Business & Economy

On the Money — Biden moves to block rail strike

Freight cars wait to be hauled
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Freight cars wait to be hauled out of the Norfolk Southern Conway Terminal in Conway, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

President Biden is calling on lawmakers to prevent a rail strike as the deadline looms. We’ll also look at the economic impacts of China’s COVID-19 lockdown protests and striking new comments from a top Fed official.

But first, did you see that monkeypox is getting a name change

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Aris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom. Someone forward you this newsletter?

Biden calls on Congress to avert rail shutdown

President Biden on Monday called on Congress to pass legislation to avert a rail shutdown before Dec. 9, warning of major disruptions to the U.S. economy if lawmakers don’t act.  

He said Congress should pass a bill “immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators — without any modifications or delay — to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”

  • Biden’s plea to Congress comes amid an ongoing labor standoff that could shut down crucial shipments of food and fuel.
  • He’s referring to the deal struck in September that gave some concessions to workers but still didn’t satisfy their demands for paid sick leave and less rigorous scheduling.
  • Biden said his administration has been in regular touch with labor leaders and management but sees no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table.  

“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down,” he said, adding that union workers would be out of work, communities would struggle to get chemicals that ensure clean drinking water and farmers and ranchers would be unable to feed their livestock.

Alex Gangitano has more here

🇨🇳 ALL EYES ON CHINA 

COVID-19 lockdown protests in China rattle US, world markets

Protests in multiple cities in China over the country’s so-called zero-COVID policy rattled world markets Monday, adding to fears about stagnating growth and supply chain crunches as the holiday shopping season picks up.

  • Protests erupted across China after 10 people died in a fire last week in Urumqi, a city in the western part of the country that has seen extended lockdowns, with some residents confined to their homes for more than three months.
  • Demonstrations spread to multiple cities including Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing, where students rallied on the campus of Tsinghua University. Crowds in Shanghai even called for Xi Jinping, the head of the Chinese Communist Party, to step down.
  • Shares of U.S. electronics giant Apple were hit particularly hard by news of the protests, falling more than 2 percent on concerns that zero-COVID policies could affect iPhone production at key plants across the country.

Tobias Burns has more here.

📈 MORE RATE HIKES

Fed president sees inflation fight stretching into 2024

The Federal Reserve head in St. Louis expects the central bank’s fight to curb high inflation in the U.S. economy to stretch into 2024.

  • St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard told MarketWatch’s economics editor Greg Robb the Fed could slowly raise interest rates to a range of 5 percent to 7 percent.
  • He added that the higher rates would probably need to stay in place “during 2023 and into 2024.” 

“The fact that the labor market is so strong gives us license to pursue our disinflationary strategy now and try to get the inflation under control now,” he said. “So we don’t replay the 1970s, where the FOMC at that time took 15 years to get inflation under control.”

The Hill’s Brad Dress has more here

😵 ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST 

rypto firm BlockFi files for bankruptcy weeks after FTX collapse

Cryptocurrency firm BlockFi filed for bankruptcy on Monday, just weeks after the high-profile collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

BlockFi and eight of its affiliates filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, according to a news release.

  • New Jersey-based BlockFi has about 100,000 creditors and has liabilities and assets both ranging from $1 billion to $10 billion, according to court filings.
  • BlockFi has already paused activity on the cryptocurrency exchange. The company says it has more than $256 million in cash on hand, which it expects to use to support operations during the restructuring process. 

The Hill’s Brad Dress has more here

Good to Know

A series of layoffs at America’s major technology companies could put pressure on local housing markets amid a broader nationwide cooling. 

These layoffs, brought on in part by a series of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve and a decline in revenues, could cause forced sales, damage buyer confidence and lead to smaller down payments — even from buyers who remain employed.

Here’s what else we have our eye on: 

  • Life insurance payouts reached a new high in 2021, according to a leading trade association, with data showing companies paid $100 billion to the beneficiaries of policyholders who died last year.
  • Frontier Airlines said it will end its long-running customer service phone number line, as the airline moves to transition its customer care services to fully digital communications services.
  • The Biden administration on Monday notified Congress it has approved a possible $323 million arms sale to Finland as the country seeks to join NATO.
  • Russia has postponed a resumption of nuclear arms control talks with the U.S. government without explanation, the Biden administration said on Monday

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow. 

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