Friday, Dec. 08, 2023 |
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Fewer Americans claim jobless benefits last week
Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market continues to stand out as one of the strongest segments of the U.S. economy. Applications for jobless aid for the week ending Aug. 20 fell by 2,000 to 243,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 1,500 to 247,000. The number of Americans collecting traditional unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 the week that ended Aug. 13, to 1.42 million. First-time applications generally reflect layoffs and can indicate where the job market is headed.
Stocks plunge after Powell warns of ‘pain’ from inflation fight
Wall Street recoiled Friday, after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that the central bank’s campaign to lower inflation by raising interest rates is “unconditional” even if it leads to pain for households, businesses and, in turn, stock prices. The S&P 500 fell 3.4%, its worst daily showing since mid-June, taking its losses for the week to 4%. Bond investors also quickly adjusted for more rate increases from the Fed, with the two-year Treasury yield, which is sensitive to rising interest rates, moving close to its highest level of the year at 3.44%, before easing back to 3.38%.
Moderna sues Pfizer and BioNTech over COVID vaccine technology
Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday, claiming that its rivals’ COVID-19 shot copied groundbreaking technology that Moderna had developed years before the pandemic. The allegation of patent infringement sets up what could become a protracted and expensive legal battle between the companies behind coronavirus vaccines that have saved millions of lives worldwide and raised hopes for future medical products using similar messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. Experts said Moderna’s litigation, regardless of its outcome, was unlikely to impede access to COVID-19 vaccines or chill the development of mRNA products.
US, China reach deal in dispute over Chinese company audits
The U.S. and China have reached a preliminary agreement allowing U.S. regulators to inspect the audits of China-based companies whose stocks are traded on U.S. exchanges. In a long-festering dispute, U.S. regulators have threatened to boot a number of Chinese companies off U.S. exchanges if China doesn’t permit the inspections. The deal was announced Friday. If it does work out, the agreement means U.S. investors could maintain access to shares of important Chinese companies while at the same time being protected by the integrity of the companies’ audits.
Europe’s electricity prices are soaring
Energy traders in Europe are witnessing price increases that are hard to fathom. Natural gas, which is used to generate electricity and heat, now costs about 10 times more than it did a year ago. Electricity prices, tied to the price of gas, are also several times higher than what used to be considered normal. This week, benchmark European natural gas prices hit a series of records after Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, said it would temporarily shut a key pipeline to Germany at the end of August — a move that has further stoked market fears.
Nations fail to reach deal on UN treaty to protect sea life
Diplomats from around the world have failed to reach agreement on a United Nations treaty designed to protect marine life on the high seas. A fifth round of talks ended in impasse early Saturday when negotiations at United Nations headquarters in New York were suspended after two weeks. Environmentalists had hoped the talks would close a gap in international marine protection measures by setting rules for protecting biodiversity in two-thirds of the world’s ocean areas that are outside of national jurisdictions. The negotiations centered on how to share benefits from marine life, establish protected areas, prevent harm from human activity, and help poor countries gain ocean exploration skills.
Pipeline operator agrees to guilty plea in California spill
A pipeline operator and two subsidiaries have agreed to plead guilty to negligently discharging oil off the Southern California coast in connection with a pipeline break that covered beaches with blobs of crude. The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said Friday that Houston-based Amplify Energy and two subsidiaries agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $7 million fine and nearly $6 million in expenses incurred by government entities including the U.S. Coast Guard. The plea agreements still need to be approved by U.S. District Judge David Carter. The October 2021 leak in a pipeline that ferried crude oil from offshore platforms to the Southern California coast spilled about 25,000 gallons of crude into the ocean.
Facebook parent settles suit in Cambridge Analytica scandal
Facebook’s corporate parent has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit alleging the world’s largest social network service allowed millions of its users’ personal information to be fed to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that supported Donald Trump’s victorious presidential campaign in 2016. Terms of the settlement reached by Meta Platforms, Facebook’s holding company, weren’t disclosed in court documents filed late Friday. The filing in San Francisco federal court indicated more details could be disclosed by late October. The deal was reached as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his long-time lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg, faced a Sept. 20 deadline to submit to depositions in the case.
California weighs rules giving fast food workers more power
More than a half-million California fast food workers are pinning their hopes on a groundbreaking proposal that would give them increased power and protections. It would include four workers’ delegates alongside four employers’ representatives and two state workplace regulators on a new Fast Food Council that would set minimum standards for wages, hours and working conditions. It’s one of the hottest bills awaiting final action before the California Legislature adjourns at month’s end. Restaurant owners say it would drive up the price of fast food and force them to cut workers’ hours.
By wire sources
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