Business briefing

The daily business briefing: September 21, 2022

Lithium prices soar along with EV demand, stock futures edge higher ahead of Fed decision on interest-rate hike, and more

1

Lithium prices soar as automakers scramble to meet EV demand

Lithium prices have nearly quadrupled in the last year as automakers rush to secure supplies of the battery metal to meet electric-vehicle demand, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. On Friday, lithium carbonate jumped to a record 500,500 yuan ($71,315) a ton in China, the global benchmark, according to data from Asian Metal Inc. Lithium has jumped as other commodities fell in recent months amid drastic central-bank interest rate hikes designed to fight high inflation but fueling concerns of economic trouble. "Lithium is really following the Chinese EV market and that's just taking off," said Edward Meir, a metals consultant at brokerage ED&F Capital Markets. "This is a preview of what could await us in the U.S."

2

Stock futures edge up ahead of Fed decision

Stock futures rose slightly early Wednesday ahead of what is expected to be a large interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up 0.3 percent at 7 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.1 percent. The Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1 percent on Tuesday. The S&P 500 dropped 1.1 percent. Stocks have lost ground in recent weeks, with unexpectedly hot inflation data fueling the latest losses. The Fed is expected to announce its third straight 0.75 percentage point interest rate hike when it concludes a two-day meeting later Wednesday.

3

Ford shares see biggest 1-day drop in a decade after inflation, supply warning

Ford Motor shares plunged 12 percent on Tuesday after the automaker warned that inflation and supply problems were hurting third-quarter earnings. It was Ford's biggest single-day loss in more than a decade. Ford said in its pre-earnings update that inflation would push its costs $1 billion higher than previously expected for the quarter, and that shortages of some parts would delay deliveries. Ford's bad news also dragged down shares of some of its rivals. General Motors shares fell 5.6 percent. "It appears that across the industry, chip and components shortages may be improving at a slower pace than anticipated," Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner said.

4

Gap slashes 500 corporate jobs to cut costs as sales lag

Gap is cutting roughly 500 corporate jobs, mostly at its main offices in San Francisco and New York, but also some in Asia, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The positions are being eliminated as the clothing retailer reduces expenses to offset falling sales and profits. "We've let our operating costs increase at a faster rate than our sales, and in turn our profitability," Bob Martin, Gap's executive chair and interim chief executive, wrote in a memo to employees on Tuesday informing them of the job cuts, according to a copy reviewed by the Journal. Gap's Old Navy brand suffered sharp sales declines early this year. Gap also owns Banana Republic and Athleta.

5

Beyond Meat suspends executive arrested over brawl

Vegan food company Beyond Meat said Tuesday it has suspended its chief operating officer, Doug Ramsey, after he was arrested over the weekend and accused of biting a man's nose and punching him outside a University of Arkansas football game. The altercation left the other man with flesh missing from the tip of his nose. Ramsey is also accused of threatening to kill the man during the incident, which occurred as the men left a parking garage in their vehicles after the Razorbacks beat Missouri State on Saturday. Ramsey, 53, was charged with terroristic threatening and third-degree battery.

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