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TALKING POINTS

Auto, student loans fuel April rise in US consumer borrowing

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley graduates during their commencement ceremony in May. Consumer borrowing rose by $18.6 billion in April 2021, fueled by a big rise in auto and student loans that offset a drop in credit card use.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley graduates during their commencement ceremony in May. Consumer borrowing rose by $18.6 billion in April 2021, fueled by a big rise in auto and student loans that offset a drop in credit card use.Delcia Lopez/Associated Press

ECONOMY

Auto, student loans fuel April rise in US consumer borrowing

US consumer borrowing rose by $18.6 billion in April, fueled by a big rise in auto and student loans that offset a drop in credit card use. The April gain reported Monday by the Federal Reserve was the third straight month of strong increases in consumer borrowing. It followed a similar $18.6 billion increase in March. The latest increase reflected a $20.6 billion increase in the Fed’s category that covers auto and student loans. It was the biggest increase in those loans since a $22.7 billion rise in June 2020. The category that covers credit cards saw a decline of $2 billion, the first setback in credit card use since a sharp drop of $13.5 billion in January. Consumer borrowing is followed closely for signals it can send about households’ willingness to finance consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS

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TECHNOLOGY

Google to pay $270m as part of antitrust settlement with French regulators

Google has agreed to pay roughly $270 million in fines and change some business practices as part of a settlement announced Monday with French antitrust regulators who had accused the company of abusing its dominance of the online advertising market. The French competition authority said the agreement was the first time an antitrust regulator had taken direct aim at Google’s online advertising infrastructure, a platform that scores of websites worldwide rely on to sell ads. The fine is a pittance compared with Google’s overall business — its parent company, Alphabet, earned $41 billion last year — but French authorities hailed the concessions because they affect technology and practices at the heart of the company’s business. In the United States, Google is facing similar antitrust scrutiny over its online advertising technology from a group of state attorneys general, as well as from Britain’s antitrust regulator. French regulators said Google used its position as the world’s largest Internet advertising company to hurt news publishers and other sellers of Internet ads. Authorities said that a service owned by the Silicon Valley giant and used by others to sell advertising across the Internet gave Google’s business preferential treatment, undercutting competition. As part of the settlement, French authorities said, Google agreed to end the practice of giving its services preferential treatment and to change its advertising system so that it would work more easily with other services. Google did not admit to wrongdoing but said in a statement that it would make changes to increase transparency of its online advertising systems and make the technology more interoperable with other services. ― NEW YORK TIMES

FINANCIAL REGULATION

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SEC says it’s watching for signs of meme stock manipulation

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said it’s scrutinizing markets for signs of manipulation and other misconduct as AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and other meme stocks continue to surge. “SEC staff continues to monitor the market in light of the ongoing volatility in certain stocks to determine if there have been any disruptions of the market, manipulative trading or other misconduct,” the agency said in a Monday emailed statement. “In addition, we will act to protect retail investors if violations of federal securities laws are found.” AMC resumed its upward trajectory Monday, halting two straight days of declines. The stock — like GameStop Corp. before it — has become a darling of retail traders. The movie-theater chain’s wild rise comes despite questionable fundamentals, prompting concerns among regulators that investors could be sitting on substantial losses if the stock plunges The SEC has already said it’s investigating what happened with GameStop in January, with a focus on whether traders were using online message boards to dupe other investors into buying into the rally. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

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AGRICULTURE

Heat scorching key crop regions drives up canola, corn prices

Dry weather baking key agricultural areas from America’s bread basket to the grain-growing regions of Brazil is fueling a renewed surge in crop prices from corn to canola. A sweltering heat in the Canadian Prairies that’s stretching into the Northern Plains and parts of the Midwest is raising fresh concerns for crops when global supplies are already tightly balanced. The heat has sent corn futures to the highest level since mid-May, extended canola oil’s rally to a record high, and lifted soybean prices the most in more than three weeks. Last week’s heat further depleted already short soil moisture in some North American growing regions, and that was worsened by equally high temperatures over the weekend, said Tobin Gorey, agricultural strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Dryness is also hampering some Russian grain-growing areas and a worsening drought has shriveled Brazil’s corn crop. Good conditions are needed throughout the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season to replenish global stockpiles depleted by record Chinese demand and earlier weather woes. The heightened crop concerns come ahead of a monthly report from the US Department of Agriculture on Thursday, which analysts expect will show a further draw-down in world wheat and corn stockpiles. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

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MEDIA

Trump allies acquire cable networks in TV push

An investor group led by Hicks Equity Partners, a firm with links to the Republican National Committee and the Trumps, is snapping up cable channels in a bid to create a family-friendly TV empire. The buyers, calling themselves GAC Media, announced the acquisition of Great American Country from Discovery Inc. on Monday. The network, which is available in about 40 million homes, sold for about $90 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. GAC Media also acquired Ride TV, a 24-hour channel dedicated to equestrian sports. The effort is backed by the private equity arm of the Hicks family business and will be run by cable-TV veteran Bill Abbott. Previously, Abbott was president and chief executive officer of Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel. Thomas Hicks Jr. is co-chair of the Republican National Committee and friends with Donald Trump Jr. GAC Media isn’t expected to change either channel’s programming to focus on political commentary, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. For Discovery, the sale is part of an effort to focus on the company’s bigger cable channels and explore options for its less-watched ones, according to the person. Discovery, which is slated to merge with WarnerMedia next year, plans to turn its DIY Network into the Magnolia Network. The Hallmark Channel is perhaps best known for its annual marathon of Christmas movies. Abbott left in January 2020 after a controversy over the Hallmark Channel removing commercials featuring a same-sex wedding. The network later reversed its decision and apologized. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

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