Business Highlights: Stocks up; euro, dollar nearing parity

July 7, 2022 GMT

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Retailers scale back hiring as worry about a slowdown grows

NEW YORK (AP) — After going on a frenzied hiring spree for a year and a half to meet surging shopper demand, America’s retailers are starting to temper their recruiting. The changing mindset comes as companies confront a pullback in consumer spending, the prospect of an economic downturn and surging labor costs. Some analysts suggest that merchants have also learned to do more with fewer workers. The nation’s top employer, Walmart, said it recently over-hired because of a COVID-related staffing shortage and then reduced its head count through attrition. In April, Amazon said it, too, had decided that it had an excess of workers in its warehouses.

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Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A jury on Thursday convicted former Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani of collaborating with disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a massive fraud involving the blood-testing company that once enthralled Silicon Valley. The 12 jurors found Balwani guilty on all 12 felony counts of defrauding both Theranos investors and the patients who relied on wildly unreliable blood tests that could have jeopardized their health. Balwani sat impassively as the verdicts were read.

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With US dollar nearly equal to euro, impact is being felt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. dollar has been surging so much that it’s nearly equal in value to the euro for the first time in 20 years. That trend, though, threatens to hurt American companies because their goods become more expensive for foreign buyers. If U.S. exports were to weaken as a result, so, too, would the already-slowing U.S. economy. Yet there’s a positive side for Americans, too: A stronger buck provides modest relief from runaway inflation because the goods that are imported to the U.S. — from cars and computers to toys and medical equipment — become less expensive. A strengthened dollar also delivers bargains to American tourists sightseeing in Europe.

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EU decision on natural gas could threaten climate progress

The European Union’s plan to include natural gas in a list of activities considered sustainable could derail progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The decision from the EU comes despite the region’s history addressing global warming and despite climate scientists calling for dramatic reductions to climate-warming emissions. It allows investment in fossil gas infrastructure, such as natural gas power plants and liquefied natural gas terminals to be considered green investments under certain conditions. It comes at a time when the continent is struggling to maintain a reliable gas supply and consumers are suffering from painfully high energy prices.

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Amazon bid to put cargo hub at Newark airport is grounded

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Amazon’s plans to put a cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport have been grounded. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airport’s operator, said in a statement Thursday that negotiations over the past year have failed to produce an agreement. Last August the Port Authority’s board approved negotiations on a 20-year lease for for two 1990s-era buildings at the airport that Amazon was to redevelop into a state-of-the-art, 250,000-square-foot air cargo campus. Some labor groups and local officials had opposed the plans, claiming the hub would have increased traffic in an already congested area. They had also had criticized Amazon’s working conditions.

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Dems want to tax high earners to protect Medicare solvency

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats want to boost taxes on some high earners and use the money to extend the solvency of Medicare. It’s the latest step in their attempt to craft a scaled-back version of the economic package that collapsed last year and then push it through Congress this summer. Democratic aides tell The Associated Press they expect to submit their Medicare plan to the chamber’s parliamentarian in the coming days. They’ve already done that with other provisions aimed at reducing prescription drug costs. It’s the latest sign that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are moving toward a compromise.

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FAA to give airports $1 billion for terminals and upgrades

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration says it’ll spend nearly $1 billion to upgrade airports around the country. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday the money will go to 85 airports. The projects include $60 million to upgrade the terminal and bag-handling system at the Denver airport and $50 million apiece for Boston’s Logan Airport and Orlando International Airport in Florida. The main airports in Detroit and Philadelphia will get more than $20 million each to renovate restrooms. The grants are the first installment in $5 billion of airport spending included in a huge infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed last year. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touts the spending, saying America’s airports need it.

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IRS asks Treasury watchdog to probe Comey, McCabe tax audits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS commissioner has asked the Treasury Department’s internal watchdog to immediately review the circumstances surrounding intensive tax audits that targeted ex-FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Both were frequent targets of Donald Trump’s ire. An IRS spokesperson says the agency has officially referred the matter to the inspector general for tax administration after IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, a close ally of the former president, personally reached out. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the former FBI leaders were subjected to rare IRS audits of their tax returns. The IRS spokesperson says it’s “ludicrous and untrue to suggest that senior IRS officials somehow targeted specific individuals” for such audits.

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Boris Johnson reached the top but was felled by his flaws

LONDON (AP) — Boris Johnson wanted to be like his hero Winston Churchill: a larger-than-life character who led Britain through a time of crisis. He was felled by crises of his own making as a trickle of ethics allegations became a flood that engulfed his government and turned his Conservative Party against him. Johnson resigned Thursday after the chorus of disapproval became too much. It lowers the curtain on the career of one of the most divisive politicians Britain has ever known. Biographer Andrew Gimson called Johnson “the man who takes on the Establishment and wins.” But for critic and former member of parliament Rory Stewart he was “probably the best liar we’ve ever had as prime minister.”

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Finland to boost security at Russia border with amended law

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s Parliament has passed amended legislation on border security that allows for the closure of crossing points with Russia. Lawmakers approved the changes Thursday amid fears that Moscow could choose to send large numbers of migrants to the frontier. It came just two days after NATO’s 30 members signed formal accession protocols for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. Russia has reacted with anger to that prospect. The amendments approved by Finnish lawmakers will give the center-left government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin wider powers to restrict border traffic in exceptional situations particularly on the 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia. The changes would also allow Finland to build barriers and fences along the border if needed.

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The S&P 500 rose 57.54 points, or 1.5%, to 3,902.62. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 346.87 points, or 1.1%, to 31,384.55. The Nasdaq rose 259.49 points, or 2.3%, to 11,621.35. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 42.06 points, or 2.4%, to 1,769.60.

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