Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 22, 2022

Germany halts Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline approval as Ukraine tensions escalate, Trump's Truth Social platform launches, and more

1

Germany halts Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline approval

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday suspended certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will carry natural gas from Russia to Europe, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway regions in Ukraine and ordered Russian troops to go in as "peacekeepers." The escalating tensions pushed oil prices to their highest level since 2014. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up by 3.5 percent to $98.77 per barrel after rising as high as $99.50. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, jumped 4.8 percent to $95.47 a barrel. The United States and its European allies are preparing to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. "The potential for a rally over $100 a barrel has received an enormous boost," said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

2

Trump's Truth Social platform launches

Former President Donald Trump's long-rumored social media platform, Truth Social, made its debut in Apple's App Store on Monday and promptly became its top social-media networking app. But the launch was marred by widespread glitches and a thousands-long waiting list to join. Many hopeful users received error messages upon signing up, or never received a verification email to approve their accounts. Trump developed plans to launch the service after Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms banned him after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, accusing the then-president of violating policies against inciting violence by urging supporters to fight to overturn his election loss.

3

Boris Johnson announces lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that England will end its coronavirus restrictions, making it the first major Western economy to take the step as the surge driven by the Omicron variant eases. Starting Thursday, infected people will no longer be legally required to self-isolate, although the government still urges them to stay home, Johnson said in the House of Commons as he unveiled his "Living with COVID" plan. The country also will stop free and universal coronavirus testing on April 1. "Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being," Johnson said. "We do not need to pay that cost any longer."

4

U.S. stock futures fall as Ukraine tensions escalate

U.S. stock futures dropped early Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into breakaway enclaves in eastern Ukraine, escalating tensions and stoking fears of a broader invasion. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.2 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.6 percent. Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the two Ukrainian regions controlled by Russian-backed separatists, undermining diplomatic efforts to avoid war. President Biden, who a day earlier had agreed "in principle" to a summit with Putin to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, issued an executive order banning trade with the two separatist enclaves, and was expected to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

5

NBC Winter Olympics ratings drop to new low 

NBC's coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympics had the worst ratings since the network started broadcasting the Games decades ago. The Winter Olympics had an average prime-time audience of 11.4 million over the more than two weeks of coverage across NBCUniversal's broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms. That represents a 42 percent drop in viewers compared to the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, which had the worst Olympic ratings up to that point. "This was probably the most difficult Olympics of all time," NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said, adding that advertisers were given additional commercial time to make up for the smaller audience.

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