Sunday, May 26, 2024

AP morning business news brief – June 21, 2023

by BIZ Magazine

IRS reduces tax return backlog by 80% and is doing better job answering the phone

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS has processed tens of millions of tax returns faster this year compared with years past, and getting through to customer service on the phone is slowly improving. That word comes in a new report to Congress from the National Taxpayer Advocate. But there’s a huge need to update the agency’s information technology services and have more workers answering calls. Still, it’s a vast improvement after years of backlogs and decades of underfunding. The office’s latest update on IRS operations says the agency cut its backlog of unprocessed paper tax returns by 80%, from 13.3 million returns at the end of the 2022 filing season to 2.6 million at the end of the 2023 filing season.

FTC accuses Amazon of enrolling consumers into Prime without consent and making it hard to cancel

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon on Wednesday for what it called a years-long effort to enroll consumers without consent into its Prime program and making it difficult for them to cancel their subscriptions. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the agency accused Amazon of using deceptive designs, known as “dark patterns,” to deceive consumers into enrolling in the program. It also alleged the company’s leadership slowed or rejected changes that made canceling the subscription easier. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cooperation or competition? China’s security industry sees the US, not AI, as the bigger threat

BEIJING (AP) — China’s security and surveillance industry is now focused on shoring up its vulnerabilities to the United States and other outside actors, worried about risks posed by hackers, advances in artificial intelligence and pressure from rival governments. The renewed emphasis on self-reliance, combating fraud and hardening systems against hacking was on display at the recent Security China exhibition in Beijing. So were U.S. efforts to choke off China’s access to cutting-edge technology. It illustrates just how difficult it will be to get Beijing and Washington to cooperate, even as researchers warn that humankind faces common risks from AI.

Paris summit aims to shake up the financial system. It will test leaders’ resolve on climate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heads of state, finance leaders and activists are converging in Paris to seek ways to overhaul the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and help them weather a warmer and stormier world. The banks have been criticized for not factoring climate change into lending decisions and being dominated by wealthy countries like the U.S. The neediest nations have been left out of calling the shots. While those are the primary problems to solve, some doubt the splashy summit led by French President Emmanuel Macron will be able to take major strides. Still, the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact will draw roughly 50 heads of state and government.

Foreign companies are shifting investment out of China as confidence wanes, business group says

BEIJING (AP) — A business group says foreign companies are shifting investment and their Asian headquarters out of China as confidence plunges following the expansion of an anti-spying law and other challenges. The report by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China is one of many signs of growing pessimism despite the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to revive interest in the world’s No. 2 economy. Companies are uneasy about the anti-spying law, government protection of Chinese rivals and lack of action on reform promises. They also are being squeezed by slowing Chinese economic growth, despite the country’s exit from its “zero-COVID” policies, and by rising costs.

UK borrowers brace for more expensive loans as inflation fails to fall as anticipated

LONDON (AP) — Official figures show that consumer price inflation in the U.K. is unchanged at 8.7% in the year to May against expectations of a modest decline. It’s a development that is likely to see the Bank of England raise the cost of borrowing again. The Office for National Statistics said Wednesday that rising prices for flights, recreational and cultural goods and services, and second-hand cars boosted the inflation rate. Gas prices provided the biggest downward pressure. Financial markets think the unchanged rate will mean the Bank of England will increase its benchmark interest rate on Thursday from the current 15-year high of 4.5%.

Stock market today: Wall Street slips again as rally runs out of steam

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is retreating a bit more as a five-week rally loses momentum. The S&P 500 was 0.4% lower in early trading Wednesday. It’s on pace for a third straight pullback after rallying last week to its highest level in more than a year. The Dow fell 139 points, or 0.4%, and the Nasdaq composite was off 0.5%. The main event for the day is likely to be testimony on Capitol Hill from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Treasury yields fell ahead of his appearance, where he’s expected to say that inflation pressures continue to run high.

European Union countries agree on a new package of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries have agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia for its war against Ukraine. Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency and it said Wednesday that the package includes measures aimed at countering sanctions circumvention and individual listings. Details of the measures will be unveiled later this week when the sanctions are officially adopted by written procedure.

Europe, US urged to investigate the type of AI that powers systems like ChatGPT

LONDON (AP) — European Union consumer protection groups are urging regulators to investigate the type of artificial intelligence underpinning systems like ChatGPT over risks that leave people vulnerable. They want action before the bloc’s groundbreaking AI regulations take effect. In a coordinated effort Tuesday, 15 watchdog groups wrote to authorities warning them about a range of concerns around generative artificial intelligence. A transatlantic coalition of consumer groups also wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden asking him to take action to protect consumers from possible harms caused by generative AI. The EU is wrapping up the world’s first set of comprehensive AI rules, but they aren’t expected to take effect for two years.

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