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Activity highlights: economic contraction, palliative bill

The US economy falls at an annual rate of 0.6% from April to June

WASHINGTON — Battered by soaring consumer prices and rising interest rates, the U.S. economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.6% from April to June, the government said Thursday, unchanged from its previous second-quarter estimate. It marked the second consecutive quarter of economic contraction, an informal rule of thumb for a recession. Most economists, citing a strong and resilient US labor market, believe the world’s largest economy is not yet in recession. Consumer spending rose at an annual rate of 2%, but this gain was offset by a decline in business inventories and housing investment.

Wall Street drops to lowest since 2020 as fear returns

NEW YORK — Stocks are back down on Wall Street as worries about a possible recession and rising bond yields weighed on markets again. The S&P 500 fell 2.1% on Thursday, hitting its lowest level since late 2020. The washout erased the index’s gains in a big rally the day before. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.5% and the Nasdaq lost 2.8%. For markets to truly turn higher, analysts say investors will need to see a break from the high inflation that has swept the world. That hasn’t happened yet, and even more data arrived on Thursday showing otherwise.

Senate passes interim bill to avoid shutdown and help Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Congress is moving quickly to avoid a government shutdown. The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term spending bill that would fund federal agencies until mid-December. The legislation also provides for another round of military and economic aid to Ukraine as it seeks to repel the Russian invasion. The bill funds the federal government until Dec. 16, giving lawmakers time to agree on a larger government funding package after the midterm elections. Assistance and funds to help low-income families pay their heating bills this winter were also included in the bill, which is now before the House for consideration.

House approves scaled-down bill targeting Big Tech dominance

WASHINGTON — The House has approved greatly reduced legislation aimed at Big Tech corporate dominance by giving states greater power in antitrust cases and increasing funds for federal regulators. The bipartisan measure pales in comparison to a more ambitious package aimed at reining in Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple and endorsed by key House and Senate committees. That proposal languished for months, giving companies time to launch vigorous lobbying campaigns against it. The Biden administration approved the more limited bill this week. It now heads to the Senate for consideration. House conservatives have opposed proposed revenue increases for antitrust regulators, arguing that the Federal Trade Commission has been excessively brazen under Biden.

UK’s Truss defends an economic plan that sent the pound plummeting

LONDON — British Prime Minister Liz Truss has defended her economic plan that has rocked financial markets, saying she is ready to make “tough decisions” to grow the economy. Truss made his first public comments on Thursday since his government last week announced billions in unfunded tax cuts that drove the pound to record highs. She says Britain faces a “very, very difficult” economic situation. But she says the problems are global and spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The turmoil has seen the opposition Labor party open a widening lead in the opinion polls. A YouGov survey released on Thursday gave Labor a 33-point lead over the Conservatives, up from 8 points a week ago.

Long-term US mortgage rates up for 6th week; 30 years at 6.7%

WASHINGTON — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the sixth straight week, marking new highs not seen in 15 years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year average key rate climbed to 6.70% from 6.29% last week. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those looking to refinance their homes, jumped to 5.96% from 5.44% last week. Rapidly rising mortgage rates threaten to marginalize even more buyers after more than doubling in 2022. Last year, would-be buyers were eyeing rates well below 3%.

Former eBay executives get jail time for bizarre harassment scheme

BOSTON — A former eBay Inc. executive has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for leading a scheme to terrorize the creators of an online newsletter that included sending live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath and other disturbing deliveries to their home. David Steiner and Ina Steiner were the targets of the harassment campaign. David Steiner told the court on Thursday that James Baugh and other eBay employees had made their lives “hell”. Another former eBay executive, David Harville, was sentenced later Thursday to two years behind bars for his role in the scheme.

Fewer people are applying for unemployment assistance in the United States amid strong hiring backdrop

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign that few businesses are shedding jobs despite high inflation and a weak economy. Jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 24 fell 16,000 to 193,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Last week’s number was revised down by 4,000 to 209,000. Early claims generally reflect layoffs. Current numbers are historically very low and suggest that Americans enjoy an unusually high level of job security.

The S&P 500 fell 78.57 points, or 2.1%, to 3,640.47. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 458.13 points, or 1.5%, to 29,225.61. The Nasdaq fell 314.13 points, or 2.8%, to 10,737.51. The Russell 2000 Small Business Index fell 40.31 points, or 2.4%, to 1,674.93.

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