Afternoon Coffee: April PMI shows 11th straight month of manufacturing growth; Hackers target coronavirus vaccine distribution; Apple, Epic Games/Fortnite go to court in antitrust case

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Economic activity in the manufacturing sector continued to grow in April, according to the latest Manufacturing ISM Report on Business numbers released today.

The April PMI number registered 60.7%, indicating an expansion in the overall US economy, according to a press release issued by the Institute for Supply Management. April’s reading was down 4 percentage points from the March reading of 64.7%.

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However, the April PMI number still counts an expansion in the overall economy for the 11th consecutive month because any reading above 50 counts as growth. The economy has continued to grow after a contraction in March, April and May 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.

"The manufacturing economy continued expansion in April,” Timothy R. Fiore, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in the press release. “Survey Committee Members reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle to meet increasing rates of demand due to coronavirus impacts limiting availability of parts and materials. Recent record-long lead times, wide-scale shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products are continuing to affect all segments of the manufacturing economy.”

Hackers target Covid vaccine cold chain distribution system

Hackers are targeting coronavirus vaccine distribution companies, according to CBS News.

Research from IBM Security showed that attackers attempted to access sensitive information about the vaccine’s “cold chain” distribution system. The phishing attack targeted 44 companies in 14 countries throughout Europe, North America, South America and Asia.

The article reported that it was unclear if the hackers were successful at breaching systems. Victims include executives at a petrochemical firm, a solar energy manufacturer, IT companies and a department at the European Commission.

"We're far from over the COVID-19 crisis, and while the US has turned the corner with its vaccination progress, many other countries continue to face significant challenges. As countries struggle to get access to vaccines, this type of adversarial activity illustrates a race for influence over the vaccine market," Nick Rossmann, IBM’s global lead for threat intelligence, told CBS News.

Apple and Epic Games go to federal court over antitrust lawsuit

Apple and Epic Games are heading to court in front of a US federal judge today over an antitrust lawsuit, according to The Guardian.

Apple removed the Fortnite game app last year after Epic tried to bypass the payment software system. Epic sued, saying that Apple takes too big of a bite of profits by pocketing upward of 30% of all revenue made on iOS apps. Apple responded by saying there are plenty of players, like Google Play or PlayStation Store, showing Apple is not a monopolist.

It has been rare for battles between big companies making it open court because the incentive to settle is large. Apple CEO Tim Cook and Epic Game CEO Tim Sweeney will testify. The trial is expected to last about three weeks, The Guardian reported.

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