Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 1, 2022

Biden orders oil release, inflation gauge jumps to 40-year high, and more

1

Biden orders oil release 

President Biden on Thursday ordered the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve over 180 days to help bring down crude oil prices driven up by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Oil prices fell slightly in anticipation of the announcement. The release — the largest since the emergency stockpile was established in the 1970s — will help offset the loss of about three million barrels per day of Russian oil. "It is still a Band-Aid on a significant shortfall of supply," said Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas oil company.

2

Inflation gauge jumps to 40-year high

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the personal consumption expenditures price index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, rose 6.4 percent in February compared to a year earlier. It was the biggest increase in 40 years. The change reflected sharply higher prices for necessities, including food and gasoline. So-called core inflation, which leaves out volatile food and energy costs, increased by 5.4 percent. The data didn't cover price surges since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, sending oil and gasoline prices soaring. Consumers increased their spending 0.2 percent in February, down from a 2.7 percent increase in January. Adjusted for inflation, consumer spending fell 0.4 percent in February.

3

U.S. hits Russian tech companies with sanctions

The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on tech companies and individuals suspected of helping Russia and its military evade economic penalties over Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The new sanctions target nearly three dozen people and companies, including supercomputer company T-Platforms, leading Russian microchip maker Mikron, and Serniya Engineering, which the Treasury Department says helped get international technology and goods for Russian military and intelligence services. Treasury said the list included shell companies set up to evade earlier sanctions. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. would "continue to target Putin's war machine with sanctions from every angle until this senseless war of choice is over."

4

Stock futures rise ahead of jobs report

U.S. stock futures rose early Friday as investors awaited the federal government's March jobs report. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.5 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.6 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 dropped by 1.6 percent on Thursday, ending the first negative quarter for stocks in two years. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.5 percent. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect the Labor Department to report that U.S. employers added about 490,000 jobs in March, down from 678,000 in February. A strong jobs report could make the Federal Reserve more confident the economy is strong enough for it to raise interest rates more aggressively to fight high inflation.

5

Putin tells foreign buyers to pay for Russian gas in rubles

Russian President Vladimir Putin told foreign buyers of Russian natural gas to pay in rubles starting Friday or face supply cuts. Putin said buyers would have to open ruble accounts in Russian banks and use them to pay for their gas. "Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either," he said. The decree renewed a demand European countries, who get a third of their gas from Russia, have already rejected. Germany, which has already activated an emergency plan that could include rationing, called Moscow's move "blackmail." Energy exports offer Putin his most powerful tool for countering sanctions Western nations have imposed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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