Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declared martial law in four Ukrainian regions—Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk—that Russia claims to have recently annexed despite not having full military control of any of them. The move ostensibly grants officials additional powers—including detention, resettlement, and internment—and Russian-installed authorities have reportedly begun moving Ukrainians out of Kherson and away from Ukraine’s advancing military forces.
- President Joe Biden announced Wednesday his administration will release another 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in December in an effort to lower gas prices. Although the announcement comes just weeks before the midterm elections, Biden was adamant the move was “not politically motivated at all.” With about 405 million barrels of oil currently in storage, the SPR is at slightly more than half its 714-million-barrel capacity—its lowest level in nearly 40 years. Citing a new Department of Energy rule allowing the agency to enter into fixed-price contracts with suppliers, the White House announced its intent this week to begin refilling the SPR by purchasing oil once crude prices fall to about $67 to $72 per barrel.
- Real estate brokerage Redfin reported Wednesday that the U.S. housing market slowed dramatically in September, with the number of homes sold falling 25 percent year-over-year—the largest such drop on record aside from the earliest few months of the pandemic. The median home-sale price decreased 0.5 percent from August to September, but remains 8 percent higher than it was in September 2021.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday it was authorizing a booster shot for Novavax’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine that, unlike Moderna and Pfizer’s booster doses, targets only the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, not any Omicron variants. The booster is authorized for those 18 and older who are at least six months past their initial vaccination and cannot or will not receive an mRNA booster. The Centers for Disease Control formally recommended the Novavax booster hours after its FDA approval, including for people who received Moderna and Pfizer shots as their primary series.
- North Korea has fired off about 350 artillery shells into the sea off both its east and west coasts since Tuesday, according to South Korean military officials. The tests follow numerous missile launches in recent weeks, and come as South Korea conducts its annual Hoguk defense drills.
- John Lee, Hong Kong’s new Chinese Communist Party-approved chief executive, delivered his first policy address on Wednesday, announcing aspirations to counteract the “brain drain” that’s sapped the special administrative region of nearly 140,000 workers in two years. Though many analysts attribute the exodus to Hong Kong’s crackdown on civil liberties and strict COVID-19 policies, Lee proposed granting two-year visas to high earners and graduates of top universities around the globe to reverse the trend.
‘The Fed is Not Making Everyone Else’s Job Easier’
Lately, the United States Federal Reserve has been like the world’s biggest bull charging through the china shop of the global economy—trailed by a herd of smaller banks mooing their annoyance.
There are plenty of other factors affecting the global economy—COVID-19 lockdowns in China, big government spending, the war in Ukraine—and the Fed’s job is to focus on the U.S. But as the central bank of the world’s largest economy, its aggressive rate hikes reverberate worldwide.