The week in business: economic sanctions take their toll

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More than two million people have fled Ukraine in the past two weeks as Russia’s invasion of the country has killed thousands and cut access to water and electricity in some cities . In response to the humanitarian crisis, more than 300 companies have withdrawn at least some operations in Russia, according to a list maintained by the Yale School of Management. Retail companies closed stores, fast-food restaurants suspended operations, and business service firms removed Russian partners from their umbrella networks. But some of these measures have drawbacks. They could injure Russian civilians or other countries allied against Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday accused the United States of waging “economic warfare” against Russia and the next day in a televised meeting told officials that the assets of American companies withdrawing from Russia were to be nationalized.

The price of gas was rising before Russia invaded Ukraine and has risen every day since. The price hike is partly the result of Western sanctions against Russia, and increases are likely to continue after announcements on Tuesday that the United States and Britain would ban imports of Russian energy. Although Russia only exports a small amount of oil to the United States, the country is one of the top three oil producers in the world, and replacing its supply will not be easy. Some countries that could help fill the void, such as Venezuela and Iran, are under US sanctions. And even if the United States could increase its production, it would take years.

On Tuesday, Hawaii became the latest state to announce it would end its indoor mask mandate. As governments roll back pandemic restrictions, companies have had to choose which precautions to voluntarily impose. Some New York restaurants have continued to require proof of vaccinations for indoor diners, even though the city’s requirement to do so expired last Monday. In at least one case, at a Greenwich Village restaurant that still asked diners to provide proof of vaccination, a protest ensued.

The Labor Department released new data on Thursday showing food, rent and gasoline prices continued their sharp rise in February, a trend of rapid inflation that economists said they expect to continue In the coming months. The consumer price index rose 7.9%, the fastest annual inflation rate in 40 years. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to announce that it will raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, in an effort to cool the economy.

On Monday, the Biden administration proposed new limits on pollution from buses and heavy trucks like tractor-trailers and delivery vans. The proposed rule, expected to be finalized by the end of the year, would force heavy-duty truck makers to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions – which have been linked to lung cancer, heart disease and premature death – by 90%, starting with the 2027 model year, and slightly reducing their carbon dioxide emissions, starting with the 2024 model year. This would be the first time that exhaust emission standards would be tightened for heavy trucks in 20 years.

In January, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of four counts of fraud for lying to investors about her blood testing startup Theranos. On Tuesday, the trial begins for her business partner and former boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani. During her trial, Ms Holmes blamed Mr Balwani for the downfall of her business and accused him of abuse. He faces the same 12 charges as Ms. Holmes and has pleaded not guilty.

Apple has unveiled a new iPhone, iPad and other gadgets. “The Batman” has cleaned up at the box office. Lululemon will soon offer shoes. And after the owners of Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the league players union, baseball is back.

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