Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks edge higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have eased off their early gains, but they still edged higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1% and the Nasdaq rose 0.4%. The gains are being led by technology stocks, which have been choppy as investors shift money in anticipation of higher interest rates that tend to make the pricey sector less attractive. A mix of retailers and other companies that rely on direct consumer spending, such as auto companies, also made solid gains. Health care companies fell. Biogen fell 6.9% on news that Medicare is limiting coverage of the biopharmaceutical company’s $28,000-a-year Alzheimer’s drug. Bond yields were mostly stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.73% from 1.74% late Tuesday.

CONSUMER PRICES

US inflation soared 7% in past year, the most since 1982

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prices paid by U.S. consumer jumped 7% in December from a year earlier, the highest inflation rate since 1982 and the latest evidence that rising costs for food, gas, rent and other necessities are heightening the financial pressures on America’s households. Inflation has spiked during the recovery from the pandemic recession as Americans have ramped up spending on goods such as cars, furniture and appliances. Those increased purchases have clogged ports and warehouses and exacerbated supply shortages of semiconductors and other parts.

BIOGEN-STOCK SLIDE

Biogen tumbles after Medicare lays out Aduhelm coverage plan

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Biogen tumbled Wednesday, a day after regulators slapped strict limitations on coverage the drugmaker’s new Alzheimer’s disease treatment. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Tuesday that patients taking Biogen’s Aduhelm will have to participate in clinical trials to assess the drug’s effectiveness in order for Medicare to cover the cost. That’s an important caveat because Medicare is expected to cover most of the patients who opt for Aduhelm, and the drug can cost as much as $28,000 annually, not counting expenses for brain scans and other care patients will need while taking it.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BIDEN

Biden redoubling focus on testing amid shortages, confusion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is increasing federal support for COVID-19 testing for schools in a bid to keep them open amid the omicron surge. The White House said Wednesday the administration is making a dedicated stream of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests available to schools starting this month. The goal is to ease supply shortages and promote the safe reopening of schools. The increased supply testing, though, will likely be too late for many Americans trying to safely navigate the omicron-fueled case surge, which is already showing signs of cresting.

OFFSHORE WIND AUCTION

US to lease nearly 500K acres for wind power development

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The federal government will lease an area larger than half the size of Rhode Island off New Jersey’s and New York’s coasts for wind power development. That’s according to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who made the announcement Wednesday. It’s the first offshore lease in the Biden administration. According to the Interior Department, the auction of nearly 500,000 acres is planned for next month and covers parcels off the so-called New York Bight and could lead to enough energy production to power up to 2 million homes. The announcement comes as President Joe Biden’s administration aims to reach 30 gigawatts of offshore wind production by 2030.

PIPELINE SPILL-LOUISIANA

Pipeline spills 300,000 gallons of diesel near New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Federal records show a severely corroded pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel just outside New Orleans. Documents show the spill from the 16-inch pipeline occurred Dec. 27 just east of New Orleans, near a levee in St. Bernard Parish. An October 2020 inspection of the 42-year-old line revealed external corrosion along a 22-foot (7-meter) section of pipe in the same area as the spill. But documents show the line kept operating and repairs were delayed after a subsequent inspection indicated the corrosion was not bad enough to require work immediately under federal regulations. The pipeline is operated by a subsidiary of New Jersey-based PBF Energy, Inc.

EUROPE-RUSSIA-NATURAL GAS

Energy monitor blames Russia for worsening Europe gas crisis

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The head of the International Energy Agency has blamed Russia for worsening Europe’s natural gas crisis. Fatih Birol said Wednesday that high prices and low storage levels largely stem from the behavior of state-owned gas supplier Gazprom. He says Gazprom could send up to a third more gas through existing pipelines. That would amount to some 10% of European daily consumption and about what industry officials say would be needed to avoid a severe shortage in case of colder-than-expected weather. Russian President Vladimir Putin has underscored that Gazprom has met its obligations under long-term contracts and blamed high spot gas prices on European decisions to move toward volatile short-term market pricing.

UNITED-STATES-RUSSIA-PIPELINE

Democrats push rival bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are proposing new sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine. Wednesday’s legislation is aimed at derailing a Republican proposal that the White House fears could undermine unity with European allies. The bill introduced by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz would impose tough sanctions against a new Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, regardless of whether Russia invades Ukraine. Cruz’s measure is due for a Senate vote this week. The new White House-backed bill is meant partly to dissuade Democratic lawmakers from giving Cruz the votes his proposal needs to pass. Passage of Cruz’s legislation would risk splitting what administration officials insist is a united front among the U.S. and its European allies on punishing Russia if it invades.

MEXICO-CITIBANK

Mexico: Citibank sale poses ‘delicate’ antimonopoly issues

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities say they are going to keep a close eye on Citigroup’s proposed sale of its Mexico subsidary, Citibanamex, noting the transaction poses “delicate” regulatory issues. Citibanamex is Mexico’s third-largest bank and regulators are apparently concerned that whoever acquires it could accumulate too big a share of the banking market. The country’s Treasury Department said Wednesday “the exit of such a large retail bank ... poses delicate questions for finance and regulatory authorities ... including the fundamental issue of market concentration.” Citigroup announced Tuesday it would sell off or list its retail banking operations in Mexico, as part of a worldwide strategy.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PASSENGER ARRESTED

Man arrested for damaging American jet in Honduras released

UNDATED (AP) — A passenger arrested in Honduras for damaging the cockpit of an American Airlines jet during boarding has been released by authorities. The flight scheduled to depart for Miami on Tuesday afternoon was delayed for hours until a replacement plane could be arranged. The flight arrived in Florida early Wednesday, about eight hours late. The passenger arrested in the incident, however, was released by authorities in Honduras who said that American Airlines did not press charges. The Texas airline did not immediately confirm that it did not seek to press charges Wednesday.

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