Senate will grill Powell over Fed efforts to tame inflation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jerome Powell will likely warn Congress that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates even higher if measures of the U.S. economy keep coming in hot. The Fed chairman’s first appearance before Congress in nine months coincides with growing signs that the economy remains resilient and inflation still stubbornly high. In the past year, the Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate at the fastest pace in four decades to fight high inflation. It’s at about 4.6%, its highest level in 15 years. But consumer spending, hiring and growth have yet to cool.
China’s trade contracts as Western demand weakens
BEIJING (AP) — China’s trade contracted again in January and February as U.S. and European demand weakened in the face of interest rate hikes, adding to pressure on official efforts to revive economic growth following the end of anti-virus controls. Customs data show exports sank 6.8% from a year earlier. Imports fell 10.2%, deepening December’s 7.3% contraction. Forecasters expected trade to weaken as the likelihood of a recession in Western economies increased following rate hikes to cool economic activity and inflation. That adds to complications for President Xi Jinping’s government, which is trying to revive economic growth that sank last year to 3%, the second-weakest rate since the 1970s.
US sees China propaganda efforts becoming more like Russia’s
WASHINGTON (AP) — China has long been seen by the U.S. as a prolific source of anti-American propaganda but less aggressive in its influence operations than Russia. Now many in Washington think China is increasingly following Russia’s lead — and there’s growing concern the U.S. isn’t doing enough to respond. U.S. officials and outside experts cite recent examples of China-linked actors generating false news reports with artificial intelligence and deploying so-called troll farms on social media. While many of those efforts appear to be amateurish, experts think they signal an apparent willingness from Beijing to try more influence campaigns as part of a broader embrace of covert operations.
Wall Street calm ahead of Powell appearance on Capitol Hill
Markets were mixed in muted early trading ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s appearance before a Senate Committee, where he will likely be grilled about the central bank’s aggressive interest rate hikes that have only modestly curtailed stubborn inflation. Futures for the Dow were flat and futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.1% in premarket. Powell’s appearance before Congress coincides with recent signs that the economy remains resilient and inflation still far too high. In equities trading, shares of WW International, better known as WeightWatchers, jumped about 14% after it said it was buying the telehealth platform Sequence.
Biden will seek Medicare changes, up tax rate in new budget
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has started to unveil parts of his budget proposal being released later this week. The Democratic president is beginning with his plan for Medicare, including higher taxes on wealthy people to increase funding for the program’s trust fund. Biden also wants to expand Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices. Biden writes Tuesday in The New York Times that Medicare is “more than a government program.” Biden calls Medicare “the rock-solid guarantee that Americans have counted on to be there for them when they retire.” The president is scheduled to release his budget proposal Thursday in Philadelphia. The budget proposal’s future is uncertain, with Republicans in control of the House.
France on strike: Unions say ‘non’ to higher pension age
PARIS (AP) — Demonstrators have started marching across France in a new round of protests and strikes against the government’s project to raise the retirement age to 64. Unions hope the action will the biggest show of force against the planned change. Garbage collectors, utility workers, train drivers and others have walked off the job on Tuesday across France to show their anger at the reform. More than 250 protests are expected in Paris and around the country against President Emmanuel Macron’s legislation. The bill is under debate in the French Senate this week. Unions threatened to freeze up the French economy with work stoppages across multiple sectors.
Sri Lanka leader says IMF deal imminent after China’s pledge
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president says China has given crucial debt restructuring assurances that mean the bankrupt nation could get its bailout package approved soon. President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament on Tuesday that he has sent a letter of intent to the International Monetary Fund, which he expected to act this month. China owns about 10% of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, and its delayed assurances were seen as the last hurdle to securing the $2.9 billion bailout package. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis caused severe shortages of fuel and other goods, leading to angry street protests that forced the then-president to flee from the country and resign. The economy now shows signs of improvement.
UK says plan to stop Channel migrants pushes bounds of law
LONDON (AP) — The U.K. government says it’s ready for legal challenges to a tough new law intended to stop tens of thousands of migrants a year reaching the country in small boats across the English Channel. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Tuesday the government had “pushed the boundaries of international law” with a bill that will bar asylum claims by anyone who reaches Britain by unauthorized means. It also will compel the government to detain and then deport them “to their home country or a safe third country.” They would be barred from ever reentering Britain. The government says its “Illegal Migration Bill” will deter migrants and hobble smuggling gangs. Critics say the plan is unethical and unworkable.
Lego posts boost in profit, sales as it raised some prices
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Lego says profits increased by 5% in 2022 from a year earlier and sales roles even as it raised prices on higher-ticket toys. The Danish toy company said net profit rose to 13.8 billion kroner, or $2 billion, from 13.3 billion kroner. Sales were up 12%, while revenue grew 17%. CEO Niels B. Christiansen called 2022 “a milestone year” as the privately held company celebrated its 90th anniversary. With inflation growing, Christiansen says Lego raised prices on about a quarter of its products. He added that the increase was mainly on more expensive toys and that lower-cost products weren’t affected.
Hungarian delegation backs Sweden’s NATO application
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A parliamentary delegation from Hungary says it supports Sweden’s NATO membership bid after meeting the speaker of the Swedish parliament to iron out what Hungary’s governing party has called “political disputes.” Some Hungarian lawmakers have raised doubts about whether to support the NATO membership applications by Sweden and Finland. They have cited what they call “blatant lies” from Stockholm and Helsinki on the state of Hungary’s democracy. Hungary is the only NATO member country besides Turkey that hasn’t yet ratified Sweden and Finland’s joint application to join the Western military alliance. The delegation that visited Sweden on Tuesday also plans to visit Finland.