Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 4, 2021

Biden insists on $1,400 payments to individuals, American Airlines warns 13,000 workers of possible furloughs, and more

1

Biden insists on $1,400 checks but open to narrowing eligibility

President Biden said Wednesday that he was not willing to budge on his insistence on sending $1,400 coronavirus relief checks to individuals, saying that would amount to starting his presidency on a broken promise. But Biden said in a call with Democrats that he would consider narrowing eligibility to target a smaller group. Some members of both political parties have balked at the cost of sending out so many payments, suggesting that some people who don't need the aid could get them. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Ten Senate Republicans have countered with a bill a third that size. Biden said Democrats, who have started a process that would let them pass the proposal without Republican support, could make "compromises" on some of the spending.

2

American Airlines warns furloughs loom as payroll aid expires

American Airlines on Wednesday warned that it would have to send 13,000 employees furlough notices this week as a second round of payroll aid ends and the coronavirus pandemic continues to decimate travel demand. "The vaccine is not being distributed as quickly as any of us believed, and new restrictions on international travel that require customers to have a negative COVID-19 test have dampened demand," American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom wrote in a note to staff. Congress allotted $25 billion last March to help airlines from cutting employees through fall 2020, then approved another $15 billion late last year so carriers could recall furloughed employees and keep them on the job through March. Union leaders are pushing for another $15 billion in payroll support to keep members working through September.

3

Parler CEO says Mercer-controlled board fired him

Parler CEO John Matze said the social media platform's board, which is controlled by conservative political donor Rebekah Mercer, fired him on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Matze said the decision came after he met months of "constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech, and my view of how the Parler site should be managed." Conservatives have flocked to the lightly moderated platform in response to other platforms' increased restrictions on posts that spread lies and hate speech. The board's decision came after tech companies forced Parler offline last month over its use by participants in the deadly attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

4

Stock futures edge higher ahead of unemployment data

U.S. stock index futures made moderate gains early Thursday ahead of unemployment data expected to show that new jobless claims eased last week but remained elevated. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The Dow and the S&P 500 inched up by 0.1 percent on Wednesday. It was the third straight gain for the S&P 500, which is up 3.1 percent this week thanks to strong earnings and anticipation of congressional approval of a new round of coronavirus relief. Several stocks gained in after-hours trading after releasing strong earnings reports, including eBay, which climbed by more than 9 percent.

5

McKinsey agrees to pay $573 million over opioid-epidemic role

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has agreed to pay $573 million to settle claims by 43 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories over its alleged role in the opioid epidemic, people familiar with the matter told news agencies on Wednesday. McKinsey allegedly advised companies, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, on how they could "supercharge" opioid sales. The consulting firm did not immediately respond to Associated Press requests for comment. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under a proposed $10 billion settlement to resolve lawsuits alleging its aggressive painkiller marketing fueled the opioid epidemic, which resulted in 450,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2018, according to federal government data.

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