Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 19, 2022

Biden calls for using U.S. materials in infrastructure projects, the TSA stops enforcing mask mandate after ruling, and more

1

Biden calls for using U.S. materials in infrastructure projects

The Biden administration issued a new guidance on Monday requiring all projects, including bridges, highways, and internet networks, funded through the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to use U.S.-sourced steel and other materials. The policy includes a process to waive the requirement if there is not enough domestic material, or if it is too expensive, to get the job done. "There are going to be additional opportunities for good jobs in the manufacturing sector," said Celeste Drake, director of Made in America at the White House Office of Management and Budget. President Biden reportedly hopes that increased domestic production will reduce price pressures to counter Republican arguments that the infrastructure package has driven up prices.

2

TSA stops enforcing mask mandate for travelers after judge's ruling

The Transportation Security Administration said Monday it would stop enforcing the federal mask mandate on public transportation after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority. The CDC still recommends that travelers wear masks on planes and on public trains and buses. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, said the CDC did not adequately explain the reasons for its mandate. Critics of the policy, which had been scheduled to expire on April 18 before the Biden administration extended it into May, argued it made no sense to keep requiring masks in public transit when they aren't mandatory in other public spaces.

3

Infowars files for bankruptcy

Conspiracy website InfoWars has filed for bankruptcy as the company and its founder and host, Alex Jones, brace for massive penalties in defamation cases. Jones was sued by relatives of people killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting after he repeatedly called the massacre, in which 20 children and six educators died, a hoax. InfoWars, which described itself in filings to the Texas court as a "conspiracy-oriented website and media company," said it had less than $50,000 in assets and $1 million to $10 million in liabilities. Courts in Connecticut and Texas have found Jones liable in the defamation cases but damages remain to be determined.

4

Stock futures inch down ahead of more earnings reports

U.S. stock futures struggled for footing early Tuesday, fluctuating between slight gains and losses in a busy week for corporate earnings. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.3 percent. The Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down 0.1 percent on Monday. The S&P 500 dropped just 0.02 percent. Johnson & Johnson and insurance giant Travelers report before the bell on Tuesday. Investors are watching corporate earnings to see how big companies are coping with high inflation as supply chain problems persist and consumer demand remains high, and expectations for Federal Reserve rate hikes drive up borrowing costs.

5

Judge orders Amazon to reinstate worker fired after protest

A judge ruled Monday that Amazon must reinstate a former warehouse employee fired early in the pandemic after he led a protest calling for the online retail giant to increase worker protections against coronavirus infection. Gerald Bryson, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in New York City's Staten Island borough, filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Amazon of retaliation. Bryson led the April 2020 protest after participating in another demonstration led by Chris Smalls, another warehouse employee who was fired and now heads the Amazon Labor Union, which won an election this month to unionize the facility. Amazon said it "strongly" disagrees with the ruling, and that Bryson was fired for cursing a co-worker.

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