Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 9, 2022

Canada's "Freedom Convoy" threatens Detroit supply lifeline, household debt surges as home and car prices rise, and more

1

Canadian 'Freedom Convoy' drivers snarl key U.S. border crossings

Canadian "Freedom Convoy" drivers have spread their protest against COVID-19 restrictions from Ottawa to the U.S. border, where they partially blocked an auto-industry supply-chain lifeline connecting Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit. Canadian-bound traffic across the Ambassador Bridge was shut down early Tuesday. Limited U.S.-bound traffic got through. Protesters in idling trucks and other vehicles also blocked traffic early Tuesday at an access point between Alberta and Montana. Lawmakers in Australia said they feared that local Freedom-Convoy-inspired protests that have continued peacefully for eight days in their country's capital, Canberra, could deteriorate. "Some of these protesters actually want to undermine and overturn democracy," Kristina Keneally of the Australian Labor Party said.

2

Household debt surged as home, car prices rose in 2021

U.S. household debt rose by $1.02 trillion in 2021, the most since a $1.06 trillion rise in 2007, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York Federal Reserve. The increase came as Americans borrowed more so they could afford homes, cars, and other big purchases as prices soared. The average U.S. home price jumped by almost 20 percent in 2021, and rising vehicle prices pushed new auto loans to $734 billion, a record. "As car prices have soared, buyers have borrowed more to finance the additional cost," researchers wrote in a separate blog post. So far, households have managed the extra debt as the economy recovers from the coronavirus crisis, and incomes rise.

3

U.S. arrests couple for allegedly laundering bitcoin from $4.5 billion heist

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that authorities had arrested a married couple — Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and Heather Morgan, 31 — in connection with the theft of cryptocurrency currently worth $4.5 billion in a 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange. They were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said Lichtenstein and Morgan lied to financial institutions and virtual currency exchanges about who they were and how they got their bitcoin, and tried to cover their tracks by laundering the stolen funds "through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. Law enforcement agencies have seized more than $3.6 billion linked to the crime.

4

Stock futures rise ahead of more corporate earnings

U.S. stock index futures gained early Wednesday ahead of another flurry of corporate earnings reports. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up by 0.9 percent. Chipotle jumped by more than 6 percent in after-hours trading after the restaurant chain reported strong earnings. Ride-hailing service Lyft's stock fell after it reported a drop in riders compared to the previous quarter. On Tuesday, the Dow gained 1.1 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose by 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

5

Toyota profit drops as computer-chip shortage impact continues

Toyota reported Wednesday that its profit dropped by almost 6 percent in the last quarter of 2021 as the computer-chip shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic continued to hurt the auto industry. The Japanese automaker said its quarterly profit was 791.7 billion yen or $6.9 billion, down from 838.7 billion yen in the same period a year earlier. Toyota sold 2.5 million vehicles globally, down from 2.8 million a year earlier. The company trimmed its sales forecast for its current fiscal year to 8.25 million vehicles from the previous 8.55 million estimate, still more than the 7.6 million it sold in the previous fiscal year as the pandemic hammered the industry.

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