Business briefing

The daily business briefing: November 28, 2022

Cyber Monday kicks holiday shopping season into high gear, protests spread against China's COVID restrictions, and more

1

Cyber Monday accelerates crucial holiday shopping season 

With the arrival of Cyber Monday, retailers are trying to use steep discounts to attract customers at the start of an especially crucial holiday shopping season. Many retailers have excess inventory and are rushing to sell it while consumers boosted by pandemic-era savings are still spending, despite high inflation and rising concerns that Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes could spark a recession. Many Americans spent more money in stores on Black Friday than last year. "People are less fearful about going out now," Chloe Gonzales, who woke up at 4 a.m. to go Christmas shopping in Austin, Texas, told The Wall Street Journal. "They're not as worried about COVID." Still, online Black Friday shopping rose to a record of more than $9 billion.

2

Protests spread in China against COVID restrictions

Rare unrest over China's tough COVID-19 restrictions, which threaten to drag down the global economy, continued to spread for a third straight day on Sunday. Hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Shanghai. The demonstrations reached several other cities following a deadly fire in the country's far west, with government critics saying coronavirus restrictions delayed the response. Two groups with a combined 1,000 or more protesters gathered in Beijing early Monday. "We don't want masks, we want freedom," one of the groups chanted. People also demonstrated in Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday, and students gathered to demonstrate on numerous university campuses over the weekend in the first such broad display of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago.

3

U.S. stock futures fall as China COVID restrictions fuel protests

Stock futures fell early Monday on concerns about spreading protests against China's tough COVID-19 restrictions. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.8 percent. The concerns about China's protests and worsening coronavirus outbreak hurt stocks in Asia, and sent oil prices to their lowest level in 2022 on concerns that China's crisis could reduce demand. U.S. stocks ended higher last week, in trading shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday. The Dow and the S&P 500 gained 1.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, last week. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.7 percent.

4

Whole Foods decision to halt Maine lobster sales divides politicians, environmentalists

Whole Foods' decision to remove Maine lobster from its stores has divided New England lawmakers, fishing businesses, and environmental groups. The move came after two sustainability organizations, Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, took away their endorsements of the U.S. lobster fishing industry. Virginia Carter, an associate with the Save America's Wildlife Campaign at Environment America Research & Policy Center, said halting the sales was an "important action" to protect the fewer than 340 remaining North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. "The species is swimming toward extinction unless things turn around," Carter said. Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) and the state's four-member congressional delegation said in a statement that the move came despite years of protection of whales by Maine fishermen.

5

Disney's 'Strange World' bombs at box office

Walt Disney Co.'s new movie, Strange World, brought in a disappointing $18.6 million in ticket sales over a long Thanksgiving holiday weekend that started on Wednesday. The latest release was the entertainment giant's second straight animated flop, after this summer's Lightyear. Disney did have a bigger bomb in March 2021, Raya and the Last Dragon, but that was largely due to the thinning of movie theater audiences due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before that it had been more than 10 years since Disney's animated division had a theatrical opening as dismal as Strange World's, according to The Wall Street Journal. The poor performance of two consecutive animated films shows that returning CEO Bob Iger faces a "theatrical environment far harsher to animated releases than the one he left" in 2020, the Journal said.

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