The daily business briefing: September 24, 2020

Harold Maass
A Johnson & Johnson sign
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Johnson & Johnson starts phase 3 trial of single-shot coronavirus vaccine

Johnson & Johnson announced on Wednesday it has launched the third and final phase of trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson's drug is the fourth vaccine candidate to start phase 3 trials in the United States, but the first that would be administered in a single injection. Experts said a vaccine requiring just one dose would prove advantageous when it comes to getting it out to as many people as possible quickly. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky called the new trial stage, which will involve up to 60,000 participants, a "pivotal milestone." The company said that if the vaccine proves to be safe and effective, it's expecting that "the first batches" could be "available for emergency use authorization in early 2021." [The Washington Post]

2.

Newsom bans sale of new gas-powered cars in California by 2035

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order Wednesday requiring all cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. The order focuses on new car sales, so people will be able to keep or sell their gas-powered cars after 2035. The order was part of the state's effort to boost electric vehicles in the nation's biggest automobile market, and fight pollution. California's transportation sector is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in the state, Newsom said, and increasing carbon emissions have contributed to climate change and worsening wildfire seasons. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air," Newsom said. The Trump administration slammed the order as overreach. "This is yet another example of how extreme the left has become," White House spokesman Judd Deere said. [The Wall Street Journal]

3.

Wells Fargo CEO apologizes for remark about Black talent pool

Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf apologized Wednesday for blaming the bank's lack of Black employees on "a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from." Scharf said in a memo to employees that he was sorry "for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias." The apology came after Scharf faced a barrage of harsh criticism online for his initial remark. "Perhaps it's the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said: "I know many highly talented Black lawyers who would have advised you against making such a statement." About 4.1 percent of Wells Fargo's senior workforce was Black in 2018, down from 8 percent in 2015. [The Washington Post]

4.

NYC to force 9,000 workers to take 5-day furloughs

New York City will make about 9,000 local government workers take five-day furloughs between October and March, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. The move is expected to save the city $21 million as it struggles to deal with the financial fallout from the coronavirus crisis. De Blasio last week announced that 495 mayoral staffers, including himself, would have to take the week-long furloughs to save money as the city faces a $9 billion budget deficit over the next two years. The mayor and the city council in June approved a budget that cut funding to all agencies, and reduced some services. The city government also is considering laying off up to 22,000 workers. "We have to keep taking actions to address this situation. None them are pleasant. None of them are things we would want to do in normal times," de Blasio said. [The Wall Street Journal]

5.

Stock futures mixed after Wednesday's plunge

U.S. stock index futures were mixed early Thursday following volatile overnight trading. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by about 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up slightly. All three of the main U.S. indexes plunged on Wednesday, reversing early gains. The Dow dropped by 1.9 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq plunged by 2.4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Big tech stocks, which have fallen after leading the market's comeback from coronavirus-induced spring losses, continued to struggle on Wednesday. "There wasn't one specific reason to explain the selling, and in many ways the slump was a continuation of price action that's been underway since the start of the month," said Adam Crisafulli of Vital Knowledge. [CNBC]