Saturday, July 20, 2024

Business Briefs: Apple has kept an illegal monopoly over smartphones in US, Justice Department says in antitrust suit

by Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Apple says a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit accusing it of engineering an illegal monopoly in smartphones in the U.S. is “wrong on the facts and the law.” The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in New Jersey. The suit alleges Apple uses its control over the iPhone to engage in an “illegal course of conduct.” The lawsuit is the latest example of the Justice Department’s approach to aggressive enforcement of federal antitrust law that officials say is aimed at ensuring a fair and competitive market. Apple has defended the digital fortress known as its walled garden as a feature prized by consumers who want to protect their personal information.

Reddit, the self-anointed ‘front page of the internet,’ set to make its stock market debut

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Reddit and its eclectic bazaar of online communities is ready to plumb high-stakes territory — the stock market. The company said Wednesday that it had priced its IPO at $34 a share. Shares will begin trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “RDDT.” The market debut is likely to spur a flurry of commentary on Reddit’s own platform, as well as competing social media outlets.

UK inflation is heading in ‘right direction,’ but Bank of England isn’t ready to cut rates

LONDON (AP) — The Bank of England has kept its main interest rate unchanged at a 16-year high even though inflation continues to drop from multi-decade peaks. Thursday’s decision to leave the key rate at 5.25% was widely anticipated in financial markets and comes a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve also keep its benchmark rate steady. Unlike the Fed, the Bank of England gave few explicit indications that it’s getting ready to cut borrowing costs soon. Market expectations that lower interest rates are on the horizon got a boost this week with news that U.K. inflation fell to a 2.5-year low of 3.4% in February. That was more than anticipated.

One Tech Tip: How to spot AI-generated deepfake images

LONDON (AP) — AI fakery is quickly becoming one of the biggest problems confronting us online. Deceptive pictures, videos and audio are proliferating thanks to the rise and misuse of generative artificial intelligence tools. With AI deepfakes cropping up almost every day, depicting everyone from Taylor Swift to Donald Trump, it’s getting harder to tell what’s real from what’s not. Video and image generators like DALL-E, Midjourney and OpenAI’s Sora make it easy — just type a request and the system spits it out. Fake images can be used for scams and identity theft or propaganda and election manipulation. To spot a deepfake, look for the consistency of shadows and lighting, the edges of faces and people’s teeth.

Stock market today: Wall Street extends its push into record highs, led by chipmakers

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are extending their push to record highs in morning trading on Wall Street, led by big gains in chipmakers. The S&P 500 was up 0.6% Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 266 points, or 0.7%. The Nasdaq composite added 0.7%. Micron led chipmakers higher after reporting blowout results for its latest quarter that easily surpassed analysts’ expectations. Traders will be keeping a close eye on Reddit, whose shares begin trading today. Treasury yields were mostly steady a day after the Federal Reserve said it still expects to make three rate cuts this year.

February home sales hit strongest pace in a year as mortgage rates ease and more houses hit market

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose in January from the previous month to the strongest pace in a year as homebuyers were encouraged by a modest pullback in mortgage rates and more properties on the market. Existing home sales climbed 9.5% last month from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.38 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That’s the strongest sales pace since February last year. Sales rose on a monthly basis in February for the second month in a row, but fell 3.3% from a year earlier. The national median sales price climbed 5.7% from a year earlier to $384,500.

Japan’s space agency says it hopes to forge a profitable launch business with its new H3 rocket

TOBISHIMA, Japan (AP) — Japan’s space agency and its prime contractor say they hope to be able to forge a profitable launch business with their new H3 rocket after its first successful flight last month in an increasingly competitive market dominated by Space X. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have been developing the H3 as a successor to the soon-to-retire current mainstay H-2A, which enjoyed a 98% success rate but its high launch cost made it less competitive in the global market. An H3 project manager says they plan at least six launches a year to meet rapidly growing demand for communication, observation and security satellites.

Rich cocoa prices hitting shoppers with bitter chocolate costs as Easter approaches

NEW YORK (AP) — Sweet Easter baskets will likely come at a bitter cost this year for consumers as the price of cocoa climbs to record highs. Cocoa futures have roughly doubled in 2024 after surging 61% overall in 2023. Rising temperatures and weather conditions have stressed and damaged crops in West Africa, which produces more than 70% of the global cocoa supply. Big chocolate companies like Hershey’s and Mondelez have been passing those costs on to consumers. That has helped bolster profit margins. Both companies reported shrinking sales volumes for their most recent quarters as consumers grow tired of paying higher prices.

Swiss central bank makes a surprise cut to its key interest rate as others hold steady

GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss National Bank says it’s trimming its key interest rate, a surprise move that makes Switzerland the first major financial center to announce a cut in recent months. Outgoing SNB chairman Thomas Jordan on Thursday credited the central bank’s push to rein in inflation in the wealthy Alpine country. The cut of a quarter of a percentage point, to 1.5%, will apply as of Friday. The move had an almost immediate effect on the Swiss franc, which dropped in value against the euro. The U.S. Federal Reserve held rates steady on Wednesday but signaled they expect to cut their key interest rate three times this year.

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dip to 210,000, another sign the job market is strong

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans signing up for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, another sign that the labor market remains strong and most workers enjoy extraordinary job security. The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims dipped by 2,000 to 210,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, rose by 2,500 to 211,250. Overall, 1.8 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended March 9, up a modest 4,000 from the week before.

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