Thursday's economy & business stories

Jul 22, 2021 - Technology

Twitter stock spikes on record revenue growth

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter's stock was up nearly 5% in after-hours trading Thursday after the tech giant reported top- and bottom-line revenue growth. User growth also met Wall Street expectations.

Why it matters: Twitter attributed revenue growth to improvements in its products and sales execution as well as "a broad increase in advertiser demand." Twitter's ad revenue was up 87% year-over-year.

Jul 22, 2021 - Podcasts

Virgin Galactic astronaut Sirisha Bandla on science and space tourism

Space travel once unified Americans with the excitement of scientific discovery and wonderment. But the recent suborbital trips headlined by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have been much more divisive, with critics accusing the billionaires of taking pricey joyrides while the Earth below them literally burns.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with engineer and Virgin Galactic executive Sirisha Bandla, who flew alongside Branson, to better understand what space tourism could also mean for the future of science.

Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Google will add more context to search results

Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google on Thursday said it's rolling out a new feature called the "About This Result panel," which will give users more context about their search results, and help them find the most useful information.

Why it matters: The update gives everyday users much more visibility into how Google's search algorithm works.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Instant delivery startup GoPuff about to be worth $15 billion

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

GoPuff, a Philadelphia-based instant delivery platform for everyday items, is raising $1 billion in new funding at a $15 billion post-money valuation, Axios has learned from sources close to the situation.

Why it matters: This reflects surging investor interest in hyper-local delivery, as GoPuff raised money at an $8.9 billion valuation earlier this year.

Jul 22, 2021 - Health

Turquoise Health gets seed funding to dig more into hospital prices

Insurance companies pay anywhere between $22,000 and over $100,000 for a joint replacement at IU Health's University Hospital, according to Turquoise Health. Photo: IU Health

Turquoise Health has raised $5 million in a seed funding round that will expand operations at the health care price transparency startup.

Why it matters: Federal law requires hospitals to publish all of their various prices, but many hospitals don't comply or barely comply. Turquoise brings the data together and makes it easier to digest for patients, researchers and others in health care.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

The Texas two-step

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Johnson & Johnson just managed to release itself from all legal liability for distributing opioids by paying $5 billion as part of a bigger $26 billion settlement with state attorneys general. Now, per Reuters, it's looking to Texas to help it cap its liabilities with respect to distributing asbestos in its baby powder.

Why it matters: If J&J successfully attempts what's known as the Texas two-step, that would effectively allow it to declare bankruptcy just for the purposes of its talc liabilities and nothing else. The rest of the company could sail on with no further risk of talc-related lawsuits down the road.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Big investors seek impact

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's not enough to invest in sustainable businesses. Instead, asset managers sometimes have a legal responsibility to actively influence the sustainability outcomes of the businesses they invest in. That's the message of new analysis from law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Why it matters: Large investors at insurers, pension funds, and non-ESG mutual funds are understandably very conservative when it comes to changing the way in which they invest the trillions of dollars under their control. A sober 564-page presentation from a major law firm is exactly the sort of thing to help them change their ways.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 22, 2021 - Technology

Spying for dollars

Illustration: Trent Joaquin/Axios

Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group has become a pernicious version of Steve Urkel, never acknowledging the calamity that its software seems to cause. Unlike the old TGIF character, however, NSO's consequences are very real and enabled by private equity.

Driving the news: An international journalistic consortium, in partnership with Amnesty International, this week reported that a piece of NSO software, called Pegasus, was used by used by governments to spy on journalists, lawyers, human rights activists and world leaders.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Clearview AI raises $30 million in Series B funding

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Clearview AI, a New York-based provider of facial recognition tech to law enforcement, raised $30 million in Series B funding. The company is under investigation for possible privacy violations in the U.K. and Australia, and also is the subject of several class-action lawsuits.

Why it matters: Clearview AI says that new investors have asked not to be publicly identified, as they apparently lack the courage of their checkbooks. Existing backers, via a $7 million Series A round, included Peter Thiel, Kirenaga Partners, Hal Lambert and Andrew Vigneault.

Jul 22, 2021 - Sports

The business of Shohei Ohtani

Photo illustration: Trent Joaquin. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson /Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani is an MVP candidate on the field, and his new exclusive memorabilia deal with Fanatics reflects his exploding off-field value.

By the numbers: Ohtani's $6 million in annual endorsements is already tops in MLB, per Forbes, thanks to his two-way stardom and popularity in two of the world's biggest markets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S. Chamber of Commerce lays out clean energy standard plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is laying out what it wants to see in Democrats' brewing push to mandate escalating amounts of zero-carbon electricity.

Why it matters: The K Street powerhouse is closer to Republicans, but its views could influence some moderate Democrats, so that's important given Democrats' razor-thin Capitol Hill margins.

Inequality Index: Watch for volatility

The gap between the way people in different income groups experienced the U.S. economy got smaller in July, compared to the Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index's June reading.

Why it matters: The economy may be at a turning point as expanded government fiscal support tails off — so signs of increasing inequality could start to pop up in the coming months, Morning Consult chief economist John Leer tells Axios.

The 81 countries exploring central bank digital currencies

Central bank digital currency (CBDC) is probably not top of mind for most global consumers. But we may soon have no choice but to think about it — since 81 countries, representing over 90% of global GDP, are now exploring the development of one.

Why it matters: The U.S. lags much of the world. It could miss out on the opportunity to take a leadership role in an increasingly likely global transition to some form of digital currencies.

Suppliers' spiking delivery times cause concern for rising inflation

Data: IHS Markit; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

One of the more reliable predictors of inflation is the amount of time it takes for suppliers to deliver goods to businesses. And those wait times have been getting longer.

Why it matters: Inflation is rising. It’s a big concern for consumers and top of mind for the central bankers responsible for promoting price stability.

Wall Street analyst teams are still shrinking

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Wall Street's equity research isn't what it used to be. There are signs the longtime cutback in sell-side attention is getting worse. In the last five years, the number of ratings on S&P 500 companies shrank by nearly 800, or 6.5%, according to FactSet data provided to Axios.

Why it matters: The research desks haven't traditionally been direct money-makers for banks. But as they shrink, the information they provide to investors goes with it (though exactly how much value they add is a point of debate).

Water Street Tampa's newest building pushes wellness for a post-COVID workplace

A view from Thousand & One overlooking a rooftop greenhouse and garden at Heron, a residential building. Photo: Becca Meier/Axios

They're marketing Water Street Tampa's new Thousand & One as the city’s first anticipated WELL Core- and Shell-certified office building and first trophy office tower in nearly 30 years.

Why it matters: The developers hope wellness — like, actual physical and mental health — will be a giant draw in a post-COVID work culture.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Jobs of the future are catching up to jobs of the present

Expand chart
Data: Cognizant; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Postings for digitally enabled jobs of the future are recovering from a sharp dip during the pandemic, but they still lag behind postings for conventional jobs as companies desperately try to rebuild their workforces.

The big picture: The pandemic hit the labor pool hard across the board, but jobs previously poised to grow in the future lost even more ground as companies retrenched.

Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Employers are getting more desperate to fill jobs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Workers are still stalling the job search, and employers — from health care providers to trucking companies — are getting desperate.

Staggering stat: The share of job postings that use words like "hiring urgently" has spiked over 50% since the start of 2021, according to data from the jobs site Indeed.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Hong Kong's status as a financial center seems safe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Given its assault on democracy, imprisonment of publishers, and a slew of human rights violations, "stable" might not be the first word that springs to mind with respect to Hong Kong. But amid social and political turmoil, one key part of the economy has remained unfazed: its legendary financial services sector.

Why it matters: Beijing's increasing control and influence over Hong Kong is seen by many banks and investors as more of a feature than a bug. While there are certainly downsides to staying, for the time being, the upside seems to be even greater.

Biden pollster's inflation warning

President Biden toured a union training center Wednesday before his CNN town hall in Ohio. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A top party pollster and senior adviser to the Biden political team is urging Democrats to confront the problem of rising prices — which she says is starting to bite with voters.

Driving the news: Celinda Lake, who polled for the Biden presidential campaign and still advises Team Biden, told Axios that worries about inflation are coming through loud and clear in both public polls and her own focus groups.