The daily business briefing: November 18, 2021
Biden asks regulators to examine energy firms' role in rising gas prices, UAW workers approve contract ending John Deere strike, and more
Biden asks FTC to look at fuel companies' role in gas price surge
President Biden on Wednesday told the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether oil and gas companies are engaging in "illegal conduct" that is pushing gas prices higher during the pandemic. "The bottom line is this: gasoline prices at the pump remain high, even though oil and gas companies' costs are declining," Biden said in the letter. The national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline has risen to a seven-year high of $3.41, up $1.29 from a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association. California's average price set a record Tuesday at $4.687 per gallon. The jump in pump prices came as the price of U.S. benchmark crude oil nearly doubled over the last year.
UAW workers approve contract ending John Deere strike
United Auto Workers union members approved a contract Wednesday with Deere & Company, ending a five-week strike at the agricultural equipment maker. The workers ratified the six-year contract in a 61 percent to 39 percent vote after turning down two earlier proposals. The new deal with the company, which makes green-and-yellow John Deere tractors and other products, hikes wages and provides more generous performance pay. Chuck Browning, director of the union's agricultural equipment department, praised the workers for their "courageous willingness to strike in order to attain a better standard of living and a more secure retirement." John C. May, Deere's chairman and chief executive, said he was "pleased our highly skilled employees are back to work" at the 14 affected facilities, most of which are in Iowa and Illinois.
Amazon to stop accepting U.K. Visa cards over high fees
Amazon said Wednesday it would stop accepting Visa credit cards issued in the United Kingdom because of high fees. The change is scheduled to take effect Jan. 19. The online retail giant said high interchange fees on credit card transactions push prices up for shoppers. Every time a shopper uses a card, the retailer pays a fee to the bank that issued the card, often 2 percent or more of the transaction. Cards offering travel points or other perks often have steeper fees. "These costs should be going down over time with technological advancements," an Amazon spokesman said, "but instead they continue to stay high or even rise." Visa said it was trying to find a fix before the January deadline. "We are very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future," a Visa spokesman said.
Stock futures rise slightly after Wednesday's losses
U.S. stock index futures rose early Thursday after falling Wednesday despite better-than-expected earnings from retailers. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, at 7 a.m. ET. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by 0.6 percent. On Wednesday, the Dow fell by 0.6 percent, partly due to Visa shares' 4.7 percent decline. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq dropped by 0.3 percent. Despite the difficulties, the three main U.S. averages remained near record levels. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are within 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent of their all-time highs, while the Dow is within 1.7 percent. On Thursday, investors will be watching more retail earnings, with Macy's and Kohl's reporting before the bell.
Disney Cruise Line expands vaccine mandate to passengers 5 and up
Disney Cruise Line announced Wednesday that it would require all passengers ages 5 and up to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in January. The statement was in line with previous rules calling for all passengers who are eligible under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to be fully vaccinated before boarding. Children under 5 must have proof of a negative test 24 hours to three days before travel. The moves are among numerous steps cruise companies have taken to bounce back after being shut down early in the coronavirus pandemic. "As we set sail again, the health and safety of our Guests, Cast Members, and Crew Members is a top priority," Disney Cruise Line said in a statement.