The daily business briefing: August 25, 2020

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite hit the latest in a series of records on Monday as optimism about COVID-19 treatment boosted investor sentiment. The S&P 500 gained 1 percent, closing above 3,400 for the first time, and the Nasdaq, fueled by Big Tech’s ongoing tear, rose by 0.6 percent to close at an all-time high after retreating slightly from an intraday record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the only one of the three main U.S. indexes that has yet to fully erase its losses from a coronavirus-induced March nosedive, jumped by 1.4 percent to close at 28,308. Futures for all three of the indexes rose early Tuesday, suggesting the rally could continue. [MarketWatch, CNBC]

TikTok on Monday filed a legal challenge against President Trump’s executive order banning the Chinese-owned video app starting in mid-September. Trump cited national security concerns, and he called for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell its U.S. operations within 45 days or he would ban it in the United States using international emergency economic powers. TikTok says the order is “not rooted in bona fide national security concerns,” according to an excerpt of the court document the company revealed in a blog post. TikTok is in talks to sell its operations in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries to Microsoft, Twitter, or another U.S. company. TikTok said it had 91.9 million monthly active users in June, up from 26.7 million in February 2019. [The Washington Post]

Leading U.S. and Chinese trade officials on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to a Phase 1 trade deal after a phone call that marked their first formal discussion since May. The news eased concerns that the two sides might be wavering, and boosted global financial markets. China fell short of fulfilling its promise to buy more U.S. goods ahead of the call, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 15, six months after the start of the trade deal, but President Trump delayed it, saying, “I don’t want to deal with them now.” But after the call, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said that “both sides see progress and are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure the success of the agreement.” [Reuters]

Energy companies evacuated at least 281 gas and oil platforms as Tropical Storm Laura headed into the Gulf of Mexico toward the Louisiana and Texas coasts. Laura is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday. Evacuations of offshore platforms typically don’t have a large impact on gas prices, as the Gulf of Mexico accounts for only about one-fifth of U.S. oil production. Damages to refineries on land, however, can cause production to fall, pushing up prices. This year, however, gasoline demand is weak due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the system can probably handle a setback. [Weather.com, Houston Chronicle]

Iconic fast-food giant KFC announced Monday that it was dropping its longtime “finger lickin’ good” slogan for now, saying the message was inappropriate during the coronavirus crisis. “We find ourselves in a unique situation — having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” said Catherine Tan-Gillespie, global chief marketing officer for the fried-chicken restaurant chain. KFC said its menu is remaining unchanged, and it plans to bring back the 64-year-old slogan when the “time is right.” The company made the announcement as part of a marketing campaign with a self-effacing ad and a press release with the title, “AND THE WINNER OF THE AWARD FOR THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE SLOGAN FOR 2020 GOES TO … KFC.” In March, KFC pulled a commercial in the U.K. showing actors licking their fingers. [CNN, MSN]

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