Stocks steady...Fed chair seeks to reassure public

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks steadied in afternoon trading on Wall Street after wavering between gains and losses earlier in the day. The S&P 500 rose 0.7%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5% and the Nasdaq rose 0.8%. The price of U.S. crude oil fell 1% and weighed down energy stocks. Investors closely watched testimony to Congress from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. He reaffirmed the central bank’s determination to raise interest rates and slow inflation. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set mortgage rates, fell to 3.16%.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is seeking to reassure the public that the Fed will raise interest rates high and fast enough to quell inflation, without tightening credit so much as to throttle the economy and cause a recession. Testifying to the Senate Banking Committee, Powell faced skeptical questions from members of both parties about the Fed’s ability to tame inflation. Democrats wondered whether the Fed’s accelerated rate hikes will succeed in curbing inflation or might instead just tip the economy into a downturn. Several Republicans charged that the Powell Fed had moved too slowly to begin raising rates and now must speed up its hikes and endanger the economy.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for three months. The election-year move is meant to ease financial pressures, but it’s not clear Biden has the votes to suspend the taxes. Many lawmakers in his own party have expressed reservations. Biden says he knows the move wouldn’t reduce “all the pain but it will be a big help.” If the gas tax savings were fully passed along to consumers, people would save roughly 3.6% at the pump. Prices average about $5 a gallon nationwide. Biden also wants states to suspend their own gas taxes or provide similar relief.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Microsoft says “strategic espionage” by state-backed Russian hackers has targeted government agencies, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Ukraine. Microsoft says in a report that hacking has been successful 29% of the time and that data was stolen in at least one-quarter of the successful network intrusions, Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members. The United States was the prime target. Poland, which is the main conduit for military assistance flowing to Ukraine, was No. 2. In the past two months, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey have seen stepped-up targeting,

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Houston dredging company has been ordered to pay a $1 million fine for an oil spill that occurred when a subcontractor cut through a pipeline during Louisiana barrier island restoration work in 2016. A news release says Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company was sentenced last week for violating the Clean Water Act. The company pleaded guilty in June 2021. As part of the plea, it said it violated state and federal laws by failing to alert pipeline companies about continuing work near their pipelines. Subcontractor employee James Tassin pleaded guilty in a separate criminal case in March 2021. His sentencing is scheduled Aug. 16.

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