Daily Business Briefing

Oct. 9, 2021, 10:09 a.m. ET

Oct. 9, 2021, 10:09 a.m. ET

ImageAn aircraft drops fire retardant on a ridge during the Walbridge fire in Healdsburg, Calif., last year. Google said it will no longer allow ads that promote climate change denial.
Credit…Josh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Google said it will no longer display advertisements on YouTube videos and other content that promote inaccurate claims about climate change.

The decision, by the company’s ads team, means that it will no longer permit websites or YouTube creators to earn advertising money via Google for content that “contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” And it will not allow ads that promote such views from appearing.

“In recent years, we’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” the company said.

The policy applies to content that refers to climate change as a hoax or a scam, denies the long-term trend that the climate is warming, or denies that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity is contributing to climate change.

Google limits or restricts advertising alongside certain sensitive topics or events, such as firearms-related videos or content about a tragic event. This is the first time Google has added climate change denial to the list.

Facebook, Google’s main rival for digital advertising dollars, does not have an explicit policy outlawing advertisements denying climate change.

In addition to not wanting to be associated with climate change misinformation, ad agencies, in an echo of their shift away from the tobacco business decades earlier, have begun to re-evaluate their association with fossil-fuel clients. Agencies such as Forsman & Bodenfors have signed pledges to no longer work for oil and gas producers. Calls have increased to ban the industry from advertising on city streets and sponsoring sports teams.

Greenpeace USA and other environmental groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year accusing Chevron of “consistently misrepresenting its image to appear climate-friendly and racial justice-oriented, while its business operations overwhelmingly rely on climate-polluting fossil fuels.” Exxon faces lawsuits from Democratic officials in several states accusing it of using ads, among other methods, to deceive consumers about climate change.

Publications such as the British Medical Journal, The Guardian and the Swedish publications Dagens Nyheter and Dagens ETC have limited or stopped accepting fossil fuel ads. The New York Times prevents oil and gas companies from sponsoring its climate newsletter, its climate summit or its podcast “The Daily,” but it allows the industry to advertise elsewhere.

U.S. stocks jumped on Thursday, adding to Wednesday’s gains, as investors reacted with relief to the news of an agreement in the Senate to raise the federal borrowing limit and pull the country from the brink of a debt default.

The S&P 500 gained 0.8 percent, while the Nasdaq composite was up 1.1 percent. European stock indexes also rallied on Thursday, rebounding from a sharp decline the day before. The Stoxx Europe 600 closed 1.6 percent higher.

The rally picked up steam after top Democrats and Republicans in the Senate on Thursday said they had struck an agreement that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised through early December.

“It’s our hope that we can get this done as soon as today,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, had said on Wednesday that Republicans would allow Democrats to vote on a short-term extension after weeks of disagreement over raising the debt ceiling. News of Mr. McConnell’s offer helped Wall Street rebound in late trading on Wednesday and end the day with a small gain.

The agreement eased investor concerns, at least until the first Friday in December, when Congress faces its next deadline to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. Wall Street had been growing increasingly alarmed by the failure to reach a compromise, and warnings about the consequences of inaction grew increasingly dire. Running into the federal borrowing limit could mean delays in payments of Social Security benefits and to government contractors, including hospitals that accept patients who use Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

“The agreement is just kicking the can down to December, but that’s not something investors are concerning themselves with right now,” said Fiona Cincotta, a senior financial markets analyst at Forex.com. “The political bickering left a cloud over the markets, and the fact that that’s moved on has been a plus.”

Gains were tempered somewhat by a jump in government bond yields. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury climbed to 1.58 percent from 1.52 percent, deflating some of the earlier gains in the equity markets.

The two-day rally means that the S&P 500 is now on track to end the week with a gain of about 1 percent, which would be its best weekly showing since late August, before Wall Street grew jittery about the debt ceiling, spiking inflation and the prospect that the Federal Reserve will begin to withdraw some of its support for the economy.

Investors face one more hurdle this week. On Friday, the labor department will release its monthly jobs report for September. It could help economists understand how much the Delta variant of the coronavirus might have affected the economic recovery after hiring slowed dramatically in August. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are forecasting that the U.S. economy added 500,000 jobs during September, a sharp gain from the 235,000 added in August.

Ahead of Friday’s report, the government said that initial claims for regular unemployment benefits fell last week, dropping to 38,000 to 326,000 after three consecutive weekly increases. For the week ending Sept. 18, about 4.2 million people were receiving some form of unemployment assistance, down 854,638 from the previous week.

“The combination of easing labor supply constraints, strong labor demand and an improving Covid outlook should spur further labor market progress in coming months,” Lydia Boussour, the lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a note.

Oil prices continued to rise, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, gaining 1.1 percent to $78.30.

Credit…Sarah Rice for The New York Times

One of the most closely watched leading indicators of inflation on Wall Street has hit a record high, a sign that upward pressure on prices could last for months to come.

The prices that dealers pay for used cars in the wholesale market jumped 5.3 percent from August to September, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index. It’s up 27.1 percent from last year.

Used car prices have soared since the pandemic hit, when production snarls at automakers cut the supply of new vehicles as many Americans left urban centers for the suburbs, pushing up demand for personal vehicles.

While used car prices are normally a tiny contributor to the overall movement of the Consumer Price Index, one broad measure of inflation, they have become a key influence on the direction of prices.

Analysts hoping to get a good read on where inflation is heading have taken note of the Manheim index’s predictive power. As a wholesale price index, it offers a preview of the price changes that consumers will see roughly two months later, after dealers pass on their costs to buyers at the lot.

The movement of the Manheim index this summer suggested that consumer prices for used cars were set to cool off, which might mean overall price increases would moderate. But the latest reading suggested that the demand and prices for used cars had reinvigorated as production issues for computer chips continued to hamper new car production. Recent storms, which resulted in potentially hundreds of thousands of flooded cars, have also contributed to demand.

“The new-vehicle production problem worsened instead of getting better in Q3,” wrote Jonathan Smoke, the chief economist for Cox Automotive, the company that produces the index. “Used inventory issues were further exacerbated by damage to vehicles caused by Hurricane Ida in late August, putting pressure on an already historically tight market.”

Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Last month, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write rules that would require companies with more than 100 employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or weekly testing. But with OSHA still going through a lengthy rule-making process, which could take several more weeks, the White House is urging companies to act now.

Several big employers have imposed mandates since Mr. Biden’s announcement, including 3M, Procter & Gamble and the airlines American, Alaska and JetBlue. IBM said on Thursday that it will require all of its U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, regardless of how often they come into the office. It will allow for “limited” medical or religious exceptions.

But many others, like JPMorgan Chase and Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements. The OSHA standards would require reluctant companies to introduce mandates.

Executives continue to be worried about losing employees and managing the cost and complexity of vaccinate-or-test mandates. Retailers are eyeing the run-up to the holiday season, which is crucial to their yearly sales and for which finding labor was already set to be a challenge because of the pandemic.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated last month that the vaccine requirements announced by the White House would apply to about 25 million unvaccinated workers in the United States and boost the number of vaccinated individuals by 12 million — or 3.6 percent of the population — by March. Using those estimates, Goldman’s analysts expect that 82 percent of the total population, and 90 percent of adults, will have their first dose by mid-2022. To date, 65 percent of all Americans have had at least one dose.

Mr. Biden headed to Chicago on Thursday to make the case that vaccine mandates are crucial to the economic recovery. He met with Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines, a pioneer in corporate vaccine mandates, and visited Clayco, a construction company that has introduced vaccine and testing requirements for its employees.

Video

transcript

transcript

Biden Urges Private Employers to Require Covid Vaccines

President Biden encouraged large private companies to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for their workers, arguing that the existing requirements his administration put in place have proved effective against Covid-19.

The Labor Department is going to shortly issue an emergency rule, which I asked for several weeks ago, and they’re going through the process, to require all employees with more than 100 people, whether they work for the federal government or not, this is within the purview of the Labor Department, to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or face testing at least once a week. In total, this Labor Department vaccination requirement will cover 100 million Americans, about two-thirds of all the people work in America. And here’s the deal. These requirements are already proving that they work. Starting in July, when I announced the first vaccination requirement for the federal government, about 95 million eligible Americans were unvaccinated. This was mentioned a little bit earlier. Today, we’ve reduced that number to 67 [million] eligible Americans who aren’t vaccinated. And today, we released a new report outlining effective vaccination requirements that are already proving their worth. I’m calling on more employers to act. My message is require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we’re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants, and much less commerce. Look, I know that vaccination requirements are a tough medicine, unpopular with some, politics for others, but they’re life-saving and game-changing for our country.

Video player loading
President Biden encouraged large private companies to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for their workers, arguing that the existing requirements his administration put in place have proved effective against Covid-19.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As Mr. Biden tries to sell the mandate, OSHA is working on the time-consuming process of writing standards that pass legal muster. The president’s mandate for large employers would affect more than 80 million workers.

The White House said at the time of Mr. Biden’s announcement, in early September, that the OSHA standards would take weeks, which is a typical timeline for an emergency standard. This process includes a number of steps, like demonstrating that workers face a grave danger at work and that a rule is necessary to address the danger.

Almost a month from the initial announcement, OSHA’s standards could still be a few weeks away, as it works through a long list of questions that business groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, have about the finer points of vaccine mandates. A few of the issues include:

  • Will independent contractors count toward the 100-employee threshold?

  • Who will pay for testing? Companies? The government? The unvaccinated?

  • Will vaccine mandates include boosters, if approved?

“The White House has made this OSHA’s top priority, and I know they’re working around the clock on it,” said Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in health policy. “It doesn’t surprise me that it’s taking this long, because they want to immunize themselves as best they can against a lawsuit.

Attorneys general in 24 states have threatened to sue. Legal experts generally say that OSHA has the authority to introduce a vaccine mandate under powers granted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. But it is never has before required vaccines in the workplace.

Plans for a mandate could also be complicated by state legislation challenging the move. Montana has outlawed employer vaccine mandates. OSHA’s standards pre-empt state governments’ existing rules, except in states that have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies. (About half do.) The legal basis for a challenge is likely to be weakest in states that are directly within OSHA’s jurisdiction, which include Montana, Texas and Florida.

Even after OSHA finalizes its rules, some employers wary of mandates may not act, betting that they won’t be punished because of the agency’s limited enforcement resources, or decide to wait out any legal battles before putting in place any requirements of their own.

As executives await more details, a cottage industry has emerged to help companies with everything from testing to tracking vaccinations. Smaller employers, in particular, are worried about managing the new requirements, given their limited resources.

ReturnSafe, a software company that can integrate building access systems with vaccine records, said it had gone from an average of 40 to 60 people booking a meeting via its website every week to almost 300 requests per week after Mr. Biden’s announcement. ADP, a payroll processing company, has updated its “return to workplace” software to add features to track vaccination status and weekly Covid-19 testing. Labor lawyers are walking companies through the complex task of handling requests for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.

The White House released details on its mandate for federal contractors this month, which gives those workers until Dec. 8 to comply. The guidelines are stricter than the proposed rules for private employers: For example, there is no option for the unvaccinated to submit to regular testing instead of getting inoculated. A White House official said the administration expected many companies ultimately to announce vaccine-only policies. IBM and United Airlines noted that their mandates brought them into compliance with the rule for federal contractors.

United, which announced its mandate in August, recently reported that 99 percent of its workers had been vaccinated and that it had received 20,000 applications for about 2,000 flight attendant positions, a much higher ratio than before the pandemic. Tyson Foods reported a 91 percent vaccination rate ahead of a November deadline, compared with less than 50 percent before its mandate announcement in August. These figures challenge the concerns among some employers that mandates would cause workers to quit, particularly in industries facing labor shortages.

Still, “some companies are looking at it and saying: ‘Great that those employers had a good experience. I don’t know if we’ll have the same experience,’” Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer at Ropes and Gray, told The New York Times’s DealBook newsletter. “Or, they may look at it and say, ‘Great, they had a 91 percent vaccination rate, but we are so thinly staffed we couldn’t possibly lose 9 percent of our work force.’”

Noam Scheiber contributed reporting.

Credit…Pool photo by Clemens Bilan

WASHINGTON — The tenure of Kristalina Georgieva as managing director of the International Monetary Fund faces a pivotal moment on Friday, when the fund’s executive board will meet to decide whether she should continue to be its leader after allegations that she pressured staff to manipulate a report to placate China when she was a top World Bank official.

This week, the executive board spent hours questioning Ms. Georgieva about her actions. It also interviewed lawyers from WilmerHale, the firm that conducted the World Bank’s internal review of the circumstances surrounding the Doing Business survey. The review, published last month, concluded that Ms. Georgieva had played a central role in meddling with the report, raising questions about her judgment and ability to continue leading the I.M.F.

Ms. Georgieva has denied the allegations, and in a meeting with the board on Wednesday she offered a forceful rebuttal.

“The WilmerHale Report does not accurately characterize my actions with respect to Doing Business 2018, nor does it accurately portray my character or the way that I have conducted myself over a long professional career,” Ms. Georgieva said in a statement to the board, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who assumed the top I.M.F. job in 2019, also criticized the nature of the World Bank investigation and said she had been misled.

“The email from WilmerHale requesting my participation said clearly that I was not a subject of the investigation and assured me that my testimony was confidential and protected by World Bank staff rules, which guarantee due process,” Ms. Georgieva said. “None of this proved to be true.”

The controversy has raised questions about China’s influence in multilateral institutions. It has also become a distraction for the I.M.F. as it is trying to help coordinate the global economic response to the pandemic. Prominent economists have publicly debated whether Ms. Georgieva should step down. The Economist magazine called last month for her resignation.

The United States, which is the fund’s largest shareholder, has yet to offer public support, and officials have declined to say if she should stay in the job.

“There is a review currently underway with the I.M.F. board, and Treasury has pushed for a thorough and fair accounting of all the facts,” said Alexandra LaManna, a Treasury spokeswoman. “Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of international financial institutions.”

Former World Bank officials have described Ms. Georgieva as a polarizing figure, but she has generally won praise at the I.M.F. When she assumed the job, she quickly restructured the fund to give her more direct control over its daily operations. That included removing David Lipton, a longtime I.M.F. official and its first deputy managing director, before his term expired.

Mr. Lipton is now a top adviser to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who will have significant input as to whether Ms. Georgieva remains in the job.

Treasury officials have been debating how to respond to the allegations against Ms. Georgieva. A person familiar with the deliberations said that Mr. Lipton has been among the officials who have been supportive of Ms. Georgieva, who he worked closely with while she was at the World Bank and he was at the I.M.F.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have expressed concern about Ms. Georgieva’s actions at the World Bank and called on Ms. Yellen to ensure “full accountability.”

The United States traditionally selects an American to be president of the World Bank, while the managing director of the I.M.F. is usually from Europe.

The I.M.F.’s executive board could make a decision about whether it continues to have confidence in Ms. Georgieva when it meets on Friday.

The annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund take place next week.

Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, on Thursday offered the clearest signal yet that America’s central bank is going to begin seriously assessing big banks’ exposure to climate-related financial risks.

Ms. Brainard said the Fed was developing climate-related scenarios for use in banks’ safety checkups, which are often called stress tests. She also endorsed the use of supervisory guidance — the Fed’s recommendations to banks — to encourage financial institutions to curb their exposures.

“I anticipate it will be helpful to provide supervisory guidance for large banking institutions in their efforts to appropriately measure, monitor, and manage material climate-related risks, following the lead of a number of other countries,” Ms. Brainard said in remarks prepared for a Fed research conference.

Ms. Brainard said the Fed is also assessing climate-related risks from a broader perspective — trying to game out what melting ice caps and rampant wildfires could mean for the financial system as a whole.

“We are developing scenario analysis to model the possible financial risks associated with climate change and assess the resilience of individual financial institutions and the financial system to these risks,” she said.

The fact that it is developing climate scenarios puts the Fed more in line with its global counterparts, including the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, that have been examining what climate-related risks could mean for the banking sector. In addition, the Fed and its leader, Jerome H. Powell, have faced backlash for moving slowly toward a more concerted climate push.

Mr. Powell had also suggested that the Fed would test banks’ exposure to climate problems, though his remarks, to lawmakers during testimony last week, were not as definitive or as detailed as Ms. Brainard’s. He explained that the Fed’s goal was to make sure regulated banks could manage any of the risks that threats like climate change posed.

“Scenario analysis is almost certainly going to be one of the principal tools for doing exactly that,” Mr. Powell said.

The central bank oversees the nation’s largest banks, including institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

Anticipating strong holiday travel, United Airlines said on Thursday that it will offer 3,500 daily flights within the United States in December, the most in any month since the pandemic began.

United said it plans to offer 91 percent as many domestic flights in December as it did in the same month in 2019, though the company’s final schedule could still change. That month, United will debut new direct routes — and restart a handful of others.

The airline plans to place an emphasis on flights connecting the Midwest to warm-weather destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando or ferrying travelers to ski slopes. Flight searches for holiday travel are up 16 percent compared with the same time in 2019, the airline said.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow,” said Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling at United.

United and other airlines enjoyed strong demand this summer because of widespread vaccinations, though the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus slowed that momentum going into the fall. The industry had hoped that corporate travel would restart in a big way after Labor Day, but many professionals have not returned to offices full time and business travel remains down.

Overall, air travel appears to have settled at about 75 percent of 2019 levels in September, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. The Biden administration’s plan to relax travel restrictions on vaccinated foreigners starting next month is expected to provide another boost, especially around the holidays.

United said it expects the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday to be particularly busy. It also expects Thursday, Dec. 23, and Sunday, Jan. 2, to be popular travel days.

Brian X. Chen, our Tech Fix columnist, is done with paying for a virtual private network, a service that claims to protect your privacy when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network at the local coffee shop, the airport or a hotel.

Here’s why:

  • Many of the most popular VPN services are now also less trustworthy than in the past because they have been bought by larger companies with shady track records. That’s a deal-breaker when it comes to using a VPN service, which intercepts our internet traffic.

  • Many casual users may not even need a VPN anymore. Most sites now support HTTPS, a security protocol that encrypts traffic and solves most of the aforementioned problems. This means that VPNs are no longer an essential tool when most people browse the web on a public Wi-Fi network, said Dan Guido, the chief executive of Trail of Bits, a cybersecurity firm.

  • For those who would still prefer not to browse the web on a public Wi-Fi network, there’s an easy solution included on most smartphones: the personal hot spot, a feature for wirelessly sharing a smartphone’s cellular data connection with other devices, like your computer.

Some people still benefit from using a VPN. Here’s how to create your own →