Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 8, 2021

Yellen says those making $60,000 should get full stimulus checks, South Africa pauses use of AstraZeneca vaccine, and more

1

Yellen says those earning up to $60,000 should get full stimulus checks

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that individuals earning up to $60,000 should receive the $1,400 checks proposed in President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. "The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle class families need help," Yellen said on CNN's State of the Union. The White House has said that Biden won't budge on sending families another round of stimulus checks, but he is willing to negotiate on where the income cutoff should be to determine who's eligible. "He wouldn't want to see a household making over $300,000 receive these payments," Yellen said. She added that if Congress approves Biden's plan the U.S. will return to full employment in 2022.

2

South Africa pauses AstraZeneca vaccine drive

South Africa on Sunday halted use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine. The decision came after clinical-trial data indicated that the vaccine did not prevent mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients infected with a highly contagious virus variant first detected in South Africa. Pfizer and Moderna have said that preliminary studies suggested their vaccines were less effective against the variant, B.1.351. Novavax and Johnson & Johnson vaccines also appeared less effective with clinical trial participants in South Africa than in the United States. "These results are very much a reality check," said Shabir Madhi, a virologist at University of the Witwatersrand who ran the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trial in South Africa.

3

SoftBank reports $11 billion quarterly profit

SoftBank Group Corp. on Monday reported a quarterly profit of $11 billion thanks largely to its $100 billion Vision Fund and its $10 billion successor. The Japanese technology investor said the two funds accounted for nearly 80 percent of its investment gains. "We've finally entered the harvest phase" for the Vision Fund, SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said at a Tokyo news conference. Anticipations of a strong quarter fueled by booming stock markets drove up SoftBank's stock price by 4.4 percent on Monday, returning it to a level it last reached in February 2000 when the shares peaked during the internet bubble. The two Vision funds have invested in 131 companies, including DoorDash. SoftBank invested about $680 million in the restaurant-food delivery service. The stake now is worth $9 billion.

4

U.S. stocks poised to extend last week's gains

U.S. stock index futures gained early Monday following Wall Street's best week since November. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq were up by 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 rose by 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 finished the week at a record high on Friday after five straight days of gains. The Nasdaq also closed at a record high after rising four days out of five. "We are still very much in a bull market at the early stages of an economic recovery that's gaining momentum," Michael Wilson, chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a Sunday note to clients. "We continue to recommend stocks with the most upside to an improving economic backdrop as the vaccines are distributed and normal activities resume."

5

Amazon, Cadillac among winners in Super Bowl ad war

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' dominance over the Kansas City Chiefs was undeniable on Sunday, but the annual ranking of the Super Bowl TV ads was not quite as clear. Many reviewers picked Amazon's commercial featuring Michael B. Jordan playing a "beautiful vessel" for Amazon's Alexa. Jordan's eyes flash blue and he responds in a seductive voice to the woman's questions, making her swoon with phrases like, "There are 16 tablespoons in a cup." Another hit was Cadillac's update of Edward Scissorhands, with Timothée Chalamet playing Edgar, the son of Edward Scissorhands, in a pitch for Cadillac's new Lyriq car. Anheuser-Busch showed pre-pandemic scenes of people sharing a beer with the message: "So when we're back, let's remember, it's never just about the beer. It's about saying that simple human truth, we need each other."

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