Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 13, 2022

Inflation hit its fastest pace since 1981 in March, Biden waives ethanol-blend rule to help lower gas prices, and more

1

Inflation hit highest level since 1981 in March

U.S. inflation reached 8.5 percent in March, up from 7.9 percent in February and the biggest one-year jump since 1981, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. The rise in the Consumer Price Index came as gasoline prices surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which sent crude oil prices soaring. Strong demand after the passing of the Omicron coronavirus wave, along with persistent pandemic-related supply shortages, also contributed to higher prices for groceries and other goods. With volatile food and fuel prices excluded, inflation decelerated compared to February. Some economists predicted that the March figure would mark inflation's peak. The national average for a gallon of gas was $4.10 on Tuesday, down from a March high of $4.33.

2

Biden waives ethanol-blend rules to help lower gas prices

President Biden on Tuesday announced that his administration was waiving rules restricting ethanol blending to reduce gasoline prices by about a dime a gallon. The move is the latest in a series of actions Biden has taken to counter a spike in fuel costs since Russia's invasion of Ukraine disrupted oil markets. Biden acknowledged that tweaking ethanol mixes was a minor step, but said it would help. Most U.S. gasoline is blended with 10 percent ethanol, a biofuel cheaper than gas. The Environmental Protection Agency waiver will allow the widespread sale of a 15-percent ethanol blend in the summer, when it is normally not permitted because of concerns it increases smog in high temperatures.

3

Yelp joins companies covering abortion travel costs

Yelp said Tuesday it would cover travel expenses for employees and their dependents through their health insurance if they have to travel out of state for abortion care. The San Francisco-based review platform joined a growing number of companies, including Citigroup and Apple, that have expanded reproductive care, including for abortions, as an increasing number of Republican-controlled state legislatures enact new abortion restrictions. Texas has enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy that has pushed many women to travel to other states for care, and states like Illinois are bracing for a wave of out-of-state patients if the Supreme Court rules in favor of new restrictions aimed at challenging federally protected abortion rights.

4

Stock futures gain as some wonder if inflation has peaked

U.S. stock futures gained early Wednesday following Tuesday's losses as investors continued to digest March inflation data. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, at 5:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.5 percent. All three of the main U.S. indexes fell slightly on Tuesday after the Labor Department reported that consumer prices rose 8.5 percent in March from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1981. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 percent, slightly less than expected. Some analysts said inflation might have peaked.

5

Ex-Twitter shareholders sue Musk over slow disclosure of stake

Former Twitter shareholders sued Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday, saying his delay in reporting he had purchased a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter caused them to miss out on its recent stock gains. Twitter shares jumped by 27 percent on April 4 after Musk disclosed that he had become Twitter's largest shareholder. In a proposed class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, the shareholders said Musk should have revealed his stake within 10 days of acquiring it — which would have been on March 24 — as required under federal law. They said delaying defrauded them into selling at "artificially deflated prices." A lawyer for Musk declined to comment.

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