Business Highlights: February jobs growth, global trade woes

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a buoyant sign for the U.S. economy, businesses stepped up their hiring last month. It came as omicron faded and more Americans ventured out to spend at restaurants, shops and hotels despite surging inflation. Employers added a robust 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, from 4% in January, extending a sharp decline in joblessness to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago. Friday’s hiring figures were collected before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent oil prices jumping and has heightened risks and uncertainties for economies in Europe and the rest of the world.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leaves global trade in tatters

MIAMI (AP) — Sanctions on Russia are starting to wreak havoc on global trade, with potentially devastating consequences for energy and grain importers while also generating ripple effects across a world still struggling to overcome pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of tankers and bulk carriers have been diverted away from the Black Sea, while dozens more have been stranded at ports and at sea unable to unload their cargoes. Russia is a leading exporter of grains and a major supplier of crude oil, metals, wood and plastics — all used worldwide in a range of products and by a multitude of industries from steelmakers to car manufacturers.


Stocks tumble as war overshadows ‘fantastic’ US jobs data

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks around the world tumbled Friday, after even a gangbusters report on the U.S. jobs market wasn’t enough to pull Wall Street’s focus off its worries about the war in Ukraine. The S&P 500 fell 0.8%. That followed even sharper losses in Europe after Russian troops seized a nuclear power plant in Ukraine that is the biggest in Europe. Markets have swung wildly on worries about how much higher the war will push prices for oil, grains and other sources of inflation. Treasury yields sank again, and a measure of nervousness on Wall Street climbed.


Biden announces Siemens investment, planned factory jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has joined with the CEO of technology company Siemens USA to announce a $54 million investment to produce equipment for the electrical infrastructure. They say the investment will lead to 300 additional jobs at locations in California and Texas. Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton is among several manufacturing executives who’ve met with Biden recently to discuss their expansion plans. The Democratic president also will announce details on a rule requiring that companies providing goods to the government have 75% of their product content made domestically, up from 55%.


Apple investors urge company to undergo civil rights audit

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple’s shareholders have approved a proposal urging the iPhone maker to undergo an independent audit assessing its treatment of female and minority employees. The shareholder vote delivered a rare rebuke to a management team that runs the world’s most valuable company. The measure passed during Apple’s annual meeting Friday is nonbinding, so the company isn’t required to adopt the recommendation. But rebuffing the wishes of its shareholders would thrust Apple into an uncomfortable position, especially since the company has long cast itself as a champion of civil rights. Apple had argued that an audit is unnecessary, pointing to its recent progress in gender and racial equity.


Russia to punish ‘fake’ war news, blocks Facebook, Twitter

DUSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on the war in Ukraine. He signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports. Russia also has blocked Facebook and Twitter. The moves follow blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza. The sweeping action against the foreign outlets that publish news in Russian seeks to establish even tighter controls over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.


Visa lowers merchant credit fees for small businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — Visa says it will lower its credit card “swipe” fees for online and in-store transactions by 10% for small businesses starting in April. The move comes as the digital payments sector becomes increasingly competitive. Visa, one of the world’s largest payment companies, is facing new forms of competition, particularly from tech firms that have debuted alternative forms of payment that go around the traditional Visa and Mastercard networks. Visa currently charges 1.5% to 2.4% in consumer credit card interchange rates. The 10% cut takes place in April.


Report: American whiskey exports starting to rebound

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An industry group says American whiskey exports have started rebounding, but distillers have yet to fully recover. Spirits exports have been battered by tariffs and the pandemic. Exports of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey rose 15% last year to reach $975 million. That’s according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Last year’s total was still down 18% from the record high, which was about $1.2 billion in 2018. A deal was reached last year to lift the retaliatory tariffs the European Union imposed on American spirits. The council says Tennessee and Kentucky are the nation’s leading spirits exporters.


The S&P 500 fell 34.62 points, or 0.8%, to 4,328.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 179.86 points, or 0.5%, to 33,614.80. The Nasdaq dropped 224.50 points, or 1.7%, to 13,313.44. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave back 31.51 points, or 1.6%, to 2,000.90.

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