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AP morning business news brief – Aug. 15, 2023

by BIZ Magazine

Russia’s ruble has tumbled. What does it mean for the wartime economy?

The Russian ruble has fallen a long way in recent months, and the country’s central bank is stepping in to halt the slide. It also wants to stop the inflation that a weaker currency can cause. Russia’s currency is down because Moscow has been earning less from selling oil abroad, a result of Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. It’s also importing more. Until now, the ruble slide had some side benefits for the government because a lower exchange rate means more rubles per dollar of foreign oil earnings. But a lower ruble also threatens higher inflation and can undermine the Kremlin’s narrative of stability. Analysts say the Kremlin feels the slide has gone far enough.

Russia’s central bank makes huge interest rate hike to try to prop up falling ruble

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Russia’s central bank has made a big interest rate hike in an emergency move designed to fight inflation and strengthen the ruble. This week, the country’s currency reached its lowest value since early in the war with Ukraine. The decision Tuesday comes as Moscow increases military spending and Western sanctions weigh on its energy exports. That has dragged down the ruble. Analysts say the flagging currency doesn’t mean the Russian economy is in freefall — though it is facing challenges, including rising prices for households and businesses. A lower exchange rate allows Moscow to transfer the dollars it earns from selling oil and natural gas into more rubles to pay pensions and run government agencies.

Advocates sue federal government for failing to ban imports of cocoa harvested by children

WASHINGTON (AP) — Child welfare advocates have filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to force the Biden administration to block imports of cocoa harvested by children in West Africa that ends up in America’s most popular chocolate desserts and candies. The lawsuit filed Tuesday, which was brought by International Rights Advocates, seeks to have the federal government enforce a 1930s era federal law that requires the government to ban products created by child labor from entering the U.S. The nonprofit group says it filed the suit because Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security have ignored extensive evidence documenting children cultivating cocoa destined for well-known U.S. candy makers.

Biden heads to battleground Wisconsin to talk about the economy a week before GOP debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is stopping in the battleground state of Wisconsin to discuss how economic policies he calls “Bidenomics” are boosting the economy. The Tuesday trip is timed one day before the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, a major economic bill Biden signed into law. Biden’s visit to a state he narrowly won in 2020 also comes a week before Republicans descend on Milwaukee for the party’s first presidential debate. Biden’s visit, his first since February, showcases the importance of Wisconsin in 2024. Wisconsin voted narrowly for Republican Donald Trump in 2016 but flipped to Democrat Biden in 2020.

As the Black Sea becomes a battleground, one Ukrainian farmer doesn’t know how he’ll sell his grain

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian farmer Victor Tsvik has harvested his wheat this month but exorbitant logistics costs and Russia’s blockade of the ports has made shipping grain too expensive for him. He’s one of thousands of Ukrainian farmers facing a similar dilemma. When asked how he envisions the future, he says “it’s too painful to talk about.” Russia pulled out of a wartime agreement last month allowing Ukraine to ship grain to the world. With that and intensifying fighting in the Black Sea, Ukraine’s farmers are left wondering how they will stay in business and provide the food that’s critical to people in developing nations struggling with hunger.

Home Depot tops expectations again, but signs of spending pullback by Americans continues to emerge

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot topped profit and sales expectations in its most recent quarter, but sales continue to decline as inflation and soaring interest rates play a larger role in the spending choices made by Americans. Second quarter revenue was $42.92 billion, edging out Wall Street expectations. Yet that’s down 2% from the $43.87 billion the company reported during the same stretch last year, and sales have fallen 3.1% through the first half of the year. Despite the stronger-than-expected sales figures, Home Depot on Tuesday stuck to previous guidance for the year, seeing sales decline between 2% and 5%, after lowering its forecast in the last quarter.

University presidents elevate free speech under new partnership

The presidents of 13 universities are elevating free speech on their campuses this academic year, as part of a new nonprofit initiative announced Tuesday. The Institute for Citizens & Scholars launched the initiative with funding from the Knight Foundation in response to what organizers see as threats to U.S. democracy. Jonathan Alger is the president of James Madison University, which is participating in the Campus Call for Free Expression. He said colleges need to be at the forefront of showing students how to speak across differences, given the current political polarization. The school presidents have committed to five principles of free expression along with on-campus programs that each school designed themselves.

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