Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 11, 2021

Senate approves $3.5 trillion budget plan, WHO calls for $7.7 billion to help poor countries battle Delta, and more

1

Senate approves $3.5 trillion budget plan

Less than 24 hours after the Senate approved a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package, 69-30, senators adopted a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on a 50-49 party-line vote early Wednesday morning. Approval of the budget plan came after an all-night "vote-a-rama" session where senators considered a raft of non-binding amendments. "The Democratic budget will bring a generational transformation for how our economy works for average Americans," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the vote. Lawmakers will now have to write the legislation on expanding Medicare, providing free community college, paid family leave, fighting climate change, and other priorities of President Biden's agenda. Wednesday's vote unlocks the budget reconciliation process that will allow Senate Democrats to pass their package with no Republican votes, but both bills still have to pass in the House.

2

WHO says it needs $7.7 billion to help low-income countries battle Delta variant

A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday the agency needs $7.7 billion to help low-income countries battle the highly-infectious Delta variant of COVID-19. Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to WHO's director-general, said the money would fund access to vaccines, but also COVID testing, masks, and treatments such as oxygen. WHO aims to have 40 percent of the global population fully vaccinated by the end of the year; that statistic sits at roughly 16 percent right now, according to Our World Data. Some nations have yet to administer a single dose. Meanwhile, the Delta variant is wreaking havoc and sending case numbers soaring. The WHO has called for a moratorium on booster shots in wealthy nations through September to allow low-income countries to catch up.

3

Saks owner and WeWork to convert empty department stores into co-working spaces

In a bid to tap into the remote-working trend, Hudson's Bay, the owner of embattled department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue, is teaming up with co-working company WeWork to convert empty department stores into co-working spaces. The first five SaksWorks spaces will open in the New York City area before the venture expands into other cities including Los Angeles and Boston. Users will pay $299 per month, and will have access to any SaksWorks location. The work spaces will be staffed and operated by WeWork employees, and will be located inside buildings owned by Hudson's Bay, including former Saks and Lord & Taylor stores. WeWork will get a cut of the revenue and will not have to pay rent, The Wall Street Journal reports. Saks declared bankruptcy last year. Hudson's Bay is one of several firms to see a business opportunity in the growing flexi-work movement. 

4

Futures unchanged as investors await July inflation data

U.S. stock futures were steady ahead of inflation data due Wednesday morning. Investors will be looking for any indication that the Federal Reserve will begin to taper its stimulus measures aimed at helping the economy recover from the pandemic downturn. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were little changed hours before the opening bell, while those for the Nasdaq fell 0.2 percent. The Dow and S&P 500 both closed at record highs on Tuesday after the Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. 

5

China sentences Canadian to 11 years in case tied to Huawei

A court in Dandong, China, sentenced Canadian citizen Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison Wednesday on spying charges filed shortly after Canada detained well-connected Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies and daughter of its founder, awaits a key ruling on her bid to avoid extradition to the U.S. to face criminal charges tied to violating Iran sanctions. Shortly after Meng's detention, China arrested Spavor and Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig on spying charges and abruptly increased the 15-year drug smuggling sentence for a third Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, to a death sentence. Critics are calling China's court actions "hostage politics."

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