May 25, 2023
Companies are finding it’s not so simple to leave Russia. Others are quietly staying put
When Russia invaded Ukraine, companies were quick to respond, some announcing they would get out of Russia immediately. Others vowed to curtail sales and new investment. Billions of dollars’ worth of factories, energy holdings and power plants were written off or put up for sale. More than a year later, it’s clear: Leaving Russia isn’t as easy as the first announcements might have made it seem. Increasingly, Russia has put hurdles in the way of companies that want out, requiring approval by a government commission and in some cases from President Vladimir Putin himself, while imposing painful discounts and taxes on sale prices. They also risk running afoul of Western sanctions and public opinion.
Which companies are leaving Russia and which are staying? Here’s a look
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — More than 500 companies have suspended their business in Russia, and a similar number have withdrawn completely. A database kept by Yale University shows an additional 151 are “scaling back,” 175 are “buying time” and 230 are “digging in.” Chinese companies figure prominently in the last category. Volkswagen closed a long-delayed deal to sell its Russian business on Friday but still faces a contractor’s lawsuit. Burger King and Carl’s Jr. are both still open in Moscow. An executive at Burger King’s parent company has told employees that franchise agreements made it impossible to force the local operator to shut down while the company tries to sell its share in the joint Russia venture.
Expect big crowds for the summer travel season — and big prices, too
The unofficial start of the summer travel season is here, with airlines hoping to avoid the chaos of last year and travelers scrounging for ways to save a few bucks on pricey airfares and hotel rooms. Some travelers say they will settle for fewer trips than they hoped to take, or they will drive instead of fly. Others are finding different money-saving sacrifices. AAA predicts that 37 million Americans will drive at least 50 miles from home this weekend, an increase of more than 2 million from Memorial Day last year but still below pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 10 million travelers between Friday and Monday, a 14% increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.
Look who’s talking: Biden goes quiet in debt-limit talks, while McCarthy can’t stop chatting
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has made a deliberate decision to go quiet as his team gets down to the wire in the debt-limit talks, according to White House officials. It’s his deeply held view that speaking in public about negotiations does nothing to produce an outcome. The already voluble House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, by contrast, is especially chatty these days, as he aggressively tries to set the terms of the public debate. He’s spoken with journalists at least a dozen times this week, according to aides, while Biden has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight.
Germany economy shrinks in first quarter, signaling one definition of recession
BERLIN (AP) — The German economy has shrunk unexpectedly in the first three months of this year, marking the second quarter of contraction that is one definition of recession. Data released Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office has Germany’s gross domestic product down by 0.3% in the period from January to March. That follows a drop of 0.5% in Europe’s biggest economy during the last quarter of 2022. Two consecutive quarters of contraction is a common definition of recession, though economists on the euro area business cycle dating committee use a broader set of data. The figures are a blow to the German government, which boldly doubled its growth forecast for this year after a winter energy crunch failed to materialize.
Stock market today: US futures mixed as worries persist over US debt; Germany slips into recession
Trading on Wall Street was mixed early as markets watched for signs of progress on a deal to avert a default on U.S. government debt. Futures for the Dow were off 0.3% before the bell Thursday and futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.6%. The main U.S. stock index is on track for its worst week in more than two months as the once-unthinkable creeps closer to possibility. Nasdaq futures jumped 1.8%, boosted by Nvidia, whose shares climbed about 28% in premarket after the chipmaker forecast a huge jump in revenue next quarter, mostly on chip demand for AI-related products and services.
UK household energy bills to fall in July, bringing some relief in cost-of-living crisis
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s energy regulator says the typical household energy bill will come down by around $495 a year starting in July as global wholesale energy prices decline. The drop announced Thursday brings some relief to millions of people and businesses that have struggled to cope with sharply higher electricity and gas bills over the past 18 months. But many on lower incomes are still in the throes of a lingering cost-of-living crisis, as food prices soar at the fastest rate in decades. The energy regulator says it was cutting the maximum amount that gas suppliers can charge households per unit of energy to $2,567 a year starting July 1. The average customer will pay about 17% less a year.
New Bedford once lit the world with whale oil. Now it wants to do the same with wind power
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — The vessel UHF Felicity pulled into the port of New Bedford shortly before 5:00 Wednesday afternoon carrying massive parts for offshore wind turbines. New Bedford was once known as the city that lit the world, exporting whale oil for lamps in the early 1800s. Workers packed the docks, unloading casks of oil that had been extracted at sea from whale carcasses and brought in by a fleet of hundreds of whaling ships. Now more than 170 years later New Bedford aspires to light the world again, in a different relationship with the sea, as the ship arrived with parts for the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm. Once assembled out on the water this summer, the turbines will stand more than 850 feet high.
Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ+-themed products
NEW YORK (AP) — Target once distinguished itself as being boldly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Now, it has tarnished that status after removing some LGBTQ+-themed products and relocating Pride Month displays to the back of stores in certain Southern locations. The company is addressing online complaints and in-store confrontations that it says were a threat to employees’ well-being. Target is facing a second backlash from customers who are upset by the discount retailer’s reaction to aggressive, anti-LGBTQ+ activism, which has also been sweeping through Republican state legislatures. Civil rights groups chided the company for caving to anti-LGBTQ customers who tipped over displays and expressed outrage over gender-fluid bathing suits.
Why is Target pulling some Pride merch? The retailer’s response to hostile backlash, explained
WASHINGTON (AP) — Target is removing some items and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide after intense backlash from some shoppers ahead of Pride month. In a Tuesday statement, Target pointed to hostile behavior from customers that has impacted employees’ sense of safety. Target said that customers knocked down Pride displays at some stores, angrily approached workers and posted threatening videos on social media from inside the stores. The confrontations in Target stores is taking place as state legislatures introduce a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ+ individuals across the country. Some activists and advocacy groups have criticzied Target’s response — calling on the retailer to reaffirm its support with the LGBTQ+ community.