The daily business briefing: March 3, 2022
Fed Chair Jerome Powell says rate hikes still coming, Google tells workers to return to office in April, and more
Fed chair says rate hikes still coming despite Ukraine uncertainty
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine had created some economic uncertainty, but the central bank plans to stick to its plan to carefully raise interest rates to fight high inflation. Powell acknowledged that the fighting in Ukraine, which has prompted the United States and Western allies to hit Moscow with sanctions, was causing "tremendous hardship" that could affect other countries. "The implications for the U.S. economy are highly uncertain, and we will be monitoring the situation closely," Powell said in remarks prepared for dual appearances this week before House and Senate committees. The Fed is expected to get started with a quarter-point interest rate hike at its meeting in mid-March.
Google to require workers to return to offices in April
Google said that it would require employees to return to its U.S., U.K., and Asia Pacific offices to work about three days per week starting April 4. All Google workers returning to offices will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get an exemption. The move marked the internet giant's first step toward ending remote-work policies as COVID-19 cases drop sharply as the Omicron-variant-driven surge subsides. Google-parent Alphabet is the latest in a wave of big technology and finance companies beginning to require workers to come back to the office. Some companies, however, have said they are making voluntary remote-work policies permanent.
OPEC Plus won't offer relief as oil prices surge
OPEC Plus members declined to take steps to counter surging oil prices at the major producers' monthly meeting on Wednesday. The group, which includes Russia, said the market appears "well-balanced," and it blamed "volatility" on "geopolitical developments," a clear reference to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The cartel approved a modest 400,000-barrel-per-day production increase in April, sticking to a strategy it agreed to in July. After the virtual meeting, oil prices rose. International benchmark Brent crude reached $114 a barrel, the highest price since 2014, and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate rose to a 10-year high of $112.50 a barrel.
Stock futures little changed as Ukraine crisis fuels volatility
U.S. stock index futures fell slightly early Thursday as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by about 0.1 percent at 6:45 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.3 percent. The Dow jumped by 1.8 percent on Wednesday, snapping a two-day losing streak, while the S&P 500 rose 1.9 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 1.6 percent. Markets have been volatile in the week since the invasion started. "The situation is very fluid on the ground in Ukraine. ... We don't know where the ultimate bottom in the market may be, but we continue to believe the U.S. economy will have above-average growth this year," said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
Ex-Nissan executive Kelly gets suspended sentence over underreported Ghosn pay
A Tokyo court on Thursday announced that it was giving a 6-month suspended sentence to former Nissan Motor executive Greg Kelly after finding him guilty of underreporting his former boss Carlos Ghosn's pay. The court acquitted Kelly, an American, on charges related to the first seven years of the eight in which he was accused of underreporting Ghosn's compensation, but found him guilty for the final fiscal year, 2017. Kelly's defense team said it would appeal. "Kelly is completely innocent. We cannot accept the erroneous ruling that found him guilty for that final year," the defense, headed by Yoichi Kitamura, said in a statement.