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Live Business News: Stocks, Markets and Inflation

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Daily Business Briefing

June 9, 2021, 10:08 a.m. ET

June 9, 2021, 10:08 a.m. ET

Credit…Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Royal Dutch Shell will respond to a recent defeat in a Dutch court by accelerating its efforts to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, the company’s leader said Wednesday.

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Shell, said that he was “disappointed” by the ruling requiring the oil company, Europe’s largest, to move faster in slashing greenhouse gases, but added that the company was planning to do just that.

“For Shell, this ruling does not mean a change but rather an acceleration of our strategy,” Mr. van Beurden said in an article published on LinkedIn. “We will seek ways to reduce emissions even further in a way that remains purposeful and profitable,” he added.

On May 26, the District Court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its global net carbon emissions by 45 percent, by 2030 compared with 2019. The court said that Shell owed a duty of care to the citizens of the Netherlands, where the company has its headquarters, to protect them from the consequences of global warming like rising sea levels.

Mr. van Beurden said his first reaction to the ruling was “surprise” because Shell had been in the forefront among oil majors in setting out targets to reduce emissions including those of the customers who burn the company’s products in their cars or jet engines. He also said that if Shell decided to stop selling gasoline and diesel today, people would just turn to other providers for fuel. “It would not help the world one bit,” he said.

Mr. van Beurden said that Shell still expected to appeal the judgment.

After reflection, though, Mr. van Beurden said he and his colleagues also felt “a determination to rise to the challenge” posed by the court.

The Shell executives may have realized that the ruling is a harbinger of increased pressures to come and that Shell, which has a long history dating to the 19th century, needs to do more on climate change if it wants to thrive in future decades.

Tourists arriving in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday. The State Department has eased its pandemic travel warnings for a number of countries.
Credit…Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

Stocks on Wall Street drifted higher on Wednesday and European shares were mixed, as traders awaited more data on inflation.

With an early gain of about 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 briefly climbed above its May 7 record in early trading.

Momentum in the stock market has stalled recently as investors try to gauge whether consumer price increases are temporary hiccups as businesses reopen and welcome consumers ready to spend or if the increases point to persistent problems, which central banks will have to address by easing stimulus measures.

A big jump in prices was reported in China on Wednesday, as the government said that prices charged by factories, farmers and other producers had soared 9 percent in May compared with a year earlier, when the pandemic held down expenses. But consumers remain largely unaffected: China’s Consumer Price Index was only 1.3 percent higher in May than a year earlier.

More light will be shed on Thursday, when the closely watched U.S. Consumer Price Index is released with the latest figures for May. Its previous monthly report showed prices rising at the fastest rate in a decade.

Ahead of that report, yields on U.S. government bonds fell, reflecting easing concerns in the bond market. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes dropped below 1.5 percent.

Also on Thursday, the European Central Bank will weigh in on this debate, as it will announce whether it will continue its accelerated pace of buying up bonds, a tool to reduce the cost of borrowing in the eurozone economy.

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, rose above $70 a barrel, to its highest level in more than two and a half years. Analysts at ING pointed out a drop in oil inventories in the United States helped push the price higher. They also noted that the State Department had eased its pandemic travel warnings for a number of countries.

Last year, a Pennsylvania man amassed thousands of followers on Twitter by impersonating relatives of former President Donald J. Trump. In November, he even duped Mr. Trump, who messaged the man “LOVE!” while thinking he was writing to one of his sisters.

The New York Times later identified the man as Josh Hall, a 21-year-old food-delivery driver and Trump supporter, and showed that he had used the accounts to collect thousands of dollars for a fake political group.

On Tuesday, federal authorities arrested Mr. Hall and charged him with fraud and identity theft.

Mr. Hall pretended to be members of the Trump family “to fraudulently induce hundreds of victims to donate to a political organization that did not exist, and then pocketed those funds for his own use,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a news release.

Credit…Josh Hall

Mr. Hall’s arrest is a rare instance of criminal charges filed against someone for creating fake accounts on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networks are rife with millions of fake accounts, many of which impersonate politicians, celebrities and soldiers to scam people out of money. But few of the people behind the fakes ever face consequences.

Mr. Hall attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he posed as five members of Mr. Trump’s family on Twitter, amassing more than 160,000 followers on the site. Over a year, he pretended to be, among others, Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s teenage son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator at the time.

He used the accounts to direct people to donate to a political group called Gay Voices for Trump. Mr. Hall later told The Times that the group didn’t exist. He brought in more than $7,300. The Justice Department said on Tuesday that Mr. Hall had kept the money.

Mr. Hall appeared in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday, the Justice Department said. He could face up to 22 years in prison, the department said.

Mr. Hall could not be immediately reached on Tuesday. He told The Times last year that his fake accounts were clear parodies and that anyone should have known that, including Mr. Trump, by reading a few of their typically juvenile posts.

“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall said. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun,” he added, referring to the abbreviation for Mr. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

  • Lordstown Motors, an electric vehicle start-up that aimed to revive a shuttered General Motors factory in Ohio, said on Tuesday that it did not have enough cash to start commercial production of its electric pickup truck and might have to close its doors. In a regulatory filing, Lordstown said it would not be able to begin “commercial scale production” without raising more money from investors and lenders. It added that there was “substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue as a going concern” — a legal phrase companies often use to alert investors that they might not survive.

  • Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in pursuit of a novel effort to have Google declared a public utility and subject to government regulation. The lawsuit seeks to use a law that’s more than a century old to regulate Google by applying a legal designation historically used for railroads, electricity and the telephone to the search engine. If Google were declared a so-called common carrier like a utility company, it would prevent the company from prioritizing its own products, services and websites in search results.

Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, said that people had been able to take tax deductions for “money has never reached working charities.”
Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

A new bill being introduced on Wednesday will try to ensure that money promised to charity gets to the people who need it more quickly.

The bill, from Senators Angus King of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, would try to prevent money from being marooned indefinitely in donor-advised funds, which are akin to 401(k)s for philanthropy but have few regulations or requirements. More than $140 billion sits in these accounts. Another $1 trillion resides in endowments of private foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which are required to pay out only 5 percent of their assets each year, Nicholas Kulish reports for The New York Times.

The bill would close a loophole to speed giving to working charities: Foundations would no longer be able to meet the 5 percent annual payout requirement by giving to a donor-advised fund where there currently is no payout requirement. The bill also would prohibit foundations from counting the salaries or travel expenses of a donor’s family members toward the 5 percent minimum.

The proposed legislation would require that a donor who wants the full tax benefit right away would have to ensure that the funds are dispensed within 15 years. It does include a significant carve out for community foundations, which often support local institutions in smaller cities and towns across the United States. Under the bill, any donor could keep up to $1 million in a community foundation without falling under proposed new payout rules.

President Biden is set to revoke a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban TikTok from U.S. app stores.
Credit…Narinder Nanu/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday will revoke a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban the popular app TikTok and replace it with one that calls for a broader review of a number of foreign-controlled applications that could pose a security risk to Americans and their data.

According to a memo circulated by the Commerce Department and obtained by The New York Times, the order will address a number of applications and bolster recent actions the Biden administration has taken to curb the growing influence of Chinese technology companies.

It is the first significant step Mr. Biden has taken to address a challenge left for him by President Donald J. Trump, whose administration fought to ban TikTok and force its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app. Legal challenges immediately followed and the app is still available as the battle languishes in the courts.

Mr. Biden’s order “will direct the secretary of commerce to use a criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to evaluate and address the risks” posed by foreign-operated applications, according to the memo. “As warranted, the secretary will determine appropriate actions based on a thorough review of the risks posed by foreign adversary connected software applications.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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