AP morning business news brief – Feb. 8, 2023

Ex-Twitter execs face GOP questioning on Hunter Biden story

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Twitter executives conceded to Congress that they made a mistake by blocking a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son, from the social media platform in the run-up to the 2020 election. But they adamantly denied Republican assertions that they were pressured by Democrats and law enforcement to suppress the story. The three former executives appeared before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to testify for the first time about the decision to initially block from Twitter a New York Post article about the contents of a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden. The White House called the hearing an effort by “extreme MAGA” members to relitigate the 2020 election.”

Microsoft’s Activision deal hurts gamers, UK watchdog says

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft’s stalled $68.7 billion deal to buy video game company Activision Blizzard has hit a fresh hurdle in the United Kingdom. Britain’s antitrust watchdog said Wednesday that the deal will stifle competition and hurt gamers. The watchdog’s investigation found that the deal could strengthen Microsoft’s position in the growing cloud gaming market. The provisional report also says the deal would weaken the important rivalry between Microsoft’s Xbox console and Sony’s rival PlayStation. The deal faces opposition from Sony and pushback from regulators worldwide because it would give Microsoft control of popular game franchises like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. Microsoft says it’s “committed to offering effective and easily enforceable solutions.”

CVS buying spree continues with $10.6B Oak Street deal

CVS Health is plunging deeper into providing primary care with an approximately $10.6 billion deal to acquire Oak Street Health. The drugstore chain and health insurer said Wednesday it would pay $39 per share in cash for each share of Oak Street Health in a deal expected to close this year. Oak Street Health runs primary care centers mostly for lower-to-middle income people with Medicare Advantage plans. Those are privately run versions of the federal government’s program for people aged 65 and older.

Stella Jean quits Milan Fashion Week over lack of inclusion

MILAN (AP) — The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion council is withdrawing from this month’s Milan Fashion Week citing a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion. Stella Jean on Wednesday also announced a hunger strike out of concern that other minority designers associated with her will suffer a backlash. Stella Jean told The Associated Press that the Italian National Fashion Chamber had significantly reduced financial support for the We Are Made in Italy collective of young designers of color working in Italy after she made an impassioned speech about the personal price she had paid for highlighting racial injustice in Italy during a runway show last September.

Blaze at US drone plant in Latvia; arson not suspected

HELSINKI (AP) — Firefighters are working for a second day to fully extinguish a blaze at a U.S. company’s drone plant in Latvia. Local police said Wednesday they have found nothing so far to indicate sabotage. Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service was alerted Tuesday afternoon that a fire had broken out at Edge Autonomy’s drone production plant in Marupe, a town that borders the capital, Riga. The Baltic News Service said the blaze was largely contained by 7 p.m. but firefighters continued work to fully extinguish the fire on Wednesday. Among other countries, Edge Autonomy’s facility in Marupe has delivered drones to Ukraine.

Fed’s Powell: Strong hiring could force further rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that if the U.S. job market further strengthens in the coming months or inflation readings accelerate, the Fed might have to raise its benchmark interest rate higher than it now projects. Powell’s remarks followed the government’s blockbuster report last week that employers added 517,000 jobs in January, nearly double December’s gain. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 53 years, 3.4%.Powell made his remarks in an appearance at the Economic Club of Washington.

Stocks fall on Wall Street, giving back some recent gains

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is giving back some of its recent gains, as uncertainty about interest rates and inflation continues to reign. The S&P 500 was 0.8% lower in midday trading Wednesday following another mixed set of earnings reports from big companies. Chipotle Mexican Grill sank after delivering weaker results for the latest quarter than expected, while disappointing forecasts for upcoming results knocked other stocks lower. CVS Health climbed after turning in stronger profits than Wall Street had forecast. More big companies are scheduled to report after trading closes for the day, including The Walt Disney Co. Treasury yields were holding relatively steady.

Shipper Maersk reports most profitable year, warns of drop

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The world’s biggest shipper, Denmark’s A.P. Moeller-Maersk, says 2022 was its most profitable year but warned that a plunge in container volumes and freight rates would lead to a drop in earnings this year. In its full year report Wednesday, Maersk said its full-year revenue increased by 32%, to $81.5 billion compared with a year earlier. But revenue and profits before taxes shrunk in the last three months of 2022 compared to the same period a year earlier. The Copenhagen-based company said the economic outlook shifted during 2022 and shocks like high inflation and more spending on services instead of goods weighed on economic activity and supply chains.

US, states weigh farmland restrictions after Chinese balloon

HARLOWTON, Mont. (AP) — As U.S.-China relations cool amid trade disputes and espionage fears stoked by the Chinese spy balloon shot down off the Atlantic Coast, lawmakers in Congress and at least 11 statehouses are weighing legislation to further limit foreign ownership of farmland. The proposals were introduced earlier this month out of concern for long-term food security and land potentially being used as a perch for spying, a claim getting even more attention after the spy balloon crossed over the U.S. The efforts reflect how worries about Chinese influence have expanded beyond Washington, D.C.

Microsoft bakes ChatGPT-like tech into search engine Bing

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft is fusing ChatGPT-like technology into its search engine Bing, transforming an internet service that now trails far behind Google into a new way of communicating with artificial intelligence. The revamping of Microsoft’s second-place search engine could give the software giant a head start against other tech companies in capitalizing on the worldwide excitement surrounding ChatGPT, a tool that’s awakened millions of people to the possibilities of the latest AI technology. Along with adding it to Bing, Microsoft says it is also integrating the chatbot technology into its Edge browser. Microsoft announced the new technology Tuesday at an event at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

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