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Business Highlights: Chemical shortage, Powell’s return

September 29, 2021 GMT

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From paints to plastics, a chemical shortage ignites prices

NEW YORK (AP) — In an economy upended by the coronavirus, shortages and price spikes have hit everything from lumber to computer chips. Not even toilet paper escaped. Now they’re cutting into one of the humblest yet most vital links in the global manufacturing supply chain: The plastic pellets that go into a vast universe of products ranging from cereal bags to medical devices, automotive interiors to bicycle helmets. Like other manufacturers, plastic, paint and other petrochemical companies have been shaken by the pandemic and by the way consumers and businesses responded to it. Yet petrochemicals, which are made from oil, have also run into problems all their own, one after another.

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Russia arrests leading cybersecurity exec on treason charges

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities have arrested an executive of a top cybersecurity company on the charges of high treason, a move that has sent shock waves through Russia’s business community. A court in Moscow on Wednesday announced a ruling to place Ilya Sachkov, founder and CEO of the Group-IB, one of the leading cybersecurity companies in Russia, in custody for two months pending investigation and trial. Case files have been classified, as is typical with treason cases in Russia. The company insisted on Sachkov’s innocence. Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov demanded that the investigators “explain themselves,” otherwise “a critical blow will be delivered to the sector and its investment appeal.”

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A potential Powell renomination for Fed faces some dissent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Resistance to the potential renomination of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell intensified this week, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren becoming the first senator to publicly oppose Powell and many progressive groups pushing for some alternative leader at the Fed. Powell generally receives high marks from economists and from Wall Street for his actions in steering the economy through the pandemic recession. But he has come under fire from some critics around issues that are traditionally not major points of contention when the Fed’s leadership is considered, such as financial regulation, or have never come up before, such as climate change.

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Powell defends Fed policies, says inflation may persist

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is defending the ultra-low interest rate policies he has pursued since the pandemic decimated the economy more than 18 months ago. He acknowledges, however, that inflation has stayed higher for longer than he expected. At a panel sponsored by the European Central Bank on Wednesday Powell said the Fed has avoided the mistake of underestimating the severity of pandemic’s economic impact. But criticism of the Fed’s policies has grown in recent months as inflation has jumped to 30-year highs. The economy’s main challenge has also shifted from weak demand as a result of widespread layoffs to supply shortages, which the Fed can do little about.

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Fighting wave of misinfo, YouTube bans false vaccine claims

NEW YORK (AP) — Video-sharing platform YouTube has announced sweeping and immediate bans on false claims that vaccines are dangerous and cause health issues like autism, cancer or infertility. The company also booted accounts belonging to some of the most notable propagators of vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories. The ban on vaccine misinformation extends to all approved immunizations and comes as countries, including the U.S., struggle to ramp up vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other tech companies, like Facebook, have announced similar bans but anti-vaccine influencers still boast big audiences on their platform.

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Dollar Tree breaks the $1 barrier as costs take a bite

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — Dollar Tree, the national chain of stores that promises everything for a buck, will begin introducing items on its shelves that will exceed $1. The company said this week that it’s responding to customer requests and said pushing the $1 barrier will allow for a better mix of products. However, the change to prices at Dollar Tree, which have been unchanged for decades, comes with inflation rising above 4% in July. Prices have risen across the spectrum as the global economy emerges from the pandemic.

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Small towns brace for change, prosperity with Ford’s arrival

STANTON, Tenn. (AP) — Lesa Tard expects to serve up more hot wings and cheeseburgers when the clean energy revolution comes to Stanton, Tennessee, with Ford’s plans to build a factory to produce electric pickups. So she’s planning to expand with the town. She’s looking forward to serving thousands of workers who will arrive once construction begins and a vehicle and battery manufacturing complex opens. Stanton is one of two Southern towns likely to undergo transformations in the wake of Monday’s announcement by Ford. The automaker will put Stanton and Glendale, Kentucky, at the center of its plans to ramp up electric vehicle production.

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S&P 500 clings to a modest gain as other indexes end mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended a wobbly day with mixed results on Wall Street Wednesday as the market regrouped following a sharp drop a day earlier. The S&P 500 held on to a gain of just 0.2% after trading higher for much of the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.3% but the Nasdaq gave back 0.2%. Treasury yields stabilized, a welcome sign for investors who had been spooked by a sharp increase in yields over the previous week. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which is used to set interest rates on many kinds of loans, held at 1.53%.

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The S&P 500 rose 6.83 points, or 0.2%, to 4,359.46. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 90.73 points, or 0.3%, to 34,390.72. The Nasdaq fell 34.24 points, or 0.2%, to 14,512.44. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies dropped 4.47 points, or 0.2%, to 2,225.31.