Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 30, 2022

The Biden administration prepares tougher fuel economy standards, the FTC accuses Intuit of misleading TurboTax customers, and more

1

Biden administration to impose tougher fuel economy standards

The Biden administration plans to announce tougher vehicle fuel economy standards, reversing former President Donald Trump's rolling back of mileage requirements tightened by the Obama administration, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing federal officials. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff are expected to unveil the administration's plans in a "major announcement" on Friday, the Transportation Department said. The NHTSA in August proposed raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements by 8 percent a year for 2024 through 2026 vehicle models, which would increase the fleetwide mileage average by 12 miles per gallon in 2026 compared to 2021, and reduce fuel costs by $140 billion for new vehicles sold by 2030.

2

Regulator accuses TurboTax maker Intuit of misleading consumers  

The Federal Trade Commission is suing TurboTax maker Intuit, accusing it of misleading consumers with ads promising "free" tax filing even though millions wind up being ineligible for the no-charge software option. "TurboTax is bombarding consumers with ads for 'free' tax filing services, and then hitting them with charges when it's time to file," said Samuel Levine, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "We are asking a court to immediately halt this bait-and-switch." The consumer protection agency said about two-thirds of tax filers in 2020 were ineligible for various reasons, including being gig workers or having farm income. Intuit said it would fight the suit, saying its ads resulted in "more Americans filing their taxes for free than ever before."

3

Job openings remained near record highs last month

Job openings hovered near record highs at 11.3 million last month as the number of people quitting their jobs remained little changed at 4.4 million, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. The number was roughly the same as in January, and down slightly from December's record. Hires edged up to 6.7 million, an increase of 263,000 over the previous month. After dropping at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns two years ago, the rates at which prime-age workers aged 25 to 54 who are working or seeking jobs have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, although economic growth is so strong that there aren't enough workers to meet demand. About three million people have not yet returned to the workforce. Some economists say companies need to lure workers back by offering better pay and benefits.

4

Stock futures fall after 4-day winning streak

U.S. stock futures fell early Wednesday after rising for a fourth straight day on Tuesday. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.6 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose 1 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, on Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 1.8 percent, returning to within 10 percent of its record high as Wall Street rebounded from losses fueled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "The market's now up almost 10 percent in the last 10 days, so we've had a pretty incredible rally in a very short time," Stephanie Lang, chief investment officer at Homrich Berg, told CNBC. Lang warned, however, that stocks could remain volatile through 2022.

5

Poll: Anxiety about inflation highest since 1985

Americans' level of concern about inflation is at its highest point since 1985, a Gallup poll released Tuesday found. Seventeen percent of respondents said "high cost of living/inflation" was the most important problem currently facing the United States, up from 8 percent in January. An additional 15 percent said the biggest problem was either "fuel/oil prices" or the "economy in general." Fifty-nine percent said they worry "a great deal" about inflation, including 79 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of independents. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that consumer prices increased by 7.9 percent between Feb. 2021 and Feb. 2022, the biggest one-year jump since 1982.

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