Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 15, 2021

AstraZeneca says vaccine isn't tied to blood clots, Pelosi promises quick push for infrastructure and jobs legislation, and more

1

AstraZeneca says its vaccine not linked to blood clots

AstraZeneca said late Sunday that no scientific evidence existed to tie its coronavirus vaccine to recent deaths in Europe from blood clots. AstraZeneca said 17 million people have been inoculated with its vaccine, and only 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 pulmonary embolisms have been reported. "This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed covid-19 vaccines," the drug maker said. The statement came on the same day that the Dutch government announced it was suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for two weeks pending a safety investigation. Ireland, and Italy's northern Piedmont region, also halted its use, joining Norway, Denmark, and several other countries that took similar action last week following reports about blood clots.

2

Pelosi vows swift push for infrastructure, jobs bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday promised that lawmakers would quickly work to pass a "fiscally sound" job and infrastructure package. The push follows the approval of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the first major legislative victory of the year for President Biden and his fellow Democrats. But that package passed without Republican support, and it remained unclear whether the infrastructure package would win over any GOP lawmakers. "Building roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan … except when they oppose it with a Democratic president," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said he hopes Congress can pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation, but that House Democrats undermined a bipartisan Senate proposal in the last Congress.

3

Stock futures gain after last week's records

U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Monday following last week's record highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. Futures for the Dow were up by 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent. Last week, investors cheered the passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill but high bond yields continued to raise concerns of rising interest rates. The 10-year Treasury note's yield reached 1.642 percent on Friday, its highest level since February 2020. This week, investors are waiting for the Federal Reserve to deliver its decision on interest rates at the close of a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. The central bank's current outlook includes no rate hikes through 2023.

4

China factory, retail growth surges

Factory and retail activity surged in China over the first two months of 2021 as the world's second biggest economy recovered from 2020's coronavirus damage faster than expected. Industrial output jumped by 35.1 percent in January and February, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to data released Monday by China's National Bureau of Statistics. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 30 percent increase. Retail sales jumped by 33.8 percent, beating the expected 32 percent. Retail sales contracted by 20.5 percent in the same period of 2020. Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics and Oxford Economics, said household consumption should drive growth from the second quarter on "as confidence improves and the government's call to reduce travel is toned down."

5

Biden, Harris starting tour to sell coronavirus relief plan

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday are launching a tour to rally support for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Biden will speak about the plan to fight the virus and boost the economy from the White House. Harris is visiting a COVID-19 vaccination site while first lady Jill Biden tours a New Jersey elementary school. Biden will visit a Pennsylvania small business on Tuesday and join Harris for an appearance in Atlanta on Friday. Harris meets with small-business owners in Denver on Tuesday. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, also is making appearances. Biden has said the Obama administration failed to adequately sell the benefits of its economy recovery efforts when he was vice president, and he wants to do a better sales job this time.

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