The daily business briefing: October 4, 2023

Interest rates hit 16-year high, US job openings rise unexpectedly, and more

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1. Interest rates hit 16-year high

Long-term interest rates surged Tuesday to the highest level since the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, chipping away at hopes that the Federal Reserve's inflation-fighting campaign to raise rates won't trigger a recession. The yields on the 10-year Treasury note climbed 0.119 percentage points to 4.801%. Mortgage rates, which loosely follow Treasury yields, also rose. The average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage climbed to 7.72% on Tuesday, CNBC reported, citing Mortgage News Daily. The 30-year fixed rate started the year with a drop to about 6%, but rose steadily over the summer. Higher rates have hurt sales of new and existing homes by driving up monthly payments. The Wall Street Journal, CNBC

2. Job openings rise unexpectedly

U.S. job openings rose unexpectedly to 9.6 million in August, up from 8.9 million in July, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. Economists had expected vacancies to come in at 8.9 million again. The number of layoffs and people quitting remained essentially unchanged. It was the first increase in job openings in three months. The data indicated that the job market remains strong despite the Federal Reserve's aggressive campaign to raise interest rates to slow the economy and bring inflation down to its 2% target. "Yes, the job market is still retaining a lot of heat," said Nick Bunker, head of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, "but it hasn't gone back on the boil." The Associated Press

3. Ford offers bigger raise, still less than striking workers want

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it had given the United Auto Workers a new contract proposal that includes a wage hike of more than 20%. Ford said the "costly" offer would put its 57,000 union workers in the top quarter of U.S. hourly and salaried jobs. This was the automaker's seventh offer to the UAW, which launched an unprecedented strike against all three of Detroit's Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler's Stellantis — nearly three weeks ago. The union started out demanding a 40% pay increase, but now seeks a hike of at least 30% to end the strike, according to Bloomberg News. The union didn't immediately comment on Ford's latest offer. Bloomberg

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4. 8 Chinese companies accused of supplying fentanyl chemicals

U.S. federal officials on Tuesday announced criminal charges against eight Chinese companies for allegedly supplying chemicals for illegal production of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine. Twelve of the companies' executives also face charges. This was the Biden administration's second major wave of indictments against companies in China for allegedly providing Mexican drug cartels with drugmaking chemicals. The finished drugs are fueling the U.S. overdose epidemic, which is killing more than 100,000 people a year, The Washington Post reported. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a Justice Department news briefing that the "global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China." The Washington Post

5. Stock futures little changed after Tuesday's losses

U.S. stock futures were mixed early Wednesday as bond yields continued to rise. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were little changed at 6:45 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down 0.1%. Jumps in job openings and Treasury yields sparked a sell-off on Tuesday. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell 1.3% and 1.4%, respectively, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq plunged 1.9%. "Interest rates are the primary driver of equity performance today and have been for the better part of two months," Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird, told CNBC. Investor's Business Daily, CNBC

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