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Business Highlights: Auto-driving technology, GDP slip



New NHTSA chief: Agency to scrutinize auto-driver technology

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new head of the government’s road safety agency says he will intensify efforts to understand the risks posed by automated vehicle technology. Steven Cliff says the aim is to help National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decide what regulations may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Cliff said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that agency is assessing crash data recently reported by automakers and tech companies. Any new regulations that the agency may impose would fill what critics say is an urgent need to address the growing use of driver assisted systems. The systems have been linked to crashes involving deaths and serious injuries, though they also have enormous potential to prevent crashes.


Most say nation on wrong track, including Dems: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new poll shows an overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats. The poll, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that deep pessimism about the economy continues to plague President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults polled say the country is on the wrong track. Seventy-nine percent describe the economy as poor. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to cast ballots for Democrats in November’s midterm elections. The poll shows only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s leadership overall, while 60% disapprove.


US economy slipped 1.6% to start year; return to growth eyed

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at a 1.6% annual pace in the first three months of the year even though consumers and businesses kept spending at a healthy pace, the government reported Wednesday in a slight downgrade from its previous estimate for January-March quarter. It was the first drop in gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — since the second quarter of 2020, in the depths of the COVID-19 recession, and followed a strong 6.9% expansion in the final three months of 2021. Still, the negative number probably doesn’t signal the start of a recession, and economists expect growth to resume later this year.


Powell: ‘No guarantee’ Fed can tame inflation, spare jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said there’s “no guarantee″ the central bank can tame runaway inflation without hurting the job market. Speaking Wednesday at a European Central Bank forum, Powell repeated his hope that the Fed can achieve a so-called soft landing — raising interest rates just enough to slow the economy and rein in surging consumer prices without sending the U.S. economy into a recession. He says “we believe we can do that.″ But he says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made the job more difficult by disrupting commerce and driving up the price of food, energy and chemicals. ECB President Christine Lagarde echoed the “major impact” of energy shocks.


Merger vote at Spirit could reshape discount airline market

DALLAS (AP) — Shareholders of Spirit Airlines will vote Thursday on a proposed merger with Frontier Airlines, and the outcome could affect fares for millions of air travelers who depend on the budget airlines. The merger would create a single airline that might dominate the lower-price end of the airline market. Opinions are divided about what would happen if JetBlue buys Spirit. Either way, consumers will probably find something to complain about. Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue had the highest complaint rates in the industry last year.


US stocks slip, on track for 4th monthly loss this year

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended mostly lower on Wall Street Wednesday, keeping the market on track for its fourth monthly loss this year. The S&P 500 fell 0.1%. The benchmark index has been volatile all week, and is down 20% for the year as investors worry about inflation and rising interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3% and the Nasdaq fell less than 0.1%. Small company stocks fell sharply. Bed Bath & Beyond plunged 23.6% after reporting a far bigger loss than analysts expected and replacing its CEO. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.10%.


U.S. newspapers continuing to die at rate of 2 each week.

NEW YORK (AP) — Despite a growing recognition of the newspaper industry’s problems among politicians and philanthropists, a new report says a downward trend continues. A report from Northwestern University says local newspapers in the United States are dying at the rate of two per week. There has been growth in digital alternatives, but not nearly enough to compensate for what has been lost. Northwestern says the number of counties with no newspapers or only one outlet continues to expand, and the underserved areas tend to have residents who are poorer, older and less-educated than those covered well, Many digital-only sites are clustered in or near big cities, since that’s where the money is to fund them.


Gas lines and scuffles: Sri Lanka faces humanitarian crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s economy, which a few years ago enjoyed strong growth that provided jobs and financial security, is now in a state of collapse, dependent on aid from India and other countries as its leaders desperately try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. What’s happening in this country of 22 million is worse than typical financial crises in the developing world: It’s a complete economic breakdown that has left ordinary people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities and has brought political unrest and violence and is veering quickly into a humanitarian crisis. ___

Sale puts Ben & Jerry’s ice cream back in West Bank, kind of

JERUSALEM (AP) — Unilever says it has reached a new business arrangement in Israel that will effectively end Ben & Jerry’s policy of not selling ice cream in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Israel hailed the move as a victory against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS aims to bring economic pressure to bear on Israel over its military occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state. Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, had distanced itself from the ice cream maker’s apparent boycott of Israeli settlements. It said Wednesday that it had sold its business interest in Israel to a local company that would sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream throughout Israel and the West Bank.


The S&P 500 slipped 2.72 points, or 0.1%, to 3,818.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 82.32 points, or 0.3%, to 31,029.31. The Nasdaq eased 3.65 points, or less than 0.1%, to 11,177.89. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 19.47 points, or 1.1%, to 1,719.37.

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