The daily business briefing: November 25, 2020

Harold Maass
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Dow breaks 30,000 barrier with help from vaccine, transition news

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 30,000 barrier for the first time on Tuesday with boosts from positive coronavirus vaccine news and a key step forward for the transition to President-elect Joe Biden's administration. The Dow closed up by nearly 1.5 percent at 30,015, just under four years after reaching the 20,000 mark for the first time. President Trump, speaking a day after telling his administration to stop blocking the presidential transition, held a brief news conference. He spoke for less than a minute, calling the 30,000 mark a "sacred number" and congratulating "all the people within the administration that worked so hard." He closed the event without answering questions. Dow and S&P 500 futures pulled back slightly early Wednesday. [Reuters, The Washington Post]


Purdue Pharma pleads guilty in opioid deal

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges connected to its role in the opioid epidemic. The OxyContin maker formally admitted that it contributed to the crisis, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people over two decades, by failing to do enough to keep prescription drugs from being diverted to the black market, and providing misleading information to the Drug Enforcement Administration to boost its manufacturing quotas. Purdue said the plea deal, which included $8.3 billion in penalties and forfeitures, "is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value for creditors," while allowing the company to continue providing "lifesaving medicines to address the opioid crisis." [The Associated Press]


GE tells workers more aviation division job cuts coming

General Electric on Tuesday said it would cut more jobs in its jet-engine business due to the plunge in air travel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. GE's new aviation chief, John Slattery, said in an internal pre-Thanksgiving video that the unit would face staff reductions over the next 18 months. The company got rid of 25 percent of the division's 52,000 global workforce in two rounds of layoffs earlier in the year. Slattery did not say how many jobs would be cut in the next round. Revenue for GE's aviation business dropped by 32 percent in the first three quarters of 2020 because of the pandemic and the grounding of Boeing's Max jets. Slattery said the promise of a coronavirus vaccine "brings hope, but it's not coming as fast as we'd like." [The Wall Street Journal]


Trip-cancellation insurance purchases soar ahead of Thanksgiving

Americans desperate to get away for Thanksgiving after months at home rushed to buy expensive travel insurance to cover coronavirus-related cancellation risks. The insurance comparison website Squaremouth on Tuesday indicated that the number of policies for domestic holiday trips was up by 170 percent over the same period last year. About 40 percent of customers searched specifically for coronavirus coverage, making that the new top concern. More than three million travelers passed through U.S. airports over the weekend despite pleas from public health officials for people to stay home to reduce infection risk. "It's just gotten to a point I think people are tired of being stuck at home and they're looking to get away and go somewhere," said Jeremy Murchland, president of U.S. travel insurer Seven Corners. [Reuters]


ViacomCBS close to deal to sell Simon & Schuster

ViacomCBS is near a $2 billion-plus deal to sell Simon & Schuster to German media giant Bertelsmann SE, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. There is no guarantee the sale won't fall apart, but if it goes through it will create a publishing giant handling about a third of U.S. book sales. Bertelsmann's Penguin Random House is America's biggest publisher, measured by books sold, and Simon & Schuster is No. 3 behind News Corp's HarperCollins. The combined company would boast some of the world's top-selling authors, including Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Dan Brown, and John Grisham. ViacomCBS has been trying to sell Simon & Schuster since March to raise money to put into its streaming-video push. [Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal]