The daily business briefing: December 5, 2023

Virgin Galactic shares fall as Branson rules out further investment, Bitcoin jumps to 19-month high, and more

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson wearing Virgin Galactic uniform
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

1. Virgin Galactic stock drops

Virgin Galactic shares plunged as much as 16% on Monday after the space tourism company's founder, British billionaire Richard Branson, told the Financial Times he didn't plan to invest any more money in the venture because it already has "sufficient funds." Virgin Galactic this year flew its first paying customers to the edge of space for a brief taste of weightlessness. But the company has laid off 20% of its staff as it works on a new generation of rocket-powered suborbital planes called Delta that is expected to debut in 2026. "Virgin Galactic has got $1 billion, or nearly," Branson told the Financial Times. "It should, I believe, have sufficient funds to do its job on its own." Financial Times, CNN

2. Bitcoin rises to 19-month high

Cryptocurrency stocks jumped on Monday as Bitcoin hit a fresh 19-month high of around $42,000. Shares of companies linked to digital currency have rallied in the last month as cooling inflation fueled optimism about possible Federal Reserve interest rate cuts. Bitcoin closed at $41,649, up 4.1%, after hitting $42,162 earlier in the day. U.S. stock futures fell early Tuesday as the main benchmark indexes' recent rally paused. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively, at 7 a.m. ET. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was down 0.7%. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell 0.1% and 0.5%, respectively, on Monday. The Nasdaq dropped 0.8%. Reuters, CNBC

3. Justices appear split on Purdue Pharma deal

The Supreme Court justices appeared split Monday on whether to uphold a Purdue Pharma bankruptcy deal that includes $6 billion from the Sackler family, which owned the company, but shields them from future lawsuits for fueling the opioid crisis. Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that participating states, which would use part of their settlement money for addiction treatment programs, and tens of thousands of families directly affected by the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin "overwhelmingly approve of this settlement." Justice Elena Kagan also questioned why the government would try "to blow up the deal" all sides support, although she asked whether the bankruptcy process should be used to shield wealthy people from lawsuits. The Justice Department argues it shouldn't. Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

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4. Business economists say recession unlikely

Most business economists believe the U.S. economy can avoid a recession next year despite high interest rates, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates from near zero to more than 5.25%, the highest level in roughly two decades, to slow the economy and bring inflation down to the central bank's 2% target. Only 24% of the 38 surveyed economists said they thought the slowdown would result in a recession. "While most respondents expect an uptick in the unemployment rate going forward, a majority anticipates that the rate will not exceed 5%,” Ellen Zentner, president of the association and chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a statement. The Associated Press

5. Swiss bank admits helping clients evade US taxes

A major Swiss bank, Banque Pictet, has admitted to conspiring with customers to hide $5.6 billion from the Internal Revenue Service and will pay $122.9 million in restitution and penalties under a deal with prosecutors, the Justice Department announced Monday. The bank had 1,637 accounts that American clients used to evade about $50.6 million in U.S. taxes between 2008 and 2014, according to the Justice Department. The U.S. has agreed not to prosecute Banque Pictet for three years, then dismiss a charge of criminal conspiracy to defraud the IRS if the bank complies with the deal's terms. The bank also agreed to cooperate in ongoing hidden-account investigations. CNBC, UPI

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