The daily business briefing: March 9, 2022
Biden bans Russian oil imports, McDonald's, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola join companies suspending Russia operations, and more
Biden bans Russian oil imports
President Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on Russian oil imports in retaliation for Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The United States produces most of its oil domestically but gets about 8 percent of its crude imports from Russia, so the ban could push already record gasoline prices even higher. Biden acknowledged the potential pain for Americans but said, "Defending freedom is going to cost." Bipartisan support for a Russian-oil ban has risen as Russia intensified its attacks on Ukrainian cities, as lawmakers argued that sanctions were incomplete if they didn't include the nation's lucrative energy industry because it provides Moscow with money to pay for its military offensive. "We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war," Biden said.
McDonald's, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola halt Russia operations
McDonald's, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola on Tuesday became the latest major American companies to announce that they were suspending operations in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. "McDonald's has decided to temporarily close all our restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the market," CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement. Starbucks also will close all of its coffee outlets, and Coca-Cola will suspend all operations in the country. Most McDonald's restaurants around the world are owned by franchise operators, but in Russia the fast-food giant operates 84 percent of its 847 locations, employing 62,000 people. Pepsi-Cola said it was suspending sales of its beverage brands in Russia but continuing sales of some products, including baby food.
Congressional leaders agree to $1.5 trillion spending deal with Ukraine aid
Leaders in Congress early Wednesday reached an overdue $1.5 trillion deal to finance federal agencies for the rest of the year. The spending agreement includes billions of additional money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and $13.6 billion to help Ukraine and European allies counter Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is causing Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II. President Biden last week asked for $10 billion for military, humanitarian, and economic aid, and bipartisan backing was so strong that lawmakers agreed to add to what he requested. "We're going to support them against tyranny, oppression, violent acts of subjugation," Biden said at the White House.
Stock futures rise as volatility continues
U.S. stock futures jumped early Wednesday as investors continued to monitor Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its impact on commodity prices. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, at 5:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 2.1 percent. The three main U.S. averages fell on Tuesday as the Ukraine war continued to fuel market volatility. The Dow fell by 0.5 percent, sinking deeper into correction territory, which is defined as 10 percent below its recent high. The S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent, putting it into correction territory, too. The Nasdaq Composite closed down by 0.2 percent. It fell into bear market territory on Monday, 20 percent down from its high.
WSJ: Regulators investigate Activision Blizzard bets
Federal prosecutors and securities regulators are investigating big purchases of Activision Blizzard Inc. shares in January just before the videogame maker reached a deal to be acquired by Microsoft, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night, citing people familiar with the matter. Barry Diller, Alexander von Furstenberg, and David Geffen bought shares in January at options to buy Activision shares at $40 each on Jan. 14, which gives them an unrealized profit of about $60 million on the options trade, based on a current price around $80 per share. Diller told the Journal none of the three men had insider information. "It was simply a lucky bet," he said.