Business news at a glance

Oil prices fall to their lowest level since January

The U.S. benchmark oil price tumbled below $80 a barrel Friday for the first time since January as traders grew increasingly worried that much of the world was headed into a recession or was already in one. The steady fall in prices from more than $120 a barrel a few months ago could reverse if the European Union severely limits its purchases of Russian oil as it has threatened. But for now, the falling oil price has offered consumers some relief from inflation. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline Friday was $3.69, 20 cents lower than a month ago.


Apple to sponsor Super Bowl Halftime show

Talks between the NFL and Apple over a package of Sunday football games have dragged as the league and the tech giant have wrangled over pricing, but another deal has been added to the mix. Apple has agreed to be the main sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show, the league and the company said late Thursday. They did not disclose terms of the deal. Apple Music will replace Pepsi as sponsor in a deal that the NFL has been shopping around for about $50 million, said three people familiar with the negotiations.

Japan intervenes to prop up the sliding Yen

Japan announced Thursday that it had intervened to prop up the value of the yen for the first time in 24 years, seeking to stanch the currency’s slide against the dollar. The yen has lost over 20% of its value against the dollar over the past year, making it more expensive to import essentials such as energy and food. The yen’s plunge has been caused largely by Japan’s determination to keep interest rates low even as the U.S. Federal Reserve cranks them up to fight inflation, pushing the dollar higher. The yen passed 145 to the dollar Thursday, the lowest value in 24 years.

Pandemic unemployment fraud estimate rises to $45.6B

A federal watchdog investigating the distribution of pandemic relief funds has tripled its estimate of the amount of money paid out in unemployment insurance that can be attributed to certain forms of fraud. The office of the inspector general of the Labor Department previously attributed about $16 billion to duplicate payments or payments made to dead people, individuals with suspicious email accounts or federal prisoners. The office now says the federal government probably made $45.6 billion in such payments. Investigations by the office have led to criminal charges against more than 1,000 people accused of fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic, the office said Thursday.

4-day workweek brings no loss of productivity

Most of the companies participating in a four-day workweek pilot program in Britain said they had seen no loss of productivity during the experiment, and in some cases had seen a significant improvement, according to a survey of participants published this week. Nearly halfway into the six-month trial, in which employees at 73 companies get a paid day off weekly, 35 of the 41 companies that responded to a survey said they were “likely” or “extremely likely” to consider continuing the four-day workweek beyond the end of the trial. All but two said productivity was either the same or had improved. Six companies said productivity had significantly improved.

TikTok bans political fundraising before midterms

Less than two months before the midterm elections, TikTok is blocking politicians and political parties from fundraising on its platform. In a blog post Wednesday, the social media platform said it would prohibit solicitations for money by political campaigns. The company said political accounts would immediately lose access to advertising features and monetization services, such as gift giving, tipping and e-commerce capabilities. Over the next few weeks, TikTok will clamp down on politicians’ posting videos asking for donations, or political parties’ directing users to online donation pages, the company said.

GM spending $760M to convert Toledo factory to make EV parts

General Motors says it will spend $760 million to renovate its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio, so it can build drive lines for electric vehicles. It’s the first GM engine or transmission plant to begin the long transition from internal combustion engines to EVs. GM has a goal of making only electric passenger vehicles by 2035. The investment will keep the jobs of about 1,500 hourly and salaried workers at the Toledo plant, which now makes four transmissions used in pickup trucks and many other GM internal combustion vehicles. It’s good news for workers in Toledo, who have been worried about the future of their plant.

After 90 years, German bakery to close as energy costs soar

A family-run bakery in the German city of Cologne is turning off its ovens for good after 90 years because it can no longer afford rising energy prices resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine. Engelbert Schlechtrimen’s grandparents founded the bakery before World War II and the 58-year-old took it over 28 years ago from his father. His business is one victim of a European energy crisis driven by Russia’s cutbacks of natural gas. The resulting hikes in energy and power prices have squeezed businesses already struggling with a rise in other costs as inflation rises.

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