The daily business briefing: November 9, 2020

·4 min read

1.

A coronavirus vaccine candidate in development from Pfizer and BioNTech was found to be more than 90 percent effective against COVID-19 in a first interim analysis, the companies announced on Monday. In an analysis of 94 subjects infected with the coronavirus, the companies said that the early data "indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 percent." This was a better rate than anticipated. Pfizer previously said it could seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine candidate later in November, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said "today is a great day for science and humanity," adding, "We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks." [The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal]

2.

Four astronauts on Sunday arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for SpaceX's second crew launch next weekend. NASA has relied on Russian spacecraft to get astronauts into orbit since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The SpaceX mission marks the beginning of NASA's use of private companies to make regular crew rotations at the International Space Station. Boeing will fly its first crew next summer. This SpaceX flight will have twice as many astronauts as its first test flight earlier this year. "Make no mistake: Every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "But it's also true that we need to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station." [The Associated Press]

3.

U.S. stock futures shot higher early Monday after Pfizer and BioNtech announced that trial data suggested their COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 90 percent effective. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 4.3 percent higher two hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up by 3.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Wall Street was already on track to open the week with gains and extend last week's post-election rally. Analysts said investors were expressing relief that former Vice President Joe Biden had won enough states for a clear Electoral College victory, but Republicans appeared likely to hold onto a narrow Senate majority, setting the stage for the kind of gridlock that blocks drastic policy change that markets don't like. [CNBC]

4.

The federal government has been "swamped with reports of potential fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program," The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing government officials and public data. Congress and the Trump administration intended the program to provide small businesses with quick access to taxpayer money to help them continue to pay workers through coronavirus shutdowns. About 5.2 million companies received a total of $525 billion in loans between April 3 and Aug. 8. But tens of thousands of ineligible companies, which self-certified with little vetting by banks or the government, appear to have received loans, according to the Small Business Administration's inspector general's office. The watchdog said last month that there were "strong indicators of widespread potential abuse and fraud in the PPP." [The Wall Street Journal]

5.

Virgin Hyperloop conducted its first ride with passengers on its Las Vegas test track on Sunday. The unproven high-speed transportation system uses magnetic levitation similar to that of high-speed rail projects in Japan and Germany. It is designed to send a vehicle through a vacuum tube at speeds up to 600 miles per hour. In the test, Virgin Hyperloop's pod only got up to 100 mph on the 500-meter track. Virgin Hyperloop executives — Chief Technology Officer Josh Giegel and Director of Passenger Experience Sara Luchian — took the first ride. The company said the test marked a key milestone. Still, it will be years before the public will be able to take a ride. [CNN]

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