Bloomberg Businessweek-Europe Edition April 26, 2021

Each issue of Businessweek features in-depth perspectives on the financial markets, industries, trends, technology and people guiding the economy. Draw upon Businessweek's timely incisive analysis to help you make better decisions about your career, your business, and your personal investments.

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2 min
in brief

Global coronavirus cases have passed 143 million, and deaths are approaching 3.1m Meanwhile, countries have administered almost 1 billion vaccine doses. India is now seeing more than 200,000 new infections daily; in total cases, it’s now the world’s second-worst-hit country, behind the U.S. “A giant step forward in the march toward justice.” President Joe Biden commenting on the Chauvin verdict. People celebrated in Minneapolis after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on April 20 for killing George Floyd last May. Two people were killed when a self-driving Tesla Model S smashed into a tree near Houston on April 17. Local police said the occupants were found in the front passenger and rear seats. Tesla said its Autopilot system requires active supervision and isn’t a substitute for drivers. Palladium…

3 min
student loan relief should be targeted to those most in need

Up to now, President Joe Biden has resisted calls from the left flank of his party to cancel as much as $50,000 of student loans for most borrowers. But the pressure from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, other leading progressives, and more recently from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, isn’t letting up. The president might be tempted to waver. He shouldn’t. Debt forgiveness on that scale would be very expensive, even by current standards of fiscal liberality. More important, the cost can’t be justified. This kind of relief would mainly help people who don’t need it, and there are better ways of assisting those who do. By one estimate, the cost of Warren-style debt forgiveness would be roughly $1 trillion—on top of the $5 trillion Congress has already provided for pandemic…

1 min
tech’s big week

OPEC+ meets to discuss oil production levels on April 28. Members must strike a balance between raising output and holding back as some economies struggle to rebound. The Bank of Japan sets its key rate on April 27. Officials see a strong recovery in the U.S. and China as a boon for Japan’s export-reliant economy, supporting Japan’s growth targets. President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, right before his 100th day in office, at the invitation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The U.S. releases initial GDP data for the first quarter on April 29. A rapid vaccination campaign has helped breathe life back into the economy as consumers go out again. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holds its annual shareholders meeting on May 1. The event,…

6 min
covid variants may slow the world’s march to normalcy

Long before herd immunity became humanity’s shared obsession, the phrase referred to sick cows. More than a century ago, veterinarians observed that outbreaks of a highly contagious bacterial infection menacing cattle died down once they’d burned through a certain percentage of a herd, so long as new animals weren’t introduced. Soon the concept was extended to a variety of human outbreaks, where it became a staple of epidemiology. Since the beginning of the pandemic, exactly when the U.S. might reach herd immunity for Covid-19 has been furiously debated in congressional hearings, on TV shows, and among the many armchair epidemiologists on Twitter. In the popular imagination, the phrase has become shorthand for the end of the pandemic—a finish line that will suddenly cause the virus to subside and allow maskless normalcy…

7 min
can aluminum really go green?

As David DeYoung, then a director of business technologies at Alcoa, walked into Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters in September 2015, he knew that the stakes were high. DeYoung led a group of engineers who’d spent decades pursuing the holy grail for the notoriously dirty aluminum industry: a way to smelt the metal without producing any direct carbon emissions. Apple Inc., which Harbor Intelligence analyst Jorge Vazquez estimates uses almost 15,000 metric tons of aluminum annually for its electronics gear, had invited DeYoung to explain a potentially revolutionary carbonless manufacturing process for aluminum that his group was developing. Alcoa Inc. was on the verge of ending the DeYoung team’s yearslong search. To make the tension even worse, moments before DeYoung stepped into a roundtable with Apple engineers, he received word Alcoa was…

5 min
costco’s health-care helper

Large American retailers have long viewed health care as a potentially lucrative avenue to expand their businesses. Inc. introduced an online pharmacy last year while Walmart Inc. is expanding its in-store clinics. Costco Wholesale Corp. is taking a different road to health-care riches: helping make prescription drug prices less opaque for employers that spend billions of dollars a year on them. The company best known for its cavernous warehouse stores, where it sells everything from TVs to pallets of paper towels, has become partners with Navitus Health Solutions LLC, a small pharmacy benefit manager based in Madison, Wis., on a strategy that could rewrite the complicated play-book for running prescription plans. Pharmacy benefit managers, better known as PBMs, traditionally make money by pocketing a portion of the rebates and discounts they…