The daily business briefing: May 27, 2020

1.

U.S. stocks surged on Tuesday as the floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened, boosting hopes of an economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The NYSE trading floor in Manhattan had been closed for two months. Ahead of the reopening, plexiglass barriers were installed, the number of traders permitted was reduced, and safety rules were put into place, including mandatory masks. The change was mostly symbolic, because electronic trading has become increasingly important in recent years. Still, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 2.2 percent to close above 25,000 for the first time since early March. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 1.2 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. Futures for the three main U.S. indexes surged further ahead of Wednesday’s opening bell. [The Associated Press, CNBC]

2.

The coronavirus has caused the biggest drop in global energy investment in history, according to the International Energy Agency’s annual World Energy Investment report released Wednesday. Before the pandemic brought widespread business shutdowns, energy funding was expected to rise by 2 percent this year. Now it is forecast to drop by 20 percent overall. The fossil fuel industry is being hit the hardest, with investment in the oil sector predicted to plummet by 30 percent this year while coal drops by 15 percent. Funding for renewable energy sources also is expected to be down, by 10 percent. The plunge “means lost jobs and economic opportunities today, as well as lost energy supply that we might well need tomorrow once the economy recovers,” Fatih Birol, executive director at the IEA, said in a statement. [BBC News, CNBC]

3.

SpaceX prepared to launch astronauts into orbit for the first time on Wednesday. NASA and SpaceX said Tuesday that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft had passed their final pre-flight reviews and were ready for Wednesday’s scheduled launch. The spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. The launch preparations came as SpaceNews, citing an Army source, reported that the U.S. Army this month signed an agreement with SpaceX to use the company’s forthcoming Starlink broadband to test its effectiveness moving data across military networks. The Army and the private space company will work together in a three-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA. [TechCrunch, SpaceNews]

4.

Investment management firm Franklin Templeton on Tuesday fired an employee, Amy Cooper, who was shown in a viral video calling police on an African-American bird-watcher in New York City’s Central Park after he asked her to put her dog on a leash. Ms. Cooper apologized to the man, Christian Cooper (no relation), but her employer said it had decided after a review to fire her, effective immediately. “We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company tweeted. In the video, Amy Cooper approaches the man, pulling her dog by the collar, and says: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” In the call to police, she twice repeats that she is being threatened by an “African-American” man. [NPR]

5.

Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi said Wednesday that they would collaborate more closely to cut costs and bolster their damaged alliance, but the three automakers ruled out a merger. The companies were already struggling to save their alliance following the arrest and ouster of leader Carlos Ghosn before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Ghosn had pushed for Nissan and Renault to merge, stoking tensions between the Japanese and French automakers. The new plan was crafted to settle the dispute. “We don’t need a merger to be efficient,” Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said. Renault shares jumped by nearly 20 percent after the plan was announced. [Reuters]

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