The daily business briefing: September 4, 2020

About 881,000 Americans filed new applications for jobless benefits last week, fewer than any other week since the coronavirus crisis hit the United States in March, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists had forecast 950,000 new claims. The figure was down from 1.2 million the previous week, although the drop was largely due to a change in how the government makes seasonal adjustments to employment figures. Economists surveyed by Reuters expected the August jobs report being released Friday to show that U.S. employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, with some gains stemming from hiring for the 2020 Census. Employment would remain about 11.5 million below its level before the start of the coronavirus crisis. Many of the new hires have been people returning from furloughs. [CNBC, Reuters]

U.S. stock index futures rebounded from earlier losses Friday morning following Thursday’s plunge. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by around 0.5 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by 0.3 percent. The Dow declined by 2.8 percent on Thursday, its biggest single-day drop since June. The S&P 500 declined 3.5 percent. The Nasdaq plunged by 5 percent as the tech sector had its worst day since March. Apple fell 8 percent. Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft all closed sharply lower. “We’ve had excessive valuations in the markets lately — particularly in the tech sector — and that needed to be corrected to some degree,” said Scott Knapp, CUNA Mutual Group chief market strategist. [CNBC, CNN]

The Justice Department plans to launch an antitrust case against Google-parent Alphabet within weeks, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing five people briefed on internal DOJ discussions. Most of the roughly 40 career lawyers working on the complaint reportedly said they needed more time to put together a strong case against such a powerful technology company, but Attorney General William Barr decided on filing it quickly, telling the lawyers to wrap up their preparations by late September. Barr, a former telecom industry executive, has requested frequent updates and shown intense interest in the department’s investigation of Google, one of several tech giants that President Trump has accused of bias against him. [The New York Times]

The Trump administration, which gave ByteDance 90 days to divest its U.S. operations of TikTok, is considering banning more Chinese apps over potential security threats, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Thursday. Meadows last month said the administration was looking at whether other apps “might collect personal information and have potential national security risk.” President Trump has said Chinese technology giants including ByteDance and smartphone and networking gear maker Huawei could provide user data to the Chinese government, which the companies deny. Trump ordered a ban on ByteDance’s short-video app if it doesn’t sell U.S. operations to an American company. Oracle and a team of Microsoft and Walmart are interested, but talks have slowed since China revised technology export restrictions to cover a deal. [CNBC]

Warner Bros. shut down filming of The Batman at studios in London just days after it resumed, reportedly because star Robert Pattinson tested positive for coronavirus, according to media reports on Thursday. Warner Bros. issued a statement confirming that work had been “temporarily paused,” saying only that “a member of The Batman production” was infected with COVID-19. The decision marked the latest in a string of setbacks for a film industry struggling with production delays and theater closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Filming for The Batman began last September but was shut down in March due to the pandemic. In the film, Pattinson, 34, portrays a young Bruce Wayne early in his days as the masked DC comic-book vigilante. [The New York Times]

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