Saturday, May 25, 2024

Business Briefs for Dec. 7

by Associated Press

As supply chains unclog, consumers enjoy (tentative) relief

The supply backlogs of the past two years — and the delays, shortages and outrageous prices that came with them — have improved dramatically since summer. The web of factories, railroads, ports, warehouses and freight yards that link products to customers have nearly regained their pre-pandemic levels. The easing of supply bottlenecks has begun to provide some relief from the inflation that this year reached its highest levels in four decades and has pummeled consumers and businesses. The progress has been modest and so far short-lived. Yet it’s still a glimmer of good news for shoppers in the holiday shopping season.

Making ‘indie’ video games gets trickier as industry evolves

Every year, some tiny and independent video game developer studios like hold their own with the big leagues by making hit games that achieve commercial success or at least critical acclaim. Ben Esposito’s latest, Neon White, is a campy twist on the first-person shooter genre. It’s nominated for “Best Indie” and “Best Action” game at Thursday’s Game Awards, an Oscars-like event for the video game industry. How long these “indie” studios can flourish is up for debate as the gaming industry undergoes increasing consolidation. That’s symbolized by Xbox-maker Microsoft’s pending $69 billion takeover of giant game publisher Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft strikes 10-year deal with Nintendo on Call of Duty

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft has agreed to make the hit video game Call of Duty available on Nintendo for 10 years should its $69 billion purchase of game maker Activision Blizzard go through. The announcement Wednesday is an apparent attempt to fend off objections from rival Sony. The blockbuster merger is facing close scrutiny from global regulators. Microsoft, maker of the Xbox game console, faces resistance from Sony, which makes the competing PlayStation console. Sony has raised concerns with antitrust watchdogs about losing access to what it describes as a “must-have” game title. Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted his thanks to Nintendo, which makes the Switch game console. He said the same deal was also available for Sony.

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

BEIJING (AP) — China has rolled back rules on isolating people with COVID-19 and dropped virus test requirements for some public places. That is a dramatic change to a strategy that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. The move adds to earlier easing that fueled hopes Beijing was scrapping its “zero COVID” strategy. Experts warn that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated and the health care system strengthened. China is the last major country still trying to stamp out transmission of the virus while many nations switch to trying to live with it.

Holmes’ former partner faces sentencing in Theranos case

A former Theranos executive learns Wednesday whether he will be punished as severely as his former lover and business partner for peddling the company’s bogus blood-testing technology that duped investors and endangered patients. Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was convicted in July of fraud and conspiracy. He will be sentenced less than three weeks after Elizabeth Holmes, the company’s founder and CEO, received more than 11 years in prison for her role in a scandal that threw a bright light on Silicon Valley’s dark side. Holmes could have gotten up to 20 years in prison — a penalty that U.S. District Judge Edward Davila could now impose on Balwani. He spent six years as Theranos’ chief operating officer.

Tesla launches in Thailand, vying to compete with China EVs

BANGKOK (AP) — Tesla has launched sales in Thailand, offering its popular Model 3 and Model Y at prices aimed at competing with rivals like China’s BYD. The company staged a glitzy showcase of its plans Wednesday at Bangkok’s Siam Paragon mall. Online purchases have begun, with plans to deliver vehicles to buyers in the first quarter of next year. Southeast Asia’s market of more than 600 million consumers is increasingly a focus for automakers looking to expand sales, especially of electric vehicles. Still, Thailand remains mainly a land of gasoline, diesel and LPG-fueled vehicles, even as a nationwide network of charging stations expands.

US futures point to continued slump this week on Wall Street

Wall Street futures edged lower Wednesday ahead of new employment and wholesale price data with the Federal Reserve gauging its next step in its fight to cool inflation. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials slipped 0.4% and the S&P 500 fell 0.7% just over an hour before the opening bell. Stronger-than-expected economic data this week has dragged U.S. markets lower on the expectation that the Federal Reserve will be forced to remain aggressive with interest rates during its last policy meeting of 2022. This week, the Dow has fallen 2.4%, the S&P 3.2%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite nearly 4%.

Africa forum hails ‘circular economy’ solutions for climate

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Reducing waste while boosting recycling and reuse, known as the ‘circular economy,’ will be vital for halting the loss of nature by meeting growing demand with fewer resources and will make communities more resilient to climate change by encouraging more sustainable practices on the African continent, organizers of the World Circular Economy Forum said Wednesday. The conference, which brings together climate and economic experts as well businesses and think tanks, is being held in the Rwandan capital Kigali — the first ever in the global south.

Juul reaches settlements covering more than 5,000 cases

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has reached settlements covering more than 5,000 cases brought by about 10,000 plaintiffs related to its vaping products. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Juul said that it has secured an equity investment to fund it. The company has been buffeted by lawsuits and chances that it would seek bankruptcy protection, or a buyer, were elevated last month as Juul announced hundreds of layoffs and secured new financing to continue operations.

EU takes China to WTO over Lithuania trade dispute

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has announced that it’s begun legal action at the World Trade Organization against China over what it says are import restrictions Beijing has imposed on Lithuania. The European Commission estimates that China has cut trade from Lithuania by 80% this year. It followed the Baltic state breaking with diplomatic custom in 2021 by letting the Taiwanese office in Vilnius bear the name Taiwan, instead of Chinese Taipei. Most countries use the latter to avoid offending Beijing. The commission said Wednesday that “China has applied discriminatory and coercive measures against exports from Lithuania.” China said it regrets the EU move and that Beijing “has always managed foreign trade in a manner consistent with WTO rules.”

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