Saturday, April 13, 2024

Business Briefs: Federal Reserve is likely to preach patience as consumers and markets look ahead to rate cuts

by David Specht

WASHINGTON (AP) — Across the United States, many people are eagerly anticipating the Federal Reserve’s first cut to its benchmark interest rate this year: Prospective home buyers hope for lower mortgage rates. Wall Street traders envision higher stock prices. Consumers are looking for a break on credit card debt at record-high interest rates. Not to mention President Joe Biden, whose re-election campaign would likely benefit from an economic jolt stemming from lower borrowing rates. Yet Chair Jerome Powell and his fellow Fed officials are expected to play it safe when they meet his week, keeping their rate unchanged for a fifth straight time and signaling that they still need further evidence that inflation is returning sustainably to their 2% target.

Want to feel special? Stores and restaurants with paid memberships are betting on it

NEW YORK (AP) — Paid loyalty programs are all the rage in the restaurant and retail worlds. Looking for reliable sales in an unpredictable spending environment, more companies have extended their points-based loyalty tiers to making their most dependable customers feel valued for an up-front fee. So how much does it cost to feel special? At family entertainment and pizza chain Chuck E- Cheese, the price is $7.99, $11.99 or $29.99 per month. In retailing, Target Corp. is taking on the Amazon Prime juggernaut with a paid loyalty program that will cost $99 annually a year. Then there’s a shopping app called Long Story Short that will cost members $1,000 monthly for anonymous access to hard-to-get luxury goods.

The inside story of a rotten Hewlett Packard deal to be told in trial of fallen British tech star

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An $11 billion acquisition that backfired on Silicon Valley pioneer Hewlett Packard more than a decade ago is being resurrected at a trial that exploring whether the deal was an illegal rip-off or a case of botched management. The criminal trial starting Monday in San Francisco revolves around HP’s acquisition of British software maker Autonomy, a deal that was celebrated as coup when it was announced in 2011, only to blow up into a costly debacle. The alleged villains in the trial are former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch, who was once lionized as an example of British ingenuity, and Stephen Chamberlain, a former finance executive at Autonomy.

It’s March Madness and more people than ever can legally bet on basketball games

As March Madness gets underway, more people than ever now can legally bet on sports. North Carolina became the latest state to allow online sports betting last week. A total of 38 states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of sports betting. That’s up from just one state, Nevada, where people could legally wager on games before a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for expansion. The American Gaming Association estimates $2.7 billion will be bet on the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments through legal sports betting operators.

‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ repeats at No. 1 on the box office charts

“Kung Fu Panda 4” held its No. 1 spot atop the North American box office in its second weekend in theaters. Studio estimates released Sunday showed the Universal and DreamWorks Animation movie earned $30 million in ticket sales. “Dune: Part Two” took second place in its third weekend in theaters with $29.1 million, while newcomers failed to break $10 million. Mark Wahlberg’s “Arthur the King,” in third place, made $7.5 million. The pulpy Kristen Stewart thriller “Love Lies Bleeding” made $2.5 million from just over 1,300 locations and “The American Society of Magical Negroes” picked up $1.3 million from just over 1,000 theaters.

Workers at Tennessee Volkswagen factory ask for vote on representation by United Auto Workers union

DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is likely to be the first test of the United Auto Workers’ effort to organize nonunion automobile plants across the nation. The union said workers at the factory filed paperwork Monday with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a union representation election. They are the first to ask for a vote in the union’s campaign, which was announced last fall after the UAW won strong contracts with Detroit automakers. The UAW said a supermajority of the VW plant’s roughly 4,000 production workers had signed cards supporting union representation. But it would not give a number. A union can seek an election run by the NLRB once a majority of workers sign on. It wasn’t clear when the election would be held. Volkswagen did not immediately comment.

Crafts retailer Joann files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (AP) — Fabric and crafts retailer Joann has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as consumers continue to cut back on discretionary spending. In a Monday release, the Hudson, Ohio-based company said that it expected to emerge from bankruptcy as early as the end of next month. Following this process, Joann will likley become privately-owned by certain lenders and industry parties, the company added — meaning its shares would no longer be listed on stock exchanges. Joann’s more than 800 stores and its website will continue to operate normally during the bankruptcy process, the company said, pointing to a deal it had struck with most of its shareholders for financial support.

United Airlines CEO tries to reassure customers that the airline is safe despite recent incidents

The CEO of United Airlines is trying to reassure travelers that the airline is safe despite a series of recent incidents ranging from a panel falling off a plane to an engine fire. CEO Scott Kirby said Monday that United will review safety training for all employees. Kirby says the airline was already planning an extra day of training for pilots starting in May and changes in training curriculum for new mechanics. In a message to customers, Kirby says the recent incidents are reminders of the importance of safety. He says the flight issues are all unrelated, but they have grabbed United’s attention.

Insider Q&A: CEO of fast-growing First Watch keeps the focus on breakfast

A U.S. restaurant chain that only serves breakfast, brunch and lunch is keeping its original recipe for success as it evolves in response to changing work patterns. Florida-based First Watch is one of the fastest-growing chains in its category in terms of dollar sales and unit growth, according to market research firm Technomic. Two restaurant veterans tired of working late nights launched First Watch in 1983. The company now has more than 500 locations in 29 states. CEO Chris Tomasso says First Watch doesn’t plan to stay open past 2:30 p.m. even as more customers start their mornings with “power breakfast” meetings and embrace brunch while remote working.

Stock market today: Wall Street rises toward records ahead of a big week for central banks

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising ahead of a busy week for central banks around the world that could dictate where interest rates go next. The S&P 500 was up 1.1% Monday, coming off its first back-to-back weekly losses since October. It’s pulling close to its all-time high set early last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 144 points, and the Nasdaq composite was 1.7% higher. Nvidia and other big technology stocks were leading the way once again. Treasury yields held relatively steady ahead of an announcement by the Federal Reserve scheduled for Wednesday on where it sees interest rates heading this year.

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