Business Highlights: Fed’s caution, Target’s big profit – Thehour.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy’s faster-than-expected awakening from its pandemic-induced slumber had some Federal Reserve officials last month discussing whether it might be time to start planning for easing back on one of the central bank’s levers for keeping interest rates low. The discussions were revealed in the minutes of the Fed’s April meeting released Wednesday. They marked the first time the central bank has even hinted that the time could be approaching to consider reducing the Fed’s $120 billion monthly bond purchases. The purchases have the effect of putting downward pressure on long-term interest rates. Officials have been wary about broaching this subject out of concern they might roil financial markets.

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Target’s profit surges as Americans cast restrictions aside

NEW YORK (AP) — Target’s sales and profits surged in the first quarter as its customers, emerging from the pandemic, returned in big numbers to its stores for dresses, cosmetics and luggage. Sales at stores opened at least a year jumped 18% in the three-month period that ended May 1. That follows a 6.9% increase in the previous quarter. Online sales soared 50% after rocketing 118% higher in the final quarter of 2020. The Minneapolis chain also offered an upbeat sales outlook Wednesday and shares jumped to an all-time high.

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Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4M to hackers

NEW YORK (AP) — The operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline has confirmed it paid $4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems. Colonial Pipeline’s CEO Joseph Blount told The Wall Street Journal that he authorized the payment after the ransomware attack because the company didn’t know the extent of the damage. The FBI discourages making payments to ransomware attackers, because that just encourages criminal networks around the globe. But many victims of ransomware attacks opt to pay.

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Stocks fall for a 3rd day; Bitcoin sinks after a wild ride

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed broadly lower on Wall Street Wednesday, extending the market’s downturn to a third day. The price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies dropped sharply in a surge of selling. The S&P 500 lost 0.3%. Bitcoin’s price was down 10.8% to $38,723, according to the crypto news site Coindesk, having swung in a huge range of as low as $30,202 and as high as $43,621 over the past day. The stock of the digital currency exchange operator Coinbase, whose website went down briefly in the morning, fell almost 6% and is down sharply from its IPO just over a month ago.

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Hackers targeted SolarWinds earlier than previously known

WASHINGTON (AP) — The president and chief executive officer of SolarWinds says the hackers who carried out the intrusion of his software company were in its network as early as January 2019. That’s months earlier than previously known. SolarWinds had previously traced the origins of the hack to the fall of 2019 but Sudhakar Ramakrishna say the company now believes that hackers were doing “very early recon activities” as far back as the prior January. He was speaking in a question-and-answer session hosted by the RSA Conference.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook to testify Friday as Epic trial nears end

SAN RAMON, Calif (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the witness stand on Friday in a high-stakes courtroom battle. Cook will be testifying in a trail over the lucrative commissions that the iPhone maker has been raking in from Apple’s mobile app store that has become a cornerstone of its $2 trillion empire. The maker of the popular video game Fortnite is trying to prove Apple’s 15% to 30% commissions on transactions in iPhone apps are part of an illegal monopoly. The timing of Cook’s highly anticipated testimony was confirmed Wednesday when a federal judge granted Apple’s request to allow the executive to be the first witness sworn in Friday during the trial in Oakland, California.

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Reversing Trump, Buttigieg reinstates local hiring program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he’ll reinstate an Obama-era pilot program that aims to aid minority and disadvantaged groups by ensuring local hiring for public works construction projects. Buttigieg made the announcement Wednesday at Washington’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. He reverses a 2017 decision by the Trump administration to halt the program. The Transportation Department’s four-year pilot initiative will let state and local agencies receiving federal transit or highway money impose local hiring preferences, like those favoring veterans, minorities and low-income workers. Supporters say it’ll revitalize regional economies by giving local residents new ways to access well-paying jobs. The Associated General Contractors of America opposes the program.

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WarnerMedia to offer $10 ad-supported tier of HBO Max

NEW YORK (AP) — WarnerMedia is rolling out a $10-a-month ad supported version of its HBO Max streaming service starting in June. AT&T said Monday it will combine its massive WarnerMedia media assets, which includes HBO and CNN, with Discovery Inc. to create a new media company in a $43 billion deal. However the deal isn’t expected to close until mid-2022 and WarnerMedia is still going ahead with plans for HBO Max. AT&T said earlier this month that there are 44.2 million subscribers to HBO Max and the traditional HBO channel combined in the U.S.

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The S&P 500 fell 12.15 points, or 0.3%, to 4,115.68. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 164.62 points, or 0.5%, to 33,896.04. The Nasdaq fell 3.90 points, or less than 0.1%, to 13,299.74. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 17.24 points, or 0.8%, to 2,193.64.