Rivian, an E.V. maker with big ambitions but few sales, will build a new factory in Georgia.
The company, which began trading on the stock exchange last month, said it lost $1.2 billion in the third quarter.,
A Rivian assembly line in Normal, Ill. Rivian has raised more than $10 billion, allowing it to splurge on a new plant even before fully using the one it already occupies.Credit…Lyndon French for The New York Times
Rivian Automotive, an electric vehicle company that had an initial public offering last month, said on Thursday that it planned to spend $5 billion to build its second factory, in Georgia.
The announcement, which came on the same day that Rivian said it lost $1.2 billion in the three months ending in September, was the latest investment by an automaker aiming to capture a big chunk of the fast-growing electric vehicle market. Tesla, General Motors, Ford Motor and others are spending billions of dollars on new car and battery factories around the world.
Rivian’s new Georgia plant, east of Atlanta in Morgan and Walton counties, will have the capacity to produce up to 400,000 vehicles a year. The plant is expected to eventually employ 7,500 people. The company also said it would expand its Illinois plant to produce up to 200,000 vehicles a year, up from its capacity of 150,000 now. The expansion is supposed to add 800 to 1,000 jobs next year.
The company currently makes vehicles at a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. That factory has produced fewer than a thousand vehicles, but Rivian said it had orders for about 71,000 pickups and sport-utility vehicles as of Wednesday. That number does not include 100,000 delivery vans Rivian says it plans to build for Amazon, one of its biggest investors.
But producing all those trucks and vans will not be easy. Rivian said on Thursday it would fall short of its target of making 1,200 vehicles this year by a “few hundred vehicles.”
Rivian can afford to splurge on a new plant even before fully using the one it already occupies because Amazon and other investors appear to believe that Rivian will be one of the few new automakers that will thrive in a world where electric vehicles overtake combustion-engine cars. These investors expect Rivian to take market share from Tesla, which dominates the electric vehicle business, and from more established companies like G.M. and Ford.
Stock market investors have been enthusiastic about Rivian, bidding up its shares after they started trading in early November. The company has a market value of more than $90 billion, more than Ford, another investor in Rivian.
Yet, it will likely be years before Rivian’s investments will bear any profits. In the first nine months of the year, Rivian lost $2.2 billion, compared with a $665 million loss in the same period last year.
The company said it brought in just $1 million in revenue in the third quarter. The company had sold just 386 vehicles as of Wednesday and said it would deliver its first “saleable” delivery van to Amazon this month.
Rivian was founded in 2009 by R.J. Scaringe, an M.I.T.-trained engineer, and it remains well-funded. Even before listing its shares, Rivian had piled up more than $10 billion from Amazon, Ford and other investors.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Fifteen weeks ago at the start of the trial for Elizabeth Holmes, prosecutors laid out a central theme of their case: The founder of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos had deliberately chosen to commit fraud.
“Out of time and out of money, Elizabeth Holmes decided to lie,” Robert Leach, the assistant U.S. attorney who is a lead prosecutor in the case, said at the time.
On Thursday, prosecutors hammered home the same theme in closing arguments. Ms. Holmes had a choice between watching Theranos slowly collapse or lying outright, said Jeff Schenk, an assistant U.S. attorney. In the end, he said, “she chose fraud over business failure.”
The prosecution’s closing arguments followed months of testimony that featured 32 witnesses including Ms. Holmes, as well as the minutiae of financial reports and lab tests. Her case is being closely watched as a referendum on the worst excesses of Silicon Valley’s start-up culture, which prizes change-the-world claims and fast growth. The verdict could influence whether prosecutors pursue similar white-collar criminal cases at a time when tech start-ups are swimming in funding and hype.
The jury of eight men and four women will begin to deliberate the fate of Ms. Holmes once the defense concludes its closing arguments, most likely on Friday. Ms. Holmes, 37, who has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The prosecution’s case boils down to proving one thing: that Ms. Holmes intended to deceive Theranos’s investors, doctors and patients. Proving intent is the hardest part of prosecuting a white-collar criminal trial, said James Melendres, a former federal prosecutor.
“It goes to what was happening inside someone’s mind, which is extremely hard to prove definitively,” he said.
Before Theranos imploded, Ms. Holmes stood out as the rare successful female founder in the male-dominated tech industry. She had founded Theranos in 2003, dropped out of Stanford in 2004 to work on the start-up and raised nearly $1 billion from investors for the company’s supposedly revolutionary blood testing technology.
But a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2015 revealed that Theranos’s technology did not work and that Ms. Holmes appeared to have been courting investors and commercial partners with overblown and misleading claims. The company collapsed in 2018 after voiding millions of its blood tests.
That same year, Ms. Holmes was indicted on fraud charges. Her trial began on Sept. 8 after numerous delays. Prosecutors outlined six main areas of Ms. Holmes’s alleged deception, including lies about the abilities of Theranos’s technology, its work with the military and its business performance.
The government called former Theranos employees to testify that the start-up’s technology regularly failed quality-control tests, returned inaccurate results and could perform only a dozen tests, rather than the hundreds that Ms. Holmes claimed. Doctors and patients spoke about how they had made medical decisions based on Theranos tests that turned out to be wrong.
Prosecutors also showed a set of Theranos validation reports that bore the logos of pharmaceutical companies that had neither prepared nor signed off on the conclusions therein. They showed letters to investors in which Ms. Holmes falsely claimed Theranos had military contracts and emails from employees that said the company hid device failures and removed abnormal blood test results.
In testimony, investors and pharmaceutical executives said that Ms. Holmes’s misleading claims had led them to invest millions of dollars in Theranos or sign contracts with her company.
“The government spent a lot of time putting in evidence about not just one particular alleged misrepresentation, but several,” Mr. Melendres said. “If you line up three, four, five, a half-dozen misstatements, it gets harder for the jury to pull together on anything other than that there was an intentional scheme.”
Last month, Ms. Holmes took the stand and painted herself as a well-meaning entrepreneur who was na?ve and relied too much on those around her. She said she had been emotionally and physically abused by Ramesh Balwani, Theranos’s former chief operating officer and her former boyfriend. Mr. Balwani, who faces identical fraud charges to Ms. Holmes and faces trial next year, has denied the allegations.
On Thursday, Mr. Schenk focused on the facts and evidence, in contrast to Ms. Holmes’s emotional performance on the stand. He walked through the witnesses one by one and outlined each of the 11 counts against Ms. Holmes. At times, he instructed jurors to write down exhibit numbers to refer back to during deliberations.
Over and over, Mr. Schenk highlighted claims Ms. Holmes herself had made, playing a recording of her exaggerating Theranos’s military ties to investors and highlighting inaccurate quotes she gave to journalists. He showed jurors a slide listing her false statements alongside the exhibits that proved she knew they were false.
“She is making false statement after false statement about work Theranos was doing with the Department of Defense in order to get investors to invest,” Mr. Schenk said.
He displayed emails to Ms. Holmes, in which she was informed of problems with the accuracy of Theranos’s technology, and a timeline showing that she forged ahead with the start-up’s commercial introduction nonetheless.
“She was involved; she’s responsible; she knows,” Mr. Schenk said.
In the afternoon, the defense began its closing argument by positing that the government did not tell the full story of Theranos’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies. Kevin Downey, Ms. Holmes’s lawyer, said Theranos had some contracts with pharmaceutical companies and pointed out instances in which she offered to connect investors with the drugmakers, arguing that Ms. Holmes did not intend to deceive investors about those relationships.
“The picture can change quite a good deal as a result of waiting for the full story and listening through the full material,” Mr. Downey said.
The World Economic Forum is planning to go ahead with its annual meeting of the global elite in Davos, Switzerland, next month, even as coronavirus cases spike around the world.
“We are hopeful that Delta will be on its way down by the time of our annual meeting, and we are hoping that the Omicron wave will not be as bad as some people think,” Peter Vanham, a spokesman for the organization, said on Thursday. “But everything depends on the pandemic.”
Mr. Vanham said a final decision on whether to cancel the event — which drew roughly 3,000 people before the pandemic — will be made by Jan. 6, 10 days before it is scheduled to start.
For more than 50 years, the World Economic Forum has brought together luminaries from the worlds of business, politics and nonprofit organizations to the Alps for a weeklong series of lectures, panel discussions and dinners. At the event, held in an upscale ski resort town, world leaders mingle with the chief executives from many of the world’s largest companies and the top bosses of Wall Street. Thousands more gather to attend unofficial conferences, dinners and parties on the sidelines of the main meeting.
The last time people gathered in Davos was in January 2020, when many executives heard about Covid-19 for the first time. Much of the world shut down roughly two months later, and the 2021 gathering was canceled.
But for the past several months, the World Economic Forum, which is based in Geneva, has been making plans to proceed with its annual meeting much as it had before the pandemic. The organizers have begun transforming Davos into labyrinth of high-security event spaces that includes a conference center, several hotels and a long stretch of the town’s main street.
“We’re well into the phase where our sunk costs are being made,” Mr. Vanham said. “That’s a decision in itself — to prepare fully for next month, even if that means that in two or three weeks we might be confronted with a late cancellation because of Omicron. But we are definitely full steam ahead at this point.”
The event’s organizers were emboldened by the fact that the Delta variant, which had sent average daily coronavirus cases in Switzerland to their highest level of the pandemic not long ago, had crested. Omicron, which Mr. Vanham called “the X factor,” has introduced uncertainly recently. “We will know just how bad that X factor is by the end of the year,” he said.
Official attendance for the January event will be reduced by a fifth, Mr. Vanham said. He added that hotels in Davos were also expecting roughly 30 to 50 percent fewer attendees than in previous years.
Still, thousands of attendees are planning to attend, including the chief executives of companies like Verizon, AstraZeneca and IBM. The leaders of at least three Wall Street banks, who often speak on the forum’s main stage, are still planning to attend for now, according to executives with knowledge of their banks’ plans.
Bankers, who often use the forum to network with clients, are scheduling meetings for now and postponing the decision on whether to attend or cancel until closer to Jan. 16, when the event is slated to begin.
Should the event go ahead, the organizers will install stringent measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. All those who attend the official meeting are required to be vaccinated and have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flying to Switzerland. Once they land in the country, they have to take another test and will only receive their credentials if they test negative.
And once the meeting begins, the organizers are planning to require attendees to take PCR tests every 24 or 48 hours at one of 14 on-site testing centers.
A former nominee for director of the so-called blank-check company that plans to merge with former President Donald J. Trump’s social media start-up is suing, claiming he was frozen out of the deal.
Brian Shevland, the former nominee, is seeking monetary damages over what his suit calls a “brazen act of fraud.”
The lawsuit, which is aimed at the chief executive of Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special purpose acquisition company that raised nearly $300 million for the merger, was filed in Miami federal court on Tuesday. Mr. Shevland, who runs his own investment management firm, says that he only found out that he was no longer a nominee for the company’s board when Patrick Orlando, Digital World’s chief executive, filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission that no longer included his name.
The lawsuit says the unexplained removal from the filing in August, a month before the Digital World’s initial public offering, “cemented the freeze-out” of Mr. Shevland, who said he was owed 7,500 shares of Digital World and was deprived of his right to buy more shares at a low price. The suit says Mr. Orlando also broke a commitment to involve Mr. Shevland in other SPACs.
In the lawsuit, Mr. Shevland claims he was “instrumental” in securing the deal with Trump Media & Technology Group and raising capital for Digital World.
The lawsuit does not provide much detail about the role Mr. Shevland, the chief executive office of Bluestone Capital Management, played in the merger talks. But it does confirm reporting by The New York Times that Mr. Orlando and his colleagues were in talks with representatives of Trump Media earlier this year.
Digital World last week disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission had opened an investigation into the events surrounding its communications with Trump Media. When acquisition companies, which are known as SPACs, go public, they are not supposed to already have merger target in sight. Digital World had said in its filings that it had not engaged in any discussions with any potential merger targets before its initial public offering in September.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is looking into trading in Digital World securities before the announcement of the deal on Oct. 20.
A lawyer for Mr. Shevland declined to comment beyond the lawsuit. Mr. Orlando did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit says that when some people associated with Mr. Orlando had initially objected to doing a deal with Trump Media for “personal reasons,” Mr. Shevland pushed for a reconsideration of the issue.
“Shevland reminded Orlando that their obligation was to ignore personal beliefs and instead to maximize shareholder value,” the lawsuit says. “Due to Shevland’s efforts, a second vote was held whereby T.M.T.G. ultimately was chosen as an appropriate SPAC merger candidate.”
The lawsuit does not specify when those votes were held.
Digital World and Trump Media disclosed last week that they had raised an additional $1 billion from investors to finance the merger. In a regulatory filing on Wednesday, Digital World said 36 unnamed investors had committed money to the private placement or private investment in public equity.
The company also disclosed that an affiliate of E.F. Hutton, the investment bank pitching the deal to investors, will receive a $25 million sales commission.
The Washington Post will bring all its employees back to the office by mid-February and mandate booster shots and weekly testing for every staff member.
The Post delivered its latest return-to-office guidance to staff at a town-hall meeting on Wednesday and in an email (titled “Coronavirus Update #44”) on Thursday, which was reviewed by The New York Times.
From Feb. 15, all employees based in major office locations will be required to work from the office at least three days a week, the email said. Managers must return to their offices three days a week from Jan. 31.
The email said that more than 99 percent of The Post’s work force was already vaccinated, but “out of an abundance of caution, we are taking the additional step of requiring weekly testing for everyone returning to an office location, beginning on Jan. 31, 2022.”
The Post said in the email that there would be on-site testing clinics with rapid antigen tests in its Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Washington offices.
The Post staff were first told about the booster mandate in a Dec. 10 email, which was reiterated on Thursday.
“Booster shots are now incorporated into our mandatory vaccination policy — that is, they are a condition of employment, regardless of your location,” the email on Thursday said.
The email noted that those who had children under the age of 5 or lived with someone who was immunocompromised could apply for a temporary extension to work from home full time.
As the Omicron variant sweeps through the United States, other companies have begun mandating booster shots for employees. The National Football League said on Monday that it would mandate boosters for coaches and staff members who work directly with the players. The Metropolitan Opera announced on Wednesday that it would require booster shots of all employees and audience members from Jan. 17.
Universities and colleges are also starting to establish booster mandates. New York University said Tuesday that it would require all staff members and students to have booster shots to be on campus next semester.
U.S. stocks slid on Thursday, giving back some of the previous day’s gains, as technology stocks tumbled.
The S&P 500, the U.S. benchmark, fell 0.9 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed 2.5 percent lower. The S&P 500 had risen 1.6 percent on Wednesday, rallying after the Federal Reserve said that it would wind down its bond-buying program more quickly. The bond-buying program is now set to end in March. The Fed also projected that interest rates, which are now set near zero, could rise three times next year.
Higher interest rates might discourage investment in riskier assets, like stocks, and shares of technology firms — which have proved sensitive to changing views on interest rates — were sharply lower. Apple fell nearly 4 percent, while Microsoft and Amazon dropped more than 2.5 percent.
At the same time, a spike in coronavirus infections that continues to prompt event cancellations and renewed travel restrictions. pushed travel and leisure stocks lower. Norwegian Cruise Line fell about 3.6 percent, while American Airlines dropped 2.8 and United Airlines was down 3.5 percent.
Earlier Thursday, the Labor Department reported a rise in initial jobless claims. Claims for unemployment benefits rose by 18,000 last week to 206,000 after falling to their lowest level in five decades the week before.
“While seasonal factors have made the data volatile in recent weeks, the trend in jobless claims points to historically low layoff activity and is consistent with a tight labor market,” Lydia Boussour, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note.
European stock indexes rallied after Bank of England officials voted to raise the bank’s interest rate to combat a surge in inflation. The move comes as Britain faces a surge in coronavirus infections amid the emergence of the Omicron variant, which could pose a risk to the economic recovery. The Stoxx Europe 600 climbed 1.2 percent.
Oil prices rose, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, up about 2 percent to $72.38 a barrel.
Britain’s central bank surprised markets on Thursday by increasing its main interest rate for the first time in three-and-a-half years to combat a surge in inflation, despite the economic uncertainty posed by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Policymakers voted to raise the bank’s interest rate by 15 basis points to 0.25 percent. The rate had been at 0.1 percent since March 2020, when the onset of the pandemic sent financial markets careening and the government first introduced lockdown measures.
The Bank of England was the first major central bank to raise interest rates as inflation climbed to the highest level in a decade and the bank said it would not peak until April. Eight of the nine policymakers voted for a rate increase, compared with just two in November. After the announcement the pound jumped against the U.S. dollar, gaining more than 1 percent.
“There was some value in waiting for further information on the degree to which Omicron was likely to escape the protection of current vaccines and on the initial economic effects of this new wave,” policymakers said, according to the minutes of the central bank’s meeting. “There was, however, also a strong case for tightening monetary policy now” because of the strength on inflationary pressures in the economy.
Britain set a record on Wednesday for the reported number of coronavirus cases — 78,610 — and England’s chief medical official warned more records would be broken. The government has resisted putting major restrictions on businesses and social life, focusing instead on speeding up the rollout of booster vaccines and urging people to work from home. But now,Christmas parties and other get-togethers are being voluntarily canceled in droves, gyms are asking for more government support and people are retreating back into their homes.
For the Bank of England, the virus surge had threatened to delay policymakers’ efforts to get interest rates off the ground, especially if they judged that the new variant posed a serious risk to the economy. In their statement, they highlighted the uncertainty but said that in some scenarios, the spread of the new variant could worsen inflation.
“This is a surprising decision,” said Krishna Guha, a central bank analyst at Evercore ISI, because of the heightened uncertainty relating to Omicron. “But it reflects warning signs from the labor market and inflation expectations that there is a clear and present danger that excess inflation could become entrenched in the U.K.”
The Bank of England announced the rate increase the day after its enormous bond-buying program was set to be completed, bringing the total stock of government and corporate bonds it holds to ?895 billion.
The Bank of England is far from alone in trying to deal with historically high levels of inflation. In the United States, prices are increasing at the fastest pace in nearly 40 years.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said it would cut down its bond-buying program by more than it had previously announced, while policymakers signaled that interest rates could rise three times next year. Inflation in the eurozone is the highest its ever been since the creation of the common currency. On Thursday, the European Central Bank said it would end its pandemic-era bond-buying program in March but expand an older, smaller stimulus program.
Paul Mortimer-Lee, the deputy director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London, said he was worried that central banks were reacting to inflation too late.
“My worry is it’s too late, that this horse has departed the stable,” he said. In Britain and the United States, the central banks “wanted to believe inflation was transitory and they didn’t want to believe what was right in front of their noses, that it’s been spreading,’ he said. “Now they’ve kind of woke up and they’re in catch-up mode.”
In early November, Britain’s central bank caught financial markets off guard by not raising interest rates after policymakers had signaled that high inflation was becoming a concern. At the time, they said they would wait for more information on whether the end of the government-funded furlough program in September led to an increase in unemployment. But they added that a rate increase would be likely be necessary in the “coming months.”
So far the data has shown an increase in payrolls, a continuing decline in the unemployment rate and record levels of job vacancies. The labor market has responded as policymakers hoped, but inflation has sped away from their expectations, increasing the pressure to raise rates.
The annual inflation rate rose to 5.1 percent last month, the highest since September 2011, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. Last month, the central bank forecast that inflation would reach 4.5 percent by November and not peak at 5 percent until April. On Thursday, the bank updated its projections. Inflation would stay at about 5 percent through most of the winter and peak at around 6 percent in April. The central bank targets a 2 percent inflation rate.
Britain’s inflation rate
“You’ve got these awful numbers,” Mr. Mortimer-Lee said of the inflation forecasts, “and the heaviest period of the year for wage bargaining is the first quarter.” There is already evidence that unions are demanding higher wage settlements in response to the decade-high level of inflation.
“These sorts of numbers are really what can unanchor inflation expectations,” he added. “And while the bank knows it can’t do anything about this first wave of prices, it’s got to try and stop it cascading into second and third rounds,” such as unsustainable higher wages.
For now, the inflation risk has outweighed growth concerns as the end of Britain’s economic recovery is delayed. On Thursday, the central bank also cut its growth forecasts for the fourth quarter by half a percent. At the end of this year, the economy would still be 1.5 percent smaller than its prepandemic size. The government’s latest measures and voluntary social distancing would weigh on the economy in the first quarter of next year, the bank predicted.
“The experience since March 2020 suggests that successive waves of Covid appear to have had less impact on G.D.P.,” the minutes said. “Although there is uncertainty around the extent to which that will prove to be the case on this occasion.”
Before the spread of Omicron, the British economy was already losing some momentum as supply chain disruptions and product and labor shortages hamstrung companies. In October, gross domestic product increased just 0.1 percent from the previous month, with the accommodation and food industries declining. That looks set to worsen as the hospitality industry risks losing out on revenue during the crucial festive period.
“The new Omicron variant is a significant new source of uncertainty for the outlook,” Ambrose Crofton, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said in a note to clients. But if spending is diverted to more goods instead of services, or simply delayed, allowing the economy to regain its lost output at a later point, “then further rate hikes will follow,” he added.
Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.
The European Central Bank announced on Thursday that it would end its pandemic-era bond-buying program in March, but would try to ease the transition by pledging additional support for the eurozone economy in the coming year.
The bank left its interest rate untouched, and Christine Lagarde, the bank’s president, said that it was “very unlikely” it would move higher in the coming year despite rising inflation, which the bank sees as largely driven by high energy prices.
Two other major central banks have taken a different approach. Earlier Thursday, the Bank of England voted to raise the bank’s interest rate by 15 basis points to 0.25 percent. The day before, the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled that it would end its pandemic-era bond purchases in March and raise rates three times next year.
Given the uncertainty caused by the latest variant of the coronavirus, Omicron, which has led European governments to reintroduce lockdowns and other restrictions on public life, E.C.B. policymakers said they needed “to maintain flexibility.”
“We have to be very attentive to what data tell tells us,” Ms. Lagard said.
The bank has two bond-purchase programs intended to inject liquidity into the economies it oversees — one that began in 2015 and the other last year, in response to the pandemic. The bank said on Thursday that the pandemic-era program would end, as scheduled, in March.
But the older program will expand: The bank will double its bond purchases to 40 billion euros in the second quarters of 2022, dropping that amount to 30 billion euros in the third quarter and then keep the program going at a monthly pace of 20 billion euros. That will remain the case “for as long as necessary” to reinforce the accommodative impact of its policy rates, the bank said.
There are concerns that the fast-spreading Omicron variant will worsen disrupted supply chains and labor shortages. It could further slow the economic recovery, while making the inflation risk more persistent. The longer it takes for supply chains to untangle, the longer businesses will see their costs elevated and potentially pass that on to consumers.
“We certainly spent a large amount of time during the Governing Council meeting addressing the issue of uncertainty in the face of what I have described for you as a strong recovery,” Ms. Lagarde told reporters.
At the same time, the data the bank is receiving from member states that use the euro and companies, entrepreneurs and others in the currency bloc shows a stronger-than-expected recovery. Unemployment rates are down and there are indications that supply chains are beginning to flow again, Ms. Lagarde said.
But with much of Europe still in the grips of a fourth wave of the coronavirus driven by the Omicron variant, policymakers decided to stick with a cautious approach, she said.
That included allowing the pandemic-era bond-buying program ending in March to be revived if more support was needed. “Within our mandate, under stressed conditions, flexibility will remain an element of monetary policy whenever threats to monetary policy transmission jeopardize the attainment of price stability,” the bank said, explaining its decision.
“With today’s decision, the E.C.B. has entered into a very cautious tapering process,” Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, wrote in a note. “Even if the E.C.B. cannot directly stop inflation, it has definitely run out of arguments for continuing with all emergency measures and ultra-loose monetary policy as if nothing had happened.”
At the European Central Bank’s last meeting in October, Ms. Lagarde, insisted that price rises would be temporary even though they would take longer to decline than previously expected.
Already, the annual rate of inflation in the eurozone has climbed to 4.9 percent, the highest since the existence of the currency bloc. It is even higher in Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, at 5.2 percent. There are also signs that workers and unions are bargaining for higher wages, to keep in line with current bout of high inflation, which could keep prices higher for even longer.
These factors led the bank to raise its forecast for inflation next year to 3.2 percent, well above its target of 2 percent and significantly higher than the 1.7 percent that it had projected in September.
But by 2023 and into 2024, the bank foresees prices dropping to 1.8 percent, settling just below the target. Should that change, European policymakers are ready to respond, Ms. Lagarde said.
A trio of the world’s most important central banks took steps toward pulling back economic support this week as rapidly rising inflation burdens consumers and worries policymakers. But another threat hovered over those decisions: The new coronavirus variant Omicron.
Economists aren’t yet sure what Omicron is going to mean for the global economy, but many are worried. Caseloads are rising rapidly in some places, and countries are already reacting by limiting travel. While the new strain of the virus seems less severe, the fact that it transmits so quickly could still lead to overwhelmed hospitals, analysts warn — and that is often the trigger for local economic shutdowns that toss people out of jobs and slow consumer spending.
Central banks are tracking that threat, but reacting to another reality: Inflation has taken off. Across advanced economies in Europe and in the United States, price gains have popped higher this year as tangled supply chains and goods shortages tied to the pandemic bite. Price pressures are lingering, and in the United States, proving broader than many had expected.
Still, some analysts questioned whether the course the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank are charting — one toward less economic support — would hold up in the face of another winter virus wave. It is a moment of vast uncertainty as policymakers move into inflation-fighting mode.
“The core issue is: We’re dealing with many unusual and unfamiliar moving parts in the economy,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “The dynamics are really complicated this time.”
The Fed announced on Wednesday that it would slow down its bond purchases even more quickly that it had planned, which should position it to raise interest rates — its more traditional and powerful tool for cooling the economy — as soon as March, or shortly after. Officials estimated that they could raise rates three times next year.
The move completed a pivot for America’s central bank, which had been cautiously backing away from supporting the economy, hoping to give the job market more time to heal.
“There’s a real risk now, I believe, that inflation may be more persistent,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said at a news conference, later adding, “that’s part of the reason behind our move today, is to put ourselves in a position to be able to deal with that risk.”
Mr. Powell was also “quite blunt in asserting that the economy is strong enough to take faster tapering in its stride, no matter how bad” the Omicron wave is, Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics wrote in a note responding to the meeting.
“We aren’t quite so sure,” he said. Mr. Shepherdson thinks that Omicron’s infectiousness could make it a growth risk in the United States, but pointed out that the moment of “maximum economic danger” should come soon — so if the Fed is unable to stay the course on removing support, that would become clear quickly.
The Bank of England took an even more proactive inflation-fighting step Thursday, raising interest rates in a move that surprised analysts, giving Britain’s ongoing Omicron surge.
“There was some value in waiting for further information on the degree to which Omicron was likely to escape the protection of current vaccines and on the initial economic effects of this new wave,” minutes from the meeting acknowledged. “There was, however, also a strong case for tightening monetary policy now.”
And the European Central Bank took a slower, more cautious step away from supporting the economy. It announced Thursday that it would slow and soon stop a pandemic-era bond buying program. But the central bank also said it would boost purchases in another program to smooth that transition and allow it to be flexible, given the uncertainty about the pandemic.
“Inflation is expected to remain elevated in the near term but should ease in the course of next year,” Christine Lagarde, head of the E.C.B., said at news conference after the decision. Policymakers also acknowledged the risk the virus posed in their statement announcing the change.
A question on many economists’ minds — and many policymakers’ — is what will happen if the pandemic hits growth but also lifts inflation. It could keep factories shut down, supply chains in disarray and workers at home, keeping goods and labor shortages rampant and inflation high.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty with the new variant and it’s not clear how big the effects would be on either inflation or growth or hiring,” Mr. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged Wednesday.
Eshe Nelson and Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to upend companies’ plans and force changes to policies. Some of the latest developments:
Citigroup sent a memo to its staff in New York and New Jersey giving them the option to work from home through the holidays given the surge in cases in the New York metropolitan area. JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley haven’t changed their policies, staff are being given the flexibility to work from home, according to people familiar with the situation who declined to be identified discussing personnel matters.
JPMorgan Chase’s huge health care conference is going virtual.The event, set to begin on Jan. 10, is moving online “out of an abundance of caution,” the bank told attendees on Wednesday.
Goldman Sachs reportedly told teams in New York to cancel holiday parties. The bank has already held several parties over the past few weeks. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are reportedly allowing individual teams and departments to go ahead with holiday parties (for now).
Apple delayed its return to office “to a date yet to be determined.” The company told employees on Wednesday of the change in plans after already pushing back its return date three times. It also temporarily shut stores in Annapolis, Md., Miami and Ottawa in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.
Several Broadway shows were canceled and the Metropolitan Opera will require booster shots.The cancellations came after cast or crew members for shows, including “Hamilton,” tested positive. The Met’s new rule mandating boosters for staff and audience members, which takes effect on Jan. 17, makes it the first major performing arts institution to introduce such a measure. “Everyone is going to be doing this,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.
Lananh Nguyen contributed reporting.
More than a dozen families of people killed in two Boeing 737 Max crashes are accusing the Justice Department of illegally leaving them in the dark when it reached a settlement with the company this year.
In a court filing on Thursday, 15 families accused the department of denying them an opportunity to weigh in on a criminal investigation into Boeing under a 2004 law meant to protect victims of crime and their representatives. They are asking a federal judge to force the department to turn over documents related to that investigation and to revoke the company’s protection from further criminal prosecution on the matter.
“What happened here in the waning days of the previous administration was a complete short circuit of the congressionally mandated process for the victims to be conferred with and have an opportunity to influence the outcome,” said Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who is representing the families.
The 15 families who brought the motion were joined by dozens more who signed on in support of it, representing a significant share of the 346 people killed in two Max crashes, in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia in 2019. The episodes led to a global ban of the plane for nearly two years, a debacle that cost Boeing billions of dollars and prompted investigations around the world.
Under the Justice Department’s settlement, which was announced in the final weeks of the Trump administration, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion, most of it to the airlines that suffered financial losses because of the ban. A further $500 million went to a fund for the families or representatives of the victims and about $250 million was to be paid as a criminal penalty to the federal government.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment and Boeing declined to comment.
Even at the time the deal was announced, many criticized it as inadequate. Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon and the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said it was a “slap on the wrist and is an insult to the 346 victims who died as a result of corporate greed.”
News of the Jan. 7 agreement surprised many of the relatives of those who died, including Naoise Connolly Ryan, whose husband, Mick, died in the crash in Ethiopia in 2019, leaving behind Ms. Ryan, a daughter, who is now 6, and a son, who is now 3. Ms. Connolly said she and many others learned of the settlement from the news.
“We had absolutely no idea. It’s one of those moments in time that is burned in my memory,” she said. “It’s blood money. So I refuse to accept it. This did not reflect in any way, a sense of justice, criminal justice, and what should have been accountability at the highest levels inside Boeing.”
The families said that the Justice Department not only left them in the dark about the settlement, but also misled them by falsely telling them that there was no criminal investigation into Boeing. Under the 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act, the government is required to allow victims of crime or their representatives to confer on criminal cases and to act in “fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.”
“It was really designed to change the way the federal criminal justice system worked,” said Mr. Cassell, who is a law professor at the University of Utah.
In addition to asking that the court force the Justice Department to share evidence against Boeing and remove a provision granting it immunity from further criminal prosecution, the families also asked it to require that Boeing appear for a public arraignment and refer the agency’s failings in the case to House and Senate oversight committees.
In the motion, the families also noted that just months after the deferred prosecution agreement was announced one government lawyer involved in negotiating it left the Justice Department for Kirkland & Ellis, the law firm that represented Boeing in the case. The families said that they were not accusing the lawyer of specific wrongdoing, but rather calling attention to a revolving door that “provides a potential motive” for the government to have failed in its responsibility to the families.
The lawyer, Erin Nealy Cox, was one of three people quoted in the Justice Department’s Jan. 7 announcement and one of only a handful of government lawyers whose names were on the settlement itself. Kirkland announced last summer that Ms. Cox would join its government, regulatory and internal investigations group, which is led by the lawyer who signed the deferred prosecution agreement on Boeing’s behalf.
Ms. Cox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The federal government has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the Max crisis. The Federal Aviation Administration has acknowledged failings in how it oversaw the plane’s development and certification. Senator Maria Cantwell, the Democrat from Washington State who is chairwoman of the Senate commerce, science, and transportation committee, issued a report this week detailing what she called “a troubling erosion of safety oversight” and asking the F.A.A. to investigate a number of whistle-blower allegations.
And some lawmakers have criticized the Justice Department for not being aggressive enough in pursuing cases against the company and its executives. In October, a federal grand jury indicted a former top Boeing pilot, but no other high-level executives have been charged with wrongdoing.
In November, a group of current and former Boeing executives agreed to settle a shareholder lawsuit over the crashes. That month, the company also separately agreed to broadly take responsibility for the crashes in a deal with most of the families of the 157 people killed in the crash in Ethiopia, paving the way for the families to sue the company for compensatory damages. The families agreed not to seek punitive damages from Boeing, which they were unlikely to have won.
Federal Reserve officials are making a decisive shift away from providing full-blast support to the economy and toward guarding against the risk of rapid and lasting inflation.
Economic projections released by the central bank on Wednesday showed that officials expect to raise interest rates, which are now set near-zero, three times next year. A higher federal funds rate would cause the cost of buying a car, a house or a piece of equipment to rise and would slow consumer and business demand. That could tamp down inflation by allowing supply to catch up to spending, but it would slow growth and weigh on hiring in the process. READ MORE ->
Current Fed projections
What Federal Reserve officials think rates
should be in the next two years.
End of 2023
End of 2022
Three Fed officials now think that rates could be as high as 2.125% by the end of 2023.
Each rectangle represents one Fed official’s judgment
Current target rate
0 to 0.25% range
What Federal Reserve officials in September thought
rates should be in the next two years.
End of 2022
End of 2023
In September, only three Fed officials thought rates would be as high as 1.625% at the end of 2023
Current target rate
0 to 0.25% range
Current Fed projections
What Federal Reserve officials think rates
should be in the next two years.
Three Fed officials now think that rates could be as high as 2.125% by the end of 2023.
Each square represents one Fed official’s judgment
Current target rate
0 to 0.25% range
What Federal Reserve officials in September thought
rates should be in the next two years.
In September, only three Fed officials thought rates would be as high as 1.625% at the end of 2023.
Current target rate
0 to 0.25% range
A question has been whether and when people who left the work force during the pandemic will come back and if policymakers feel the need to leave interest rates low until they do.
Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, said it would likely take time, and the retreat of the pandemic, for missing workers to come back into the labor force, and that inflation would likely need to remain in check in the meantime to allow for a long period of economic growth.
“We’re not going back to the same economy we had in February of 2020,” Mr. Powell said. “The post-pandemic labor market and the economy in general will be different, and the maximum level of employment that’s consistent with price stability evolves over time.” READ MORE ->
Mr. Powell’s strategy has been to set out a forecast of how Fed leaders believe the economy is likely to evolve, stick to his guns even in the face of outward pressure, but then be ready to change course abruptly if the evidence becomes compelling that the forecast was wrong.
Central bankers always face a tension between underreacting and overreacting to the latest economic headlines. On one hand, if they react too quickly to incoming information, policy can become erratic, creating unnecessary market volatility and failing to see through temporary forces that buffet the economy.
But if they react slowly, it can create a risk of becoming out of step with the realities of the economy. In the worst case, it could drive the economy to bad results out of some mix of stubbornness, ego and a refusal to admit a mistake. READ MORE ->
Daniel L. Doctoroff, who runs Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and has been a major force in New York’s economic development for decades, told the DealBook newsletter that he recently learned that he probably has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The progressive neurodegenerative disease usually results in death within three to five years after symptoms appear. His father and uncle died of A.L.S.
Mr. Doctoroff, 63, announced on Thursday that he was stepping down from Sidewalk Labs, which focuses on urban planning and infrastructure. Before founding the company as a division of Google in 2015, he was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for economic development, later becoming chief of Bloomberg L.P.
“I’ve always been incredibly ambitious,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “I’ve been very, very focused on goals. I don’t want to live my life that way anymore. I want to try and enjoy every day, and what’s important is being with family and friends.”
The “one exception,” he said, is his goal of raising money A.L.S. research, and he has big plans.