23/06/2024

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Student loan forgiveness app goes live, US dollar soars while others sink, and more business news ICYMI

Student loan forgiveness app goes live, US dollar soars while others sink, and more business news ICYMI

The IRS has announced changes in income tax brackets due to inflation.



Check out this week’s Business Briefs, an encompassing look at top business news this week from the Associated Press, with a special spotlight on national business and the economy.

Student loan forgiveness application website goes live

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has officially kicked off the application process for his student debt cancellation program. He announced Monday that 8 million borrowers had already applied for loan relief during the federal government’s soft launch period over the weekend. Biden is encouraging the tens of millions eligible for potential relief to visit studentaid.gov and touting the application form, which he says will take less than five minutes to complete. He says an early, “beta launch” version of the online form released late Friday handled the early stream of applications “without a glitch or any difficulty.”

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Student loan forgiveness application website goes live

 

‘Bad situation’: Soaring US dollar spreads pain worldwide

As the value of the U.S. dollar soars, other currencies around the world are sinking by comparison. This is contributing to skyrocketing prices for everyday goods and services and compounding financial distress, especially in poorer countries. It has stirred complaints from an auto parts dealer in Nairobi, a seller of baby clothes in Istanbul, a wine importer in Manchester, England, and the driver of the colorful Philippine mini-bus known as a jeepney. The dollar is up 18% this year against a basket of key currencies around the globe. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes have led to higher rates on U.S. government and corporate bonds, luring investors and driving up the U.S. currency.


‘Bad situation’: Soaring US dollar spreads pain worldwide

Facing tough midterms, Biden releasing oil from US reserve

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is telling voters that he hasn’t given up on lowering gasoline prices. Biden says he has ordered the release of 15 million barrels from the U.S. strategic reserve and will consider additional withdrawals this winter. It’s a message with clear political implications as the president’s approval rating has moved in the opposite direction from changes in gasoline prices. Wednesday’s announcement completes the release of 180 million barrels authorized by Biden in March. The reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil. That’s the lowest level since 1984. And Republicans such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio say that the releases are about helping Democrats in midterm elections.


Facing tough midterms, Biden releasing oil from US reserve

US heating worries mount amid growing costs, uncertainty

JAY, Maine (AP) — Families are looking forward with dread as winter approaches with high energy costs and tight fuel supplies. The U.S. Department of Energy is projecting sharp price increases for home heating compared to last winter. Some worry whether heating assistance programs will be adequate for struggling families. Last month, Congress added $1 billion to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, bringing the total to at least $4.8 billion. But that level represents a cut from last year, when federal pandemic relief pushed the total energy assistance package past $8 billion.


US heating worries mount amid growing costs, uncertainty

Report: TikTok bad at culling US election misinformation ads

TikTok’s algorithms are very good at finding videos to keep people glued to their phone screens for hours on end. But a new report has found what they are not so good at: detecting ads that contain blatant misinformation about U.S. elections. That’s despite TikTok last year banning all political advertisements from its platform in 2019. The report published Friday by the nonprofit Global Witness raises fresh concerns about the wildly popular video-sharing app’s ability to catch election falsehoods at a time when a growing number of young people use it not just for entertainment but also for finding information.


Report: TikTok bad at culling US election misinformation ads

Stocks rally on Wall Street toward their best day in months, S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average rise more than 3%.


UK leader in peril after Treasury chief axes 'Trussonomics'

New U.K. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt has reversed most of an economic package announced by the government just weeks ago, including a planned cut in income taxes. Hunt said Monday he was scrapping “almost all” the tax cuts announced last month by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Liz Truss, and also signaled that public spending cuts are on the way. It was a bid to soothe turbulent financial markets spooked by fears of excessive government borrowing. The move raises questions about how long the beleaguered prime minister can stay in office, though Truss insisted she has no plans to quit. She vowed to lead the Conservatives into the next general election, but many in the party want her gone.

A Maryland judge has struck down the nation’s first tax on digital advertising as unconstitutional It’s a case attorneys for Big Tech have argued unfairly targets their clients. Judge Alison Asti of Anne Arundel County Circuit Court said the Maryland law violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on state interference with interstate commerce. She also ruled that it violates the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits discrimination against electronic commerce. Raquel Coombs, a spokesperson for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose office is defending the law, said the office is reviewing the decision to determine next steps.


Kanye West to buy conservative social media platform Parler

The rapper formerly known as Kanye West is offering to buy right-wing friendly social network Parler. The announcement comes shortly after West was blocked from posting on Twitter and Instagram for antisemitic posts. West, who is legally known as Ye, was locked out of Twitter and Instagram a week ago over antisemitic posts that the social networks said violated their policies. In one post on Twitter, Ye said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” according to internet archive records, making an apparent reference to the U.S. defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON. The potential purchase of Parler would give Ye control of a social media platform and a new outlet for his opinions with no gatekeeper.


US businesses propose hiding trade data used to trace abuse

A group of major U.S. businesses wants the government to hide key import data — a move trade experts say would make it more difficult for Americans to link the products they buy to labor abuse overseas. The proposal obtained by The Associated Press was made by an advisory panel comprised of executives from 20 companies, including Walmart, General Motors and Intel. If adopted, it would shroud in secrecy customs data on ocean-going freight responsible for about half of the $2.7 trillion in goods entering the U.S. every year.  Human rights activists say it flies in the face of government commitments to be more transparent on trade.

Police say as many as 20 people were arrested when striking truckers used tractor-trailers to block the exits at New England’s largest wholesale food distributor. Police said more than 400 Teamster union members arrived at the Sysco facility in Plympton, Massachusetts, in the early morning Monday and stopped about 100 employees from leaving. Police say after two hours of negotiations, 16 to 20 people were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and assault and battery. About 300 Sysco drivers represented by the Teamsters started their strike Oct. 1 for better pay and benefits. Messages seeking comment were left with union representatives.


Biden to release 15M barrels from oil reserve, more possible

President Joe Biden will announce the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by OPEC+ nations. That’s according to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to outline Biden’s plans. The Democratic president on Wednesday will say more oil sales are possible this winter, as his administration rushes to be seen as pulling out all the stops ahead of next month’s midterm elections. Biden in March authorized the release of 180 million barrels that was supposed to occur over six months. The strategic reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil, its lowest level since 1984.


Netflix rebounds from recent subscriber losses with 3Q gain

Netflix has reversed its recent subscriber losses with a summertime gain. Management is hoping to build upon the gains with the upcoming launch of a cheaper version of the video streaming service that will include ads for the first time. The Los Gatos, California, company disclosed Tuesday that it picked up 2.4 million subscribers during the July-September period, a comeback from a loss of 1.2 million customers during the first half of the year. The performance topped analyst estimates and enabled Netflix to  at least temporarily reclaim the mantle as the world’s largest video streaming service ahead of Walt Disney Co.


11 more crash deaths are linked to automated-tech vehicles

Eleven additional people were in crashes involving vehicles using automated driving systems during a four-month period earlier this year, according to newly released government data, part of an alarming pattern of incidents linked to the technology. Ten of the deaths involved vehicles made by Tesla, though it is unclear from the data whether the technology itself was at fault or whether driver error might have been responsible. The 11th death involved a Ford pickup truck. The deaths included four crashes involving motorcycles that occurred during the spring and summer: two in Florida and one each in California and Utah.


EU faces battle to keep energy prices from tanking economy

European Union leaders enter a crucial stretch this week to make sure runaway energy prices and short supplies do not further weaken their struggling economies and foment unrest. At the same time, they need to keep all 27 members united in their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The EU’s executive Commission presents a blueprint on Tuesday that needs to reconcile the gap between those who want to impose a common gas price cap to keep prices down and those who think it will primarily keep out supplies and further starve industries and businesses. Then on Thursday,  EU leaders will start two days of talks seeking a compromise , however hard that may be.


Everything to know to apply for student loan forgiveness

President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, announced in August, will cancel up to $20,000 in debt per borrower. The application process is now open, and the administration says the forms should take five minutes to complete. Borrowers who apply before mid-November should see forgiveness before Jan. 1, when payments on loans are scheduled to restart after a pause during the pandemic. Some Republican-led states have filed lawsuits to try to stop the cancellation, but the Biden administration says they’re confident the challenges won’t succeed.


USDA announces $1 billion debt relief for 36,000 farmers

The federal government has announced a program to provide $1.3 billion in debt relief for about 36,000 farmers who have fallen behind on loan payments or face foreclosure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the farm loan relief program funded from $3.1 billion set aside in the Inflation Reduction Act allocated toward assisting distressed borrowers of direct or guaranteed loans administered by USDA. The law was passed by Congress and signed by Biden in August. The money anounced Tuesday is the first round of payments designed to help farmers hard hit by pandemic-induced market disruptions or climate-driven natural disasters including drought stay in business or re-enter farming. The USDA says additional programs are to come.


United Airlines reaps $942 million profit on strong summer

United Airlines has reported a $942 million profit for the third quarter after a strong summer travel season. Chicago-based United said Tuesday that is expects to beat Wall Street forecasts for profit in the fourth quarter too. Airline executives say that concern about inflation and the economy doesn’t seem to be discouraging people from traveling. U.S. air travel is rebounding from the onset of the pandemic. On Sunday, nearly 2.5 million travelers went through checkpoints at U.S. airports. That’s the highest number since before the pandemic. International travel is still lagging, but even there, United feels bullish enough to plan for more flights to Europe next summer.


UK inflation accelerates to 40-year high as food prices rise

British food prices rose at the fastest pace since 1980 last month, driving inflation back to a 40-year high and heaping pressure on the embattled government to balance the books without gutting help for the nation’s poorest residents. The Office for National Statistics said Wednesday that food prices jumped 14.6% in the year through September, led by the soaring cost of staples like meat, bread, milk and eggs. That pushed consumer price inflation back to 10.1%, the highest since early 1982 and equal to the level last reached in July. The figures fueled demands that the government do more to help families and retirees as it struggles to regain credibility after an ill-fated package of tax cuts roiled financial markets.


EU leaders united against Russia, divided over energy summit

European Union leaders head into Thursday’s energy summit looking for joint measures to contain an energy crisis that has already dented their economy and threatens to spread more hardship this winter. But finding a common answer to the energy crisis fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine is proving to be a tall order. Natural gas prices spiraled out of control last summer when EU members outbid one another to fill up their reserves for winter. Now EU leaders will seek to pool purchases of gas and set a temporary price cap to make sure an overheated market does not return. But Germany and Netherlands have raised major issues about a proposal to cap natural gas prices, which many other EU nations want to do.


EPA: UPS to pay fine, correct hazardous waste violations

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has reached a settlement with United Parcel Service to resolve violations of hazardous waste regulations at more than 1,100 facilities across 45 states and Puerto Rico. EPA said Wednesday the consent agreement with Atlanta-based UPS resolves a range of alleged violations. They include failure to make land disposal determinations and to conduct proper on-site management of hazardous waste. The company has three years to reach compliance across 1,160 locations and will pay a civil penalty of $5.3 million.


BMW investing $1.7B in S Carolina as automaker shifts to EVs

BMW will invest $1 billion in its sprawling factory near Spartanburg, South Carolina, to start producing electric vehicles and an additional $700 million to build a electric-battery plant nearby. The German automaker’s announcement reflects its commitment to transitioning to electric-vehicle production in North America, in line with similarly ambitious plans by other major automakers. The investment in the 7-million-square-foot vehicle factory in Greer, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, would add an unspecified number of jobs to the more than 11,000 workers there. The battery plant, to be built in nearby Woodruff, will employ 300, the company said, with hiring to begin within a few years.


Tesla 3Q profit more than doubles from a year ago to $3.29B

Tesla has reported that its third-quarter profit more than doubled from a year ago, fueled by higher vehicle sales. The Austin, Texas, electric vehicle and solar panel maker said it made $3.29 billion from July through September. Revenue rose 56% to a record $21.45 billion. But it fell just short of estimates averaging $21.98 billion. Tesla stuck with its prediction of 50% annual vehicle sales growth over the next few years, confident that demand will remain strong. But it will take a stellar fourth-quarter sales performance to reach the 50% goal. Analysts have questioned whether Tesla is experiencing waning demand for its vehicles, which in the U.S. start around $49,000.


US awards $2.8B in grants for EV batteries in 12 states

The Biden administration on Wednesday awarded $2.8 billion in grants to build and expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles in 12 states. A total of 20 companies will receive grants for projects to extract and process lithium, graphite and other battery materials, manufacture components and strengthen U.S. supply of critical minerals. The announcement comes as the administration seeks to boost production and sales of electric vehicles as a key part of President Joe Biden’s strategy to slow climate change and build up U.S. manufacturing. A sweeping climate and health-care law passed in August includes several provisions to boost electric vehicles, including tax credits for EV buyers worth up to $7,500.


Report: Elon Musk plans to cut 75% of Twitter workforce

Elon Musk plans to lay off most of Twitter’s workforce if and when he becomes owner of the social media company. That’s according to a report by The Washington Post. The report says Musk told prospective investors in his Twitter purchase that he planned to cut nearly 75% of San Francisco-based Twitter’s employee base of 7,500 workers, leaving the company with a skeleton crew. Twitter and a representative for Musk attorney Alex Spiro did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Already, experts, nonprofits and even Twitter’s own staff have warned that pulling back investments on content moderation and data security could hurt Twitter and its users.


EU leaders avoid deep rift on gas price cap at energy summit

European Union leaders are struggling to find immediate practical solutions on how to deal with the energy crisis but avoid an open rift between Germany and France. That would have exposed a divided bloc as it confronts Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine. The 27 EU leaders papered over divisions between some of the biggest member states and at least agreed to continue work on ways to impose a gas price cap in case of massive increases. French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted his work with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to create a veneer of unity after talks that started early Thursday and ran until early Friday.


US home sales fell in September for eighth straight month

Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell in September for the eighth month in a row, matching the pre-pandemic sales pace from 10 years ago, as house hunters grappled with sharply higher mortgage rates, rising home prices and a still tight supply of properties on the market. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that existing home sales fell 1.5% last month from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.71 million. That’s slightly higher than what economists were expecting, according to FactSet. Sales fell nearly 24% from September last year. The national median home price rose 8.4% in September from a year earlier to $384,800.


'Momentous': Asian Americans laud Anna May Wong's US quarter

More than 60 years after Anna May Wong became the first Asian American woman to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the pioneering actor has coined another first, quite literally. With quarters bearing her face and manicured hand set to start shipping Monday, per the U.S. Mint, Wong will be the first Asian American to grace U.S. currency. Wong was known for fighting against stereotypes foisted on her by a white Hollywood. She is one of five women being honored this year as part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters program.


Fewer Americans apply for jobless benefits last week

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week and remains historically low even as the U.S. economy slows in the midst of decades-high inflation. Jobless claims for the week ending Oct. 15 declined by 12,000 to 214,000 from 226,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week moving average rose by 1,250 to 212,250. Considered a proxy for layoffs, applications for jobless aid have remained historically low since the initial purge of more than 20 million jobs at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.


Average long-term US mortgage rates rise this week to 6.94%

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates inched up this week ahead of another expected rate increase by the Federal Reserve when it meets early next month. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate ticked up this week to 6.94% from 6.92% last week. Last year at this time, the rate was 3.09%. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those looking to refinance their homes, jumped to 6.23% from 6.09% last week. Many prospective buyers have been pushed out of the market as average mortgage rates have more than doubled this year.


Railroads reject sick time demands, raising chance of strike

The major freight railroads appear unwilling to give track maintenance workers much more than they received in the initial contract they rejected last week, increasing the chances of a strike. The railroads rejected the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division union’s request to add seven days of paid sick time on top of the 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses they received in the first five-year deal. But Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz said Thursday he’s confident that all 12 unions will ultimately approve their deals, so the industry can avoid a strike that would be devastating to the economy.


American Airlines posts $483 million profit for late summer

American Airlines is reporting a $483 million profit for the third quarter, as planes were mostly full and fares were higher over the hectic summer months. American says demand for travel remains strong, and it forecast better fourth-quarter results than Wall Street was expecting. American is repeating many of the same upbeat themes sounded in the last few days by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. U.S. air travel is roaring back from pandemic lows in early 2020. That’s happening despite a 43% leap in airfares over the past year, according to government figures.


Republican committee sues Google over email spam filters

The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit against tech giant Google, alleging the company has been suppressing its email solicitations ahead of November’s midterm elections. The lawsuit filed in California Friday evening accuses Gmail of “discriminating” against the RNC by unfairly sending the group’s emails to users’ spam folders. They complain that’s impacting both their fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts in pivotal swing states. Google denies the allegation and says the company doesn’t filter emails based on political affiliation. A spokesperson says Gmail’s spam filters “reflect users’ actions.”


Social media platforms brace for midterm elections mayhem

Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Twitter say they’re taking steps to prevent the spread of misinformation about voting and elections ahead of next month’s midterms. Yet a look at some of the most popular platforms shows baseless claims about election fraud continue to flourish. Misleading claims about the 2020 election, mail ballots or vote counting have been linked to greater polarization and diminished confidence in American democracy. Misinformation researchers say the platforms must do more to promote trustworthy sources of information while reducing the spread of misleading and baseless claims about the upcoming elections.


IRS raises contribution limits for retirement savings plans

Americans will be allowed to contribute more of their money to 401(k) and similar retirement saving plans next year. The IRS said Friday that savers with 401(K) and similar plans will be able to contribute up to $22,500 next year. That’s up from $20,500 this year. People aged 50 and over, which have the option to  make additional “catch-up” contributions to 401(k) and similar plans, will be able to contribute up to $30,000 in 2023. The IRS also raised the annual contribution limits on individual retirement arrangements, or IRAs, by $500 to $6,500. The changes make it easier for retirement savers to set aside more of their income toward building their nest egg.


Social media stocks slip amid Musk, Snap news

Shares of social media companies have tumbled after a slew of news in the sector that concerned investors, including a report that Elon Musk may cut almost 75% of Twitter’s workforce and Snap’s muted fourth-quarter outlook. Musk has told prospective investors in his Twitter purchase that he plans to cut nearly 75% of Twitter’s employee base of 7,500 workers, leaving the company with a skeleton crew. That’s according to a Thursday report by The Washington Post.


Boeing crashes: Passengers' families deemed crime victims

A federal judge has ruled that relatives of people who died in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes are crime victims. The judge’s ruling Friday could help clear the way for the families to challenge a settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution. The judge’s ruling means that the Justice Department should have notified families before privately negotiating a 2021 settlement with Boeing. Judge Reed O’Connor says the next step is deciding what remedies the families should get for not being told of the talks with Boeing. Some relatives want to scrap the settlement.


Delta Air settles with pilot who raised safety concerns

Delta Air Lines has settled a case involving a pilot who says she was grounded in retaliation for raising safety concerns at the airline. A federal arbiter on Friday approved the settlement between Delta and pilot Karlene Petitt. Terms are not being disclosed. The settlement ends a long-running dispute that in 2019 threatened to derail the nomination of a Delta executive to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot says she was subjected to a psychiatric examination and grounded nearly two years after raising several safety issues in a long report to Delta executives.