Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 3, 2021

McDonald's, Target, Home Depot announce mask requirements, Yellen urges Congress to raise the debt ceiling, and more

1

McDonald's, Target, Home Depot announce mask requirements

McDonald's, Home Depot, and Target on Monday said they were imposing mask mandates as the virulent Delta variant drives a coronavirus surge. McDonald's and Target said their policies applied to customers and workers, vaccinated or not, in places with high coronavirus transmission rates. Home Depot imposed its requirement nationwide. McDonald's said unvaccinated employees and customers were always required to wear masks. Monday's decisions came as local and state governments reconsider mask policies following a new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling for everyone to wear masks indoors. Last week, Alphabet's Google, Uber, and Facebook said their U.S. workers would have to be vaccinated to enter their offices.

2

Yellen urges lawmakers to raise debt ceiling

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to lawmakers on Monday urging them to "protect the full faith and credit of the United States" by raising or suspending the U.S. debt ceiling. Yellen previously had asked Congress to settle the matter by Aug. 2, Monday. In the letter, Yellen notified congressional leaders that the Treasury Department had begun using "extraordinary measures" — or emergency cash conservation steps — to keep from breaching the federal borrowing limit after it went back into effect over the weekend. "As I stated in my July 23 letter, the period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to heightened uncertainty related to the economic impact of the pandemic," Yellen wrote, saying Congress should act "as soon as possible."

3

White House urges states to prevent evictions after ban expires

The White House on Monday encouraged state and local governments to do whatever they could to prevent evictions following the expiration of the federal moratorium over the weekend. Many Democrats have called on the Biden administration to renew the policy, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established last year to keep people from losing their homes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, but President Biden has said a June Supreme Court ruling prevents him from doing so. "The president has asked all of us, including the CDC, to do everything in our power, to look for every potential legal authority we can have to prevent evictions," said Gene Sperling, a White House adviser. Congress failed to pass a last-minute extension of the ban.

4

Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine sold to new media company

Reese Witherspoon's women-centric media business, Hello Sunshine, has agreed to sell itself to a new company backed by private-equity firm Blackstone and run by former Disney executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. The companies didn't reveal the terms of the deal, but The Wall Street Journal reported that it valued Hello Sunshine at about $900 million, citing people familiar with the matter. Hello Sunshine has produced successful Witherspoon TV projects, including the HBO drama Big Little Lies, as well as Little Fires Everywhere and The Morning Show. The business, which Witherspoon launched in 2016 as a joint venture with AT&T, also includes her Book Club. "I couldn't be more excited about what this means for our future," Witherspoon said in a statement.

5

Stock futures rise after Monday's decline

U.S. stock futures edged higher early Tuesday after renewed concerns about slowing economic growth dragged down the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 on Monday. Futures tied to the Dow and the S&P 500 were up by about 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, several hours before Tuesday's opening bell. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by 0.1 percent. Monday's losses came as investors expressed concerns about surging coronavirus cases due to the spread of the virulent Delta variant, with the seven-day average of daily cases reaching 72,790, higher than last summer's peak before vaccines became available. "The delta variant of the virus is now rapidly spreading in the U.S. and a modest pullback in activity can't be ruled out," Solita Marcelli, CIO Americas at UBS, said in a note.

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