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The daily business briefing: April 22, 2021


Pfizer has confirmed the first cases of counterfeit versions of its coronavirus vaccine, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The fake doses of the vaccine Pfizer developed with BioNTech were found in Mexico and Poland. Pfizer tested the vials after authorities seized them in separate investigations. About 80 people paid roughly $1,000 per dose for the phony vaccine at a Mexican clinic. The patients did not appear to have been harmed. “Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,” said Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s world head of security. “We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.” [The Wall Street Journal]


The White House confirmed Thursday that President Biden is pledging to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The commitment comes as Biden prepares to open a two-day virtual climate summit with world leaders starting Thursday, with the U.K. and the European Union pledging ever greater cuts. Biden’s target of 50 percent to 52 percent reductions sharply increases the U.S. commitment under the 2015 Paris climate accord. Then-President Barack Obama’s administration aimed to reduce emissions to 26 percent to 28 percent lower than 2005 levels with a target date of 2025. The U.S. is less than halfway toward that goal. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but Biden took action to rejoin the landmark accord in January on his first day in office. [CNBC]


President Biden on Wednesday urged employers to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden said businesses with fewer than 500 employees will be able to get reimbursed for the cost of giving workers paid leave to get vaccinated. These businesses will be eligible for refundable tax credits under the American Rescue Plan. “No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated,” Biden said. The push to help workers at businesses and nonprofits get vaccinated comes as the U.S. hits Biden’s goal of 200 million vaccination shots before the end of April. The challenge now shifts from the nation’s supply of vaccine to demand, as some people resist getting the shots. [The Washington Post, CNBC]


The Interior Department is canceling sales of new oil and gas leases on public lands through June as the Biden administration continues a review President Biden ordered on how the deals contribute to climate change, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing federal officials. Sales had been tentatively scheduled in Nevada, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and the Bureau of Land Management’s eastern region, spokesperson Jeffrey Krauss said. Officials already had postponed or suspended lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and some of the states covered in the Wednesday move. The petroleum industry and congressional Republicans have argued that the moratorium will hurt the economies of Western states without doing much to counter climate change. [The Associated Press]


U.S stock index futures were little changed early Thursday after Wall Street snapped a two-day losing streak on Wednesday. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were down by 0.1 percent or less several hours before the opening bell. On Wednesday, the Dow and the S&P 500 gained about 0.9 percent, leaving both indexes within 1 percent of the record highs they hit on Friday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq surged by 1.2 percent on Wednesday. Small-cap stocks were particularly strong, with the Russell 2000 closing Wednesday up by 2.4 percent, its best day since March 1. Investors will be watching economic data and another flurry of corporate earnings reports for signs of how the economic recovery is going as the coronavirus vaccination campaign fuels optimism. [CNBC]

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