Business Highlights: Inflation up, overdraft fees on wane

By The Associated Press

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Fed to accelerate withdrawal of economic aid as prices surge

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under Chair Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve is poised this week to execute a sharp turn toward tighter interest-rate policies with inflation accelerating and unemployment falling faster than expected. The Fed will likely announce that it will reduce its monthly bond purchases at twice the rate that Powell had outlined just six weeks ago. Those bond purchases are intended to lower longer-term rates, so winding them down more quickly — likely by early spring — will lessen some of the economic aid the Fed supplied after the pandemic erupted last year. Fed officials are also expected to forecast that they will raise their benchmark short-term rate two or three times next year.

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Banks slowly reconsider overdraft fees, amid public pressure

NEW YORK (AP) — The banking industry appears to have overdone it on overdraft fees. After decades of raking in billions of dollars from mostly poor Americans short of cash in their accounts, the biggest banks — under pressure from lawmakers and regulators — are slowly decreasing their reliance on the widely unpopular practice. A number of large banks have taken steps this year that would reduce the amount they take in from overdraft fees, which they charge when customers make payments or withdrawals in excess of their account balance. Still, it’s unlikely the financial services industry will entirely wean itself off such a cash cow anytime soon.

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Wholesale inflation jumps record 9.6% over past 12 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prices at the wholesale level surged by a record 9.6% in November from a year earlier, an indication of ongoing inflation pressures The Labor Department said that its producer price index, which measures inflation before it reaches consumer, rose 0.8% in November compared to October, the highest monthly reading since June. Food prices, which had fallen 0.3% in October, jumped 1.2% in November. Energy prices rose 2.6% after a 5.3% rise in October.

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Cities wracked by opioids close to getting $26B settlement

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) — Thousands of towns across the United States that were wracked by the opioid crisis are on the precipice of receiving billions of dollars in the second-biggest legal settlement in U.S. history. The $26 billion from three drug distributors and a pharmaceutical manufacturer would address damage wrought by the opioid epidemic, which the federal government declared a public health emergency in 2017. States, counties and cities face a deadline in three weeks to sign onto the settlement, and most have agreed to do so. But a few holdouts remain, including Oregon, where disagreements have emerged between state and local government officials.

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Kroger ending some COVID-19 benefits for unvaccinated staff

Kroger, the country’s biggest traditional grocery chain, is ending some benefits for unvaccinated workers as big employers attempt to compel more to become vaccinated with cases of COVID-19 again rising. A company spokesperson said Tuesday that unvaccinated workers will no longer be eligible to receive up to two-weeks paid emergency leave if they become infected. That policy was put into place last year when vaccines were unavailable. The company also confirmed that salaried employees or management that are unvaccinated would be asked to pay a monthly $50 surcharge for their company health plan to defray costs incurred by the Kroger.

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Hard Rock International buying The Mirage operation in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Hard Rock International says it wants to see how a guitar-shaped hotel will play at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. MGM Resorts’ sale of The Mirage marks the end of an era for a property credited for helping to transform Las Vegas from a gambling hub into an ultra-luxury resort destination. The cash deal is worth nearly $1.1 billion and is expected to close next year. Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen said Monday that the Florida-based hospitality and entertainment company plans to build a guitar-shaped hotel. It’s not immediately clear if the Mirage’s iconic volcano fountain and Polynesian theme will remain at the site.

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Dutch extend COVID lockdown; school holidays to start early

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government has ordered elementary schools to close a week early for Christmas holidays as authorities battle to rein in coronavirus infections amid concerns about the swift spread of the omicron variant. Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday also extended the country’s existing lockdown until Jan. 14. Rutte said the government has to be alert for the new variant. He said the measures were “of course not the good news you hope for at Christmas time.” Rutte says school holidays will be extended from two weeks to three. Young children registered the steepest rises in infections in a recent surge in the Netherlands.

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Treasury awards $8.7B for lending in minority communities

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department will release $8.7 billion to help increase lending to small and minority-owned businesses and to people living in poorer communities with limited access to banking. The funds from the Emergency Capital Investment Program will go to 186 community-based financial institutions. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke about the investments Tuesday. Black Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, yet Federal Reserve figures show they control just 4.3% of household wealth. More than half of Black household wealth is in the form of pension entitlements. This makes it harder for people living in predominantly Black communities to qualify for business loans and mortgages.

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Insider Q&A: Elf On Shelf Co-CEO Christa Pitts

It all began with an elf named Fisbee. In the 1970s, when her three children were growing up, Carol Aebersold would place her childhood toy in a new spot each day leading up to Christmas. The family lore was that Fisbee was watching over them, ready to report to Santa if the children were naughty or nice. The family self-published a book and since then, more than 19 million people worldwide have bought “The Elf on the Shelf.” There are spinoff toys, like Elf Pets, along with app-based games and live experiences. Last year, the family’s company signed a multiyear deal with Netflix to develop The Elf on the Shelf content.

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Wall Street closes lower following latest inflation report

Stocks closed lower on Wall Street Tuesday as traders took in the latest sign that inflation is still running high ahead of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting of the year. The S&P 500 fell 0.7% and the Nasdaq shed 1.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3%. The latest report on inflation showed that wholesale prices jumped a record 9.6% in November from a year earlier. Federal Reserve policymakers began a two-day meeting at which they’re expected to speed up the withdrawal of economic stimulus measures. Technology stocks were the biggest drag on the market. Bond yields rose.

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The S&P 500 fell 34.88 points, or 0.7%, to 4,634.09. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 106.77 points, or 0.3%, to 35,544.18. The Nasdaq fell 175.64 points, or 1.1%, to 15,237.64. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 20.85 points, or 1%, to 2,159.65.

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