The daily business briefing: February 16, 2021

Harold Maass
Parler app


Parler relaunches a month after battle with Amazon

Social media site Parler said it had relaunched on Monday. The platform, which had become popular with conservatives accusing Facebook and Twitter of censorship, was yanked from app stores by Apple and Google, and dropped by Amazon's web hosting services because the tech giants accused it of failing to police posts that incited violence, in violation of their rules. The clash came after some supporters of then-President Donald Trump used Parler to plan their role in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, aiming to overturn Trump's election loss to President Biden. Parler's former CEO, John Matze, said he was fired after the site was forced offline, and he accused the company of trying to censor him. Interim Parler CEO Mark Meckler said the site "is here to stay" as a "platform dedicated to free speech, privacy, and civil dialogue." [USA Today]


WHO approves emergency use of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine

The World Health Organization on Monday announced that it had approved emergency use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University coronavirus vaccine, a move that will help expand the use of the shot in the developing world. AstraZeneca's vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals, including the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which the WHO approved for emergency use in December. "We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We continue to call for COVID19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries." [Reuters]


Oil prices jump as extreme cold threatens production

Oil prices surged Monday to their highest level yet during the coronavirus pandemic as extreme cold weather hit Texas, knocking out power to millions of customers and raising concerns about production cuts. "Frigid weather means that many oil wells may be shut in. Water is produced along with oil, that water can freeze up equipment," oil analyst Andy Lipow wrote over the weekend. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose by 62 cents or 1 percent to settle at $60.09 per barrel on Monday, its first close over $60 since the early days of the pandemic, which caused a sharp drop in consumption and sent fuel prices falling. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose by 1.4 percent to a 13-month high. [CNBC]


Jaguar announces plan to go fully electric by 2025

British luxury car brand Jaguar said Monday that it planned to go fully electric by 2025. Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India's Tata Motors, said it was phasing out internal combustion engines as part of an effort to turn around the struggling 86-year-old Jaguar brand. The change will include moving production to a new factory and seeking ways to repurpose the old one. Jaguar Land Rover also said the more profitable Land Rover brand also would produce its first all-electric model in 2024 as it starts phasing out internal combustion engines. "We have all the ingredients at our disposal to reimagine the business and the experiences our customers seek, to reimagine to benchmark of luxury," Chief Executive Thierry Bollore said. [The Associated Press]


Stock futures rise as volatility eases

U.S. stock index futures rose early Tuesday, putting Wall Street in position to add to last week's gains after the three-day Presidents' Day weekend. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.6 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.5 percent. Strategists noted that the Cboe Volatility Index, a key fear gauge, had fallen, signaling rising optimism on Wall Street. "Fear is receding from the market," Fundstrat founder Tom Lee wrote on Friday. "And receding fear is followed by systematic and quant funds adding 'leverage' — in other words, this is a set-up to see a rally." Investors have gained confidence thanks to the accelerating pace of coronavirus vaccinations, and rising expectations of more pandemic relief. [CNBC]