Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 26, 2021

Republicans prepare $1 trillion infrastructure counteroffer, D.C. sues Amazon over price controls, and more

1

Republicans float a $1 trillion counteroffer to Biden infrastructure plan

Senate Republicans said Tuesday they were preparing a $1 trillion infrastructure counteroffer in response to President Biden's trimming of his proposal from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion. The Republicans said they would reveal the details of their new offer on Thursday. "We are anxious to have a bipartisan agreement," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead GOP negotiator. The Republicans' initial offer was $568 billion, and they had raised it by $50 billion after negotiations. Republicans reject Biden's proposal to pay for the plan by hiking corporate taxes, and want to use unspent COVID-19 relief funds instead. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to address the new offer specifically, but said the White House expects "a week of progress."

2

D.C. hits Amazon with antitrust lawsuit over price controls

The District of Columbia on Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon accusing the online retail giant of blocking sellers on its marketplace from offering lower prices elsewhere. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said the practice costs consumers. "Amazon wins because it controls pricing across the online retail-sales market, putting itself at an advantage over everyone else," Racine said on a call with reporters. "These restrictions allow Amazon to build and maintain monopoly power." Amazon denied the allegations and said sales determine its prices. "Like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively," Amazon said, adding that the lawsuit is seeking to "force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law."

3

Moderna vaccine proves 100 percent effective in ages 12 to 17

Moderna announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine was 100 percent effective two weeks after the second dose in adolescents aged 12 to 17. No fully vaccinated participants got sick. The vaccine was 93 percent effective starting 14 days after the first does. The company reported that no safety concerns emerged in the trial. The trial, which involved more than 3,700 participants, bolstered Moderna's case as it works on persuading the Food and Drug Administration to expand the use of its vaccine, currently authorized for emergency use on people 18 or older. It plans to submit the results to regulators in June. Currently only Pfizer's vaccine can be given to adolescents, so the addition of Moderna's shot would help with the push to get children vaccinated before the next school year.

4

Stock futures rise as market seeks direction

U.S. stock futures rose slightly early Wednesday after struggling for footing Tuesday and closing lower after giving back early gains. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq all were up by 0.3 percent several hours before the opening bell. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 0.2 percent on Tuesday. The Dow had risen by more than 100 points or about 0.3 percent earlier in the session. Airlines and cruise lines gained as continuing progress against the coronavirus pandemic brightened the picture for a travel industry that was devastated by the pandemic. United Airlines gained 1.5 percent after reporting that domestic leisure tickets purchased in May exceeded 2019 levels. Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean shares gained more than 3 percent.

5

CDC clears Royal Caribbean for test cruises

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday told Royal Caribbean Group it could proceed with test cruises in preparation for reopening. The cruise line now will be able to conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers late next month to see how its COVID-19 protocols work in a real-world setting. The test cruises are a required step for ships that won't guarantee most passengers and crews have received COVID-19 vaccinations before the company can offer trips for paying customers. The cruise industry has not been able to operate in the U.S., its most lucrative market, since March 2020. Before then, several ships had coronavirus outbreaks on board. Royal Caribbean is the first company to receive approval for test cruises.

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