Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 18, 2022

China economic numbers show cost of outbreak, Tax Day arrives with millions still rushing to file, and more

1

China data show cost of outbreak 

China reported Monday that its economy expanded 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2022, with most of the growth coming in January and February before the country's worst COVID-19 outbreak yet forced mass quarantines and lockdowns that have shut down key industrial centers. Retail sales fell 3.5 percent in March compared to a year earlier, China's National Bureau of Statistics reported Monday. Factory output expanded by 5 percent in March, slower than the rate in the first two months of the year, adding to evidence of the impact of China's zero-COVID policy on the world's second-largest economy.

2

Tax Day arrives, millions rush to file

Tax Day arrived Monday, with millions of Americans still struggling to get their income tax returns filed. As of April 8, the Internal Revenue Service had received more than 103 million returns and issued refunds totaling $204 billion to more than 63 million taxpayers. Last year, more than 169 million people filed returns, meaning that at that point 40 percent or so still had yet to file. Those rushing to meet the deadline are "better off filing an extension" to avoid sloppy mistakes and amended returns that can cause the IRS to take a "double look," said Nina Tross at the National Society of Tax Professionals. Filing an extension has "zero effect" as long as you don't owe the IRS any money. The IRS is under pressure, too, as it contends with its biggest backlog in history.

3

Rivian CEO warns of looming EV battery supply crunch

Rivian Automotive CEO RJ Scaringe is warning that a looming electric-vehicle-battery shortage could soon cause a bigger challenge for EV-makers than the ongoing computer-chip shortage plaguing all car companies. Automakers are racing to stock up on limited supplies of crucial battery materials, including cobalt, lithium, and nickel as they build battery plants so they can crank out more EVs. "Put very simply, all the world's cell production combined represents well under 10 percent of what we will need in 10 years," Scaringe told reporters last week during a tour of the company's plant in Normal, Illinois, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Semiconductors are a small appetizer to what we are about to feel on battery cells over the next two decades."

4

Stock futures fall ahead of a big earnings week

U.S. stock futures fell early Monday ahead of a big week of corporate earnings reports. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.5 percent. Bank of America reports first-quarter earnings before the bell Monday. Numerous Dow components — including IBM, Procter and Gamble, Travelers, Dow Inc, Johnson and Johnson, American Express, and Verizon — release their earnings this week, as do Netflix and Tesla. Investors will be watching earnings to see how well big companies are coping with rising costs as inflation hits the highest pace in decades.

5

'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore' has weakest opening of Harry Potter franchise

Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore brought in $43 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, the lowest debut for a movie in the franchise. The previous low point for the franchise was The Secrets of Dumbledore's predecessor, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which opened with $62 million in 2018. That film also had the worst reviews yet for a movie set in the Wizarding World created by author J.K. Rowling. Since then, Fantastic Beasts has faced a string of controversies: Johnny Depp was asked to step down over allegations of domestic abuse; series star Ezra Miller was arrested for disorderly conduct shortly before The Secrets of Dumbledore's premiere; and Rowling has faced criticism over her tweets about transgender people.

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