Biden to Meet With CEOs on Supply Chain Amid New COVID Threat
President Joe Biden planned to meet with chief executives of major retailers and other companies on Monday to discuss how to move goods to shelves as the U.S. holiday shopping season begins in the shadow of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Biden, who is wrestling with U.S. inflation that recently hit a 31-year high, has taken measures to try to break supply chain logjams including unclogging ports and expanding trucker hours.
The Democratic president has also sought investigations into excessive shipping fees and possible illegal conduct into oil and gas markets that are keeping fuel prices high.
Biden planned to host at the White House the CEOs of Best Buy, Food Lion, Samsung North America, Qurate Retail Group, Todos Supermarket, Etsy, Mattel and Kroger, the White House said.
Virtual participants in the meeting will include Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch.
Biden will make public remarks after the meeting, which follows the start of the year-end shopping season on Black Friday.
Black Friday retail sales were up 29.8% versus 2020 through 3 p.m. that day, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Bargain hunters who ventured out to buy Christmas gifts on the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday found stores less crowded amid a shift online, COVID fears and less-steep discounts.
U.S. retailers are estimated to generate online sales of up to $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, a decline in growth from a year earlier as fewer discounts and limited choices due to global supply chain disruptions deter shoppers.
Earlier on Monday, Biden will receive a briefing from the White House COVID-19 response team on developments related to the Omicron variant.
The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk, where infection surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas.
News of the variant spread from southern Africa as the U.S. economy appeared to accelerate last week after the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits dropped to a 52-year low.
After a jittery sell-off on Friday, a semblance of calm returned to world markets on Monday as investors waited for more details to assess the severity of the Omicron variant on the world economy, allowing battered stocks and oil prices to rebound.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Doina Chiacu, Editing by Peter Graff and Ed Osmond)