Stocks edge lower
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving lower in midday trading on Wall Street as investors digest data that suggests the U.S. economy is in need of more stimulus. The benchmark S&P 500 index fell 0.5%, dragged down by technology and industrial companies. Verizon Communications and Chevron bucked the downward trend and moved higher after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said it made major new investments in those companies in the second half of 2020. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady near its highest level in a year.
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Retail sales jump 5.3%, thanks to $600 stimulus checks
NEW YORK (AP) — Those end-of-the-year stimulus checks got Americans shopping again. The Commerce Department says retail sales soared a seasonally adjusted 5.3% in January from the month before as the $600 stimulus checks pushed people to buy furniture, clothing and appliances. That’s the biggest increase since June and much larger than the 1% rise Wall Street analysts had expected. Retail sales slumped in the last three months of 2020, as stimulus money dried up, job growth was nonexistent and a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the critical holiday shopping season. December’s drop was even larger than first reported. It was revised down to a 1% decline instead of a 0.7%.
Wholesale prices surge 1.3%, led by health care and energy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Wholesale prices surged 1.3% in January, pushed higher by a big jump in energy costs. The Labor Department says the bigger-than-expected increase in its producer price index was the largest one-month gain on records that go back to 2009. It followed much milder inflation readings of 0.3% in December and 0.1% in November. The big jump, which reflected higher costs for energy and services, left wholesale prices rising over the past 12 months by 1.7%, the largest 12-month increase in a year. Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food, was up 1.2% in January and 2% over the past 12 months.
Industrial production climbs 0.9% in January
WASHINGTON (AP) — American industry expanded in January for the fourth straight month but has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The Federal Reserve reports that U.S. industrial production — which includes output factories, mines and utilities — rose 0.9% last month on top of increases of 1.3% in December, 0.9% in November and 1.1% in October. Still, industrial production was down 1.8% from January 2020, reflecting lingering economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. Manufacturing rose 1% even though auto production was held down by a shortage of semiconductors used in vehicles. Mining jumped 2.3% on a burst of oil and gas drilling. Utlitiy output dropped 1.2% on declining demand for natural gas.
Biden’s $15 wage proposal: Job killer or a boon for workers?
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could provide a welcome opportunity for someone like Cristian Cardona, a 21-year-old fast food worker. Cardona would love to earn enough to afford to move out of his parents’ house in Orlando, Florida, and maybe scrape together money for college. More than 1,000 miles away in Detroit, Nya Marshall worries that a $15 minimum wage would drive up her labor costs and perhaps force her to close her restaurant, already under strain from the viral pandemic. Between Cardona’s hope and Marshall’s fear lies a roiling public debate, one with enormous consequences for American workers and businesses.
Lawmakers to face off with GameStop saga’s key players
WASHINGTON (AP) — The GameStop saga has been portrayed as a victory of the little guy over Wall Street giants but not everyone agrees, including some lawmakers in Washington. GameStop shares soared 1,600% in January before falling back to earth. Entangled in the mess are massive short-selling hedge funds, a social media message board and ordinary investors wanting in on the hottest new trade among others. The House Financial Services Committee is ready to dig into the confounding episode at a hearing on Thursday. Among those expected to appear are the CEO of the online trading platform Robinhood and swaggering 34-year-old YouTube personality and GameStop evangelist known online as Roaring Kitty.
Ford to go all electric in Europe by 2030
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Ford has announced a major push into electric vehicles in Europe, vowing to convert its entire passenger car lineup on the continent to electrics by 2030. Ford says it will spend $1 billion to revamp its factory in Cologne, Germany and make it a base for production of zero local emission cars using Volkswagen’s mechanical framework. The new electric car is expected to reach the market in mid-2023 and could be followed by a second one there in the future. The agreement lets Ford take advantage of Volkswagen’s massive investment in electric cars as the industry shifts toward zero-local emissions vehicles.
UNITED STATES-NORTH KOREA
US charges North Korean computer programmers in global hacks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has charged three North Korean computer programmers in a broad range of global and destructive hacks, including targeting banks and a movie studio. That’s according to a newly unsealed indictment. It builds off an earlier criminal case brought in 2018. The new cases adds two additional North Korean defendants. Prosecutors say all three programmers are members of a military intelligence agency of the North Korean government.
UAE aviation agency clears Boeing 737 Max to fly again
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates says it has lifted its ban on Boeing’s troubled 737 Max. The country’s Civil Aviation Authority will allow the plane to return to its skies after being grounded for nearly two years following a pair of deadly crashes. The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported on Wednesday that all safety conditions have been met after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ended the grounding last fall. The planes were grounded worldwide in March 2019 following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Dubai’s budget carrier flydubai is one of the biggest customers of the 737 Max.
New York sues Amazon over worker safety during pandemic
UNDATED (AP) — New York is suing Amazon, claiming the company failed to provide workers with a safe environment at two warehouses as COVID-19 infections surged nationwide. The suit from New York Attorney General Letitia James comes just days after Amazon preemptively sued to block the suit over its coronavirus safety protocols and the firing of one of its workers who objected to conditions. In the suit filed late Tuesday, New York claims Amazon showed a “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements” and retaliated illegally against employees who raised alarms.
California lawmaker proposes ban on fracking by 2027
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California lawmaker has introduced a measure that would ban fracking in the nation’s most populated state by 2027. The legislation was revealed Wednesday, five months after Gov. Gavin Newsom called on the Legislature to ban fracking by 2024. Fracking is a technique used to extract huge amounts of oil and gas from shale rock deep underground. Opponents say the chemicals involved threaten water supplies and public health. The measure would halt new fracking permits or renewing current ones on Jan 1, 2022, and completely ban the practice by Jan. 1, 2027. It’s likely to be one of the most contentious fights in the state Legislature this year.
Former Trump casino where stars played goes out with a bang
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A spot on the Atlantic City Boardwalk where movie stars, athletes and rock stars used to party and a future president honed his instincts for bravado and hype has been reduced to a smoking pile of rubble. The former Trump Plaza casino was imploded Wednesday morning after falling into such disrepair that chunks of the building began peeling off and crashing to the ground. And the one-time jewel of former President Donald Trump’s casino empire is now gone, clearing the way for a prime development opportunity on the middle of the Boardwalk, where the Plaza used to market itself as “Atlantic City’s centerpiece.”
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