The steady march higher in Treasury yields has been drawing money out of the stock market and leading investors to question whether the massive run-up in Big Tech valuations in recent months has been excessive. Bond yields are rising as investors anticipate more stimulus from Washington, stronger economic growth and possibly a pickup in inflation.
US loosens Pfizer vaccine shipping regulations
UNDATED (AP) — U.S. regulators are allowing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped and stored at less-frigid temperatures, which should ease distribution and administration of one of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the country.
The FDA said the vaccine, which is shipped in frozen vials, now can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies.
Until now, the vaccine was required to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit — so Pfizer ships the vials in a special thermal container packed with dry ice to maintain that temperature range. That requirement meant vaccination sites had to either obtain expensive ultracold freezers, keep adding dry ice to the shipping container to keep to the correct temperature range, or administer all the doses in each shipment quickly so none spoiled.
Airbnb reports huge loss in first time out as public company
UNDATED (AP) — In Airbnb’s first financial report as a public company, the home-sharing site has posted a loss of $3.9 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020. The home-sharing business was hurt by the pandemic downturn in travel and recorded costs for becoming a public company. It’s taking a charge of $2.8 billion for stock compensation related to the IPO.
A year earlier, Airbnb lost $352 million. Revenue is down 22% from a year ago, to $859 million. Nights booked fell 39% from a year earlier.
Airbnb declined to offer a forecast for 2021 profit and revenue. Company executives said they are upbeat about a recovery, but they said the unknown pace of vaccinations makes it difficult to know how quickly people will be willing to travel.
Costco to raise starting hourly wage to $16; end hazard pay
NEW YORK (AP) — Costco will increase its starting wage to $16 an hour, surpassing most of its main competitors at a time when efforts to raise the minimum wage are gaining traction in the U.S.
Costco CEO Craig Jelinek announced the increase Thursday at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, to examine wages at major companies.
Jelinek said the starting wage for Costco employees would rise to $16 next week, up from $15 the company instituted two years ago. The starting wage scale puts Costco above competitors including Amazon, Target and Best Buy, which have $15 minimum wages. Walmart’s starting pay is $11 an hour.
TikTok owner ByteDance to pay $92M in US privacy settlement
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has agreed to pay $92 million to U.S. users who are part of a class-action lawsuit alleging that the video-sharing app collected their data in violation of a strict Illinois privacy law.
A federal class action lawsuit claimed that TikTok broke the Illinois biometric privacy law, which allows suits against companies that harvest consumer data without consent, including via facial and fingerprint scanning.
Facebook agreed to a $550 million settlement under the same law last February.
TikTok says it disagreed with the plaintiffs, but has chosen to focus on improving its service rather than contest their claims.
Boeing will pay $6.6 million to settle FAA allegations
UNDATED (AP) — Boeing is in more trouble with federal regulators. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that it imposed $5.4 million in civil penalties against the company for violating terms of a previous settlement in 2015.
Boeing has also agreed to pay $1.21 million to settle two more recent enforcement cases. In those two cases, Boeing negotiated to cut the penalties by slightly more than half.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that Boeing managers failed to put adequate priority on living up to the earlier settlement and complying with FAA regulations.
In January, the company agreed to pay $2.5 billion to avoid prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department for defrauding the FAA during development of the 737 Max, the airplane that was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing admitted that two former employees misled FAA about a key flight system implicated in the crashes.
OIL RESERVES CONTRACTS-INDICTMENT
Scheme involved $15 million in government contracts
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Federal prosecutors have accused a Louisiana man of helping steer $15 million in government contracts to a business he had a financial interest in. An indictment announced Thursday accuses 72-year-old Johnny Guillory Sr. of taking advantage of his position overseeing subcontracts for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The indictment says he created pricing and cost estimates for equipment and services then provided the non-public information to a company he had a financial relationship with.
The indictment says that between 2002 and 2016, the company received 50 contracts and more than $15 million in payments from the Department of Energy.
Guillory’s attorneys say he will plead not guilty.
CHINESE-BOX OFFICE BOOM
It’s a smash hit! Chinese seeing films on big screens again
BEIJING (AP) — The thrills and chills of the big screen are back in the world’s biggest film market.
With coronavirus well under control in China, moviegoers are heading to cinemas that are running at half capacity and require masks and registration with a tracking app. That’s smashing China’s box office records, setting a new high mark for ticket sales in February, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors.
China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for movie ticket sales last year as the American box office took a massive hit from the pandemic. Chinese theaters were able to reopen by midyear and have seen steady audience growth since then.