Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Business Briefs

by Associated Press

US revises up last quarter’s economic growth to 2.9% rate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September despite high interest rates and chronic inflation, the government said Wednesday in an upgrade from its initial estimate. Last quarter’s rise in the U.S. gross domestic product, or the economy’s total output of goods and services, followed two straight quarters of contraction. That decline in output had raised fears that the economy might have slipped into a recession in the first half of the year. Since then, though, most signs have pointed to a resilient if slow-moving economy. Wednesday’s report showed that the restoration of growth in the July-September period was led by solid gains in exports and consumer spending that was stronger than originally reported.

Congress prepares to take up bill preventing rail strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving swiftly to prevent a looming U.S. rail workers strike. Lawmakers are reluctantly intervening in a labor dispute to stop what would surely be a devastating blow to the nation’s economy if the transportation of fuel, food and other critical goods were disrupted. The House is expected to act first on Wednesday. The bill Congress is considering would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden’s administration. That agreement was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at large freight rail carriers. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

Inflation in Europe eases but still in painful double digits

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Inflation in Europe has eased for the first time in more than a year as energy prices drifted down from painful highs. But the double-digit rate still hovers near a record that has robbed consumers of their spending power and led economists to predict a recession. The European Union’s statistics agency said Wednesday that consumer price index in the 19 countries that use the euro currency hit 10% in November from a year earlier. That was a drop from 10.6% in October, the first decrease since June 2021. The figure reflected prices for food, alcohol and tobacco rising faster even as energy prices slipped to a 34.9% rate of increase from an astronomical 41.5% in October.

Raimondo: US isn’t seeking to sever economic ties with China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States isn’t seeking to sever economic ties with China — even as it takes steps to protect America’s technological and military prowess from Beijing. That’s according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. She spoke to reporters in advance of a speech Wednesday on the Biden administration’s China policy. Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have chilled over the last decade, partly because the communist government in Beijing has cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong and on Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. The Biden administration has kept President Donald Trump’s tariffs on China and has stepped up a campaign to keep the Chinese from acquiring sensitive technology that could speed its military buildup.

US job openings fell in October to still-high level

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. job openings dropped in October but remained high, a sign that businesses became slightly less desperate for workers as the Federal Reserve ramps up interest rates in an effort to cool the economy. Employers posted 10.3 million job vacancies in October, down from 10.7 million in September, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Even with the drop, openings were slightly lower in August, when they dipped below 10.3 million before rebounding the following month.

Stocks waver on Wall Street ahead of speech by Fed chair

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are wavering on Wall Street ahead of a speech by Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, on the outlook for the economy and inflation. Treasury yields were higher and crude oil prices rose. The S&P 500 index fell 0.2% in morning trading Wednesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 0.3% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%. Banks and industrial companies fell and weighed down the broader market. European and Asian markets were mostly higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 3.79%. Indexes are on track to notch gains for November.

The AP Interview: IMF head urges China to end mass lockdowns

BERLIN (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund says it’s time for China to move away from mass lockdowns under its “zero-COVID” approach. Kristalina Georgieva said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that a “recalibration” of the tough approach could shift to more targeted restrictions. That would be easier on the Chinese people and reduce spillover effects on the global economy. She also said it’s not time yet for the U.S. Federal Reserve to ease off on its rapid interest rate increases. High inflation numbers in the U.S. and Europe mean its “too early to step back.” She said the Fed “has no option but to stay the course” until there’s a credible decline in inflation.

‘Necessary evil’: France refires coal plant amid energy woes

SAINT-AVOLD, France (AP) — France has restarted a shuttered coal plant as part of emergency efforts to keep heat and electricity on this winter. Russia’s war in Ukraine has triggered an energy crisis in Europe that has paved the way for coal’s comeback in a few countries. On top of Russia largely cutting off natural gas to Europe, France’s nuclear reactors faced a series of maintenance and other technical problems this year. So the governrment issued a decree in September to allow two French coal plants to restart. One is at Saint-Avold in eastern France. The government insists the move will be temporary. Environmental groups warn this endangers climate goals and threatens health from increased pollution.

Drug slows Alzheimer’s but can it make a real difference?

New data shows an experimental Alzheimer’s drug modestly slowed the brain disease’s inevitable worsening. The next question is how much difference that might make in people’s lives. Japanese drugmaker Eisai and its U.S. partner Biogen announced earlier this fall that lecanemab appears to work, a badly needed bright spot after disappointments in the quest for better Alzheimer’s treatments. Tuesday, the companies released full study results. Eisai says the drug’s benefit translates to about a five-month delay in progression over the 18-month study. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide whether to approve the drug by early January.

German gas importer Uniper seeks damages from Gazprom

BERLIN (AP) — German energy company Uniper is suing Gazprom for damages over natural gas that hasn’t been delivered since June when the Russian supplier started reducing amounts to Germany. Gas importer Uniper said Wednesday that it has initiated proceedings against Gazprom Export at an international arbitration tribunal in Stockholm. It said the cost to replace gas that Russia failed to supply so far totals at least 11.6 billion euros ($12 billion) and will continue to increase until the end of 2024. Gazprom started reducing gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany in mid-June. Russia hasn’t delivered any gas to Germany since the end of August.

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