Stock Market News: Live Updates

Some Americans expecting a stimulus payment may have to receive it as a tax credit on the 2020 return. 
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Internal Revenue Service says your stimulus payment has been sent, but there’s still a chance you’ll have to ask for the money when you file your taxes.

The I.R.S. said on Tuesday that the payments, including the most recent $600 checks and the earlier $1,200 installments, have been issued. Most eligible people should have received their payments by now, even though an estimated 13 million payments were misdirected last month and had to be rerouted.

If you believe part or all of your payment is missing, however, you’ll still be able to recover it through a credit when filing your 2020 tax return. The so-called Recovery Rebate Credit can be found on line 30 of the 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

It’s quite possible you’re entitled to a bigger check than you received if your financial situation or status changed last year: The recovery credit is based on an individual’s 2020 tax year information, while the most recent stimulus payment was based on the 2019 tax year. (For the first stimulus check, the I.R.S. said a 2018 return may have been used if the 2019 was not filed or processed.)

The quickest way to recover the credit is by filing a tax return electronically — and if you earn $72,000 or less, you can do it for free through the I.R.S. Free File program.

Starting last April, the I.R.S. and Treasury issued more than 160 million payments to taxpayers, totaling more than $270 billion. In the latest round, beginning roughly in early January, the I.R.S. sent more than 147 million payments, totaling more than $142 billion.

Apple introduced its App Store in 2008, giving developers a way to release native applications to the iPhone but keeping 30 percent of revenue for itself.

A North Dakota bill that an Apple executive had warned “threatens to destroy iPhone as you know it” died in a vote on Tuesday.

Three-quarters of North Dakota’s 48 state senators voted against the bill, which sought to prohibit Apple and Google from forcing North Dakota companies to hand over a share of their app sales.

The bill targeted Apple’s and Google’s practices of charging a commission of up to 30 percent on many app sales. The companies brought in a combined $33 billion from those commissions last year, according to estimates from Sensor Tower, an app data firm.

Companies like Epic Games, Spotify and Match Group, along with some smaller app developers, have protested the commissions as artificially high, arguing that Apple and Google can only charge them because they are a duopoly and that app makers have little choice but to deal with them to reach customers. The two tech giants make the software that underpin nearly all of the world’s smartphones.

The bill attracted intense lobbying on both sides. Apple in particular feared it would set a dangerous precedent for its business, enabling app developers to avoid fees that have been crucial to its recent growth. Apple and its lobbyists warned that the bill could put North Dakota at risk of expensive lawsuits.

“We don’t want to put the state in a position where we need to spend our taxpayer dollars in litigation, because these are some very big companies,” Jerry Klein, a Republican state senator, said on Tuesday on the floor of the North Dakota Senate. “Let’s stay out of the courts.”

After the vote, Kyle Davison, the Republican state senator who introduced the bill, blamed its failure on the issue’s complexity and the opposition from Apple. “When banging heads with Apple you need to be able to match their intensity with resources, including lobbyists,” he said.

Critics and rivals of Apple and Google now turn their attention to other states. Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts are considering similar legislation, and lobbyists are pushing for nearly identical bills in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Coalition for App Fairness, a group of companies that oppose the app-store commissions, including Epic and Spotify, is leading the push for the bills.

Apple declined to comment and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Citigroup safeguard that requires three people to approve a transaction before it is executed broke down after a contractor checked the wrong box on a digital payment form.
Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

It was one of the worst Wall Street mishaps in years: Citigroup accidentally wired $900 million last year to a group of lenders locked in a bitter dispute with the beauty company Revlon.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the recipients don’t have to have to return the cash.

Citi had intended to make a small interest payment on Revlon’s behalf but instead repaid the loan in full. And some of the lenders — who had sued Revlon and Citi seeking repayment of the loan — refused to return about $500 million.

Recipients of cash wired in error are typically required to return it. But in this case, the creditors had reasonable grounds to believe the payment was intentional, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote in his ruling.

“To believe that Citibank, one of the most sophisticated financial institutions in the world, had made a mistake that had never happened before, to the tune of nearly $1 billion, would have been borderline irrational,” he wrote.

Citibank said it strongly disagreed with the decision and intended to appeal.

“We believe we are entitled to the funds and will continue to pursue a complete recovery of them,” said Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a Citi spokeswoman.

Robert Loigman, a lawyer representing the creditors, said his clients were “extremely pleased with Judge Furman’s thoughtful and detailed decision.”

Judge Furman, acknowledging that an appeal was likely, kept in place a temporary restraining order preventing 10 investment firms from using the money.

The ruling described how Citi’s “six eyes” security safeguard, which requires three people to approve a tr
ansaction before it is executed, broke down after a contractor checked the wrong box on a digital payment form.

Some recipients viewed the payment as a happy surprise. A portfolio manager at Allstate, one of Revlon’s creditors, wrote in an internal message, “Not sure if this is in error, seems very unlikely.”

Citi discovered the error within a day and sent out notices to reclaim the cash — which had mostly come from its own funds, not Revlon’s — but some recipients, including Allstate, balked.

Judge Furman said his ruling might have been different if he had been able to “write on a blank slate” but that precedent compelled him to find in the creditors’ favor.

“Although the mistake that gave rise to this case may be the proverbial Black Swan event, and the risk of a reoccurrence may therefore be small, the banking industry could — and would be wise to — eliminate the risk,” he wrote.

Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed’s founder, will be reunited with HuffPost, which he co-founded in 2005.
Credit…Cole Wilson for The New York Times

It’s official: BuzzFeed now owns HuffPost, uniting two digital-media juggernauts.

BuzzFeed said in a statement on Tuesday that its deal to acquire HuffPost from its owner, Verizon Media, which was announced in November, had closed.

The acquisition, which was part of a larger stock deal between BuzzFeed and Verizon Media, will see HuffPost operate as a distinct brand within BuzzFeed. The website and its editorial staff will remain independent from BuzzFeed News, Matt Mittenthal, a BuzzFeed spokesman, said.

BuzzFeed also owns Tasty, a food-focused brand that produces viral cooking videos.

“BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed News, HuffPost, and Tasty will be unmatched in scale and cultural impact, and we’re thrilled to welcome HuffPost into the BuzzFeed organization,” Mr. Mittenthal said.

Under the broader deal, Verizon Media will become a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed, though it will not have a board seat.

“Verizon Media and BuzzFeed will also syndicate content across each other’s platforms, and BuzzFeed will tap into Verizon Media’s ad platform,” the statement said.

The deal also reunites BuzzFeed’s founder, Jonah Peretti, with the website he helped found in 2005. Mr. Peretti will be the chief executive across both BuzzFeed and HuffPost.

Attention now turns to who will be tapped as HuffPost’s top editor. The website has been without an editor in chief for nearly a year, after Lydia Polgreen, a former New York Times editor who served in the role since 2016, left for Gimlet Media in March. Mr. Mittenthal said the company had a strong pool of diverse candidates, but it was continuing to interview new prospects.

The job is one of many top journalism roles that are open. On Tuesday, Vox Media announced it had hired The Atlantic’s Swati Sharma as its next editor in chief.

A major winter storm hit a large part of the United States on Monday, with heavy snow and cold temperatures in across the Midwest.
Credit…Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Automakers have been forced to idle factories or suspend shifts because of the winter storm that has disrupted the energy system across much of the country this week.

Ford Motor closed a plant in Claycomo, Mo., near Kansas City, Mo., this week because of the extreme cold and a shortage of natural gas in the Midwest. The plant produces the F-150, Ford’s popular pickup truck, which is one of the industry’s best-selling vehicles.

Nissan closed its four U.S. plants on Monday and canceled the morning and afternoon shifts on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. Two of the plants, in Canton, Miss., and Smyrna, Tenn., make cars and other two, both in Decherd, Tenn., make engines. The company is monitoring the situation to see if it can resume production Tuesday night.

General Motors said Tuesday that it was not affected by the natural gas shortage but that it was still suspending the first shift at four plants in Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky and Texas because of “the significant winter weather conditions.”

Toyota Motor canceled the first and second shifts at five factories, including its largest U.S. plant in Georgetown, Ky., and a pickup truck plant in San Antonio, Texas, because of the winter storm and energy disruptions it caused. The other three plants are in Kentucky, Indiana and Mississippi.

Honda canceled or suspended late shifts on Monday and early shifts on Tuesday at plants in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Indiana. The company is planning to resume production Tuesday night at all but its Alabama car plant, where Tuesday evening’s shift has also been canceled.

Managers of the electricity grid in Texas and elsewhere have had to order rolling blackouts after many power plants were forced offline because they could not get natural gas. Some wind turbines also shut down. At the same time, demand for electricity and natural gas has shot up because of the cold weather. In addition, icy conditions have made it difficult for people to get around.

“To ensure we minimize our use of natural gas that is critical to people’s homes, we decided to cancel operations for a week, beginning Saturday, Feb. 13,” a Ford spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday.

The company doesn’t plan to resume normal operations at its shuttered plant until Monday, Feb. 22. The plant employs about 7,300 people. Union workers will be paid 75 percent of their gross pay for the week.

The shutdowns come as Ford, G.M. and other automakers have separately had to idle plants because of a global semiconductor shortage. The chip shortage is expected to reduce the profit of automakers by billions of dollars this year.

The winter storm that battered the Midwest left businesses digging out from under piles of snow on Tuesday.
Credit…Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch, via Associated Press

The winter storm that barreled across Texas and other states this weekend has severely disrupted business across much of the country, including those that Americans are deeply reliant on for the basic necessities, like retail stores and package delivery services.

Walmart has closed 500 stores in the Midwest, according to a map that was being updated in real time on the company’s website. “The safety of our associates and customers is our top priority,” the company said in a statement.

The storm has caused delays across the vast package delivery networks that many people now rely on as shopping has shifted online.

FedEx said winter weather had caused “substantial disruptions” at its Memphis hub, which is the company’s largest center, occupying 800 acres, and is normally capable of sorting nearly half a million documents and packages an hour. FedEx added that delays were possible across the United States for Tuesday deliveries.

UPS said weather could cause delays in areas not directly hit by the storms. Packages may take longer to get from one place to another, and many delivery services have big sorting hubs in the middle of the country to serve both the east and west coasts. Two of UPS’s main air hubs are in Louisville, Ky., and Dallas, for example.

The winter storm prompted the United States Postal Service to close post offices, processing hubs and other facilities in Texas and Mississippi, according to its website. Power outages had suspended service at the main post office in Dallas and a processing office in Beaumont, which is east of Houston, near the Louisiana state line.

The storm has also affected Amazon, which operates its own large delivery network that includes planes, hubs and delivery vans. The company’s delivery locations in San Antonio, Texas, had been closed because of bad weather, it told a local TV station.

Filling a pickup truck and gas cans in Tomball, Texas, on Monday. A winter storm has disrupted energy supplies and caused widespread power outages.
Credit…Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Energy prices in the United States rose on Tuesday after a huge winter storm hit the southern and central parts of the country, with 150 million people under storm warnings. Millions of people have been left without power in freezing weather.

Natural gas futures for March delivery rose as much as 8 percent, the biggest jump since Feb. 1, when a storm hit the Northeast. Demand for natural gas has risen, but disruption from the storm means production has plummeted.

The state energy regulator in Texas said on Saturday that it was aware that local natural gas distributors “may be required to pay extraordinarily high prices in the market for natural gas, and may be subjected to other extraordinary expenses” in responding to the storm.

Oil futures jumped more than 5 percent over the weekend as the coldest weather in three decades interrupted road transportation and some wells had to shut down. On Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose 1.3 percent to $60.23 a barrel, the highest price in 13 months. Futures for Brent crude, the European benchmark, fell as much as 0.5 percent but were up 0.3 percent in the afternoon. The largest refineries in the country, including Port Arthur in Texas, closed on Monday because the weather had caused power outages across the state.

“Some producers, especially in the Permian Basin and Panhandle, are experiencing unprecedented freezing conditions, which caused concerns for employee safety and affected production,” the Texas energy regulator said Monday.

  • U.S. stocks fell after a week of gains. The S&P 500, which reached a record high last week, lost less than 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 0.3 percent.

  • The Biden administration on Tuesday announced additional relief for American homeowners struggling with payments, saying the pandemic had “triggered a housing affordability crisis.”

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell slightly. In Germany, the ZEW survey of investor sentiment recorded a big jump in future expectations for the economy, but the view of the current situation worsened.

  • In Britain, the government reached its target of vaccinating 15 million people, the most vulnerable in the country, by mid-February, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to lay out a clear plan for the end of the long lockdown. The nation’s central bank has forecast a relatively strong economic rebound later in the year, but business leaders have warned that companies need to prepare to reopen and that the recovery could be impeded if they are not given enough support. The pound rose above $1.39, the strongest against the U.S. dollar since early 2018.

  • Indexes in Asia rose, with the Nikkei 225 in Japan up 1.3 percent; on Monday, it climbed above 30,000 for the first time since 1990. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong closed 1.9 percent higher.

  • Softbank’s shares closed at a record high. Last week, the Japanese company recorded huge profits in its tech investment fund amid a flurry of public offerings by companies it backs.

One in five renters have fallen behind on rent and more than 10 million homeowners are behind on mortgage payments, according to the White House statement.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced additional relief for American homeowners struggling with payments, saying the pandemic had “triggered a housing affordability crisis.”

The actions include:

  • extending a moratorium on foreclosures through June 30;

  • extending an enrollment window for mortgage payment forbearance requests until June 30; and

  • providing up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30.

On his first day in office, President Biden issued orders extending federal moratoriums on some foreclosures and evictions through the end of March. But the expiration of those protections would leave “many at risk of falling further into debt and losing their homes,” White House officials said in a statement.

One in five renters have fallen behind on rent and more than 10 million homeowners are behind on mortgage payments, according to the White House statement. People of color, who face greater hardship in the pandemic, are at greater risk of eviction and foreclosure.

Homeowners can find out who owns their mortgage by entering their address on various government websites.

The relief programs are part of a coordinated effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Agriculture.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, which announced last week that it invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin.
Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which has been rising meteorically of late, hit $50,000 on Tuesday morning, a new high, before dipping below $49,000.

The digital currency is minting new millionaires as excitement grows around Bitcoin’s prospects for mainstream acceptance. Tesla announced last week that it invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, followed by news that institutional investors, like BNY Mellon, the oldest bank in the United States, were making the jump into Bitcoin.

Now, corporations can’t avoid the question of whether they will also invest. MicroStrategy’s chief executive, Michael Saylor, is recruiting companies to follow its path and invest in Bitcoin to guard against deflation of the dollar. But not everyone shares his certainty: Uber may take payments in crypto but won’t invest its cash in Bitcoin, the company’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said.

Celebrity investors, like Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, appear intent on cultivating mainstream crypto curiosity. Mr. Musk recently added Bitcoin to his Twitter bio, which pushed the asset’s price higher. On Monday, the Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego also added Bitcoin to his Twitter bio; he has been an enthusiast since 2013 and paid $200 for his first Bitcoin. The move follows exhortations from famous crypto fans, like Russell Okung of the Carolina Panthers National Football League team, who last month urged people on Twitter to “plant the flag and show you’re ready for the future.”

The business interest has prompted politicians to push for Bitcoin’s acceptance. Last week, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami proposed that the city pay municipal workers and accept fees for city services in Bitcoin, and the city voted to study the suggestion. Andrew Yang, a New York mayoral candidate, promised to make the Big Apple the best place for crypto businesses. Senator Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, has been boasting about her state’s fintech-friendly regulations and is hoping Mr. Musk accepts her invitation to bring his business there.

Bitcoin critics warn, however, that investors should be wary. “Elon Musk may be buying it, but that doesn’t mean everyone else should follow suit,” the New York University economist Nouriel Roubini said last week.

Not everyone is a fan. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a mathematical statistician — an expert on randomness, probability and uncertainty — is now dumping his Bitcoin. “I’ve been getting rid of my BTC. Why? A currency is never supposed to be more volatile than what you buy and sell with it,” he recently wrote.

Niki Christoff speaking at a news conference about the anti-discrimination Equality Act in 2019 in Washington.
Credit…Kevin Wolf/Associated Press for Human Rights Campaign

When Niki Christoff, a senior Salesforce executive, received an offer to join the board of a publicly traded company, she saw it as a signal that she was poised to break into a club long dominated by men. But what happened next revealed one of the biggest challenges facing companies’ efforts to diversify their boards, writes our columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Many companies, like Salesforce, don’t allow employees to join external boards alongside their day jobs, and especially not those below the senior-most ranks, where women and ethnic and racial minorities tend to be better represented. When Ms. Christoff asked for permission, she was rebuffed, and when she accepted the directorship, she was fired.

Mr. Sorkin describes the obstacle this presents:

With so many employees trying to overcome barriers to promotions at their own employers, this creates a kind of systemic impediment to diversifying boardrooms.

And with companies facing growing calls from investors and society to diversify their boards, a new fault line is being exposed in corporate America: Should companies let their managers spread their wings?

Ms. Christoff is eager to bring attention to the issue. “People don’t know that these policies exist, and it’s not just Salesforce that has this policy,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to restrict board service to senior management. And so highlighting that issue to me feels important both from an equity perspective, but also from a business perspective.”