OPEC and other producers decide to keep adding to oil output.

OPEC Plus will stick with a production increase negotiated in July.

S&P 500






Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister and chair of the OPEC Plus meetings. The group’s last production agreement came after an arduous series of negotiating sessions.Credit…Saudi Press Agency, via Reuters

Officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries decided on Wednesday to stick with their hard-won July agreement of increasing production each month by 400,000 barrels a day, a modest amount equivalent to less than 1 percent of global supply.

OPEC Plus meetings can sometimes go on for days, but this decision was reached in about an hour. Analysts say that the group is concerned about the future health of oil market as the pandemic continues to inject uncertainty into the global economy, but officials did not see an urgent need to make changes.

A time when summer vacations are ending and schools are just beginning to resume is not the most opportune for making a statement in the financial markets, analysts said.

“They are taking the path of least resistance in the short term,” said Richard Bronze, head of geopolitics at Energy Aspects, a research firm.

In a brief statement issued after the meeting, OPEC Plus said that although the effects of “the pandemic continue to cast some uncertainty, market fundamentals have strengthened.”

When it came down to it, the oil officials did not have enough clarity about the direction of demand for oil to make changes that might have irritated members of the group, like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, that want more production. Officials are worried about the impact of the Delta variant of the coronavirus on the economies of their customers, but the global recovery has not yet derailed.

OPEC Plus has also come under pressure from the Biden administration to pump more oil. Last month, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said that higher gasoline prices “risk harming the global recovery” and said OPEC Plus “must do more.”

In addition, oil prices are at comfortable levels. They have risen through much of this year as pandemic lockdowns eased and economies began a boisterous expansion.

Prices fell sharply after the July agreement, causing concern that the production increase was too much, but they have recovered to about $71 a barrel for Brent crude, the global benchmark. Shutdowns in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Hurricane Ida as well as a large fire at a Mexican offshore facility have restricted supplies.

The meeting was the first after an arduous series of negotiating sessions in July that led to the deal to increase production by 400,000 barrels a day in each of the coming months. The producers also resolved a dispute with the United Arab Emirates over production ceilings.

With memories of that messy episode still vivid, OPEC Plus officials had little incentive to tamper with their agreed program.

If the supply increases continue as planned, OPEC Plus will add about two million barrels a day of oil to the market by year end. But there is doubt about whether the member states will have the capability of adding the full amount. The group will also continue to meet monthly, giving themselves time to react to a deterioration in demand.

A common scene across corporate America.Credit…John Muggenborg for The New York Times

Google said on Tuesday that it would delay reopening its offices until Jan. 10. The new date is a postponement from October, which was a postponement from September, which was a postponement from July, which was a postponement from January.

Companies including Amazon, Apple and Starbucks have rescheduled with similar frequency, and it’s becoming difficult to take new announcements about back-to-office plans seriously. The New York Times, Twitter and others have decided not to set a new date for reopening their offices.

These shifts, of course, reflect constantly changing circumstances during the pandemic. A batch of surveys captured how workplace practices and policies are changing, the DealBook newsletter reports.

On vaccine mandates:

Before the latest surge of coronavirus cases, few companies had announced vaccine mandates. But according to a survey released Wednesday, most companies now have plans to require that employees get vaccinated by the end of the year. Conducted by Willis Towers Watson, the survey polled nearly 1,000 companies that together employ almost 10 million people:

52 percent plan to have vaccine mandates by the end of the year (including 21 percent that already do).

78 percent plan to track employees’ vaccination status (55 percent already do).

17 percent are considering health insurance premium rewards or surcharges to encourage vaccination (2 percent already do).

On employee expectations:

Creating and putting these policies in place takes time. Companies may also be responding to their employees’ shifting expectations (and fears) about returning to the workplace. Another report released Wednesday, conducted by the Conference Board, surveyed 2,400 U.S. workers:

42 percent said they were worried about returning to work for fear of contracting Covid or exposing family members to the virus, up from 24 percent of respondents in a survey in June.

29 percent said they were unsure if they would remain at their current job for the next six months. Among those looking for jobs, 80 percent said that their employer’s stance on flexible work arrangements was very or moderately important in their decision to look elsewhere.

On business travel:

Looking ahead to after the pandemic, one of the things that workers can probably count on is less business travel, according to a survey out Tuesday by Bloomberg of 45 large companies around the world:

84 percent of companies plan to spend less on travel after the pandemic, with a majority of those planning cuts of 20 to 40 percent of their prepandemic budgets. Put another way, all of those Zoom meetings aren’t going away.

Credit…Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Two Canadian railroads — Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific — have for months been jockeying to acquire Kansas City Southern, which would allow them to become the first Canadian company with tracks through Canada, the United States and Mexico. On Tuesday, the Surface Transportation Board, a U.S. agency that approves freight mergers, dealt a blow to Canadian National’s attempt to get that done.

The board, in an unanimous decision, declined to approve a voting trust, which would have allowed shareholders of both Canadian National and Kansas City Southern to reap the benefits of a deal while the companies wait for regulatory approval to complete their merger. The decision complicates the already complex situation and threatens to derail Canadian National’s $30 billion bid, which had trumped an earlier bid by Canadian Pacific.

Voting trusts have a long history in railroad deals, and the board had approved such a trust for Canadian Pacific’s proposed takeover before it was outbid by Canadian National. The denial of the voting trust for the Canadian National deal indicates that regulators could have concerns and that it may not be approved. It could also send Kansas City Southern back to Canadian Pacific.

In a May letter to the board, the Justice Department wrote that its concerns about use of a voting trust in the proposed Canadian Pacific transaction “apply with greater force to Canadian National’s proposed acquisition of Kansas City Southern because it raises additional potential competitive concerns.”

The Surface Transportation Board wrote that it found “that using a voting trust, in the context of the impending control application, would give rise to potential public interest harms relating to both competition and divestiture.”

Kansas City Southern, for its part, may consider itself lucky for having options. In a 2016 paper on voting trusts in railroad mergers, Russell Pittman, an economist at the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, wrote that these trusts serve a purpose, protecting the interests of the acquired and acquiring parties. When the board rejects a trust proposal it can make it harder for the target company to find a new acquirer, but with Canadian Pacific waiting and watching to see what happens, getting another offer may not be a problem.

Canadian Pacific last offered $27 billion for the American railroad earlier this month. That number may be more appealing to Kansas City Southern now.

Kansas City Southern shares fell on the denial, while Canadian National shares rose and Canadian Pacific shares fell.

The stock market continued its quietly remarkable year in August, posting its seventh straight monthly rise.

Matt Phillips, who covers markets for The New York Times, surveys the state of the market.

The S&P 500 index is up more than 20 percent for 2021 and has more than doubled in value since it hit bottom in March 2020. The market has closed at a record high 53 times — the most by this point of the year since 1964, according to LPL Financial.

“I hate to say it,” said Ed Yardeni, a longtime market analyst and president of the stock market research firm Yardeni Research. “But it looks like we’re learning to live with this virus, and the market certainly has.”

The lingering pandemic has lifted the stock prices of companies whose profits are tied to it directly — Moderna’s 260 percent rally this year has made it the S&P 500’s best performer — and those positioned to gain from the messy economic recovery, like metals manufacturers, energy companies and semiconductor makers.

The breadth of the boom was clear in July. Second-quarter earnings results were expected to be generally strong, but trounced expectations: Nearly 90 percent of companies exceeded analyst forecasts, the highest such level of “beats” on record, according to Refinitiv data going back to 1994.

When the S&P 500 this month rose to double its pandemic low on March 23, 2020, it was the fastest 100 percent rise for the index since World War II, according to Yardeni Research. In roughly 17 months, the rally created nearly $20 trillion in stock market wealth.

Besides the sheer angle of the ascent, analysts have been struck by the smoothness of the rally. The S&P hasn’t suffered a 5 percent pullback since October, according to Mr. Detrick. Even with a 0.1 percent decline on Tuesday, the market is just a day removed from its most recent record high.

Not everybody expects the rally to continue unabated. Any disruption of interest rates and governmental supports could alter the persistently sunny outlook. READ THE ARTICLE ->

“With the pandemic and labor shortages — the fact that for once we’re not totally disposable, they need us — it was the perfect time,” said Alexis Rizzo, right, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in the Buffalo area.Credit…Mustafa Hussain for The New York Times

Starbucks workers in the Buffalo area are asking the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections on union representation in one of the most serious union campaigns ever to confront the company.

Last week, the workers announced that they were forming a union called Starbucks Workers United, and on Monday they filed petitions for elections at three stores in the area. They proposed a vote in two weeks, our labor reporter, Noam Scheiber, reports.

Alexis Rizzo, a shift supervisor at one of the stores, said that she had had periodic conversations over several years with organizers for Workers United, the union with which the Starbucks workers hope to affiliate, but that until recently the timing for a union campaign had not felt right.

“With the pandemic and labor shortages — the fact that for once we’re not totally disposable, they need us — it was the perfect time,” Ms. Rizzo said.

She and several other workers said the pandemic exacerbated longstanding issues, such as the stress of understaffing, which became more acute as turnover and absenteeism increased and as workers were given additional responsibilities like sanitizing surfaces. The workers also said they felt pressure to come in when sick unless they could find a co-worker to replace them.

Despite periodic commitments by Starbucks to revise its policies, complaints lingered and appeared to intensify during the pandemic. READ THE ARTICLE ->

U.S. stocks rose in early trading Wednesday after closing the summer with its seventh straight month of gains. The S&P 500 was up 0.2 percent, while the Nasdaq composite rose 0.5 percent.

The S&P 500 has climbed more than 20 percent so far in 2021 and has more than doubled in value since it hit bottom in March 2020.

European markets gained on Wednesday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 0.4 percent higher. Asian markets rose.

Oil prices dropped ahead of a meeting where officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries are expected to ratify an agreement that increases oil production by 400,000 barrels a day in each of the coming months. Futures for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, fell 1.7 percent to $67.34 a barrel.

Shares of the Campbell Soup Company rose 3.1 percent in early trading after the company reported profit of $288 million for its 2021 fiscal year, compared with $86 million in 2020.

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