Nov 27th 2021
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Joe Biden nominated Jerome Powell for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Left-wing Democrats had sought to boot Mr Powell out of the job; Elizabeth Warren, a fiery senator, had described him as “a dangerous man” because of his past support for financial deregulation. Their preferred candidate for the top job at the central bank, Lael Brainard, was promoted to vice-chairwoman. That could produce some differences of opinion on bank regulation and Fed polices focused on climate change; Ms Brainard wants more of both.
America’s prices were 5% higher in October than they were a year earlier, according to the personal consumption expenditures index, which the Fed uses to measure inflation. Excluding food and energy, prices rose by 4.1%, still more than double the Fed’s long-run inflation target of 2%. Both measures were higher than they were in September; neither has been so high at any point in the past three decades.
New Zealand’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, to 0.75%. It was the second increase in as many months, with predictions of more to come amid a buoyant economy and rocketing housing market.
Under pressure over soaring petrol prices, the White House announced that it would intervene in oil markets by releasing 50m barrels from America’s strategic oil reserve in the hope that the additional supply will cause prices to drop. In a co-ordinated effort, Britain, India, Japan and South Korea are also releasing oil and China “may do more as well”. Some questioned whether America’s extra 50m barrels, equivalent to less than three days of American oil consumption, were enough.
KKR, a private-equity firm, made a bid worth €33bn ($37bn) for Telecom Italia, in what could be Europe’s biggest-ever buy-out. Italy’s legacy telecoms firm is crippled by debt, hampering efforts to expand broadband in the country. If the board agrees to a takeover, the government will then decide whether it is in the national interest and should be allowed to go ahead.
The Turkish lira plunged again against the dollar, euro and other currencies, before recovering somewhat. The latest run on the currency is the worst in decades, taking its loss for the year so far to 40%. The rout intensified when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, defended interest-rate cuts despite the fact that inflation is running near 20%. Mr Erdogan has piled pressure on the nominally independent central bank to cut rates—it has taken four percentage points off its main rate since September—even though monetary policy is tightening around the world.
Zoom’s share price slid, after its latest earnings marked another slowdown in sales. Revenue for the three months ending October 31st rose by 35%, year on year, down from 54% in the previous quarter and 367% in the same quarter last year. The company is facing increased competition amid a tail-off in demand for video-meetings, as fewer employees work remotely.
The perils of overpromising
The share price of Paytm started to recover after a disastrous IPO. Despite being backed by SoftBank, Ant Group and Alibaba in what had been an eagerly awaited flotation, the Indian fintech company’s stock dropped by 27% on the first day of trading in Mumbai, as investors evaluated the offer price to be too high. It fell by 13% on the second day before recouping ground.
A federal jury in Ohio found that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart were liable for the spread of opioid painkillers, which caused tens of thousands of fatal overdoses in America. The verdict was the first time that pharmacy retailers have been held accountable for contributing to the opioid crisis and could open the floodgates to further litigation.
Samsung Electronics selected Taylor, a town in Texas that abuts Austin, for the site of its new $17bn chipmaking plant. The state’s capital is attracting more and more tech jobs. Tesla is building its new $1bn carmaking factory in Austin.
Ericsson agreed to pay $6.2bn for Vonage, a cloud-communications company that helped pioneer voice calls over the internet at the start of the century. It was the Swedish telecom-equipment maker’s biggest acquisition to date.
Uber got into the growing business of providing cannabis (where it is legal) by launching a service in Ontario whereby customers can order the weed and pick it up from a dispensary within the hour. Orders are placed over the Uber Eats app, perfect for tokers with a case of the munchies.
In a sure sign of the effects of inflation, Dollar Tree, one of the last of America’s retail chains to actually sell items for $1, said it would increase most of its prices by 25%, to $1.25.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Business”