The daily business briefing: January 21, 2021

Harold Maass
Biden signs executive orders
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Biden signs sweeping executive actions to reverse Trump policies

President Biden signed 15 executive actions on Wednesday, including one recommitting the United States to the landmark Paris climate accord that his predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned. Biden also halted construction of border barriers, required masks to be worn in federal buildings, and reversed other Trump policies, but many of the orders focused on the environment. Trump made a mission out of rolling back policies aimed at preventing global warming that were enacted by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president. "We're going to combat climate change in a way we have not before," Biden said on his first night as president. Foreign leaders praised Biden's early moves. Some Republicans said Biden's policies would kill jobs. [The New York Times]

2.

Stocks rise to record highs on Biden inauguration, strong earnings

U.S. stocks surged to record highs on Wednesday after President Biden took office and fresh upbeat earnings reports came in. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq soared nearly 2 percent higher after Netflix shares jumped by 17 percent after the streaming video company reported a surge of new subscribers. Biden signed a barrage of executive actions on his first day in office, undoing Trump administration policies on issues from addressing the coronavirus pandemic to boosting the economy to fighting climate change. Analysts said some investors were cheered by his promise of a massive new coronavirus relief package. "I'm not sure that the politics of inauguration day did much but certainly the expectation for a trillion plus in stimulus," said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird in Wisconsin. Stock futures inched higher early Thursday. [Reuters, CNBC]

3.

Amazon offers Biden administration help distributing vaccines

Amazon on Wednesday offered to help the Biden administration meet its goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in President Biden's first 100 days in office. Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon's consumer business, sent Biden a letter congratulating him and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration, and detailing how the tech giant plans to expedite the vaccine campaign. The strategy would include on-site inoculations for any of the company's 800,000 employees who don't have the luxury of working from home during the pandemic. Clark also said the e-commerce giant was "prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist" in the campaign. [NBC News]

4.

China imposes sanctions on 28 people in parting shot at Trump

China early Thursday imposed sanctions on 28 people and their families in a swipe at the Trump administration as former President Donald Trump left office. The sanctions prevent outgoing Cabinet officials and advisers, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, from traveling to China or doing business with the country. The list also includes Peter Navarro, a key economic adviser who pushed for Trump's trade war against China, as well as former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft. Beijing said the former officials it targeted "planned, promoted, and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China's internal affairs, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted U.S.-China relations." [The Washington Post]

5.

United Airlines reports $1.9 billion 4th-quarter loss

United Airlines reported Wednesday that it lost $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to devastate the travel industry. The carrier lost more than $7 billion over the full year. The company's chief executive, Scott Kirby, said in a statement that the airline was heading into a "transition year" that would bring a recovery from the pandemic and a "better, stronger, and more profitable" airline. "The truth is that COVID-19 has changed United Airlines forever," Kirby said. United is resuming maintenance and repairs on sidelined planes as it prepares for demand to rebound. Delta Air Lines last week reported that its 2020 losses reached $12.4 billion in what its CEO called the "toughest year in Delta's history." [The New York Times]