ADVERTISEMENT

Business Highlights: Stocks fall, Amazon and unions face off

March 30, 2022 GMT

___

Russia’s ruble rebound raises questions of sanctions’ impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Russian ruble has bounced back to almost its full value since before the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. That rebound comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin resorts to extreme measures to blunt the West’s penalties and inflate his currency. It’s an economic defense Putin may not be able to sustain as long-term sanctions weigh down his economy. Still, the ruble’s recovery could be a sign that the sanctions in their current form may not be enough to hurt Russia as badly as the West would like. Economists say as long as other countries keep buying Russia’s oil and gas, the ruble may escape the drastic damage envisioned by the United States and some allies.

___

Russia war ends era of globalization that kept inflation low

For decades, the free flow of trade across much of the world allowed the richest nations to enjoy easy access to low-priced goods and supplies. It meant solid economies, stable markets and, especially in the United States and Europe, long-lasting prosperity. And for households and businesses, it meant an entire generation of ultra-low inflation. Now, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has delivered a devastating blow to that system. Prices, which had already been rising, have shot up further. Supply chains, already disrupted by the swift recovery from the pandemic recession, face renewed pressure. The widening rupture between the world’s democracies and its autocracies has further darkened the global picture.

ADVERTISEMENT

___

Germany warns on Russian gas, Poland to end oil imports

BERLIN (AP) — Germany and Austria have activated early warning plans amid concerns that Moscow could cut natural gas deliveries. Together with France, they also urged consumers to conserve energy. Poland announced steps to end all Russian oil imports by year’s end. The moves are fresh signs of how Russia’s war in Ukraine is affecting Europe’s energy security. European countries have rejected a demand by Russia that energy supplies should be paid in rubles. They fear this could undermine sanctions on Russia. German officials said Chancellor Olaf Scholz received assurances later Wednesday from Russian President Vladimir Putin that European companies can continue to pay in euros after a new law takes effect Friday. Scholz’s office says he’s seeking further details.

___

EXPLAINER: What would paying for natural gas in rubles mean?

ADVERTISEMENT

BERLIN (AP) — Russia is demanding payment in rubles for its natural gas exports to Europe. And that is rattling markets already in turmoil because of the war in Ukraine. Already high gas prices have gyrated after the announcement by President Vladimir Putin last week. Western governments have rejected the proposal, saying gas contracts specify the currency and can’t simply be changed by one side. Some experts say the Kremlin might be seeking to gain added control over foreign currency that has become scarcer amid Western sanctions, while others say he’s bluffing. The back and forth has unsettled German utilities, fearing it could be a prelude to a total gas cutoff.

___

Even as inflation bites, corporate profits remain flush

NEW YORK (AP) — What’s immune to high inflation? So far, the profits at big U.S. companies. Companies have successfully raised prices for their products, from cups of coffee to cans of paint, because buyers are lining up regardless. By passing along their cost increases, companies been able to report record profits. Economists aren’t surprised by the resilient profit margins because customers have increased their buying faster than sellers can refill shelves. What’s uncertain is how much longer the trend may last, before customers sharply cut back on their purchases due to higher prices. And analysts expect margins to recede as the economy gets further from the pandemic’s distortions.

___

Amazon, union organizers face off again in Alabama

BESSEMER, Ala. (AP) — After a crushing defeat last year, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is hoping for a different outcome when warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama decide whether or not to form a union in a do-over election. The National Labor Relations Board on Monday began counting mail-in ballots that were sent to 6,100 workers. Results could come as early as Thursday. If the vote goes in favor of the union, it would be Amazon’s first one ever in the U.S. Amazon also faces two union elections in the more labor friendly New York City, though they’re being spearheaded by a nascent independent labor group.

___

How China’s TikTok, Facebook influencers push propaganda

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of China’s state media reporters are identifying as travel bloggers and lifestyle influencers on U.S.-owned social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. They’re racking up millions of followers from around the globe. The Associated Press has identified dozens of these accounts, which are part of a network of profiles that allow China to easily peddle propaganda to unsuspecting social media users. The accounts operate in a number of languages and are targeting users around the world with Facebook ads. In recent weeks, the accounts have advanced Beijing’s talking points around the Winter Olympics, China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, and world affairs like Russia’s war against Ukraine.

___

US growth in Q4 revised lower to 6.9%, slower growth to come

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy ended 2021 by expanding at a healthy 6.9% annual pace from October through December, the government reported Wednesday, a slight downgrade from its previous estimates. For all of 2021, the nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — jumped by 5.7%, the fastest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 in the aftermath of a brutal recession.

___

Florida secures $860M from CVS, others to settle opioid case

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The CVS drug store company and pharmaceutical companies will pay Florida a combined $860 million as part of the settlement of an opioid epidemic case. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said Wednesday that CVS Health Corp. and CVS Pharmacy Inc. will pay the state $484 million. Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. agreed to pay $195 million and Allergan PLC more than $134 million. In addition, Tevan will provide to Florida about $84 million of its Narcan nasal spray used to treat overdose victims. Another company, Endo Health Solutions, is also settling for $65 million, Moody said.

___

Stocks fall, breaking a 4-day winning streak on Wall Street

Stocks ended lower on Wall Street Wednesday, breaking a four-day winning streak but keeping major indexes in the green so far for the week. The S&P 500 fell 0.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2%. The Nasdaq fell 1.2% as technology stocks fell more than the rest of the market. Energy stocks rose along with oil prices. Markets have been rising this week as talks between Russia and Ukraine seemed to show progress, but the prospects for ending the war in Ukraine remain highly uncertain. Treasury yields fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.35%.

___

The S&P 500 fell 29.15 points, or 0.6%, to 4,602.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 65.38 points, or 0.2%, to 35,228.81. The Nasdaq fell 177.36 points, or 1.2%, to 14,442.27. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 42.03 points, or 2%, to 2,091.07.