Though markets have been relatively subdued this week, world events have kept traders alert – from the Suez Canal block boosting oil prices slightly after an otherwise difficult week, to the two-day EU Summit addressing EU-US relations, Turkey, Russia, and the elephant in the room – vaccine rollout.
Starting with day one of the summit, let's take a closer look at the events that mattered.
EU imposes tighter governance on vaccine exports
European leaders met Thursday via videoconference, with vaccine blocks having been the highest priority for the first day of the summit. The nations agreed that companies needed to fulfil on their delivery obligations to the EU, but butted heads when it came to order of priority, with Austria's chancellor looking to get more vaccines, calling current distribution ‘uneven'.
The Commission's President said Europe is on track to vaccinate 70% of the adult population by the summer, adding that while the vaccine is working, the rollout hasn't been. Until now, 88 million doses have been delivered, and over 60 million of them administered; 18.2 million people in Europe have already received both jabs, i.e., are fully vaccinated.
With more doses expected in the coming months from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the conversation went back to AstraZeneca's commitment to deliver 70 million doses in Q2, despite a contractual obligation for 180 million doses. The summit rolls on today (Friday, March 26th).
Western brands boycotted by China
Nike, Adidas, retailer H&M, and now luxury retailer Burberry are among the Western brands facing possible boycotts in China after the UK imposed sanctions for alleged human rights violations in the country's biggest cotton-producing region, Xinjiang.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, these retailers either accept cotton from the region and face backlash in the West, or risk losing a marketplace of 1.4 billion people. Swedish-owned H&M were the first to come under fire Wednesday, followed swiftly by Nike, which fell 5% at market open, and closed 3% lower Thursday. Celebrities have dropped their sponsorships with the brands, blasting them on social media to millions of followers, and malls have already started to take down signs with their logos from the outside of buildings.
An ongoing story with little input from the brands, for now we'll have to follow along closely in the days and weeks ahead.
Movers & shakers
🔺 Smiths PLC (SMIN.LON) was up 7% Friday (at time of writing) after doubling profit expectations for the first fiscal half of the year. Get the full story on MarketWatch
🔻 Baidu (BIDU) tanked 14.5% Thursday on fear of regulator oversight in China. Read more over on The Motley Fool