The daily business briefing: October 20, 2020

Harold Maass
A passenger in a mask
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

1.

White House increases coronavirus-stimulus offer to $1.9 trillion

The White House announced Monday that it has increased its coronavirus-relief offer to nearly $1.9 trillion ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Tuesday deadline for a deal on a new stimulus package. "[The president] is willing to give some additional money in terms of direct payments" to individuals, and paycheck support for small businesses, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters. Pelosi (D-Calif.) said over the weekend that the two sides must strike a deal by Tuesday for Congress to have a shot at approving the legislation before the Nov. 3 election. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are leading negotiations on resolving differences between the $2.2 trillion House-approved package and the White House's counterproposal. Sticking points include testing, unemployment benefits, and funding for states and cities. [Yahoo Finance]

2.

CDC recommends all plane, train passengers wear masks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strongly recommended that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-share vehicles wear face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The guidance also urged mask use at airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs. "Broad and routine utilization of masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel more safely even during this pandemic," the CDC said. Airlines already require masks, as does Amtrak. Most public transit systems and airports do, too. Still, the White House in July opposed wording in a bill that would have required masks on trains, planes, and buses. The White House did not immediately respond to the CDC's new guidance. [Reuters]

3.

Stock futures rise after signs of progress in stimulus talks

U.S. stock index futures rose early Tuesday after signs of progress towards a new round of coronavirus relief spending. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all up by about 0.6 percent several hours before the opening bell. The gains came after the White House increased its counterproposal to House Democrats' $2.2 trillion package ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Tuesday deadline for striking a deal with time to pass it before Election Day. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "continued to narrow their differences" in a Monday afternoon call as they worked toward a deal, according to Drew Hammill, spokesman for Pelosi (D-Calif.). Wall Street lost ground on Monday. The Dow fell by 1.4 percent, and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both lost a little more than 1.6 percent. [CNBC]

4.

Intel selling part of memory chip business to SK Hynix

Intel has reached a deal to sell part of its memory chip business to South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix for $9 billion. The sale, which is expected to close in March 2025, would make SK Hynix the second largest flash memory chipmaker in the world. The company will get Intel's NAND memory chip business, including associated manufacturing and design patents, and its factory in Dalian, China, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday. The Intel flash memory products go into smartphones, tablets, hard drives, and other devices. The deal marks the latest in a series of acquisitions in the semiconductor industry. Nvidia last month announced a deal to acquire U.K.-based chip designer Arm for $16 billion, and Advanced Micro Devices reportedly is in advanced talks to buy Zilinx. [CNN]

5.

Exxon says Trump's hypothetical donation call never happened

Exxon Mobil said Monday that CEO Darren Woods never had a phone call with President Trump described as a hypothetical example of his fundraising prowess. Trump said that, if he wanted, he could call Exxon's chief and say, "Oh, you need a couple of permits? ... You know, I'd love (for you) to send me $25 million for the campaign." Trump added: "I would raise a billion dollars in one day if I wanted to. I don't want to do that." Exxon tweeted that it is "aware of the president’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO ... and just so we're all clear, it never happened." Exxon sent 41 percent of its contributions to Democrats this cycle, up from 32.6 percent in the 2016 presidential election. [Reuters]