Thursday, April 18, 2024

Business Highlights: Exxon board fight, sizzling home market

by Associated Press

Board fight at Exxon intensifies spotlight on climate change

NEW YORK (AP) — ExxonMobil is facing a major challenge from a group of investors in one of the biggest fights a corporate boardroom has endured over its stance on climate change, an issue of rising urgency for many shareholders. The investor group is pushing to replace four of the oil giant’s board members with executives they say are better suited to both strengthen the company’s finances and lead it through the transition to cleaner energy. The fight represents a moment of reckoning for major publicly traded companies to address a global crisis.

In a sizzling US market, demand and prices for homes soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s housing market has grown so overheated as demand outpaces supply that prices keep hitting record highs — and roughly half of all U.S. houses are now selling above their list price. Two years ago, before the pandemic struck, just a quarter of homes were selling above the sellers’ asking price, according to data from the real estate brokerage Redfin. On Tuesday, new data further illuminated the red-hot nature of the housing market: Prices rose in March at the fastest pace in more than seven years. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index jumped 13.3% in March compared with a year earlier — the biggest such gain since December 2013.

Consumer confidence ticks down in May, but remains strong

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Consumer confidence ticked down slightly in May but remains nearly as high as its been since the pandemic began. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell to 117.2 from April’s 117.5 reading. The present situation index, based on consumers assessment of current business and labor market conditions, rose to 144.3 from 131.9. Economists have said that rising confidence should bolster overall economic growth as consumers, who account for 70% of economic activity, spend more as lockdown restrictions are eased or abandoned altogether in many places.

Saved by online lenders, businesses say they’ll borrow again

NEW YORK (AP) — Some small businesses forced to turn to online lenders for pandemic relief are making those niche players a bigger part of their financial game plan. A few are even considering dumping their traditional banks altogether. Online lenders saved thousands of small business owners who were unable to get Paycheck Protection Program loans from big traditional lenders. Some of the big banks rejected their own customers because they didn’t have the right mix of accounts. Other businesses were turned down without explanation. Now, encouraged by getting applications processed by online lenders in days rather than weeks, these owners are becoming repeat customers.

GM now says it will support union at new battery factories

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors now says it will support efforts by the United Auto Workers union to organize employees at two U.S. electric vehicle battery factories that it’s building in Ohio and Tennessee with a joint venture partner. The company’s statement Tuesday departs from GM’s past stance that the joint venture called Ultium LLC would decide on a bargaining strategy. But it falls into line with President Joe Biden’s promise to create good-paying union jobs in the transition from combustion vehicles to electric. It also comes after the UAW has made strong public statements that GM and crosstown rival Ford have a moral obligation to pay top union wages at joint venture battery plants.

Hack prompts new security regulations for US pipelines

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government will issue cybersecurity regulations in the coming days for U.S. pipeline operators following a ransomware attack that led to fuel shortages across much of the Eastern Seaboard. The Transportation Security Administration has primary oversight responsibility for the security of the nation’s network of pipelines. A U.S. official says the agency is expected to issue a security directive later this week that will include a requirement that pipeline companies report cyber incidents to the federal government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal has not yet been publicly released. The directive is expected to prompt concern, if not outright opposition, from private operators wary of increased government regulation.

DC files antitrust case vs Amazon over treatment of vendors

WASHINGTON (AP) — The District of Columbia has sued Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of illegal anticompetitive practices in its treatment of sellers on its platform. The practices have raised prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice in the online retail market, the DC attorney general alleges in an antitrust suit. The suit maintains that Amazon has fixed online retail prices through contract provisions and policies it applies to third-party sellers on its platform. It alleges these provisions and policies prevent sellers that offer products on from offering their products at lower prices or on better terms on any other online platform, including their own websites.

Stocks give up an early gain and end lower on Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed lower on Wall Street, giving up an early gain and losing momentum after a solid start to the week. The S&P 500 slipped 0.2% Tuesday. Gains by several Big Tech companies helped limit the loss in the Nasdaq to less than 0.1%. An index of small-company stocks fell 1%. Banks and energy companies fell the most. Investors are still worried that rising inflation could eventually prompt central banks to withdraw help for the economy. Homebuilders rose following a report that U.S. home prices jumped in March by the most in more than seven years.

The S&P 500 shed 8.92 points, or 0.2%, to 4,188.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 81.52 points, or 0.2%, to 34,312.46. The Nasdaq dropped 4 points, or less than 0.1%, to 13,657.17. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies lost 21.59 points, or 1%, to 2,205.75.

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