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Business Highlights: Inflation's jump, fertilizer crunch

Business Highlights: Inflation's jump, fertilizer crunch

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US inflation jumped 8.5% in past year, highest since 1981

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation soared over the past year at its fastest pace in more than 40 years, with costs for food, gasoline, housing and other necessities squeezing American consumers and wiping out the pay raises that many people have received. The Labor Department’s consumer price index jumped 8.5% in March from 12 months earlier, the sharpest year-over-year increase since 1981. Prices have been driven up by bottlenecked supply chains, robust consumer demand and disruptions to global food and energy markets worsened by Russia’s war against Ukraine. From February to March, inflation rose 1.2%, the biggest month-to-month jump since 2005. Gasoline prices drove more than half that increase.

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Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies

KIAMBU COUNTY, Kenya (AP) — Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed up fertilizer prices that were already high, made scarce supplies even harder to find and pinched farmers, especially those in the developing world. Higher fertilizer prices are making the world’s food supply more expensive and less abundant, as farmers skimp on nutrients for their crops and get lower yields. While the ripples will be felt by grocery shoppers in wealthy countries, the squeeze on food supplies will land hardest on families in poorer countries. The fertilizer crunch threatens to further limit worldwide food supplies, already constrained by the disruption of crucial grain shipments from Russia and Ukraine.

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Biden waiving ethanol rule in bid to lower gasoline prices

MENLO, Iowa (AP) — President Joe Biden is visiting corn-rich Iowa to announce he’ll suspend a federal rule and allow the sale of higher ethanol blend gasoline this summer. Biden’s administration is intensifying efforts to lower prices at the pump that have spiked during Russia’s war with Ukraine. Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is blended with 10% ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency will issue an emergency waiver to allow widespread sale of 15% ethanol blend that’s usually prohibited between June 1 and Sept. 15 because of concerns it adds to smog in high temperatures. The Biden administration says the move will save drivers an average of 10 cents per gallon at 2,300 gas stations.

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Stocks give up gains, end lower following inflation report

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes edged lower on Wall Street Tuesday, shedding early gains as investors weigh new data on inflation. The S&P 500 fell 0.3%. The pullback follows back-to-back losses driven by worries about the economic collateral damage as the Federal Reserve tackles high inflation more aggressively. A report showed inflation is still at its highest level in 40 years. Still, a faint silver lining was that inflation unexpectedly slowed in March on a month-over-month basis, after excluding the costs of food and fuel. The Fed pays close attention to that number, and Treasury yields fell immediately after the report.

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Westinghouse, Framatom to supply fuel to Czech nuclear plant

PRAGUE (AP) — Westinghouse Electric Co. and France’s Framatome have been selected to deliver fuel supplies for the Czech Republic’s Temelin nuclear plant. The move will ease the Czech Republic’s dependence on Russia. State-controlled power company CEZ says Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse and Framatome will deliver the nuclear fuel for some 15 years, starting in 2024. Russia’s TVEL is CEZ’s current supplier and belongs to the Russian energy giant Rosatom. It also also bid to supply the fuel going forward but lost out to Westinghouse and Framatome. CEZ says it selected the U.S. and French companies in order to ensure a continuous supply of fuel cells for Temelin’s reactors and minimize the risks of a possible supply outage.

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Toyota unveils first electric vehicle since RAV4 EV in 2014

DETROIT (AP) — The top-selling automaker in the U.S. is rolling out its first fully electric vehicle in eight years. Toyota on Tuesday unveiled the battery-powered bZ4X small SUV, which starts at $42,000 and can go up to 252 miles (406 kilometers) per charge. The bZ4X will be sold globally. It adds to the 38 electric vehicle models now on sale in the U.S., with more than 120 expected by 2025. S&P Global Mobility analyst Stephanie Brinley says the bZ4X is important because it’s from a trusted brand that will convince some buyers to make the switch from internal combustion engines. The bZ4X looks similar to and is slightly longer and wider than Toyota’s RAV4, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. that isn’t a pickup truck. It is Toyota’s first EV since 2014.

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Arizona man in $3.5M pandemic loan fraud case gets 4 years

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona man faces four years in prison after pleading guilty to falsely claiming non-existent employees and business revenues when applying for $3.5 million in federal pandemic relief loans in 2020. Officials say he used some of the money to buy a Porsche and a home. The sentence imposed last Thursday for James Theodore Polzin of the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert included an order for him to pay over $2.2 million in restitution. Polzin pleaded guilty last fall to wire fraud and transactional money laundering. U.S. officials have also said that he stashed money overseas.

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Yelp to cover travel expenses for workers seeking abortions

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yelp will cover the travel expenses of employees who must travel out of state for abortions, joining the ranks of major employers trying to help workers affected by restrictions in Texas and other states. The benefit announced Tuesday covers all 4,000 employees at the online review service, but seems most likely to have its biggest immediate impact on its 200 workers in Texas, which has passed a law banning abortions within the state after six weeks of pregnancy. New York’s Citigroup recently disclosed plans to do the same for its more than 200,000 employees, 8,000 of them in Texas. Uber and Lyft are paying the legal fees for drivers who could get sued under the new Texas law for transporting passengers to clinics.

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The S&P 500 fell 15.08 points, or 0.3%, to 4,397.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 87.72 points, or 0.3%, to 34,220.36. The Nasdaq lost 40.38 points, or 0.3%, to 13,371.57. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 6.61 points, or 0.3%, to 1,986.94.