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The Chinese air force is sending fighter jets and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Thai military on Sunday. The Chinese Defense Ministry said the training will include air support, strikes on ground targets and small- and large-scale troop deployment. China’s expanding military activities in the Asia-Pacific region have alarmed the United States and its allies and form part of a growing strategic and economic competition that has inflamed tensions between the world’s two largest economies. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Thailand in June as part of an effort to strengthen what he called America’s “unparalleled network of alliances and partnerships” in the region.

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema received a $1 million surge of campaign cash over the past year from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose interests she has staunchly defended in Congress. That's according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance disclosures. The revelation comes after the Arizona Democrat single-handedly thwarted her party's long-standing goal of raising taxes on such investors. Sinema says the contributions did not influence her thinking on the matter. But many in her party see Sinema's defense of the favorable tax treatment received by such investors as indefensible.

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The flagship climate change and health care bill passed by Democrats and soon to be signed by President Joe Biden will bring U.S. taxpayers one step closer to a government-operated electronic free-file tax return system. It’s something lawmakers and advocates have been seeking for years. For many Americans, it’s frustrating that beyond having to pay sometimes hefty tax bills, they also have to shell out additional money for tax preparation programs or preparers because of an increasingly complex U.S. tax system. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says, “It’s definitely something we should do, and when the IRS is adequately resourced, it’s something that will happen."

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The biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change. A hard-fought cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare program. A new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions leftover to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction Act” may not do much to immediately tame inflationary price hikes. But the package approved by Congress and headed to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature will touch countless American lives with longtime party proposals. Here's a look at what's in the estimated $740 billion economic package.

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Democrats have pushed their landmark climate and health care bill through Congress, handing an election-year victory to President Joe Biden. The House approved the bill over solid Republican opposition Friday, five days after the Senate did the same. The vote means a win for Biden that until late July seemed out of reach. The package is much smaller than Biden's original environment and social legislation that failed in Congress last year. But after long, bitter talks, Democrats agreed to a smaller but still substantive compromise. It includes Washington's biggest ever effort on climate change, pharmaceutical price curbs and tax boosts on big corporations, long-held party goals.

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With inflation raging near its highest level in four decades, the House gave final approval to President Joe Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act. Its title raises a tantalizing question: Will the measure actually do what it says? Economic analyses suggest that the answer is likely no — not anytime soon, anyway. The legislation, which now heads to the White House for Biden's signature, won’t directly address some of the main drivers of surging prices — from gas and food to rents and restaurant meals. Still, over time, the bill could save money for some Americans by lessening the cost of certain prescription drugs for the elderly, extending health insurance subsidies and reducing energy prices.

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Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, giving the S&P 500 its first 4-week winning streak since November. The benchmark index gained 1.7% Friday, and other indexes also rose. Technology stocks drove much the broad rally. Inflation cooled more than expected last month, sending stocks higher. Investors see a greater chance inflation may have peaked, allowing the Federal Reserve to be less aggressive with its rate hikes than it has been this year. Crude oil prices fell, while bond yields were mixed.

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A Maine shipyard is preparing for a painstaking stem-to-stern restoration of a floating piece of presidential history. French & Webb was tapped for the restoration by the current owner of the Sequoia, a 1925 motor yacht that served eight presidents before being sold by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Todd French tells the Bangor Daily News that preparation has been going on behind the scenes. Physical work is expected to begin in the spring. The Sequoia went through a couple of owners before going up for sale following the stock market crash of 1929. President Herbert Hoover encouraged the Navy to buy the vessel, and began using it as a presidential yacht.

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Even after two years of big surpluses, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is telling state agencies not to get their hopes up for more money. Office of Planning and Budget Director Kelly Farr says agencies shouldn’t ask for any more money next year than they got in the current budget, which started July 1. Farr cites inflation as a reason to be cautious. That's also a reason budgets might not stretch as far next year. The governor in January will propose changes to the current budgets as well as a new spending plan for the year beginning next July.

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An unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging agriculture, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species. Water levels are falling on major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, endangering shipping. There hasn't been significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent's western, central and southern regions. Britain on Friday declared a drought across southern and central England amid one of the driest summers on record. Human-caused global warming is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation and reduced snowfall limits fresh water supplies for irrigation. One French farmer has already started using his stores of winter fodder for his dairy cows as the grass turns brown.

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The sprawling economic package passed by the U.S. Senate this week has a certain West Virginia flavor. There’s the focus on energy, including billions of dollars in incentives for clean energy but also renewed support for traditional fuel sources such as coal and natural gas. Those provisions were added as the price Democrats had to pay to win West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s all-important support. And the package includes big boosts for national parks, low-income people needing health care and coal miners with black lung disease, which are all measures likely to impact Manchin’s constituents back home. Manchin is a conservative Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He was a key vote needed to pass the package and send it to the House.

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Latvia and Estonia say they have left a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries. The move follows China's boosting of its relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. It also comes after Beijing launched economic and diplomatic retaliation against another Baltic state, Lithuania, after it expanded ties with the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and threatens to annex by force. China's increasingly assertive diplomacy and recent threatening military exercises near Taiwan have brought a sharp backlash from the U.S., the EU, Japan, Australia and others.

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A judge has ordered a gunman who took up to 10 hostages at a Beirut bank to force the release of his trapped savings to stay behind bars. It's apparently a bid to prevent copycats as desperation deepens over Lebanon’s economic meltdown. Relatives said Friday that keeping him in custody breaches an agreement that had him surrender after a seven-hour standoff in return for $35,000 and promises that he would be questioned then set free. It was the latest reminder of the pain created by Lebanon’s nearly three-year economic and financial crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the world's worst since the 1850s.

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Since its independence in 1947, India has transformed from a poverty-stricken nation into one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Over the years it also became a democratic counterweight to its authoritarian neighbor, China, and made strong gains in electoral participation and peaceful transitions of power. But as India, the world’s largest democracy, celebrates 75 years of independence on Monday, its independent judiciary, diverse media and minorities are buckling under the strain, putting its democracy under pressure. Experts and critics partly blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi's populist government for this backsliding, accusing him of using unbridled political power to undermine democratic freedoms and preoccupying itself with pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda.

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Congress is poised to pass a transformative climate change fighting bill. Friday's vote would be the first major climate package in the U.S. and would include close to $375 billion in spending. Most of the bill is aimed at infusions of cash, subsidies and tax breaks to make green energy eventually so cheap it's nearly irresistible. It would slice U.S. carbon emissions by about 40%. This compromise bill comes 34 years after Congress was warned that climate change was a serious threat. Since then there have been 308 weather disasters that each cost $1 billion.

Gas prices hit record highs just two months ago, but now they're sinking below $4 a gallon. The auto club and insurer AAA said Thursday that the nationwide average price was $3.99 a gallon. There are several factors behind the dramatic drop, and the biggest is a sharp pullback in oil prices. The price of benchmark U.S. crude is down about one-fourth from its peak. Investors bidding down the price of oil are worried that the global economy is shaky, and that demand for energy will get weaker.

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U.S. gas prices have dipped under $4 a gallon for the first time in more than five months. AAA says the national average is $3.99 for a gallon of regular. That's down 15 cents in just the last week, and 68 cents in the last month. Gasoline peaked at around $5.02 a gallon on June 14. Motorists in California and Hawaii are still paying above $5, and other states in the West are paying close to that. The cheapest gas is in Texas and several other states in the South and Midwest. The decline reflects falling prices for crude oil, which have dipped close to $90 a barrel from over $120 a barrel in June.

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Western nations have made more pledges to send arms to Ukraine as Britain's Defense Ministry claimed that sanctions against Moscow are hurting Russian defense exports. On a day of give and take, the European Union’s full ban on Russian coal imports also kicked in Thursday. Britain and Denmark made additional military commitments to help Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. Germany also is making what Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a “massive” break with its past by committing to send weapons to the war-ravaged country. In another display of the West's loyalties, McDonald’s announced plans to start reopening some of its restaurants in Ukraine. The fast-food giant shuttered and sold hundreds of its Russian locations.

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An afternoon pullback left stock indexes on Wall Street mixed, erasing most of their morning gains following another encouraging report about inflation. The S&P 500 closed 0.1% lower Thursday. The Nasdaq also fell, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose slightly. Investors weighed new data showing inflation at the wholesale level slowed more than economists expected in July. That bolstered hopes that inflation may be close to a peak and that the Federal Reserve will be less aggressive about raising interest rates than feared. Stocks pared their gains after Treasury yields climbed. The Walt Disney Co. rallied after reporting stronger quarterly results than expected.

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Congress is expected on Friday to pass a major bill that includes close to $375 billion in spending related to fighting climate change. The bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act, will infuse cash, subsidies and tax breaks into various sectors of the economy, all aimed at making green energy much cheaper.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is calling for tax breaks in the first major policy proposals of his reelection campaign. Kemp on Thursday proposed spending $2 billion in state surplus. That would include $1 billion on another state income tax rebate and $1 billion to renew a long dormant state property tax break. The incumbent Republican is drawing a contrast with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. She supports some of Kemp's tax breaks, but is emphasizing an economic plan to invest more in basic services and alleviate inequities. Kemp is blaming inflation and other economic troubles on Democratic President Joe Biden and Abrams.

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Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who last month fled anti-government protests in his country, has arrived in Thailand on a flight from Singapore, where he had been staying since mid-July. Officials in Thailand said they had been asked by the Sri Lankan government to allow him entry, and that he would be permitted to stay temporarily. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Rajapaksa’s visit was allowed for humanitarian reasons because the former president was seeking asylum in a third country. He did not elaborate. Protesters in Sri Lanka blame mismanagement and corruption by the Rajapaksa family for the economic crisis there.

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