worldwide surge in energy prices threatens to impose more hardship as it hampers the recovery. This week, oil prices hit a seven-year high in the United States. With winter approaching, Europeans are worried that heating costs will soar when temperatures drop. In other spots, the shortages have cut even deeper, causing blackouts in some places that paralyzed transport, closed factories and threatened food supplies.

China, electricity is being rationed in many provinces and many companies are operating at less than half of their capacity, contributing to an already significant slowdown in growth. India’s coal reserves have dropped to dangerously low levels.

And over the weekend, Lebanon’s six million residents were left without any power for more than 24 hours after fuel shortages shut down the nation’s power plants. The outage is just the latest in a series of disasters there. Its economic and financial crisis has been one of the world’s worst in 150 years.

Oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere are lately benefiting from the jump in prices. But many nations in the region and North Africa are still trying to resuscitate their pandemic-battered economies. According to newly updated reports from the World Bank, 13 of the 16 countries in that region will have lower standards of living this year than they did before the pandemic, in large part because of “underfinanced, imbalanced and ill-prepared health systems.”

Other countries were so overburdened by debt even before the pandemic that governments were forced to limit spending on health care to repay foreign lenders.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are fears of a second lost decade of growth like the one experienced after 2010. In South Africa, over one-third of the population is out of work.

And in East Asia and the Pacific, a World Bank update warned that “Covid-19 threatens to create a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality for the first time this century.” Businesses in Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines lost on average 40 percent or more of their typical monthly sales. Thailand and many Pacific island economies are expected to have less output in 2023 than they did before the pandemic.

debt ceiling — can further set back the recovery, the I.M.F. warned.

But the biggest risk is the emergence of a more infectious and deadlier coronavirus variant.

Ms. Gopinath at the I.M.F. urged vaccine manufacturers to support the expansion of vaccine production in developing countries.

Earlier this year, the I.M.F. approved $650 billion worth of emergency currency reserves that have been distributed to countries around the world. In this latest report, it again called on wealthy countries to help ensure that these funds are used to benefit poor countries that have been struggling the most with the fallout of the virus.

“We’re witnessing what I call tragic reversals in development across many dimensions,” said David Malpass, the president of the World Bank. “Progress in reducing extreme poverty has been set back by years — for some, by a decade.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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Global Markets Swoon as Worries Mount Over Superpowers’ Plans

Investors on three continents dumped stocks on Monday, fretting that the governments of the world’s two largest economies — China and the United States — would act in ways that could undercut the nascent global economic recovery.

The Chinese government’s reluctance to step in and save a highly indebted property developer just days before a big interest payment is due signaled to investors that Beijing might break with its longstanding policy of bailing out its homegrown stars.

And in the United States, the globe’s No. 1 economy, investors worried that the Federal Reserve would soon begin cutting back its huge purchases of government bonds, which had helped drive stocks to a series of record highs since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The sell-off started in Asia and spread to Europe — where exporters to China were slammed — before landing in the United States, where stocks appeared to be heading for their worst performance of the year before a rally at the end of the trading day. The S&P 500 closed down 1.7 percent, its worst daily performance since mid-May, after being down as much as 2.9 percent in the afternoon.

to ignore a variety of issues complicating the recovery — including the emergence of the Delta variant and the supply chain snarls that have bedeviled consumers and manufacturers alike.

But beginning this month, as Evergrande began to teeter and the likelihood of the Fed’s scaling back — or tapering — its bond-buying programs grew, the market’s protective bubble began to deflate. Some U.S. investors are also concerned that tax increases are in the offing — including on share buybacks and corporate profits — to help pay for a spending push by the federal government, the signature piece of which is President Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget bill. Separately, Congress also must act to raise the government’s borrowing limit, a politically charged process that has at times thrown markets for a loop.

On Monday, those currents combined, reflecting the interconnectedness of the global markets as investors everywhere sold their holdings.

the rancorous debate about increasing the debt limit was accompanied by a sharp market slump, as representatives in Washington appeared to flirt with the idea of not raising the constraint on borrowing, which would effectively amount to a default on Treasury bonds.

“It’s going to be drama for the sake of politics,” said Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “People don’t like that.”

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Indian Police Visit Twitter Offices as Modi Goes on Pandemic Offense

The officers from India’s elite antiterrorism police unit descended after dusk on the New Delhi offices of Twitter, with television news cameras in tow. Their mission: Start an argument over fake news.

The offices sat empty, closed amid India’s devastating coronavirus outbreak. And the police acknowledged that they were there to deliver nothing more legally binding than a notice disputing a warning label that Twitter had assigned to some tweets.

But symbolically, the visit by the police on Monday night sent a clear message that India’s powerful ruling party is becoming increasingly upset with Twitter because of the perception that the company has sided with critics of the government. As anger has risen across the country over India’s stumbling response to the pandemic, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have struggled to control the narrative.

As a result, top Indian political leaders have applied increasing pressure on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms that people are using to air their complaints. In doing so, they are following the path of some other countries trying to control how and where messages can spread on social media. In March, for example, the Russian government said it would slow access to Twitter, one of the few places where Russians openly criticize the government.

forged.

blocked the accounts of 500 people accused of making inflammatory remarks about Mr. Modi.

India banned TikTok, WeChat and dozens of other Chinese apps, citing national security concerns.

Though Mr. Modi’s government controls the Delhi police, it was not clear on Tuesday that the failed mission at the Twitter office had happened at its behest.

A B.J.P. spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Twitter spokeswoman asked for questions in an email, which went unanswered.

On May 18, a B.J.P. spokesman, Sambit Patra, tweeted the picture of a document he described as plans by the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, for making the government look bad.

Mr. Patra’s message was retweeted more than 5,000 times, including by ministers in Mr. Modi’s government and party leaders.

Harsh Vardhan, India’s health minister, used the hashtag #CongressToolkitExposed to rip into the opposition party.

“It’s deplorable on their part to attempt to spread misinformation during this global catastrophe just to swell their dwindling political fortunes at the expense of people’s suffering,” Dr. Vardhan tweeted.

India’s decision to export vaccines abroad.

The posters were made by the ruling party in Delhi, another party in opposition to the B.J.P., according to a party member, Durgesh Pathak.

“In a democracy, to ask a question is not wrong,” Mr. Pathak said. “I am not abusing anybody. I am not instigating anybody for violence. I am not asking anybody to do any wrong thing. I am asking a question to the prime minister of my country.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

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Will NFTs Transform Tattoos Into Bankable Art?

Top tattoo artists are highly coveted, their work displayed on some of the world’s most visible real estate: LeBron James’s shoulders, Scarlett Johansson’s back, Post Malone’s face.

But you can’t hang tattoos in a gallery, or auction them at Sotheby’s. They live and (unless previously removed) die with their owner. It also means that the most in-demand tattoo artists are still paid by the hour, just as many were during their apprenticeships decorating the biceps of sailors and bikers.

Artists do not generally get paid by the hour, said Scott Campbell, 44, a Los Angeles tattoo artist who has inked Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Aniston and Marc Jacobs. “Musicians don’t get paid by how long it takes them to create a song. You’d never go to a gallery and think, ‘How long did it take the artist to paint it? I’ll pay him for his time.’”

Mr. Cartoon) and Brian Woo (Dr. Woo), wants to change this equation.

All Our Best, where tattoo artists can offer their designs as permanent, tradable commodities in the form of NFTs.

To refresh: an NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is basically a digital stamp of authenticity that can be bought, sold or traded like cryptocurrency on a blockchain. This is a far cry from the tattoo world, where the stars of the field see their earnings capped at around $1,000 an hour for a one- to three-hour session, even when working on Hollywood stars.

In this new marketplace, customers will be buying the exclusive rights to the design of the tattoo, rather than the tattoo itself. “I’m selling you an idea, instead of just hours of my life,” said Mr. Campbell, who has been blurring the line between tattoo and fine arts for years, showing his tattoo-inspired sculptures and paintings at galleries and art fairs. “The NFT is basically a digital baseball card.”

As a perk of ownership, buyers get a guaranteed slot with the tattoo artist — no small thing, since top tattoo artists can be nearly impossible to book for those outside the celebrity orbit.

Mr. Campbell, Mr. Cartoon, Dr. Woo, Grime, Sean from Texas and Tati Compton. Mr. Campbell plans to expand the roster, and eventually open the marketplace for any tattoo artist to sell work.

He is not the only tattoo artist to see opportunity in blockchain. An artist in Portland, Me., named Brad Wooten, for example, is selling photos of digitally designed tattoos as NFTs.

The earning potential is considerable. Prices for the initial round of NFT tattoos on All Our Best will range from $1,000 to $10,000. The blockchain technology also allows artists to make a 10 percent royalty every time a work is resold.

Clients also stand to profit if the work appreciates, unlike the current setup where “the only thing they get out of the deal is an Instagram post and some bragging rights,” Mr. Campbell said. “They actually have something that they can keep and pass onto their kids, that has a life beyond being just that thing on their arm that in 10 years is going to be sunburned and blurry anyway.”

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Steel Price Surge Revives U.S. Industry

For decades, the story of American steel had been one of job losses, mill closures and the bruising effects of foreign competition. But now, the industry is experiencing a comeback that few would have predicted even months ago.

Steel prices are at record highs and demand is surging, as businesses step up production amid an easing of pandemic restrictions. Steel makers have consolidated in the past year, allowing them to exert more control over supply. Tariffs on foreign steel imposed by the Trump administration have kept cheaper imports out. And steel companies are hiring again.

Evidence of the boom can even be found on Wall Street: Nucor, the country’s biggest steel producer, is this year’s top performing stock in the S&P 500, and shares of steel makers are generating some of the best returns in the index.

“We are running 24/7 everywhere,” said Lourenco Goncalves, the chief executive of Cleveland-Cliffs, an Ohio-based steel producer that reported a significant surge in sales during its latest quarter. “Shifts that were not being used, we are using,” Mr. Goncalves said in an interview. “That’s why we’re hiring.”

has fallen more than 75 percent. More than 400,000 jobs disappeared as foreign competition grew and as the industry shifted toward production processes that required fewer workers. But the price surge is delivering some optimism to steel towns across the country, especially after job losses during the pandemic pushed American steel employment to the lowest level on record.

“Last year we were laying off,” said Pete Trinidad, president of the United Steelworkers Local 6787 union, which represents roughly 3,300 workers at a Cleveland-Cliffs steel mill in Burns Harbor, Ind. “Everybody was offered jobs back. And we’re hiring now. So, yes, it’s a 180-degree turn.”

broader tariffs on imported steel in 2018. Steel imports have collapsed by roughly a quarter, compared with 2017 levels, according to Goldman Sachs, opening up an opportunity for domestic producers, who are capturing prices as much as $600 per ton above those prevailing on the global markets.

Those tariffs have been eased somewhat by one-off agreements with trade partners like Mexico and Canada, and by exemptions granted to companies. But the tariffs are in place and continue to be applied to imports from key competitors in the European Union and China.

steel and aluminum imports that had played a major role in the Trump administration’s trade wars.

It is unclear whether the talks will lead to any significant breakthroughs. They could, however, make for difficult politics for the White House. On Wednesday, a coalition of steel industry groups including steel manufacturing trade groups and the United Steelworkers union — whose leadership endorsed President Biden in the 2020 election — called on the Biden administration to ensure that tariffs remain in place.

“Eliminating the steel tariffs now would undermine the viability of our industry,” they wrote in a letter addressed to the president.

Adam Hodge, a spokesman for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which announced the trade talks, said the discussions were focused on “effective solutions that address global steel and aluminum overcapacity by China and other countries while ensuring the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries.”

Although producers are rejoicing, the price increases are painful for consumers of steel.

At its Plymouth, Mich., plant, Clips & Clamps Industries employs roughly 50 workers who stamp and form steel into components for cars such as the metal props that are used to keep the hood open when checking the oil.

“Last month, I can tell you, we lost money,” said Jeffrey Aznavorian, the manufacturer’s president. He attributed the loss, in part, to higher prices the company had to pay for steel. Mr. Aznavorian said he worried that his company would lose ground to foreign auto parts suppliers in Mexico and Canada who can buy cheaper steel and offer lower prices.

And it does not look like things are going to get easier for steel buyers any time soon. Wall Street analysts recently lifted forecasts for U.S. steel prices, citing the combination of industry consolidation and the durability, at least so far, of Trump-era tariffs under Mr. Biden. The two have helped create what analysts from Citibank called “the best backdrop for steel in a decade.”

Leon Topalian, the chief executive of Nucor, said the economy was showing an ability to absorb high steel prices, which reflect the high-demand nature of the recovery from the pandemic. “When Nucor is doing well, our customer segment is doing well,” Mr. Topalian said, “which means their customers are doing well.”

For their part, steel workers are enjoying a respite after being hit hard by the pandemic.

The city of Middletown in southwestern Ohio was spared the worst of the downturn, which saw 7,000 iron and steel production jobs disappear nationwide. Middletown Works — a sprawling Cleveland-Cliffs steel plant and one of the area’s most important employers — managed to avoid layoffs. But as demand has surged, activity and hours at the plant are picking up.

“We’re definitely running good,” said Neil Douglas, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 1943, which represents more than 1,800 workers at Middletown Works. The plant, Mr. Douglas said, is having trouble finding the additional workers to hire for positions that could earn as much as $85,000 a year.

And the buzz at the plant is spilling over into the town. Mr. Douglas says he can’t walk into the home improvement center without running into someone from the mill who is embarking on a new project at home.

“You can definitely feel in the town that people are using their disposable income,” he said. “When we’re running good and we’re making money, people are going to spend it in town for sure.”

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Inflation Is Here. What Now?

The central fact of the American economy in mid-2021 is that demand for all sorts of goods and services has surged. But supplies are coming back slowly, with the economy acting like a creaky machine that was turned off for a year and has some rusty parts.

The result, as underlined in new government data this week, is shortages and price inflation across many parts of the economy. That is putting the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve in a jam that is only partly of their own making.

Higher prices and the other problems that result from an economy that reboots itself are frustrating, but should be temporary. Still, the longer that the surges in prices continue and the more parts of the economy that they encompass, the greater the chances that Americans’ psychology about prices and inflation could shift in ways that become self-sustaining.

For the last few decades, companies have resisted raising prices or paying higher wages because they felt that doing so would cost them too much business. That put a damper on inflation across the economy. The question is whether current circumstances are evolving in a way that could change that.

shortage of limes, their prices spike and people use more lemons.

after a cyberattack shut down a major pipeline, are truly random events that tell us virtually nothing about underlying supply and demand or future inflation.

Some other sectors seem poised to experience price rises. Restaurants, for example, are complaining of severe labor shortages that are forcing them to curtail service or sharply raise pay for line cooks and dishwashers. If they try to reflect those higher costs in their prices, it will cause the price of food away from home to start rising faster than the (already fairly high) 3.8 percent figure over the last year.

Professional inflation-watchers are on close watch for signs that these forces might be unleashing a form of thinking about price dynamics unseen since the early 1980s, when prices rose in part because everyone expected them to.

The Fed is betting that won’t happen — that even if there are several months of surging prices, it will be at worst a one-time adjustment, and potentially something that reverses as old spending patterns return and workers return to their jobs.

“If past experience is any guide, production will rise to meet the level of goods demand before too long,” the Fed governor Lael Brainard said in a speech this week. “A limited period of pandemic-related price increases is unlikely to durably change inflation dynamics.”

For now, movements in key financial markets mostly align with the Fed view.

Futures contracts for major commodities like oil and copper, for example, suggest that traders expect prices to fall slightly in the years ahead, not rise further.

And in the bond market, even after a surge in longer-term interest rates following the high inflation reading Wednesday, most signs point to future inflation consistent with the 2 percent the Fed aims for.

Still, the level of future inflation implied by those bond prices has risen significantly in the last few weeks, meaning further moves are likely to increase worries that the inflation issues will be not-so-transitory after all. And the pattern could change abruptly if more evidence starts to arrive that the outlook for inflation is becoming unmoored.

“We aren’t obviously on the way to a very high and persistent inflation outcome,” said Brian Sack, director of global economics at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw and a former senior Federal Reserve official. “But we’re at an inflection point, in that the rise in inflation expectations to date has been a policy success, but a rise from here could become a policy problem.”

The Fed may believe that the evidence emerging in various corners of the economy is a one-time occurrence that will fade into memory before too long. The Biden administration is betting its agenda on the same idea.

Ultimately, what matters more than whatever the bond market does is how ordinary Americans who make everyday economic decisions — demanding raises or not, paying more for a car or not — view things. Can they wait for the complex machinery of the American economy to fully crank into gear?

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Biden’s Modest Tax Plan

Business lobbyists and conservative think tanks are not big fans of President Biden’s proposed tax increases on the wealthy.

The Tax Foundation has said that Biden wants to raise the capital gains tax to “highs not seen since the 1920s.” Suzanne Clark of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the same plan “outrageous.” Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers called the proposed increase in the corporate tax rate “archaic.” And Brendan Bechtel, the chief executive of the construction company that bears his family name, said that “it doesn’t feel fair.”

All of this rhetoric has obscured a basic fact about Biden’s tax plan: It would not actually raise tax rates on the rich to high levels, historically speaking.

If all of Biden’s proposed tax increases passed — on the corporate tax, as well as on investment taxes and income taxes for top earners — the total federal tax rate on the wealthy would remain significantly lower than it was in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. It would also remain somewhat lower than during the mid-1990s, based on an analysis that Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley, did for The Morning.

just how far taxes on the wealthy have fallen over the past 70 years. In the decades just after World War II, many corporations paid about half of their profits in federal taxes. (Shareholders, who are disproportionately affluent, effectively pay those taxes). Today, corporate taxes are only about one-fourth as large, as a share of G.D.P., as they were in the 1950s and ’60s.

The declines are not all ancient history, either. For most of the past quarter-century, taxes on the affluent have continued falling, including the rates on corporate profits, personal income, stock dividends, stock holdings and inheritances. Barack Obama reversed some of the declines, but only some. “The net effect over the past 25 years of federal income tax policy has been to reduce the overall revenue collected from top earners,” Owen Zidar, a Princeton University economist, told me.

Whether you like Biden’s plan or dislike it, it is not radical. For that reason, it is highly unlikely to have the harmful effects on economic growth that its critics are claiming. Remember: In the 1990s, the last time tax rates were as high as the ones Biden has proposed, the economy boomed. It also grew rapidly after World War II, when tax rates were higher yet.

History suggests that tax rates on the wealthy are not the main determinant of economic growth (and, if anything, higher taxes on the rich can sometimes lift growth). The main effect of Biden’s tax plan probably won’t be on the level of G.D.P. It will instead be on the relative tax burden that wealthy people pay. When they criticize the plan as unfair, archaic and outrageous, they are really saying that they enjoy paying low tax rates.

admit up to 62,500 refugees in the next six months, reversing his decision to keep a lower limit set by Donald Trump.

  • The E.P.A. plans to limit a class of climate-warming chemicals used in air-conditioning and refrigeration.

  • Richard Cordray, an ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren, will oversee federal student aid, putting him at the center of Democratic disagreements over forgiving debt.

  • Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, accused Trump of “poisoning our democratic system” by making false claims of voter fraud.

  • The country’s increasing diversity isn’t doing as much to help Democrats as liberals hope, Nate Cohn explains.

  • When the World Trade Organization meets this week, should it waive Covid vaccine patents to increase access for poorer countries?

    from Stromboli.

    A Times classic: Can you guess whether these neighborhoods voted for Biden or for Trump?

    Lives Lived: He was born Joseph Jacques Ahearn, but his mother thought Jacques d’Amboise would be better suited to the ballet world. After he became a dancer, d’Amboise found stardom in New York and Hollywood. He died at 86.

    the critic Jesse Green writes in The Times.

    The album, “All the Girls,” also featuring the soprano Sally Wilfert, came out two days after Luker’s death in December. Green calls it beautiful and funny. (It includes this song, which is worth watching.)

    Tonight, Luker’s colleagues and friends will tell stories and sing songs from her career at a fund-raising concert you can stream. — Claire Moses, Morning writer

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    As Covid-19 Cases Rise in India, Oxygen Becomes Scarce

    When 54-year-old Niranjan Saha started complaining of breathlessness at home last week in New Delhi, his wife, Usha Devi, immediately suspected the coronavirus. With India’s outbreak worsening and hospitals turning away patients, she rushed into their sons’ room.

    “Do whatever you want but find me an oxygen cylinder,” Ms. Devi told Anikat, 21, and Mukul, 19. “Sell my gold, but get a cylinder.”

    In India, amid probably the world’s gravest current outbreak, families beg for aid, and flames from funeral pyres burn day and night. Oxygen has become one of the scarcest commodities. On Wednesday, the Indian Health Ministry reported 3,293 deaths from the virus, taking the country’s toll to more than 200,000 since the pandemic began, and 357,000 new infections, breaking the global one-day record it set just days ago.

    The Indian government says that it has enough liquid oxygen to meet medical needs and that it is rapidly expanding its supply. But production facilities are concentrated in eastern India, far from the worst outbreaks in Delhi and in the western state of Maharashtra, requiring several days’ travel time by road.

    gasping for breath in ambulances, he told his wife that he would prefer to “die at home” rather than begging strangers for help.

    Their sons began looking anyway.

    They set off across Delhi on a motorbike, stopping at hospital after hospital to ask if any had a bed and oxygen supply. They called friends and sent mass texts on WhatsApp. They approached a politician from the Aam Aadmi Party, which runs the Delhi government. No one could help.

    Mr. Saha’s condition worsened and his fever soared. Lying in bed, he pleaded with Mrs. Devi to find a doctor.

    “I don’t want to die,” he said, grasping her hand.

    On Sunday evening, four days after he had tested positive, his sons stopped outside an oxygen refill shop in southern Delhi. A man stepped forward and offered to help. Relieved, Anikat and Mukul prepared to hand over the money their mother had given them: 10,000 rupees, about $135, the standard rate for a cylinder.

    looted from hospitals. A Delhi court on Tuesday said that the local government had failed to curb a mushrooming black market and described those hoarding supplies as “vultures.”

    “When hundreds of people die over something as basic as medical oxygen, it is a massive governance failure,” said Asim Ali, a research scholar at the Center for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.

    The brothers spoke to their mother, who made desperate calls to neighbors and relatives in Assam, their father’s home state. In the end, they did not have to pawn her gold jewelry: They scraped together the money and carried the cylinder away on their motorbike.

    At home, they couldn’t immediately figure out how to connect their father to the oxygen supply. By the time they got it to work, the oximeter on his finger showed his blood oxygen level dropping below 50 — dangerously low. For several hours, he drew shallow breaths through the tube.

    But then his eyes closed and his body lay still.

    They called an ambulance and Mrs. Devi rode with her husband to a hospital where they were told they might find a bed. They arrived to find a line of ambulances waiting outside with patients. Mr. Saha died before he could be admitted.

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