Biden calls for 3-month suspension of gas and diesel taxes
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for three months — an election-year move meant to ease financial pressures. But it’s not clear Biden has the votes to suspend the taxes. Many lawmakers in his own party have expressed reservations. Biden says he knows the move wouldn’t reduce “all the pain but it will be a big help.” If the gas tax savings were fully passed along to consumers, people would save roughly 3.6% at the pump. Prices average about $5 a gallon nationwide. Biden also wants states to suspend their own gas taxes or provide similar relief.
Powell: Fed aims to avoid recession but says it’s possible
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell sought to reassure the public that the Fed will raise interest rates high and fast enough to quell inflation, without tightening credit so much as to throttle the economy and cause a recession. Testifying to the Senate Banking Committee, Powell faced skeptical questions about the Fed’s ability to tame inflation, which has surged to the top of Americans’ concerns as congressional elections near. Democrats wondered whether the Fed’s accelerated rate hikes will succeed in curbing inflation or might instead just tip the economy into a downturn. Several Republicans charged that the Powell Fed had moved too slowly to begin raising rates and now must speed up its hikes. ___
US stocks give up afternoon gains and end slightly lower
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks gave up an afternoon gain and ended slightly lower on Wall Street Wednesday. Energy companies helped pull the market lower after crude oil prices sank. The S&P 500 fell 0.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% and the Nasdaq lost 0.1%. The price of U.S. crude oil fell 4%. Investors closely watched testimony to Congress from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. He reaffirmed the central bank’s determination to raise interest rates and slow inflation. Bond yields mostly fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which helps set mortgage rates, fell to 3.16%.
‘Groundhog Day’ at IRS: Returns pile up, phone delays worsen
WASHINGTON (AP) — An IRS watchdog says customer service issues are worsening at the tax-return-processing agency. A new report from the National Taxpayer Advocate says taxpayers are experiencing longer wait times on the phone, there’s an even bigger backlog of paper returns than there was a year ago, and delays in processing paper returns have been running six months to one year. The report on taxpayer challenges is submitted twice a year to Congress. The latest edition comes one day after the IRS said it’s on track to eliminate its 2021 backlog of tax returns. The IRS contends the report’s numbers are “neither the most accurate nor most recent figures.” and that the agency ”continues to make substantial progress on the inventory.”
US importing baby formula from Mexico to ease shortage
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing logistical support to import the equivalent of about 16 million 8-ounce baby formula bottles from Mexico. That starts this weekend as part of efforts to ease nationwide supply shortages caused by the closure of the largest US manufacturing plant. The Department of Health and Human Services is expediting the travel of trucks that will drive about 1 million pounds of Gerber Good Start Gentle infant formula from a Nestlé plant to U.S. retailers. That’s nearly double the amount imported to the U.S. to date. Cargo flights from Europe and Australia already have brought baby formula into the U.S., and more will come this weekend.
Walmart expands health services to address racial inequality
NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is expanding health care coverage for employees who want to use a doula, a person trained to assist women during pregnancies. It's part of an effort to address racial inequities in maternal care. After first offering doulas to employees in Georgia last year, Walmart said Wednesday that it will expand the same benefit to its employees in Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. Walmart says it chose to extend coverage to states where the impact would be immediate. It said the mortality rate in Louisiana is five times higher for Black mothers than it is for white mothers and that in Indiana, 33 counties don’t have OB-GYN services.
___ UK to see 2nd national rail strike after talks hit stalemate
LONDON (AP) — Britain is facing the second of three national railway strikes after new negotiations between union and employers ended in deadlock. The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union accused the government of “wrecking” Wednesday’s talks. It said the 24-hour walkout by 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff would go ahead as planned on Thursday. Rail infrastructure company Network Rail said it was “disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations.” The union held a daylong strike on Tuesday that brought the U.K. rail network to a crawl, with only a fifth of passenger services running. Another walkout is planned for Saturday.
Thousands of Dutch farmers protest, fearing government cuts
STROE, Netherlands (AP) — Thousands of farmers have gathered in the central Netherlands to protest the Dutch government’s plans to rein in emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia. They drove their tractors across the country in slow-moving convoys and snarled traffic on major highways Wednesday. The protest was organized after the government published steep nationwide targets for cutting emissions. Calling it an “unavoidable transition,” the government mandated changes that will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their livestock or get rid of them altogether. Farmers claim their livelihoods and those of thousands of people who work in the agricultural services industry are on the line.
The S&P 500 dipped 4.90 points, or 0.1%, to 3,759.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 47.12 points, or 0.2%, to 30,483.13. The Nasdaq fell 16.22 points, or 0.1%, to 11,053.08. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies shed 3.75 points, or 0.2%, to 1,690.28.