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The Week in Business: Stocks Fall


Stocks slid into bear market territory on Friday, the insider term for a drop of 20 points or more from an index’s last peak, before closing slightly up for the day. Even so, the market continued a long streak of losses with the seventh consecutive weekly decline. The pessimism rocking Wall Street stems largely from fears about fast-moving inflation and how aggressive the Federal Reserve may be in trying to bring it under control. Financial statements from Walmart and Target also stoked these anxieties last week, when the companies, both struggling to outpace rising prices, reported taking significant hits in the first three months of the year. The companies’ financials gave investors more reason to believe that the central bank may begin to pursue much larger increases to interest rates, which could tip the economy into a recession. Since World War II, recessions have almost always closely followed bear markets, with only a few exceptions.

Spirit Airlines on Thursday tried to thwart JetBlue’s bid to acquire the company. The bid became hostile last week after JetBlue announced it was going to take its offer to buy the company for $30 a share directly to shareholders. Spirit called JetBlue’s move a “cynical attempt to disrupt” its already agreed on merger with Frontier Airlines, urging shareholders to reject the advances. The Spirit-Frontier deal from February would combine two budget airlines to make them competitive with the four big U.S. carriers. Wanting to compete with these carriers, too, JetBlue stepped in with its own offer last month that would value Spirit at over $3 billion, whereas Frontier’s deal with Spirit valued the company at $2.9 billion. But Spirit isn’t tempted so far: Spirit’s chief executive, Ted Christie, said the airline was unlikely to entertain JetBlue’s offer even if shareholders rejected the merger with Frontier.

Social media platforms faced questions about their content moderation policies after the video recorded by the suspect in the killing of 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo circulated widely online. The suspect initially streamed the shooting on Twitch, and though the platform acted quickly to remove the footage, it was quickly shared across the internet. The 18-year-old man accused of the shooting said live-streamed footage of the 2019 murders in Christchurch, New Zealand, inspired him to stream his own violent attacks in Buffalo. The Christchurch video still lives online, even after years of platforms’ efforts to remove it. The long afterlife of these videos shows how difficult it can be for platforms to regulate the violent content that gets shared on and uploaded to their sites.

Companies may soon be re-evaluating their return-to-office plans yet again as Covid rates rise. On Tuesday, Apple suspended its requirement that employees return to the office this month for at least three days a week because of the latest wave in cases. The news was a victory for the thousands of Apple employees who had resisted the company’s policy in May as part of a group called “Apple Together.” The delay was a setback to Apple’s efforts to return its operations to normalcy, which includes bringing its workers back to its $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., that the company opened less than a year before the pandemic. Many employers have tried to press forward with their R.T.O. plans, but more may find that their resolve to avoid another change clashes with the reality of quickly spreading variants of the virus.

Investors will learn more about how much they should worry about the Federal Reserve’s actions to curb inflation when the central bank releases its meeting minutes this week. After a Fed meeting earlier this month, Jerome H. Powell, the bank’s chair, offered some reassurance to investors, saying that the Fed wasn’t considering exceptionally large increases in interest rates. Stocks had their best day since 2020 when he made the comments. But with more storm clouds gathering on the horizon —  including downbeat corporate earnings reports and quickening month-over-month inflation — Mr. Powell may rethink his stance.

The tumult at Netflix may not be over. Last week, the streaming company laid off 150 people across the company, or about 2 percent of its work force. And more layoffs may be coming. The cuts came about a month after Netflix released a dismal first-quarter financial report, announcing that it had lost subscribers — 200,000 of them — for the first time in a decade and expected to lose two million in the next quarter. The dim outlook for the company, the longtime leader in worldwide subscribers, is a potential harbinger for the entire industry, suggesting that the streaming market may be approaching saturation.

The euro is closing in on a one-to-one exchange rate with the dollar. As a baby formula shortage persists, lawmakers are urging reform for the entire industry. The World Economic Forum is returning to Davos this week after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

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