The Week in Business: The Vaccine Boost

The Week in Business: The Vaccine Boost

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Greetings from the four walls of my apartment, which I don’t plan to leave until I drive to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Forecasters are predicting a drop in travel by at least 10 percent for the holiday, but health officials hope even more people stay put. Be safe and enjoy those early Black Friday sales from your couch. — Charlotte Cowles

Markets rejoiced at the news that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidate looked extremely promising in an early analysis of its late-stage clinical trials. If its development continues apace, the vaccine could be distributed to millions of Americans as early as the end of the year. Presumably in extra-good spirits: Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, who sold $5.56 million of shares in the company on Monday, when the vaccine announcement pushed up the company’s stock price by as much as 15 percent. Sound fishy? The company said that the sale was part of a predetermined plan that Mr. Bourla made in August, which would automatically (and conveniently) trade the stock if it went above a certain price.

No matter what “wave” of the coronavirus you want to call this one, it’s by far the worst yet. To curb record-breaking infection rates, several major metropolitan areas have reimposed restrictions on gatherings and businesses. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered gyms, bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. and banned private gatherings (even outdoors) larger than 10 people. In Chicago, the mayor issued a stay-at-home advisory, and in New Mexico and Oregon, stricter lockdown rules have been put in place. The latest unemployment claims were lower than previous weeks, but that may not last as large-scale lockdowns return, clobbering already fragile businesses.

On Tuesday, the European Union made good on its threat to impose 25 percent tariffs on American goods including frozen orange juice, tomato ketchup, rum and vodka, video game consoles and exercise equipment. (All the quarantine essentials!) The action is in retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to impose levies on European planes, wine, cheese and other items last year, as part of a 16-year trade dispute over illegal airline subsidies. American officials don’t seem interested in negotiating at the moment, so the conflict probably won’t be resolved before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office in January.

Speaking of President-elect Biden, millions of conservatives migrated to alternative social media and websites like Parler, Rumble and Newsmax this past week, abandoning larger platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Their grievance: Mainstream social media has cracked down on false and misleading content about the election, specifically claims of voter fraud, which remain unproven. (On the smaller platforms, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories spread unchecked.) In Congress, many Republicans continue to complain that Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives. The chief executives of Facebook and Twitter have volunteered to testify before a Senate panel this coming week (again) about their treatment of a New York Post article that contained unverified reports about the son of Mr. Biden. And Facebook announced that it would extend its ban of political ads for at least another month.

As Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prepare to take over the White House in January, their transition team hints at how their administration will operate. Unlike President Trump, who surrounded himself with lobbyists and business executives, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are stacking their bench with academics and policy experts, many of them veterans of the Barack Obama years. So far, representation from Wall Street and the corporate world is sparse, making some banks nervous. But Mr. Biden is also said to be wary of alienating the financial industry, as the Obama administration was accused of doing.

Airlines are desperately trying to win back customers while also keeping them safe — basically the same thing, one would hope. In an effort to boost lagging traffic on lucrative routes, United Airlines will begin a program to offer rapid coronavirus testing on flights to London from Newark. Delta is continuing to block middle seats through the holidays, but other airlines (including American and United) have relaxed their capacity limits. In related news, aviation authorities in the United States could give the Boeing 737 Max clearance to fly again in the coming weeks (you know, for all those flights people are taking), after grounding the fleet for over a year because of safety concerns.

Chances of a quick stimulus package dimmed again this past week as the White House backed away from negotiations and lawmakers remained as divided as ever. Twitter became the latest company to announce that it’s investing a big chunk of money ($100 million) into promoting racial equality. Netflix, PayPal and Square have started similar initiatives over the past several months. And the first Caribbean cruise to set sail in the pandemic was cut short after five passengers tested positive for the virus.

The DealBook Summit lineup is official, and for the first time, it’s free and open to everyone. R.S.V.P. to join us on Nov. 17-18 as Andrew Ross Sorkin sits down with guests to discuss the nation’s vast economic challenges, business strategy through the Covid crisis and more.

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