Business briefing

The daily business briefing: June 3, 2022

EU formalizes Russian oil embargo, LeBron James is a billionaire, and more

1

EU formally approves Russian oil embargo

On Friday, the European Union formally agreed to a partial embargo on crude oil imports of Russian oil. Crude oil will be phased out over six months, and other refined petroleum products will be phased out over eight months — totaling about 90 percent of Russian crude by the end of the year — with "a temporary exception" made for oil delivered by the Druzhba pipeline to the landlocked countries of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Russia will likely look for other importers, and "whether those barrels find homes in India, China, and Turkey could hinge on whether the EU ultimately opts to target shipping and insurance services and whether the U.S. chooses to impose Iran-style secondary sanctions," Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, wrote. The EU's sixth round of sanctions additionally cut off Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT system, though they did not ultimately include a blacklist of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a close Putin ally, due to Hungary's opposition.

2

LeBron James is a billionaire

LeBron James has become the first active NBA player to become a billionaire, according to Forbes. The Los Angeles Lakers star reached the milestone "after another monster year of earnings" — $121.2 million last year — and "[maximizing] his business." Forbes cited specifically his "more than $385 million in salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers" as well as his "upwards of $900 million in income from endorsements and other business ventures" as putting him over the line. James has previously described wanting to become a billionaire as being his "biggest milestone." Michael Jordan, the only other NBA player to reach billionaire status, only hit 10 figures in 2014, after being retired for more than a decade.

3

Airline cancellations increase worries about summer travel

More than 1,370 U.S. flights were canceled Thursday after American Airlines canceled 13 percent of its flights, United Airlines canceled 5 percent, and Southwest canceled 3 percent, USA Today reports. The travel woes were primarily linked to storms in Dallas, though more disruptions are expected through the weekend due to inclement weather on the East Coast. More than 2,800 flights were canceled over Memorial Day weekend and more than 20,000 were delayed — and the problems are not expected to ease up this summer. Delta has already announced plans to cut 100 daily flights in the coming months "to mitigate the impact of factors outside their control, like weather" and employee COVID-related absences, while JetBlue is likewise planning to reduce its schedule to better handle the anticipated crush of summer travel.

4

Mortgage rates drop for 3rd week

Mortgage rates dipped for the third consecutive week, with the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaging 5.09 percent in the week ending June 2, down from 5.10 percent the week before. However, with rates still above 5 percent, they remain "significantly higher than last year, affecting affordability and purchase demand," said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. Indeed, "mortgage demand slipped to the lowest level since December 2018," CNBC writes, with applications for a mortgage to purchase a home down 1 percent compared to the previous week.

5

FBI arrests former OpenSea employee over insider trading

The FBI made its first-ever arrest in an NFT insider trading case this week. Prosecutors claim former OpenSea product head Nathaniel Chastain bought NFTs on 11 different occasions based on advanced knowledge that they'd be featured on the OpenSea homepage, then turned around and sold the tokens for "between two and five times his purchase price." The Guardian says Chastain's arrest on Wednesday "could prove concerning for others in crypto who assumed that practices banned in regulated markets were fair game in the wild west sector." U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams seemed to suggest as much, saying in a statement that "NFTs might be new, but this type of criminal scheme is not" and that "today's charges demonstrate the commitment of this Office to stamping out insider trading — whether it occurs on the stock market or the blockchain."

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