The daily business briefing: February 23, 2023

Federal Reserve minutes show support for slower rate hike was nearly unanimous, justices wary of holding Twitter liable for terrorists' actions, and more

Jerome Powell
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

1. Minutes indicate nearly all Fed officials favored quarter-point rate hike

Nearly all Federal Reserve officials backed a quarter-point interest rate hike at the central bank's last policy meeting, slowing the pace in their effort to raise borrowing costs as inflation showed signs of easing, according to minutes released Wednesday. They said prices were still rising too fast, so continuing rate increases would be necessary to bring inflation closer to the Fed's 2 percent target. Many officials said at the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 meeting that the slower pace of rate increases would give the Fed time to better "determine the extent" of its next hikes, although "a few" officials leaned toward a bigger, half-percent increase.

Reuters

2. Supreme Court justices wary of holding Twitter liable for terrorists' actions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments for a second day in challenges to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from liability over users' posts. Tuesday's case involved Google; on Wednesday the court turned its attention to Twitter. The justices questioned whether the social media platform could be sued for aiding and abetting terrorists involved in a 2017 attack simply because they had access to Twitter for propaganda and recruitment. A lower court had let the case proceed, finding Twitter hadn't done enough to block the Islamic State. "We all appreciate how horrible the attack was, but there's very little linking the defendants in this complaint to those persons" behind the attack, Justice Neil Gorsuch said.

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The Washington Post

3. NPR to cut 10 percent of staff

NPR is laying off 10 percent of its staff to cut costs due to a $30 million deficit in its budget, the nonprofit public radio network's chief executive, John Lansing, said in an email to employees obtained by The New York Times on Wednesday. The move is necessary because NPR's financial outlook "has darkened considerably over recent weeks," Lansing said. "The global economy remains uncertain," Lansing wrote in the email. "As a result, the ad industry has weakened and we are grappling with a sharp decline in our revenues from corporate sponsors." NPR, which employs about 1,100 people, has already cut expenses by $14 million by eliminating open positions and nonessential travel, and suspending internships.

The New York Times

4. Mortgage rates rise to highest level since November

The average interest rate on the popular 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose last week by 23 basis points to 6.62 percent, the highest since November, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association released Wednesday. The surge came as bond markets were rattled by increasing fears that the Federal Reserve will have to raise its benchmark interest rate higher and longer than previously expected as the economy slows but inflation remains much higher than the central bank wants. Mortgage rates jumped above 7 percent in October as the Fed raised rates in 2022 at the fastest pace in 40 years. Mortgage rates retreated slightly early this year as data indicated inflation was slowing, but they started heading back up in recent weeks.

Reuters

5. Stock futures rise slightly after the S&P 500 falls for 4th day

U.S. stock futures edged higher early Thursday after concerns about rising interest rates held the S&P 500 down slightly in its fourth straight losing day — its longest losing street of 2023. Futures tied to the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, at 6:45 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were up 0.7 percent. The S&P 500 and the Dow fell 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, on Wednesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.1 percent. Investors are digesting Fed-meeting minutes released Wednesday that indicated the central bank's leaders were resolved to keep raising rates for as long as it takes to tame inflation, which remains much higher than the Fed's 2 percent target.

CNBC The Wall Street Journal

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