The daily business briefing: January 4, 2021

Harold Maass
Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
PAUL SANCYA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

1.

U.S. considers halving Moderna vaccine doses to accelerate immunizations

Moncef Slaoui, the head of the federal COVID-19 vaccine program, said Sunday that it might be possible to cut doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine by half to help speed up the immunization effort. "We know that for the Moderna vaccine giving half the dose for people between the ages of 18 to 55 — two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have — we know it induces identical immune response to the 100 microgram dose," Slaoui said. Federal officials are trying to accelerate the vaccine program after ending 2020 with far fewer doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines distributed and administered than had been projected. [CNBC]

2.

Bitcoin hits record high on cryptocurrency's 12 anniversary

Bitcoin jumped to a record high of more than $34,800 on Sunday, the 12th anniversary of the cryptocurrency network's creation. Demand for Bitcoin has driven up its price over the last year as investors bet it will continue to become a mainstream payment method. Its value quadrupled in 2020, and the price broke through the $30,000 barrier at the start of the new year less than three weeks after it first surpassed $20,000. Bitcoin got a boost from PayPal last fall when it said it would allow sales using the cryptocurrency. "The number keeps going up as the market has seemingly never been more bullish," said Paolo Ardoino, the CTO of cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex. "We see a very bright future ahead for all bitcoin holders." [The Guardian]

3.

AP: Minority-owned businesses faced long waits for PPP loans

Thousands of minority-owned small businesses waited months to receive loans under the federal government's coronavirus relief program, The Associated Press reported Sunday, citing its analysis of data released from the Paycheck Protection Program last month. The Small Business Administration approved $349 billion in loans in two weeks during the first round of the program. Many Black-owned businesses struggled to find banks willing to consider their applications. "Many of our businesses were being turned down in the first and second round of funding. That caused application fatigue and frustration," says Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chambers, a nationwide chamber of commerce. White business owners were more likely to get loans earlier. [The Associated Press]

4.

Stock futures rise ahead of 2021's 1st trading day

U.S. stock index futures rose ahead of the first trading day of 2021 on Monday, putting Wall Street on track to extend 2020's year-end rally. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Composite were up by about 0.5 percent several hours before the opening bell. The Dow gained 7.3 percent in 2020, and the S&P 500 rose by 16.3 percent. Both indexes climbed back from a more than 30-percent plunge early in the coronavirus pandemic. The tech-heavy Nasdaq surged 43.6 percent last year as investors snapped up tech stocks that gained value as Americans shifted much of their work, studying, and shopping online. Efforts by the Federal Reserve and Congress to boost the economy, along with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines, are giving the market a boost as the year begins, analysts said. [CNBC]

5.

Roku in talks to buy Quibi's short-form shows

Roku is near a deal to buy short-form video streaming service Quibi's content, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. Quibi was founded by movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and launched in April. The startup aimed to develop shows for mobile phones, with episodes less than 10 minutes long. The content featured established stars, including Anna Kendrick, Liam Hemsworth, and Sophie Turner. Under the terms being discussed by Roku and Quibi, Roku would acquire rights to Quibi's library, which includes shows such as Dummy (a series about a talking sex doll) and Murder House Flip (a mashup of home-improvement and true-crime). A deal with Quibi would boost Roku's push to offer more original content. [The Wall Street Journal]