January 2024 – Page 3 – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

It pays to be MAGA: Kari Lake raked in $175,000 from speeches and book royalties in the year since losing the Arizona governor’s race

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake at a Trump rally in Florida on November 8, 2023.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Kari Lake may have lost the AZ governor’s race, but she’s still making money off her MAGA brand.She disclosed earning at least $175,000 from paid speeches and book royalties since then.She was also paid $100,000 by the party official she accused of bribing her to stay out of poltiics.

Even when you lose, you can come out a winner.

Kari Lake, the pugnacious acolyte of former President Donald Trump who still hasn’t conceded her 2022 loss in the Arizona governor’s race, is making plenty of money off her enduring star power on the right.

According to financial disclosure documents that Lake filed as part of her US Senate bid on Tuesday, the former TV anchor made at least $175,000 from paid speeches and book royalties.

That includes $100,000 from Winning Team Publishing, the Trump-aligned outfit that published Lake’s book, “Unafraid,” in 2023.

The other $75,000 came from speeches Lake gave to conservative groups in Texas, California, New York, and Idaho, sometimes netting $15,000 for one appearance.

Altogether, that’s more than the $174,000 salary that she would make as a senator.

Lake was required by federal law to file the disclosures. She’s all but certain to face Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in the general election, and may face incumbent independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as well.

In a statement, a Lake spokesperson accused the media of having “Kari Lake derangement syndrome.”

The disclosures also reveal $101,507 in wages from Superfeed Technologies, a company once owned by former Arizona GOP chairman Jeff DeWit.

Lake notably accused DeWit last week of trying to bribe her into staying out of politics, leading him to resign his position after she purportedly threatened to release even more damaging audio.

In his resignation statement, DeWit did note that Lake was on his payroll at the time of their conversation — though he denied the bribery allegations.

“Instead of focusing on a public official unethically attempting to bribe Kari from seeking federal office, the media is fixated on her financial disclosure, which is not news,” the Lake spokesperson said. “She reported the same thing when she ran for Governor two years ago and acted ethically. DeWit was never her boss, as he never owned the company.”

Lake did file a financial disclosure when she ran for governor, disclosing her position as a communications advisor for DeWit’s firm.

However, those documents did not reveal Lake’s compensation amounts and included just two paid appearances.

Lake certainly isn’t alone in cashing in on being a political celebrity. Lawmakers on both the left and the right have, in some cases, managed to make more than their salaries via book sales.

In 2022, top earners from book sales including Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Elizabeth Warren, while Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton led the list for Republicans.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why Elon Musk’s battle with Delaware is about more than a $55 billion pay package

The decision to void Elon Musk’s pay package may have far-reaching consequences.

Toby Melville – Pool/Getty Images

Elon Musk just had his $55.8 billion Tesla pay package voided in a Delaware court ruling.The decision, which Tesla can still appeal, goes beyond just damaging Musk’s personal gain.Musk’s ambitions for Tesla and SpaceX were on the line, as was his confidence in the Diamond State.

Elon Musk might be done with Delaware.

The Diamond State, which supposedly gained its moniker from Thomas Jefferson, has proven to be a very hospitable, low-tax home for thousands of corporations including Tesla.

But Musk will have found that famed hospitality to be missing this week after a Delaware judge voided his $55.8 billion compensation package that was granted by the Tesla board in 2018.

The lawsuit, led by Richard Tornetta — an investor who held just nine Tesla shares — has now nullified the payout that helped Musk become the world’s richest person.

“The process leading to the approval of Musk’s compensation plan was deeply flawed,” Judge Kathaleen McCormick said in a 201-page opinion, which stated that Tesla’s nine-person board at the time of the grant’s approval was lacking any truly independent directors.

Musk’s Tesla pay was structured without a salary to involve 12 stock option awards that would only be given once performance goals for each of them were met. Musk has met the goals for the awards but can only sell them after a certain period.

Though Musk can appeal the decision, there are signs that this battle is about more than just the massive pay package that has propelled him to a $205 billion fortune.

Musk’s ambitions are on the line

Musk’s plans for SpaceX are somewhat tied to his ability to raise enormous personal wealth through Tesla.

Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

As much as the Delaware court’s decision is a hit to Musk’s personal gain, it also risks being a hit to his ambitions with Tesla and SpaceX.

In Tesla’s case, a failed appeal would mean Musk loses options on roughly 303 million Tesla shares, leaving him with just a 13% stake in the EV maker.

Is that enough? Apparently not.

Musk argued earlier this month that he needs 25% ownership of the company to give him the voting control needed to see through decision-making on key areas of innovation such as AI and robotics.

“Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla. You don’t seem to understand that Tesla is not one startup, but a dozen. Simply look at the delta between what Tesla does and GM,” he wrote on X.

I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having ~25% voting control. Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned.

Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla. You don’t seem to understand…

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2024

In other words, failure to gain more control poses a possibility that Musk’s focus could end up away from Tesla as he pursues AI and robotics ventures elsewhere.

It’s a prospect that may give Tesla backers some pause. The carmaker is currently worth $600 billion, up from roughly $50 billion in 2018, when Musk received his pay plan. By comparison, Toyota, the second most valuable carmaker, is worth less than half of Tesla’s value today.

Musk also claimed during the trial around his pay in November 2022 that his pay package would help finance his ambitions to create a multiplanetary species with SpaceX. “It’s a way to get humanity to Mars,” he said.

As Judge McCormick noted in her opinion on Tuesday, “colonizing Mars is an expensive endeavor.” So it’s reasonable to take Musk at face value when he says his Tesla pay, as McCormick put it, is a “means of bankrolling that mission.”

Technical challenges of inhabiting Mars aside, the whole project might be a nonstarter if a big chunk of its financing plan just went missing.

In addition to impacting his space colony ambitions, the judgement could also harm his ability to fund X. DealBook reported that Musk had taken out “stock margin loans” to finance some of his business ventures, meaning it could be more difficult for him to raise cash if X is in need of more.

Delaware Inc dethroned?

Closer to home, Musk’s legal battle could trigger a rethink of where Corporate America goes to do business. First, it’s worth reflecting on why this drama has been playing out in America’s second-smallest state.

Delaware is where an extraordinary amount of corporations in America go to be domiciled.. In fact, with more than one million companies incorporated there, the state is home to as many — if not more — businesses as it is people.

There are several reasons Delaware has become such a huge corporate attraction.

Favorable tax laws are one incentive. Something known as the “Delaware Loophole” allows companies to register in the state, but avoid paying corporate income tax if they don’t operate there. A sales tax is also absent.

Companies are also offered a degree of privacy that is hard to get elsewhere, thanks to rules that allow them to conceal who their owners are. In theory then, this should be a place that allows the likes of Musk to do as they like with little to rein them in.

But as the court decision showed, that’s not exactly the case: someone as powerful as Musk can face serious pushback. His response since then has been telling.

“Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware,” he wrote in an X post, before following up with another post recommending Nevada or Texas instead.

I recommend incorporating in Nevada or Texas if you prefer shareholders to decide matters

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2024

Later, he started a poll asking X users if Tesla should incorporate in Texas, where the company has its physical headquarters. Almost 12 hours into the poll, roughly 88% of 743,200 voters said “yes.”

How complex this might be — or if it’s something Tesla’s biggest shareholders would want, is unclear. But Texas could take the opportunity to claim it can be friendlier to corporation owners. In 2023, the Texas governor signed a law to create new business courts due to open this year.

If the court offers a regime that’s friendlier towards corporate interests, expect Musk to embrace it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s wildly hyped Icon of the Seas — see what it’s like traveling on the world’s largest cruise ship that can carry nearly 10,000 people

Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas set sail on its first official cruise on January 27.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas set sail from Miami on its first official cruise this month.The world’s largest cruise ship has over 40 restaurants and bars, seven pools, and a water park.See what it’s like traveling on the 9,950-person floating resort.

Introverts, look away: Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, set sail on January 27, marking a new era in the mega-cruise-ship boom.

The start of Icon’s service has been a long time coming for the cruise brand and fans of massive ships. Royal Caribbean and Finland’s Meyer Turku shipyard began constructing the behemoth vessel in 2021. A year later, the cruise line saw its largest booking day as reservations opened for the Icon of the Seas in October 2022.

Since then, Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International’s president and CEO, has been touting the new ship as “the best-selling product in the history of our business.” And for good reason: From its colossal size to its 40+ restaurants and bars, Icon overshadows almost all of its predecessors.

I joined the ship’s complimentary, three-night preview sailing on January 20. Take a look at what it’s like on the $2 billion floating resort designed to accommodate up to 9,950 people (2,350 crew and 7,600 guests).

Let’s start with the classic fan favorite: the pools.
The Icon of the Seas has seven pools, including one that royal Caribbean says is the largest at sea.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Four of the ship’s seven swimming holes are located on Icon’s version of a traditional pool deck, Chill Island. It’s where travelers can float around a 5,800-square-foot pool and another smaller one with a swim-up bar.

But Chill Island isn’t Icon’s crème de la crème.
Thrill Island has outdoor activities like a surf simulator.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

With wild outdoor amenities like a water park, lounging by the pool fell low on my to-do list.

Instead, it’s Thrill Island – the go-to for all things, well, thrilling.
Crown’s Edge is not for travelers with a fear of heights.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

While there, guests can step into a harness to traverse one of the ship’s most adrenaline-pumping activities: Crown’s Edge. Expect to dangle 154 feet above the ocean when the floor unexpectedly drops from under your feet.

Not interested in spending a few milliseconds wondering if you’re about to plunge to your death?
This course puts a cheerfully nautical spin on mini-golf.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Icon of the Seas’ amenities also include the more peaceful mini-golf course, sports court, rock climbing wall, and surf simulator, all located a few feet next to (and below) Crown’s Edge’s elevated course.

The neighboring six-slide water park is where guests will find the perfect mix of excitement and fun – without sweaty palms.
The water park has six slides, including what its operator is calling the tallest at sea.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The over 17,000-square-foot mecca of screaming children (and adults) includes a 46-foot-tall drop slide and what Royal Caribbean says is the first family raft slide on a cruise ship.

The slides’ water was heated during my chilly day at sea.
Two of the water slides require at least two riders at a time.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But learn from my mistake: You’ll probably guzzle your body weight in warm water if you attempt to scream during the drops.

If it’s not evident yet, the Icon of the Seas was designed to target families — so much so that an entire section of the ship is dedicated to children younger than six.
The Surfside neighborhood features an arcade, a water playground, and an all-day brunch spot where children eat for free.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Surfside, located about 10 decks below Thrill and Chill Island, is where younger travelers can romp around the water playground, spin around the eclectic carousel, and spend their parents’ money at the arcade.

A giant pink flamingo statue grounds this quaint neighborhood, while the unlimited soft serve and churro stands keep families with a sweet tooth coming back.
Amenities like the arcade are pay-to-play.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The youngest sailors can also wind down with Surfside’s bedtime story readings.

Like me, travelers without youngsters may quickly learn to avoid these spaces.
Royal Caribbean says the Icon of the Seas is the first cruise ship to have a suspended infinity pool.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Fortunately, sections like Hideaway and its suspended infinity pool are kid-free. So is Cloud 17, another pool, and the night-time comedy show.

Central Park, a centerpiece on many of Royal Caribbean’s mega ships, isn’t adult-only.
Central Park is five decks tall and has four walls lined with live plants.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

However, significantly fewer children frolic around this open-air destination than the rest of the ship.

This neighborhood has no loud activities, slides, or giant flamingos.
Dining venues like Central Park’s Park Cafe are complimentary.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Instead, it’s a quiet and contemplative space embellished with over 30,550 live plants, luxury stores, restaurants, and bars.

Central Park also has a live jazz club.
Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues is one of several live music venues.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But compared to the rest of the ship’s entertainment line-up, Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues likely isn’t among the most coveted show venues.

Good luck snagging a seat at the AquaTheater for a showing of the popular “Aqua Action!”
Entertainment on the Icon of the Seas includes a nighttime show at its water-based theater.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

This display of divers, nine-foot-tall robotic arms, synchronized swimmers, and skateboarders replaces the typical (ahem, cringe) cruise song-and-dance show.

No ice skaters are in this performance, though — they’re busy with the ship’s other ice skating show.

But if you’re partial to a marvelous musical moment, the primary (dry) theater also does a savory rendition of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Wizard of Oz” is accompanied by a16-piece live orchestra.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Keep your expectations within reason: Toto is half puppeteer, half puppet-dog. Both are equally expressive.

After a full day of activities and shows, hungry guests have 21 restaurants at their disposal.
Hooked Seafood is one of several speciality restaurants on the new ship.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

However, only about half of Icon of the Seas’ restaurants are complimentary. This includes the buffet, Central Park’s café, and the five-venue food hall.

Be prepared to pull out your wallet for sushi, lobster, steak, and rabbit.
Speciality meals include raw oysters, lobster tails, and sashimi.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The most expensive dining venue, Empire Supper Club, costs over $200 per person. Fortunately, you can drink the pain of this price away: A cocktail pairing is included.

Icon offers plenty of other booze and cruise opportunities with 20 on-board bars.
The Central Park neighborhood is home to a small Champagne bar, Bubbles.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Almost every section of the ship presents opportunities to drink.

At night, the Royal Promenade and its strip of seven watering holes — including karaoke and dueling piano bars — also becomes a do-it-yourself bar crawl.

AquaTheater’s neighboring Rye and Bean adds a tea and coffee-powered flair to cocktails, while Surfside’s Lemon Post flexes a lemonade stand-inspired drink menu.
One of the Lime and Coconut bars now includes a frozen cocktail menu.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

If you choose to booze it up, the 1,198-foot-long, 250,800-gross-ton giant cruise ship likely won’t be the cause of your seasick (hangover) symptoms — I, the self-proclaimed Queen of Motion Sickness, barely felt it move during my three-night sailing.

I frequently retreated to my stateroom to take a break from the overwhelming ship.
My ocean view balcony cabin had 50 square-feet of private outdoor space.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But ironically, even thinking about the number of cabins can feel overbearing. Icon’s 2,805 floating hotel rooms comprise 28 cabin categories, including several new for Royal Caribbean.

But even the cheapest windowless interior cabin can be costly.
The Pearl has about 3,600 moving tiles.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

During its first year in service, the giant vessel will operate year-round seven-night sailings from Miami to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Icon’s least expensive 2024 sailing currently starts at almost $2,590 per person.

At about $370 per person per day, sailing on Royal Caribbean’s new product costs as much as some premium cruise lines.
The Icon of the Seas is now operating year-round seven-night cruises from Miami.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But let’s not forget this price also includes admission to a water park, nightly shows, half of the dining options, and the exhaustion that will inevitably come with being overwhelmed by the giant floating resort.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elisabeth Moss Confirms She’s Pregnant With Her First Baby


Prestige TV darling Elisabeth Moss confirmed she’s pregnant with her first child during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Tuesday night.

“I feel like I should ask: Are you pregnant or just an incredibly committed method actor?” Kimmel asked the Handmaid’s Tale actress. “A little bit of both,” Moss jokingly replied.

The 41-year-old Mad Men star said she felt she’s “been really lucky” with the pregnancy so far. “It’s been going really well,” she added. Moss also asked Kimmel, a father of four, if he had any advice, prompting the comedian to share a tip given to his wife by Bill Murray.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The world’s 2 biggest economies are moving in starkly different directions

The world’s two largest economies are moving in different directions.

Madoka Ikegami – Pool/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

The US and Chinese economies are diverging in policy and growth, among other factors. 
China’s headwinds and steady growth in the US have been reflected in each country’s respective stock market. 
Experts broke down the economic and market outlook for the two superpowers. 

The US and China being at odds politically and socially is nothing new — but the last couple of years shows just how dramatically the two superpowers are diverging economically. 

The US is coming off a red-hot quarter of growth. Real GDP clocked in at 3.3% for the final three months of 2023, well above expectations and adding to a stunning 5% growth figure in the quarter before that. That’s rebuffed the recession narrative, and an increasing number of soft-landing calls have flowed out of Wall Street

To that point, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its global GDP outlook for the year ahead from 2.9% to 3.1% on account of its projections for continued strength in the US. 

China, on the other hand, has stumbled out of its pandemic lockdowns and remains saddled with mounting debt, deflation, and a troubled real estate market, which have altogether resulted in a flight of foreign investment from the country’s financial markets. 

Arthur Laffer Jr., president of Laffer Tengler Investments, told Business Insider that the imbalance between the two economic superpowers helps and hurts China, and the US’s lack of recession is also helping boost China’s prospects. 

“A strong US economy buys more foreign goods from China with a stronger US dollar,” he said. “This actually helps keep China’s manufacturing and exports propped up more than they would be otherwise.”

Unfortunately, though, China’s policy initiatives are “band-aids” that address symptoms rather than the underlying illness, Laffer Jr. added, with policy fixes aimed at things like stock market declines, rather than structural root causes like real estate and housing supply.

Led by President Xi Jinping, Beijing will attempt to meet growth ambitions while navigating both its domestic tumult as well as the relative strength of its biggest rival economy — which is staring down uncertainties of its own. 

Contrasting consumer profiles 

Joseph Seydl, a senior markets economist at JPMorgan Private Bank, pointed to the starkly different consumer bases in the US and China as one driver of the diverging economies. 

In the US, the strength of the consumer and the ongoing spending spree have so far helped stave off a recession and buoy sentiment. The decision to release several rounds of pandemic stimulus checks and raise unemployment benefits also shows just how willing the US has been to support its people. 

“In China, you’ve seen the opposite,” Seydl told Business Insider. “Policymakers have been reluctant to do that, and China is instead prioritizing export growth. They worry if they stimulate Chinese consumers too much, it could weaken exports or cause inflation to pick up.”

Consumption in both countries, too, has moved in opposite directions. Chinese citizens didn’t spend as much as expected in 2023, especially when drawn next to what was expected after the pandemic, Seydl said. 

“I think it will be very difficult for China’s GDP to expand by 5% or above as suggested by some think tanks,” Alfredo Montufar-Helu, the head of the Conference Board’s China Center, told Business Insider. “In the face of mounting growth headwinds and the lack of a low base effect, achieving such growth would require the government to backtrack on its intention to keep stimulus moderated and targeted this year.”

Should China’s economic outlook worsen further from softening demand or currency depreciation, the US could see a decrease in Chinese imports, Montufar-Helu said, in addition to lower international prices for Chinese exports. 

China’s real estate mess

China has moved to deleverage and de-risk its real estate market in recent months, and Beijing seems to have conceded that the property boom that fueled a decade of growth may have run its course.

And because a huge share of Chinese citizens’ wealth is tied to real estate, trouble in the sector has an outsized impact on consumer sentiment and spending. Tumbling property values, in turn, have cratered confidence and compelled consumers to hoard cash, which ultimately means less money and investments flowing through the economy.  

Meanwhile, on Monday, a Hong Kong court ordered the liquidation of China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted real estate developer. More than a million people in China have paid the company for homes that were never built, and the latest development complicates the government’s efforts to support the property sector, experts say. 

The property market in the US, both commercial and residential, faces headwinds but nothing that experts believe will be a systemic threat akin to China’s dilemma. 

The residential market is still struggling with high interest rates that have crimped home-buying activity. The bigger issue though is in the commercial market, where trillions of dollars worth of office value has been crushed by lasting work-from-home trends. 

Experts say the peak-to-trough decline of the US office market could amount to 20%, but maintain that office distress won’t be a threat to the wider financial system. 

Stock market performance

The contrasting fortunes of both economies have manifested in the American and Chinese stock markets

Falling Chinese equities reflected the exodus of foreign investors. Chinese and Hong Kong stocks have shed about $6 trillion in value since 2021, and in 2023, the country’s benchmark indexes have deeply underperformed those of the US and other large economies. 

“This isn’t just an economic divergence, it’s mattered significantly for market performance,” Seydl said. “In the last year, the US stock market is up about 25%, and in China, across a range of indexes you’re down about 25%.”

The JPMorgan strategist expects that 50% disparity to narrow in 2024. He predicts the US to see more modest gains, and while he remains bearish on Chinese stocks, they should stabilize. 

For context, the CSI 300 touched a five-year low in January, Bloomberg reported that Beijing was deliberating over a $278 billion rescue package to help stabilize markets. 

“I expect that the Chinese market will bounce around, but that the bias is towards more pain since the problems are systemic in my opinion,” Laffer Jr. said. “The US on the other hand should do well for the 2024 period — strong economy, strong employment, strong earnings, strong dollar.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cricket Icon Hit With Second Prison Sentence in 2 Days Ahead of Election

Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, his party said Wednesday, the day after he was given a 10-year sentence in a separate case.

The cricket legend’s wife, Bushra Bibi, was also found guilty by the National Accountability Bureau in the case relating to the illegal sale of state gifts during Khan’s time leading the country between 2018 and 2022. The ruling bars Khan from holding public office for 10 years, according to his PTI party.

The latest verdict against Khan—who was removed from power by political opponents two years ago—comes a week before a general election in which he is already prohibited from running. The cricket legend was sentenced to a decade behind bars on Tuesday over allegations that he leaked state secrets by waving a document at a rally that he claimed provided evidence that a U.S. conspiracy was behind his downfall (Washington has denied his claim).

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Egypt is renovating one of its ancient pyramids using granite, and some heritage experts are horrified

A screenshot from a video shared by Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Activities, on January 29, 2024, showing the base of the Mankaure pyramid at Giza partially clad in granite.

Dr Mostafa Waziri

Egypt’s antiquities chief announced a project to restore an ancient pyramid’s granite cladding.He called it “Egypt’s gift to the world,” gesturing to work apparently already begun.But some heritage experts have called it an “absurdity” that could damage the structure.

A restoration project to cover one of Egypt’s most iconic pyramids with granite cladding has produced a decidedly mixed reaction among heritage experts and social media users.

Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, posted a video on Facebook on January 25 announcing the project, which appears to be already underway.

The footage shows Waziri in front of the Menkaure Pyramid, the smallest of the famed structures on the outskirts of Giza, Cairo.

Estimated to have been built almost 5,000 years ago from limestone, granite, and mortar, the pyramid was designed to be the last resting place of the pharaoh Menkaure.

The video shows workers excavating sand from a section of the pyramid’s base. Layers of grey blocks are already visible.

The project will span three years and will involve intensive study and documentation, Independent Arabia reported Waziri as saying.

He called it, per The Guardian’s translation, “Egypt’s gift to the world” — phrasing used at the launch of other projects of considerable national pride, such as the expansion of the Suez Canal.

It will, Waziri said, return the 213-foot pyramid to its original, granite-clad state.

A stone is lifted by a crane during a conservation project by the base of the Pyramid of Menkaure (or Menkheres, built in the 26th century BC) at the Giza Pyramids Necropolis, west of Cairo, on January 29, 2024.

Khaled Desouki/Getty Images

But the reaction from some heritage experts and Egyptologists, and the general public, has been wary.

“When are we going to stop the absurdity in the management of Egyptian heritage?” Egyptologist Monica Hanna said, according to The Telegraph.

Hanna said the intervention goes against all principles of conservation.

“Interfering with the nature of the monument can cause visible problems and major damage,” she told Independent Arabia.

Although the project’s Japanese partners have the technology, they don’t have the archaeological expertise needed, she added.

Hussein Bassir, director of antiquities at the Biblioteca Alexandrina, said that the project should be approached with enormous caution and only after considering multiple risks, the outlet reported.

Meanwhile, Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, told the outlet that the project could work “as long as the stones used are the ones found around it, and not adding new ones that do not belong to the pyramid.”

It’s unclear if that is part of the plan.

Social media commenters poured scorn on the project. “When will the project to straighten the Tower of Pisa be planned?” one wrote, according to France 24.

Another said, per The Guardian: “Rather than tiles, why not wallpaper the pyramids?”

The strong reactions have caused Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to call for a pause to reexamine the project’s feasibility, according to the Telegraph.

Correction: January 31, 2024 — An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect name for the pharoah the pyramid was built for, who was called Menkaure, not Khufu.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A grocery store chain is limiting how many items you can buy at its self-checkouts as concerns over theft mount

Retailers across the US are rethinking the self-checkout lane.

Grace Cary/Getty Images

Schnucks customers soon won’t be able to buy more than 10 items at its self-checkout.”We do expect there to be some benefits to stopping theft,” the Midwest retailer said.Many major retail chains are rethinking their self-checkout strategies.

Midwest grocery store chain Schnucks is putting a cap on how many items customers can buy at its self-checkout.

From Thursday, self-checkout lanes in all Schnucks stores will be limited to customers buying 10 items or fewer, the retailer confirmed to Business Insider. Customers with more than 10 items will be redirected to its staffed checkout lanes, it said.

“While the primary intention is to improve customer service and checkout efficiency, we do expect there to be some benefits to stopping theft,” Schnucks said in a statement. “Because self-checkouts are more susceptible to theft, this item limit will help us maintain our costs while keeping the prices lower for our customers.”

Schnucks operates 115 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. It said last summer that self-checkouts were in operation at the “vast majority” of its stores.

“When self-checkouts were first introduced, they were intended for smaller orders,” Schnucks continued in its statement. “Over time, larger orders began moving through self-checkouts, and we are hoping to address that concern.”

Retailers across the US are rethinking their self-checkout strategies as companies fear that they’re facilitating theft.

In some cases the shrink, as it’s known in the industry, is intentional — customers deliberately don’t scan some items or put them through as lower-cost products — while sometimes it happens by accident.

Walmart is trying to combat theft at self-checkouts by using technology that alerts staff if it detects a problem, such as an unscanned item, but current and former workers told BI that this led to uncomfortable confrontations when they had to approach customers.

And Costco is cracking down on membership card-sharing at self-checkouts by getting staff to check people’s cards.

Research also shows that some customers find self-checkouts alienating, too.

Dollar General said it’s beefing up staffing in its checkout areas to provide more customer service.

“We started to rely too much this year on self-checkout,” CEO Todd Vasos said in December, noting that it should only be used “as a secondary checkout vehicle.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Starbucks customers are placing bigger orders than they ever have before

A Starbucks barista.

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Starbucks customers at US stores are spending more per order than ever before, execs said Tuesday.Customers are opting for pricier products, adding more customizations, and getting more cold drinks.The coffee giant previously said it has made “judicious price increases.”

Starbucks customers at US stores are spending more per order than they ever have before, executives told investors during the coffee giant’s earnings call on Tuesday.

CFO Rachel Ruggeri said that comparable sales in the US saw a 4% growth in average ticket size — the average amount a customer spends per order — in the quarter year-over-year.

Ruggeri attributed the record ticket sizes to the specific products customers picked, rising menu prices, and the number of customizations they added to their beverages.

Starbucks said last summer that it had made some “judicious price increases” without specifying which items were impacted. Business Insider contacted the company for further comment but didn’t immediately hear back.

Custom beverages drive high ticket prices

CEO Laxman Narasimhan said that high sales of cold drinks — which are generally more profitable for the chain because customers add more costly modifications to them — and its gingerbread range helped drive the ticket prices during the most recent quarter.

Customizations are a major driver of high ticket prices at Starbucks, which cost around $1 individually but can easily add up and double the price of a drink.

These include topping a drink with whipped cream or sauce, changing the milk type, and adding syrup or another shot of espresso. Starbucks previously said that more than half of its beverages sold include modifiers.

Starbucks’ cold foam, which generally costs $1.25, is its most popular add-on, company executives said last summer. It can be added to cold drinks, which are generally more customizable than hot ones.

Starbucks has now rolled out its Oleato olive-oil-infused range at all its US stores, and as part of that customers can pay $1 or $1.25 extra at most locations to add a swig of olive oil to other drinks, like mochas and Frappuccinos. They can also pay extra to add Oleato Golden Foam to their drinks.

Another factor that helps push up order sizes is what the industry dubs “food attach,” or the number of customers adding food to their order alongside their drink — something Starbucks is currently focusing on.

Ruggeri said last summer that two in every five customers added food to their order, and execs said at its earnings call in November that this area of the business remained strong through the fall.

Food made up 18% of its consolidated revenue at company-operated stores in the year to October 31, 2023.

Narasimhan said on Tuesday that Starbucks was introducing more food to appeal to different parts of the day, especially the afternoon.

He said that there’d been a good response from customers to the new menu items launched in January, including the potato cheddar and chive bakes and the chicken, maple butter, and egg sandwich, which he said were designed to “tide our customers over between lunch and dinner.”

The average ticket was up 2% globally, based on comparable store sales. In Starbucks’ international markets, however, average ticket size fell by 3%, including a 9% drop in China which the company attributed to lower merchandise sales and more promotions.

Starbucks reported record consolidated net revenues for the quarter of $9.4 billion, up 8% from the prior year.

It said that gift card sales were also the highest in the company’s history, with $3.6 billion uploaded to cards in the quarter. A record number of Starbucks orders — around 30% — are now placed via its app, and its US delivery business has grown nearly 80% year-over-year, Narasimhan said on Tuesday.

Store efficiency also increased, Ruggeri said, with a record number of items made per labor hour.

But Narasimhan noted that lower sales in the Middle East, “misperceptions” about the company’s position on the conflict in Gaza, and “cautious consumers” in China had stinted the company’s growth rate.

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Market prophet Gary Shilling expects S&P 500 returns to slump — and warns a recession could stretch into 2025

Gary Shilling.

Bloomberg TV

Investors should expect lower stock market returns in the future, Gary Shilling says.
The legendary forecaster cited slower economic growth, steep valuations, and fading speculation.
Merrill Lynch’s first chief economist said a recession appears likely and could extend into 2025.

Investors in the stock market face decades of disappointment, and a recession threatens to strike this year and extend into 2025, a legendary market forecaster warned.

The S&P 500 has gained an average of 12.3% a year including dividends since bottoming in July 1982, but it’s likely to post lower returns going forward, Gary Shilling wrote in his Insight newsletter for February.

Merrill Lynch’s first chief economist, who launched his own consultancy and advisory firm in 1978, is known for correctly calling several major market shifts over the past 50 years.

In his latest outlook, Shilling predicted stocks would be held back by slower real economic growth, reflecting modest labor-force and productivity gains and an ageing population that saves more and spends less. The president of A. Gary Shilling & Company also suggested that slower inflation would weigh on nominal increases in stock prices.

Moreover, Shilling underscored that equities are aggressively valued relative to corporate profits, with the S&P 500’s price-to-earnings ratio for the last 12 months at 24.8 — well above the long-term average of 17.3. He also called out recklessness and silliness in markets, and predicted that would dissipate over time.

“A key reason that stock prices are elevated and likely to be subdued in future years is the demise of widespread speculation,” he said. “Despite the collapse of FTX and accusations of fraud by its founder and head, Sam Bankman-Fried, many continue to rush into securities with little or no substance.”

Shilling accused bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies of distracting investors and sapping productivity. He said the post-pandemic drop in the CBOE Volatility Index, Wall Street’s “fear index,” signaled “investor complacency and a switch from fear to greed, as do elevated stock prices.”

He also flagged the declining ratio of bearish put options to bullish call options, analysts’ lofty earnings forecasts, and the intense concentration of investor cash in the “Magnificent Seven” stocks as evidence of excessive optimism and trouble ahead.

On the economic front, Shilling made the case that labor hoarding has delayed pay cuts and layoffs, as employers are loath to let go of workers after struggling to hire in recent years: “As a result, the overall economic softness — or, more likely, a recession — may well stretch into next year.” 

It’s worth noting that Shilling warned several times in recent months that the S&P 500 could crash by 30% or more, and a recession was nigh if not already underway. However, the benchmark stock index has surged to record highs, and the US economy grew by a solid 3.3% in the fourth quarter.

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Boeing suspended its financial guidance and said it is focused solely on ‘comprehensive actions’ to improve the quality of its planes

A Boeing 737 Max.

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Boeing suspended its financial forecast for 2024 as it reported its fourth quarter earnings Wednesday.”Our full focus is on taking comprehensive actions to strengthen quality at Boeing,” CEO Dave Calhoun said.Boeing is under heavy scrutiny following the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout earlier in January.

Boeing suspended its financial forecast for 2024 as it reported its fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday, amid scrutiny following the Alaska Airlines blowout.

“While we report our financial results today, our full focus is on taking comprehensive actions to strengthen quality at Boeing, including listening to input from our 737 employees that do this work every day,” said Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun.

“As we move forward, we will support our customers, work transparently with our regulator and ensure we complete all actions to earn the confidence of our stakeholders,” he added.

In its earnings report, Boeing said it “continues to cooperate transparently with the FAA following the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident.”

A door plug, which covers a deactivated emergency exit, came off in midair on January 5 — forcing an emergency landing. The 737 Max 9 was delivered to the airline just 66 days earlier.

Nobody was seriously injured as the plane returned to Portland International Airport 20 minutes after takeoff, but the incident has raised serious questions about Boeing’s quality-control processes.

When National Transportation Safety Board investigators recovered the door plug, they learned four bolts securing it to the plane were missing. The Wall Street Journal reported that the plane left Boeing’s factory without the bolts in place.

171 Max 9 jets were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration the day after the blowout. Following inspections, Alaska Airlines began flying some Max 9 jets again last Friday.

Last week, Alaska Airlines said it expects a $150 million hit due to the grounding.

More follows …

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Trump: Any Lawyer Who Represents Me Is Either a Patriot or ‘CRAZY’

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

You don’t have to be nuts to work here, but it helps.

That seems to be the message Donald Trump is sending to attorneys as he looks for a new firm to represent him in an appeal against last week’s ruling ordering him to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll. “Any lawyer who takes a TRUMP CASE is either ‘CRAZY,’ or a TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT,” the former president said in a Truth Social post.

Trump was ordered to hand over the hefty sum after a jury in May concluded that he defamed Carroll by calling her a liar when she accused him of sexual assault. Now the 2024 GOP frontrunner says he needs help in his effort to overturn the bruising courtroom defeat.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Martin Bashir Blamed Racism for Princess Diana Interview Criticism

Fred Prouser/Reuters

Martin Bashir said in a 2020 email that he had been the subject of racist prejudice at the time of his blockbuster Panorama interview with Princess Diana by critics who were “irritated” that a “non-white” person “should have the temerity to enter a royal palace and conduct an interview.”

Bashir wrote the email, which has just been released as part of a Freedom of Information order imposed on the BBC, 25 years after the interview, in response to the gathering pace of an investigation into the underhanded methods he used to secure it.

The results of the investigation were published in 2021 in a damning report that found that Bashir faked bank statements and showed them to Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, in order to gain access to the princess, and then used other fake documents and invented stories to fuel her paranoia.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Parents of OnlyFans Model Accused of Murder Arrested for Evidence Tampering

Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office via CBS Miami/YouTube

The parents of an OnlyFans model accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death in 2022 have also been arrested in connection with the case over an allegation of evidence tampering, reports say.

Courtney Clenney’s mom and dad, 57-year-old Deborah and Kim Clenney, 60, were booked Tuesday on unspecified felony charges from out of state, online records from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Texas show. Lawyers for the family of Christian Obumseli—the man Courtney allegedly killed—confirmed to WTVJ that the parents were taken into custody at their home in Austin over a warrant out of Miami involving evidence tampering.

Courtney, now 27, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and insists she stabbed Obumseli in April 2022 in self-defense during an argument. She is currently in jail awaiting trial.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

2 ex-Boeing staffers said they wouldn’t fly on the 737 Max, citing pressure to ‘rush the planes out the door’

Alaska Airlines staff inspect a Boeing 737 Max 9 door plug.

Ingrid Barrentine/Alaska Airlines

Two former Boeing employees told the LA Times they wouldn’t recommend flying on a 737 Max.”I saw the pressure employees were under to rush the planes out the door,” a former senior manager said.Both said Boeing’s culture values profit over quality, so there’s “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Two former Boeing staffers told the Los Angeles Times they wouldn’t fly on a 737 Max jet due to concerns over its safety.

“I would absolutely not fly a Max airplane,” Ed Pierson, a former senior manager at Boeing, told the Times.

“I’ve worked in the factory where they were built, and I saw the pressure employees were under to rush the planes out the door,” he added.

Boeing’s production line has come under increased scrutiny since 171 Max 9 jets were grounded following the Alaska Airlines blowout earlier this month.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the jet involved in that incident — delivered to Alaska Airlines just 66 days earlier — left the Boeing factory missing key bolts which were supposed to keep the door plug attached to the fuselage.

The manufacturer’s newest single-aisle jet first faced criticism after 346 people were killed in two crashes involving Max 8 jets, in 2018 and 2019.

A Boeing engineer previously told The New York Times the timeline for building the Max was “extremely compressed” as it raced to compete with the Airbus A320neo — which broke order records at the Paris Air Show in 2011.

Joe Jacobsen, a former engineer at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, also told the newspaper he wouldn’t recommend flying on a Max jet — and said allowing the Max 9 to fly again was “premature.”

“I would tell my family to avoid the Max. I would tell everyone, really,” he said.

Jacobsen cited what he said is a culture at Boeing that values “financial engineering instead of technical engineering.”

Pierson agreed with this, telling the Times, “This is a culture where money is everything.”

“They measure success by how many airplanes are delivered, instead of how many quality airplanes are delivered,” he added. “When you factor all of this together, it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, sent outside US working hours. It declined to comment to the Times on the staffers’ remarks.

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Microsoft and OpenAI are in talks to inject $500 million into humanoid robotics startup Figure AI, report says


Microsoft and OpenAI could be investing in a humanoid robotics startup, Bloomberg reported. The companies might be putting up to $500 million in Figure AI, the report says.The startup was founded in 2022 and has already signed an agreement with BMW to test out its robots.

Microsoft and OpenAI are said to be exploring options to invest up to $500 million in a humanoid robotics startup, Bloomberg reported. 

The tech heavyweights are in talks with Figure AI, which wants to “deploy autonomous humanoid workers” around the world, per its website

A person with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg that the funding could value Figure AI at $1.9 billion, potentially making it the first humanoid robotics unicorn.

OpenAI has previously invested in another humanoid robot startup called 1X Technologies, per Bloomberg. It’s raised $100 million to date, and the ChatGPT maker led its $23.5 million Series A funding.

Figure AI was founded in 2022 by CEO Brett Adcock, per an Axios report. He’s built a team of top roboticists from Tesla and Boston Dynamics – the company behind the robot dogs

Robotics is poised to be the “biggest thing in 2024” aside from LLMs, according to Nvidia senior AI scientist Jim Fan. And the race to build the most advanced version seems to be heating up in a market expected to be worth $3 trillion by 2050. 

Figure AI signed a partnership with BMW earlier this month, Adcock said in an X post. The German automaker will trial its humanoid robots in a South Carolina factory after seeing how they can be used to help with automotive production, per a press release

Meanwhile, Elon Musk recently told investors in an earnings call that there’s a “good chance” it will start shipping some units of its own humanoid robot Optimus, also called Tesla bot, next year. 

But it’s US-based rivals Agility Robotics and Apptronik have been nearing the finish line as they’re already got their robots being tested out in Amazon warehouses

Microsoft, OpenAI and Figure AI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider, made outside normal working hours.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the Supreme Court to make it easier to clear homeless encampments. Advocates say that will make the crisis worse.

Members of the US National Park Service clear a homeless encampment from McPherson Square, two blocks from the White House, on February 15, 2023 in Washington, DC.


The Supreme Court will review a Ninth Circuit decision protecting unsheltered homelessness. It bars cities and states from clearing homeless encampments if there’s not enough space in shelters.Some Democrats, including CA Gov. Gavin Newsom, are siding with conservatives on the issue. 

The Supreme Court earlier this month announced it would take up the most consequential case dealing with homelessness in decades.

The case comes out of Grants Pass, Oregon, where local officials were prevented from clearing a homeless encampment by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings in Martin v. Boise and Johnson v. Grants Pass requiring local governments to have sufficient shelter beds available before forcing unhoused people off the streets. The appeals court decided in both cases that removing people living on the street without providing alternative shelter violates the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

State and federal court cases on the legality of clearing homeless encampments reflect a debate between some governments who say they need more authority to protect public safety and address homelessness, and advocates who argue authorities are exacerbating the problem by criminalizing homelessness.

While conservatives have led the charge in pushing to overturn the Ninth Circuit’s decision, some Democrats, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have also asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, arguing that it makes it difficult or impossible to address the homelessness crisis.

“California’s elected officials who seek in good faith to improve what often appears to be an intractable crisis have found themselves without options, forced to abandon efforts to make the spaces occupied by unhoused people safer for those within and near them,” the Newsom administration told the Supreme Court in an amicus brief last year.

Phoenix, Arizona, has attracted national attention for a contentious legal battle over a downtown homeless encampment of 1,000 people called “The Zone.” Local residents and business owners alleged that the city allowed the encampment to become a public nuisance and even a danger.

Last year, a Maricopa County judge ordered Phoenix officials to clear the Zone. The city responded by threatening citation or arrest for those who refused to leave the street. It also built hundreds of new temporary shelter beds, some longer-term housing, and an authorized outdoor camping area. But the crisis is far from over. As home prices have risen in Phoenix, the county’s homeless population has grown by 70 percent since 2017.

The city of Phoenix filed an amicus brief supporting Grants Pass’ effort to overturn the appeals court ruling, arguing that the Ninth Circuit “strayed far from the historical origins of the Eighth Amendment.”

“Like so many other cities confronting the homelessness crisis, conflicting court decisions have hampered Phoenix’s ability to tread forward confidently on a clear approach—and solution—to this growing challenge,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement to Business Insider. “I hope that the Supreme Court can deliver clarity to cities so that we can focus completely on ending people’s homelessness rather than on navigating a web of disparate legal arguments.”

The dangers of criminalizing homelessness

Advocates for the homeless argue that the Ninth Circuit decision doesn’t prevent local governments from enforcing all kinds of laws protecting public safety when it comes to homeless encampments. It simply prevents them from criminalizing those who have nowhere else to go.

Jeffrey Selbin, a law professor at UC Berkeley and director of the Policy Advocacy Clinic, said public officials’ complaints that their hands are tied are overblown.

“In spite of politicians’ claims to the contrary, the vast array of public health and safety laws are untouched by the rulings,” Selbin said. “Local officials can still cite, arrest, and prosecute people for any other violation of the law, including for all crimes against people and property.”

Homeless advocates say that criminalizing homelessness promotes a vicious cycle that only makes it harder for people to find homes.

“If you are living outside and are impoverished, a ticket or a fee is probably something you can’t afford, and then you have unpaid tickets, which impacts your credit rating, which makes it harder to find a place to live,” said Jesse Rabinowitz, a campaign and communications director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “Or you get arrested and then you have a criminal record, which both makes it harder to get a job and harder to get an apartment.”

The most effective way to solve the homelessness crisis is to build more housing of all kinds, from market-rate homes to shelter beds and transitional housing, many advocates say.

But many of the cities that want more power to remove unhoused people from public spaces have a severe shortage of shelter beds, or don’t have any at all. Most also have a severe shortage of affordable housing. “In cities like San Diego and San Francisco, they typically have fewer than one bed for every 2-3 homeless people,” Selbin said.

The Western states governed by the Ninth Circuit built more than three times as many shelter beds and transitional housing between 2020 and 2023 than states in other parts of the country. Selbin says appeals court’s ruling deserves much of the credit for that progress.

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The US economy is crushing it compared to other rich countries

The US economy has been outpacing the growth of its G7 peers.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

US recession calls are still on the table, but the economy is still outpacing other rich nations. 
US GDP grew at a surprise 3.3% rate in the fourth quarter, beating estimates for 2.0%. 
Outlooks for G7 nations show slower growth and higher inflation compared to the US.

Some Wall Street players still expect the US to tip into a recession this year, but the latest data illustrates not only that economic growth has yet to stall but also that the country is faring better than its wealthiest allies.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week real GDP came in at a surprisingly high annualized rate of 3.3% in the fourth quarter, surpassing consensus expectations for 2.0%. 

That pushed back on the narrative for an imminent downturn, and it also beat the growth seen across its Group of Seven peers, who together account for some of the world’s wealthiest nations. 

The trend has held steady over the last several years, with the US leading in economic growth since the pandemic. The US has seen its GDP grow by a total of  7.4% since the fourth quarter of 2019, according to seasonally-adjusted figures from the OECD

Canada and Italy hovered between 3-4% cumulative growth over that period, while Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany grew 2.4%, 1.8%, 1.8%, and 0.3%, respectively.

Among countries that use the euro, the combined GDP grew at a 0.1% annualized rate in the third quarter of 2023.

US GDP growth reflected increases in consumer spending, state and local government spending, and exports, among other increases, according to the BEA. And despite smaller job growth compared to 2022, payroll employment rose by 2.7 million in 2023.

“Better-than-expected consumer spending was the primary fuel for the strong pace of growth in last year’s fourth quarter,” Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise, told Business Insider. “Although we expect some deceleration this year, we believe consumers are generally in good shape to further fuel a solid pace of growth through 2024 and possibly beyond.”

Consumer strength, as well as relatively low consumer debt burdens and the remnants of pandemic stimulus and savings, bodes well for the US, in his view.

To that point, in a report published Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund raised its global growth forecast for the year from 2.9% to 3.1% largely on account of better-than-expected US expansion. IMF economists anticipate US GDP to grow at an annual rate of 2.1% in 2024, more than double its forecast for all other members of the G7. 

Still, economic outlooks for the US range from soft-landing and shallow recession calls to more severe, yearlong downturns

The US has also seen a promising trajectory for inflation. Government data released earlier this month showed the consumer price index climbed 3.4% annually in December. That’s fallen from multi-decade highs in 2022, though it remains above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

According to the latest available data on the cohort, inflation remains highest in France and the UK at 4.1% and 4%, respectively. 

As far as monetary policy, it’s up in the air when the Fed will begin easing interest rates. But markets have priced in five cuts for the year, optimism that has in part been reflected in the strong stock market rally in January.

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