Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 2, 2021

The Biden administration tightens COVID testing for international travelers, MLB owners vote to lock out players, and more

1

U.S. tightens COVID testing for international travelers

The United States is tightening travel rules to slow the potential spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, Biden administration officials said Thursday. Travelers, including fully vaccinated citizens, will have to show a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure on a flight to the U.S. Previously, vaccinated people had to show a negative test within 72 hours of travel, while unvaccinated passengers had to show proof of a negative test in the last 24 hours. The government also is extending the requirement for passengers to wear masks on domestic flights and public transportation through March 18. The requirements are part of a broad effort to fight a potential new wave of infections as the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year.

2

MLB owners vote to lock out players 

Major League Baseball's 30 controlling owners voted unanimously Wednesday night to lock out players as collective bargaining talks with the players' union stalled before a midnight deadline. The move, which threatens next season's spring training and opening day, is MLB's ninth work stoppage and the first since an infamous strike that spanned the 1994 and 1995 seasons. The MLB owners and Major League Baseball Players Association met in Texas this week to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, but the talks — ongoing since the spring — did not go well. Wednesday's meeting lasted less than 10 minutes. The union demanded change following anger over such issues as a declining average salary and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid young players.

3

Conservatives push to block funding bill over COVID mandates as shutdown looms

The threat of a government shutdown increased this week as conservative Republicans pushed party leaders to block a funding bill over President Biden's vaccine and testing mandates. "We're opposed to the mandate," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Democrats and many Republicans had hoped that talks were headed toward a deal to keep the government funded when the current spending measure expires Friday. Lawmakers were working toward a new stopgap bill that would keep federal agencies financed until late January or later. "We won't shut down," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. But on Wednesday an increasing number of conservatives, including the House Freedom Caucus, urged McConnell to "deny timely passage" of any deal that includes funding of vaccine and testing mandates.

4

Stock futures rise after Omicron case sparks sell-off

U.S. stock futures rose early Thursday after diving Wednesday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States. Futures tied to the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, early Thursday. Nasdaq futures were up by 0.4 percent. The three main indexes started Wednesday with strong gains but began losing ground as investors digested Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's remarks on the likelihood that the central bank will taper its economy-boosting bond purchases sooner than previously planned to counter high inflation. The sell-off accelerated after news of the Omicron case, which was detected in California.

5

Susan Arnold to become Disney chair when Bob Iger leaves Dec. 31

Walt Disney Co. announced Wednesday that Susan Arnold, a former Carlyle Group and Proctor & Gamble executive, will take over as chair of the entertainment giant's board of directors when Bob Iger leaves the post on Dec. 31. The company said in a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission that Iger, who has held a senior role at the company since 1996, informed the board Wednesday that he would step down as chair as he leaves his role as CEO at the end of the year. Arnold has served on Disney's board for 14 years. "Having most recently served as independent lead director, Susan is the perfect choice for chairman of the board, and I am confident the company is well-positioned for continued success under her guidance and leadership," Iger said in a statement.

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