Business Highlights: Air travel chaos; Recession risk eases
Air travel across US thrown into chaos after computer outage
NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of flights across the U.S. were canceled or delayed after a government system that offers safety and other information to pilots broke down. The problems on Wednesday stranded some planes on the ground for hours. The White House said there was no evidence that a cyberattack triggered the outage, which upended travel plans for millions of passengers. President Joe Biden said he directed the Department of Transportation to investigate. The breakdown showed how much American air travel depends on an antiquated computer system that generates alerts called NOTAMs — or Notice to Air Missions — to pilots and others.
As inflation eases, optimism rises
WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, the outlook for the U.S. economy has been a mostly bleak one: Inflation hitting a four-decade high, consumer spending weakening, interest rates surging. Most economists penciled in a recession for 2023. An economic downturn is still possible. Yet in recent weeks, with inflation showing widespread signs of easing, a more cheerful view has gained traction: Maybe a recession isn’t inevitable after all. One reason for the tentative optimism is evidence that an acceleration in U.S. wages, which has benefited workers but also heightened inflation, is slowing. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has frequently pointed to fast-rising worker pay to explain why the Fed has had to raise interest rates so aggressively.
Report: Oil price cap takes small slice of Russia’s revenue
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Russia’s still making plenty of money from oil sales despite a price cap imposed by the Group of Seven major democracies. Researchers at Helsinki’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said in report Wednesday that the cap is too lenient at $60 per barrel. Lowering it could erase much of the Kremlin’s tax revenue that’s paying for its action in Ukraine. Still the price cap and a ban on most oil shipments to Europe are costing Russia an estimated 160 million euros a day. But Russia is still taking in around 640 million euros a day. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says he would view such assessments with skepticism and that “Russia will do everything to protect its interests.”
Best of CES 2023: Pet tech’s smart collar, litter robot
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Pet tech made itself present at this year’s CES tech show in Las Vegas. Gadgets for furry friends included a kitty litter box that automatically cleans itself to buttons designed to allow your dog to communicate with you. While some of the products are already available for purchase in the U.S., others, like Ilume’s smart dog bowl, are not yet. But whether you’re hoping to keep your dog on an optimum diet, or you want to avoid the unpleasant work of cleaning your cat’s litter box, there are a lot of gadgets out there aimed at making pet owning easier.
Cost-of-living crisis overshadows climate
LONDON (AP) — A report by the World Economic Forum says climate change is the global economy’s biggest long-term challenge but one the world is least prepared to tackle because of short-term problems led by a cost-of-living crisis. The group released its Global Risks Report ahead of its annual gathering of government leaders and business elites next week in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos. The report offers a bleak outlook. It’s based on a survey of 1,200 risk experts, industry bosses and policymakers. It says the biggest challenges over the next decade involve the environment, yet more immediate challenges are distracting world leaders.
Watchdog sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for the IRS
WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS is beginning to see “a light at the end of the tunnel” of its customer service struggles, thanks to tens of billions of new money from the Democrats’ climate and health law and the authority to hire more people. That word comes from an independent watchdog within the agency. But that upbeat assessment from the National Taxpayer Advocate is tempered by an early move by the new House Republican majority to rescind nearly $71 billion that Congress had provided the IRS. Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins cites “more misery” for taxpayers last year and speaks of the challenges still ahead. She says, “I am just not sure how much further we need to travel before we see sunlight.″
US official warns of risks posed by heavy electric vehicles
DETROIT (AP) — The head of the National Transportation Safety Board is expressing concern about the safety risks that heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles. Jennifer Homendy raised the issue in a speech Wednesday in Washington to the Transportation Research Board. She noted, by way of example, that an electric GMC Hummer weighs about 9,000 pounds, with a battery pack that alone weighs 2,900 pounds — roughly the entire weight of a typical Honda Civic. The extra weight that EVs typically carry stem from the outsize weight of their batteries. To achieve 300 or more miles of range per charge from an EV, batteries have to weigh thousands of pounds.
Universal to open theme park in Texas for young kids
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Universal Parks & Resorts is bringing a theme park to Texas that will focus on entertaining young children. Officials announced Wednesday that the new park will be built in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The company says the park will include attractions, interactive shows and opportunities for meet-and-greets with characters. The company also announced a new permanent entertainment experience in Las Vegas that it says will “bring to life Universal’s vast library of classic horror films and today’s most terrifying tales.” The company didn’t give a timetable for when the projects will be completed.
Western Union resumes limited money transfers to Cuba
MIAMI (AP) — Western Union says it has resumed remittance services between the U.S. and Cuba in a limited capacity after two years of the essential economic lifeline being severed. The step could offer Cuban families key economic support during a time of record economic crisis in the Caribbean nation, one of a number of factors fueling a migratory exodus from the island. Western Union company stopped the money transfers in 2020 after then President Donald Trump tightened long-standing U.S. on Cuba. The Biden administration has loosed a handful of the Trump-era restrictions, including remittance payments, but has still left many in place.
The S&P 500 rose 50.36 points, or 1.3%, to 3,969.61. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 268.91 points, or 0.8%, to 33,973.01. The Nasdaq rose 189.04 points, or 1.8%, to 10,931.67. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 21.40 points, or 1.2%, to 1,844.05.