Business Highlights: Lobbyists leaving, rate hike talk
Ukraine invasion leads US lobbyists to ditch Russian clients
WASHINGTON (AP) — A half-dozen U.S. lobbying firms have severed ties with Russian-linked businesses over the past week. It represents a dramatic pullback for an industry that typically has few qualms about representing controversial interests. Records show that firms including McLarty Associates, BGR Government Affairs and Venable LLP abruptly canceled contracts that have yielded millions of dollars in lobbying fees in recent years. Among their now former clients are the now-canceled Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was supposed to deliver Russian gas to Germany, as well as Russian state-controlled banks. The rush to cancel offers a measure of the potency of the Biden administration’s new sanctions.
Powell expects a quarter-point Fed rate hike this month
WASHINGTON (AP) — Chair Jerome Powell said he supports a traditional quarter-point increase in the Federal Reserve’s benchmark short-term interest rate when the Fed meets later this month, rather than a larger increase that some of its policymakers have proposed. But Powell did open the door to a bigger hike in the event that inflation, which has reached a four-decade high, doesn’t noticeably decline this year, as the Fed expects it to. Higher Fed rates typically lead, in turn, to higher rates for consumers and businesses, including for homes and auto loans and credit cards.
Economic dangers from Russia’s invasion ripple across globe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moscow’s war on Ukraine and the ferocious financial backlash it’s unleashed are not only inflicting an economic catastrophe on President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The repercussions are also menacing the global economy, shaking financial markets and making life more perilous for everyone from Uzbek migrant workers to European consumers to hungry Yemeni families. Even before Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, the global economy was straining under a range of burdens: Surging inflation. Tangled supply chains. Tumbling stock prices. The Ukraine crisis both magnified each threat and complicated the potential solutions.
US, allies weaponizing sanctions to curb Russian aggression
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and U.S. allies in a matter of days have weaponized the global economy against Russia for invading Ukraine. The resulting destruction has been devastatingly fast. The sanctions almost instantly put Russian President Vladimir Putin on the defensive against skyrocketing inflation. Russia’s central bank was left unable to tap foreign reserves and is trying to use what resources it has to slow the ruble’s steep decline. The sanctions reflect a massive change in how conflicts can be waged in a world that’s globalized, digital and highly dependent on accessing money. Ukrainian parliament member Oleksandra Ustinova met with U.S. senators on Tuesday to advocate for more sanctions.
Wall Street roars back to rally mode, even as oil rises anew
NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street took another sharp swing Wednesday, this time back to rally mode, as stocks and Treasury yields rose even as oil prices continued to climb. The S&P 500 rose 1.9%, putting it back into the green for the week, after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he supports a more modest rise in interest rates this month than some investors had been fearing. Other markets were also showing less fear than a day earlier. Treasury yields recovered some of their sharp losses and gold receded. U.S. crude oil climbed to $110.60 per barrel, the highest level in more than a decade.
Amazon shuttering its physical bookstores and 4-star shops
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is closing all of its brick-and-mortar bookstores, as well as its 4-star shops and pop up locations. The closures come as the online behemoth reworks its physical footprint. The move affects 66 stores in the U.S. and two in the United Kingdom. The Seattle-based company said Wednesday that it will now be able to concentrate its efforts on Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, its convenience concept called Amazon Go and its upcoming Amazon Style stores. Amazon Style is set to open later this year selling fashion and accessories. Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in 2015, two decades after it began selling books online and helped drive a number of shops out of business.
Bitcoin again viewed as safe haven amid geopolitical tension
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Bitcoin prices have surged as investors again appear to view the volatile cryptocurrency as a safe haven for their money and Russians and Ukrainians seek alternatives to their country’s financial institutions. After initially falling to around $34,000 following Russia’s advance into Ukraine last week, bitcoin pushed about 10% higher on Monday and is now up more than 25% in the past week, to $43,900 Wednesday afternoon. Russians are exchanging their rapidly declining rubles for bitcoin to try and mitigate the impact of recent economic sanctions. Ukrainians, with the government limiting their ability to conduct electronic fund transactions, are also turning to cryptocurrencies.
GOP wants to end Russian oil imports to US, boost production
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican elected officials across the U.S. are criticizing President Joe Biden over his energy policies and want to ramp up domestic production as a way to help wean the nation and its allies off oil from Russia. Governors, senators and state attorneys general from oil- and gas-producing states such as Oklahoma and Louisiana urged his administration to do more to boost production, which actually increased during Biden’s first year in office. The sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies on Russia for its war with Ukraine so far do not include oil and gas exports from the country.
The S&P 500 jumped 80.28 points, or 1.9%, to 4,386.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 596.40 points, or 1.8%, to 33,891.35. The Nasdaq gained 219.56 points, or 1.6%, to 13,752.02. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 50.37 points, or 2.5%, to 2,058.87.