The Week in Business: Shoppers Open Their Wallets
What’s Up? (Nov. 20-26)
An Inflation-Era Holiday Season
Bank account looking a little leaner than usual after Thanksgiving? That’s not altogether surprising. Those who had the classic dishes on the table on Thursday — turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes and, of course, lots of butter in nearly everything — paid as much as 41 percent more for their dinner this year than last. But many dug deeper into their wallets on Friday, kicking off a holiday shopping season that has billions of dollars riding on it. As inflation has climbed, showing signs of moderation only recently, interest rates have increased and pandemic fears have largely receded, retailers have struggled to keep up with consumers’ shifting habits. Some have found success with introducing holiday goods in the late summer and early fall and rolling out more early discounts.
A Shake-Up at Disney
In a surprising move, Disney on Sunday night fired its chief executive, Bob Chapek, and announced the return of his predecessor, Robert A. Iger, who left the company at the end of last year after leading it on a 15-year run of growth and profits. But that streak of good fortune ended with Mr. Chapek: Last quarter, Disney reported $1.5 billion in losses, falling short of analysts’ expectations for revenue and earnings per share, almost unheard-of for Disney. Mr. Iger has signed a two-year contract and will remain the chief executive until the end of 2024, during which time Disney’s board hopes that he can put the company back on the right path and train a successor. Investors cheered the decision, sending Disney shares soaring on Monday morning — though share prices are still off by more than a third this year.
Swift Consequences for Ticketmaster
When Ticketmaster’s site descended into chaos after opening sales for Taylor Swift concerts, it quickly became apparent that the problem was not solely the result of Ms. Swift’s immense popularity. The Justice Department had already begun an investigation into the owner of the ticket sales company, Live Nation Entertainment, seeking to determine whether it essentially acts as a monopoly in the multibillion-dollar live music industry. The company also faces scrutiny from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, which will conduct a hearing on the lack of competition in the ticketing industry. Live Nation has said that it “takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation.”
What’s Next? (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)
The Latest on Jobs
November’s jobs report is expected to show job growth slowing once again, creeping closer to the Federal Reserve’s target of fewer than 100,000 jobs added each month. That kind of moderation would ease central bankers’ fears about wage growth and a subsequent wage-price spiral, which can occur when higher wages help send up prices, leading to more wage increases. It would also indicate that the Fed’s efforts to cool the economy with higher interest rates are beginning to work. But the latest numbers are still likely to be far from that goal. Last month, employers added 261,000 jobs, suggesting that the labor market was resilient in the face of Fed officials’ efforts. And while layoffs have swept the tech sector, they have generally remained low. The number of job openings is still high, with about 1.7 unemployed workers for each available job, close to the highest proportion on record.
Seeking New Limits on Russian Oil
European Union diplomats will meet this week in Brussels with the United States and other Group of 7 nations to discuss the possibility of a price cap on Russian oil that would limit the revenue Russia can make from its oil exports. A cap would help prevent an energy shortage, which would send prices in the European Union even higher and worsen a cost-of-living crisis affecting countries around the world. But carrying out the price cap requires some finessing: It must be high enough to ensure that Russia will continue selling but low enough that it hurts the country’s profits. The policy must also be put in place by Dec. 5 — and the price needs to be unanimously approved by European Union ambassadors. The United States has so far avoided weighing in with a specific price, but it has been the Biden administration’s goal to keep oil flowing to avoid another spike in prices.
A Rail Strike Looms Again
The threat of a rail workers strike drew nearer last week when members of a union that primarily represents freight rail conductors rejected the tentative labor agreement that had been crafted in September to avoid such an outcome. That means workers and rail companies will have to agree on another proposal by early December — or find themselves in the same position that they were in two months ago, hurtling toward an impasse that could worsen supply chain problems and inflation as well as disrupt travel. But rail workers don’t see much improvement on their central demands in the current agreement and remain concerned with the grueling, unpredictable schedules that many have said make it difficult even to go to a doctor appointment without risking repercussions at work.
Understand Inflation and How It Affects You
- Social Security: The cost-of-living adjustment, which helps the benefit keep pace with inflation, will be 8.7 percent next year. Here is what that means.
- Budget Surpluses: Up to 20 states are using their excess funds to help taxpayers deal with rising costs. But some economists worry that the payments could fuel inflation.
- Tax Rates: The I.R.S. has made inflation adjustments for 2023, which could push many people into a lower tax bracket and reduce tax bills.
- Your Paycheck: Inflation is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of your wallet. Now, it’s going to affect the size of your paycheck next year.
Minutes from the last Fed meeting showed officials agreeing to slow interest rate increases soon. The Biden administration extended the pause on student loan payments into 2023. The special purpose acquisition company linked to former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company has been granted an extension to complete its merger.