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The daily business briefing: February 27, 2020


U.S. stock futures dropped sharply early Thursday after the first U.S. coronavirus case of unknown origin was reported in Northern California, indicating possible “community spread” of the disease. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were down by 0.5 percent or more several hours before the opening bell. Also on Wednesday, President Trump sought to soothe fears of economic fallout from the outbreak, which is centered in China. Trump said the risk to Americans remains “very low,” and he said Congress should “spend whatever’s appropriate” to prevent it from spreading in the United States. He said stocks should recover from recent big losses fueled by concerns about disruptions of supply chains and transportation related to the outbreak. [CNBC]


Microsoft said Wednesday that the coronavirus in China is hurting its revenue more than “previously anticipated.” The company said the impact has been particularly severe on income from Windows licenses and Surface devices, including products made by Acer, Lenovo, and other third parties. The software giant said the problems would cause it to fall short of the $10.75 billion to $11.15 billion in revenue it had been expecting for the January to March quarter from its personal computing division, even though Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said on a Jan. 29 earnings call that the targets had already factored in “uncertainty related to the public health situation in China.” Last week, Apple warned it wouldn’t meet its quarterly guidance because the outbreak had cut iPhone production. [The Associated Press]


Walt Disney Co. shares fell by 2 percent on Wednesday after the surprise announcement that CEO Bob Iger was stepping aside, effective immediately. The sudden move prompted concerns that Iger successor Bob Chapek, head of Disney’s parks business, was being thrust into the job without enough experience in the entertainment business, which is key to the company’s success. Most analysts, however, expressed relief that the change had ended speculation about who would replace Iger and run the giant studio, which Iger expanded by acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox. [Reuters]


An employee shot and killed five people Wednesday in Milwaukee at the Moors Coors complex, one of the nation’s largest breweries. “There were five individuals who went to work today, just like everybody goes to work, and they thought they were going to go to work, finish their day and return to their families. They didn’t — and tragically they never will,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. Police said the suspected gunman, identified as a 51-year-old Milwaukee man, fatally shot himself after the attack. Investigators did not immediately say whether they had a theory about the killer’s motive. President Trump expressed condolences. “Our hearts break for them and their loved ones,” he said, adding, “it’s a terrible thing.” [USA Today, The Associated Press]


Facebook said Wednesday it was banning ads making false claims about products promising to cure or prevent coronavirus infections. The policy covers such products as face masks marketed with a 100 percent guarantee to prevent the spread of the flu-like virus. The social network said the policy covers ads seeking to create a “sense of urgency” by suggesting these the supply of these products is limited. The company said the ban took effect this week. Facebook already banned ads and posts encouraging fake cures, such as drinking bleach, and pushing conspiracy theories about the outbreak. Facebook unveiled the new rules as the number of new coronavirus cases confirmed outside China for the first time outnumbered those inside the country, where the outbreak started. [The Associated Press]

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