Fed pick pulls out amid opposition

WASHINGTON — Sarah Bloom Raskin has withdrawn her nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors after a key Democrat joined all Senate Republicans in opposing her confirmation.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced on March 15 that he opposed Raskin’s confirmation, and all Senate Republicans evenly split 50-50 had indicated they planned to block her for the as the Fed’s chief banking regulator.

Republicans claimed Raskin would use the Fed’s regulatory authority to discourage banks from lending to oil and gas companies. Democrats, along with many bank executives, countered that Raskin’s views are not out of the mainstream and said she simply wanted the Fed to consider the risks that climate change poses to the financial system.

His nomination had been blocked in the Senate Banking Committee after Republicans last month unanimously declined to vote on it in an effort to prevent it being approved in a party vote.

US producer prices jumped 10% in February.

WASHINGTON — U.S. headline inflation jumped 10% last month from a year earlier — another sign that inflationary pressures remain intense at all levels of the economy.

The Labor Department said March 15 that its producer price index — which tracks inflation before it hits consumers — rose 0.8% from December. The increases are in line with forecasts.

The report did not include price changes after Feb. 15, missing a spike in energy prices when Russia invaded Ukraine nine days later.

Excluding food and energy price volatility, headline inflation rose 0.2% from January and 8.4% from February 2021.

Last week, the government announced that soaring petrol, food and housing prices pushed consumer prices up 7.9% in February from a year earlier, the highest rise since 1982.

Mercedes opens 600-job battery factory in Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mercedes-Benz has opened a new electric vehicle battery plant near Tuscaloosa, Ala., which will create up to 600 new jobs.

The German automaker said on March 15 that the Bibb County plant opened months before Mercedes plans to start manufacturing two all-electric SUVs at a large assembly plant near Vance.

The new battery plant will manufacture cells for the EQS and EQE SUVs, which will be built for sale in the United States and for export, the company said in a statement. Mercedes said it has spent about $1 billion on the battery plant and upgrading the Tuscaloosa assembly line to make electric vehicles.

The Alabama battery plant will manufacture lithium-ion batteries with advanced chemistry containing nickel, cobalt and manganese, Mercedes said.

It is one of six battery factories the company plans, including two in Germany, one in China, one in Thailand and one in Poland. Mercedes plans to build electric vehicles at seven factories on three continents.

Mercedes already employs about 4,500 workers at the Tuscaloosa assembly plant, which made about 260,000 SUVs last year. The plant can build internal combustion engine vehicles on the same line as electric vehicles, Mercedes said.

Intel to invest $88 billion in European chip deal

LONDON — U.S. chipmaker Intel on March 15 unveiled plans to invest up to $88 billion across Europe as part of an ambitious expansion aimed at addressing imbalances in the global supply chain semiconductors.

CEO Pat Gelsinger said Intel was investing the money “across the semiconductor value chain.” Intel said it was bringing its most advanced technology to Europe to address the need for a “more balanced and resilient” semiconductor supply chain.

Last month, European Union leaders announced a “Chips Act” to help the continent become a major producer of semiconductors and reduce its dependence on Asian markets for tiny components, which act as electronic brains for everything from cars to smartphones and game consoles.

Intel’s plans include boosting production capacity with a state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing “mega-site” in Magdeburg, Germany, which is expected to come online by 2027 and create 3,000 jobs. high technology. Plans also include additional investment to expand Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, Ireland, doubling manufacturing space and expanding foundry services.

Intel said it was also in talks with Italy “to enable a state-of-the-art back-end manufacturing facility”, and there are plans to establish a research and development center and a design center in France, an expanded lab space in Poland and an advanced computing lab in Spain.

“Why are we doing this? Because the world has an insatiable demand for semiconductors or chips,” Gelsinger said on a webcast.

Walkouts disrupt air traffic in Germany

BERLIN — Air travel was halted across Germany on March 15 as security staff at several airports across the country staged walkouts to demand higher salaries.

Many flights were canceled at Frankfurt airport due to the strike organized by the ver.di trade union, the dpa news agency reported. From 2 a.m., workers in cargo and passenger checks at Germany’s biggest airport stopped working, a union spokesman said. Only stopover passengers were able to pass security checks in Frankfurt.

According to Fraport, 130 of the 818 flights scheduled for Tuesday have been canceled. Originally, around 71,000 passengers were expected that day.

Employees of the airports of Hamburg, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden also quit their jobs. In Munich, Germany’s second airport, a walkout has been underway since Monday. Other airports notably canceled dozens of flights on Monday due to one-day strikes.

The walkouts are part of a pay dispute between ver.di and the Federal Association of Aviation Security Companies.

EU clears Amazon’s $8.45 billion takeover of MGM

LONDON — European regulators cleared Amazon’s purchase of Hollywood studio MGM on Tuesday, saying the deal raised no competition concerns.

The online shopping giant said last year it was buying MGM as part of an $8.45 billion deal to bolster its video streaming service with more content to watch.

The European Commission said its investigation found the deal “would not significantly reduce competition” in European markets, including for film and television production, the wholesale supply of television channels and the supply to the detail of “audiovisual services”.

The commission, the European Union’s executive arm and its chief competition watchdog, said MGM’s content could not be considered “must have” and that it was “not among the top studios in production”, although it holds the rights to successful franchises, including James Bond.

Known for its roaring lion logo, MGM is one of Hollywood’s oldest studios but its star has faded considerably over the years. It still has an extensive library, featuring famous characters like Rocky, RoboCop, and Pink Panther, which Amazon said it will use to create new movies and shows.

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