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January 4, 2024
January 4, 2024
Business News

AP-Summary Brief-Business


January 4, 2024

Federal Reserve minutes: Officials saw inflation cooling but were cautious about timing of rate cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve’s policymakers concluded last month that inflationary pressures were easing and that the job market was cooling. In response, the officials chose to leave their key interest rate unchanged for the third straight time and signaled that they expected to cut rates three times in 2024. According to the minutes of their Dec. 12-13 meeting, Fed officials indicated in their own interest-rate forecasts that a lower benchmark rate “would be appropriate by the end of 2024″ given the steady progress toward taming inflation. But they ”stressed the importance″ of remaining vigilant and keeping rates high “until inflation was clearly moving down sustainably″ toward their 2% target.

US applications for unemployment benefits fall again as job market continues to show strength

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week as the labor market continues to show resilience despite elevated interest rates. Jobless claims fell to 202,000 for the week ending Dec. 30, down by 18,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, fell by 4,750 to 207,750. Overall, 1.86 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits during the week that ended Dec. 23, a decrease of 31,000 from the previous week and the fewest in two months. Weekly unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs.

Drugstore chain Walgreens cuts quarterly dividend to get more cash to grow its business

Walgreens is chopping its dividend nearly in half as the drugstore chain looks to strengthen its balance sheet. The health care giant said Thursday that reducing its quarterly payout to shareholders to 25 cents per share will help free up capital to spend growing its pharmacy and health care businesses. New CEO Tim Wentworth said in a statement that company leaders believe such growth will ultimately improve shareholder value, but company shares slid in early-morning trading. Walgreens also announced a better-than-expected fiscal first quarter. The chain runs a network of around 13,000 drugstores globally.

Stock market today: Wall Street drifts higher, and yields rise after solid data on jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Much of Wall Street is drifting higher following signals the job market remains solid, though it may be a touch too strong. The S&P 500 was up 0.3% Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 200 points, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower. Treasury yields rose after reports indicated employers hired more people last month than expected and laid off fewer last week than forecast. That’s good news for workers. But it could also weaken the main hope that’s driven Wall Street’s big recent rally, that the economy is cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates sharply in 2024.

US job openings fell slightly in November but remain high by historical standards

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers posted 8.8 million job openings in November, down slightly from October and the fewest since March 2021. But demand for workers remains strong by historical standards. The number of job vacancies dipped from 8.9 million in October. And the number of people quitting their jobs — a sign of confidence in the labor market — fell to its lowest level since February 2021. The number of quits is now roughly where it stood before the pandemic erupted. Job openings dropped by 128,000 in transportation, warehousing and utilities and by 78,000 at hotels and restaurants. The federal government reduced job openings by 58,000. By contrast, openings in construction rose by 43,000 and in retail by 42,000.

Biden administration announces $162 million to expand computer chip factories in Colorado and Oregon

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration is providing $162 million to Arizona high-tech manufacturer Microchip Technology to support the domestic production of computer chips. Thursday’s funding announcement is the second tied to a 2022 law designed to revive U.S. semiconductor manufacturing. The incentives include $90 million to improve a plant in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and $72 million to expand a factory in Gresham, Oregon. The investments would enable Microchip Technology Inc. to triple its domestic production and reduce its dependence on foreign factories. The Democratic president signed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022, providing more than $52 billion to boost the development and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States.

Microsoft’s new AI key is first big change to keyboards in decades

Starting this month, some new personal computers that run Microsoft’s Windows operating system will have a special “Copilot key” that launches the software giant’s AI chatbot. Getting third-party computer manufacturers to add an AI button to laptops is the latest move by Microsoft to capitalize on its close partnership with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI and make itself a gateway for applications of generative AI technology.

US new vehicle sales rise 12% as buyers shake off high prices, interest rates, and auto strikes

DETROIT (AP) — American consumers bought 15.6 million new vehicles last year. The numbers indicate car buyers were undeterred by high prices, rising interest rates, autoworker strikes and a computer-chip shortage that slowed assembly lines. The tally is 12% more than in 2022, and the biggest increase in more than a decade. Yet sales still haven’t returned to the 17 million rate in the years before the pandemic, and there are signs of a cooling market as supplies grow on dealer lots and prices start to fall. Average auto sales prices peaked in December of 2022 just over $47,300. Data from J.D. Power show that average prices in mid-December were down 2.7% from the peak to around $46,000. Analysts expect more discounts through the year.

US national debt hits record $34 trillion as Congress gears up for funding fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury has announced that the nation’s gross national debt has surpassed $34 trillion. The record high comes after Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed to temporarily lift the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt limit last year after the government ran up against its legal borrowing capacity and needed to implement “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default. That agreement lasts until January 2025. Congress is gearing up for another funding fight.

Kia EV9, Toyota Prius and Ford Super Duty pickup win 2024 North American SUV, car and truck awards

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The Kia EV9 large electric SUV won the 2024 North American Utility of the Year award, while the Toyota Prius hybrid took the top car honors, and Ford’s Super Duty pickup won the truck award. The honors announced Thursday are often used in advertising by automakers. About 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada tested and rated the vehicles based on how much they set new benchmarks for their segment of the automobile market. All the SUV finalists this year have electric versions including the electrified GV70 small SUV from Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand, and the Hyundai Kona and Kona EV. Car finalists included Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 EV and the redesigned Honda Accord midsize sedan. Truck finalists included the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup and the Chevy Silverado EV pickup.