Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 14, 2022

U.S., Canada reopen border bridge after protesters arrested, Super Bowl ads hint at pre-pandemic normal, and more

1

Key U.S.-Canada border bridge reopened after police arrest protesters

Canadian and U.S. authorities officially reopened the Ambassador Bridge after Canadian police on Sunday arrested the more than two dozen remaining protesters blocking traffic across the key trade route linking Windsor, Canada, with Detroit. The demonstration, which lasted seven days, mirrored a larger protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa, Canada's capital. The blocking of the border by truckers and other protesters, some carrying right-wing extremist banners, disrupted a major trade route and exacerbated supply-chain problems for automakers, forcing them to slow or stop production at factories on both sides of the border. "Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end," said Windsor's Mayor Drew Dilkens. The so-called Freedom Convoy has inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

2

Super Bowl ads hint at return to pre-pandemic normal

The ads that aired on NBC during the Super Bowl included commercials for travel, autos, and entertainment companies, hinting at a return to a pre-pandemic normal. Cue Health aired one of several health and wellness ads. Planet Fitness, in its first Super Bowl ad, showed actress Lindsay Lohan putting her party days in the past. Medical technology company Hologic had singer Mary J. Blige encourage women to get medical screenings. There were several first-time Super Bowl advertisers, including cryptocurrency exchanges FTX, Crypto.com, and Coinbase, which captured considerable attention with an ad displaying just a slowly bouncing QR code leading to an online offer of free bitcoin for new customers. NBC charged $7 million for 30-second spots, which gave brands access to the year's biggest TV audience.

3

Stock futures fall as Ukraine tensions continue

U.S. stock futures fell early Monday as Ukraine tensions and looming Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes continue to worry investors. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down 1.1 percent. Some airlines canceled or rerouted Ukraine flights as the U.S. warned Russia could invade any day. "The real fear is that China backs Russia and the relationship between China and the U.S. continues to deteriorate," said Robert Cantwell, chief investment officer at Upholdings. "How it changes the U.S. relationships with the other economic superpowers — that's what's really scary and would affect economic outcome."

4

U.S. suspends Mexico avocado imports after inspector threatened

Mexico acknowledged over the weekend that the United States has halted avocado imports "until further notice" following a threat against a U.S. plant safety inspector. The temporary suspension came just ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl, when football fans snack on guacamole during the game and provide Mexican avocado growers with the year's biggest sales bump. Game-day consumption wasn't affected by the suspension, as the supply for the weekend had already shipped. The avocado industry is the latest part of Mexico's economy to be affected by turf battles among drug cartels, including extortion of avocado growers in western Michoacan state, the only part of Mexico fully authorized to export fresh avocados to the U.S.

5

Lockheed drops plan to buy rocket engine maker Aeorojet

Lockheed Martin Corp. on Sunday scrapped its planned acquisition of rocket engine maker Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings. The proposed $4.4 billion deal had faced opposition from the Federal Trade Commission, which sued to block it in late January. The FTC argued that Lockheed Martin's control over Aerojet would potentially hurt other defense contractors. Raytheon Technologies, which makes missiles, had openly objected to the deal. The proposed merger was announced late last year. It would have helped Lockheed dominate the market for solid fuel rocket motors. Lockheed CEO James Taiclet said the acquisition would have improved efficiency and reduced costs, but abandoning it is best for shareholders.

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