Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 15, 2021

Pfizer says its COVID pill helps prevent severe illness, producer prices to suppliers jump by a record 9.6 percent, and more

1

Pfizer says its COVID pill effective in preventing severe illness

Pfizer said Tuesday that a study had confirmed that its coronavirus pill helps prevent severe COVID-19. The drugmaker also said the antiviral pill proved effective in laboratory studies against the new Omicron variant, which is expected to overtake the Delta variant as the dominant strain in the United States within weeks. "We are confident that, if authorized or approved, this potential treatment could be a critical tool to help quell the pandemic," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. Pfizer last month submitted preliminary data to the Food and Drug Administration, requesting authorization to distribute the pill, known as Paxlovid. The new results are expected to increase the likelihood that the pill will win approval.

2

Producer prices to suppliers jump by a record 9.6 percent

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that its producer-price index, which measures prices suppliers charge businesses, rose by 9.6 percent in November compared to a year earlier. The jump was the biggest since records began in 2010. The so-called core PPI, which excludes volatile food and fuel prices, rose by 7.7 percent, also a record. Sharply rising prices from producers show that costs remain unusually high throughout the supply chain, suggesting that consumers will face higher prices into 2022. "This is a testament to the fact that inflation continues to broaden out," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont.

3

House approves compromise bill seeking to ban imports from China's Xinjiang region

The House on Tuesday passed a bill seeking to ban imports from China's Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor and other abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority. The House passed a different version of the legislation last week, but that was rejected by the Senate. The new bill is a compromise that eliminates differences between the House and Senate versions, so it is expected to win Senate approval and head to President Biden's desk for his signature. The compromise includes a provision justifying the ban with a "rebuttable presumption" that all Xinjiang goods are made with slave labor because China has Uyghur detention camps in the region.

4

Stock futures edge down as Fed announcement looms 

U.S. stock futures continued to struggle early Wednesday ahead of a Federal Reserve decision on unwinding its recovery-boosting asset purchases to fight high inflation. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat while those of the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell Tuesday by 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq dropped by 1.1 percent. The Fed wraps up its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. With inflation at its highest level in nearly four decades, economists expect the Fed to announce that it is accelerating the tapering of the bond purchases it has used through the coronavirus pandemic to boost the economy.

5

Ex-SpaceX interns say they faced sexual harassment

A former SpaceX intern said in an online essay published on the website Lionness on Tuesday that the company is "rife with sexism." Ashley Kosak, a former intern who later became a full-time SpaceX engineer, wrote in the essay that a male intern groped her in 2017 in company housing shared by interns, and another male colleague moved his hand up her torso during a 2018 company event. Kosak, who now works for Apple after leaving SpaceX in November, said she reported the incidents right after they happened and received no response. "Given my tenuous position at the company, I felt powerless," she wrote. The New York Times reported that two other former SpaceX interns also said they faced sexual harassment and unwanted advances from other interns and more senior employees. SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment from CNBC or the Times, but has said recently it is auditing its human resources department.

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