Business Highlights: Musk and Twitter, Ukraine’s Economy

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk won’t join Twitter’s board after all

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Billionaire Elon Musk, one of Twitter’s biggest shareholders, is stepping back and will no longer join the company’s board of directors, less than a week after winning a seat. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal broke the news, which followed a weekend of tweets from Musk suggesting changes to Twitter, including making the site ad-free. Nearly 90% of Twitter’s revenue in 2021 came from ads. Musk, it was revealed last week, had quickly amassed a massive stake in Twitter to become its largest individual shareholder. Agrawal did not provide an explanation for the reversal, but said the decision was made by the mercurial billionaire.

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Russia’s war to shrink Ukraine’s economy by 45%, World Bank says

LONDON (AP) — The World Bank said Ukraine’s economy will shrink 45.1% this year due to the Russian invasion, which shut down half of the country’s businesses, stifled imports and exports and damaged a large amount of critical infrastructure. The World Bank also said on Sunday that unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western allies in response to the war were plunging Russia into a deep recession and chipping away at more than a tenth of its economy in 2022. The Washington-based lender said in its “War in the region economic report” that war is expected to inflict twice as much economic damage across Europe and Central Asia as the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Efforts to manufacture protective medical equipment in the United States fall flat

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — The push to make personal protective equipment in the United States is faltering after an initial push at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press has identified more than $125 million in government grants to more than 300 companies in 10 states to boost production of masks, gowns, sanitizers and other pandemic supplies. But the AP found that many growers struggled to find reliable equipment, materials and buyers. Many have reduced, closed or given up. Industry officials say they need more help from the federal government to ensure there is enough American-made protective gear for future pandemics or emergencies.

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California utility to pay $55 million for massive wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric has agreed to pay more than $55 million to avoid criminal prosecution for two major wildfires sparked in Northern California by its aging power lines. Settlements with the nation’s largest utility also include five years of independent oversight, which prosecutors said was a key victory, similar to a five-year criminal probation PG&E served for misconduct. The civil settlements are designed to speed up payments to hundreds of people whose homes were destroyed so they can start rebuilding faster than others who suffered devastating losses in the 2017 and 2018 fires sparked by the equipment from PG&E. The utility still faces criminal charges over a 2020 fire that killed four people.

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Stocks fall on Wall Street, dragged down by falling tech companies

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell on Wall Street on Monday, extending a losing streak from last week. The S&P 500 lost 1.7%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2% and the Nasdaq 2.2%. Tech stocks fell and were the largest weights in the market. Energy companies also slipped as crude oil prices fell. Twitter surged after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he would ultimately not join the company’s board. Musk recently became the company’s largest individual shareholder and is now free to increase his stake. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.78%.

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Once a retail giant, Kmart is near extinction after its closure

AVENEL, NJ (AP) — When the Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, closes on April 16, there will be only a handful of locations remaining for the old retail powerhouse. That’s a far cry from the chain’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, when it had more than 2,000 stores and sold product lines endorsed by Martha Stewart and former “Charlies Angel” Jaclyn Smith. Kmart’s demise is attributed to the rise of Walmart and Target and online giant Amazon. But retail expert Mark Cohen says the business was also hampered by poor management decisions and could have remained viable.

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UK Treasury chief fights to salvage reputation amid fiscal storm

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s treasury chief is fighting to save his reputation by calling for an investigation into his own conduct after a series of reports about his family’s finances raised questions about his judgement. Rishi Sunak on Sunday asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a review of all the revelations Sunak has made since becoming a government minister. Sunak’s position has been damaged by revelations that his Indian-born wife took advantage of rules allowing many foreigners to escape UK tax on their overseas earnings. It came at the same time as it raised income taxes for most residents already facing a cost-of-living crisis linked to soaring energy prices.

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Frontier CEO Talks Airline Merger and Travel Outlook

DALLAS (AP) — Barry Biffle juggles his day job as CEO of Frontier Airlines while also working to salvage a proposed merger with Spirit Airlines that would create the nation’s fifth-largest carrier by some metrics. On the merger, Biffle says Frontier and Spirit are responding to questions from regulators, and he’s not alarmed that several liberals in Congress are urging the Biden administration to take a hard look at whether the deal will hurt consumers. The biggest obstacle to a Frontier-Spirit deal is JetBlue Airways, which made its own $3.6 billion bid for Spirit last week. JetBlue’s offer is higher than Frontier’s $2.9 billion offer, announced in February.

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The S&P 500 fell 75.75 points, or 1.7%, to 4,412.53. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 413.04 points, or 1.2%, to 34,308.08. The Nasdaq lost 299.04 points, or 2.2%, to 13,411.96. The Russell 2000 Small Business Index fell 14.24 points, or 0.7%, to 1,980.32.

Christi C. Elwood