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Business Highlights: Facebook vaccine claims, retailer woes

October 26, 2021 GMT

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Facebook froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last spring, as false claims about vaccine safety threatened to undermine the world’s response to COVID-19, researchers at Facebook found they could reduce vaccine misinformation by tweaking how vaccine posts show up on users’ newsfeeds. Yet despite evidence that it worked, Facebook took a full month to implement the changes at a pivotal time in the global vaccine rollout. Facebook’s own documents also reveal how comments on posts are a hotbed for anti-vaccine messages. But when another researcher suggested disabling comments on vaccine posts, that idea was ignored. Those revelations were contained in disclosures by a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower. Facebook says it has made “considerable progress” with downgrading vaccine misinformation in users’ feeds.

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‘Buy it when you see it.’ Retailers dread holiday shortages

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NEW YORK (AP) — Smaller retailers are bracing for the all-important holiday season. The global supply chain has been buffeted by a multitude of problems, from factories having to close due to COVID-19 surges, a lack of containers to ship items in, backups at ports and warehouses, and a shortage of truckers. While bigger retailers like Walmart and Target have the power to buy their own containers, use air freight and take other steps to make sure they get inventory, smaller retailers are at the mercy of their vendors, who are increasingly suspending delivery guarantees and sometimes not communicating at all.

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Google ads gain fuels profit for parent company Alphabet

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — A rebound in digital ad spending at Google continues to lift its parent company’s profit. Alphabet said Tuesday that it earned $18.94 billion in the July-September period, up 68% from a year ago. Revenue rose 41% to $65.12 billion. Results topped analyst expectations. Shares still slipped in after-market trading. Google is the world’s dominant search engine and draws the biggest chunk of the $455 billion global digital ad market. The company’s dominance has drawn scrutiny for years, and regulators in the U.S. and other countries have gone after Google over different aspects of its business.

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Twitter posts Q3 net loss due to lawsuit settlement

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) — Twitter posted a net loss Tuesday due mostly to a lawsuit settlement it paid, but its revenue rose sharply in the third quarter, boosted by solid ad sales around the globe. The San Francisco-based company said Tuesday that its net loss was $536.8 million, or 67 cents per share, in the July-September quarter. That’s down from a profit of $28.7 million, or 4 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Shares of Twitter climbed $1.29, or 2.1%, to $62.72 in after-hours trading.

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Feds: Ohio stock trader fleeced Twitter users in pump-&-dump

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NEW YORK (AP) — An Ohio trader in penny stocks has been arrested on charges alleging he repeatedly lied to over 70,000 Twitter followers to earn over $1 million illegally in what authorities are calling a new twist on an old stock manipulation game. Steven Gallagher of Maumee, Ohio, was charged Tuesday in New York federal court with securities fraud, wire fraud and market manipulation. He was arrested in Ohio. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams says Gallagher put a new spin on old-school boiler room tactics. Williams calls it a social media pump-and-dump scheme. It was not immediately clear who would represent Gallagher at an initial court appearance in Ohio.

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Visa’s profits jump as credit, debit card spending recovers

NEW YORK (AP) — Profits at payments giant Visa Inc. jumped in its most-recent quarter, driven by consumers and businesses getting back to spending on their credit and debit cards after the pandemic. The San Francisco-based company said Tuesday that it earned $3.58 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter that ended Sept. 30, or $1.65 a share. That’s was up from a profit of $2.14 billion, or 97 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Excluding one-time adjustments, Visa earned $1.62 a share, up 42% from a year earlier. According to FactSet, analysts had been expected $1.55 a share.

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Robinhood’s growth in the summer slowed as trading calmed

NEW YORK (AP) — The meteoric growth of Robinhood Markets is coming back to earth, much like its stock price. The company whose easy-to-use app has brought new generations of investors into the stock and cryptocurrency markets said Tuesday that its revenue growth slowed to 35% in the July-September quarter, down from 131% in the spring and 309% at the start of the year. The slowdown came as the company entered a traditionally slower part of the calendar for brokerages and as its customers traded less often than earlier in the year. Robinhood’s loss for the quarter was $1.32 billion or $2.06 per share.

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US consumer confidence rebounds in October after 3 declines

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence rose in October after three straight declines as the public’s anxiety about the delta variant of coronavirus appear to have abated. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to a reading of 113.8 in October, up from 109.8 in September. Consumer spending makes up about 70% of all economic activity in the U.S., so economists pay close attention to the numbers for a better idea of what’s to come for the national economy. Consumers’ view about both the present situation and future expectations also rebounded in October.

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The S&P 500 added 8.31 points, or 0.2%, to 4,574.79. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 15.73 points, or less than 0.1%, to 35,756.88. The Nasdaq gained 9.01 points, or 0.1%, to 15,235.71. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 16.56 points, or 0.7%, to 2,296.08.