The daily business briefing: February 19, 2021

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Harold Maass
·4 min read
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1.

The United States officially rejoined the Paris climate accord on Friday, 107 days after former President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the landmark treaty took effect. Trump ordered the U.S. pullout from the 2015 international agreement in 2019, but his decision didn't take effect until Nov. 4, 2020, the day after he lost his bid for re-election. President Biden told the United Nations that the U.S. wanted to return to the accord as soon as he took office. "A cry for survival comes from the planet itself," Biden said in his inaugural address. "A cry that can't be any more desperate or any more clear now." The Friday return was largely symbolic, but still important, said former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres. "It's the political message that's being sent," said Figueres, one of the leaders who crafted the accord's agreement on reducing greenhouse gases. [The Associated Press]

2.

The CEO of Robinhood, Vladimir Tenev, apologized for restricting GameStop trading last month as Reddit users drove up the stock's price in a battle with hedge funds that were betting it would fall. "Despite the unprecedented market conditions in January, at the end of the day, what happened is unacceptable to us," Tenev said during a House Financial Services Committee hearing. He apologized to the customers of his trading service, and said Robinhood was "doing everything we can to make sure this won't happen again." Tenev said the "temporary restrictions" were imposed to "meet increased regulatory deposit requirements, not to help hedge funds." He defended Robinhood by saying it was helping customers build wealth, noting that customers' assets exceeded what they had deposited by more than $35 billion. [The Wall Street Journal]

3.

President Biden plans to announce Friday that he is giving U.S. support to a global effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines more equitably. Biden is scheduled to pledge $4 billion on Friday during a Group of Seven meeting with fellow leaders of the world's largest economies. An initial $2 billion will go to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for use by the Covax Facility, according to administration officials. The U.S. then will provide another $2 billion over two years after other donors have honored their pledges. The administration of former President Donald Trump declined to participate in the project, partly due to Trump's feud with the World Health Organization. The money is expected to give a significant boost to the effort, which has struggled to come up with the funds it needs since it was announced last year. [The Washington Post]

4.

A single dose of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines is more than 92 percent effective, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech reported that their vaccine was 52.4 percent effective after the first dose, but the researchers noted that the self-reported figure covered the first two weeks after inoculation, "when immunity would have still been mounting." After two full weeks, the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy rose to 92.6 percent, and Moderna's reached 92.1 percent. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95 percent and 94 percent effective, respectively, after two doses. An Israeli study released Friday found a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine to be 85 percent effective 15 to 28 days after being administered. [New England of Medicine, The Wall Street Journal]

5.

U.S. stock index futures rose early Friday after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen repeated her call for a big coronavirus relief package, saying it could help the U.S. economy fully recover. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package even as the economy shows signs of a rebound and coronavirus cases fall after a winter surge. Yellen said the proposed relief could help return the country to full employment in a year. "I think the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big," Yellen told CNBC. U.S. stocks fell on Thursday and were on track to finish the week with narrow losses despite the Dow's mid-week record highs. [CNBC, The Wall Street Journal]

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