The daily business briefing: April 7, 2021

Harold Maass
Gavin Newsom gives a press conference
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


California aims to fully reopen economy in June

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Tuesday that his state aimed to fully reopen its economy on June 15, saying it was time to start "planning for our lives post-pandemic." The state government plans to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions and stop using a system dividing counties into tiers based on factors like the number of new cases. Two criteria will have to be met by June 15 for this to happen, officials said: the state must have enough vaccine for all adults, and its COVID-19 hospitalization rates must be stable and low. California's mask mandate is expected to remain in place, but business will be permitted to "return to usual operations" with "common-sense public health policies in place," officials said. [Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press]


Forbes says number of billionaires soared in last year

The number of billionaires surged in the last year, rising by 660 to an unprecedented 2,755, Forbes reported Tuesday in its annual ranking. The new list included 493 people whose fortunes crossed the billion-dollar mark for the first time last year. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was at the top of the list for the fourth straight year, with an estimated fortune of $177 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was second with $151 billion. The shares of their companies made big gains in 2020. In fact, 86 percent of billionaires got richer during the coronavirus pandemic. Forbes calculates the billionaires' net worth based on stock prices and exchange rates on March 5. The billionaires on Forbes' list were worth $13.1 trillion altogether, up from $8 trillion last year. [Forbes, The Washington Post]


Oxford pauses trial of COVID-19 vaccine in children, teens

Researchers at Oxford University have paused a trial aiming to determine whether it is safe to administer the coronavirus vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca to children and teens, pending a safety review by British regulators. Several countries have limited or paused the use of the vaccine to await further information on whether it is linked to rare blood-clotting issues in a small number of adults who have received the vaccine. The trial involving more than 200 people aged 6 to 17 was started in mid-February. It has not uncovered any safety problems, an Oxford spokesman said, but researchers decided on the pause due to the broader concerns and ongoing reviews by regulators in the U.K. and European Union. [The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post]


Stock futures pause after retreating from record highs

U.S. stock index futures were flat early Wednesday after the S&P 500 retreated slightly from a record high on Tuesday. Futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the Nasdaq were up by less than 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. The three main U.S. averages fell slightly on Tuesday. "Stocks' momentum is strong, no doubt about that," said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. "But the market may be ready to take a breather as investors digest all the good news, determine how much of that is priced in, and weigh it against uncertain risks like inflation." The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its March meeting later in the day, potentially providing hints on when it might raise interest rates. [CNBC, The Wall Street Journal]


Topps to go public in deal valuing company at $1.3 billion

Trading card company Topps, also known for its Bazooka gum, is going public in a merger with Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corporation II, a special purpose acquisition company, The New York Times' DealBook newsletter reported Tuesday. The deal values the company at $1.3 billion. The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by Mudrick Capital, along with investors including Gamco and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, Topps' chairman and former Walt Disney Company CEO, acquired the company through his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million in 2007. He will stay and roll his stake into the new company. The market for trading cards and other memorabilia has heated up during the coronavirus pandemic. Topps' sales hit a record $567 million in 2020, up by 23 percent over the previous year. [The New York Times, CNBC]