WASHINGTON- President Joe Biden planned to meet with chief executives of a variety of companies on Monday to discuss how to move goods to shelves as the U.S. holiday shopping season begins in the shadow of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.
Biden, who is wrestling with U.S. inflation that recently hit a 31-year high, has taken measures 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.
He planned to host an in-person meeting Monday afternoon with the CEOs of Best Buy, Food Lion, Samsung North America, Qurate Retail Group, Todos Supermarket, Etsy, Mattel and Kroger, according to Axios news outlet.
It said virtual participants were expected include Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch.
Biden will make public remarks on the issue after their meeting, which follows the kickoff of the year-end shopping season on Black Friday. Bargain hunters ventured out in chilly weather to buy Christmas gifts on the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, finding stores less crowded amid a shift online, COVID fears and less-steep discounts.
Earlier in the day, 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.
A semblance of calm returned to world markets on Monday as investors waited for more details to assess the severity of the Omicron coronavirus variant on the world economy, allowing battered stocks and oil prices to rebound.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu Editing by Peter Graff) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-898-8322;))