Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 5, 2021

Stocks plunge on the first trading day of 2021, the NYSE scraps a plan to delist 3 leading Chinese telecoms, and more

1

Stocks dive on first trading day of new year

U.S. stocks indexes plunged on Monday, the first trading day of 2021, as investors remained focused on the coronavirus pandemic in the new year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by as much as 725 points during the day before regaining some ground and closing down by 507 points, or 1.7 percent. The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell by 1.8 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 had just set records as 2020 ended after an extended late-year rally fueled partly by optimism about the rollout of the first coronavirus vaccines. Many analysts believe economic activity will pick up later this year as more of the population is vaccinated. But the escalating current wave of infections has many convinced the situation will get considerably worse before it gets better. U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Tuesday.

2

NYSE drops plan to delist 3 biggest Chinese telecoms

The New York Stock Exchange on Monday reversed its decision to delist China's three largest telecommunications companies — China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp., and China Unicom Ltd. The exchange said it made the decision after "further consultation" with regulatory authorities about a recent U.S. investment ban signed by President Trump that prohibits Americans from investing in companies owned or controlled by China's military. The trading ban was due to start on Jan. 11, and the NYSE had sent out notice that it planned to start the process of delisting the companies around New Year's Day. Shares in the three companies, which make their money in China with no significant U.S. presence, surged on the news. About 35 companies are still blacklisted, including the privately held parent companies of the three big telecommunication firms.

3

200-plus Google workers have secretly unionized

More than 200 workers at Google's parent company Alphabet have launched the Alphabet Workers Union, which The New York Times reports was "organized in secret for the better part of a year." In a Times op-ed published Monday, the union's executive chair Parul Koul and vice chair Chewy Shaw, two Google software engineers, wrote they "believe our company's structure needs to change" and that "company leaders have put profits ahead of our concerns." "Alphabet continues to crack down on those who dare to speak out, and keep workers from speaking on sensitive and publicly important topics, like antitrust and monopoly power," they wrote. Unions are rare in the tech industry. Google's director of people operations Kara Silverstein said the company will "continue engaging directly with all our employees."

4

Drugmakers hike prices on more than 500 medicines

Pharmaceutical companies have hiked the prices of more than 500 drugs at the start of 2021, Reuters reported Monday, citing an analysis by health care research firm 46brooklyn. The increases came as drug companies face decreased demand due to a drop in general doctor visits during the coronavirus pandemic. The industry also is facing Trump administration drug-price reduction rules that threaten profitability for drugmakers. Reuters initially reported last week that more than 300 drugs from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and other companies saw increases; they're included in the 500-plus drug list. The median price increase was by 4.8 percent. Nearly all price hikes were below 10 percent. Abbvie hiked the prices of about 40 drugs. One was a 7.4 percent increase on rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira, the top-selling drug in the world.

5

JPMorgan, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway end joint health-care project

JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway are ending their health-care joint venture, which they started three years ago to explore innovations to "transform health care" and reduce costs. The three companies launched Haven Health in 2018 with enough fanfare to drive down shares of major insurers, but people familiar with the matter said its goals proved too ambitious. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said Monday in a memo to employees that the three companies would continue to "collaborate less formally" while focusing on innovations that suit the needs of their own employees. "Haven worked best as an incubator of ideas, a place to pilot, test, and learn — and a way to share best practices across our companies," Dimon said.

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