The Week in Enterprise: Costs Are Rising on Vehicles, Groceries and Even Burritos

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Good morning and a nice Sunday. Here’s what you need to know on the business and technology news for the week ahead. – Charlotte Cowles

Perhaps you’ve noticed that clothes, cars, groceries, and even chipotle burritos seem more expensive these days? It’s true – consumer prices rose 5 percent in May year over year. That’s a bigger jump than economists expected, and it was followed by another sharp rise in April (4.2 percent) that raised major inflation concerns. Some investors and politicians fear that prices will continue to rise, potentially forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and slow economic growth. Others believe this is only a temporary increase and that prices will stabilize as the economy catches up after a year of pandemic stagnation. (If you compare this year’s prices to 2019, the growth rate in May is only 2.5 percent – a much less scary number.)

As employers begin to bring workers back to their offices, many are trying to develop vaccination guidelines for their employees. And according to new guidelines from the US Equal Opportunities Commission, companies have the right to require their employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. You can also require employees to provide a vaccination card or other confirmation. What if an employee is not vaccinated because of a disability or religious belief? This employee can be entitled to special precautions as long as this does not constitute “unreasonable hardship” for the company.

The Justice Department snatched most of the ransom Colonial Pipeline paid in Bitcoin last month to a Russian hacking group that shut down their systems and caused an uproar in the fuel industry. This is good news for Colonial Pipeline, but bad news for Bitcoin, which has been widely viewed by investors and consumers (and criminals) as untraceable and beyond the reach of governments. It remains to be seen whether the government can help JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, get back the $ 11 million ransom it paid to hackers in Bitcoin.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill on Tuesday that aims to invest nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in scientific research and technological development over the next five years to make the US more competitive with China. (By comparison, the Chinese government has been doing the same thing for years to stimulate its own industrial and technological growth.) Legislation is now being directed into the House of Representatives, where it faces tougher criticism but still enjoys non-partisan support. It is also supported by President Biden. If it becomes law, it could be the most significant government intervention in industrial policy in decades.

Daily business briefing

Updated

June 11, 2021 at 1:46 p.m. ET

Mr Biden will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland this week and plans to confront him for harboring the perpetrators of recent cyberattacks on companies operating in the United States. (Mr Putin is known for taking a distant stance – even encouraging them – towards hackers as long as they promote Russian interests and leave Russian companies alone.) In the run-up to the summit, Mr Biden will become the heads of state and government of the European Union NATO, allies and the Group of 7 Wealthy Nations are urging to support a strong, unified stance towards Russia.

The United States managed to get the group of seven nations to agree on a minimum worldwide tax rate of 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of their headquarters. It’s a move to crack down on companies that evade taxes by having their headquarters in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. It would also potentially force tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold, regardless of whether they have a physical footprint there. But the next step – convincing the group of 20 nations, which include China and Russia, to join their finance ministers’ meeting next month – will be a much more difficult undertaking.