Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 27, 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home becomes 1st film to bring in $1 billion in pandemic era, holiday spending jumped despite COVID surge, and more

1

'Spider-Man: No Way Home' box office haul surpasses $1 billion

Spider-Man: No Way Home continued its strong run at the box office over the weekend, becoming the first film in the pandemic era to top $1 billion in global ticket sales. The feat by the Sony-Disney co-production was all the more impressive because it came as the Omicron coronavirus variant is making many people more cautious about going to theaters instead of streaming movies at home. "Spider-Man: No Way Home's sprint to $1 billion within the context of this still pandemically challenged marketplace is nothing short of astonishing," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. "It demonstrates the power of a great movie to draw fans around the world to enjoy the shared and communal experience that only the movie theater can provide."

2

Holiday spending rose at fastest pace in 17 years

Holiday consumer spending jumped by 8.5 percent this year compared to the same period in 2020, Mastercard SpendingPulse reported Sunday. The results marked the fastest growth in 17 years but fell slightly short of the 8.8 percent gain forecast in September, before shoppers were hit with rising prices, product shortages, and a surge of coronavirus cases caused by the highly infectious new Omicron variant. The results covered Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Clothing saw the biggest jump, 47 percent, followed by jewelry and electronics at 32 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Early sales helped offset impact from rising coronavirus cases. Sales remained strong after Omicron hit just after Thanksgiving, although many shoppers shifted purchases online.

3

Stock futures edge higher after holiday weekend

U.S. stock futures were little changed early Monday after the three-day Christmas holiday weekend. Futures for the S&P 500 were up by 0.2 percent at 7 a.m. ET, after the benchmark index closed Thursday at a record high for the 68th time this year. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.1 percent, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent. Trading has been volatile over the holiday season, as concerns about economic damage from the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant disrupted the traditional so-called Santa rally. Some investors are betting the COVID-19 surge's fallout will be limited thanks to vaccines. "Everything seems to be serious but manageable," said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

4

Airlines continue to cancel flights due to COVID surge

U.S. airlines continued to cancel flights on Sunday due to surging coronavirus infections among crew members, as well as severe winter weather in some places. Commercial airlines canceled 1,001 flights, both domestic and international, departures and arrivals. It was the third straight day of a wave of cancellations that disrupted travel for thousands of Christmas fliers. There were 997 flights called off on Christmas and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve. Thousands of other departures were delayed over the holiday weekend. A White House official noted that only a "small percentage" of flights were affected, putting the nation "in a better place than last Christmas," which also came during a coronavirus surge.

5

China scraps ban on foreign ownership of passenger car manufacturers

A Chinese planning authority said Monday that Beijing would start allowing full foreign ownership of passenger car manufacturing starting Jan. 1, 2022. China's Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission released the latest list of industries excluded from foreign investment, and passenger car manufacturing wasn't on it. The change marked the latest in a series of moves China has made to ease rules on foreign ownership in its auto industry. Monday's release named 31 areas in which foreign investment remains banned or restricted. Those included rare earths, film production, and tobacco products. In some industries, including medical institutions, foreign firms have to establish joint ventures with local partners that typically hold the majority stake.

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