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June 14, 2022 briefing

Fed chair Jerome Powell
Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during the Senate Banking Committee hearing titled “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress”, in Washington, U.S., March 3, 2022.

Here’s what you need to know

Wall Street entered bear territory. High inflation and recession fears took a toll on investors, with major indexes falling more than 20% from their previous highs. Some economists expect the Fed to take aggressive action to rein in inflation.

Automakers urged US Congress to lift the EV tax credit cap. GM, Ford, Stellantis, and Toyota argued the move will offset rising costs and spur consumer adoption (see more below).

JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs suspended Russian debt trading. The decision follows the US Treasury’s tightening of financial sanctions against Russia, announced last week.

US tech giants tried to appease EU regulators. Both Google and Amazon have agreed to increase competition on their platforms to avoid steep fines, according to Reuters.

A new law in Ohio allows school employees to carry guns to work. The legislation also reduces the minimum training hours from 700 to 24.

Yellowstone National Park closed for the first time in 34 years. Record floods have damaged roads, bridges, and surrounding communities, prompting evacuations.  

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Markets haiku: Prepping for winter

Image copyright: HBO

Coinbase laid off staff
Is crypto winter coming?
Is this crypto…fall?

Coinbase let 18% of its staff go. The cryptocurrency exchange platform is cutting about 1,000 jobs as its executives warn of a “crypto winter.”

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What to watch for

It’s been a week since truck drivers in South Korea went on strike to protest working conditions and pay, and there’s no resolution in sight. The strike has forced companies such as Hyundai Motors and Korean steelmaker Posco to slash production at some of their plants.

It’s the latest supply chain disruption rocking the automobile, semiconductor, and steel industries, all of which have been trying to rebound from covid lockdowns and challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The latest setback just keeps adding up:

1.6 trillion won ($1.25 billion): Cost of production and shipment disruptions from the strike so far

3,800: Cars the strike has cost Hyundai

640,000: Tires that have faced shipping issues

100: Cargo trucks the Korean government is consigning from its military to carry goods

30+: Business groups that have called for the strikers to stop

Fueling interest in EVs

Expensive gasoline is prompting drivers to give electric vehicles (EVs) a go. Gasoline prices in the US crossed the $5 per gallon threshold last week. While not the highest price ever, it’s still the highest in recent memory.

No wonder interest in alternatives to gas-guzzling engines has spiked, too. Since the start of May, US Google searches for “electric car” are up by half and searches for “EV” are up by a third.

Increased awareness in EVs may not translate into sales. Like the broader auto market, EVs have been affected by supply chain problems, including disruptions in China. EVs are also generally more expensive than fossil fuel-powered vehicles, although they tend to be cheaper to own once you factor in tax incentives and the lifetime cost of fuel and maintenance. Luckily for those who’ve googled EVs but balked at the price tag, more affordable models are set to launch next year.

A look inside Tasty, And That’s It

Russia’s new McDonald’s is Tasty, And That’s It. After the American fast food chain left Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, the restaurant’s former locations were reopened by its subsidiary Vkusno & Tochka, which means, “Tasty, and that’s it.”

Over the weekend, more than a dozen outlets that were previously McDonald’s locations opened under the new branding, which is a minimalistic depiction of a burger and two fries with the slogan, “The name changes, love stays.”

Image copyright: Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina
Logo of Vkusno & tochka, formerly, McDonald's.

As Quartz reporter Michelle Cheng explains, the changes, which include blackouts of the McDonald’s logo on ketchup and sauce packets and the use of plain white soft drink cups, mark a new trend toward isolation.

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Surprising discoveries

A kiss goodbye. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf countries have banned Disney’s new film, Lightyear, over a same-sex kiss scene.

AI feel fine. A Google engineer has been put on leave after claiming that the internet giant’s new Lamda AI has developed a conscience, and its desires should be respected.

There’s nothing good on TV. In a study by Scottish and Finnish universities, monkeys were given a choice between triggering video content or audio, and they chose the latter.

Backup Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens are using their phone and an app called Polycam to preserve augmented reality models of artifacts, buildings, and other culturally significant objects.

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