EFG Magazine

“We anticipate supply chain disruptions will continue for the foreseeable future,” the chief executive of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, said on Tuesday.

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“We anticipate supply chain disruptions will continue for the foreseeable future,” the chief executive of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, said on Tuesday.
“We anticipate supply chain disruptions will continue for the foreseeable future,” the chief executive of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, said on Tuesday. Credit... Audra Melton for The New York Times

Starbucks will increase prices this year, the coffee giant said on Tuesday, blaming supply chain disruptions and a sharp rise in labor costs.

For the last three months of last year, the company’s profit soared 31 percent, to $816 million, Starbucks said in reporting its quarterly earnings on Tuesday. Revenue grew to $8.1 billion, a 19 percent jump compared with the same quarter a year ago.

The company raised prices in October 2021 and again in January 2022, executives said on Tuesday, and more increases are coming.

“We anticipate supply chain disruptions will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Kevin Johnson, the president and chief executive of Starbucks. “We have additional pricing actions planned through the balance of this year, which play an important role to mitigate cost pressures including inflation.”

The price of menu items at fast-food restaurants rose 8 percent in 2021, the biggest jump in more than 20 years, according to government data, with the chains citing higher costs for food, transportation and workers.

Starbucks also said it had increased spending on Covid-19 pay, including paid time off for employees to receive vaccinations or to those who contracted the virus. It also said it was spending more on training “to address labor market conditions.”

“Although demand was strong, this pandemic has not been linear,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement, adding that the company had “experienced higher-than-expected inflationary pressures.”

John Culver, the chief operating officer, said the price increases had not made “any meaningful impact to customer demand.”

Starbucks shares fell as much as 5 percent in after-hours trading after it announced its results for its fiscal first quarter, before recovering some of those losses.

Daily business updates   The latest coverage of business, markets and the economy, sent by email each weekday.

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Credit... Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times

Daisuke Wakabayashi

These days, there is so much uncertainty surrounding Google’s parent company, Alphabet: a global pandemic, fears of inflation gripping the U.S. economy, restive employees challenging management, and regulators and politicians seemingly bent on taking their pound of flesh.

But one thing has not changed. Alphabet continues to make money. Lots of it.

On Tuesday, Alphabet reported a 36 percent increase in profit, to $20.64 billion, in the last three months of 2021 on revenue of $75.32 billion, up 32 percent from a year earlier. The earnings were above analysts’ estimates of $19 billion in profit and $72.3 billion in revenue, according to data compiled by FactSet.

Alphabet shares jumped 8 percent in aftermarket trading from a closing price of $2,752.88. The company also announced plans for a 20-for-1 stock split — a move that is usually cheered by the market because it makes each share more affordable.

Five days after Apple posted a record quarterly result, Google’s blockbuster earnings were more proof that the tech giants continue to make massive profits in the face of supply chain constraints, concerns about inflation and a prolonged pandemic.

Google’s strong results were a reminder of the underlying power of its business and how, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, the company will continue to thrive as long as people are active on the internet.

Google search remains the preferred on-ramp to the internet. YouTube is an essential online destination for entertainment, information and music. While it lags Amazon and Microsoft, Google is well positioned to capitalize on the seismic shift of businesses outsourcing technology infrastructure to the cloud.

With a firm foundation, Google has made slight tweaks to fortify its strongholds.

The company has made changes to how it allows retailers to list products in an effort to entice more users to start on Google or YouTube when shopping online. In a recent survey, Morgan Stanley found that the percentage of people starting shopping searches on Google and YouTube had increased since May, while the percentage of Amazon Prime users starting searches on Amazon had decreased.

While Facebook and other internet companies felt the sting of tighter privacy controls implemented by Apple on its devices, Google’s advertising business, which includes ads on YouTube, continued to expand, growing 32 percent in the quarter, to $61.2 billion.

YouTube has introduced short — less than 60 seconds — videos to rival TikTok and appeal to a younger audience. Google said it has more than tripled the number of salespeople at its Cloud unit since 2019 as part of a push to expand into new industries and forge partnerships. Google Cloud revenue rose 45 percent, to $5.5 billion, while the unit’s losses narrowed to $890 million, down from a loss of $1.24 billion a year earlier.

Google said it hired 6,500 employees during the quarter, raising its total head count to 156,500 people. Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s chief financial officer, said she expected the “strong pace of hiring” to continue in 2022.

She also noted that she expected a “meaningful increase” in capital spending this year, including the cost of building or retrofitting office buildings.

On a conference call, Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, took a question about potential antitrust legislation being discussed in Congress. Mr. Pichai said he was concerned the proposals could “break” a wide range of Google services and hurt the company’s ability to protect users.

He also echoed an argument made by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, that the proposals targeting Big Tech “can hurt American competitiveness” because they could disadvantage U.S. companies.

Assembling electric GMC Hummers at a General Motors factory in Detroit in November.

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Assembling electric GMC Hummers at a General Motors factory in Detroit in November.
Assembling electric GMC Hummers at a General Motors factory in Detroit in November. Credit... Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Neal E. Boudette

After a year of production disruptions due to a global computer chip shortage, General Motors said on Tuesday that its factories will be running at a normal clip again by the second half of the year.

The automaker said that the supply of chips was improving and that it expected car and truck production to follow.

“We expect to see production improve,” Mary T. Barra, G.M.’s chief executive, said in a conference call. “We’ve said the improvements in the first quarter will pull through the year. Definitely, by the second half of this year we’ll be able to get closer to full capability.”

Along with the upbeat production outlook, G.M. reported $10 billion in profit for 2021, a 55 percent increase from 2020 and its highest total ever. Its previous record year was 2015, when the company earned $9.7 billion.

The chip shortage forced G.M. and other automakers to idle plants for weeks at time last year, limiting sales. The company sold 2.9 million vehicles in 2021, down from 3.4 million in 2020.

Despite the sales drop, the company’s 2021 revenue rose to $127 billion, from $122.5 billion. G.M. used the chips it had to produce the most popular and higher-priced models, in particular large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, the company said.

A return to nearly full production by G.M. and other automakers could help lift the U.S. economy and create manufacturing, sales and related jobs.

In a statement, G.M. said it expected to make $9.4 billion to $10.8 billion in profit this year.

Ms. Barra expressed optimism about G.M.’s efforts to increase production of electric vehicles, one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments. The company has taken 59,000 reservations for its electric GMC Hummer and 110,000 reservations for an electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.

While the Hummer has just gone into production, G.M. won’t start making the Silverado until the spring of 2023. By comparison, Ford Motor is expected to start selling an electric F-150 pickup truck in the next few months, and has said it has more than 200,000 reservations for the vehicle.

G.M. aims to produce one million electric vehicles a year by 2025 and expects a rapid increase in sales. “One million units is not enough for the steep inflection in demand for General Motors electric vehicles that we expect,” Ms. Barra said.

Last week, Tesla reported it earned $5.5 billion in 2021 as sales of its electric cars nearly doubled. Ford will report its 2021 earnings on Thursday.

Despite its name, Teslarsquo;s Full Self-Driving feature cannot operate a car without active engagement by a human driver.

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Despite its name, Teslarsquo;s Full Self-Driving feature cannot operate a car without active engagement by a human driver.
Despite its name, Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature cannot operate a car without active engagement by a human driver. Credit... Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Neal E. Boudette

Tesla is recalling 54,000 cars equipped with its Full Self-Driving software to disable a feature that in certain conditions lets the vehicles roll slowly through intersections without stopping.

The move comes after the automaker was criticized on social media for enabling “rolling stops” in violation of traffic regulations.

“Failing to stop at a stop sign can increase the risk of a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a letter to Tesla confirming the recall, which was made public on Tuesday.

The action covers only Teslas that have been equipped with software that the company calls Full Self-Driving and includes S, X, 3 and Y models that were produced at various times between 2016 and 2022.

Full Self-Driving is more advanced than Tesla’s more widely used Autopilot driver assistance system. Despite their names, neither system can operate a car without active engagement by a human driver.

Although Tesla allows customers to buy Full Self-Driving software — it costs $12,000 — the software is still in a test phase, and the company has allowed only a select group of customers to activate it.

The rolling-stop problem is the latest in a series of safety issues involving Tesla. In August, the traffic safety agency opened a formal investigation into a series of crashes in which Teslas in Autopilot mode struck emergency vehicles that had stopped or parked, often at the scene of an earlier accident. The agency is trying to find out why Autopilot sometimes failed to see and stop for police cars or fire trucks with emergency lights flashing.

A month later, Tesla issued an over-the-air update to improve the ability to recognize emergency vehicles. The safety agency responded by reminding Tesla that federal law requires the company to initiate a recall any time it corrects a safety defect. The agency also ordered Tesla to provide data about its Full Self-Driving software and raised concerns that Tesla might be preventing customers from sharing safety information with the agency.

In November, Tesla modified the software on about 12,000 cars to fix a braking problem and filed a formal recall to document the move. The automaker also recalled 458,000 cars in December for two separate mechanical defects that could affect safety.

Also in December, the safety agency opened an investigation into a feature that allowed front passengers or drivers to play video games on the dashboard screen while Tesla cars were moving. A day later, Tesla agreed to disable the feature.

The rolling-stop issue came to light after a Tesla software update in October added driving modes that could allow cars equipped with the system to roll through intersections at speeds of five miles per hour or less. The safety agency discussed the matter with Tesla twice in early January, and the company agreed to issue a recall and disable rolling stops on Jan. 20, according to documents posted on the agency’s website.

Tesla told the regulator that rolling stops were allowed only at intersections when no cars, pedestrians or bicyclists were detected. The company told the safety agency that it was not aware of any crashes that resulted from rolling stops by cars equipped with the Full Self-Driving software, the documents show.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Ben Casselman

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has disrupted business and kept millions of people home from work. But in December, at least, it did little to cool off the red-hot job market.

Employers posted 10.9 million open jobs in the last month of 2021, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was up modestly from November, and close to the record 11.1 million openings in July. There were roughly 1.7 job openings for every unemployed worker in December, the most in the two decades the government has been keeping track.

Forecasters had expected the jump in coronavirus cases to lead to a pullback in recruiting, and a slowdown is still possible. Nationally, coronavirus cases did not reach their peak until mid-January, and they are still rising in some parts of the country. Job postings on the career site Indeed, which tend to track the government’s data relatively closely, remained high through much of December but fell in January.

The virus kept millions of workers home in December and January, leaving many businesses short staffed and forcing some to close or limit their hours. That probably forced some companies to postpone hiring. Employers might have also found it harder to hire because some people were unwilling to look for or start new jobs as virus cases rose, or unable to do so because of child care obligations.

But there is little evidence so far that Omicron has derailed a strong job market. Employers laid off or fired just 1.2 million workers in December, the fewest on record. The difficult hiring environment may have led some companies that normally shed temporary workers after the holidays to hold on to them this year, said Diane Swonk, chief economist for the accounting firm Grant Thornton.

“Companies kept their seasonal hires,” she said. “One, because it’s already a labor shortage. And two, because they had so many people out sick that they wanted to keep people on.”

Many workers are taking advantage of their leverage by seeking out better jobs. More than 4.3 million workers quit their jobs voluntarily, down a bit from November but still near a record.

With workers scarce and employees in the driver’s seat, companies are raising pay. Wages and salaries rose 4.5 percent in the final three months of 2021, according to separate data released by the Labor Department last week. Wages are rising fastest in sectors where labor is particularly scarce, such as leisure and hospitality.

Economists will get a more up-to-date snapshot of the labor market on Friday, when the Labor Department releases data on job growth and unemployment in January. Forecasters surveyed by FactSet expect the report to show that employers added 165,000 jobs. But Omicron has created an unusual amount of uncertainty, and some economists believe the report could show a net loss of jobs last month.

Protests last week in Patna, Bihar State, over access to railway jobs.

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Protests last week in Patna, Bihar State, over access to railway jobs.
Protests last week in Patna, Bihar State, over access to railway jobs. Credit... Sachin Kumar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Karan Deep Singh

NEW DELHI — India’s government on Tuesday unveiled its annual budget, which proposed a significant spending increase for highways, road and airports, but a smaller increase for rural development and employment.

The $530 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning on April 1 put forth by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government calls for a major investment in infrastructure, but critics said it would do too little to address urgent problems facing the country. Among the big ones: rising unemployment, declines in household income and personal spending, and mounting discontent over economic inequality that the pandemic has made more glaring.

The coronavirus has hobbled India’s economy, robbing it of momentum needed to provide jobs for its young and fast-growing work force. It has also worsened longer-term problems that were already dragging down growth, such as high debt, a lack of competitiveness with other countries and policy missteps.

“You have to grow much faster on a sustained basis. That’s what we don’t have,” said Priyanka Kishore, the head of India and Southeast Asia for Oxford Economics, a research firm.

People across the board have seen an erosion of their real incomes, said Sunil Kumar Sinha, the principal economist at India Ratings, a credit ratings agency. “The income growth is not even matching up to the rate of inflation in the economy,” he said.

As a result, many middle-class Indians have put off buying washing machines, large-screen televisions and kitchen appliances, goods they once splurged on during the festival season. Demand is also cooling off in poorer, rural areas, experts say.

The government had estimated that India’s economy would grow 11 percent for the year that ends next month. It has now reduced that estimate, to 9.2 percent. The estimate for the coming year is 8 to 8.5 percent.

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A shopping mall in Kochi, Kerala State, in December. The economic slowdown caused many middle-class Indians to  put off major expenditures. 
A shopping mall in Kochi, Kerala State, in December. The economic slowdown caused many middle-class Indians to  put off major expenditures.  Credit... R S Iyer/Associated Press

Those numbers come on the back of a deep contraction of 7.3 percent in the year that ended in March 2021, when Mr. Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and went back to their villages, trying to eke out a living from meager farm plots.

The government’s ambitious vaccination program helped bring back some momentum, but Mr. Modi’s unwillingness to spend big has held back growth, economists say.

The new budget calls for a 35 percent increase in spending, mainly on infrastructure related projects. The government stressed that the emphasis on construction would expand the economy.

“The approach is driven by seven engines, namely roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure,” Nirmala Sitharaman, Mr. Modi’s finance minister, said while presenting the budget in Parliament. “All seven engines will pull forward the economy in unison.”

But the proposal is less generous on rural employment programs, and did not offer something economists have long urged: an urban employment plan to help daily wage laborers in the country’s big cities.

Economists are particularly concerned about the slow rate of job creation, as millions of people are still out of work or have given up their search entirely.

Before the pandemic hit, India was lifting millions of people out of poverty. It took the country decades to have an economy large enough to employ more than 400 million people, said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy. Now, the country has an additional 187 million people who need employment, he said, a tall order in the current circumstances.

The deep scarring to the economy is particularly visible in the statistics for employment and jobs. The center estimated that only 38 percent of the country’s working-age population was employed in 2020. By June 2021, the number had dropped to 34.6 percent, it said.

“That means people don’t have food on the table,” said Ms. Kishore, of Oxford Economics. “People are not even looking because they are so discouraged.”

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Migrant workers in New Delhi trying to return home in May 2020, when a national pandemic lockdown led to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
Migrant workers in New Delhi trying to return home in May 2020, when a national pandemic lockdown led to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. Credit... Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

The desperation has been spilling out onto the streets just as Mr. Modi and his party face a crucial test in state elections in the coming weeks.

Last week, hundreds of applicants for railway jobs burned train coaches to protest what they said were the Modi government’s unfair recruitment practices. More than 12 million people applied for 35,281 jobs.

“Protests because of the railways jobs is a reflection of frustration among the youth as the government has moved far too slowly, almost dithered, in providing the jobs it promised in 2019,” Mr. Vyas said.

A large share of the government’s spending will be raised from borrowing and taxes, including those on fuel and fertilizers, which have contributed to rising prices of food and essential commodities. Another major concern for economists is the government’s attempts to keep its deficits in control by reducing the spending on social schemes and welfare.

They have long argued for higher taxes on corporations and the country’s rich to enable the government to spend more in such areas, a demand that wasn’t addressed in the budget.

The spending plan requires approval by the Parliament before it goes into effect in April.

Dr. Sinha said that the government’s focus on infrastructure spending might bring gains in the medium to long term, but that one of the most important pieces that was missing from the budget was a comprehensive plan to bring back consumption.

“The problem with this kind of spending is that it will have a fair amount of gestation period,” he said. “But the challenge that the economy is facing at the current moment is that household sentiments, household incomes, everything is under pressure.”

“Something needs to be done to put money in the pockets,” he said.

Oil prices have climbed to more than $80 a barrel, bolstering Exxonrsquo;s bottom line.

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Oil prices have climbed to more than $80 a barrel, bolstering Exxonrsquo;s bottom line.
Oil prices have climbed to more than $80 a barrel, bolstering Exxon’s bottom line. Credit... Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Clifford Krauss

HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil, the largest American oil company, reported its most robust earnings in seven years on Tuesday as it rode a wave of climbing oil and natural gas prices.

Heralding its financial comeback after several years of mediocre returns and criticism over its environmental performance, the company said it would resume buying back its stock to the tune of $10 billion over the next two years, the first repurchase since 2016.

Exxon said it made $8.9 billion in the three months that ended in December on revenue of $84.9 billion. The company had earned $6.8 billion in the third quarter. For the year, Exxon earned $23 billion, compared with a loss of $22.4 billion in 2020, when oil and gas prices plummeted because of the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. The annual profit was the highest since 2014.

The company’s success, however, was largely due to a recovery of oil prices throughout 2021, as demand for energy rebounded.

By the end of the fourth quarter, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude, the American benchmark, had risen more than 50 percent, reaching an average of $67 a barrel. Oil prices have continued to climb to more than $80 a barrel because of tightening supplies and tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Natural gas prices rose more than 40 percent from 2020 in the quarter, and have picked up again in recent weeks as temperatures have dropped in many regions.

“We’ve made great progress in 2021, and our forward plans position us to lead in cash flow and earnings growth, operating performance and the energy transition,” said Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive.

The company reported that it had increased its production of oil and gas by 2 percent from 2020, largely because of increased production in the Permian basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico, and off the coast of Guyana in South America. It also reported improved margins in its refining business, despite the continued slump in jet fuel demand.

Addressing rising concerns about climate change, Mr. Woods told analysts in a conference call on Tuesday that the company was committed to investing in carbon capture and sequestration, biofuels like renewable diesel and hydrogen energy.

“There is a growing recognition and a growing acceptance for the need for a variety of approaches,” Mr. Woods said, “to make sure that we make progress on reducing emissions but at the same time don’t compromise the quality of people’s lives.”

Exxon shares were up more than 6 percent at the close of trading on Tuesday. Still, the price remains below its levels of a decade ago. In response to mediocre returns, investors have pressured Exxon and other oil companies to control spending and improve shareholder returns with dividends and stock buybacks.

The company said last month that it would spend $20 billion to $25 billion a year on investments through 2027, a decrease of up to 33 percent from spending plans before the pandemic sent oil prices crashing in 2020.

Returning cash to shareholders is part of an industrywide departure from automatically investing in more production and acquiring reserves of oil and gas. That trend has supported share prices but also limited American oil production to below 2019 levels.

Exxon announced on Monday that it was streamlining its businesses, combining its chemical, refining and marketing businesses and management of its technology and engineering units to save more than $6 billion over the next two years in comparison with 2019. The company will move its headquarters to a Houston suburb where most operations are already centered on a 385-acre campus, from Irving, a suburb of Dallas.

On Tuesday, Mr. Woods said the new structure would “further strengthen our competitive advantages.”

Esther George, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

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Esther George, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Esther George, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Credit... Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg

Jeanna Smialek

Federal Reserve officials are preparing to pull back their economic help as inflation remains stubbornly high and the labor market swiftly heals, and they are signaling clearly that the last business cycle is a poor template for what comes next.

During the economic expansion that stretched from the global financial crisis to the start of the pandemic, the Fed acted very gradually — it slowly dialed back bond buying meant to help the economy, then only ploddingly shrank its balance sheet of asset holdings. Central bankers increased borrowing costs sporadically between 2015 and the end of 2018, raising them at every other meeting at the very fastest.

But inflation was muted, the labor market was slowly crawling out of an abyss, and business conditions needed the Fed’s support. This time is different, a series of Fed presidents emphasized on Monday — suggesting that the pullback in policy support is likely to be quicker and more decisive.

Four of the central bank’s 12 regional presidents spoke on Monday, and all suggested that the Fed could soon begin to cool off the economy. Central bankers are widely expected to make a series of interest rate increases starting in March, and could soon thereafter begin to fairly rapidly shrink their balance sheet holdings. The pace of policy retreat is still up for debate and officials reiterated that it will hinge on incoming data — but several also noted that economic conditions are unusually strong.

“The economy is far stronger than it has been, during any of my time in this role, and certainly, during any of the recoveries that we’ve been trying to navigate our policy through in recent memory,” Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. Any risks “that our policies are going to lead to a contraction in the economy, I think they’re relatively far off.”

While it took the Fed a long time to begin shrinking its balance sheet last time, the central bank will probably move more promptly in 2022, Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, suggested during a speech.

“With inflation running at close to a 40-year high, considerable momentum in demand growth, and abundant signs and reports of labor market tightness, the current very accommodative stance of monetary policy is out of sync with the economic outlook,” said Ms. George, who votes on monetary policy this year.

Tricky questions lie ahead about how big the balance sheet should be, she noted. The Fed’s holdings have swollen to nearly $9 trillion, more than twice its size before the pandemic.

Ms. George estimated that the Fed’s big bond holdings were weighing down longer-term interest rates by roughly 1.5 percentage points — nearly cutting the interest rate on 10-year government debt in half. While shrinking the balance sheet risks roiling markets, she warned that if the Fed remains a big presence in the Treasury market, it could distort financial conditions and imperil the central bank’s prized independence from elected government.

“While it might be tempting to err on the side of caution, the potential costs associated with an excessively large balance sheet should not be ignored,” she said. She suggested that shrinking the balance sheet could allow policymakers to raise rates, which are currently set near-zero, by less.

Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, also argued for an active — albeit still gradual — path toward removing policy help.

The Fed is not behind the curve, she said on a Reuters webcast, but it needs to react to the reality that the labor market appears at least temporarily short on workers and inflation is running hot. Prices picked up by 5.8 percent in the year through December, nearly three times the 2 percent the Fed aims for on average and over time.

“We’re not trying to combat some vicious wage-price spiral,” Ms. Daly said. Still, she said she could support a rate increase as soon as March, and hinted that four rate increases could be reasonable, a path that would slow things down while “not pulling away the punch bowl completely and causing disruptions.”

Even so, she said it would be “misinformation” to suggest that officials are coalescing around a clear path forward — the Fed will have to figure out how rapidly rates will increase as it learns more about the economy.

Wall Street economists increasingly expect a rapid pace for rate increases this year: Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan both expect five rate moves in 2022, and some Fed watchers have suggested as many as seven are possible. Markets are pricing in a small but meaningful chance that the Fed is going to raise rates by a half-point in March, instead of a more typical quarter-percentage-point increase.

Officials have been careful to emphasize that they do not know what is going to happen next with policy because the economy is so uncertain — rents are rising and supply chains remain messy, which could keep inflation elevated, but government support programs are waning, which could weigh down demand.

“We’re not set on any particular trajectory,” Mr. Bostic said.

Mr. Bostic had suggested in an interview with The Financial Times over the weekend that a half-point rate increase could be appropriate this year, a rapid approach to withdrawing policy help that was never used in the last expansion.

He said on Yahoo on Monday that he does not prefer a supersize increase in March at this point, though he has “increasingly” seen that meeting as the right time for the Fed to begin raising rates. Like Ms. George, Mr. Bostic also emphasized that this time was different when it comes to the Fed’s balance sheet.

“The economy is stronger,” he said. “And we have that previous experience that gives us some guidance as to how markets are likely to respond as that balance sheet shrinks. So I think we can be more robust in terms of how we do that.”

  • ATT will spin off its stake in its media business to shareholders. The telecom giant said it would give its holdings in the newly merged WarnerMedia and Discovery to its investors after that deal is completed, cleanly breaking from the media industry. It will also cut its dividend accordingly, as it had previously said it would.

  • Rachel Maddow, the top-rated anchor on MSNBC and one of the most influential figures in liberal media, is set to take a hiatus from her nightly cable program, according to two people at the network with knowledge of her plans. Her break is expected to last several weeks, and no return date has been specified, the people said, requesting anonymity to describe private discussions. She is expected to address her viewers on Monday and to begin her leave after Thursday’s broadcast.

  • Sony Interactive Entertainment said on Monday that it had agreed to acquire the video game maker Bungie in a deal valued at $3.6 billion, as the game market further consolidates around some of its biggest companies. Sony Interactive, maker of the PlayStation game console and a major game developer in its own right, said Bungie, the original developer of the multiplayer shooter games Destiny and Halo, would operate independently and have free rein to publish games for other consoles and platforms.

  • Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, is investing $760 million in Legendary Entertainment, the movie studio behind “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The deal is the latest in a flood of Wall Street money that has gone to movie studios in hopes of grabbing valuable content, as Netflix, Apple, Disney and Amazon battle to bring subscribers to their streaming platforms.

Limited work hours are not unusual at Chipotle, which has a largely part-time work force.

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Limited work hours are not unusual at Chipotle, which has a largely part-time work force.
Limited work hours are not unusual at Chipotle, which has a largely part-time work force. Credit... Brandon Bell/Getty Images

With workers nationwide quitting at high rates and companies complaining that they can’t fill jobs, employers might be expected to rethink their dependence on part-time scheduling. Some employees prefer the flexibility, but many say it leaves them with too few hours, too little income or erratic hours.

But that rethinking does not appear to have happened. Government data show that in retail businesses, the portion of workers on part-time schedules last year stood about where it was just before the pandemic, and that it increased somewhat in hospitality industries like restaurants and hotels.

Even as employers complain of having to scramble to fill vacancies, there is little evidence that service workers are winning any meaningful, long-term gains, Noam Scheiber reports for The New York Times.

Businesses have raised wages, but those increases can be easily eroded by inflation, if they haven’t been already. The overall national rate of membership in unions — which can obtain wage increases for workers — matched its lowest level on record last year.

And the unpredictable schedules that arise when employers constantly adjust staffing in response to customer demand, something that is common among part-timers, are roughly as prevalent as before the pandemic. A survey by Daniel Schneider, a Harvard sociologist, and Kristen Harknett, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, found that about two-thirds of workers continue to receive less than two weeks’ notice of their schedules.

“Companies are doing all they can not to bake in any gains that are difficult to claw back,” Dr. Schneider said. “Workers’ labor market power is so far not yielding durable dividends.”

A practice known as just-in-time scheduling subjects workers to fluctuating schedules and unreliable hours, disrupting their personal lives, their sleep, even their children’s brain development. READ THE FULL ARTICLE →

The Walt Disney Company suspended its vaccine mandate for its employees in Florida because of the state’s regulations.

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The Walt Disney Company suspended its vaccine mandate for its employees in Florida because of the state’s regulations.
The Walt Disney Company suspended its vaccine mandate for its employees in Florida because of the state’s regulations. Credit... Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

The Biden administration’s attempt to impose a sweeping vaccine rule for private employers last year was met with a wave of state laws limiting company vaccine mandates.

Texas and Florida were on the vanguard of that backlash, Emma Goldberg and Lauren Hirsh report for The New York Times.

In Florida, where 65 percent of people are fully vaccinated, businesses must allow for an extensive list of exemptions to vaccine mandates, effectively making them moot. Violations of the rules can cost as much as $50,000 per incident.

In Texas, where 59 percent of people are fully vaccinated, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in October declaring that no employer could compel vaccination for someone who conscientiously objects to it. And businesses that ask customers for proof of vaccination can face stiff penalties, including the loss of a liquor license.

Businesses in those states have been left to navigate complex local laws and muddled public health guidelines as they weigh how to protect their workers:

  • The Walt Disney Company suspended its national vaccine mandate for employees in Florida, as it works to keep the requirement in place for workers in California.

  • The Related Companies, which mandated vaccines for all of its employees in April, is no longer requiring them of its staff in Florida.

  • Several financial firms, including Vanguard and Blackstone, are maintaining vaccine rules that apply only to people entering their offices.

  • BP, whose 3,500 Houston office employees are working remotely, is requiring employees to be vaccinated or tested twice weekly once they start going back in person.

Beyond taxes and regulation, vaccine rules could become a factor as states compete to attract business. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

9:30 A.M. E.T., Feb. 3 Feb. 4 –4.0 –2.0 0.0 +2.0% Percent change in U.S. stock indexes from previous close Nasdaq SP 500 Dow

Stocks edged higher on Tuesday for a third consecutive session of gains in the first day of trading after the market’s worst monthly performance since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The SP 500 rose 0.7 percent, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.8 percent. Both indexes jumped on Friday and Monday, with gains that cut into the market’s losses for January. Still, the SP 500 ended the month down 5.3 percent on Monday, its worst monthly decline since March 2020.

That drop came amid growing concerns over inflation. With consumer prices continuing to climb at their fastest pace in decades, the Federal Reserve is expected to fight persistent high inflation by raising interest rates several times this year. Higher interest rates hinders enthusiasm for investment in risky assets, like technology stocks, which have benefited from the Fed’s accommodative policy.

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After gaining during much of the pandemic, the stock market was turbulent in recent weeks. The SP 500 tumbled in January, nearing a correction, meaning a drop of 10 percent. And then it bounced back.

Here’s what you need to know →

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

What’s happening in the stock market?

Several factors have weighed on investors, including concerns of higher interest rates, supply chain snarls, rising inflation and the lingering pandemic.

Complicating those fears have been data showing strong U.S. economic growth in 2021, causing a roller coaster on Wall Street.

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

Why do investors fear rising interest rates?

Low interest rates make some shares, like technology stocks, more appealing because of the potential for higher returns in the future.

But if interest rates rise, investors will shed expensive stocks and turn to lower-priced value stocks to get a stable return.

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

What else has led to the volatility?

Mixed reactions to earnings from tech companies have also led to swings. A slower annual forecast from Netflix led to a dip in the company’s share price, but Apple’s better-than-expected quarter helped the market rally.

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

Why are market corrections important?

A correction, a 10 percent drop in stocks from their most recent high, serves as a signal that investors have turned more pessimistic about the market.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell into correction territory in mid-January, when it dropped more than 10 percent from its Nov. 19 high. It came close to a drop of 20 percent, a more significant threshold known as a bear market, but is now about 11.3 percent off its peak.

What’s Behind the Market Roller Coaster?

Coral Murphy-Marcos
Coral Murphy-Marcos 📈 Reporting on markets

What can we expect in the next few weeks?

Markets are expected to remain volatile as investors continue to price in prospects for higher interest rates, which are widely expected to rise in March.

Wall Street will also respond to how companies discuss growth expectations and how they are contending with supply chain disruptions.

Strong earnings from tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, helped support the market in January. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, on Tuesday will report its financial performance for the last three months of 2021.

Exxon Mobil climbed about 6.4 percent on Tuesday after the company reported that it made a profit of $8.9 billion in the three months that ending in December, its biggest quarterly profit since 2014. The company benefited from soaring oil and natural gas prices during as demand for energy rebounded.

European stock indexes were higher, with Stoxx Europe 600 closing 1.3 percent higher on Tuesday. Asian markets closed mixed.

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A worker delivered goods at a grocery store in Fairfax, Va. The New York Times wants to talk to workers and managers about productivity tracking.

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A worker delivered goods at a grocery store in Fairfax, Va. The New York Times wants to talk to workers and managers about productivity tracking.
A worker delivered goods at a grocery store in Fairfax, Va. The New York Times wants to talk to workers and managers about productivity tracking. Credit... Olivier Douliery/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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