it could take until next year to determine whether its vaccine works. That was consistent with estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but not with President Trump's push for a vaccine before Election Day, Nov. 3. Pfizer said that in the rush for a vaccine, transparency is necessary for public confidence.
Stock futures struggle as tech sell-off resumes
U.S. stock index futures were mixed early Friday after another tech-fueled sell-off on Wall Street. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 0.2 percent after the index snapped a four-day winning streak. Futures for the S&P 500 were little changed, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up by 0.4 percent. On Thursday, the Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq dropped by 1.3 percent, briefly returning to correction territory 10 percent below its recent record high. "The summer excess is still being wrung out of tech and the process has a bit more to run," Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisafulli said in a note on Thursday. Big technology companies bolstered Wall Street through the summer as business boomed due to increased online working, learning, and shopping. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple have all dropped by 10 percent or more in September.
Twitter labels Trump post on mail-in voting misleading
Twitter on Thursday posted a warning label on a tweet by President Trump, saying it contained potentially misleading information about mail-in voting. Trump said in his tweet that because of the "unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots which will be sent to 'voters', or wherever, this year" due to the coronavirus pandemic "the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want." Twitter's label said: "Voting by mail is legal and safe, experts and data confirm." The company also provided information about voting by mail. It was the latest in a series of clashes between Trump and social media companies. Twitter first attached a warning label to a Trump tweet in May, when Trump made unsubstantiated allegations of mail-in voting fraud.