Omicron unravels travel industrys plans for a comeback
NEW YORK: Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as countries throw up new barriers to travel in an effort to contain the omicron variant. Meanwhile, travelers eager to get out there have been thrown back into the old routine of reading up on new requirements and postponing trips. For all the alarm, little is known about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, causes more serious illness or can evade vaccines. Still, governments that were slow to react to the first wave of COVID-19 are eager to avoid past mistakes. Businesses everywhere from shopping districts in Japan to ski resorts in the Alps are feeling the hit.
Powell: Fed not at all sure inflation will fade next year
WASHINGTON: Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve cant be sure that inflation will fade in the second half of next year, as many economists expect, a fresh sign of the Feds growing concern about rising prices. Powell, in comments to the House Financial Services Committee, said that most economists see current price spikes, which have lifted inflation to a three-decade high, as largely a response to the pandemics disruptions to supply and demand. As Americans have spent more time at home, they have ramped up spending on furniture, appliances, and laptop computers. Soaring demand for such goods, combined with parts shortages, have resulted in supply chain snarls and higher prices.
Markets turn cautious, reversing an early gain to end lower
NEW YORK: Markets turned cautious again, erasing and early gain and ending lower as investors try to handicap how much the new coronavirus variant will impact the economy. The latest roller-coaster ride brought the S&P 500 index up 1.9% in the morning and down 1.2% by the closing bell. The afternoon reversal is the latest dizzying move in recent days as the omicron variant spreads. Wall Street was already headed lower in the afternoon when the White House announced that the first confirmed case with the omicron variant had been found in the U.S., in a person who recently returned from South Africa.
Haugen urges lawmakers to avert impasse on social media laws
WASHINGTON: Ex-Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen implored lawmakers to avert the usual congressional stalemates as they weigh proposals to curb abuses on social media platforms by limiting the companies free-speech protections against legal liability. Still, Haugen urged caution in making changes to the 1996 law that provides legal protection both for content the platforms carry and for companies removing postings they deem offensive. She cited unintended consequences from a previous congressional revision. Lawmakers brought forward proposals after Haugen presented a case in October that Facebooks systems amplify online hate and extremism and fail to protect young users from harmful content.
Visa CEO: COVID caused permanent shift to digital payments
SAN FRANCISCO: The head of Visa says he believes the pandemic caused a permanent shift of how consumers choose to pay for goods and services away from cash and into payments. In an interview with The Associated Press, CEO Al Kelly said the coronavirus outbreak helped accelerate a trend of people using their debit cards to shop instead of cash. The shift ultimately is good for Visas bottom line, but at the same time, the company is facing increased competition in a way it previously hasnt, particularly from Silicon Valley.
Fed survey finds supply-chain shortages boosting inflation
WASHINGTON: The Federal Reserve is reporting that many parts of the country were hit by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages in November. In a survey of business conditions around the country, the Feds 12 regional banks found that the economy continued to grow at a modest-to-moderate pace. The outlook for future growth remains positive. But some of the Feds business contacts expressed uncertainty about when the problems presented by supply chain bottlenecks and labor shortages might begin to ease.
GM cites improved chip supply in raising financial guidance
DETROIT: Citing an improved supply of automotive computer chips, General Motors raised its financial guidance on Wednesday and said it expects to return to a normal production rate by the end of next year. Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson told investors on a virtual chat with Credit Suisse that the company has seen improvement in the fourth quarter on costs and sales volume as demand for its vehicles remains strong. Nearly all automakers have been hit by a global semiconductor shortage. Jacobson said GM now sees pretax earnings for this year of around $14 billion, up from previous guidance of $11.5 billion to $13 billion. Net income for the year is expected to be around $10 billion, GM said in a regulatory filing.
Facebook: Fake scientist used to spread anti-US propaganda
Facebook says it removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to an effort to spread unfounded claims that the U.S. was pressuring scientists to blame the coronavirus on China. The platform says the disinformation operation began in July when someone claiming to be a Swiss biologist posted the claim, which was quickly reposted by hundreds of accounts later determined to be fake. The story circulated widely in Chinese state media before Swiss officials announced they had no record of the scientist who first made the claim. Facebook said it found evidence linking the network to employees at Chinese state-run technology and infrastructure companies.
Tesla officially moves headquarters from California to Texas
AUSTIN, Texas: Tesla says it has officially moved its corporate headquarters from Silicon Valley to a large factory under construction outside of Austin, Texas. The company made the announcement Wednesday in a filing with U.S. securities regulators. CEO Elon Musk had said at the companys annual meeting in October that the move was coming. The filing said the relocation from Palo Alto, California, to what Tesla calls a Gigafactory on Harold Green Road near Austin was done on Wednesday. Tesla has about 71,000 employees worldwide, with about 10,000 at the Palo Alto headquarters. It wasnt clear how many would be moving.
The S&P 500 fell 53.96 points, or 1.2%, to 4,513.04. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 461.68 points, or 1.3%, to 34,022.04. The Nasdaq dropped 283.64 points, or 1.8%, to 15,254.05. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies retreated 51.49 points, or 2.3%, to 2,147.42.
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