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Talking Points

State’s GDP fell in the second quarter


State’s GDP fell in the second quarter

The state’s gross domestic product decreased at a 0.2 percent annualized rate in the second quarter of the year, according to the MassBenchmarks group of economists, in comparison to the 0.9 percent annualized rate of decline reported by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis for the national economy. Alan Clayton-Matthews, an editor of the MassBenchmarks reports, said the state’s economy shrunk slightly despite signs of strong employment growth. The decline, he said, is partly because the job growth that the state has seen has been concentrated in relatively lower paid sectors, such as leisure and hospitality. Workers’ wages and salaries, on average, are not keeping up with inflation despite brisk year-over-year growth, and total personal incomes are just barely keeping up. Meanwhile, rising interest rates are reducing the demand for residential construction, and indirectly affecting consumer and business confidence. The MassBenchmarks outlook for the rest of the year calls for slow growth in the Massachusetts economy, but uncertainty remains high. — JON CHESTO



Two local banks to merge

Norwood Bank and Foxboro Federal Savings have reached an agreement to merge, to create a community bank with more than $900 million in assets and 85 employees. John Galvani, the chief executive of Norwood Bank, will lead the combined business while Foxboro Federal president Dennis Parente will retire. Norwood just has one location, in Norwood, while Foxboro Federal Savings has three branches, in Foxborough, Norfolk, and Plainville. The bank executives said the combined resources of both banks will better enable the organization to invest in the technology it needs to stay current and improve services for customers. Both banks’ boards have approved the merger, but Foxboro Federal’s customers still need to approve it. The new name of the combined bank will be announced before the end of the year. — JON CHESTO



Altria’s investment in Juul craters

WASHINGTON — Cigarette maker Altria’s $13 billion investment in the troubled vaping company Juul has gone up in smoke — now worth less than 5 percent of its original value as US regulators move to ban its e-cigarettes. Altria slashed the value of its Juul investment by more than $1.1 billion Thursday, pegging its new value at $450 million as it reported second-quarter earnings. The Marlboro maker had recently valued its stake in the company at a vastly reduced $1.6 billion. Despite the losses Altria said it would maintain its investment deal with Juul, including an agreement not to sell competing vaping products. — Associated Press


Shell continues to profit from high gas and oil prices

Shell reported record earnings for the second consecutive quarter on Thursday, as the energy giant continues to prosper from high oil and gas prices spurred by the war in Ukraine and other factors. Shell, Europe’s largest energy company, said adjusted earnings were $11.5 billion for the second quarter. The figure topped Shell’s previous record of $9.1 billion in the first quarter. Shell said it would set aside $6 billion in the third quarter to buy back shares, a way to raise its stock’s value, continuing a buyback program that amounted to $8.5 billion in the first half. The company said that it would hold its dividend steady at 25 cents a share. Shell has benefited from a tight global market for refining that has also been roiled by the war. What the company called “dislocation” in products like diesel added about $1 billion to profits in the quarter, Shell said. Shell is also a major supplier of liquefied natural gas, which is in high demand in Europe. — New York Times



Amazon growth slows post-pandemic

Amazon’s growth continued to come down from its pandemic highs, the company said on Thursday, signaling a new normal as online shopping resets amid a tumultuous economy. Amazon reported $121.2 billion in revenue in the three months ended June 30, up 7.2 percent from a year earlier. It was the company’s slowest growth rate in more than two decades, down slightly from 7.3 percent growth the previous quarter. Amazon lost $2 billion, down from a $7.8 billion profit a year earlier. The loss included a $3.9 billion decline in the market value of an investment in Rivian Automotive, an electric truck maker whose shares have fallen since going public last fall. The strong US dollar also reduced sales by $3.6 billion, more than the company expected. — New York Times


Head of money laundering ring sentenced to prison

The ringleader of one the UK’s largest money laundering operations was jailed for nine years and seven months after investigators caught couriers smuggling suitcases packed with bags of cash to Dubai. Mohammed Ali Bin Beyat Alfalasi arranged for a network of couriers to fly £104 million ($126 million) of street cash to Dubai over nearly two years through to October 2020, the National Crime Agency said. The couriers were given business class flights to take advantage of a larger luggage allowance and check-in closer to the departure time, investigators said. Around £500,000 was crammed into suitcases that were then packed with coffee granules or sprayed with air freshener to disguise the scent from sniffer dogs. — Bloomberg News



Stellantis closes China Jeep factory over political interference

Stellantis shuttered its only Jeep factory in China because local politicians are increasingly meddling in business in the world’s biggest car market, chief executive Carlos Tavares said Thursday. The carmaker is implementing an “asset-light” strategy in the country because of concerns that rising political tensions could lead to sanctions in a conflict between China and the rest of the world, the CEO said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. The CEO’s candid comments offer an explanation for Stellantis’s announcement last week it’s leaving a 12-year manufacturing partnership with state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group. — Bloomberg News


Ford unveils electric pickup police cruiser

Ford is unveiling its first version of an all-electric pickup truck police cruiser. The F-150 Lighting Pro Special Service Vehicle shows the car manufacturing giant continuing to capitalize on the growth of the electric vehicle market. Since becoming CEO, Jim Farley has bumped spending on EVs up to $50 billion in an effort to push battery-powered vehicles to be half of Ford’s global sales by 2030. Police departments have always been a reliable and lucrative customer base for the Dearborn, Mich., based car group — police utility vehicles provide stable profits and free visibility. — Bloomberg News