Business

Under Argentina’s New President, Fuel Is Up 60%, and Diaper Prices Have Doubled
Business

Under Argentina’s New President, Fuel Is Up 60%, and Diaper Prices Have Doubled

Over the past two weeks, the owner of a hip wine bar in Buenos Aires saw the price of beef soar 73 percent, while the zucchini he puts in salads rose 140 percent. An Uber driver paid 60 percent more to fill her tank. And a father said he spent twice as much on diapers for his toddler than he did last month.In Argentina, a country synonymous with galloping inflation, people are used to paying more for just about everything. But under the country’s new president, life is quickly becoming even more painful.When Javier Milei was elected president on Nov. 19, the country was already suffering under the world’s third-highest rate of inflation, with prices up 160 percent from a year before.But since Mr. Milei took office on Dec. 10 and quickly devalued the Argentine currency, prices have soared a...
Boom in A.I. Prompts a Test of Copyright Law
Business

Boom in A.I. Prompts a Test of Copyright Law

The boom in artificial intelligence tools that draw on troves of content from across the internet has begun to test the bounds of copyright law.Authors and a leading photo agency have brought suit over the past year, contending that their intellectual property was illegally used to train A.I. systems, which can produce humanlike prose and power applications like chatbots.Now they have been joined in the spotlight by the news industry. The New York Times filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of copyright infringement, the first such challenge by a major American news organization over the use of artificial intelligence.The lawsuit contends that OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing Chat can produce content nearly identical to Times articles, allowing the companies to “f...
Holiday Spending Increased, Defying Fears of a Decline
Business

Holiday Spending Increased, Defying Fears of a Decline

Despite lingering inflation, Americans increased their spending this holiday season, early data shows. That comes as a big relief for retailers that had spent much of the year fearing the economy would soon weaken and consumer spending would fall.Retail sales from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 increased 3.1 percent from a year earlier, according to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. The numbers, released Tuesday, are not adjusted for inflation.Spending increased across many categories, with restaurants experiencing one of the largest jumps, 7.8 percent. Apparel increased 2.4 percent, and groceries also had gains.The holiday sales figures, driven by a healthy labor market and wage gains, suggest that the economy remains stron...
Downturn or Not? At Year’s End, Wall St. Is Split on What’s Ahead.
Business

Downturn or Not? At Year’s End, Wall St. Is Split on What’s Ahead.

Twelve months ago, Tom Lee bet that 2023 was going to turn out just fine.While many of his peers on Wall Street were sounding the alarm over an impending economic downturn, Mr. Lee, a stock market strategist who spent more than a decade running J.P. Morgan’s equity research before setting up his own firm, forecast in December 2022 that falling inflation and economic resilience would buck the broadly bearish mood.Mr. Lee was right. Despite political brinkmanship over the nation’s debt ceiling, a banking crisis in March, fears over the cost of funding the government’s fiscal deficit, a continuing war in Ukraine and fresh conflict in Israel, the core of Mr. Lee’s prediction came to fruition in 2023. Inflation has fallen, unemployment remains low, and the S&P 500 has risen 25 percent.Most ...
Red Sea Shipping Halt Is Latest Risk to Global Economy
Business

Red Sea Shipping Halt Is Latest Risk to Global Economy

The attacks on crucial shipping traffic in the Red Sea straits by a determined band of militants in Yemen — a spillover from the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza — are injecting a new dose of instability into a world economy already struggling with mounting geopolitical tensions.The risk of escalating conflict in the Middle East is the latest in a string of unpredictable crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, that have landed like swipes of a bear claw on the global economy, smacking it off course and leaving scars.As if that weren’t enough, more volatility lies ahead in the form of a wave of national elections whose repercussions could be deep and long. More than two billion people in roughly 50 countries, including India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, the United Stat...
Raymond Dirks, Whose Tipster Case Redefined Insider Trading, Dies at 89
Business

Raymond Dirks, Whose Tipster Case Redefined Insider Trading, Dies at 89

Raymond L. Dirks, a maverick Wall Street analyst who was accused of insider trading by securities regulators but then vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court as a whistle-blower in a major fraud, died on Dec. 9 in Manhattan. He was 89.His death was confirmed by his brother, Lee. He died in a nursing home, where he had lived since being diagnosed with dementia in 2018.Mr. Dirks, whom Bloomberg News once called “arguably Wall Street’s most famous securities analyst,” figured in exposing one of the largest corporate frauds in American history.He was a 39-year-old senior vice president of Delafield Childs, a research-oriented New York brokerage firm, when, in 1973, he received a tip from a former executive of Equity Funding Corporation of America that the firm had sold bogus policies to reinsuran...
U.S. and Europe Eye Russian Assets to Aid Ukraine as Funding Dries Up
Business

U.S. and Europe Eye Russian Assets to Aid Ukraine as Funding Dries Up

The Biden administration is quietly signaling new support for seizing more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets stashed in Western nations, and has begun urgent discussions with allies about using the funds to aid Ukraine’s war effort at a moment when financial support is waning, according to senior American and European officials.Until recently, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen had argued that without action by Congress, seizing the funds was “not something that is legally permissible in the United States.” There has also been concern among some top American officials that nations around the world would hesitate to keep their funds at the New York Federal Reserve, or in dollars, if the United States established a precedent for seizing the money.But the administration, in coo...
Figma’s CEO, Dylan Field, Laments Demise of His $20 Billion Adobe Deal
Business

Figma’s CEO, Dylan Field, Laments Demise of His $20 Billion Adobe Deal

Among the several deals that have fallen apart recently, Adobe’s $20 billion takeover of Figma, an upstart design software maker, is among the most instructive.The companies had promised it was a way to “usher in a new era of collaborative creativity,” but regulators in three jurisdictions saw it as an unacceptable effort by a software giant to buy a promising future rival. To Dylan Field, Figma’s chief executive, that contrast underscored a fundamental divide between how businesses and regulators think of competition.“It’s frustrating and sad that we’re not able to complete this,” Mr. Field said in his first interview since companies announced its demise on Monday.The deal’s end is another feather in antitrust enforcers’ caps. Both the European Commission and Britain’s Competition and Mar...
Wall Street’s Bond ‘Vigilantes’ Are Back
Business

Wall Street’s Bond ‘Vigilantes’ Are Back

Typically, the esoteric inner workings of finance and the very public stakes of government spending are viewed as separate spheres.And bond trading is ordinarily a tidy arena driven by mechanical bets about where the economy and interest rates will be months or years from now.But those separations and that sense of order changed this year as a gargantuan, chaotic battle was waged by traders in the nearly $27 trillion Treasury bond market — the place where the U.S. government goes to borrow.In the summer and fall, many investors worried that federal deficits were rising so rapidly that the government would flood the market with Treasury debt that would be met with meager demand. They believed that deficits were a key source of inflation that would erode future returns on any U.S. bonds they...
State Dept.’s Fight Against Disinformation Comes Under Attack
Business

State Dept.’s Fight Against Disinformation Comes Under Attack

A Republican-led campaign against researchers who study disinformation online has zeroed in on the most prominent American government agency dedicated to countering propaganda and other information operations from terrorists and hostile nations.The agency, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, is facing a torrent of accusations in court and in Congress that it has helped the social media giants — including Facebook, YouTube and X — to censor Americans in violation of the First Amendment.The attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, and two conservative digital news outlets last week became the latest plaintiffs to sue the department and its top officials, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. The lawsuit said the center’s work was “one of the most egregious government ope...