Toyota topped G.M. in U.S. car sales in 2021, a first for a foreign automaker.
General Motors, Ford Motor and other companies struggled to produce and sell as many cars last year because a global computer chip shortage that did not hurt Toyota as much.
Toyota said it sold 2.3 million trucks and cars in the United States in 2021.Credit…Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EPA, via Shutterstock
Toyota Motor sold more cars and trucks last year in the United States than General Motors, the first year in recorded history that a foreign automaker has outsold all American manufacturers.
G.M., Ford Motor and other American automakers produced and sold fewer cars than they were hoping to in 2021 because they were hit hard by a global computer chip shortage. Toyota was less affected by the shortage because it had accumulated a large stockpile of the parts.
Toyota said it sold 2.3 million trucks and cars in the United States, which was slightly ahead of G.M.’s 2.2 million. Ford is expected to finish third when it releases its sales data on Wednesday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
A record number of Americans quit their jobs in November, even as employers found it slightly easier to fill their open positions.
More than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was up from 4.2 million in October and was the most in the two decades that the government has been keeping track. The rate of quitting has been especially high in hospitality and other low-wage sectors, where workers have been taking advantage of strong demand to look for jobs with better pay or working conditions.
There were 10.6 million job openings posted on the last day of November. That was down from 11.1 million in October, but still more than in any month before the pandemic began — and far more than the roughly seven million Americans looking for work.
“Employer demand is still extremely high, and the result of that is increased competition for workers,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “That means more job openings, higher wages and more churn in the labor market.”
Competition for workers has led to faster wage growth this year, particularly for those changing jobs. Hourly wages for job switchers were up 4.3 percent in November on average, compared to a 3.2 percent gain for people who stayed in their jobs, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The data released Tuesday is from the Labor Department’s survey of job openings and labor turnover, known as JOLTS. On Friday, the department will release data from December on employment, unemployment and earnings, which most forecasters expect to show that job growth accelerated at the end of the year.
The data in both reports, however, predates the recent explosion of coronavirus cases across the country. The latest Covid-19 wave, linked to the Omicron variant of the virus, has forced airlines to cancel flights, businesses to delay return-to-office plans and school districts to return temporarily to remote learning. How that will affect the broader economy, Mr. Zhao said, remains unclear.
“The data that we’re getting now isn’t fully capturing the impact of Omicron,” he said.
Wages are rising at their fastest pace in years, but prices are rising even faster.
Americans have noticed.
Only 17 percent of workers say they have received raises that kept up with inflation over the past year, according to a survey of 5,365 adults conducted last month for The New York Times by Momentive, the online research firm formerly known as SurveyMonkey. Most of the rest say either that they have received raises that lagged price increases or that they have received no raise at all; 8 percent of respondents said they had taken a pay cut.
Nearly nine in 10 Americans say they are at least “somewhat concerned” about inflation, and six in 10 are “very concerned.” Worries about inflation cross generational, racial and even partisan lines: 95 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats say they are concerned.
Government data shows that wage gains are outpacing inflation in some corners of the economy, particularly the service sector, where competition for workers has driven rapid increases in pay. But in the aggregate, prices have risen faster than pay in recent months: The Consumer Price Index rose 6.8 percent in November, a nearly four-decade high; average hourly earnings rose 4.8 percent in November, and other measures likewise show pay gains lagging price increases.
Worries about inflation are dragging down overall confidence in the economy, which is at the lowest level in the nearly five years Momentive has been conducting its survey. Republicans have been particularly pessimistic about the economy since President Biden took office a year ago, but in recent months, Democrats too have become more dour.
“Pretty much the only group of people who say they’re better of now than they were a year ago are people who’ve gotten a pay raise that matches or beats inflation,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist at Momentive.
Despite their concerns, however, most Americans said inflation had not yet had a major effect on their finances — although low-income households reported having a harder time dealing with rising prices than other groups. And only 11 percent said they planned to ask for a raise if inflation continued. That could be comforting to officials at the Federal Reserve, who are watching warily for evidence of a “wage-price spiral,” in which rising prices lead workers to demand raises, leading employers to raise prices to pay for them.
Officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil producers agreed on Tuesday to continue their program of gradual monthly output increases in February, but there are growing doubts about whether they can deliver on the additional barrels. The decision to increase production by 400,000 barrels a day was conveyed in a terse news release from OPEC.
A persistent failure to step up production by the amounts agreed on in July is helping to keep oil prices relatively high even though a surge in coronavirus cases from the Omicron variant threatens to dampen economic activity and oil demand.
The slow ramp up in production also could lead to tension with the Biden administration, which wants the producers to pump more oil in an effort to lower gasoline prices in the United States. Gas prices, nationally at $3.28 a gallon, are now about one-third higher than they were a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration, a government agency, and contributing to rising inflation.What Saudi Arabia decides to do is crucial. The only route to meeting the scheduled increases in output would be for Saudi Arabia, which now has most of the world’s extra capacity, to agree to produce more than its quota.
From an oil industry perspective, Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has weathered the pandemic better than might have been expected. Saudi production is back around the 10-million-barrel-a-day level that the kingdom prefers, prices are relatively high, and Riyadh’s influence over oil policy is strong.
In November, the White House coordinated a planned release of strategic oil reserves with other nations in an effort to dampen the market, but prices have since edged up to more than $79 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark, and $76 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate, the American standard.
In the spring of 2020, the early days of the pandemic, the oil producers group known as OPEC Plus sharply curbed production by almost 10 million barrels a day, or almost 10 percent of world supply at the time.
Building output back up again has not been easy for several countries, including Nigeria and Angola.
In its December Monthly Oil Report, the International Energy Agency estimated that OPEC Plus fell short of its November target by 650,000 barrels a day, substantially more than the 400,000 barrels a day the group had planned to increase each month.
A few producers, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, are increasing output handily, but others in the 23-member group are lagging. A range of issues, including political strife and underinvestment in drilling, are holding them back.
Even Russia, the group’s second-largest exporter after Saudi Arabia, appears to have hit a wall at about 9.9 million barrels a day, about 600,000 less than it pumped in April 2020 before the big cuts. For Russia to increase substantially from here will require improved tax policies and the development of new fields, analysts say.
“Russia is temporarily near its limits,” said Bhushan Bahree, an executive director at IHS Markit, a research firm.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer, in November pumped 360,000 barrels a day below its quota — almost enough on its own to wipe out the agreed 400,000-barrel-a-day monthly increase for the overall group. “A poor regulatory framework, sabotage and vandalization of oil facilities” are deterring needed spending in Nigeria, the International Energy Agency said in its report.
Angola, another African country, is also pumping well under its quota, while Libyan production has recently fallen off rapidly because of political turmoil.
In a deal sure to reverberate across the collectibles industry, Topps is selling its famed sports card business for an undisclosed price to Fanatics, the sports brand steadily creating a licensing empire.
The deal includes Topps’s sports and entertainment business. In August, Topps lost its licensing agreement with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to Fanatics. That sudden loss of a decades-long relationship killed Topps’s plans to go public and put its future in doubt.
Topps has been owned by Tornante, the investment firm owned by Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney Company chief executive, and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners since 2007, when the two firms acquired it for $385 million.
Mr. Eisner said in a statement that “the strong emotional connection between Topps collectibles and consumers of all ages” would make it “a jewel in the Fanatics portfolio.”
All of the roughly 350 employees working in Topps’s sports and entertainment department will move to Fanatics. Topps sells its products in more than 100 countries, with physical operations in 10 countries.
Topps’s remaining business, which include Bazooka gum and gift cards, will now be called the Bazooka Companies. Those two divisions brought in more than $250 million of sales in 2021.
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood-testing start-up Theranos, was found guilty of four charges of fraud on Monday, capping a stunning fall of a prominent entrepreneur in a case that came to represent hazards of Silicon Valley’s “fake it till you make it” ethos.
The verdict stands out for its rarity. Few technology executives are charged with fraud and even fewer are convicted. And Theranos, which dissolved in 2018, is likely to stand as a warning to other start-ups that stretch the truth to score funding and business deals.
Here are five takeaways from the verdict.
The technorati in Silicon Valley and beyond have long tried to separate themselves from Theranos. But the fraud trial of Ms. Holmes has shown that just as Bernard Madoff was a creature of Wall Street and Enron represented the get-rich-quick excesses of the 1990s, Theranos and its leader were very much products of Silicon Valley. READ MORE
Ms. Holmes’s resolve was so forceful, and fit so neatly into the Silicon Valley clich? of achieving the impossible by refusing to admit it was impossible, that it inspired belief until the end. The verdict signaled the end of an era. In Silicon Valley, where the line between talk and achievement is often vague, there is finally a limit to faking it. READ MORE
The trial had everything: a charismatic, attractive and youthful female defendant; celebrities; sex; vast sums of money; the long shadow of Steve Jobs; lives of real people at risk. If it was one of the most famous criminal cases ever to come out of Silicon Valley, it was also a rare moment of judicial reckoning in tech. There are a lot of complicated reasons for this shortage of courtroom action. READ MORE
The case captivated the public — and spawned books, documentaries and even a fan club for Ms. Holmes — because she was a young female entrepreneur in heavily male Silicon Valley and because she appeared to push the boundaries of start-up culture and hubris to the limit. READ MORE
Ms. Holmes, 37, was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She was found not guilty on four other counts. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three counts, which were set aside for later. After the verdict was read, defense and prosecution lawyers discussed plans for Ms. Holmes’s sentencing, the status of her release and the fate of the three hung charges. READ MORE
Stocks rose on Tuesday, edging further into record territory, though gains were limited as government bond yields continued to rise sharply.
The S&P 500 was up about 0.3 percent, while the Nasdaq was down 0.7 percent.
Investors were looking over a snapshot of the labor market in November, a period before the Omicron variant was in full swing in the U.S.
The Labor Department saidthat job openings decreased to 10.6 million in November, while the number of people quitting their jobs rose to a record 4.5 million. In October, the report showed that 4.2 million people quit their jobs, a decline of about 205,000 from September, while job openings rose 431,000 to 11 million.
Oil prices rose on Tuesday as officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil producers agreed to continue their program of gradual monthly output increases, increasing production each month by 400,000 barrels a day. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, was up 1.6 percent to $77.26 a barrel.
Economists will also be watching Wednesday’s release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting, which could signal how quickly central bank officials expect to start raising interest rates. Rate increases are broadly expected this year as officials try to bring inflation under control, and many investors anticipate that they could begin as soon as March.
Fed policymakers signaled in December that they could raise interest rates three times in 2022, and the minutes could provide details on what economic evidence officials will be parsing as they decide whether to stick with that pace, slow it down or speed it up.
Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes climbed to 1.67 percent from 1.63 percent on Tuesday as investors sold some of their safer assets. The 10-year yields stood at about 1.5 percent on Friday. A sharp rise in bond yields can dampen investor interest in riskier investments like stocks.
In Europe, stock indexes rallied, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.9 percent.
Jim Rowan, chief executive of Ember Technologies, has been named the next C.E.O. of Volvo Cars. He will take over from Hakan Samuelsson, who has led the automaker since 2012, the company said Tuesday. The move comes as part of a push at Volvo, founded in Sweden in 1927, toward a fully electric lineup. The Chinese industrial giant Geely Holding bought the automaker in 2010. Mr. Rowan previously served as chief executive for the Dyson Group, known for its cordless stick vacuum cleaners, and before that as chief operating officer at Blackberry.
Protesters gathered outside China Evergrande offices in Guangzhou on Tuesday to demand that the indebted real estate developer give them their money back, as the company’s sales across China continued to plunge. Last spring, Evergrande turned to many of its employees and their family members for money that it packaged as high-interest loans as part of its wealth-management unit. Some of those investors and employees gathered on Tuesday morning outside Evergrande offices in Guangzhou to demand repayment.
Verizon and AT&T said late Monday that they had agreed to delay their deployment of new wireless technology for two weeks, giving in to the demands of federal aviation regulators who have raised concerns that the signals could create an airline safety hazard. The companies made the decision after initially rebuffing a request for a delay made last week by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Steve Dickson, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Apple‘s market value touched the $3 trillion level on Monday, making the tech giant the first publicly traded company ever to reach that milepost. Apple now accounts for nearly 7 percent of the total value of the S&P 500. The shares fell off that level later in the day.
Facebook on Monday suspended for 24 hours the account of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, a day after Twitter permanently banned one of her accounts for posting a similar message. Ms. Greene, a Georgia Republican, had posted falsely about “extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths.”
Airlines canceled more than 8,000 flights in the United States were canceled from Saturday through Monday, affecting more than one in 10 scheduled flights, according to FlightAware, a tracking service. The recent cancellations were caused by storms that produced heavy snowfall in the Midwest over the weekend and over the eastern United States on Monday, the worst day of the holiday season with more than 3,000 canceled flights. Southwest Airlines and SkyWest Airlines, which operates regional flights for several major carriers, were responsible for about a third of all cancellations over the weekend and Monday.
The tools presented to combat the coronavirus crisis have often led to political strife and aggravated existing divides. First it was masks, then vaccines and now tests. As the Biden administration pushes to help keep the economy open despite a surge in cases, coronavirus tests will play an increasingly important role.
For businesses, this presents a new set of challenges, the DealBook newsletter reports:
Accuracy: Some public health officials have suggested that rapid tests are not terribly effective at diagnosing infectiousness. These tests may not always identify infections in their earliest days, but they can flag people who have high viral loads and are thus most likely to be transmitting the virus.
Supply: The Biden administration has promised 500 million more tests, but that may take time to fulfill. This might not be a problem for big companies, which have been stockpiling tests, but might be for smaller firms trying to get workers back in offices. Ron Hsu of Lazy Betty, a restaurant in Atlanta, said he spent $800 on tests when one of his employees tested positive for the virus.
Logistics: Will companies monitor employees taking tests or adopt the honor code? How will they record and track the results? Who will pay for all this?
Politics: Amid testing shortages in Florida, the state’s surgeon general said he wanted to “unwind” the “testing psychology.” The declaration was criticized by medical experts but foreshadows more political clashes over how to manage the virus, particularly given high numbers of mild or asymptomatic cases produced by the Omicron variant.
Does your company mandate vaccines against the coronavirus? Does that mandate include boosters? Are you an executive trying to decide whether to update your policies to require an extra shot, or a worker concerned about whether your workplace is safe?
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