The daily business briefing: March 4, 2021

Harold Maass
A Walmart in Illinois
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

1.

Biden condemns Texas, Mississippi governors for lifting COVID-19 restrictions

President Biden on Wednesday harshly criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves for lifting coronavirus restrictions. He slammed the decisions by Abbott and Reeves, both Republicans, saying it was "Neanderthal thinking" to tell people it was safe to stop wearing masks now that coronavirus infection and death rates are falling. "I hope everybody's realized by now these masks make a difference," Biden said. He said continued restrictions are necessary to keep contain the pandemic until enough people are vaccinated to truly get the pandemic under control. Abbott said Tuesday that the increased availability of vaccines made it possible to "restore livelihoods and normalcy." [The Hill]

2.

Walmart says it will invest $350 billion in U.S.-made goods

Walmart announced Wednesday that it would invest $350 billion in American-made products over the next decade. The plan covers textiles, plastics, small electrical appliances, food processing, and pharmaceutical supplies that are produced, grown, or assembled in the United States. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, said the effort would help create 750,000 jobs. "U.S. manufacturing really matters," John Furner, chief executive of Walmart U.S., said in a statement. "More businesses are choosing to establish their manufacturing operations in the United States, and the result is more jobs for Americans — a lot more jobs." The company in 2018 said it would invest $250 billion in domestic goods, although that effort faced skepticism after consumer advocacy groups reported allegedly misleading labels on Walmart.com to federal regulators. [The Washington Post]

3.

Disney to close at least 60 retail stores in U.S. and Canada

Disney will shutter at least 20 percent of its Disney Stores in the United States and Canada by the end of 2021, as the company focuses more on its online shopping business. At least 60 stores will close, Disney said. There are about 300 Disney Stores worldwide, and the company is also considering making changes to operations in Europe. Disney did not say how many employees will lose their jobs, or which locations are slated to close. Disney Parks stores, Disney Stores inside Target, and outlets will not be affected, CNBC reports. Disney said it will make improvements to the ShopDisney website; while the brick-and-mortar stores tend to cater to children, the e-commerce business will soon have more adult clothing options, home goods, and collectibles. [CNBC]

4.

Stock futures edge down ahead of Powell comments

U.S. stock index futures fell early Thursday ahead of remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell about the economy and rising bond yields, which have dragged down shares recently. Futures for the S&P 500 were down by 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Treasury yields have been rising as investors sell government bonds, turning some investors away from technology companies whose shares had soared when yields were lower. Fed officials have previously said rising bond yields signal investor optimism about the economic recovery, and some money managers are wondering whether the central bank might raise interest rates sooner than previously expected. [The Wall Street Journal]

5.

Reports: Biden agrees to narrow eligibility for stimulus checks

President Biden has agreed to narrow the eligibility for some stimulus checks in the coronavirus relief bill the Senate will begin considering this week, according to numerous Wednesday news reports. Both the House and Senate versions of the relief package call for individuals making less than $75,000 to receive the full $1,400-per-person payments. But the compromise with moderate Senate Democrats reportedly will phase out the payments faster, cutting off individuals who earn more than $80,000 per year, and couples filing jointly with income of more than $160,000 a year. The change would result in seven million fewer families receiving partial payments under the Senate bill than would under the version passed by the House on Saturday. The House bill caps income at $100,000 a year for individuals. [CNN, The Washington Post]