Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 26, 2022

The Biden administration withdraws its vaccine mandate on big companies, GE says supply-chain disruptions hurt revenue, and more

1

Biden administration pulls vaccine mandate for big companies

The Biden administration is withdrawing its vaccine-or-test mandate for large companies, the Labor Department announced Tuesday. The Supreme Court blocked the policy earlier this month, and the decision to pull it suggested the administration sees no way to restore it. "It's their admitting what everyone had been saying, which is that the rule is dead," Brett Coburn, a lawyer at Alston & Bird, said to The New York Times. The Supreme Court's newly expanded conservative majority ruled that the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, overstepped its authority by imposing the rule, which would have required about 80 million workers to show they had been vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests.

2

GE says supply-chain problems dragged down revenue

General Electric reported Tuesday that its fourth-quarter revenue dropped by 3 percent, partly due to supply-chain disruptions that have hampered companies around the world during the coronavirus crisis. GE projected sales growth later in the year when its aviation business starts recovering. GE predicts that measures it and its suppliers have taken should start clearing bottlenecks by the middle of 2022, CEO Larry Culp told The Wall Street Journal in a Tuesday interview. GE also expects inflation to persist for months before fading as the supply chain gets back to normal. "Our view is this is going to clear in the relatively near future," he said. GE shares fell by 6 percent Tuesday.

3

Cryptocurrency plunge has wiped out $1 trillion in value since November

Cryptocurrencies gained early Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's statement at the end of its two-day policy meeting. The crypto market has gained for two straight days after plummeting over the weekend. The value of cryptocurrencies has dropped sharply in the last two months, raising fears among some digital-currency investors of a coming "crypto-winter." Bitcoin, the world's largest virtual currency, briefly fell below $33,000 on Monday, its lowest since July. It has bounced back above $36,000 but remains far below its November record high of nearly $69,000. The plunge of bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital currencies since November's records has wiped out more than $1 trillion in value globally as investors brace for interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and distance themselves from risky assets.

4

Biden discussing gas alternatives for Europe if Russia cuts off fuel

The Biden administration is exploring ways to boost liquefied natural gas deliveries to Europe if Russia cuts off fuel over the Ukraine crisis, CNN reported Tuesday, citing multiple U.S. officials familiar with the discussions. The United States has been talking for weeks to governments and companies in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia to work out a global strategy to replace any lost gas exports from Russia. The discussions have reached a "fairly advanced stage," one senior U.S. official said. European allies are concerned Russia could withhold gas exports, weaponizing them to discourage a harsh response if it invades Ukraine. "A war would have a major impact on oil prices and make inflation worse," the senior U.S. official said.

5

U.S. stock futures rise ahead of Fed statement

U.S. stock futures rose early Wednesday ahead of a statement by the Federal Reserve when it wraps up a two-day policy meeting. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 1.1 percent at 6:45 a.m. ET. Futures linked to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up by 1.5 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Investors are expecting the Fed statement to clarify its plans for raising interest rates in the coming months to fight high inflation. Stocks have fluctuated dramatically in recent days as Wall Street braces for the Fed to raise interest rates several times. Investors also are concerned about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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