The daily business briefing: April 16, 2021

Harold Maass
Pfizer doses
PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images


Stock futures little changed after Dow, S&P 500 set records

U.S. stock futures were flat early Friday, struggling for traction after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 34,000 for the first time in history. The Dow gained 305 points or 0.9 percent with a boost from strong corporate earnings and economic data. The S&P 500 rose by 1.1 percent. It also closed at a record high, its 22nd of the year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq surged by 1.3 percent, with a boost from big tech companies whose gains lifted all three of the main U.S. indexes. Investors viewed better-than-expected employment and retail sales data as signs the economy is improving with help from lower coronavirus infection numbers and a new round of stimulus checks. "Economic data is going to continue to get better and better and better as the economy opens up," said Tom Mantione, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management. [CNBC, The Wall Street Journal]


Pfizer CEO: COVID-19 vaccine booster 'likely' necessary within 12 months

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says people will "likely" need to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose within 12 months after they've been fully vaccinated, CNBC reported on Thursday. "It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," he said. Bourla also reportedly said it's possible that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 annually will be necessary. Previously, Pfizer said that an analysis of a phase 3 study found that its COVID-19 vaccine remained highly effective at least six months after the second dose. Dr. Anthony Fauci has explained it's "highly likely that it will be effective for considerably longer period of time," but "we very well may need to get booster shots to keep up the level of protection." [CNBC, Mediaite]


Jobless claims decline to another pandemic low

New applications for unemployment benefits fell to 576,000 last week, down 193,000 from the previous week's surprise surge, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. The number of initial jobless claims marked a new low since March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The previous pandemic-era low of 684,000 was set last month before a slight uptick. The most recent monthly jobs report indicated that the U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs in March, far more than expected. The unemployment rate dropped to six percent. Also on Thursday, the Commerce Department said retail sales jumped by 9.8 percent in March, the biggest monthly increase since May 2020 after many businesses reopened after early coronavirus shutdowns. [The Washington Post]


U.S. sanctions Russia over hacking, election meddling

The Biden administration announced Thursday it would expel 10 Russian diplomats and impose new sanctions against Russia for the hacking of corporations and federal agencies, and for meddling in last year's presidential election. The sanctions target six Russian companies believed to have supported the cyberattacks known as the SolarWinds breach. The U.S. also imposed sanctions on 32 individuals and entities suspected of helping the Kremlin interfere in the election with disinformation and other tactics designed to help former President Donald Trump win. The actions signaled President Biden's desire to take a harder line against Russian President Vladimir Putin than Trump took. The 10 diplomats being kicked out include suspected Russian intelligence operatives. [The Associated Press]


China posts record quarterly growth in rebound from pandemic low

China reported Friday that its economy grew by a record 18.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year in a sign of recovery from damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The growth was far above the 6.5 percent year-over-year growth in the last quarter of 2020, but slightly below the 18.5 percent forecast by Bloomberg analysts. Economists noted that the first-quarter figure was compared to a 2020 base that was extremely low because of the slump caused by the pandemic, which caused widespread business closures and travel restrictions. Compared to the last quarter of 2020, China's economy grew by 0.6 percent quarter-to-quarter, also short of forecasts by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. [CNN, South China Morning Post]