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OPEC and its allies will meet to decide whether to raise oil output.

Daily Business Briefing

Oct. 4, 2021Updated 

Oct. 4, 2021, 8:45 a.m. ET

Oct. 4, 2021, 8:45 a.m. ET

ImageAn oil pump in Karnes City, Texas. Demand for oil has recovered since last year, but the pandemic remains a concern in key oil-consuming nations, including the United States.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil producers are expected to meet Monday by teleconference to decide whether to add more oil to the market. The meeting comes amid rising demand for energy as businesses around the world resume operations.

Analysts say it is likely that the 23-member group, known as OPEC Plus, will sign off on continuing to increase production by a modest 400,000 barrels a day every month under a deal reached in July.

Pressures are building from customers like China and India for additional amounts of crude to ease a tightening market. Some analysts, though, doubt that the producers will want to raise production further now, even though oil prices are near a three-year high and briefly exceeded $80 a barrel for Brent crude, the international standard, on Sept. 28.

“It’s going to take oil prices sustaining above $80 a barrel for a period of time or pushing sharply higher,” for OPEC to consider changing its plan, said Richard Bronze, head of geopolitics at Energy Aspects, a research firm.

There are still reasons for OPEC Plus to be cautious, the thinking goes. Demand for oil has recovered strongly after crashing 9 percent last year, but the pandemic remains a concern in key oil consuming nations, including the United States.

Given the uncertainty, OPEC is likely to be wary of reopening the agreement reached through long and difficult negotiations in July. That deal would bring gradual monthly output increases of 400,000 barrels per day well into next year. OPEC Plus plans to meet each month to review the plan.

A change of course might encounter opposition, and it also might provide an opening for new negotiations on quotas from producers that would like higher ceilings — something that Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, who leads these meetings, most likely wants to avoid.

On the other hand, there are reasons the group might want to open the taps. Damage caused by Hurricane Ida in August to oil and gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico has largely negated the impact of recent production increases by OPEC Plus.

In addition, signs of distress are emerging in the energy markets. Already a global crunch in natural gas — a key fuel for generating electric power — threatens to feed into oil prices. British consumers have faced several days of disruption because of a shortage of gasoline that is being blamed on a lack of fuel truck drivers.

A price jump to $90 a barrel or more might throw cold water on demand for oil and prompt a political backlash, including from the United States, some analysts say.

The question is likely to come down to whether Prince Abdulaziz and his colleagues want to make a pre-emptive move now or wait for further developments.

Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times
  • OPEC meeting: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are expected to review their oil output policy as energy prices soar. The cartel could revise its agreement to increase production each month by 400,000 barrels a day. Brent crude futures, the global benchmark, recently hit their highest level in almost three years.

  • Hollywood strike: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a union representing more than 150,000 TV and film production workers, could vote to authorize a strike. The union, which has been working without a contract since mid-September, is negotiating on issues including excessive hours and reduced pay on streaming projects.

  • Facebook hearing: A Facebook whistle-blower will testify at a Senate hearing about the company’s effect on young users. The hearing comes after The Wall Street Journal reported on internal company documents detailing Facebook’s research on the negative impact of its Instagram app on teenage girls and others.

  • Elizabeth Holmes trial: The fraud trial of the Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will head into its fifth week. So far, jurors have heard detailed technical accounts from former employees of the problems with Theranos’s blood tests, including that machines that failed quality control tests and delivered inaccurate results.

  • Levi Strauss earnings: The clothing retailer is set to report its financial performance for the quarter ending August. Investors are looking out for any signs of supply chain disruptions, which have plagued other retailers as factories in Vietnam and China have partially or completely shut down following coronavirus outbreaks and power outages.

  • Justice Department Nominee: Jonathan Kanter, President Biden’s appointee to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing. Mr. Kanter’s critics are likely to question whether his previous work as a corporate lawyer against American tech giants is a conflict of interest that should keep him out of investigations into these companies.

  • Jobs report: The Labor Department is expected to release its monthly jobs report for September. The report for August showed a hiring slowdown. Economists are forecasting that the U.S. economy added 450,000 jobs during the month, a sharp gain from the 235,000 added in August but still below the growth rates seen earlier in the spring and summer.

Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Shares of China Evergrande were halted on Hong Kong’s stock exchange on Monday pending a deal, as doubts swirled over whether the struggling property giant would be able to meet its immense financial obligations.

Evergrande said in a filing that its shares were halted ahead of an announcement about a “major transaction.” It gave no additional details.

The real estate developer — once China’s most prolific — has been under close watch by foreign investors and local regulators after it missed two important interest payments on U.S. dollar bonds. The missed payments may not necessarily trigger a default because they each have a 30-day grace period before the missing payment would be considered a default.

Evergrande is under pressure from contractors and employees who are owed more than $300 billion in unpaid bills, as well as home buyers who are waiting on as many as 1.6 million unfinished apartments. In recent days, Wall Street banks and financial sleuths have been uncovering other liabilities that Evergrande may have in the form of guarantees that may add to its towering debt pile.

The company has not addressed its missed bond payments but said last week that it had sold a stake in a Chinese bank for $1.5 billion, which would go to pay some of its debts. Investors who are owed payments said they had not heard anything from the company, either.

Many of them have become increasingly pessimistic of a scenario where Beijing would step in to save Evergrande. It has hired restructuring experts to “explore all feasible options” for its future.

“I don’t expect payments will be made because the group has to be restructured,” said Michel Löwy, chief executive of SC Lowy, an investment firm that has a position in Evergrande bonds.

“I think it’s going to be a major hit for bondholders,” said Mr. Löwy, who said he was much more negative about the situation as more information has emerged about the quality of the land that Evergrande owns but has yet to develop. A restructuring of the entire sprawling real estate empire “would be very difficult to monetize,” he said.

Even as global warming melts the ice that covers 80 percent of Greenland, the world wants its potentially abundant reserves of hard-to-find minerals — so-called rare earths, used in wind turbines, electric motors and many other electronic devices, that are essential raw materials as the world tries to break its addiction to fossil fuels.

But mining projects have side effects, and proposals that threaten the environment or livelihoods may run into trouble from local people who are quite capable of standing up to powerful interests. READ THE ARTICLE →

Credit…Robert Fortunato/CBS, via Associated Press

Frances Haugen on Sunday revealed that she was the person who has loudly blown the whistle on Facebook. Until she left in May, she was a product manager on the social network’s civic misinformation team.

She amassed a trove of documents and used them to expose how much the company knew about the harms that it was causing and provided the evidence to lawmakers, regulators and the news media.

The spotlight on Ms. Haugen is set to grow brighter. On Tuesday, she is scheduled to testify in Congress about Facebook’s impact on young users.

In an interview with “60 Minutes” that was broadcast on Sunday night, Ms. Haugen, 37, said, “I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than what I had seen before.” She added, “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety.”

Ms. Haugen gave many of the Facebook documents to The Wall Street Journal, which last month began publishing the findings. The revelations — including that Facebook knew Instagram was worsening body image issues among teenagers and that it had a two-tier justice system — have spurred criticism from lawmakers, regulators and the public.

She has also filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing Facebook of misleading investors on various issues with public statements that did not match the company’s internal actions.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

American Airlines told employees on Friday that it would require all U.S.-based employees and some international crew members to be vaccinated.

In a letter to employees signed by the company’s chief executive and presidents, American said the move was necessary because of its status as a government contractor. Last month, President Biden announced that employees of government contractors would be required to be vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.

The airline’s letter gave no timetable, but the White House has said the deadline for employees of current contractors to be vaccinated is Dec. 8.

“While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” the letter said.

Employees who have medical or religious reasons to decline the vaccine could apply for an accommodation, the letter said. The letter was reported earlier by Reuters.

Separately, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue said on Friday that they, too, would mandate the vaccine for employees, also citing the requirement for federal contractors. In a statement, Alaska Airlines said it would extend to Dec. 1 a $200 incentive for employees who upload proof of full vaccination.

United Airlines issued a vaccine mandate for employees in August, but no other major carrier followed suit at the time. The company said this week that several hundred employees out of about 67,000 were at risk of being laid off for declining the vaccine, though the number had fallen below 250 by Friday.

Credit…Agence France-Presse, via Merck & Co,Inc./Afp Via Getty Images

As the nation’s death toll climbed above 700,000 in October, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser on the pandemic to President Biden, emphasized the need for the 70 million Americans who are eligible for a vaccine to get immunized during interviews on Sunday morning talk shows.

“Many of those deaths were unavoidable but many, many are avoidable, were avoidable and will in the future be avoidable,” Dr. Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Dr. Fauci was enthusiastic about the development of the new Merck anti-viral pill, describing it as “extremely important.” In announcing the results of its clinical trial last Friday, Merck said the pill was able to cut the risk of hospitalization and death from the virus by half.

But he also warned that Americans should not wait to be vaccinated because they believe they can take the pill. While the new medicine may decrease a person’s risk, the best way to be protected is avoiding infection, he said.

Merck said it would seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its drug, known as molnupiravir, as soon as possible. The pills could be available by late this year.

Dr. Fauci pointed to the stark difference in how many people died during Merck’s clinical trial for the treatment, with eight among the placebo group and none among those taking the drug. “That’s very impressive, so we really look forward to the implementation of this and to its effect on people who are infected,” he said.

The federal government has placed advanced orders for 1.7 million doses of the new medication. But Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former F.D.A. commissioner under President Trump and a board member for Pfizer, said that amount was “not enough” on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” covering only one month’s worth of infections in Southern states since the Delta variant emerged. He also contrasted that quantity with the national stockpile of medication to treat a flu pandemic, which he said numbers in the tens of millions.

Earlier, Dr. Fauci dismissed the notion that federal officials had not procured enough of the medicine, saying they had placed “a good bet” on the treatment.

“We have options for millions more,” he said on the program, predicting the company would ramp up production to meet demand in the United States and across the world.

Dr. Fauci also expressed optimism that the country was now seeing a slow down in cases, signaling a potential respite from the pandemic. “We certainly are turning a corner on this particular surge,” he said during an interview on “This Week” on ABC News.

But he also refused to predict whether people would be able to freely gather this coming Christmas, saying on CBS News that “it’s just too soon to tell.”

Credit…Liz Martin/The Gazette, via Associated Press

“Anyone recognize him?” the police in Winter Haven, Fla., asked on Facebook last month in a post that included photos of a man walking out of a Walmart without paying for boxes of diapers and other items.

“When your card is declined and you try another one with the same result, that is NOT license to just walk out with the items anyway,” the police said in a Facebook post, which was later deleted.

The Winter Haven Police Department drew swift criticism for the post from people wondering why the department had gone after a man who had stolen basic necessities for his children, also pictured in the surveillance photos.

After the incident, which was previously reported by WFTS-TV in Tampa, Fla., the store asked the police not to prosecute the man, according to a waiver of prosecution the police department provided to The New York Times. Walmart and the man did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s possible the man was among the one in three American families who struggle with diaper need, according to a February 2020 report by the National Diaper Bank Network, an organization that provides diapers to children. Joanne Samuel Goldblum, the network’s founder and chief executive, said she suspects that figure probably rose during the coronavirus pandemic as diaper prices increased and supply plummeted.

“Diaper need is a topic that’s so swept under the rug,” she said. “Covid really laid it bare for us.”

The pandemic has upended global supply chains and created a run on many products, including diapers. Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble, two of the country’s largest diaper manufacturers, increased the prices of baby products this year. A typical package of 100 diapers costs $30 to $50 from most online retailers.

Even a small price increase can put a strain on families, many of whom pay around $75 for a month’s worth of diapers for one baby, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. Many parents have to choose between buying diapers or other necessities, and some will leave their child in a soiled diaper because they can’t afford a replacement.