Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 24, 2022

Global stocks fall as Ukraine crisis looms, food shortages to continue as workers call in sick during Omicron wave, and more

1

Global stocks fall as Russia invasion threat looms in Ukraine

Stocks fell around the world on Monday as concern about a possible Russian invasion in Ukraine steered investors away from riskier assets. The State Department over the weekend told families of embassy personnel to leave Ukraine, and The New York Times reported that President Biden is considering sending up to 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe, as Britain warns Moscow is plotting to install a pro-Russia regime in Ukraine. The Euro STOXX fell 1.3 percent, hitting its lowest point since Dec. 20. Indexes in London, Paris, and Frankfurt were down by about 1 percent, with tech stocks leading losses. Stock futures in the U.S. were slightly lower early Monday following the S&P 500's worst week since March 2020.

2

Food shortages could last weeks as workers call in sick due to Omicron

Food shortages in many supermarkets could persist for weeks as record numbers of workers at processing plants and grocery stores call in sick due to the wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. In Arizona, for example, one produce company had 10 percent of its processing plant and distribution employees out sick recently. Food-industry experts said the crunch could continue for weeks or months, even if the number of new cases falls nationwide. Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 lockdowns prompted panic buying that resulted in shortages of meats, baking supplies, and paper goods, including toilet paper. But the shortages in the latest wave have been broader, as the lack of workers creates even more supply problems.

3

Cruise ship diverts from Miami after judge approves vessel's seizure

A cruise ship, Crystal Symphony, changed course over the weekend and sailed to the Bahamas instead of docking in Miami after a U.S. judge granted a request to have the vessel seized over $4 million in unpaid fuel. "We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!" passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook. Some passengers were sent by ferry to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday. The cruise ship can carry 848 passengers but it was not immediately clear how many were on board. About 400 crew members don't know when they will get off the ship, or whether they remain employed, said Elio Pace, a musician who has toured on the Crystal Symphony. "This is about people and their jobs," Pace said. 

4

Activist investor pushes for Peloton CEO to go

Activist investor Blackwells Capital is pushing exercise equipment maker Peloton to fire its CEO and consider selling itself following a sharp drop in its stock price, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. Peloton shares soared earlier in the pandemic as people started exercising more at home and demand spiked for Peloton's stationary bikes and treadmills with livestreamed workouts. But the stock fell by 24 percent last week after a report it was pausing production due to falling demand. The shares have plunged by 84 percent in the last year as gyms reopened. Blackwells, which has a stake of less than five percent in Peloton, blames Peloton co-founder and CEO John Foley, and says the company would make a good acquisition for a larger tech or fitness company. Peloton declined to comment on the reports about Blackwells' plans.

5

French 'vaccine pass' rule takes effect

France on Monday started enforcing a new law requiring people to show a COVID-19 "vaccine pass" to enter restaurants, bars, tourist sites, and sports venues. The rule exempts those who recently recovered from the virus. It is a key part of the French government's strategy for curbing infections during an unprecedented COVID-19 wave driven by the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant. France has Europe's highest-ever daily coronavirus infections, and many of its hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients, although the number requiring intensive care has declined recently. The country's parliament and Constitutional Council approved the vaccine pass last week.

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