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The next coronavirus stimulus takes center stage — just as it runs dry

Big Tech was buoyed by the exact thing that prevented the dreadful GDP report from being even worse in the second quarter: the pandemic stimulus measures.

Why it matters: The stimulus is in the spotlight as its key expanded unemployment benefits provision is set to lapse despite coronavirus cases surging across the country, reimposed lockdown measures and more businesses shuttering.


What's happening: Personal income soared by a staggering 7.3% in the second quarter from the prior three months — a phenomenon that doesn't typically happen in the middle of a recession.

  • It was made possible by measures like the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits and the one-time stimulus checks, which made up for the collapse in wages.
  • Strip out government support programs and personal income fell 6.1%.

The big picture: Big Tech executives, whose companies have become a symbol for the deep divide between the soaring stock market and the downward spiraling economy, touted these stimulus measures as a reason why their businesses thrived in the second quarter.

  • What they're saying: The increase in demand for Apple products came down to a range of factors — including economic stimulus in the U.S, Apple CEO Tim Cook said during an analyst call on Thursday.

Worth noting: As the pandemic raged, these companies have come to represent a whopping 22% of the S&P 500.

  • Their combined market value jumped by $250 billion in late trading after their earnings were released, giving these companies a bigger hold on the stock market.
  • It's also a win for traders who have bet these so-far Teflon-protected companies would come out even bigger in the midst of the economic collapse caused by the pandemic.

Yes, but: Big Tech companies, along with others, are expressing concerns about what happens to the economy — and their business — after the stimulus runs dry.

  • "We don’t know what the subsequent economic stimulus will look like. And to the extent that stimulus decreases in the future and recession lingers, that could impact consumer purchasing power for advertisers in areas like e-commerce," Facebook CFO Dave Wehner said on the company's analyst call.

Driving the news: The enhanced employment benefits millions of Americans are relying on will lapse.

  • The Senate adjourned until next week, without a deal to extend the benefits (or even replace them with an alternative amount).
  • There's also little progress on negotiations so far on a broader, supplemental stimulus package.

The bottom line: Hopes for a swift economic rebound are being downgraded, with analysts paring back estimates for Q3 growth as additional stimulus hangs in limbo.

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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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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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