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Moderna’s Vaccine News Bolsters Markets: Live Business Updates

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a Zoom call on Monday with business executives and labor leaders, including:

  • Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

  • Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors

  • Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union

  • Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft

  • Rory Gamble, president of United Automobile Workers union

  • Brian Cornell, chief executive and chairman of Target

  • Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union

  • Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union

  • Sonia Syngal, chief executive of Gap Inc.

The call was held at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., with Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris seated in chairs across from a large video screen showing the meeting participants.

“Thanks for being here,” Mr. Biden said. “To state the obvious, we seem to be turning a pretty dark corner now.”

Target said in a statement that Mr. Cornell was invited to join Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to discuss safety and rebuilding the economy. The company said that Mr. Cornell planned to “highlight the essential role that retail plays for American consumers, share that our plans for this year include a $1 billion investment in the health and safety of our team, and ask elected officials to provide companies with clear, consistent guidance around safety, regulations and the future rollout of a coronavirus vaccine.”

Mr. Trumka called for increased worker protections during the meeting, including manufacturing more respirators and personal protective equipment, redesigning schools and workplaces to increase ventilation and to ease social distancing, and ramping up testing to make sure all virus cases are counted and reported to detect outbreaks before they get worse.

He also called on Mr. Biden to reestablish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mission of protecting workers. The federal agency, known as OSHA, has been “totally absent” during the pandemic, he said, and “workers across industries have been left to fend for ourselves.” The agency should establish an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the virus by putting in place uniform requirements for employers across the country, he said.

“If we believe that all work has dignity, then all workplaces need to focus on safety,” Mr. Trumka. “It’s not too late to save tens of thousands of lives.”

Ms. Barra shared G.M.’s best practices for keeping workers safe and factories running during the pandemic, the company said. “We look forward to working with the new administration and incoming Congress on policies that support our customers, dealers and employees, help strengthen our manufacturing presence in the United States and advance our vision of an all-electric, zero-emissions future,” G.M. said in a statement. A G.M. official familiar with the discussion said the company’s collaboration with the United Auto Workers union was a focus of the discussion on Monday. “There’s a lot of interest in how we are working with the U.A.W. to keep the work force safe and keep the plants running,” the official said.

  • Stocks rallied Monday, lifted by results that showed a second coronavirus vaccine was highly effective in preliminary tests.

  • The S&P 500 rose 1.2 percent, after having ended last week at its highest ever close, and is now up more than 10 percent in November. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.6 percent, crossing above its Feb. 12 record.

  • The gains came after Moderna, a drugmaker based in Cambridge, Mass., said its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, based on an early look at the results from its large, continuing study. The vaccine is the second to show such promising results in the past week, following a report from Pfizer that it’s vaccine was about 90 percent effective.

  • Shares of companies that have been severely damaged by the pandemic and its impact on travel, tourism and public gatherings led the gains. Cruise line operators were among the best performing stocks in the S&P 500.

  • Oil prices also rallied, reflecting optimism about global growth, and shares of energy companies followed suit.

  • Stocks outside the United States had already been higher before Moderna’s release, after one of the world’s largest regional free-trade agreements — covering 15 Asian-Pacific nations, led by China — was formally approved on Sunday, signaling an effort by Beijing to curb American influence in the region.

  • The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.2 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain gained 1.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite in China gained 1.1 percent, while the Kospi index in South Korea ended 2 percent higher.

  • After the close of trading on Monday, S&P Dow Jones Indices said it would add Tesla to the S&P 500 next month. The addition had been expected by investors after Tesla met profitability requirements to be added to the index earlier this year, but the shares still jumped more than 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday.

Credit…Toby Melville/Reuters

WPP, one of the largest advertising companies in the world, is further condensing its sprawling operations by folding its Geometry agency into its VMLY&R agency.

The arrangement is part of WPP chief executive Mark Read’s attempt to streamline the ad giant into what he has called “fewer, stronger companies,” a strategy that has become particularly important as the industry attempts to recover from a slump in demand during the pandemic. Last week, WPP merged its AKQA and Grey agencies.

The combination between Geometry and VMLY&R, which is expected to be announced publicly on Tuesday, also aims to address a surge of interest in online shopping that has intensified during global lockdowns. The retail industry, a focus for Geometry, is “going through massive amounts of change,” said Beth Ann Kaminkow, Geometry’s current chief executive.

“Every single one of our clients right now is rethinking their commerce strategies, and Covid has just been a massive accelerator of this,” she said.

Geometry’s 3,500 employees will be absorbed into VMLY&R’s 7,000-person work force in January and Geometry will be renamed VMLY&R Commerce. VMLY&R itself was formed in 2018 through the merger of the VML agency with the renowned advertising company formerly known as Young & Rubicam. Its clients include companies such as Ford, PepsiCo and Pfizer.

“The best and most relevant agencies are being asked not just to do advertising, but to handle brand experience and customer experience,” said Jon Cook, the chief executive of VMLY&R. “This is about the ability to incorporate communications with commerce, where the line for the consumer between shopping, being entertained and being communicated to is going to blur.”

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to reach record highs in the United States, nervous businesses are reacting by cutting services and tightening rules on mask mandates and purchase limits.

In the past week, an astonishing one million cases were recorded in the country, and states have responded to the growing crisis by enforcing stringent measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. News of Moderna’s encouraging results on a vaccine on Monday gave some relief to Wall Street investors, but businesses are bracing for what could be a long winter as strict lockdown orders are put into effect.

  • American Airlines slashed flights between the United States and London in December by about two-thirds as coronavirus cases surge on both sides of the Atlantic, threatening already anemic international travel. The schedule adjustment leaves just one daily American flight to London next month, out of Dallas, after the airline dropped limited service from New York, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C.

  • Kroger, the grocery chain, has started to limit items that were in high demand during earlier surges in the pandemic, including bath tissue, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap. Customers can purchase only two of each of those products. The policy, enacted earlier this month across all Kroger stores and its website, was put in place “to ensure all customers have access to what they need,’’ the company said in a statement.

  • Wegmans added new items to the list of products with purchase limits. As of this past weekend, customers at the regional grocery chain can buy only one package of facial tissues and two packages of napkins. Since the spring, the company has restricted other items that have been in short supply during the pandemic, including disinfecting wipes and toilet paper. There are also limits on antacids and Wegmans brand peanut butter. To prevent shortages, the company said, it had been working to “build up our own holiday and winter reserves, in our own warehouses as well as at our suppliers.”

  • On Monday, Costco began requiring all members, guests and employees at all locations to wear a face mask or face shield. Previously, members who could not wear a mask because of a medical condition were exempt; now, they must wear a face shield if they cannot wear a mask. “This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience,” Craig Jelinek, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Credit…Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Trump’s unconventional pick for the Federal Reserve may have a more difficult path to confirmation this week after a key Republican said he would not be in Washington to vote on her nomination, and that he wouldn’t support her if he was there.

Judy Shelton, a former economic adviser on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and a longtime proponent of some sort of gold standard, is expected to face a Senate vote on Tuesday or Wednesday after months of delay. Her unorthodox views on money, flip-flops on key policy positions and her loyalty to the president have drawn consistent skepticism from lawmakers.

“I oppose the nomination of Judy Shelton because I am not convinced that she supports the independence of the Federal Reserve Board as much as I believe the Board of Governors should,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said in an emailed statement on Monday, with a spokesman noting that he would not be in town for the vote because of family matters. “I don’t want to turn over management of the money supply to a Congress and a President who can’t balance the federal budget.”

The Washington Post reported Mr. Alexander’s opposition earlier.

Mr. Alexander’s opposition comes alongside that of Senators Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. With Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, in quarantine and unable to vote, she seems likely to have only 49 “yes” votes. Democrats are expected to uniformly vote against her.

But it is still possible that Ms. Shelton will pass the Senate if the chamber votes later this week. If Mr. Scott and Mr. Alexander both missed the vote and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris voted, it is possible that a tie of 49 to 49 would be left to Vice President Mike Pence to break. If Ms. Harris missed the vote, Ms. Shelton could pass with a simple majority.

If Ms. Shelton’s nomination does not clear the Senate soon, her chances of confirmation are slimmer. Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, won John McCain’s former Senate seat in a special election and could be seated as soon as the end of the month, at which point Ms. Shelton would need support from another Republican or a Democrat to pass.

Ms. Shelton’s nomination has looked dead several times in the past: key Republicans voiced concern with her nomination when she was in committee, before changing their minds and passing her. Her nomination languished for months before being brought to the Senate floor.

But if she passes, along with Christopher Waller, a more conventional pick who was nominated alongside her and whose vote is not yet scheduled, Mr. Trump will have tapped six of the seven sitting Fed governors.

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