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S&P 500 closes at record high for first time since pandemic began

The S&P 500 closed at a new high on Tuesday for the first time since February, before the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

Why it matters: It’s among the fastest-ever recoveries on record and comes as millions of Americans remain out of work during one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history.

  • Further coronavirus spread is expected to hamper any sign of a recovery.
  • Meanwhile, the stock market has been grinding higher amid unprecedented actions from the Federal Reserve and fiscal support from Congress, though the prospects of another stimulus package remain uncertain.

The backstory: The S&P 500 surpassed the previous record close of 3,386.15 set on Feb. 19.

  • As the coronavirus began to spread in the U.S. and states started to mandate closures, the stock market began a steep decline and eventually fell 34% to its pandemic low-point on March 23.

Between the lines: This is the shortest period of time it's taken for the S&P 500 to set a new record after a previous bull market high, per Barron's.

  • CNBC notes that it's the third-fastest rally ever when measured from the time it took for the S&P to reach a new high after its bottom.

Worth noting: The Nasdaq was the first to recover to a new record and continued to hit new highs in recent weeks, powered by high-flying tech stocks.

  • The Dow is still roughly 5% below the all-time high set in February, though it's rallied more than 50% from its low point during the stock market's sell-off in March.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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