Business Highlights: Rate hike debate, January home sales

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Fed officials push back on rapid interest rate hikes

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Reserve should start raising interest rates next month to help rein in too-high inflation, New York Fed President John Williams said Friday. But he added that the rate hikes may not have to begin with as big a bang as some have suggested. With inflation at its hottest level in a generation, the widespread expectation has been for the Fed to soon raise rates off their record low of nearly zero, where they’ve been through the pandemic. The only question has been how big and how quickly it will move, because too much aggression could choke the economy and too little could let inflation spiral.

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Senate sends Biden bill averting federal shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has sent President Joe Biden a bill averting a weekend government shutdown. The measure will keep agencies afloat through March 11. Leaders hope that will give bipartisan bargainers enough time to finally reach a deal financing federal agencies until fall. Without the current legislation, federal spending authority would have expired Saturday. The House approved the legislation last week. The process has had minimal drama, with neither party believing it would benefit by forcing an election-year shutdown. Before final passage, the Senate rejected Republican amendments that would have blocked federal vaccine mandates and halted federal funds for schools with vaccine mandates.

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January home sales rise ahead of expected rate hikes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of previously occupied US homes rose in January, as a surge in buyers paying cash and other would-be homeowners eager to avoid higher mortgage rates snapped up properties, leaving the number of available houses on the market at a record low. The National Association of Realtors said Friday that existing home sales rose 6.7% last month from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.5 million. Sales slipped 2.3% from January 2021, while the median home price jumped 15.4% from a year earlier to $350,300. Prices climbed as would-be buyers competed for a shrinking pool of homes on the market. The number of homes for sale at the end of January totaled just 860,000 — the fewest since the NAR began tracking it in 1999.

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Stocks fall again, handing Wall Street another losing week

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing lower on Wall Street Friday, indexes with a second weekly loss in a row after another bout of turbulence shook markets. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7% and the Nasdaq fell 1.2%. Investors have been watching the latest developments in Ukraine, where Russia has been amassing troops on the border, as well as more corporate earnings reports. This week investors also received the latest confirmation from the Federal Reserve that it intends to move decisively to fight inflation with higher interest rates. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.93%.

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Federal Reserve approves stricter trading rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve formally adopted sweeping new rules that will limit the ability of its top officials to invest in financial markets, a change intended to prevent conflicts of interest involving investments affected by Fed policies. The stricter rules emerged after an outcry over questionable trades that were made by several top Fed policymakers. Under the new rules, Fed officials may not invest in individual stocks, bonds or cryptocurrencies and are limited to diversified investments such as mutual funds. They must provide 45 days’ notice of any trade and secure approval of such trades. And they will have to provide public notice of any trades made in the previous 30 days.

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US mulls booting Nicaragua from trade patch over crackdown

MIAMI (AP) — The Biden administration is considering trying to expel Nicaragua from a lucrative regional free trade pact to retaliate against President Daniel Ortega’s crackdown on his opponents. A US official speaking on condition of anonymity says the action is still under analysis and no decision has been made. It could inflict serious economic pain on the country and its business elite, who have mostly stood by silently as Ortega’s repressive tactics have grown. But business leaders may be reluctant to speak out: Several already have been targeted in the crackdown that has seen a number of judgments to prison in what the US considers show trials.

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Elon Musk’s $5.7B donation sparks questions about giving

NEW YORK (AP) — Leave it to Elon Musk to stir up controversy without saying (or tweeting) a word. According to a regulatory filling, the Tesla CEO donated about 5 million shares of company stock worth roughly $5.7 billion to charity in November. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment and Musk has not commented on Twitter about the donation since the filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission was made public Monday. However, that hasn’t stopped numerous debates in and out of philanthropy about transparency, tax deductions and current Congressional legislation. There was also plenty of speculation about where the money was donated.

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US paves way for resumption of Mexico avocado exports

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The US Embassy in Mexico says that Washington is lifting a ban on inspections of Mexican avocados, freeing the way for exports to resume. Ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement Friday that the decision came after Mexico and the United States agreed “to enact the measures that ensure the safety” of agricultural inspectors who are in charge of making sure Mexican avocados don’t carry diseases or pests that would harm US orchards. The inspections were halted last week after one of the US inspectors was threatened in the western state of Michoacan, where growers are routinely subject to extortion by drug cartels.

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The S&P 500 shed 31.39 points, or 0.7%, to 4,348.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 232.85 points, or 0.7%, to 34,079.18 The Nasdaq gave back 168.65 points, or 1.2%, to 13,548.07. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies lost 18.76 points, or 0.9%, to 2,009.33.

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