Inflation rose last year to the largest 12-month increase since 1982, according to data released yesterday. The consumer price index (see 101), which tracks the price of a basket of goods and services, rose 0.5% in December and jumped 7% for the full year, according to data from the US Labor Department.
The cost of used cars and trucks was the largest contributor to price increases in December (up 3.5%) and the full year (up 37%). Energy costs fell in December (down 0.4%) for the first time since April due to decreases in gasoline and natural gas, but were still up 29% for the overall year. Gasoline was up 49% for the year. Experts point to heightened demand and supply chain disruptions for the price surge.
The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates at least three times this year in an effort to slow borrowing and bring down inflation.
An Omicron Peak?
The current US COVID-19 surge may be close to peaking, according to researchers who suggest the highly transmissible omicron variant may soon run out of vulnerable candidates for infection. The cautious optimism comes as average daily cases dipped Tuesday for the first time since Christmas.
A widely cited model currently predicts the number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization will peak around Jan. 26. The projections also suggest almost 80% of cases will either go untested or tested but unreported—the model peaks at more than 6.2 million total infections per day. Explore the dashboard here.
Separately, a new study comparing the omicron and delta variants showed a 91% reduction in death and a 53% reduction in hospitalization with the omicron strain (see data).
South Africa, where the variant was first observed, appears to be fully through the omicron wave, while cases have begun dropping in Britain. See a comparison with the US here.
Prince Andrew Suit Proceeds
A New York judge rejected Prince Andrew’s application to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit yesterday. Giuffre claims she was sexually abused by the British prince three times when she was 17 at the homes of deceased sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Andrew has argued the charges should be dropped under the terms of Giuffre’s 2009 civil settlement with Epstein—containing a clause preventing her from pursuing friends of Epstein. The judge ruled it was not clear the clause included Prince Andrew and could only be invoked by Epstein or Giuffre.
Andrew now faces being deposed with a full civil trial likely later this year, or he may choose an out-of-court settlement. However, he cannot be forced to participate in the trial due to different legal jurisdictions, in which case the court would rule a default judgment against him.
In related news, prosecutors are offering to drop perjury charges against Maxwell if she is not granted a retrial, a development that came after a juror told the media he had been a victim of sexual abuse.
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Business & Markets
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The Return of Alpha-Gal
Radiolab | Staff. (Podcast) What do tick bites, mysterious meat allergies, and the recent breakthrough of a pig-to-human heart transplant have in common? A simple sugar molecule known as alpha galactose. (Listen)
The Con Artist's Country
The Hustle | Mark Dent. The story of Poyais, a mystical and beautiful—and entirely fictional—country into which hundreds of 19th century London investors poured their money. (Read)
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Historybook: RIP author James Joyce (1941); HBD actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus (1961); Robert C. Weaver becomes first Black US cabinet member (1966); Air Florida Flight 90 crashes into Washington, DC's 14th Street bridge, killing 78 (1982); Douglas Wilder becomes first elected Black US governor (1990); 32 die as cruise ship Costa Concordia sinks off coast of Italy (2012).
"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery."
- James Joyce
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