Friday's economy & business stories

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

ABC's Biden town hall draws more viewers than NBC's Trump event

Getty Images

ABC's live town hall event with Joe Biden Thursday night drew 14.1 million viewers, surpassing the final Nielsen ratings for NBC's town hall with President Trump, which was aired across NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and drew 13.5 million viewers in the same hour.

Why it matters: The president's lively hour-long town hall, moderated by Savannah Guthrie, was expected to trounce Biden's more calm, policy-focused hour and a half town hall event moderated by ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

U.S. federal deficit soars to record $3.1 trillion in 2020

Trump and Mnuchin participate in a briefing at the White House. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The U.S. budget deficit hit a record $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, according to data released Friday by the Treasury Department.

Why it matters: The deficit — which measures the gap between what the government spends and what it brings in through taxes and other revenue streams — illustrates the massive impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the economy.

Oct 16, 2020 - Podcasts

Operation Warp Speed's Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline

Pfizer today said it won't apply for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine until late November, all but guaranteeing that the FDA won't be asked to consider approval until after the election.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership created to get a coronavirus vaccine deployed and developed.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Scoop: Uber on the hunt for strategic alternatives for Uber Elevate

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Uber is seeking strategic alternatives for its Uber Elevate business, including strategic partnerships or a partial sale, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: This reflects Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's obsession with achieving profitability, as evidenced by partial sales of Uber's money-losing freight and self-driving units. A company spokesman declined comment.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Billionaire philanthropist Robert Smith's tax fraud roils Vista Equity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Robert Smith's admission to tax fraud has done more than just cost him a whopping $140 million. It's also roiled Vista Equity Partners, the private equity firm he founded and leads, with some insiders and limited partners feeling they were misled (or left in the dark) about the extent of Smith's legal troubles.

Behind the scenes: Smith called a virtual meeting of Vista's managing directors and other top staffers on Wednesday, to discuss details of his settlement. A source says he called the overall experience "humbling" and that he regretted the "undue burden" that his actions had put on others, including some Vista colleagues.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 16, 2020 - Energy & Environment

What investors think about the future of fossil fuels

Data: BCG Center for Energy Impact; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors in the oil-and-gas industry want companies to get greener, and they're losing faith that the sector, which is underperforming broader market indices, is a good long-term bet, per a new Boston Consulting Group survey of investors.

Why it matters: The investor views come as the industry is facing its highest levels of uncertainty and environmental pressure in a long time, if ever.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: More Than A Vote targets young voters on "NBA 2K21"

Courtesy: More Than A Vote

In an attempt to reach young Black voters where they already consume media, More Than A Vote — the voting rights group led by LeBron James and other Black athletes — will debut a new series on "NBA 2KTV" today, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Instead of producing PSA-style videos and relying on traditional news networks, More Than A Vote will reach potential voters when they login to play "NBA 2K21," the latest edition of the top-selling video game franchise.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Employment gains are reversing course

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly 900,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department announced, the highest number since mid-August and the second weekly increase in a row.

What's happening: "It appears there was a widespread reversal of the downtrend in claims that has been in place for several weeks," Jefferies' money market economist Thomas Simons and chief economist Aneta Markowska wrote in a note to clients.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Oct 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Bank earnings soar again, even as their stock prices remain stagnant

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all saw trading revenue rise more than 20% in the third quarter, with Morgan Stanley's earnings report Thursday showing profits jumped 25% from a year earlier to $2.72 billion and a 16% increase in revenue, which rose to $11.7 billion.

The big picture: Even after lackluster headline earnings from Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the five biggest U.S. investment banks are on pace to rake in $100 billion in trading revenue this year.

A financial lifeline for 5G spectrum

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A company that might be at the center of 5G's future is being thrown a lifeline.

Driving the news: Ligado Networks is raising $3.85 billion in expensive new financing to stay out of bankruptcy. The spectrum company's survival could be crucial to the long sought-after, and sometimes controversial, dream of deploying a nationwide 5G network.

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Twitter changes hacked materials rules after banning N.Y. Post story

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twitter will be changing its hacked materials policy in response to the feedback it received for limiting the circulation of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden.

Why it matters: The tech giant faced swift backlash from conservatives that its actions were biased and that its enforcement of its hacked materials policy was not consistent.