The daily business briefing: October 28, 2020

Harold Maass
A Microsoft sign
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

1.

Stock futures drop sharply as coronavirus cases rise

U.S. stock index futures plunged early Wednesday as spiking COVID-19 cases continued to stoke fears of renewed coronavirus lockdowns and the economic fallout that would follow. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 1.6 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell by 1.3 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Average daily new U.S. coronavirus cases rose to a record 69,967 over the past week, and coronavirus-related hospitalizations were up 5 percent or more in 36 states, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. Illinois has responded by ordering Chicago to shut down indoor dining, and several European countries have imposed new lockdown restrictions as cases spike across the continent. [CNBC]

2.

Microsoft expects continued pandemic-era demand boost

Microsoft on Tuesday reported that quarterly sales rose by 12 percent to $37.2 billion, beating analysts' expectations. The software giant said it expected the pandemic-era surge in demand for cloud-computing services, videogaming, and computers to continue providing a boost for the rest of the year. Revenue in the most recent quarter from Azure, the company's cloud-computing service, was up 48 percent compared to the same period last year. "Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year," Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said. This quarter, the company expects "very strong demand" as it releases its next generation Xbox Series X gaming console into a key videogaming market, Hood said. [The Wall Street Journal]

3.

Businesses spend big on insurance in case of post-election unrest

U.S. retailers are spending heavily on insurance to avoid big losses in possible post-election unrest, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing interviews with insurers and brokers. Many stores and offices are snapping up the policies despite double-digit premium hikes. The concerns come as President Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses, and memories remain fresh of damage, fires, and looting that erupted on the fringes of the mostly peaceful protests ignited by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man. "I think it's not a question of if. It's a question of the magnitude of these violent protests," said Björn Reusswig, who heads the global and political violence coverage practice for an Allianz SE specialty insurance unit. [Reuters]

4.

Report: Taxpayers, Trump supporters billed $8.1 million by Trump businesses

U.S. taxpayers and President Trump's supporters have paid a combined $8.1 million to Trump's own businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, throughout his presidency, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing documents and public records. Trump has visited his properties around the world more than 280 times in office, bringing family, foreign leaders, and Secret Service protection with him. During a Mar-a-Lago summit with Shinzo Abe, then Japan's prime minister, Trump's aides stayed in a $2,600-per-night house, records show. When Trump met with China's Xi Jinping, the club charged the government $7,700 for Trump and Xi's dinner. White House spokesperson Judd Deere said any suggestion Trump used his office "as a way to profit off of taxpayers is an absolute disgrace and lie." [The Washington Post]

5.

Jon Stewart to host new current affairs show on Apple TV+

Apple TV+ on Tuesday announced it has signed a deal with comedian Jon Stewart for multiple seasons of a new current affairs show, which Stewart will host and executive produce through his Busboy Productions. This will be Stewart's first return to television since his departure from The Daily Show in 2015, when Trevor Noah took over as host. Stewart's new show will be a "one-hour, single-issue series" that will "explore topics that are currently part of the national conversation and his advocacy work," and each season will be accompanied by a companion podcast. Stewart told The New York Times in June he "sometimes" wishes he still had his own show, "but not the one that I had ... My efficacy for that kind of conversation has passed." [Variety, The Hollywood Reporter]