Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 6, 2021

Biden restores Obama-era vehicle mileage standards, Moderna says its COVID booster shot works against Delta variant, and more

1

Biden restores Obama-era mileage standards

President Biden on Thursday announced that he is restoring automobile mileage standards to levels that were established under former President Barack Obama but weakened by former President Donald Trump. The White House said the new rules for 2023 vehicles would reduce annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by one-third, and save 200 billion gallons of gasoline over the life of the vehicles. Biden also signed an executive order calling for making half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. electric by 2030. The measures are part of Biden's push to sharply reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. Biden said they also were necessary to help the U.S. auto industry compete with China, which makes about 70 percent of all electric vehicle batteries.

2

Moderna says COVID booster shot produces 'robust' protection

Moderna said Thursday its COVID-19 vaccine booster shot produced a "robust" antibody response against the virulent Delta variant that is driving a coronavirus infection surge in the United States. The drugmaker released details from a trial of three vaccine booster candidates along with its second-quarter earnings report. Moderna's revenue and earnings beat analysts' expectations. Earnings came in at $6.46 per share, compared to the $5.96 Wall Street was expecting. Moderna said its two-dose vaccine remained effective through six months but eventually loses efficacy, so a "dose 3 booster will likely be necessary prior to the winter season."

3

CBO: Infrastructure deal would add $256 billion to deficit over decade

The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis Thursday estimating that the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal would increase the federal deficit by $256 billion over a decade. The CBO said the package would add $415 billion in discretionary spending over 10 years, while increasing revenues by $50 billion and cutting direct spending by $110 billion. The bipartisan group of senators who negotiated the proposed compromise with the White House says it would add $550 billion in new spending over current plans, which suggests that $294 billion of the new spending would be offset by other budget tweaks or "pay-fors." GOP critics of the plan said the analysis proved that pay-fors would not fully cover the cost. The CBO said its analysis didn't factor in the possibility that the infrastructure spending could boost the economy and increase tax revenue.

4

Decline in jobless claims meets expectations

Initial claims for unemployment benefits edged down by 14,000 to 385,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The figure matched estimates by economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The four-week average, which is seen as a more accurate indicator of hiring trends because it offsets volatility, was 394,000, slightly below where it has been since mid-May but still nearly double typical pre-pandemic levels. Continuing claims fell sharply, however, declining by 366,000 to 2.93 million. It was the first time that figure had dropped under 3 million since mid-March, 2020, just as the coronavirus slammed the United States and shut down businesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the closely watched July jobs report on Friday.

5

Stocks little changed ahead of July jobs report

U.S. stock index futures were flat early Friday ahead of the monthly federal jobs report, a crucial indicator of the strength of the labor market. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by less than 0.1 percent overnight, and Nasdaq futures were up by about 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. The S&P 500 rose by 0.6 percent to close at the latest in a string of record highs on Thursday. The Dow gained 0.8 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also rose by 0.8 percent in its fourth straight day of gains. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones on average expected job gains of 845,000 in July, although their targets ranged from 350,000 to 1.2 million in a sign of broad uncertainty about how the coronavirus surge driven by the virulent Delta variant is affecting the economy.

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