The daily business briefing: March 1, 2021

Harold Maass
Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials
PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

1.

CDC director clears J&J vaccine for distribution

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for adults. The federal government is preparing to distribute millions of doses, which could start reaching vaccine sites as soon as Tuesday. Walensky's decision came after an advisory panel unanimously recommended use of the shots. "Today marks an encouraging step toward an end to the #COVID19 pandemic," Walensky tweeted. "I have now signed CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the safety and effectiveness" of the vaccine. J&J Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Richard Nettles told lawmakers last week that the company would ship nearly four million doses immediately, and 20 million by the end of March, potentially providing a significant boost to the nation's vaccine supply. [CNBC]

2.

Biden backs Amazon workers voting on unionizing

President Biden on Sunday expressed support for Amazon workers in Alabama as they try to organize, saying they had the right to decide whether to form a union. "Workers in Alabama — and all across America — are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. It's a vitally important choice — one that should be made without intimidation or threats by employers," Biden tweeted. "Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union." About 6,000 workers at Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama, facility are voting on unionizing this month. Biden's decision to weigh in on such a high-profile labor showdown marked a break with tradition, signaling his commitment to keeping a campaign promise to be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen." [Politico, The Washington Post]

3.

Stock futures rise as bond yields fall

U.S. stock index futures surged early Monday after Treasury bond yields fell. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by 1 percent or more several hours before the opening bell. Treasury yields, which move inversely to prices, surged last week. That put stocks under pressure, dragging down the Dow and the S&P 500 by 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent between Monday and Friday. Rising interest rates can steer investors away from stocks and into bonds, which are considered less risky. "Bond market volatility surged to its highest level since April and until some calm and some new peak level of yields is found, this will be the key focus for investors," Leuthold Group chief investment strategist Jim Paulsen told CNBC. [CNBC]

4.

China manufacturing weakens for 3rd straight month

China's manufacturing recovery slowed in February as exports and new orders fell, according to a monthly purchasing managers' index and another survey released Monday. It was the third month of weakening data. The private business magazine Caixin's monthly index fell to 50.9 from January's 51.5 figure on a 100-point scale. Anything above 50 indicates acceleration. The other PMI, issued by the Chinese statistics agency and the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, an industry group, fell to 50.6 from 51.3 in the previous month. China's manufacturers benefited from the country's relatively quick reopening after the coronavirus pandemic struck, but sales have taken a hit as renewed outbreaks worried Chinese consumers and dampened the country's economic outlook. [The Associated Press]

5.

Oil prices rise as economic outlook improves

Oil prices rose by 1.7 percent on Monday as COVID-19 vaccine distribution and expectations of a $1.9 trillion new coronavirus relief package raised hopes for a global economic recovery. Brent crude futures for May climbed by $1.07 to $65.49 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures rose by 1.8 percent to $62.60 per barrel. Gasoline prices have started rising, too. The U.S. average reached $2.70 a gallon Friday, according to AAA. Pump prices hit a low of $1.76 last April. They could continue rising as the coronavirus infection rates drop and people start traveling again. Some analysts say the changes could push pump prices to $3, but Bank of America strategists told clients recently that OPEC+ will start producing more oil soon to "preserve market share." [Fox Business, CNN]