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The daily business briefing: January 11, 2021

1.

Amazon on Sunday removed Parler, a social media platform embraced by conservatives as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter, from its cloud hosting service, temporarily knocking the service off the internet. Amazon Web Services sent a letter to Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff on Saturday explaining that it had alerted Parler to 98 “posts that clearly encourage and incite violence,” a violation of AWS’s terms of service. Amazon’s move came shortly after Apple and Google pulled Parler from their app stores. Parler has been used by supporters of President Trump who participated in last week’s storming of the Capitol, which was aimed at overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. Parler CEO John Matze said Parler could be offline for up to a week as “we rebuild from scratch,” but that other services are “competing for our business.” [NBC News, CNN]

2.

Marriott International and Blue Cross Blue Shield said Sunday that they would temporarily stop donating to House members and senators who voted last week against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Critics have said the lawmakers’ opposition encouraged the mob that stormed the Capitol and delayed the counting of the electoral votes. Connie Kim, a spokeswoman for Marriott, said the world’s largest hotel company was suspending donations because the targeted lawmakers sought to “undermine a legitimate and fair election.” Health insurer BCBS said it was suspending the contributions because the lawmakers “voted to undermine our democracy.” JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup also said they would pause political action committee donations to both parties. [Reuters, CNBC]

3.

Stock index futures dipped early Monday, signaling a lower open after the three main U.S. indexes finished last week at record highs on vaccine optimism and anticipation of more coronavirus stimulus. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 0.6 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. Wall Street surged in the first week of the year despite concerns about Wednesday’s siege at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to get Congress to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. The Dow finished the week up by 1.6 percent. The S&P 500 posted four straight days of gains to finish the week up 1.8 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by 2.4 percent. [CNBC]

4.

The federal government is scheduled to reopen a third round of the Paycheck Protection Program this week. In the new phase of the program, the Small Business Administration will provide $284 billion in forgiveable loans intended to help small businesses continue to pay employees as the coronavirus pandemic keeps customers away. The new funding comes with revised rules intended to prevent fraud and abuse, and get the money to the most needy businesses fast. The program will start Monday at small community financial institutions, with loans to first-time borrowers. The program will extend to second-time recipients on Wednesday. The initial focus on small lenders came in response to criticism from lawmakers, who said that minority- and women-owned businesses got less money than they should have in the first two rounds, while big businesses got too much. [The Wall Street Journal]

5.

Chinese search engine Baidu announced Monday that it would partner with carmaker Geely to make electric cars. The new unit will be an independent Baidu subsidiary, with Baidu as the majority shareholder. The company will make smart electric vehicles, with Baidu contributing “intelligent driving capabilities” and Geely handling design and manufacturing. Geely, one of China’s biggest automakers, owns Volvo and has a stake in Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler. China is a booming market for electric vehicles, with support from the government. Robin Li, co-founder and chief executive of Baidu, said that with the two companies’ combined expertise, “The new partnership will pave the way for future passenger vehicles,” said Robin Li, co-founder and chief executive of Baidu. [BBC News, CNBC]

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