Dow Jones rises despite civil unrest; Walmart and Apple close stores over the weekend; Microsoft replaces editors with AI
the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^ DJI 0.74% ) reported very bad news on Monday, up about 0.2% at 11:40 a.m. EDT. As the US economy began to recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest in major US cities threatened to hamper that recovery.
Stocks were generally unaffected by the news, although underlying companies were hit by the protests. Shares of Apple (AAPL 2.08% ) and walmart (WMT -0.30% ) made only small moves as businesses closed some stores on Sunday due to the unrest. In news unrelated to the protest, Microsoft (MSFT 1.64% ) reportedly fired editors in its news business, with plans to use artificial intelligence to curate content.
Apple and Walmart react to protests
Many retail stores across the country were just beginning to reopen as stay-at-home measures enacted to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic were eased. Retailers now face another challenge: several days of violent protests in major US cities.
Walmart on Friday closed stores in Minneapolis, the source of the protests, and Atlanta. The retailer confirmed to CNBC that it will close hundreds more stores across the country on Sunday night as protests spread. The company planned to reopen stores that were not damaged on Monday, but it’s unclear how long those protests will last. If protests persist, further adjustments to hours of operation may be necessary to keep employees and customers safe.
Apple stores have also been affected by the protests. The tech giant only partially reopened its US store base after a full shutdown during the pandemic, but the company was forced to close some of its reopened stores on Sunday. Apple stores in Minneapolis, Brooklyn and Washington DC were vandalized and looted, according to CNBC.
The pandemic has kept people at home, dramatically reducing consumer demand for a variety of non-essential products and hurting many retailers. The recovery is now hampered by the worst civil unrest in the United States in decades.
Shares of Walmart fell about 0.1% on Monday morning, while shares of Apple managed a gain of 0.7%.
Microsoft takes a step towards replacing people with AI
Microsoft is laying off some employees, but not because of the pandemic. Business Insider reported last Friday that Microsoft was cutting about 50 journalists and editors from its Microsoft News business, with plans to replace them with artificial intelligence. Many of those who were laid off were hired to help choose stories to run on MSN.com.
For Microsoft, using AI to replace human editors could help cut costs at a time when ad revenue is under pressure due to the pandemic. The company said in a statement that the job cuts were not the result of the pandemic.
The information business is a minor part of Microsoft, and any cost savings will have no real impact on business results. Microsoft’s latest quarterly report showed that the company as a whole was holding up well despite the pandemic. Total revenue increased 15%, earnings per share jumped 23%, and total cloud revenue jumped 39%. Artificial intelligence is a common thread running through many of Microsoft’s businesses.
Microsoft shares were down 0.7% on Monday morning. The stock has nearly recovered to its 52-week high after a pandemic-related slump earlier this year.
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