Panic over the shutdown of a vital fuel pipeline in the United States has driven Americans to search for gas for their vehicles, causing several thousand gas stations across the nation to run out of fuel. Hundreds of others are limiting sales.
State officials in the Southeast have made efforts to stabilize the flow of gas, but consumers have become gripped by a fear that there could be a gas shortage. Many have turned to social media to vent, posting videos and pictures of long lines and empty pumps at filling stations. Some have begun comparing President Biden to President Jimmy Carter, who was the nation’s leader when gas lines rattled the country after the Iranian revolution and other Middle East troubles.
But the energy crises of the 1970s were caused by embargoes, the revolution and declining production. Experts say the reaction to the pipeline outage is somewhat out of proportion with the actual risk.
“The oil and gasoline is there,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Tufts University. “We can pump it manually, we can carry it by truck, and the government and other entities can hire ships. And we have oil in inventories.”
Officials in states with the longest gas lines are asking for calm. “I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” said South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson.
“Remember when it wasn’t a good idea to panic buy toilet paper last year? Please don’t do it with gas now,” the Virginia Department of Emergency Management tweeted on Wednesday.
The frenzy came after the Colonial Pipeline, which runs 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, was shut down on Friday after a ransomware attack. The pipeline operator has said that it hopes to restore most operations by the end of the week.
The operator of the Colonial Pipeline is expected to announce on Wednesday a timetable for resuming service of its vital fuel pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey and has been shut down since Friday after a ransomware attack.
At best, it would take several days and probably at least through the weekend to return gasoline, diesel and jet fuel shipments to normal. At worst, any delays could further encourage the panic buying that left thousands of outlets out of gasoline in Tennessee, Georgia and several other states in the Southeast, pushing up regional fuel prices.
Over the last few days, Colonial has opened segments of the pipeline manually to relieve some supply pressures in a few states, including Maryland and New Jersey. But anxiety has persisted despite the assertions of industry analysts that the impact of the shutdown would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon.
Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 8 to 10 cents a gallon on Wednesday, a price jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt Gulf of Mexico refinery and pipeline operations.
A gallon of gas increased an average of 10 cents in South Carolina and 6 cents in North Carolina on Wednesday, while gas in Virginia rose about 8 cents a gallon. Before the pipeline was shut down, gas prices were edging higher, as they typically do as summer approaches. Over the past week, gas has jumped 24 cents in Georgia and 18 cents in South Carolina.
Filling stations in Southern states were selling two to three times their normal amount of gasoline on Tuesday, according to the Oil Price Information Service, an organization that tracks the oil sector. Some stations are running out of fuel while others are limiting purchases to 10 gallons.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed an executive order suspending his state’s gasoline tax through Saturday, which amounts to roughly 20 cents a gallon. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida each declared a state of emergency in an effort to suspend some fuel transport rules.
American Airlines said it had added stops to two daily flights out of Charlotte, N.C. One, to Honolulu, will stop in Dallas, where customers will change planes. The other, to London, will stop in Boston to refuel. The flights are expected to return to their original schedules on Saturday.
Southwest Airlines said it was flying in supplemental fuel to Nashville, and United Airlines said it was flying extra fuel to Baltimore; Nashville; Savannah, Ga.; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina.
Ellen DeGeneres will step down from her daytime talk show next year, according to a spokeswoman for the host.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the winner of dozens of Emmys, was hugely successful for nearly two decades. But it has experienced a steep ratings decline in recent months — in the 2020-2021 television season, Ms. DeGeneres has lost more than a million viewers, a more significant drop than any of her daytime competitors.
The news of Ms. DeGeneres’s planned departure was reported earlier by The Hollywood Reporter, as part of an interview with the host.
The ratings slide began shortly after there were accusations of workplace misconduct on the show’s set. In July, BuzzFeed reported that several former and current staff members said they had confronted “racism, fear and intimidation” at work. Several staff members also said producers had sexually harassed them. After an investigation by Warner Bros., the company that produces the show, three high-level producers were fired.
Ms. DeGeneres apologized to her staff in the summer, when the show was on hiatus. On her return to the air in September, she told her viewers: “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”
The next season of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is its 19th. For much of its run, it was in the top tier of daytime programs, with millions tuning in each day. After its recent falloff, the size of its audience has become similar to the viewership for Maury Povich and Kelly Clarkson, hosts who, until recently, had not been considered bona fide rivals.
Ms. DeGeneres’s talk-show contract with Warner Bros. runs through 2022. She has publicly mused on stepping away from the program in recent years. She has also broadened her workload, having made a standup comedy special for Netflix and reaching a deal with Warner Media to create new shows for its streaming platform, HBO Max, among other projects.
“I just needed something to challenge me,” Ms. DeGeneres said in the interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore. I need something new to challenge me.”
Millions of low-income Americans became eligible on Wednesday for an emergency discount on high-speed internet service and devices to get online, an effort aimed at providing relief to families that have struggled during the pandemic as school, work and health care have moved online.
The Federal Communications Commission’s subsidy program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, can be used for $50 monthly discounts for individuals on SNAP or Medicaid, recipients of Pell grants, and families with children on free and reduced-price lunch plans. Low-income households on tribal lands can apply for $75 in monthly broadband subsidies. The program also allows for a one-time $100 subsidy for a laptop or tablet.
The F.C.C. said 825 broadband providers have agreed to offer the discounts.
The program, which Congress approved $3.2 billion for late last year, is one of several efforts to bring broadband internet to all American homes. The F.C.C. earlier this week also approved a $7.2 billion program to give students high-speed internet access through schools and libraries. President Biden has promised to make broadband affordable and available for all and has proposed a $100 billion effort to connect every rural and low-income home to high-speed internet service.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit program comes late in the pandemic, with schools and workplaces beginning to open again. The delay was largely because of wrangling over details of the subsidies in Congress and at the F.C.C. during the Trump administration. And it’s unclear what will happen once the one-time emergency benefit fund runs out.
The program will end either when the $3.2 billion fund is depleted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.
“High-speed internet service is vital for families to take advantage of today’s health, education, and workplace opportunities,” Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chair of the F.C.C., said in a statement. “And the discount for laptops and desktop computers will continue to have positive impact even after this temporary discount program wraps up.”
The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Lina Khan to be a member of the Federal Trade Commission, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate that would make Ms. Kahn, a prominent critic of the tech giants, one of its most powerful regulators.
The nomination of Ms. Khan, 32, has buoyed progressive hopes that President Biden will try to rein in Silicon Valley. At her confirmation hearing in April, Ms. Khan said that she saw a “whole range of potential risks” associated with the tech companies’ abilities to take over markets and dominate them.
Mr. Biden also appointed Tim Wu, a legal scholar who has pushed for antitrust action against the tech companies, to an economic policy role in the White House. Mr. Biden has yet to say who will lead the F.T.C. or the Justice Department’s antitrust division during his administration.
Ms. Khan would join the commission as antitrust regulators mount a campaign against the power of the largest tech companies. The F.T.C. last year filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of cornering the market through acquisitions of small companies like Instagram and WhatsApp. The agency has also been investigating Amazon, and the Department of Justice last fall filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Google.
Ms. Khan’s ascendence to the F.T.C. would cap a quick rise. She came to prominence in law school, when she wrote a law review note charting how Amazon’s power exposed flaws in the way judges had enforced antitrust law. After law school, she worked for a progressive member of the F.T.C. and helped write a House Judiciary Committee report criticizing the sweeping power of the tech giants. Last year, Ms. Khan also joined Columbia Law School as a professor.
Some conservatives have worried that she would be too heavy-handed in regulating industry. Four Republicans specified that they were voting against her nomination.
Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, voted for her nomination but said he shared some concerns about Ms. Khan.
“I believe she is focused on addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day: reining in the big social media platforms,” he said. “However, I do remain concerned that a broadly over-regulatory approach as an F.T.C. commissioner could have a negative effect on the economy and undermine free-market principles.”
Stocks on Wall Street dropped for the third consecutive day on Wednesday, as new data on consumer prices added to investors’ concerns that inflation could upend the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep interest rates low to bolster the economy.
The S&P 500 was down about 1.5 percent by midday, pushing the benchmark index’s losses this week to more than 3 percent.
The drop came after the Labor Department said the Consumer Price Index climbed 4.2 percent during the month, from a year earlier, the fastest pace of increase since 2008. From March to April, prices increased 0.8 percent.
Analysts had been expecting a high annual increase, given the comparison to last April, when the economy was cratering amid the early stages of the Covid crisis and price growth slowed to a crawl. But the report still caught them off guard.
“While the high levels were expected, not many were expecting them to be this high,” wrote analysts at Bespoke Investment Group in a note on Wednesday.
Rising prices might sound like a good thing for companies, as it means they can charge more for their products, but for stock investors, the worry is that persistently hotter-than-expected inflation readings could force the Fed — which is supposed to focus on price stability as well as employment — to lift interest rates earlier than expected to.
Analysts agree that the Fed’s willingness to keep interest rates low has been a key driver of the stock market’s gains of more than 80 percent since March 2020; higher interest rates can discourage risk taking in the markets, and when concern about inflation dominates it can hit the highest-flying stocks hard.
On Wednesday, yields on long-term Treasury bonds — which are driven by expectations about both inflation and how the Fed may shift interest rates — rose sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.68 percent. It was as low as 1.50 percent late last week.
The Fed has signaled that it intends to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future, and has said that it will likely disregard signs of sharp price increases as the economy reopens from the virus, and will view them as transitory.
But on Wednesday, technology stocks, which are particularly sensitive to concerns about rising rates, were hit harder. The Nasdaq composite was down about 2 percent.
Parts of the stock market that do better in an economy with prices that are rising quickly — such as financials and energy companies — were the days best performers.
The economic outlook has brightened considerably across Europe after lockdowns restricted growth at the start of the year. Now, economists foresee the complete recovery by the end of next year from the early effects of the pandemic.
The British economy grew 2.1 percent in March from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The reopening of schools was one of the biggest reasons for the larger-than-expected jump in economic growth, as well as a rise in retail spending even though many stores remained closed because of lockdowns.
The statistics agency estimated that gross domestic product fell 1.5 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted, while the country was under lockdown with nonessential stores, restaurants and other services such as hairdressers shut.
Though the British economy is still nearly 9 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, the Bank of England forecasts it to return to that size by the end of this year.
The European Commission also upgraded its forecasts for the region on Wednesday. It predicted the European Union economies would grow 4.2 percent this year, up from a forecast of 3.7 percent three months ago. Germany’s economy is forecast to grow 3.4 percent this year and Spain, which suffered Europe’s deepest recession last year, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent.
“The E.U. and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased,” the commission, the executive arm for the European Union, said on Wednesday. The recovery will be driven by household spending, investment and a rising demand for European exports, it said.
Still, despite the optimistic outlook, the commission warned that the risks were “high and will remain so as long as the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic hangs over the economy.”
Even as millions of people were vaccinated, the number of new coronavirus cases globally reached a peak in late April as the pandemic has struck especially hard in India. The uneven distribution of vaccines around the world and the emergence of new variants has the potential to set back the recovery.
The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research in London said on Monday that it did not expect the British economy to return to its prepandemic size until the end of 2022, predicting a slower recovery than the central bank.
Economists at the institute expect lower global growth because of uncertainty about the global vaccine rollout and lingering doubts about the end of the pandemic inducing more people to hold onto their savings, rather than spend it.
The comeback continued for SoftBank on Wednesday, as the Japanese technology investment firm posted a net profit of more than $36 billion for the year ending in March.
Yet a recent slide in confidence in technology stocks could make it more difficult for Masayoshi Son, the founder of the technology conglomerate turned investment powerhouse, to keep up the momentum after what seemed like an impossible change of fortune.
Last May, SoftBank was in crisis after posting a loss of more than $12 billion. Its big bets on Wall Street favorites, like WeWork, the troubled office space company, and Uber, resulted in huge losses.
But it was not down for long. Riding high on a post-pandemic stock boom, SoftBank has since notched seemingly unthinkable gains. When compared with its previously released figures, the year-end results implied a profit for the first three months of 2021 alone of more than $17 billion.
In a live-streamed press event Wednesday, Mr. Son opened by showing a photo of the humble town where SoftBank began, before calling the huge earnings numbers “lucky plus lucky plus lucky.”
SoftBank Group’s net income
Mr. Son told investors on Wednesday that he would not deny that he is a gambler. But he said he regretted some decisions. The question now is whether his current run of luck can continue.
SoftBank’s profit, mostly paper gains from increases in investment values, was based heavily on a jump in the price of South Korean e-commerce firm Coupang after it listed earlier this year. Results were also lifted by strong share price rises from other SoftBank investments, DoorDash and Uber.
The share price of all three companies has fallen sharply over the past month on a broader pullback in technology shares, in part related to fears over inflation out of the United States.
Investors appeared more interested in the broader tech sell off than Mr. Son’s luck, as SoftBank’s shares fell more than 3 percent on Wednesday, despite the solid gains.
Amazon on Wednesday won an appeal against European Union efforts to force the company to pay more taxes in the region, illustrating how American tech giants are turning to the courts to beat back tougher oversight.
The General Court of the European Union struck down a 2017 decision by European regulators that ordered Amazon to pay $300 million to Luxembourg, home of the company’s European headquarters and where regulators said the company received unfair tax treatment. The court said regulators did not sufficiently prove that Amazon had violated a law meant to prevent companies from receiving special tax benefits from European governments.
The decision, which comes as European Union and American officials attempt to reach a global tax agreement that could result in higher levies against tech companies, undercuts an effort by Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president at the European Commission, who issued the Amazon penalty and has led efforts to force big tech firms to pay more in taxes. The companies have been criticized for using complex corporate structures to take advantage of low-tax countries like Luxembourg and Ireland. In 2020, Amazon earned 44 billion euros in Europe, but reported paying no taxes in Luxembourg.
Tech companies are using the courts to fight European regulators trying to rein in the industry’s power. Last year, Apple won an appeal against Ms. Vestager to annul a decision to repay about $14.9 billion in taxes to Ireland, where the company has a European headquarters. That case is now before the European Union’s highest court.
Google has appealed three decisions and billions of dollars in fines issued by the European Commission over anticompetitive business practices related to its search engine, advertising business and Android mobile operating system.
On Wednesday, Amazon cheered the decision by the Luxembourg-based court.
“We welcome the court’s decision, which is in line with our longstanding position that we followed all applicable laws and that Amazon received no special treatment,” Conor Sweeney, a company spokesman, said in a statement.
Ms. Vestager said the European Commission would study the Amazon ruling before deciding whether to appeal.
“All companies should pay their fair share of tax,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement. “Tax advantages given only to selected multinational companies harm fair competition in the E.U.”
The pandemic revealed just how important e-commerce is to the future of the global fashion industry. In a year of lockdowns, millions of shoppers turned online to satisfy their desire for clothes, accelerating a shift toward digital sales and rapid growth for many e-commerce companies.
This week, two leading European names announced their latest funding rounds, as investors look to capitalize on the expansion of the online fashion market.
Lyst, a London-based online fashion platform with 150 million users, said it had raised $85 million ahead of a planned initial public offering. In 2020, the company — which acts as an inventory-free search portal for high-fashion brands and stores to sell to trend-focused online shoppers — said it had seen a 1,100 percent increase in new users on its app. It said the company has a gross merchandise value of more than $500 million.
Appetite for secondhand fashion also boomed in the last year, as more shoppers looked to declutter wardrobes, earn cash by selling old clothes and became more aware of the environmental impact of the industry.
Vinted, which is based in Lithuania, says it is Europe’s largest secondhand fashion marketplace with more than 45 million members globally. On Tuesday, the company said it had raised 250 million euros in a Series F funding round, giving the start-up a valuation of 3.5 billion euros, or $4.24 billion.
“We want to replicate the success we’ve built in our existing European markets in new geographies and will continue investing not only to improve our product, but also to ensure we continue to have a positive impact,” said Vinted’s chief executive, Thomas Plantenga.