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Business Highlights: Big Tech legislation, mortgage overseer

June 23, 2021 GMT

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House panel pushes legislation targeting Big Tech’s power

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House panel is pushing ahead with ambitious legislation that could curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple and force them to sever their dominant platforms from their other lines of business. Conservative Republican lawmakers haggled over legislative language and pushed concerns of perceived anti-conservative bias in online platforms but couldn’t halt the bipartisan momentum behind the package on Wednesday. The drafting session and votes by the House Judiciary Committee are initial steps in what promises to be a strenuous slog through Congress. Many Republican lawmakers denounce the market dominance of Big Tech but don’t support a wholesale revamp of the antitrust laws.

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Supreme Court: Mortgage overseer structure unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ruled that the structure of the agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac violates separation of powers principles in the Constitution. The justices on Wednesday sent the case involving Federal Housing Finance Agency back to a lower court for additional proceedings. That agency oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and was created during the 2008 financial crisis. White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the president will nominate a new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency after the Supreme Court decision, but she isn’t giving a timeline.

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Surprise 5.9% drop in new home sales; prices hit record high

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new homes fell 5.9% in May, the second monthly decline, while median home prices kept soaring, hitting an all-time high. The May sales decline pushed sales down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 769,000, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The median price of a new home sold in May jumped to $374,400, up 18.1% from a year ago. The report on new home sales followed a report Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors that sales of existing homes fell for a fourth straight month in May.

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Stocks end listless day on Wall Street mixed as calm returns

NEW YORK (AP) — A listless day on Wall Street ended with indexes mixed on Wednesday, as nervousness continues to wash out of the market following last week’s jolt by the Federal Reserve. The S&P 500 slipped 0.1% after earlier meandering between very modest gains and losses. It’s 0.3% below its record high set a week and a half ago. The Dow fell 0.2%, while the Nasdaq added 0.1% to its record set a day earlier. The majority of stocks in the S&P 500 fell, but gains for companies that do best when the economy is healthy helped limit the losses.

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Yellen: Failure to raise debt limit would be ‘catastrophic’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told a congressional panel that failing to raise the federal debt ceiling would have “absolutely catastrophic consequences” that could bring on a financial crisis. Testifying Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Yellen said in response to questions that it is important that Congress not delay in dealing with the debt limit, which has been suspended for the past two years. That suspension is due to expire on July 31, when the limit will go back into effect at the level of debt at that time. The debt subject to the limit currently stands at $28.3 trillion.

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High court backs businesses challenging California labor law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has sided with California agriculture businesses in their challenge to a state regulation that gives unions access to farm property in order to organize workers. As a result of the ruling, California will have to modify or abandon the regulation put in place in 1975 after the efforts of labor leader Cesar Chavez. The justices ruled 6-3 along ideological lines for the agriculture businesses. The decision is another potential setback for unions as a result of a high court decision. The case involved a regulation that granted unions access to farms and other agriculture businesses for up to three hours per day, 120 days per year, in order to organize workers.

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Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison

MADRID (AP) — John McAfee, creator of McAfee antivirus software, has been found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona in an apparent suicide, hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison. Security personnel at the Brians 2 penitentiary near the city in northeastern Spain tried to revive McAfee, who was 75. But the regional Catalan government says the jail’s medical team finally certified his death. A government statement says authorities are still investigating but “everything points to death by suicide.”

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Longtime Southwest Airlines CEO will step down next year

DALLAS (AP) — Change is coming in the leadership of Southwest Airlines. Southwest said Wednesday that longtime CEO Gary Kelly will step down next February and be succeeded by Robert Jordan, the airline’s executive vice president of corporate services. Dallas-based Southwest says Kelly, who is 66, plans to remain as executive chairman at least through 2026. Kelly has been CEO since 2004, leading the nation’s fourth-biggest airline through a recession in 2008 and now the pandemic. Jordan, the new CEO, has overseen been projects at Southwest include the acquisition of AirTran Airways and the overhaul of the airline’s frequent-flyer program.

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Big US banks to employees: Return to the office vaccinated

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street’s big investment banks are sending a message to their employees this summer: Get back into the office and bring your vaccination card. Morgan Stanley said this week that all employees will be required to attest to their vaccination status. Those who are not vaccinated will be required to work remotely, which could potentially put their jobs at risk, since the bank’s top executives have said they want everyone back in the office by September. New York-based Morgan Stanley is one of several big banks requiring employees to return to the office and also provide documentation of having received a coronavirus vaccine or making a formal declaration confirming vaccination.

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The S&P 500 fell 4.60 points, or 0.1%, to 4,241.84. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 71.34 points, or 0.2%, to 33,874.24. The Nasdaq rose 18.46 points, or 0.1%, to 14,271.73. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 7.52 points, or 0.3%, to 2,303.47.