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Business Highlights: Consumer spending, robotic police dogs

July 30, 2021 GMT

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US consumers boost spending 1% as inflation remains high

WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers increased their spending by 1% in June — a dose of energy for an economy that is quickly rebounding from the pandemic recession but is facing new risks led by the delta variant of the coronavirus. At the same time, a key inflation barometer that is closely followed by the Federal Reserve surged 3.5% last month from a year earlier. That was the fastest such 12-month surge since 1991. June’s solid increase in consumer spending provided further evidence that consumers are driving a strengthening recovery from the pandemic recession.

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Families paying off rent, food, debts with child tax credit

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Families are starting to spend the money from the expanded child tax credit. Many say they are using the money to pay rent, supplement their grocery budgets and for catching up on bills, including cellphone and car payments. President Joe Biden increased the amounts going to families and he expanded it to include those whose income is so little they don’t owe taxes. The benefits begin to phase out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples. Higher-income families with incomes up to $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for married couples can still receive the previous $2,000 credit.

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Robotic police dogs: Useful hounds or dehumanizing machines?

HONOLULU (AP) — If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever. That’s one way public safety agencies are using Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility. Police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like drones or simpler wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police aren’t setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

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Walmart mandates vaccines for workers at headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is requiring that all workers at its headquarters as well as managers who travel within the U.S. be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4. The retailer based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is also reversing its mask policy for its employees working in stores, clubs, distribution facilities and warehouses. Going forward, they will be required to wear masks in areas with high infection rates, even if they have been vaccinated. Walt Disney Co. also said Friday it’s requiring all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of its sites to be fully vaccinated.

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Exxon posts $4.7B in Q2 profit as demand for fuel rebounds

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NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil swung back to a second-quarter profit as demand for fuel recovered from lows reached earlier in the pandemic. Exxon earned $4.69 billion in the second quarter, beating analyst expectations. The oil giant brought in $67.74 billion in revenue, more than double the amount at the same time last year. The recovery came during a politically tumultuous time for the oil industry. Exxon’s shareholders recently voted to replace three of the company’s 12 board members with directors they said were better equipped to handle climate change.

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Biden push to vaccinate feds forces uncomfortable questions

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s requirement for federal workers to reveal their COVID-19 vaccination status is going to force some uncomfortable questions not only at government agencies but at private companies. Answers might not be clear at first. For feds, the first and most important questions have to do with how they’ll be required to attest to their vaccination status, and what exceptions will apply. “Attestation” may sound like a soft requirement, but the federal workplace is layered with rules and regulations, and providing false or misleading information carries consequences. Private companies are looking at the government’s approach as they, too, move to require employees to get vaccinated.

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US regulators step up scrutiny of IPO hopefuls from China

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese companies hoping to sell their shares in the United States must start making more disclosures about their potential risks before U.S. regulators will allow them to list their stock. The move announced on Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Beijing said it would step up its supervision of Chinese companies listed overseas, including cybersecurity reviews. Many of the new U.S. requirements focus on Chinese businesses that uses shell companies to get around Chinese rules blocking foreign ownership for their industries.

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Wall Street stumbles at the close of another strong month

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended lower on Wall Street, giving up their gains for the week. The S&P 500 still managed to end July higher, marking six monthly gains in a row, the longest such streak since 2018. The benchmark index fell 0.5% Friday, with a big drag coming from Amazon. The online retail giant slumped 7.6% after it reported sales growth that was big but not as big as Wall Street expected. Its sales forecast also disappointed investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4% and the Nasdaq fell 0.7%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.23%.

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The S&P 500 dropped 23.89 points, or 0.5%, to 4,395.26. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 149.06 points, or 0.4%, to 34,935.47. The Nasdaq gave back 105.59 points, or 0.7%, to 14,672.68. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies slipped 13.78 points, or 0.6%, to 2,226.25.