Business Highlights News Staff

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Powell stresses commitment to full employment and low rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has underscored the Fed’s commitment to reducing unemployment to multi-decade lows, where it stood before the pandemic. He said this Wednesday while showing little concern about potential inflation or financial market instability. Powell spent little time on inflation in prepared remarks for a webcast to the Economic Club of New York. He also did not refer to the relentless rise of the stock market or recent signs of market froth, such as surging prices of GameStop and other stocks targeted by some retail investors.

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Taxing time: How the pandemic will affect filing your taxes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tax filing season will start a bit later and look a bit different this year. That’s because the pandemic that defined 2020 has seeped into tax time as well. If you worked from home, received a relief payment, took on some gig work or filed unemployment benefits — or someone filed a fake claim in your name — there are things you need to be aware of. Likewise if you normally receive certain tax credits. The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on Feb. 12.

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GM 2020 profit drops, but it makes $6.43B despite pandemic

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors’ net profit fell 4.5% in 2020, but a strong second half more than offset the effects of pandemic-related factory closures and a costly air bag recall. The Detroit automaker said Wednesday it made $6.43 billion as demand for its vehicles surged late in a year dominated by coronavirus upheaval. In the fourth quarter, the company earned $2.85 billion. After GM’s North American factories reopened in May, the company ran many flat-out but couldn’t make up all the lost production. As customers returned to buying again, inventory was short and GM’s U.S. sales for the year fell 12% from 2019. But because buyers bought more expensive trucks and SUVs and loaded them with options, the company was able to turn the big profit.

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Toyota to add electric, plug-in hybrid vehicles next year

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota says it will roll out two new battery-electric vehicles and one plug-in gas-electric hybrid in the U.S. next year as the parade of new EVs continues. The company gave few specifics on the vehicles during a presentation Wednesday, but said one electric vehicle would be an SUV. Toyota said it has a goal of having a 40% of its new vehicle sales be electrified by 2025 and nearly 70% by 2035. Toyota broke from other automakers — and possibly the administration of President Joe Biden — in calling for a diversity of electrified vehicles to reduce carbon emissions, rather than putting policies in place that require those powered solely by batteries.

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Lockdowns weigh on German beer sales, hurt small brewers

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — The closure of bars and the cancellation of major events in Germany are a big problem for the country’s many small brewers, which rely heavily on selling draft beer to bars and restaurants. Official data released last week showed beer sales in Germany dropped 5.5% last year to 8.7 billion litres (2.3 billion gallons), a decline fostered by lengthy shutdowns. Bars and restaurants were closed from March until May, and have been shut again since the beginning of November as part of the country’s second lockdown. The current lockdown was set to end on Feb. 14, but the government could announce an extension on Wednesday that will keep hurting beer sales.

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Budget deficit totals record $735.7 billion through January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s budget deficit hit $735.7 billion through the first four months of the budget year — an all-time high for the period. The shortfall accumulated as a pandemic-triggered recession cut into tax revenues while spending on COVID relief measures sent outlays soaring. The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the deficit for the budget year that began Oct. 1 is 89% higher than the $389.2 billion deficit run up in the same period a year ago. Last year’s deficit through January had not yet been impacted by the pandemic which hit in February.

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United: Small electric air taxis will zip people to airports

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines says it could be using small electric-powered air taxis to take customers to the airport within a few years. United said Wednesday that it will buy up to 200 small aircraft capable of helicopter-style takeoffs and landings from startup Archer. That company hopes to deliver its first aircraft in 2024. The aircraft are designed to fly up to 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 mph, meaning they could zip customers from downtown areas to airports in New York, Chicago and elsewhere. Separately, Archer is announcing plans to merge with Atlas Crest Investment in a deal they value at $3.8 billion.

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The S&P 500 dropped 1.35 points, or less than 0.1%, to 3,909.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.97 points, or 0.2% to 31,437.80. The Nasdaq lost 35.16 points, or 0.3%, to 13,972.53. The Russell 2000 index of small companies fell 16.56 points, or 0.7%, to 2,282.44.

The Associated Press

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