Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 5, 2022

Toyota overtakes GM as the top-selling automaker in the U.S., a record number of U.S. workers quit in November, and more

1

Toyota surpasses GM as top-selling automaker in U.S.

Toyota said Tuesday it sold 2.3 million vehicles in the United States in 2021, surpassing General Motors by about 114,000 and becoming the top-selling automaker in the U.S. for the first time, measured by annual sales. Toyota's total for the year marked a 10 percent increase over 2020, despite a computer-chip shortage that has disrupted production for car makers around the world. The Japanese company benefited from a decision to stockpile chips needed to power its vehicle electronics. GM's total for the year fell by nearly 13 percent to 2.2 million. GM had led U.S. auto sales since 1931.

2

Record 4.5 million workers quit jobs in November

A record number of U.S. workers quit their jobs in November, according to federal data released Tuesday. More than 4.5 million people voluntarily walked away from their positions in the month, up from 4.2 million in October, the Labor Department said. November's figure was the highest since the government started tracking the figure two decades ago. Hiring edged down in December, according to data tracked by business payroll managers Homebase and UKG, suggesting that the COVID-19 surge driven by the fast spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant was squeezing the labor supply. Both firms recorded larger seasonal dips than last year. Homebase found a 15 percent drop at small businesses in the last days of 2021, up from a 10 percent drop in 2020.

3

Stock futures struggle after Dow's latest record

U.S. stock futures edged down early Wednesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high on Tuesday. Futures tied to the Dow were flat at 6:45 a.m. ET. Futures for the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by 0.1 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The Dow closed at a record high of 36,799.65 on Tuesday after rising by 0.6 percent as investors grabbed shares of companies that stand to benefit heavily from an economic recovery. The S&P 500 fell by 0.1 percent, while the Nasdaq plunged by 1.3 percent as a rapid rise in Treasury yields raised concerns about higher borrowing costs for growth-oriented technology stocks.

4

Cal Fire says PG&E power lines started huge Dixie Fire

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Tuesday that last year's Dixie Fire, the second-largest wildfire ever recorded in the state, started when PG&E power lines came into contact with a tree. Cal Fire has investigated the Dixie Fire, which started on July 13 in Butte County, for months. The fire burned 963,309 acres and destroyed 1,329 structures in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties. PG&E acknowledged last year that its equipment might have been involved in starting the Dixie Fire. On Tuesday, the power company noted that it had said in July that "a large tree struck one of our normally operating lines." PG&E plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines over 10 years in areas at high risk for wildfires.

5

Walmart expands InHome delivery service in bet on convenience

Walmart announced Wednesday that it was expanding availability of its InHome delivery service from six million to 30 million households. The service involves Walmart employees wearing cameras who enter customers' homes using a smart lock, then drop off groceries or other purchases, and pick up returns. Delivery workers put items into the refrigerator or onto a counter, according to customer requests. If the customers are not home, they can view the delivery live or recorded through the Walmart App. The expansion of the $19.95-a-month service in cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago marks the latest corporate bet on consumers' desire for convenience as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

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