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Business Highlights: Wall Street’s drop, natural gas prices

September 30, 2021 GMT

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S&P 500 fell 4.8% in September, worst month since March 2020

Stocks are closing out September with their worst monthly loss since the beginning of the pandemic. The S&P 500 ended the month down 4.8%, its first monthly drop since January and the biggest since March 2020. After climbing steadily for much of the year, the stock market became unsettled in recent weeks with the spread of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19, a sudden spike in long-term bond yields and word that the Federal Reserve may start to unwind its support for the economy. The S&P 500 fell 1.2% Thursday. It’s still up 14.7% for the year.

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Union jobs? Ford’s plan for new EV factories raises question

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ford’s blockbuster announcement this week that it would build four vast new factories in Kentucky and Tennessee by 2025 and hire nearly 11,000 workers raised a big unanswered question: Just how good will those jobs be? No one — not Ford, not the United Auto Workers union, not the future job holders themselves — yet knows how much the workers will be paid or whether they will vote for union membership. The new factories, to be built by 2025, are collectively intended to build batteries for electric vehicles as well as to assemble many such vehicles.

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Surging natural gas prices: Threat to consumers this winter?

NEW YORK (AP) — Brace for a rude surprise on your winter heating bills. After years of unusually inexpensive levels, the price of natural gas in the United States has more than doubled since this time last year. In Europe and Asia, wholesale prices are more than five times what they were a year ago. The surging costs have coincided with a robust recovery from the pandemic recession, with more homes and businesses burning all forms of fuel. That intensified demand is poised to contribute to higher heating costs in many areas of the world.

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Congress passes bill to avert partial government shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — With only hours to spare, Congress passed legislation that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The votes will help avert one crisis, but efforts to stave off a second crisis seem likely to continue for the next couple of weeks as Democrats and Republicans dig in on a dispute over how to raise the government’s borrowing cap. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that failure to raise the debt limit will lead to a financial crisis and economic recession.

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Powell sees inflation cooling, evading ‘difficult situation’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Thursday that current high levels of inflation are likely to fade next year and won’t prevent the Fed from pushing toward its goal of full employment. In comments before the House Financial Services Committee, Powell said he believes inflation will decline without the Fed having to raise rates, which would potentially slow hiring.

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Senators push Facebook exec on Instagram policies for youth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators have fired a barrage of criticism at a Facebook executive over the social-networking giant’s handling of internal research on how its Instagram photo-sharing platform can harm teens. The lawmakers accused Facebook of concealing the negative findings about Instagram and demanded a commitment from the company to make changes. During testimony before a Senate Commerce subcommittee, Facebook’s head of global safety Antigone Davis defended Instagram’s effort to protect young people using its platform. The panel is examining Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers that could indicate potential harm for some of its young users, especially girls, while it publicly downplayed the negative impacts.

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Senate confirms Biden pick to lead consumer watchdog agency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has narrowly approved President Joe Biden’s pick to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, giving the bureau a director who is likely to embrace an aggressive “watchdog” role. Rohit Chopra’s nomination was approved 50-48, with Vice President Kamala Harris earlier having to cast a tie-breaking vote to end debate. Republicans were united in opposition against Chopra. Before his approval, he held one of the Democrat seats on the Federal Trade Commission. He often used his position to publicly advocate for higher penalties and enforcement against companies found to have committed wrongdoing.

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US slightly revises up its GDP estimate for Q2 to 6.7%

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 6.7% annual pace from April through June, the Commerce Department said Thursday, slightly upgrading its estimate of last quarter’s growth in the face of a resurgence of COVID-19 in the form of the delta variant. The government’s estimate of growth in the second quarter — its last of three — was up from its previous estimate of a 6.6% annual pace that will likely mark a high point for the economy’s expansion this year as the virus slows some activity, government support programs wind down and manufacturing supply-chain issues persist. Thursday’s report from the government showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — accelerated from a 6.3% annual rate in the first three months of the year.

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The S&P 500 fell 51.92 points, or 1.2%, to 4,307.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 546.80 points, or 1.6%, to 33,843.92. The Nasdaq lost 63.86 points, or 0.4%, to 14,448.58. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies shed 20.94 points, or 0.9%, to 2,204.37.