The daily business briefing: August 20, 2020

Apple shares finished flat on Wednesday, but not before a brief surge that briefly made the company the first ever with a market capitalization of $2 trillion. Apple shares have gained 60 percent this year, rising to a record during the coronavirus pandemic as major technology companies benefited from the shift to online work, education, and play under lockdowns imposed to curb infections. In its third quarter, Apple reported $59.7 billion in revenue, and said despite store closures and lockdown measures, online sales had remained strong. The company has doubled in value since it became the first company to reach a market cap of $1 trillion in August 2018. This July, Apple surged ahead of Saudi Aramco to the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. [CNN, CNBC]

Federal Reserve officials expect the U.S. economy to need more support to recover from the coronavirus crisis, according to minutes from the central bank’s July 28-29 policy meeting released Wednesday. Some Fed leaders said they thought “additional accommodation could be required” to stimulate the economy as the pandemic disrupts supply chains, forces layoffs, and drags down many businesses. One move under discussion, which could provide some stability, was offering details on how long the Fed expects to keep interest rates near zero, after dropping them in March and increasing the central bank’s asset holdings from $3 trillion to $7 trillion. U.S. stock index futures fell early Thursday as investors digested the Fed expression of uncertainty, but pared the losses after China announced that U.S.-China trade talks would resume within days. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

President Trump announced Wednesday that he would call for reviving all United Nations sanctions against Iran. The demand follows the Trump administration’s failure to extend an arms embargo against Iran, and it set up a clash over policy toward Tehran. “Two years ago I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, which was a product of the Obama-Biden foreign policy failure,” Trump said, adding that the U.S. paid a great deal of money “for absolutely nothing and a short-term deal.” Trump said if he wins re-election, “Iran will come to us and they are going to be asking for a deal so quickly because they are doing very poorly.” Trump said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will present the demand to the U.N. in New York on Thursday. [The Associated Press]

Palantir Technologies Inc. is moving its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Denver, the Denver Business Journal reported Wednesday. Chief Executive Officer Alex Karp said in May that the $20 billion data-analysis software firm, which sells products that help governments track everything from immigrants to the coronavirus, was looking to get away from the “increasing intolerance and monoculture of Silicon Valley.” He told Axios in an interview on HBO that Colorado was a possible new home. Billionaire investor Peter Thiel, who co-founded the company in 2004, told The Wall Street Journal in 2013 that the Silicon Valley’s high housing costs were a problem for many startups, because they make it “almost impossible for people to take a pay cut and make a leap.” [Denver Business Journal, CNBC]

Airbnb said Wednesday that it had filed documents to start the process for an initial public offering of stock. The documents remain secret but have been submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Airbnb has not yet settled on specifics, such as the quantity or price of the shares it will offer. The vacation-rental service had previously said it would go ahead with plans for the IPO despite fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in mass cancellations on Airbnb’s platform, and hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds. Since the setbacks, The Wall Street Journal has valued Airbnb at $18 billion, down from a peak value of $31 billion in 2017. [The Verge]

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