Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 14, 2022

Russia threatens Western companies with arrests, Pfizer's CEO says people will need a 4th dose of COVID vaccine, and more

1

Russia threatens to arrest leaders and seize assets of Western companies

Russian prosecutors are threatening to arrest leaders of Western companies operating in the country if they criticize Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. The prosecutors also have said that the government could seize the assets of foreign corporations trying to withdraw from Russia. The companies that received the warnings included Coca-Cola and McDonald's, which were among a growing list of American companies that announced in recent days that they were halting operations in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that he would support a law to nationalize assets of any company that pulls out of Russia due to the Ukraine invasion.

2

Pfizer CEO says 4th coronavirus shot will be needed for future variants

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Sunday that it would be necessary for people to receive a fourth dose of the company's coronavirus vaccine as the pandemic continues. "Many variants are coming, and Omicron was the first one that was able to evade — in a skillful way — the immune protection that we're giving," Bourla said on CBS' Face the Nation. Bourla said full vaccination with the two-dose vaccine and a booster shot is "actually quite good for hospitalizations and deaths," but "not that good against infections" and "doesn't last very long" against a variant like Omicron. The company, which developed its vaccine with partner BioNTech, is working on a fourth dose that would be effective against all variants.

3

U.S. gas prices push higher into record territory as Ukraine crisis intensifies

U.S. gas prices continued to rise last week, reaching a record average of $4.43 per gallon for regular-grade gasoline, industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday. Pump prices have jumped by 79 cents over the past two weeks as Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent crude oil costs soaring. The nationwide average gas price is now 32 cents above the previous record of $4.11, which was set in July 2008, but still significantly lower than the inflation-adjusted record of $5.24 per gallon. Gas prices were already rising before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, as the latest COVID-19 wave eased and demand bounced back from earlier pandemic lockdowns faster than expected.

4

U.S. stock futures rise as Ukraine war continues and Fed rate hike looms

U.S. stock futures rose early Monday as investors continued to monitor Russia's invasion of Ukraine and awaited what was expected to be the Federal Reserve's first interest-rate hike since 2018. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up 1.1 percent and 1 percent, respectively, at 6:45 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.8 percent. Markets have been volatile since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and the United States and its allies targeted Moscow with harsh economic sanctions. The Fed, looking to fight high inflation, is expected to hike its target fed funds rate by a quarter percentage point on Wednesday, although analysts expect it to express caution due to the uncertainty of the Ukraine crisis.

5

Hong Kong stocks fall sharply on concerns about COVID, Russia ties

Chinese stocks listed in Hong Kong plunged on Monday as concerns mounted about China's latest COVID-19 wave and the country's close relationship with Russia, which is facing devastating sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell 7.2 percent, its biggest drop since November 2008 during the global financial crisis. The Hang Seng Index fell by nearly 5 percent in its biggest one-day drop in 22 months. The Hang Sang Tech Index plummeted by 11 percent in the worst day since it launched in July 2020. The losses came as the new COVID wave threatened to hurt China's economic growth by prompting new coronavirus lockdowns. Reports that Russia has asked China for military and economic aid also sparked concerns that Chinese companies could face a backlash over the Ukraine war.

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