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Stock Markets Stay Flat as Oracle Makes a TikTok Play, Carnival Gets Cyberattacked – Motley Fool

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Tuesday morning once again showed the ambivalence among stock market investors that’s plagued Wall Street for weeks now. Even though investors are enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for some of the best growth stocks in the market, they seem less convinced about the direction of the overall economy and its impact on the average company. That’s why there are continuing disparities across major benchmarks. Just after 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 92 points to 27,753. However, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^SPX) kept its losses to a single point at 3,381, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^COMP) rose 36 points to 11,166 and pushed further into record territory.

Among individual stocks, several crosscurrents affected different industries. In the tech sector, Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) is apparently stepping up to go after a highly prized social media asset. Meanwhile Carnival (NYSE:CCL) has had to deal with the full brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout most of 2020, but its latest challenge came from a completely different quarter.

Oracle looks for new direction

Shares of Oracle climbed almost 3% Tuesday morning. Investors tried to integrate new information on the merger and acquisition front into their views of the software company, but the particular deal under consideration makes it tough to do.

Reports have come out that Oracle is talking with Chinese social media company ByteDance, which owns the popular TikTok video service. The news gives front-runner Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) some added competition, potentially throwing a wrench into the process of TikTok trying to find a buyer.

Oracle would take a different approach toward TikTok than Microsoft. Unlike other companies looking at the video service, Oracle would get almost no operational benefit from the acquisition, because its existing business doesn’t really overlap with TikTok’s. Instead, Oracle would look at TikTok purely as an investment, with a set exit strategy rather than the goal of integrating the division into the rest of its offerings.

With the clock running on an executive order that would prevent U.S. companies from doing business with a ByteDance-controlled TikTok, the pressure to get a deal done is mounting. Adding Oracle to the mix makes for an interesting new twist on the tech stock deal.

Image source: Getty Images.

Cybercriminals target the cruise ship business

Shares of Carnival were down more than 1% Tuesday morning. As if the cruise ship operator hadn’t already gone through enough given coronavirus-forced suspensions of its fleet, Carnival got the bad news that it had become the victim of a cyberattack.

Carnival revealed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had detected a ransomware attack. According to the company, hackers got access to the IT systems of one of its brands. They then encrypted a portion of vital data and downloaded some of Carnival’s data files. Although it sees no material financial impact, Carnival admitted that unauthorized access to personal data of guests and employees could lead to tort claims and regulatory penalties.

Some cruise lines under the Carnival corporate umbrella have already come close to giving up on 2020 entirely. Several countries maintain no-sail orders, while even those that don’t could still require burdensome measures to protect passengers.

A cyberattack was the last thing Carnival needed. Even as it takes steps to secure its data, Carnival desperately wants to start operating cruises again in order to bring in some much-needed revenue.

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Retail spending slows after rapid recovery – The Globe and Mail

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Shoppers wear masks at a mall on July 20, 2020 in Laval, Quebec. Of late, the retail sector has been helped on several fronts. With more stores open, Canadians have been able to satiate any pent-up demand from earlier in the pandemic.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Canadian retail sales increased by a modest 0.6 per cent in July, a sign that pent-up demand has been satisfied after blowout gains in the early weeks of reopening.

Higher sales at auto dealers and gasoline stations helped to drive July’s gain. After removing those components, retail sales fell 1.2 per cent as home-improvement and sporting-goods stores – two areas of strength during the COVID-19 pandemic – saw buying sprees fade.

Despite a slower pace of spending, further gains are expected: In a preliminary estimate, Statistics Canada said Friday that retail sales rose 1.1 per cent in August.

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“While the headline gain was a bit shy of expectations, the much bigger and more important picture is that retail and wholesale activity just carved out perfect V-shaped rebounds,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, in a client note. “And, that rebound was maintained in August,” he added, referencing Statscan’s early estimate.

Canadian retailers have experienced a quick recovery. Retail spending fell 31 per cent between February and April as stores were forced to shutter under pandemic restrictions. What followed was record month-to-month gains in May (19 per cent) and June (24 per cent) as lockdown restrictions were eased, bringing sales above prepandemic levels.

July’s increase was more like a “normal” report, Mr. Porter said.

During the month, scorching gains for many retailers began to dissipate. Sales at building supplies and gardening stores fell 11.6 per cent in July, but were still 4.7-per-cent higher than a year earlier. Sporting goods, hobby and book stores dropped 8.8 per cent, but were 11.4-per-cent higher than the previous July. Grocery sales fell for a fourth consecutive month, but remained stronger than before the outbreak.

“The increase in restaurant activity likely accounted for the noticeable dent in food store sales,” said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, in a client note.

The auto sector enjoyed a solid month. Vehicle dealers tallied a 3.5-per-cent gain in July, with used-car dealers rising 11.5 per cent. Gas stations were lifted 6.1 per cent because of higher fuel prices and more car trips.

Clothing stores continued their rebound, with sales rising 11.2 per cent to $2.5-billion in July. However, revenue was still weaker than before the pandemic.

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Of late, the retail sector has been helped on several fronts. With more stores open, Canadians have been able to satiate any pent-up demand from earlier in the pandemic. Moreover, household disposable income surged 10.8 per cent in the second quarter because of historic transfers of emergency aid from the federal government. Further, with many service industries still heavily curtailed, Canadians have shifted some spending to goods.

Still, the outlook for consumption is somewhat uncertain.

“The continued federal government income support programs and low interest rates will remain supportive for consumer spending,” said Ksenia Bushmeneva, a Toronto-Dominion Bank economist, in a research note. “However, there are also significant headwinds, such as the still-high level of unemployment, uncertainty with respect to [loan] deferral programs, and rising COVID-19 cases.”

Timelier data from Canadian banks suggest consumer spending has levelled off or even fallen in recent weeks.

By the end of August, spending was slightly lower than at the beginning of the month, according to Royal Bank of Canada data. Transactions were “relatively stable” in early September compared with a year ago, but had dipped since mid-August, the Bank of Nova Scotia found.

“Most provinces show a decline since mid-August and the recent pickup in the number of COVID-19 cases could slow the recovery further,” the Scotiabank report said.

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Moderna Plans to Produce 20 Million Doses of Its COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate in 2020 – The Motley Fool

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As the phase 3 clinical trial of Moderna‘s (NASDAQ:MRNA) COVID-19 vaccine candidate continues, the company on Friday said it expects to produce 20 million doses of it by the end of 2020.

The biotech company‘s candidate, mRNA-1273, uses messenger RNA to induce the body to create antibodies against the novel coronavirus, decreasing the chances that an inoculated person exposed to it will become infected. 

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

In August, management announced it was slowing enrollment in the late-stage study to allow for enrollment of a more diverse population, including younger people and people with other viruses, including hepatitis. 

Nevertheless, CEO Stephane Bancel still believes Moderna is on track to have gleaned enough data from the study to know by November whether or not mRNA-1273 is effective. 

The company has already signed an agreement to provide the U.S. government with up to 100 million doses of mRNA-1273 for $1.525 billion, assuming it wins approval. Similarly, Moderna has said it’s in negotiations for a deal to supply the European Union with up to 160 million doses.

In total, Moderna’s manufacturing investments have it targeting the capacity to produce up to 1 billion doses in 2021.

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Will we be wearing masks forever? Here's what experts think – Yahoo News Canada

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We’re now more than six months into the global pandemic, and it’s starting to feel like this bizarre version of normal might be here for a while. But, while many biopharmaceutical companies continue to work on making a safe and effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19, new comments from several prominent public health officials suggest that mask-wearing may be here to stay.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies that face masks may be more protective than a vaccine. “We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense,” he said. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”” data-reactid=”17″>Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies that face masks may be more protective than a vaccine. “We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense,” he said. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told Business Insider that “a combination of an effective vaccine&nbsp;and&nbsp;adherence to certain public health principles will get us to the point where we want to be, by the end of 2021.”” data-reactid=”18″>Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told Business Insider that “a combination of an effective vaccine and adherence to certain public health principles will get us to the point where we want to be, by the end of 2021.”

“I never said just the vaccine,” he continued. “You never should abandon the public health measures. And the intensity of the public health measures would depend on the level of infection in the community.” If there’s little to no spread of COVID-19 in any given community, then, Fauci says, “together with the vaccine, you might want to be able to say, ‘I can safely congregate with people.’ You may want to do it with a mask, or without a mask.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in June also found that regions in the world where people more commonly used face masks had milder COVID-19 epidemics. The authors specifically cited Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand, among other countries, as having good mask usage and lower rates.” data-reactid=”20″>Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in June also found that regions in the world where people more commonly used face masks had milder COVID-19 epidemics. The authors specifically cited Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand, among other countries, as having good mask usage and lower rates.

“These results suggest that early public interest with face mask may be an independently important factor in controlling the COVID-19 epidemic on a population scale,” the researchers wrote.

All this raises a huge question: Are face masks here to stay? Experts say they just might be.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life that he’s thought about this “a lot” lately, and there are a few reasons why he thinks masks have staying power.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“Most of us think that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a good — but not perfect — vaccine,” he says. If a COVID-19 vaccine is 70 percent effective, which is more effective than the flu vaccine has been in recent years, “that means for every 10 people vaccinated, three will remain as susceptible as they were before they were vaccinated,” Schaffner says. “That means the only way they can be protected and the only way we can protect them is to keep wearing masks,” he adds.&nbsp;&nbsp;” data-reactid=”24″>“Most of us think that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a good — but not perfect — vaccine,” he says. If a COVID-19 vaccine is 70 percent effective, which is more effective than the flu vaccine has been in recent years, “that means for every 10 people vaccinated, three will remain as susceptible as they were before they were vaccinated,” Schaffner says. “That means the only way they can be protected and the only way we can protect them is to keep wearing masks,” he adds.  

Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agrees. “A COVID-19 vaccine is likely not going to provide sterilizing immunity the way the measles vaccine does,” he tells Yahoo Life. “We’re going to still need to take protective measures for some time period, potentially until a second-generation vaccine is developed.”

Getting the population fully vaccinated once a vaccine is developed will also take some time and, with that, mask-wearing may become more ingrained in our culture, Adalja says.

Even once a vaccine is widely disseminated, it’s expected that some people won’t get it — and that could allow the virus to continue to spread. “The only logical thing is we will have to continue wearing masks and social distancing for quite some time,” Schaffner says.

Data has also shown that wearing masks could help affect the spread of other respiratory viruses, such as the flu. “In the Southern Hemisphere, there were very low flu rates this season — their winter — which have been partially attributed to the lockdowns and other measures,” Dr. David Cennimo, assistant professor of medicine-pediatrics infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. “So, why wouldn’t we keep using masks, at least in the winter?”

Cennimo says masks may be a good option in the future for high-risk settings and settings with close contact “even after COVID-19 has died down.” Masks could also help prevent the spread of the common cold, rhinoviruses and the flu “just the same” as COVID-19, since they’re transmitted similarly, he says. 

Schaffner says that masks may eventually become more common in the U.S., similarly to how they’re used in Eastern countries. “Perhaps we are moving more toward what’s happened for years in countries in the East where, during cold and flu season, many people wear masks to protect themselves and others,” he says. “Masks may simply become part of life.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”44″>For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more from Yahoo Life” data-reactid=”59″>Read more from Yahoo Life

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox?&nbsp;Sign up here&nbsp;for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.” data-reactid=”64″>Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.

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