Business briefing

The daily business briefing: November 24, 2021

Biden orders oil released from strategic reserve, DOJ asks appeals court to restore vaccine rules for employers, and more

1

Biden orders oil released from strategic reserve to fight rising prices

President Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to reduce rising gasoline and heating fuel costs. The U.S. is coordinating the action with India, the United Kingdom, Japan, and China to counter OPEC+ producers' resistance to raising production. The White House said Biden was using "every tool available" to help consumers facing rising inflation and gas prices ahead of the Thanksgiving and winter holiday travel rush. The oil's release is unlikely to affect prices immediately because the barrels won't hit the market for weeks. The nationwide average price of a gallon of regular gas is about $3.40, more than 50 percent higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association. 

2

Biden administration asks appeals court to restore vaccine rules for companies

The Justice Department on Tuesday filed an emergency motion in a federal appeals court requesting the immediate revival of its coronavirus vaccine mandate for workers at big companies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration earlier this month issued a rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to make their employees get vaccinated or face weekly COVID-19 tests. OSHA estimated that the policy, which covers 84 million workers, would save the lives of more than 6,500 workers, and keep more than 250,000 out of the hospital over six months. Lower courts have temporarily blocked the mandate from taking effect Jan. 4. One said OSHA was overstepping its authority.

3

Air travel to approach pre-pandemic levels over Thanksgiving week

The number of air travelers this Thanksgiving week is expected to rise close to or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, as many Americans feel safer knowing that 200 million people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The auto club AAA is predicting that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, up nearly four million from last year despite rising gas prices. Public health officials remain concerned about widespread gatherings involving unvaccinated people as the seven-daily average of new infections has risen by nearly 30 percent in the last two weeks to an average of nearly 100,000 new cases per day. Hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Arizona are reporting troubling increases in new coronavirus patients. 

4

Stock futures struggle after 2-day tech sell-off

U.S. stock futures fell early Wednesday as Wall Street continued to struggle following two days of declines for tech shares due to rising Treasury bond yields. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by about 0.2 percent several hours before the opening bell. Nordstrom shares plunged by about 23 percent and Gap dropped by 16 percent in after-hours trading after the two retailers reported quarterly earnings that fell short of expectations. Computer hardware company HP beat expectations and raised its earnings guidance, sending its shares up by more than 7 percent overnight. On Tuesday, most tech stocks struggled, and the Nasdaq closed down by 0.5 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose by 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

5

Cleveland jury finds CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens contributed to opioid crisis

A federal jury in Cleveland on Tuesday found that CVS Health, Walmart, and Walgreens substantially contributed to opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties. The verdict against the nation's largest pharmacy chains marked the first time drug retailers were held accountable for playing a part in the decades-long opioid crisis. The trial judge will determine how much the companies should pay the counties after spring hearings. The case provided an encouraging sign for plaintiffs in thousands of other U.S. lawsuits using the same strategy of claiming that the companies involved in producing and distributing opioids contributed to a "public nuisance," an argument judges in Oklahoma and Oklahoma rejected this month.

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