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Business Highlights: Fed questions, wobbling stock market

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WASHINGTON (AP) — With inflation surging, unemployment falling and wages rising, some economists are warning that the Federal Reserve may have waited too long to reverse its ultra-low-rate policies — a delay that could put the economy at heightened risk. On Wednesday, the government is expected to report that consumer prices jumped 7.1% the past 12 months, which would be the steepest such increase in decades. Fed Chair Jerome Powell is sure to be grilled on the issue during a Senate hearing Tuesday on his nomination for a second term. Inflation has become the most serious threat to the economy, a growing worry for the financial markets and a political problem for the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress.


Stocks end modestly lower after recouping most of early loss

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended slightly lower on Wall Street Monday after recouping much of an early slide. Technology stocks bounced back after leading the market lower in the morning. Losses for industrial companies and banks were partly offset by gains in health care companies. The S&P 500 ended down 0.1%, erasing most of an earlier loss of just over 2%. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, closed up less than 0.1%. It was down 2.7% earlier. Bond yields mostly rose as investors anticipate moves by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Energy prices fell.


Fed vice chair is latest official to quit in trading scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida said he will step down on Friday, the third Fed official to resign in the wake of a trading scandal at the central bank. The announcement followed new revelations around Clarida’s trading in a stock fund in February 2020, when the coronavirus threatened to upend the global economy and the Fed was discussing extraordinary measures to counter its impact. The New York Times last week reported that Clarida amended his financial disclosures to show that he had sold and then repurchased shares in the stock fund in a matter of days that month. The repurchase came a day before Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed was prepared to support markets and the economy.


Inflation up, virus down as priorities in US: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to recede as a top priority in the minds of Americans. It’s increasingly overshadowed by concerns about the economy and personal finances, particularly inflation. That potentially spells political trouble for Democrats heading into the midterm elections. A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds just 37% of Americans say COVID-19 is a top priority for the government to work on in 2022, compared with 53% who said it was at the start of last year. Instead, 68% of Americans polled named the economy as government’s top concern, while 14% mentioned inflation — including 18% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats.


Hurricane Ida, Europe floods made 2021 costly for disasters

BERLIN (AP) — Damage wrought by Hurricane Ida in the U.S. state of Louisiana and the flash floods that hit Europe last summer have helped make 2021 one of the most expensive years for natural disasters. Reinsurance company Munich Re said Monday that overall economic losses from natural disasters worldwide last year reached $280 billion. That makes it the fourth-costliest year after 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. It said insured losses in 2021 amounted to $120 billion, the second-highest after 2017, when hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit the Americas. The company warned that studies showed a link between global warming and natural disasters.


Grand Theft Auto maker buys FarmVille company in $12.7B deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Take-Two Interactive, maker of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, is buying Zynga, maker of FarmVille and Words With Friends, in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $12.7 billion. The acquisition announced Monday would wed a powerhouse in console gaming, Take-Two, with a mobile gaming company with an almost cult-like following. Zynga shareholders will receive $3.50 in cash and $6.36 in shares of Take-Two common stock for each share of Zynga outstanding stock at closing.


Tax season begins two weeks early due to virus, IRS funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — This year’s tax filing season will begin on Jan. 24, 17 days earlier than last year. The Internal Revenue Service warned Monday that a resurgence of COVID-19 infections on top of less funding from Congress than the Biden administration had requested could make this filing season particularly challenging. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig urged Americans to file electronically this year to avoid delays, and to get their refunds by direct deposit.


US Mint begins shipping quarters honoring Maya Angelou

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States Mint says it has begun shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou. They’re the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program. Angelou was an American author, poet and Civil Rights activist who rose to prominence with the publication of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama and died i in 2014 at the age of 86. The quarter design depicts Angelou with outstretched arms. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry.


Stay home or work sick? Omicron poses a conundrum

NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of workers whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck as the omicron variant of COVID-19 rages across the nation. While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though the omicron variant has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick. Low-wage workers are especially vulnerable. Only 33% of workers whose wages are at the bottom 10% get paid sick leave, compared with 95% in the top 10%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The S&P 500 fell 6.74 points, or 0.1%, to 4,670.29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 162.79 points, or 0.4%, to 36,068.87. The Nasdaq rose 6.93 points, or less than 0.1%, to 14,942.83. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies slipped 8.66 points, or 0.4%, to 2,171.15.