Saturday, April 13, 2024

Business Highlights: Flexible working, economic bottlenecks

by Associated Press
laptop with zoom screen open

Is Thursday the new Monday? Flexible working is in flux

NEW YORK (AP) — Companies around the U.S. are scrambling to figure out how to bring employees back to the office after more than a year of them working remotely. Most are proceeding cautiously, trying to navigate declining COVID-19 infections against a potential backlash by workers who are not ready to return. Tensions have spilled into the public at a few companies where some staff have organized petitions or even walkouts to protest being recalled to the office. Many are introducing a gradual return, allowing employees to work remotely two or three days a week. But implementing a “hybrid” workplace can be a headache, from identifying which roles are most conducive to remote work to deciding which days of the week employees need to be in the office.

Have a seat: Patio furniture shortage tells US economic tale

COCKEYSVILLE, Maryland (AP) — The Biden economy faces the unusual problem of possibly being too strong for its own good. It’s a tale that can be told from the floor of patio furniture showrooms, where shortages of outdoor tables and chairs abound. The shortages reflect the combined challenge of the fastest economic growth in generations but also persistent delays for anyone trying to buy furniture, autos and a wide mix of other goods. Republicans cast that as a sign of economic weakness. President Joe Biden counters that wage increases are helping the middle and working classes. The challenges also reflect a mix of market forces, tensions with China and the unique nature of restarting an economy after a pandemic.

Biden seeks to strengthen options for workers with new order

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order reducing the ability of employers to prevent workers from going to rival firms and remove some of state occupational licensing requirements that make it harder to land a job. White House press secretary Jen Psaki it’s designed to increase workers’ chances of employment and generate more competition among U.S. employers. The executive order will direct the Federal Trade Commission to restrict so-called noncompete agreements, which have stopped workers in industries including fast food and Big Tech from going to other employers for higher pay.

Fed officials discussed potential reduction in stimulus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials started discussing at their meeting last month the timing and mechanics of reducing their huge monthly bond purchases, which are used to keep longer-term interest rates in check. The debate, revealed in the minutes of the Fed’s June meeting released Wednesday, reflected a broadly positive outlook on the economy among Fed policymakers but also some concern that higher inflation could prove more persistent than the central bank has previously indicated. Still, economists saw little sign that the Fed was any closer to hiking interest rates or reducing its bond buys.

Stocks close higher, led by gains for tech; bond yields drop

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing higher Wednesday, led by gains in Apple, Oracle and other tech companies. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to close at a record high. Banks rose despite another drop in bond yields. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.32% from 1.37% a day earlier. Industrial stocks and health care companies were also among the gainers. Energy stocks fell as the price of oil dropped. Stock indexes and Treasury yields had little reaction to the minutes from the June meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers, which showed Fed officials discussed the timing of reducing bond purchases.

US job openings rise to record high, layoffs hit record low

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted a record-high number of open jobs for the second straight month as a rapidly rebounding economy has created an intense demand for workers. The Labor Department said Wednesday that the number of available jobs on the last day of May rose slightly to 9.21 million, from 9.19 million in April. That is the highest since records began in December 2000. The previously-reported figure for April of 9.3 million was revised lower.

Trump files suit against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has filed suit against three of the country’s biggest tech companies, claiming he and other conservatives have been wrongfully censored. But legal experts say the suits are likely doomed to fail, given existing precedent and legal protections. Trump announced the action Wednesday against Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube as well as the companies’ CEOs. He spoke at a press conference in New Jersey where he demanded that his accounts be reinstated. Trump was suspended from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after his followers stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The companies cited concerns that he would incite further violence.

China fines internet giants in anti-monopoly cases

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese regulators have fined companies including internet giants Alibaba and Tencent for anti-monopoly violations as they move to tighten control over their fast-developing industries. The government said companies in 22 cases were fined 500,000 yuan ($75,000) each for actions including acquiring stakes in other companies that might improperly increase their market power. It said violators include six companies owned by Alibaba Group, five by Tencent Holding Ltd. and two by retailer, Ltd. China’s leaders worry about the dominance of its biggest internet companies, which are expanding into finance, health services and other sensitive areas. The ruling Communist Party says anti-monopoly enforcement, especially in tech, is a priority this year.

The S&P 500 gained 14.59 points, or 0.3%, to 4,358.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 104.42 points, or 0.3%, to 34,681.79. The Nasdaq advanced 1.42 points, or less than 0.1%, to 14,665.06. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 21.66 points, or 1%, to 2,252.85.

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