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India recorded a trade surplus of $790 million in June, its first in more than 18 years, as imports dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic, which hit domestic demand for crude oil, gold and other industrial products, commerce ministry data showed on Wednesday. Merchandise imports contracted 47.59% in June to $21.11 billion from a year ago, while exports fell 12.41% to $21.91 billion, leading to a marginal trade surplus. Reuters reports that India last posted a trade surplus, of $10 million, in January 2002. For more national and world news, here’s Mint Lite.

The trials of finding a vaccine

India’s Zydus said on Wednesday that it has started human studies for its potential plasmid DNA vaccine.
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India’s Zydus said on Wednesday that it has started human studies for its potential plasmid DNA vaccine.

Days after Biocon announced an itolizumab drug to treat covid-19 patients, the Indian Council of Medical Research said there is no evidence from clinical trials that either itolizumab and tocilizumab, approved for emergency use, reduce mortality. It has also come to light that the phase 2 trials only had 31 patients. On the vaccine development front, a number of trials are making progress. Moderna said its vaccine provoked immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in an early-stage US study, pushing its shares up 15%. In Russia, all 18 volunteers in a vaccine trial were discharged after a 28-day observation period. The defence ministry said the initial phase was a “success". Shares of AstraZeneca rose 4% in London after a tweet that “positive news is coming" on initial trials of the covid-19 vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford. And India’s Zydus said on Wednesday that it has started human studies for its potential plasmid DNA vaccine.

Clusters in Brazil factories

Around the world, slaughterhouses and meatpacking companies have emerged as hotspots for covid-19 outbreaks
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Around the world, slaughterhouses and meatpacking companies have emerged as hotspots for covid-19 outbreaks

Around the world, slaughterhouses and meatpacking companies have emerged as hotspots for covid-19 outbreaks. The outbreaks, forcing closures of plants, has affected food supply in many parts. The latest is Brazil, where the labour authorities have said that meat plants spread the virus to at least three places in the country. Close to 5,000 workers at 32 plants have tested positive so far. The US, Canada, Ireland, Germany and Spain have also traced large clusters around slaughterhouses. The meat industry in most of the world is highly industrialized, unlike India where small, standalone slaughterhouses still hold sway. In the US, there were over 10,000 cases among meat plant workers and their families in May alone. The outbreaks could be attributed to a number of reasons from crowded working conditions, working in refrigerated areas that may have poor ventilation, and migrant workforces living in communal housing.

Netflix’s top 10 movies

Netflix’s top 10 movies
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Netflix’s top 10 movies

For the first time, Netflix has put out a list of its 10 most-watched original movies, which the platform has either distributed or produced. The list provides the clearest picture yet of what types of movies are most popular on Netflix, which has historically been secretive about viewership, Bloomberg reports. The top four most popular films are action movies or thrillers. Three comedies made the list, led by Murder Mystery. Netflix has released more original movies than any major Hollywood studio in recent years, drawing a number of new and established filmmakers and actors from across the world. The comany has been making movies for years, but joined the Motion Picture Association of America, the Hollywood trade group that represents movie studios, in 2019, and released more than 60 pictures.

Segways reach end of road

About A month after Mumbai police rolled down Marine Drive on Segways for 'crowd management and patrolling', the company ended production of the self-balancing personal transporters
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About A month after Mumbai police rolled down Marine Drive on Segways for 'crowd management and patrolling', the company ended production of the self-balancing personal transporters

About A month after Mumbai police rolled down Marine Drive on Segways for “crowd management and patrolling", the company ended production of the self-balancing personal transporters. Segway Ninebot, the Chinese company that bought the original US firm in 2015, announced a few weeks ago that production would end on 15 July. When it was launched in 2000, the Segway was meant to transform personal mobility—more eco-friendly than a car, faster than walking. But commuters didn’t take to it, and it appealed largely to security and police forces. In 2017, the company entered the scooter business. It sold just 140,000 Segways in 20 years, making news often for causing high-profile tumbles. Sprinter Usain Bolt was knocked off his feet by a cameraman on an out-of-control Segway, and former US President George W Bush fell off one. It also had its Bollywood moments—Akshay Kumar and Shahid Kapoor rolled onto stages on them.

Branson flies to the rescue

Richard Branson once said, 'If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline'
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Richard Branson once said, 'If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline'

Richard Branson once said, “If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline." The British billionaire’s words seem truer than ever during the pandemic, which has taken a bite out of many fortunes invested in the capital intensive, volatile aviation sector. Branson has now used $250 million of his own money to rescue Virgin Atlantic. The market values of 10 public airlines linked to magnates on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index have fallen $14 billion this year. In May, Warren Buffet unloaded stocks in four US airlines, United, Delta, American and Southwest, saying the sector had lost money for Berkshire Hathaway. From Chile to US to Brazil, investments in airlines such as LatAm, which declared bankruptcy, have hurt the rich. Recovery is a while away. IATA recently said the global airline industry is likely to report losses of $84.3 billion in 2020 with airlines in Asia-Pacific, including India, being worst hit.

Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com or tweet to @shalinimb

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