The daily business briefing: November 20, 2020

Harold Maass
Biden in Delaware
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

1.

Biden says he won't push national coronavirus shutdown

President-elect Joe Biden told reporters on Thursday he would not push a national business shutdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic once he takes office in January. Because "every region ... can be different," Biden said, "there is no circumstances in which I can see we would require a total national shutdown." He said that community spread of the virus varies too much across the country for nationwide restrictions, but that each region should implement restrictions to curb the spread. In a video conference with leaders of the National Governors Association, Biden promised to help states fight the pandemic. He also expressed concern that President Trump's administration was withholding transition resources and hampering his ability to plan quick distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. [CBS News, The Associated Press]

2.

Weekly unemployment claims rise as coronavirus surges

About 742,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, up 31,000 from the previous week as surging coronavirus cases prompted state and local officials to impose new restrictions on businesses to curb infections. Another 320,000 claims were filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig and self-employed workers. Weekly jobless claims had been trending down or remaining flat since early October, but have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 35 weeks. Now that the virus is surging in colder weather, as long predicted, economists are concerned worse days are ahead. "This is the beginning of the darkest part," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. "This could metastasize into a much more traditional recession." [The Washington Post]

3.

Stock futures edge down as coronavirus surge overshadows vaccine hopes

Stocks futures fell slightly early Friday as coronavirus cases continued to rise, reinforcing concerns about further economic damage from the pandemic. Investors also were worried about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's announcement that he would let Federal Reserve emergency lending programs expire despite calls for more coronavirus relief. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by 0.2 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the Nasdaq were essentially flat. The Dow rose by nearly 0.2 percent on Thursday. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. The gains came after two days of losses as surging coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths overshadowed positive news on potential vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech said they would apply Friday for emergency-use authorization for their vaccine. [CNBC, CNN]

4.

Facebook says it slapped warnings on 180 million pieces of content

Facebook said Thursday it had posted warnings on more than 180 million pieces of content that fact-checkers found to have inaccurate or misleading information ahead of the November presidential election. The company said that between March 1 and Election Day it removed more than 265,000 pieces of content in the United States over possible voter interference. Facebook said that when it obscures a post with a warning label, 95 percent of users that encounter the post don't click to see it. The report came several days after lawmakers on Capitol Hill questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company's handling of pre-election content. The social network also faces ongoing criticism over the prevalence of hate speech on its platform. [The Washington Post]

5.

BuzzFeed to acquire Verizon Media's HuffPost

BuzzFeed has agreed to acquire HuffPost from Verizon Media, the companies said Thursday. Under the deal, Verizon Media reportedly will make an undisclosed cash investment in BuzzFeed as part of the stock deal. The acquisition unites two digital media innovators seeking to renew growth. New-media companies were booming a few years ago, but they have struggled recently as Facebook, Google, and other online powerhouses grabbed a bigger share of digital ad dollars. BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti will run the combined company. The companies said in a joint statement that their audiences complement each other, so both publications will benefit from the tie up. [The Wall Street Journal]