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Today in business news: ICYMI Richard Branson went to space; many homebuyers are dropping out of the market; and US stocks hit new all-time highs. Let’s get into it.
It was a big weekend for England. At Wimbledon, pasty crowds watched Novak Djokovic win his 20th Grand Slam title. At Wembley Stadium, long-suffering fans of England’s men’s football team continued to, well, suffer. But before all of that, one of England’s own made history.
Here’s a quick recap ICYMI:
- Before dawn Sunday in New Mexico, Branson — along with three employees and two pilots — boarded the SpaceShipTwo, a winged plane with a single rocket motor.
- Attached to the mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, the crew took off at 8:30 am Mountain Time and climbed to about 50,000 feet.
- Just after 9:15 am, the SpaceShipTwo detached, and its engine roared to life. On board, the passengers experienced up to three Gs of force from the acceleration. Blue skies faded to darkness as they entered outer space.
- Fifty miles above Earth, the vehicle was suspended in weightlessness for a few minutes before the plane flipped onto its belly and began its descent.
WHY IT MATTERS
The flight is a landmark moment for the commercial space industry, which for years has been aiming to make suborbital space tourism (a relatively simple up-and-down flight, as opposed to orbiting the planet) a viable business.
Virgin Galactic plans to conduct just one more test flight before it will begin flying paying customers. More than 600 people have reserved tickets priced at $200,000 to $250,000 so far. Affordable? Not exactly. But it’s a start.
This moment is one in which I, a journalist who peddles pith and snark daily, have to let a little internal battle play out. Because of course this whole event was a massive, multibillion-dollar publicity stunt. Of course.
Was it also a deeply misguided use of millions of dollars by an entrepreneur with Peter Pan syndrome? Without a doubt. Is the “race” with Jeff Bezos an ultimately meaningless narrative that feeds the hype machine? You bet.
But also: Flying really far, really fast, is cool. It just is! We can let ourselves feel that tingle of excitement at the possibility of space travel without losing sight of our more pressing terrestrial problems. We can cheer and pop champagne bottles for the billionaire space cowboys and also press them to do more for the urgent needs of mankind.
NUMBER OF THE DAY
Anyone trying to buy a home right now — especially if it’s your first home — is almost certainly frustrated. Even if you’re flush with cash, that may not be enough to compete in this market. So, many people are simply dropping out. Just 32% of consumers believe it’s a good time to buy a home, according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index for June. That’s a record low.
The old “sell in May and go away” adage seems to have fallen out of fashion. Rather than take a summer holiday, Wall Street is notching back-to-back highs.
For today’s new record, we can thank, in part, Scarlett Johansson. Disney was the best performer in the Dow on Monday, rising 3% on strong box office numbers and streaming revenue for Marvel’s “Black Widow” — now the most successful hit of the pandemic era.
The other stocks pushing the Dow up: Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, both of which are expected to post quarterly results on Tuesday.
The rest of the week is shaping up to be a busy one. Consumer price data for June comes out Tuesday morning, giving us clues about how much of a threat inflation really is. And there’s a smorgasbord of earnings too: Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley are all set to release their latest results. Ditto Delta, Pepsi and UnitedHealth.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
- Love in the time of Covid: Engagement ring and wedding band sales are booming.
- Microsoft is buying cybersecurity firm RiskIQ to help companies better protect themselves as ransomware and other cyberattacks become increasingly disruptive.
- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is scrapping plans to buy Dominion Energy, a big natural gas pipeline, for more than $1.7 billion because of antitrust concerns.
- The wealthy Rothermere family behind the Daily Mail is considering taking the tabloid newspaper private, further concentrating UK media ownership in the hands of a few rich men.
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