Business Highlights: Netflix plunges, home sales decline
EXPLAINER: How sweeping EU rules would curb tech companies
LONDON (AP) — European Union lawmakers have approved proposed rules that would require online companies to ramp up efforts to keep harmful content off their platforms and take other steps to protect users. The 27-nation bloc has gained a reputation as a trendsetter in the growing global push to rein in big tech companies. The legislation that passed a vote Thursday is part of a sweeping overhaul of the European Union’s digital rules aimed at ensuring tech giants like Google, Facebook parent Meta and other online companies protect users on their platforms from harmful content like misinformation and hate speech and treat rivals fairly.
Analysis: Biden finds inflation overshadows strong economy
President Joe Biden is paying a steep price for high inflation. It’s a problem that festered during his first year in office instead of fading away as he suggested it would. Last year’s giant coronavirus relief package drove what will probably be the fastest economic growth since 1984 and pulled the unemployment rate down at a quicker pace than expected. But inflation is running at a nearly 40-year high of 7%. The mix of a strong economy and high inflation has created a paradox: Most U.S. households feel confident about their own finances, yet they’re worried about the economy in ways that have been a drag on Biden.
More on Russia and Ukraine
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Five Europeans go on trial in separatist-controlled Ukraine
Norway hits export record amid soaring gas prices
Fed study on digital currency leans toward role for banks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve released a highly anticipated report on central bank digital currencies that suggested it is leaning toward having banks and other financial firms, rather than the Fed itself, manage digital accounts for customers. A central bank digital currency would differ in some key ways from the online and digital payments that millions of Americans already conduct. It wouldn’t necessarily require the user to have a bank account. The Fed’s paper, while stressing that no final decisions have been reached, said it would likely follow an “intermediate model” for a digital dollar under which banks or payment firms would create accounts or digital wallets.
Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Netflix delivered its latest quarter of disappointing subscriber growth during the final three months of last year, a trend that management foresees continuing into the new year as tougher competition is undercutting the video streaming leader. The company added 8.3 million worldwide subscribers during the October-December period, about 200,000 fewer than management had forecast. Netflix predicted subscriber growth well below analyst estimates for the first three months of this year, too. The disappointing news announced Thursday caused Netflix’s stock price to plunge by more than 19%, deepening a steep decline during the past two months.
U.S. sanctions Ukrainian officials accused of helping Russia
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department says it’s levying new sanctions against four Ukrainian officials, including two current members of parliament who administration officials say are part of a Russian influence effort to set the pretext for further invasion of Ukraine. According to Treasury, all four have been intimately involved in disinformation efforts by Russia’s federal security service, known as the FSB. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they were at the heart of a Kremlin effort begun in 2020 “to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian state to independently function.” The announcement comes days after the White House issued a new warning that Russia has stationed operatives in and around Ukraine possibly to create pretext for an invasion.
New vehicles to be rated on how they make drivers stay alert
DETROIT (AP) — Two organizations that influence many Americans’ automobile buying decisions will begin rating vehicles on how well they track behavior of motorists who use partially automated driver-assist systems. Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say the ratings will factor into scores for new models starting this year. The new ratings come as the auto industry struggles with how to make sure drivers stay alert as the systems take on more driving functions and are offered in more models. Both groups say research shows drivers often rely too much on the systems, even though they cannot drive vehicles. Both organizations hope that automakers will respond with more robust monitoring systems.
Washington justices uphold $18M fine in GMO-labeling case
SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has narrowly upheld an $18 million fine against an association of large food brands that funneled dark money into a state political campaign. The 5-4 decision Thursday found that the penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association — which is now known as the Consumer Brands Association — did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s excessive fines ban. The group in 2013 contributed $11 million to help defeat a ballot initiative that would have required labeling of genetically engineered ingredients on food packaging. The high court previously upheld a ruling that the organization’s failure to disclose which companies contributed the money was an intentional campaign finance violation.
US home sales fall with available properties at a record low
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of previously occupied homes fell in December for the first time in four months as many would-be buyers were frustrated by a lack of available houses, which fell to the lowest level in more than two decades. Existing home sales dropped 4.6% last month from November, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 6.2 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. The demand for homes remains healthy, the Realtors said, with median prices jumping nearly 16% from a year ago to $358,000. Homes sold in an average of 19 days, slightly higher than in the summer but still quite rapid.
Serbia scraps planned Rio Tinto lithium mine after protests
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Trying to defuse large protests by environmentalists, Serbia’s populist government said Thursday that it was canceling all licenses for mining giant Rio Tinto to open a lithium mine in the Balkan country. “We have fulfilled all the requests of the environmental protests and put an end to Rio Tinto in (Serbia),” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said in a televised address. “Everything is finished. It’s over.” Used in batteries for electric cars, lithium is considered one of the most sought-after metals of the future. For several weekends, thousands of demonstrators in Belgrade and other Serbian towns have blocked main roads and bridges to protest the planned mine, which they say would cause severe environmental damage.
French energy giant joins push for new Myanmar sanctions
PARIS (AP) — French energy conglomerate TotalEnergies has asked the American and French governments to support targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s oil and gas funds. The funds are the largest single source of income for the country’s military leaders. In a letter to Human Rights Watch released Thursday, the CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, said the company had informed French and American authorities that it backed sanctions on the sector but otherwise had legal payment obligations for its work there. The sanctions would target the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, which is a joint venture partner in all offshore gas projects in Myanmar, including a major gas field that Total runs.
The S&P 500 fell 50.03 points, or 1.1%, to 4,482.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 313.26 points, or 0.9%, to 34,715.39. The Nasdaq fell 186.23 points, or 1.3%, to 14,154.02. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 38.75 points, or 1.9%, to 2,024.04.