Ellen DeGeneres to End Talk Show and More News: Live Updates

Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The operator of the Colonial Pipeline is expected to announce on Wednesday a timetable for resuming service of its vital fuel pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey and has been shut down since Friday after a ransomware attack.

At best, it would take several days and probably at least through the weekend to return gasoline, diesel and jet fuel shipments to normal. At worst, any delays could further encourage the panic buying that left thousands of outlets out of gasoline in Tennessee, Georgia and several other states in the Southeast, pushing up regional fuel prices.

Over the last few days, Colonial has opened segments of the pipeline manually to relieve some supply pressures in a few states, including Maryland and New Jersey. But anxiety has persisted despite the assertions of industry analysts that the impact of the shutdown would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon.

Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 8 to 10 cents a gallon on Wednesday, a price jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt Gulf of Mexico refinery and pipeline operations.

  • A gallon of gas increased an average of 10 cents in South Carolina and 6 cents in North Carolina on Wednesday, while gas in Virginia rose about 8 cents a gallon. Before the pipeline was shut down, gas prices were edging higher, as they typically do as summer approaches. Over the past week, gas has jumped 24 cents in Georgia and 18 cents in South Carolina.

  • Filling stations in Southern states were selling two to three times their normal amount of gasoline on Tuesday, according to the Oil Price Information Service, an organization that tracks the oil sector. Some stations are running out of fuel while others are limiting purchases to 10 gallons.

  • Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed an executive order suspending his state’s gasoline tax through Saturday, which amounts to roughly 20 cents a gallon. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida each declared a state of emergency in an effort to suspend some fuel transport rules.

  • American Airlines said it had added stops to two daily flights out of Charlotte, N.C. One, to Honolulu, will stop in Dallas, where customers will change planes. The other, to London, will stop in Boston to refuel. The flights are expected to return to their original schedules on Saturday.

  • Southwest Airlines said it was flying in supplemental fuel to Nashville, and United Airlines said it was flying extra fuel to Baltimore; Nashville; Savannah, Ga.; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina.

Ellen DeGeneres at the Golden Globe Awards in 2020.
Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

Ellen DeGeneres will step down from her daytime talk show next year, according to a spokeswoman for the host.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the winner of dozens of Emmys, was hugely successful for nearly two decades. But it has experienced a steep ratings decline in recent months — in the 2020-2021 television season, Ms. DeGeneres has lost more than a million viewers, a more significant drop than any of her daytime competitors.

The news of Ms. DeGeneres’s planned departure was reported earlier by The Hollywood Reporter, as part of an interview with the host.

The ratings slide began shortly after there were accusations of workplace misconduct on the show’s set. In July, BuzzFeed reported that several former and current staff members said they had confronted “racism, fear and intimidation” at work. Several staff members also said producers had sexually harassed them. After an investigation by Warner Bros., the company that produces the show, three high-level producers were fired.

Ms. DeGeneres apologized to her staff in the summer, when the show was on hiatus. On her return to the air in September, she told her viewers: “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”

The next season of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is its 19th. For much of its run, it was in the top tier of daytime programs, with millions tuning in each day. After its recent falloff, the size of its audience has become similar to the viewership for Maury Povich and Kelly Clarkson, hosts who, until recently, had not been considered bona fide rivals.

Ms. DeGeneres’s talk-show contract with Warner Bros. runs through 2022. She has publicly mused on stepping away from the program in recent years. She has also broadened her workload, having made a standup comedy special for Netflix and reaching a deal with Warner Media to create new shows for its streaming platform, HBO Max, among other projects.

“I just needed something to challenge me,” Ms. DeGeneres said in the interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore. I need something new to challenge me.”

Central bankers have said price pressures are likely to be temporary.
Credit…Andrew Spear for The New York Times

Consumer prices leapt higher in April, data released on Wednesday showed, a much-faster-than-expected jump that could resonate on Wall Street as investors try to determine if inflation could alter Federal Reserve policy.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 4.2 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said, the fastest pace since 2008. From March to April, prices increased 0.8 percent. Economists had expected the C.P.I. to rise 3.6 percent over the year, and 0.2 percent from the month before, based on the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

The core index, which strips out volatile food and energy, rose 0.9 percent in April from March — its biggest monthly increase since April 1982. It climbed 3 percent over 12 months.

Prices are shooting higher as inflation figures lap extremely weak readings from 2020 and as supply chain disruptions begin to bite and demand climbs. The monthly increase in April was broad-based, as prices for used cars accelerated and the cost of air travel, shelter and home furniture also increased.

But central bankers have said they think the jump will be short-lived, and have made it clear that they plan to look past a temporary increase when setting policy. The technical quirks at work in April will last only a few months, officials often point out, and while it is less clear when shortages will be resolved, they are expected to eventually work their way through the system as businesses ramp up production to meet demand.

The demand surge that seemed to drive the monthly gain in April — the one pushing travel costs higher, for instance — struck some economists as being exactly the kind of reopening bump that the Fed has said it can tolerate.

“It shows the services side of the economy is reawakening,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “This is largely what the Fed expected, it’s just coming faster and with larger force.”

Ellen DeGeneres to End Talk Show and More News: Live Updates

Percent change in Consumer Price

Index from a year ago

Some of April’s jump can be explained through

what’s known as base effects — prices fell

significantly last spring, so the increase now from

the year prior is larger.

2021 Consumer Price Index

Ellen DeGeneres to End Talk Show and More News: Live Updates

Percent change in Consumer Price

Index from a year ago

Some of April’s jump can be explained through what’s known as base effects — prices

fell significantly last spring, so the increase now from the year prior is larger.

2021 Consumer Price Index

Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, spoke shortly after the release, saying that he was “surprised” by the pace of increase, and that it might take time for supply to catch up with demand as the economy reopens.

“We’re outcome based, this is one data point,” Mr. Clarida cautioned. But he added that “over time we will be taking signal from this data, and it’s going to be very important that any pressures to inflation that arise be transitory.”

The Fed defines its inflation target using a separate measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditure index, but that metric relies on data from the C.P.I. and is also expected to move above the central bank’s goal. Fed officials aim for 2 percent annual inflation on average.

The concern on Wall Street has been that the fast recovering economy, huge stimulus efforts from Washington and pent-up demand from consumers could mean that price gains are more pronounced or sustained than the Fed can accept.

A key part of the central bank’s role is to keep price increases contained, so a steep acceleration in prices that is expected to last might prompt it to dial back policies that keep money cheap and credit flowing. Reducing the support would probably cause stock prices to sink.

On Wednesday, yields on government bonds rose in the minutes after the consumer price data was released and stocks declined for the third consecutive day.

Central bankers have been clear that they would react if, contrary to their expectations, signs of a persistent price takeoff emerged. But they have also said they want to avoid withdrawing support from the economy early, which could leave the labor market not completely healed and put longer-run inflation at risk of returning to uncomfortably low levels, where they have been mired for much of the past decade.

But Mr. Clarida said after the report that if there are signs that inflation is going to jump in a lasting way, “we would use our tools to bring inflation to our 2 percent longer-run goal.”

Stocks on Wall Street dropped for the third consecutive day on Wednesday, as new data on consumer prices added to investors’ concerns that inflation could upend the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep interest rates low to bolster the economy.

The S&P 500 fell 0.9 percent in early trading, pushing the benchmark index’s losses this week to more than 2 percent.

The drop came after the Labor Department said the Consumer Price Index climbed 4.2 percent during the month, from a year earlier, the fastest pace of increase since 2008. From March to April, prices increased 0.8 percent.

Analysts had been expecting a high annual increase, given the comparison to last April, when the economy was cratering amid the early stages of the Covid crisis and price growth slowed to a crawl. But the report still caught them off guard.

“While the high levels were expected, not many were expecting them to be this high,” wrote analysts at Bespoke Investment Group in a note on Wednesday.

Rising prices might sound like a good thing for companies, as it means they can charge more for their products, but for stock investors, the worry is that persistently hotter-than-expected inflation readings could force the Fed — which is supposed to focus on price stability as well as employment — to lift interest rates earlier than expected to.

Analysts agree that the Fed’s willingness to keep interest rates low has been a key driver of the stock market’s gains of more than 80 percent since March 2020; higher interest rates can discourage risk taking in the markets, and when concern about inflation dominates it can hit the highest-flying stocks hard.

On Wednesday, yields on long-term Treasury bonds — which are driven by expectations about both inflation and how the Fed may shift interest rates — rose sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.67 percent. It was as low as 1.50 percent late last week.

The Fed has signaled that it intends to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future, and has said that it will likely disregard signs of sharp price increases as the economy reopens from the virus, and will view them as transitory.

But on Wednesday, technology stocks, which are particularly sensitive to concerns about rising rates, were hit harder. The Nasdaq composite fell close to 1.5 percent in early trading.

Parts of the stock market that do better in an economy with prices that are rising quickly — such as financials and energy companies — were the days best performers.

Shopping for books in Barcelona last month. Spain’s economy, hit hard during the pandemic, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent this year.
Credit…Pau Barrena/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The economic outlook has brightened considerably across Europe after lockdowns restricted growth at the start of the year. Now, economists foresee the complete recovery by the end of next year from the early effects of the pandemic.

The British economy grew 2.1 percent in March from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The reopening of schools was one of the biggest reasons for the larger-than-expected jump in economic growth, as well as a rise in retail spending even though many stores remained closed because of lockdowns.

The statistics agency estimated that gross domestic product fell 1.5 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted, while the country was under lockdown with nonessential stores, restaurants and other services such as hairdressers shut.

Though the British economy is still nearly 9 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, the Bank of England forecasts it to return to that size by the end of this year.

The European Commission also upgraded its forecasts for the region on Wednesday. It predicted the European Union economies would grow 4.2 percent this year, up from a forecast of 3.7 percent three months ago. Germany’s economy is forecast to grow 3.4 percent this year and Spain, which suffered Europe’s deepest recession last year, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent.

“The E.U. and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased,” the commission, the executive arm for the European Union, said on Wednesday. The recovery will be driven by household spending, investment and a rising demand for European exports, it said.

Still, despite the optimistic outlook, the commission warned that the risks were “high and will remain so as long as the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic hangs over the economy.”

Even as millions of people were vaccinated, the number of new coronavirus cases globally reached a peak in late April as the pandemic has struck especially hard in India. The uneven distribution of vaccines around the world and the emergence of new variants has the potential to set back the recovery.

The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research in London said on Monday that it did not expect the British economy to return to its prepandemic size until the end of 2022, predicting a slower recovery than the central bank.

Economists at the institute expect lower global growth because of uncertainty about the global vaccine rollout and lingering doubts about the end of the pandemic inducing more people to hold onto their savings, rather than spend it.

SoftBank reported a net profit of more than $36 billion for the year ending in March.
Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The comeback continued for SoftBank on Wednesday, as the Japanese technology investment firm posted a net profit of more than $36 billion for the year ending in March.

Yet a recent slide in confidence in technology stocks could make it more difficult for Masayoshi Son, the founder of the technology conglomerate turned investment powerhouse, to keep up the momentum after what seemed like an impossible change of fortune.

Last May, SoftBank was in crisis after posting a loss of more than $12 billion. Its big bets on Wall Street favorites, like WeWork, the troubled office space company, and Uber, resulted in huge losses.

But it was not down for long. Riding high on a post-pandemic stock boom, SoftBank has since notched seemingly unthinkable gains. When compared with its previously released figures, the year-end results implied a profit for the first three months of 2021 alone of more than $17 billion.

In a live-streamed press event Wednesday, Mr. Son opened by showing a photo of the humble town where SoftBank began, before calling the huge earnings numbers “lucky plus lucky plus lucky.”

SoftBank Group’s net income

Mr. Son told investors on Wednesday that he would not deny that he is a gambler. But he said he regretted some decisions. The question now is whether his current run of luck can continue.

SoftBank’s profit, mostly paper gains from increases in investment values, was based heavily on a jump in the price of South Korean e-commerce firm Coupang after it listed earlier this year. Results were also lifted by strong share price rises from other SoftBank investments, DoorDash and Uber.

The share price of all three companies has fallen sharply over the past month on a broader pullback in technology shares, in part related to fears over inflation out of the United States.

Investors appeared more interested in the broader tech sell off than Mr. Son’s luck, as SoftBank’s shares fell more than 3 percent on Wednesday, despite the solid gains.

Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president at the European Commission, announcing Amazon’s $300 million tax bill in 2017.
Credit…Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Amazon on Wednesday won an appeal against European Union efforts to force the company to pay more taxes in the region, illustrating how American tech giants are turning to the courts to beat back tougher oversight.

The General Court of the European Union struck down a 2017 decision by European regulators that ordered Amazon to pay $300 million to Luxembourg, home of the company’s European headquarters and where regulators said the company received unfair tax treatment. The court said regulators did not sufficiently prove that Amazon had violated a law meant to prevent companies from receiving special tax benefits from European governments.

The decision, which comes as European Union and American officials attempt to reach a global tax agreement that could result in higher levies against tech companies, undercuts an effort by Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president at the European Commission, who issued the Amazon penalty and has led efforts to force big tech firms to pay more in taxes. The companies have been criticized for using complex corporate structures to take advantage of low-tax countries like Luxembourg and Ireland. In 2020, Amazon earned 44 billion euros in Europe, but reported paying no taxes in Luxembourg.

Tech companies are using the courts to fight European regulators trying to rein in the industry’s power. Last year, Apple won an appeal against Ms. Vestager to annul a decision to repay about $14.9 billion in taxes to Ireland, where the company has a European headquarters. That case is now before the European Union’s highest court.

Google has appealed three decisions and billions of dollars in fines issued by the European Commission over anticompetitive business practices related to its search engine, advertising business and Android mobile operating system.

More legal battles may loom, as regulators have issued preliminary charges against Apple and Amazon for violating antitrust laws.

On Wednesday, Amazon cheered the decision by the Luxembourg-based court.

“We welcome the court’s decision, which is in line with our longstanding position that we followed all applicable laws and that Amazon received no special treatment,” Conor Sweeney, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

Ms. Vestager said the European Commission would study the Amazon ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

“All companies should pay their fair share of tax,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement. “Tax advantages given only to selected multinational companies harm fair competition in the E.U.”

Thomas Plantenga, Vinted’s chief executive, in 2019. The company, an online marketplace for secondhand clothes, recently raised funding that put its valuation at $4.24 billion.
Credit…Vinted-Investment/via Reuters

The pandemic revealed just how important e-commerce is to the future of the global fashion industry. In a year of lockdowns, millions of shoppers turned online to satisfy their desire for clothes, accelerating a shift toward digital sales and rapid growth for many e-commerce companies.

This week, two leading European names announced their latest funding rounds, as investors look to capitalize on the expansion of the online fashion market.

Lyst, a London-based online fashion platform with 150 million users, said it had raised $85 million ahead of a planned initial public offering. In 2020, the company — which acts as an inventory-free search portal for high-fashion brands and stores to sell to trend-focused online shoppers — said it had seen a 1,100 percent increase in new users on its app. It said the company has a gross merchandise value of more than $500 million.

Appetite for secondhand fashion also boomed in the last year, as more shoppers looked to declutter wardrobes, earn cash by selling old clothes and became more aware of the environmental impact of the industry.

Vinted, which is based in Lithuania, says it is Europe’s largest secondhand fashion marketplace with more than 45 million members globally. On Tuesday, the company said it had raised 250 million euros in a Series F funding round, giving the start-up a valuation of 3.5 billion euros, or $4.24 billion.

“We want to replicate the success we’ve built in our existing European markets in new geographies and will continue investing not only to improve our product, but also to ensure we continue to have a positive impact,” said Vinted’s chief executive, Thomas Plantenga.

The electric Endurance pickup truck made by Lordstown Motors. An investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks.
Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Lordstown Motors is one of a dozen electric vehicle start-ups that have wowed investors with big plans to revolutionize the auto industry.

But in February, a prototype it was testing in Michigan caught fire. Then, in April, another prototype dropped out of a 280-mile off-road race in Baja California after just 40 miles. Lordstown is also being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and its stock has tumbled from a high of about $30 last year to less than $8.

The swift rise and stunning decline of Lordstown are emblematic of the recent mania for E.V. businesses that are far from making a product, let alone selling it, Neal E. Boudette and Matthew Goldstein report for The New York Times. That frenzy has been driven by investors looking for the next Tesla, a pioneer in the industry that has a strong sales lead over other electric-car makers.

But Lordstown seems far from achieving its goal of churning out electric pickup trucks starting in September and becoming a challenger to G.M. and Ford Motor.

It’s not alone. Shares of Nikola, which is developing heavy trucks, have fallen from around $65 to about $11, for example. The S.E.C. is looking into allegations by an investment firm that Nikola made false statements about its technology.

Buying protective face masks following a small outbreak of coronavirus disease in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday.
Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Growing concerns in Taiwan about a small but worsening coronavirus outbreak drove a sharp intraday plunge in its stock market on Wednesday, as investors worried about new government restrictions on businesses in a place that has largely escaped the pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, Taiwan’s health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said that the island’s new outbreak has reached a “very severe stage” and that restrictions could be upgraded in “the coming days.” He spoke after the government reported 16 new cases of local infection on Wednesday and seven on Tuesday.

The Taiwan Stock Exchange weighted index slumped as much as 8.6 percent intraday following the news, a nearly 13 percent loss from its April peak. The market regained some ground later in the day and finished down 4.1 percent.

Taiwan has been a rare success story in a pandemic-stricken world. The island democracy threw up its borders when the pandemic first began to spread from mainland China and has heavily limited travel. It has recorded only 1,210 total cases, according to a tally by The New York Times.

But the authorities haven’t been able to trace the handful of cases that have popped up in recent days, raising questions about whether the government will limit the number of people who can gather within restaurants or other businesses.

Taiwan instituted some Covid-related restrictions on Tuesday, the first in a long time. It suspended large events, limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people and indoor gatherings to 100 people. On Wednesday morning, the health minister said that the restrictions might be stiffened within days.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Lina Khan to be a member of the Federal Trade Commission, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate that would make Ms. Kahn, a prominent critic of the tech giants, one of its most powerful regulators.

The nomination of Ms. Khan, 32, has buoyed progressive hopes that President Biden will try to rein in Silicon Valley. At her confirmation hearing in April, Ms. Khan said that she saw a “whole range of potential risks” associated with the tech companies’ abilities to take over markets and dominate them.

Mr. Biden also appointed Tim Wu, a legal scholar who has pushed for antitrust action against the tech companies, to an economic policy role in the White House. Mr. Biden has yet to say who will lead the F.T.C. or the Justice Department’s antitrust division during his administration.

Ms. Khan would join the commission as antitrust regulators mount a campaign against the power of the largest tech companies. The F.T.C. last year filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of cornering the market through acquisitions of small companies like Instagram and WhatsApp. The agency has also been investigating Amazon, and the Department of Justice last fall filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Google.

Ms. Khan’s ascendence to the F.T.C. would cap a quick rise. She came to prominence in law school, when she wrote a law review note charting how Amazon’s power exposed flaws in the way judges had enforced antitrust law. After law school, she worked for a progressive member of the F.T.C. and helped write a House Judiciary Committee report criticizing the sweeping power of the tech giants. Last year, Ms. Khan also joined Columbia Law School as a professor.

Some conservatives have worried that she would be too heavy-handed in regulating industry. Four Republicans specified that they were voting against her nomination.

Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, voted for her nomination but said he shared some concerns about Ms. Khan.

“I believe she is focused on addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day: reining in the big social media platforms,” he said. “However, I do remain concerned that a broadly over-regulatory approach as an F.T.C. commissioner could have a negative effect on the economy and undermine free-market principles.”

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