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U.S. small business confidence steady in April -NFIB

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People make their way in a local street of Chinatown in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. small business confidence held steady in April after three straight monthly declines, but owners remained worried about high inflation and worker shortages, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said its Small Business Optimism Index was unchanged at a reading of 93.2 last month. The index had declined since January.

Thirty-two percent of owners reported that inflation was their single most important problem in operating their business. That was the largest share since the fourth quarter of 1980 and was up a point from March.

The economy is experiencing high inflation caused by shortages, massive fiscal stimulus and low interest rates. Annual inflation is rising at the fastest pace in 40 years.

The Federal Reserve last week raised its policy interest rate by half a percentage point, the biggest hike in 22 years, and said it would begin trimming its bond holdings next month. The U.S. central bank started raising rates in March.

According to the NFIB survey, more owners expected business conditions to worsen over the next six months. But there are signs inflation has likely peaked. The share of owners raising average selling prices eased slightly from March’s record high.

That could be reinforced by the Labor Department’s consumer price report on Wednesday. According to a Reuters survey of economists, the consumer price index likely rose 0.2% last month after surging 1.2% in March. That would result in the CPI gaining 8.1% in the 12 months through April after accelerating 8.5% in March.

Also hinting at a peak in price pressures, the share of businesses reporting they had increased compensation fell three points to 46%. There was also a dip in the proportion intending to raise compensation over the next three months.

This was despite small businesses still struggling to find workers to fill open positions. The share of owners reporting open jobs was unchanged at 47%. According to the NFIB, the worker shortages were most “acute” in the construction, manufacturing, and retail sectors. It said job openings were the lowest in the agriculture and finance sectors.

The government reported last week that there were a record 11.5 million job openings across the economy at the end of March.

Economy

Factbox-U.S. companies offering abortion travel benefits

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© Reuters. Signage is seen at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, New York City, U.S., April 24, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) -A small but growing number of companies, including Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc, are rolling out policies to offer benefits to U.S. employees who may need to access abortion services as some state legislatures impose tighter restrictions.

An unprecedented leak of a draft opinion earlier this month suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide.

Following is a list of companies who have offered their U.S. employees reproductive healthcare benefits including abortion coverage or travel benefits for out-of-state abortions.

Company Benefit(s) Offered

Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) The bank has started covering travel expenses for employees

who go out of state for abortions because of newly enacted

restrictions in Texas and other places, becoming the first

major U.S. bank to make that commitment.

Yelp (NYSE:YELP) Inc The crowd-sourced review platform will extend its abortion

coverage to cover expenses for its employees and their

dependents who need to travel to another state for abortion

services.

Amazon.com The second-largest U.S. private employer told employees it

will pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses yearly for

non-life threatening medical treatments, among them

elective abortions.

Levi Strauss (NYSE:LEVI) & CO The apparel company will reimburse travel expenses for its

full- and part-time employees who need to travel to another

state for healthcare services, including abortions.

United Talent Agency The private Hollywood talent agency said it would reimburse

travel expenses related to women’s reproductive health

services that are not accessible in an employee’s state of

residence.

Tesla Inc Tesla’s Safety Net program and health insurance includes

travel and lodging support for its employees who may need

to seek healthcare services that are unavailable in their

home state, according to the company’s 2021 impact report.

[https://www.tesla.com/ns_videos/2021-tesla-impact-report.pdf

]

Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) Microsoft Corp said that it would extend its abortion and

gender affirming care services for employees in the United

States to include travel expense assistance.

Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:SBUX) Starbucks Corp said it will reimburse U.S. employees and

their dependents if they must travel more than 100 miles

from their homes to obtain an abortion.

Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA) Mastercard Inc said it will fund travel and lodging for

employees seeking abortions outside their home states from

June, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

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Stocks pummeled by growth worries, U.S. dollar climbs

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© Reuters. A passerby wearing a protective face mask walks past an electric screen displaying a graph showing Japan’s Nikkei share average, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo, Japan February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files

2/2

By Herbert Lash and Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global stocks plunged and the dollar strengthened for the first time in four sessions on Wednesday as concerns about rising inflation on economic growth soured sentiment.

The mood was underscored by a 9% surge in British consumer prices and a faster-than-expected acceleration in inflation in Canada.

British inflation surged to its highest annual rate since 1982 as energy bills soared, while Canadian inflation rose to 6.8% last month, largely driven by rising food and shelter prices, Statistics Canada data showed.

British inflation is now the highest among major economies in Europe, but prices are rapidly rising worldwide, forcing central banks around the globe to hike interest rates and tamp down growth as suggested by a modest decline in U.S. homebuilding in April.

Soaring prices and material shortages have already hit homebuilding, the sector of the economy most sensitive to rates. But the U.S. Commerce Department report also showed a record backlog of houses to be built, indicating a decline in homebuilding potentially might be marginal.

Adding to the gloom caused by inflation were earnings results from Target Corp (NYSE:TGT), whose quarterly profit halved as it warned of a bigger margin hit this year due to rising fuel and freight costs.

Target shares plummeted 24.88%, its biggest one-day percentage drop since the “Black Monday” stock market crash on Oct. 19, 1987, a day after Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc warned of similar margin squeezes and saw its stock drop 11.4% for its biggest one-day percentage fall since Oct. 16, 1987.

“It was Walmart yesterday and everybody thought it was a one-off,” said Dennis Dick, head of markets structure and a proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas. “Now that Target misses earning a lot more than Walmart even did, they’re scared that consumer is not as strong as everybody think it is.”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 2.74%, while in Europe, the pan-regional STOXX 600 index closed down 1.14%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.56%, the S&P 500 lost 4.03% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.73%.

The declines for the S&P 500 and Dow marked their biggest one-day percentage declines since June 11, 2020.

Few analysts are willing to predict the end to selling after a bruising first five months of the year for risk assets given the magnitude of macroeconomic uncertainty, with many anticipating market volatility will be the norm for some time.

The U.S. dollar gained ground as the sell-off in risk assets boosted the safe-haven appeal of the greenback, which was on pace to snap a three-session losing streak, a day after Fed Chair Jerome Powell pledged the U.S. central bank would ratchet up rates as high as needed to combat rising inflation.

The dollar index rose 0.581%, with the euro down 0.8% to $1.0463. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.92% to 128.23 per dollar.

Treasury yields fell, although a steep path for rates remained the prevailing market consensus as the benchmark 10-year note yield hit a one-week high of 3.015% after Powell’s hawkish comments.

The yield fell 8.1 basis points to 2.890% on Wednesday after a soft U.S. housing starts number.

The German two-year government bond yield shot to 0.444%, its highest since November 2011 after more hawkish central banker comments, and last was up 1.6 basis points at 0.386%. The European Central Bank’s Klaas Knot said on Tuesday that a 50-basis-point rate hike in July was possible if inflation broadens.

Gold prices were little changed despite the risk-off environment as looming U.S. interest rate hikes and a resurgent dollar dimmed the metal’s shine.

Spot gold was up 0.1% at $1,816.06 an ounce.

Oil prices dipped in volatile trade, reversing early gains as traders grew less worried about a supply crunch after government data showed U.S. refiners ramped up output.

U.S. crude settled down 2.5% at $109.59 per barrel and Brent settled at $109.11, down 2.52% on the day.

GRAPHIC: MSCI World equity index (https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/movanzkkopa/world%20stocks.PNG)

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Economy

Fed’s Harker: soft landing possible, not forecasting recession

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker weighs meat at a butcher shop at Reading Terminal Market after the inflation rate hit a 40-year high in January, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

(Reuters) – Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker on Wednesday said he believes the central bank can bring inflation down without sending the economy into a recession, in part because the labor market is currently strong.

“We may have a few quarters of negative growth, but again, that’s not what I’m estimating, what I’m forecasting right now,” Harker said in a virtual event with the Mid-Size Bank Coalition of America, adding the economy can withstand a “measured” and “methodical” tightening of financial conditions that would bring down demand. “We don’t want to overdo it, but we have to act.”

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