Saturday, May 25, 2024

Business Briefs for 12-19-2022

by Associated Press

Elon Musk Twitter poll ends with users seeking his departure

More than half of 17.5 million users who responded to a Twitter poll created by billionaire Elon Musk over whether he should step down as head of the company had voted yes by the time the poll closed. There was no immediate announcement from Twitter, or Musk, about whether that would happen, though Musk said that he would abide by the results. Musk attended the World Cup final on Sunday and may be midflight on his way back to the U.S. early Monday. Musk has taken a number of unscientific polls on substantial issues facing the social media platform including whether to reinstate journalists that he had suspended from Twitter, a decision that created a lot of blowback.

EU accuses Meta of antitrust breaches with classified ads

The European Union has accused Facebook parent Meta of breaching the bloc’s antitrust rules by distorting competition in the online classified ads business. The bloc’s executive commission said Monday that it “takes issue” with the tech company tying its online classified ad business, Facebook Marketplace, to Facebook. The European Commission says that means Facebook users automatically have access to Marketplace “whether they want it or not.” The commission, the 27-nation bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, said Meta also imposes unfair trading conditions on competing online classified ad companies that advertise their services on Facebook or Instagram. Companies that breach EU antitrust rules can be hit with fines worth up to 10% of their annual global revenue.

Christmas tree demand remains high despite inflation

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Americans are cutting back on spending in some areas this holiday season. But they’re not scrimping on Christmas trees. Retailers from Home Depot and Lowes to mom and pop operations raised their prices — but people are still buying them. The National Christmas Tree Association projects that nearly 21 million live Christmas trees will be sold by the time consumers wrap up purchases over the days leading up to Christmas Day.

Not just for kids: Toymakers aim more products at grown-ups

NEW YORK (AP) — Long before the pandemic, many adults turned to toys from Legos to collectible items to tap into their inner childhood for comfort. But all the stresses from the health crisis, which forced many people to isolate for months, accelerated the trend, Industry experts and toy makers from Mattel’s American Girl and Build-a-Bear see the behavior as long-lasting and are creating new products, services and websites aimed for the adult audience. Starting early this year, Mattel’s American Girl Cafe added more more adult fare like beet and goat cheese salads and cocktails like apple spritzes and Bloody Mary’s. Last year, Build-a-Bear launched a site called Bear Cave aimed at the 18-year-old and older.

Fortnite maker Epic Games to pay $520M to settle FTC cases

Video game company Epic Games is paying a total of $520 million in penalties and refunds to settle complaints involving children’s privacy and methods that tricked players into making purchases. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it has secured the record-breaking settlements from Epic Games for two cases. It’s refunding $245 million to customers who fell victim to deceptive online techniques and billing practices. It also agreed to pay a $275 million fine for collecting personal information on Fortnite players under the age of 13 without informing their parents or getting their consent.

Wall Street opens mixed, coming off 2 straight weekly losses

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street as gains for energy companies are offset by losses elsewhere in the market. Major indexes are coming off two weeks of losses. European markets are higher and Asian markets closed lower overnight. Shares of Facebook’s parent company were lower after the European Union accused the company of breaching antitrust rules by distorting competition in the online classified ads business. Treasury yields are moving higher and crude oil prices were higher. Investors are bracing for higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve and other central banks in their fight against inflation.

Third air bag death confirmed, owners urged to get repairs

DETROIT (AP) — Stellantis and U.S. safety regulators have confirmed that an exploding Takata air bag inflator has killed another driver. The company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reiterated warnings to owners of 274,000 older Dodge and Chrysler vehicles to stop driving them until faulty inflators are replaced. Stellantis announced two deaths in November caused by the air bags and said it suspected an inflator caused another. The company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler confirmed the third death early Monday. Stellantis is urging people to stop driving Dodge Magnum wagons, Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars and Chrysler 300 sedans from the 2005 through 2010 model years. Since 2009, the exploding air bags have killed at least 33 people worldwide.

Union Pacific railroad puts its shipping limits on hold

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific says it will stop imposing temporary limits on shipments while it reviews the policy that federal regulators and shippers criticized at a hearing last week. Union Pacific has put more than 1,000 of these embargoes in place this year as part of its effort to clear up congestion. CEO Lance Fritz said a brief letter to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board Friday that UP will put all new embargoes on hold. These orders that force businesses to pull some of their railcars off of UP’s network caught regulators eye because they are up significantly over the past few years. Members of the STB and companies that rely on railroads said the embargoes disrupt business operations and drive up shipping costs.

German business confidence brightens more than expected

BERLIN (AP) — A closely watched survey shows that German business confidence has improved more than expected in December. Managers in Europe’s biggest economy are taking a brighter view of both their current situation and the outlook for the next six months. The Ifo institute said Monday that its monthly confidence index rose to 88.6 points from 86.4 in November. Economists had expected an increase to 87.5. The December improvement in overall sentiment was the third in a row, but it marked the first time that businesses have been more positive about their current situation after six months of increasing pessimism.

EU ministers trying, again, for compromise on gas price cap

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union ministers are trying again to finalize a long-awaited deal to implement a natural gas price cap that they hope can help households and businesses better weather excessive price surges. The ministers have previously failed to overcome their differences at five previous so-called emergency meetings. Several EU leaders said last week that fixing a maximum ceiling to pay for gas was likely to be achieved this time. The 27 nations have stuck together through nine rounds of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine and energy-saving measures to avoid shortages of the fuel used to generate electricity, heat homes and power factories.

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