NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks had their biggest jump since June 2020 Wednesday as a sharp drop in oil prices eased fears that inflation was about to get worse around the globe. The S&P 500 rose 2.6%. The rally broke a four-day losing streak for stocks but wasn’t enough to erase their losses for the week. The price of US crude oil dropped 12%, the most since November, bringing relief after a sharp runup in crude prices since Russia invaded Ukraine. Big swings have been jerking markets around in recent weeks as investors try to guess how much damage the war will do to the global economy.

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Europe faces pressure to join US, British ban on Russian oil

BRUSSELS (AP) – Europe faces a rough choice: is it worth a recession to choke off oil and gas money to Russia while it fights a war in Ukraine? While the US and British bans on Russian oil increase the pressure on Europe, the continent’s dependence on Russia for energy makes an immediate embargo much more difficult. Still, some officials say it is the only way to stop pouring billions into President Vladimir Putin’s coffers. But it would come at a cost: Europe gets around 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, whereas the US gets meager amounts of oil and no natural gas.

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Ukraine bans exports of wheat, oats and other food staples

LONDON (AP) – Ukraine’s government has banned the export of wheat, oats and other staples that are crucial for global food supplies as authorities try to ensure they can feed people during Russia’s intensifying war. A government announcement this week said new rules on agricultural exports are being introduced that also prohibit the export of millet, buckwheat, sugar, live cattle, and meat and other “byproducts” from cattle. Ukraine’s food policy minister said the export ban was needed to prevent a “humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” stabilize the market and “meet the needs of the population in critical food products.”

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Pariahs no more? US reaches out to oil states as prices rise

WASHINGTON (AP) – Three checkered oil regimes that President Joe Biden and past US leaders have spectacularly snubbed – Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran – are the targets of US outreach as global fuel prices hit record highs during the Ukraine crisis. But it’s not clear any US diplomacy could get more crude on the market fast enough to help the current supply crunch. US overtures to three problematic oil giants could lead to stabilizing rising oil and gas prices and draw those governments closer to the West and away from Russia and China. But Biden risks condemnation for outreach to governments accused of abuses and violence.

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Biden restores California’s power to set car emissions rules

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration is restoring California’s authority to set its own tailpipe pollution standards for cars, reversing a Trump administration policy and likely ushering in stricter emissions standards for new passenger vehicles nationwide. A waiver approved Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency allows California to set tough emissions rules for cars and SUVs. The state also will be allowed to impose mandates for so-called zero-emission vehicles that do not contribute to global warming. At least 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to California’s vehicle standards, which are stricter than federal rules and are designed to address the state’s severe air pollution problems.

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Biden’s inflation plan upends thinking on jobs sent overseas

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has a solution for high inflation that seems counterintuitive: Bring factory jobs back to the US This challenges a decades-long argument that employers moved jobs abroad to lower their costs by relying on cheaper workers. The president says outsourcing has led to higher inflation because of the costs of increasingly frequent disruptions to supply chains. The sources of disruption include the pandemic, fierce storms and, now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Critics of that approach say Biden has long-term plans to address pain that consumers are feeling right now.

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US job openings at near record, adding to price pressures

WASHINGTON (AP) – US businesses posted a near-record level of open jobs in January, a trend that has pushed up worker’s pay and added to the economy’s inflationary pressures. The Labor Department said Wednesday that employers posted 11.3 million jobs at the end of January, down slightly from a record of 11.4 million in December. Before the pandemic, the record was 7.6 million in 2018.

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Biden signs order on cryptocurrency as its use explodes

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has signed an executive order on government oversight of cryptocurrency that urges the Federal Reserve to explore whether the central bank should create its own digital currency. The Biden administration sees the explosive popularity of cryptocurrency as an opportunity to examine its risks and benefits. The executive order had been widely anticipated by the finance industry and others who have compared the cryptocurrency market with the Wild West. The order comes amid growing concern Russia may be using cryptocurrency to avoid the impact of financial sanctions imposed by Western allies in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

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Did Amazon violate federal laws? Lawmakers ask for DOJ probe

WASHINGTON (AP) – Lawmakers have made good on their threat to seek a criminal investigation of Amazon, asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Amazon and its senior executives obstructed Congress or violated other laws in testimony on its competition practices. The bipartisan battle against the world’s biggest online retailer by the House Judiciary Committee escalated with the letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland referring the case for a criminal inquiry. Amazon has engaged in misleading conduct that appeared designed to “influence, obstruct or impede” the antitrust subcommittee’s 2019-20 investigation into the market dominance of Big Tech, the letter says.

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The S&P 500 jumped 107.18 points, or 2.6%, is 4,277.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 653.61 points, or 2%, is 33,286.25. The Nasdaq surged 459.99 points, or 3.6%, is 13,255.55. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 53.28 points, or 2.7%, to 2,016.29.

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