Friday, May 17, 2024

Business Briefs: Your tax refund could be bigger this year. Here’s what to do with it

by Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The average taxpayer is getting a $2,852 refund, $75 more than last year. That’s based on the most recent IRS data. So what should you do with that money? Experts generally advise putting it toward debt, loans and savings, but, for many people, that’s unrealistic. Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma, says a tax refund is typically the biggest extra windfall of the year. She says one in four people see it as free money and plan to spend on something they wouldn’t otherwise. While she says this is understandable, the best thing people can do is use their refund to advance their financial goals.

Senate passes bill improving air safety and service for travelers, a day before FAA law expires

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a $105 billion bill designed to improve air safety and customer service for air travelers, a day before the law governing the Federal Aviation Administration expires. The bipartisan bill now goes to the House, which is out of session until next week. The Senate has also passed a one-week extension that would give the House time to pass the bill while ensuring the FAA isn’t forced to furlough around 3,600 employees. The bill stalled for several days this week after senators from Virginia and Maryland objected to a provision that would allow an additional 10 flights a day to and from the heavily trafficked Reagan Washington National Airport.

European companies are less upbeat about China’s vast market as its economy slows

BEIJING (AP) — An annual survey of more than 500 European companies has found that slowing growth in China is weighing on company plans to expand their businesses in the world’s second largest economy. China still ranks high as a place to invest, but the share of companies considering an expansion of their operations in the country this year fell to 42%, the lowest ever recorded. The government is launching programs to boost consumer spending, but confidence remains low because of a weak job market. The survey found that about one-third of the companies were optimistic about expanding their business this year, down from more than half in 2023, and only 15% were optimistic about profit growth.

Spending on home renovations slows, but high remodeling costs mean little relief in sight for buyers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Homeowners have been spending more for renovations in recent years, as high interest rates and inflation drove up costs for everything from flooring to refrigerators. But the home improvement frenzy appears to be cooling. Spending on renovations and repairs fell for the first time in over a decade in the first quarter, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Researchers predict spending will continue slowing into next year. Even so, while prices for building materials and labor are mostly growing more slowly, the cost of home renovations are likely to remain elevated.

Stock market today: Wall Street rises as it cruises toward the close of another winning week

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are heading toward the close of another winning week with some more modest gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.4% Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 128 points, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.4%. The S&P 500 has returned to within 0.4% of its record as hopes have revived that the Federal Reserve may deliver cuts to interest rates this year. A flood of strong profit reports has also helped support the market. Gen Digital jumped after joining the parade of companies reporting stronger profit than expected while announcing a big program to buy back its own stock.

PR executive reportedly departs China’s Baidu after comments glorifying overwork draw backlash

HONG KONG (AP) — A top Baidu public relations executive has reportedly departed the Chinese technology company after she drew public outcry over comments that were seen as glorifying a culture of overwork. Baidu’s head of communications Qu Jing implied in a series of social media videos that she was not concerned about her employees as she was “not their mom” and said she only cared about results. A Baidu employee on Friday confirmed to The Associated Press that Qu was no longer with the firm. Qu had apologized earlier and said her videos did not reflect Baidu’s stance.

British economy rebounds strongly in first quarter of the year, ending ‘technical recession’

LONDON (AP) — The British economy bounced back strongly in the first three months of the year, bringing to an end to what economists termed a “technical recession.” The Office for National Statistics said Friday that the economy grew by 0.6% in the first quarter from the previous three-month period, with broad-based strength across sectors. The increase was higher than the 0.4% predicted by economists. It comes after two quarters of modest declines, which in the U.K. is defined as a recession. Despite the quarterly increase, the British economy has barely grown over the past year. It has been hobbled by interest rates at 16-year highs of 5.25%.

Financial executive convicted of insider trading in case over acquisition of Trump’s media company

NEW YORK (AP) — A financial executive has been convicted of enabling his boss and others to make millions of dollars illegally by trading ahead of the public announcement that an acquisition firm was taking former President Donald Trump’s media company public. An agitated Bruce Garelick dropped his head and repeatedly wiped his face with his hands after a jury convicted him of all charges on Thursday in Manhattan federal court. Garelick was convicted of tipping others to news that the special purpose acquisition company, Digital World Acquisition Corp., was merging with Trump Media & Technology Group. His co-defendants pleaded guilty before trial, admitting that they made over $22 million illegally.

Australian judge extends ban on X sharing video of Sydney bishop’s stabbing

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Australian judge has extended a ban on social media platform X allowing videos of the stabbing of a Sydney bishop in his church last month after government lawyers condemned the company’s free speech argument for keeping the graphic images circulating. The April 15 attack led to terrorism-related charges for the alleged attacker, a teenager, and triggered a riot outside the church. Government lawyers say the social media platform’s free speech argument for circulating the violent images is illusory. X is alone among social media in fighting a notice from Australia’s eSafety Commission to take down the video of the attack during an Assyrian Orthodox service streamed online. A bishop and priest were injured but both survived.

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