Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 8, 2021

Attack on Saudi facility jolts oil prices, stock futures fall after Senate approves COVID relief bill, and more

1

Houthi rebels target oil facility in Saudi Arabia

Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed that they hit a Saudi Aramco oil facility in eastern Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles and drone strikes on Sunday, briefly pushing oil prices above $70 per barrel for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The strikes targeted facilities in Ras Tanura, a major Persian Gulf port that is home to one of the country's biggest refineries. Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea, a Houthi spokesman, said the group also hit nearby military positions. Saudi state media confirmed the attack. An Energy Ministry official said it hit a petroleum tank farm. The official said shrapnel fell close to a residential area but caused no injuries or property damage. The Saudi-led coalition that has fought the Iranian-backed rebels since 2015 said it shot down the drones, and that attacking civilians "is a red line."

2

Stock futures fall slightly after Senate passes COVID relief bill

U.S. stock index futures fell slightly early Monday after the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill over the weekend. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell by 0.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. The new economic relief package, which the House is expected to pass this week, seeks to renew extra unemployment benefits set to expire on March 14. Bond yields, which have risen sharply and rattled Wall Street this year, remained high as the big new round of government spending advanced, raising inflation fears and signaling more choppy trading for stocks. "This is putting pressure on valuations, especially for the most expensive stocks that had reached nosebleed valuations," Mike Wilson, the chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a note.

3

GE nears deal to combine its aircraft-leasing business with AerCap

General Electric reportedly is getting close to a $30 billion deal to combine its aircraft-leasing business, known as GE Capital Aviation Services or GECAS, with Ireland's AerCap Holdings, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. An announcement could come on Monday if the talks don't stall. Details on the planned structuring of the deal were not immediately available. GECAS is one of the biggest jet-leasing companies in the world. It owns or has on order 1,650 aircraft, including many made by Boeing and Airbus. GECAS is the largest remaining part of a lending operation that rivaled America's biggest banks before it was devastated in the 2008 financial crisis.

4

China reports big increase in exports

Chinese customs data released Sunday showed that the country's exports surged by 60.6 percent in the first two months of 2021 compared to the same period a year earlier as damage from the coronavirus pandemic faded. China's exports jumped to $468.9 billion, nearly twice the growth forecasters had expected. The pace marked improvement over December's 18.1 percent gain, as more factories reopened and global demand rebounded. Exports to the United States jumped by 87.3 percent despite tariff hikes imposed by former President Donald Trump and left in place so far by President Biden. Imports increased by 22.2 percent, accelerating after a 6.5 percent gain in December. Forecasters expect China's exports to cool down some as demand for masks and other medical supplies decreases, and rival nations reopen more of their factories.

5

Leading philanthropist MacKenzie Scott marries Seattle science teacher

MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has married a Seattle teacher who taught science at the private school attended by her children. Scott's new husband, Dan Jewett, announced in a letter to the website of the nonprofit Giving Pledge over the weekend that he was grateful "for the exceptional privilege it will be to partner in giving away assets" Scott is donating to alleviate poverty and promote racial justice. Scott donated $5.7 billion in 2020, and was listed as No. 2 on the list of America's biggest charity donors. She has sought help from advisers to "accelerate" her giving to help people hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Bezos was No. 1 after starting the Bezos Earth Fund with a $10 billion donation.

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