The daily business briefing: May 4, 2021

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Harold Maass
·4 min read
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1.

Bill and Melinda Gates announced Monday that they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and long served as the software giant's CEO. He owns about 1.4 percent of the company's outstanding shares, a stake worth more than $26 billion, according to FactSet. The couple, along with Warren Buffett, co-created the Giving Pledge, which has brought together billionaires committed to giving away more than half their wealth. Bill Gates stepped away from Microsoft's board last year to focus more on the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The couple released a statement saying they "continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple." [CNBC]

2.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced a new regulation designed to sharply reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a powerful class of greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and building insulation. The rules marked a concrete step to cut emissions linked to climate change following President Biden's announcement 10 days ago that the U.S. would aim to reduce emissions by half over the next decade. The EPA's new regulation would aim to cut HFC production, import, and use by 85 percent over the next 15 years, beginning in 2022. HFCs trap heat in the atmosphere more efficiently than carbon dioxide, and the EPA estimates that the new regulation could cut the equivalent of 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2036. [NPR]

3.

The cryptocurrency surge continued Tuesday as ether, the cryptocoin linked to the ethereum blockchain, jumped to a fresh record high before pulling back sharply. Ether surpassed $3,000 for the first time on Monday, then rose as high as $3,457.64 on the bitstamp exchange before falling by about 6 percent to $3,244. The cryptocurrency was still up by about 340 percent in 2021 thanks to a boost from enthusiasm for bitcoin, which has skyrocketed as investors, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, buy it, and it gains acceptance as a form of payment. The frenzy has driven up joke cryptocurrency dogecoin by 9,000 percent this year. "What we're seeing right now is the definition of speculative excess," said IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda. "There's money being thrown at anything in the crypto space." [Reuters]

4.

U.S. stock futures edged down early Tuesday after Wall Street got off to a strong start Monday in the first day of trading in May. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those tied to the S&P 500 fell by 0.2 percent. Nasdaq futures were down by 0.4 percent. The Dow gained more than 200 points, or 0.7 percent, on Monday, and the S&P 500 rose by 0.3 percent on gains for companies standing to benefit the most from an economic reopening as coronavirus cases fall and states continue to relax as more people get COVID-19 vaccinations. [CNBC]

5.

Group of Seven foreign ministers are gathering Tuesday in London to discuss threats to democracy and global prosperity in their first in-person meeting in more than two years. Host country Britain's foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said the discussions by leaders of the world's wealthy industrialized nations are "an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats." The top diplomats from the U.K., the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan will hold two days of talks scheduled to cover everything from the coup in Myanmar to the situation in Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO troops withdraw. G-7 ministers also will focus on finding a way to make COVID-19 vaccines more broadly available around the world. [The Associated Press]

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