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Business Highlights: Holiday shopping, Christmas markets

Business Highlights: Holiday shopping, Christmas markets

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Holiday season moves into high gear but challenges remain

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers buoyed by solid hiring, healthy pay gains and substantial savings are returning to stores and splurging on all types of items. But the big question is how much will supply shortages, higher prices and staffing issues dampen shoppers’ mood this holiday season. Shoppers, already fatigued with pandemic-induced social distancing policies and other setbacks, may get grumpy if they can’t find the help they need at the stores, or can’t find their top choice item. They may also be disappointed by some of the skimpy holiday discounts. Still, don’t write off the resilience of shoppers who have shown signs they want to celebrate the holidays after muted celebrations last year.

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Europe’s Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases rise

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Some of Europe’s Christmas markets are warily opening amid surging coronavirus infections. In Germany, the picturesque Frankfurt market is open over a wider area to thin out the crowds. Markets in Budapest are fenced off and customers have to show proof of vaccination. It’s a huge relief for merchants to be open after losing their Christmas business last year despite the restrictions. One ornament seller says that he can cover his bills if he can stay open for three weeks. But that’s no sure thing after two regions in Germany shut down their markets and Austria’s closed amid a 10-day national lockdown. With the closures goes the money tourists would spend in restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

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Global stocks mixed after Fed says ready to act on inflation

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets are higher after Federal Reserve officials indicated they were ready to hike interest rates sooner than expected if needed to cool U.S. inflation. London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Hong Kong advanced while Shanghai declined. U.S. markets were closed for a holiday. Notes of the Fed’s October policy meeting showed officials said they “would not hesitate” to respond to inflation. That fueled investor fears the Fed and other central banks might feel pressure to withdraw economic stimulus that has been boosting stock prices.

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Americans are spending but inflation casts pall over economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are doing the main thing that drives the U.S. economy — spending — but accelerating inflation is casting a pall. A raft of economic data issued showed the economy on solid footing, with Americans’ incomes rising and jobless claims falling to a level not seen since the Beatles were still together. The spike in prices for everything from gas to rent, however, will likely be the chief economic indicator Americans discuss over Thanksgiving Day dinner. The Commerce Department reported that U.S. consumer spending rebounded by 1.3% in October. That was despite inflation that over the past year has accelerated faster than it has at any point in more than three decades.

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Russia: Death toll in Siberian coal mine blast raised to 52

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian officials say 52 miners and rescuers have died after a devastating blast in a Siberian coal mine about 250 meters (820 feet) underground. Hours after a methane gas explosion and fire filled the mine with toxic fumes, rescuers found 14 bodies but then were forced to halt the search for 38 others because of a buildup of methane and a high concentration of carbon monoxide gas. The state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies cited emergency officials as saying that there was no chance of finding any more survivors. The Interfax news agency cited a representative of the regional administration who also put the death toll from Thursday’s fire at 52, while 239 were rescued.

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This worker got jobless benefits; Virginia wants them back

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man is fighting to hang on to $9,000 in unemployment benefits that the state gave him when his compressor plant closed in 2018. The Virginia Employment Commission is trying to get those benefits back. Ernest Ray’s attorney says the case illustrates a radically dysfunctional bureaucracy at the agency, which recently has come under sharp criticism for its shaky response to the surge in jobless claims during the coronavirus pandemic. Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin campaigned on a promise to overhaul the agency but has so far released no specifics about where he’ll start.

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Putin says Russia will offer good gas deal to Serbia

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will continue providing natural gas to Serbia on terms favorable to its ally. Putin voiced confidence Thursday that a new contract for gas supplies to Serbia would be signed quickly to replace the current one that expires at year-end. Putin said at the start of talks at his Black Sea residence in Sochi with visiting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that “we will find a solution that would definitely be acceptable to our Serbian friends.” Putin also noted that Russia would continue to staunchly support Serbia amid recent tensions with Kosovo. Vucic hailed close ties between Serbia and Russia and particularly noted a high level in defense cooperation.

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Who’s a hero? Some states, cities still debating hazard pay

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — While many workers deemed essential in their respective states have already received pandemic hazard pay or hero pay, there are thousands more still waiting for the same financial pat-on-the-back. Many work in places like Connecticut, Minnesota and cities around the country that are still trying to figure out whether and how to distribute funds to what’s become a huge pool of heroes. In Connecticut, state lawmakers in June set aside $22.5 million in federal pandemic funds for essential state employees and members of the Connecticut National Guard. But so far, no checks have been cut. Meanwhile, there’s a push to reward even more people with the money.