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Biden’s stimulus may be too big amid economic recovery, should be targeted at those most impacted

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Biden signs executive order to address chip shortage through a supply chain review

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President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to address a global chip shortage impacting industries ranging from medical supplies to electric vehicles.

The order includes a 100-day review of key products including semiconductors and advanced batteries used in electric vehicles, followed by a broader, long-term review of six sectors of the economy. The long-term review will allow for policy recommendations to strengthen supply chains, with the goal of quickly implementing the suggestions, Biden said at a press event Wednesday before he signed the order.

The action follows calls from bipartisan members of Congress and industry leaders warning about the potential consequences of the shortage. Commonly known as chips, semiconductors are used to power electronics including phones, electric vehicles and even some medical supplies. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that “semiconductor manufacturing is a dangerous weak spot in our economy and in our national security.”

Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday to discuss the shortage and said it was “very productive.” He praised the cooperative nature of the meeting, saying, “it’s like the old days, people actually were on the same page.”

The semiconductor supply chain had taken a hit early in the Covid pandemic since much of the world’s chips are manufactured in places like China and Taiwan. The health crisis has underscored issues with U.S. reliance on supply chains abroad in many areas, and the semiconductor industry is no different. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, a coalition backed by several chipmakers, the U.S. only accounts for about 12.5% of semiconductor manufacturing.

The shortage has already impacted several companies. Ford said earlier this month that reduced estimates from suppliers could mean losing up to a 20% of its expected first-quarter production. General Motors said earlier this month that it would extend downtime at several production plants due to the shortage and would “reassess in mid-March.” On Wednesday, ahead of the executive order announcement, however, GM CFO Paul Jacobson said the worst of the chip shortage may actually be over already.

In a letter to Biden last week, several industry associations including SIA, the Advanced Medical Technology Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association wrote that the U.S. should incentivize new semiconductor manufacturing plants to be established in the country to compete effectively with other nations that have invested in chip production.

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Dow soars to a record close overnight, Standard Chartered earnings ahead

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SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific rose in Thursday morning trade after the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to a record closing high overnight.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 jumped 1.53% in early trading as shares of conglomerate Softbank Group surged more than 3%. The Topix index also gained 1.21%.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.61% as shares of chipmaker SK Hynix soared more than 3%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.94%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 0.5% higher.

On the earnings front, Standard Chartered is expected to report its 2020 earnings around 12:15 p.m. HK/SIN on Thursday. On Tuesday, HSBC reported full-year earnings that beat expectations and announced a dividend payout for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overnight stateside, the Dow jumped 424.51 points to a record closing high of 31,961.86. The S&P 500 gained 1.1% to finish its trading day at 3,925.40 while the Nasdaq Composite closed about 1% higher at 13,597.97.

The moves on Wall Street came as U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell continued to downplay the threat of inflation, saying it could take three years to reach the central bank’s target consistently.

In Wednesday’s testimony in front of the House Financial Services Committee, Powell said inflation could be volatile as the economy reopens and there’s increased demand. Still, the Fed chair does not expect inflation to run hot and said the central bank has tools to combat it if it should.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.176— still weaker than levels above 90.8 seen last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.92 per dollar, having weakened from levels below 105.6 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7972, stronger then levels below $0.784 seen last week.

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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Australia passes its news media bargaining code

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A search for ‘Australia News’ on the Google homepage, arranged on a desktop computer in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

David Gray | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Australia has passed a new law that will require digital platforms like Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results.

The move was widely expected and comes days after the government introduced some last-minute amendments to the proposed bill, which known officially as the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

Facebook announced Monday it will restore news pages in Australia, reversing an earlier decision to block access to news content in Australia in retaliation against the then proposed bill.

“We believe the Code will support a diverse and sustainable public interest news sector in Australia,” Paul Fletcher, Australia’s communications minister, said on Twitter.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the legislation will “help level the playing field” and ensure Australian news media businesses are paid for creating original content.

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