Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 9, 2021

Biden calls for the government to be carbon neutral by 2050, the Senate passes resolution against Biden vaccine mandate, and more

1

Biden calls for making federal government carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday calling for making the United States government carbon neutral by 2050. The Biden administration said it planned to pursue the goal by spending billions to replace its 600,000 cars and trucks with an all-electric fleet, buy power to support cleaner energy, and make more efficient federal buildings. Biden's order aims to use the government's buying power to slash its carbon emissions by 65 percent by 2030. The government would stop buying gas-powered vehicles by 2035, and make most buildings owned or leased by the federal government carbon neutral a decade later. Left-leaning groups said Biden wasn't going far enough, while conservatives like Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said his plan would hurt states with big fossil-fuel reserves.

2

Senate approves resolution against Biden vaccine mandate for big employers

The Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for the repeal of President Biden's mandate on large businesses to require coronavirus vaccinations or regular testing for their employees. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the mandate "blatant overreach." Two Democrats — Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — voted with all the Senate's Republicans to pass the measure. It is unlikely to become law, because it faces an uphill battle to get a vote in the Democratic-controlled House, and Biden is certain to veto it if it reaches his desk. Biden said in September that he wanted the Labor Department to make businesses with 100 or more employees require vaccinations or weekly testing, and wear masks. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the rule, which was set to take effect Jan. 4.

3

4.2 million people left their jobs in October

About 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs in October as people continued to seek new opportunities in a changing pandemic-era economy, according to a report released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure marked a slight decline from the record of 4.4 million in September, which broke the previous high of 4.3 million set in August. The survey found that there were 11 million job openings in the country, just under a record set in July. "This report once again shows strong demand from employers leading to a hot labor market," Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, wrote Wednesday. "The bargaining table is tilted more toward workers than it has been in the past. … The question now is whether the Omicron variant cools down in the labor market."

4

Stock futures edge lower after 3 days of gains

U.S. stock futures fell early Thursday following three days of gains as fears of economic fallout from the Omicron coronavirus variant eased. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by about 0.3 percent at 7:30 a.m. ET. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by 0.4 percent. Stocks bounced back over the last three days from an Omicron-fueled selloff after public health officials said the new strain appeared to result in less severe COVID-19 than the still-dominant Delta variant, and Pfizer and BioNTech said that even though their two-dose coronavirus vaccine series is less effective against Omicron, fully vaccinated people who get a booster shot have significant protection. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose by 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, on Wednesday. The Nasdaq gained 0.6 percent. 

5

Amazon fined $1.28 billion in Italian antitrust case

Italy's antitrust regulator on Thursday fined Amazon $1.28 billion for allegedly abusing its market dominance by favoring third-party vendors who use its logistics services. Italy's watchdog said Amazon gave sellers that adopted its Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service benefits such as the Prime label that boosted their visibility on Amazon.it, giving them better sales than competitors that didn't use FBA. Amazon said it "strongly disagreed" with the decision and fine, one of the biggest Amazon has faced in Europe. The company said it would appeal, arguing that marketplace sellers use Amazon logistics seeking convenience and efficiency, not unfair advantage. "The proposed fine and remedies are unjustified and disproportionate," it said.

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