The daily business briefing: March 24, 2022
Nestlé suspends sale of top brands in Russia, Moderna says COVID vaccine is safe in young children, and more
Nestlé suspends sale of top brands in Russia after criticism
Nestlé said Wednesday it was suspending sales of more of its well-known brands, including KitKat and Nesquik, in Russia in its latest response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "We have already halted non-essential imports and exports into and out of Russia, stopped all advertising, and suspended all capital investment in the country," the Swiss multinational brand said in a statement. The company said the moves cover "the vast majority" of its pre-war sales in Russia, although it continues to sell baby food, hospital nutritional products, and other essentials. The announcement came days after Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, criticized Nestlé's ties to Russia. Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and other global brand owners also have come under pressure to leave Russia.
Moderna says COVID vaccine safe in young children
Moderna announced Wednesday that it would seek emergency approval of its COVID-19 vaccine in children under age 6. The request came after interim clinical-trial results showed the vaccine was safe, and children in that age group got an immune response from a quarter dose that was similar to the one seen in vaccinated young adults. Moderna, which also is researching the effectiveness of a booster shot, said the vaccine was 44 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness among children ages 6 months to 2 years, and just 37 percent effective in those ages 2 to 5. "What I will say is 37.5 percent and 43.7 percent are higher than zero," said Dr. Jacqueline Miller, Moderna senior vice president for infectious disease.
Stock futures rise after Wednesday's losses
U.S. stock futures rose early Thursday following Wednesday's losses. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.3 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up 0.4 percent. The Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped by 1.3 percent on Wednesday. The S&P 500 fell 1.2 percent as higher oil and commodities prices dampened investor sentiment. Oil has returned to about $115 per barrel after falling below $100 per barrel, although it remained below its recent high. The possibility that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates more aggressively than previously expected also stoked uncertainty about the economic outlook for late 2022.
Former Boeing pilot acquitted of deceiving regulators
A Texas jury on Wednesday found former Boeing test pilot Mark Forkner not guilty of deceiving air-safety regulators about the 737 MAX flight-control system suspected of contributing to two fatal crashes. Forkner, 50, was acquitted on all four counts of wire fraud he faced after being accused of misleading a Federal Aviation Administration training official about an automated cockpit feature, allegedly to reduce required pilot training and make the aircraft more appealing to airlines. Forkner declined to comment after the verdict came out. One of his attorneys, David Gerger, said the defense team was grateful that jurors showed their independence and "saw through" the government's case. A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency was "disappointed" but respected the verdict.
Russian stock market resumes limited trading
The Russian stock market reopened Thursday after a month-long closure. The market shut down Feb. 24 after a massive selloff after Russia invaded Ukraine and investors braced for tough international sanctions against Moscow. On Thursday, trading resumed for a limited number of stocks, including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft. Officials barred sales by foreigners and short-selling, or betting that prices will drop. The curbs were imposed to prevent another big selloff. The benchmark MOEX index surged in the first minutes of trading, rising 8 percent. The reopening will have little impact outside Russia. MSCI Inc. declared Russia's market "uninvestable" after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, removing it from global indexes.