Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 24, 2021

Pfizer and Moderna vow to increase vaccine shipments, Texas power-grid board members resign after blackouts, and more

1

Pfizer and Moderna plan to boost vaccine shipments

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna told lawmakers on Tuesday that they would sharply increase deliveries of their COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in 140 million more doses over the next five weeks. Currently, the companies are distributing up to 5 million vaccine doses each week. Pfizer plans to up that to 13 million doses per week by mid-March; Moderna is working to distribute 40 million doses per month, the companies told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Moderna plans to ship at least 100 million doses by the end of May. The news of the increased production came after a vaccine rollout that has been criticized as too slow. Both Moderna and Pfizer are testing booster shots that may work better against more transmissible COVID-19 variants.

2

Texas power-grid board members resign after blackouts

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said Tuesday in a regulatory filing that the chair and four other members of the Texas power grid operator's board were stepping down after rolling blackouts left millions of Texans without electricity during a deadly winter storm last week. The resignations of chair Sally Talberg, vice-chair Peter Cramton, and board members Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Raymond Hepper, and Terry Bulger came as ERCOT faces harsh criticism for the blackouts, which hit as cold weather sent demand for heat soaring while power supply dropped as some power plants were knocked offline. The board members acknowledged the backlash in a joint resignation letter, saying they were leaving to "allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions."

3

Stock futures inch up after bouncing back on Tuesday

U.S. stock futures edged higher early Wednesday as investors awaited a second day of testimony to Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on the state of the economy. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by about 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by as much as 4 percent on Tuesday but rebounded after Powell renewed his promise that the Fed would continue supporting the economic recovery by keeping interest rates near zero. The Nasdaq finished the trading day down by just 0.5 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 closed up by around 0.1 percent.

4

Judge clears California to enforce net-neutrality law

California received clearance to start enforcing its net-neutrality law on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled against telecommunications industry groups that had sued to block the state's open-internet law. California enacted the law in September 2018, aiming to require AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally. The state approved the law months after the U.S. government under then-President Donald Trump eliminated federal net neutrality protections. The Trump administration also had filed a lawsuit challenging California's law, but the Biden administration dropped that lawsuit last month. California was the first state in the nation to enact a net-neutrality law, and other states were watching the case before developing their own open-internet rules.

5

Biden to order U.S. supply-chain review

President Biden on Wednesday plans to sign an executive order calling for a 100-day review of U.S. supply chains for essential goods, including large-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors that power such goods as cars, phones, and military equipment. The United States increasingly relies on imports of these products, which could put the economy and national security at risk. The review will help the Biden administration explore potential fixes, including the possibility of increasing domestic production, The Associated Press reported, citing anonymous administration officials. In the past year, the coronavirus pandemic exposed weaknesses in supply chains that resulted in shortages of masks and other protective medical equipment.

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