Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 16, 2022

Raskin withdraws as Fed nominee, oil prices lower as China lockdown threatens demand, and more

1

Raskin withdraws as Fed nominee

Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew from consideration as one of President Biden's nominees for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. Biden nominated Raskin, a former Fed governor and deputy Treasury secretary during the Obama administration, in January to be vice chair of supervision at the Fed, which would have made her a top banking regulator. But Republicans boycotted Senate committee hearings on her confirmation over her support for stronger Fed action against climate change. This week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a moderate Democrat from the nation's second-biggest coal-producing state, and moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said they wouldn't support Raskin, effectively blocking her confirmation. The stalemate over Raskin has delayed four other Fed nominations.

2

Oil prices fall as China COVID lockdown threatens energy demand

Oil prices dropped below $100 a barrel on Tuesday as China imposed a broad lockdown to fight a new COVID-19 outbreak, raising the prospect of reduced demand for energy. The sudden decline, after crude surged to nearly $130 per barrel earlier in March, sent stocks climbing. Tens of millions of Chinese residents live in cities covered under the lockdown, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, which was imposed to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. The measures could worsen global supply chain problems. Numerous factories, including iPhone supplier Foxconn, have had to suspend operations due to the lockdown.

3

Stock futures rise ahead of Fed rate decision

U.S. stock futures gained early Wednesday as oil prices fell and the Federal Reserve headed into the final hours of a two-day meeting expected to end with the first in a series of interest-rate increases to fight high inflation. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 1.7 percent. The Dow and the S&P jumped by 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, on Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 2.9 percent. Goldman Sachs analyst Chris Hussey wrote in a note that investors were reacting to strong economic reports and falling oil prices, "all suggesting that the path to sustained high inflation may be less certain than some think."

4

Pfizer, BioNTech request authorization of 4th vaccine shot for seniors

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday requested authorization for a fourth dose of their COVID-19 vaccine for people over age 65. The companies said an analysis of data from Israel found that among 1.1 million Israeli seniors, infections were twice as low and rates of severe illness were four times lower for patients who received two booster shots instead of one. The United States currently encourages everyone age 12 or older to get the two initial doses followed by a booster shot months later. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control would have to approve Pfizer's request. Authorities say vaccinations still provide strong protection against severe COVID-19, but are considerably less effective against infection and minor illness from the highly infectious Omicron variant.

5

DoorDash to offer drivers cash back to offset rising gas prices

Delivery company DoorDash said Tuesday it would give drivers 10 percent cash back when they use the company's DasherDirect driver debit cards to buy gas to help offset higher pump prices. The policy will cover fill-ups regardless of whether they are doing deliveries at the time. The San Francisco-based company also said it would pay weekly bonuses to drivers logging the most miles. Those going 225 miles, for example, will get an extra $15. Earlier this week, Uber also said it would adjust to offset rising gas prices. It plans to start charging customers a fuel fee to help defray fuel costs for delivery and ride-hailing drivers. Lyft has a similar plan.

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