S&P 500 jumps 2.6% as oil prices fall sharply

Stocks had their biggest jump since June 2020 Wednesday as a sharp drop in oil prices eased fears that inflation was about to get worse around the globe.

The S&P 500 rose 2.6%. The rally broke a four-day losing streak for stocks but wasn’t enough to erase their losses for the week. The price of U.S. crude oil dropped 12%, the most since November, bringing relief after a sharp runup in crude prices since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Big swings have been jerking markets around in recent weeks as investors try to guess how much damage the war will do to the global economy.

 

Lawmakers urge probe of Amazon competition

Lawmakers followed through Wednesday on their threat to seek a criminal investigation of Amazon, asking the Justice Department to investigate whether the tech giant and senior executives obstructed Congress or violated other federal laws in testimony on its competition practices.

The House Judiciary Committee escalated the bipartisan battle against the world’s biggest online retailer with a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland referring the case for a criminal inquiry. Amazon engaged in misleading conduct that appeared designed to “influence, obstruct or impede” the antitrust subcommittee’s 2019-20 investigation into the market dominance of Big Tech, the letter says.

As an example, it cited testimony by a senior Amazon official maintaining that the company doesn’t use the data it collects on third-party merchants on its platform to compete with them, and doesn’t list its own products in customer search results before those of third parties. Those assertions have been contradicted by credible news reports, the letter says.

“Amazon attempted to clean up the inaccurate testimony through ever- shifting explanations of its internal policies and denials of the investigative reports,” the lawmakers said. “The committee uncovered evidence from former Amazon employees, and former and current sellers, that corroborated the reports’ claims.”

 

California can set emissions rules

The Biden administration is restoring California’s authority to set its own tailpipe pollution standards for cars, reversing a Trump administration policy and likely ushering in stricter emissions standards for new passenger vehicles nationwide.

A waiver approved Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency allows California to set tough emissions rules for cars and SUVs. The state also will be allowed to impose mandates for so-called zero-emission vehicles that do not contribute to global warming.

At least 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to California’s vehicle standards, which are stricter than federal rules and are designed to address the state’s severe air pollution problems.

 

Job openings rise to near record high

U.S. businesses posted a near-record level of open jobs in January, a trend that has pushed up worker’s pay and added to the economy’s inflationary pressures.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that employers posted 11.3 mil- lion jobs at the end of January, down slightly from a record of 11.4 million in December. Before the pandemic, the record was 7.6 million in 2018.

 

Ukraine bans exports of wheat, oats and staples

Ukraine’s government has banned the export of wheat, oats and other staples that are crucial for global food supplies as authorities try to ensure they can feed people during Russia’s intensifying war.

A government announcement this week said new rules on agricultural exports are being introduced that also prohibit the export of millet, buckwheat, sugar, live cattle, and meat and other “byproducts” from cattle.

Ukraine’s food policy minister said the export ban was needed to prevent a “humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” stabilize the market and “meet the needs of the population in critical food products.”

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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