Saudis keep control of the oil market despite a production increase.

For months, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, arguably the most powerful individual in the oil business, has urged his fellow producers to keep a tight rein on output, fearing additional crude could flood the world’s markets and cause prices to drop. At the same time, some producers, notably Russia, have been chafing to open the spigot a bit more.

On Thursday, the prince seemed to relent, as the group called OPEC Plus — the members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies like Russia — agreed to modest output increases over the next three months.

Analysts said the prince, who is the chair of OPEC Plus, appeared to be calculating that by appeasing other producers who want to produce more oil, he can remain in control over the longer term.

The prince repeated his go-slow message on Thursday, arguing that the global economic recovery from the pandemic remained fragile, and so his willingness to sign off on an increase came as something of a surprise. But the decision seemed to be an acknowledgment of the diversity of opinions within OPEC Plus, and that he must take the views of other key producers like Russia and the United Arab Emirates into account to maintain leadership and to keep them from going their own way.

“It is not my decision, it is everybody’s decision,” he said at a news conference after Thursday’s OPEC Plus meeting.

So far traders have signaled their approval by pushing up prices in what had been a weak market. On Friday, Brent crude, the international benchmark was up about 3.4 percent to $64.86 a barrel.

Under the deal agreed Thursday, OPEC Plus will gradually increase production by 350,000 barrels a day in May and June and 441,000 barrels a day in July. Over the same period, the Saudis will also relax the one million barrels a day they have been voluntarily keeping off the market, bringing the total increase to about 2.1 million barrels a day by July.

The plan “points to a still cautious and orderly ramp-up from OPEC Plus, still allowing for a tight oil market,” rather than a flood, analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

OPEC Plus also retain the option of adjusting output at monthly meetings. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter, can also take unilateral decisions to trim supplies.

This ability to quickly backtrack “provides the prince with comfort that he is exercising a fairly low-risk option,” Helima Croft, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients.

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OPEC and Its Allies Agree toGradual Increases in Oil Production

OPEC and its allies, including Russia, announced on Thursday they would gradually increase oil production over the next three months.

In agreeing to modest output increases, Saudi Arabia appears to have yielded to pressure from Russia and other producers who are eager to raise output. They want to take advantage of what they see as a likely growing global thirst for oil as economies slowly expand after pandemic lockdowns.

The group, known as OPEC Plus, has been withholding eight million barrels a day from the market.

On this occasion, the Saudis “decided to go with the consensus of the members,” said Helima Croft, a commodity strategist at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank.

A call on Wednesday from the new U.S. secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm, to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, may also have had some impact, although the Saudi official denied that the oil markets had been discussed.

wrote on Twitter.

Under the agreement, OPEC Plus will increase production by 350,000 barrels a day in both May and June and by 441 thousand barrels a day in July. Over the same period, Saudi Arabia will gradually unwind additional cuts of one million barrels a day that it has been making voluntarily.

Prince Abdulaziz said during a news conference after the meeting that OPEC Plus wanted to test out increased production but would still be able to change plans if demand failed to materialize.

“We can freeze; we can increase; we can decrease,” he said.

For now, the oil market has accepted the prospect of increases that would amount to less than 1 percent of global consumption per month. Larry Goldstein, an oil analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, said that the approach to relaxing cuts was “very modest and conservative” and would tend to bolster prices over the coming months.

In addition, Ms. Croft said, OPEC’s willingness to increase output is seen as a vote of confidence in the global economic recovery.

France’s reimposition of a national lockdown, announced Wednesday, underlines persistent doubts about the pace of recovery from the pandemic, as have rising case numbers in the United States.

But other producers, including Russia and the United Arab Emirates, have been pushing for increased production.

At the beginning of the meeting, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Alexander Novak, who is co-chair of OPEC Plus, said that the market had “considerably improved” since its meeting last month. He estimated that demand now exceeded supply by about two million barrels a day, a deficit that would lead to a rapid draw down of inventories, potentially leading to higher prices.

Prince Abdulaziz emphasized that he had good rapport with Mr. Novak — a big difference from a year ago, he said, when the two countries clashed in a market-wrenching price war.

“We talk to each other more often than talking to our own families,” the prince said.

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Fallout From Hedge Fund’s Defaults Spreads Through Markets: Live Updates

Bloomberg identified it as Archegos Capital Management, a New York-based family office that manages the wealth of Bill Hwang, a former hedge fund manager at Tiger Asia Management who was found guilty of wire fraud in 2012.

Investment banks that provided services to Archegos, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, dumped huge quantities of stocks including ViacomCBS and Chinese tech companies on Friday.

Archegos was forced into the stock sales, worth about $20 billion, after bets the fund made moved the wrong way, Bloomberg reported. Shares in ViacomCBS, one of Archegos’s positions, dropped 23 percent on Wednesday last week. On Friday, the share price plummeted a further 27 percent as the investment banks liquidated positions. ViacomCBS shares fell about 3 percent in early trading on Monday.

Shares in Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley opened about 2-3 percent lower on Monday. Shares in Deutsche Bank fell more than 3 percent, after it was said to also have some exposure to Archegos.

Credit Suisse has already been roiled this month by the collapse of Greensill Capital, a London-based financial firm it sold funds for, and to whom it extended loans of $140 million. The Swiss bank told investors it would probably report some losses on the loan.

“A significant U.S.-based hedge fund defaulted on margin calls made last week by Credit Suisse and certain other banks,” the Swiss bank said on Monday. It did not yet know the exact size of the loss from exiting its positions but “it could be highly significant and material to our first quarter results,” the statement said.

  • Oil prices bounced around on Monday following news about the fate of the container ship that had been blocking the Suez Canal for nearly week. The ship was finally freed on Monday, raising the prospect that trade flows would be restored, but authorities said more work was needed before maritime traffic could restart.

  • Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 1.65 percent.

Bill Hwang, right, with his lawyer in 2012. Archegos Capital Management manages the personal fortune of the former hedge fund mogul.
Credit…Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

The fallout from risky investments made by Archegos Capital Management continued to spread through the global markets on Monday, and it could spur more attention from regulators on the murky world of swaps and investor borrowing, the DealBook newsletter reports.

But how did one firm’s bad bets cascade to become a multibillion-dollar fire sale of stocks by banks around the world? Here’s what we know so far:

Archegos manages the personal fortune of the former hedge fund mogul Bill Hwang, who won Wall Street’s business despite having pleaded guilty to insider trading years ago. It amassed huge positions in media giants like ViacomCBS and in several Chinese tech companies — largely with borrowed money.

The Archegos strategy included using swaps, contracts that gave Mr. Hwang financial exposure to companies’ shares while hiding both his identity and how big his positions really were. (It is also becoming increasingly apparent that several Wall Street banks lent Archegos money without knowing that others were doing the same thing for the same trades.)

Trouble for Mr. Hwang, and his banks, arose when the prices of those stocks started to fall. That prompted some of his lenders to demand cash to cover his bets. When they began to question his ability to do so, some of them, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, seized some of his holdings and kicked off the sale $20 billion worth in huge block trades.

That forced selling led to even bigger drops in the prices of those stocks, starting a vicious circle.

Goldman Sachs has told investors that its potential losses are “immaterial,” having covered its exposure, but other investment banks faced a reckoning:

  • Credit Suisse told investors that a “U.S.-based hedge fund” had defaulted on its margin calls, which could lead to losses that were “highly significant and material to our first-quarter results.”

  • Nomura said that one of its U.S. arms could suffer “a significant loss” because of the forced sales.

One person who is surely paying attention is Gary Gensler: President Biden’s pick to lead the S.E.C. has been an advocate for market transparency, having argued that unregulated dark pools could cause a broader risk to the U.S. economy.

Southwest Airlines, the largest buyer of Boeing’s 737 Max jet, said that it had ordered a total of the planes over the next decade.
Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Southwest Airlines is doubling down on Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet, adding 100 new orders for the plane just months after regulators began allowing it to fly again.

The airline, already the largest customer of the Max, said on Monday that it had ordered a total of 349 Max jets over the next decade. Southwest, which resumed flights aboard the Max this month, also said it had more than doubled the number of planes it had options to buy, to 270.

“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Today’s commitment to the 737 Max solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft.”

Regulators around the world grounded the Max, which is quieter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessors, in March 2019 following fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the plane in November, requiring various changes and upgrades. It was soon followed by other aviation regulators and the plane has been used on thousands of flights since.

The expanded Southwest order comes as more passengers start flying again. More than 1.5 million people were screened at airport security checkpoints on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the most since the coronavirus pandemic began. Still, that was about 37 percent fewer people than the agency had screened on the same day in 2019.

Southwest did not say how much it will pay for its new Max order. The airline is spending more than $10 billion in new and existing airplane orders. The airline expects to receive 28 Max planes this year and at least 30 each year after through 2025.

By acquiring Houghton Mifflin, HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, will be better able to compete as publishing has come to be dominated by the biggest players.
Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

HarperCollins, one of the five largest publishing companies in the United States, has made a deal to acquire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Media, the trade publishing division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for $349 million.

The acquisition will help HarperCollins expand its catalog of backlist titles at a moment of growing consolidation in the book business. Houghton Mifflin publishes perennial sellers by well-known authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Philip Roth and Lois Lowry, as well as children’s classics and best-selling cookbooks and lifestyle guides.

News of the sale was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

By acquiring Houghton Mifflin, HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, will be better able to compete as publishing has come to be dominated by the biggest players.

The book business has been transformed by consolidation in the past decade, with the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013, News Corp’s purchase of the romance publisher Harlequin, and Hachette Book Group’s acquisition of Perseus Books. Last fall, ViacomCBS agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for more than $2 billion, in a deal that has drawn scrutiny from antitrust regulators and has raised concerns among booksellers, authors and agents.

Book sales across the industry have remained strong during the pandemic, but Houghton Mifflin saw its revenue fall sharply last year because of a steep drop in sales in its education division. Its revenue fell by more than 46 percent in the nine months that ended on Sept. 30 of last year, compared with the same period in 2019. The company put its trade publishing division up for sale last fall, as it aims to focus on its core business of K-12 educational publishing, and to pay down its debt.

“There is incredible demand for our expertise as schools across the country plan for post-pandemic learning and recovery,” Houghton Mifflin’s president and chief executive, Jack Lynch, said in a news release. “This is an inflection moment for K-12 education in our country and for HMH as a trusted partner to schools and teachers in advancing learning for every student.”

Tankers and freight ships near the entrance of the Suez Canal.
Credit…Ahmed Hasan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Oil prices fell on Monday as word spread that the giant cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal had been set free, raising hopes that hundreds of vessels, many carrying oil and petroleum products, could soon proceed through the critical waterway.

Oil prices had swirled earlier in the day, as prospects of an end to the logjam brightened, and then dimmed. But following the announcement that the containership Ever Given had been freed, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell about 2.5 percent, to $63.90 a barrel.

Since the vessel got stuck early last week, tankers have been lining up at the entrances to the canal waiting to deliver their cargoes to Europe and Asia.

The Suez Canal is a crucial choke point for oil shipping, but so far the impact on the oil market of this major interruption of trade flows has been relatively muted. Though prices jumped after shipping on the canal was halted, oil prices still remain below their nearly two-year highs of about $70 a barrel reached earlier this month.

Traders are now expected to focus on broader threats to the oil market, including whether the imposition of new lockdowns in Europe may hold back the recovery of oil demand from the pandemic.

From a global perspective, oil supplies are considered adequate, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, the group known as OPEC Plus, are withholding an estimated eight million barrels a day, or about 9 percent of current consumption, from the market. Officials from OPEC Plus are expected to meet by video conference on Thursday to discuss whether to ease output cuts.

Goldman Sachs’s headquarters in New York. A group of investors is suing the Wall Street bank over claims of fraud. 
Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday from Goldman Sachs and pension funds over a claim that the Wall Street giant misled investors about its work selling complex debt investments in the prelude to the 2008 financial crisis.

In its latest brief, Goldman makes an interesting argument, the DealBook newsletter reports: Investors shouldn’t rely on statements such as “honesty is at the heart of our business” or “our clients’ interests always come first” that appear in Securities and Exchange Commission filings and annual reports.

The case is a test of shareholders’ ability to sue over claims of investment fraud. The pension funds sought to sue as a class over Goldman’s statements, saying they belied those statements of honesty, and lower courts agreed to let them proceed. Goldman has argued that the investors are engaged in “guerrilla warfare” and aren’t providing “serious legal arguments,” relying on support from the federal government instead.

However, the Biden administration isn’t taking sides, technically. It will argue as a “friend of the court” on Monday that “meritorious private securities-fraud suits” are “an essential complement” to enforcing securities laws.

“I expect the court to be troubled by the claim that companies cannot be held accountable for saying that clients come first and then acting otherwise,” Robert Jackson Jr., who served on the S.E.C. from 2018 to 2020 and is now an N.Y.U. law professor, told DealBook.

The justices probably won’t agree with the claim that making a company “mean what it says” will lead to a tsunami of meritless lawsuits,” he added. Regardless, Goldman is right that the stakes are high, because the case is likely to decide whether shareholders can “hold corporate insiders accountable when they tell investors one thing and do another,” Mr. Jackson said.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela promoted an unproven remedy for Covid-19 on Facebook, which prompted the company to freeze his page. 
Credit…Manaure Quintero/Reuters

The Facebook page of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, was frozen for “repeated” violations of its misinformation policies, including a post about an unproven remedy for Covid-19, the company said on Sunday, the latest example of the social media giant cracking down on political figures who violate its content policies.

Mr. Maduro’s Facebook page will be frozen for 30 days in a “read-only” mode, the company said, “due to repeated violations of our rules.”

“We removed a video posted to President Nicolas Maduro’s Page for violating our policies against misinformation about Covid-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We follow guidance from the W.H.O. that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus.” The spokesman was referring to the World Health Organization.

Facebook’s move came after Mr. Maduro posted a video on his page that promoted Carvativir, a drug derived from thyme. He said in January that the medicine was a “miracle,” but did not provide evidence of its effectiveness — and declined to release the name of the “brilliant Venezuelan mind” that created the drug. In the video, Mr. Maduro falsely claimed that Carvativir can be used preventively and therapeutically against the coronavirus.

In the past, Facebook has been criticized for its inaction against political figures who test the boundaries of the company’s content policies by spreading misinformation. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, has said he does not want to be the “arbiter of truth” in public discourse.

But in recent months, Facebook has cracked down on certain types of misinformation across the network. The company has banned posts containing false or misleading information regarding the coronavirus, and has shown willingness to take action against some political figures. And in the past, it has removed at least one post by Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, for false coronavirus remedy claims regarding the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

In January, after insurgents stormed the United States Capitol, President Donald J. Trump’s account was banned indefinitely for inciting his supporters to violent action using the social network.

In response to his account restriction, Mr. Maduro has said Facebook is practicing a form of “digital totalitarianism,” according to Reuters, which first reported Mr. Maduro’s suspension.

Mr. Maduro said on Twitter on Sunday that he would continue to broadcast his regular coronavirus briefing from his other digital accounts, including Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. And to circumvent his suspension, he said he would use the Facebook account belonging to his wife, Cilia Flores, to broadcast Covid-19 information. Facebook would not comment on whether it would suspend Ms. Flores’s account.

A rally on Friday in support of the Amazon workers outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s building in Birmingham, Ala.
Credit…Charity Rachelle for The New York Times

One of the most closely watched union elections in recent history is wrapping up on Monday, one that could alter the shape of the labor movement and one of America’s largest employers.

Almost 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse near Birmingham, Ala., one of the company’s largest, are eligible to vote in this election. After years of fierce resistance from the company, they could form the first union at an Amazon operation in the United States.

The outcome of the vote may not be known for days, but the union drive has already succeeded in roiling the world’s biggest e-commerce company and spotlighting complaints about its labor practices, The New York Times’s Karen Weise and Michael Corkery write. If the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union succeeds, it would be a huge victory for the labor movement, whose membership has declined for decades. A victory would also give it a foothold inside one of the country’s largest private employers. The company now has 950,000 workers in the United States, after adding more than 400,000 in the last year alone.

If the union loses, particularly by a large margin, Amazon will have turned the tide on a unionization drive that seemed to have many winds at its back. A loss could force labor organizers to rethink their overall strategy and give Amazon confidence that its approach is working.

Hansjörg Wyss, the former chief executive of the medical device manufacturer Synthes, said he had agreed to join a bid for Tribune Publishing.
Credit…Ruben Sprich/Reuters

A Swiss billionaire who has donated hundreds of millions to environmental causes is a surprise new player in the bidding for Tribune Publishing, the major newspaper chain that until recently seemed destined to end up in the hands of a New York hedge fund.

Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced Hans-yorg Vees), the former chief executive of the medical device manufacturer Synthes, said he had agreed to join with the Maryland hotelier Stewart W. Bainum Jr. in a bid for Tribune, an offer that could upend Alden Global Capital’s plan to take full ownership of the company, Marc Tracy of The New York Times writes.

Mr. Wyss, who has given away some of his fortune to help preserve wildlife habitats in Wyoming, Montana and Maine, said he was motivated to join the Tribune bid by his belief in the need for a robust press. “I have an opportunity to do 500 times more than what I’m doing now,” he said.

Alden, which already owns roughly 32 percent of Tribune Publishing shares, is known for drastically cutting costs at the newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary. Last month, the hedge fund reached an agreement with Tribune, whose papers include The Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune, to buy the rest of the company’s shares.

The sale of Tribune, which the newspaper company hopes to conclude by July, requires regulatory approval and yes votes from company shareholders representing two-thirds of the non-Alden stock.

“We are in a hyper-growth industry,” said Dhivya Suryadevara, Stripe’s chief financial officer.
Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

Thousands of financial technology start-ups are riding an investor frenzy driven by a growing realization that the industry is ripe for a tech makeover, writes Erin Griffith of The New York Times.

When the pandemic forced businesses to speed up their usage of digital tools, including e-commerce and online banking, the demand for what is known as fintech exploded.

Now start-ups with names like Blend, Brex and Dave that provide decidedly unglamorous banking, lending and payment processing offerings are hot tickets. That was punctuated this month when Stripe, a payments company, raised $600 million in a financing that valued it at $95 billion, the highest ever for a private start-up in the United States.

Financial technology companies are also making a splash on the stock market. On Tuesday, Robinhood, a stock trading app popular with young adults, filed for an initial public offering. And Coinbase, a cryptocurrency start-up, is scheduled to go public in the next few weeks in what could be a $100 billion listing.

In total, venture capital investors poured $44.4 billion into financial technology start-ups last year, up from $1.1 billion in 2009, according to PitchBook, which tracks private financing. Many investors are now making bold predictions that these start-ups will upend big banks, established credit card providers — and in some cases, the entire financial system.

Christopher Waller, a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Federal Reserve’s independence from partisan politics is essential and must be protected, Christopher Waller, a member of Fed’s Board of Governors, said in his first speech as a top central bank official.

Mr. Waller, who previously worked in research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, was nominated to the Fed by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed to the job late last year.

He used his first extensive public remarks to push back on the idea that the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates, might keep them steady just to make interest costs on the government’s huge debt pile low in the wake of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“Going forward, the monetary policy choices of the F.O.M.C. will continue to be guided solely by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices,” Mr. Waller said. “Partisan policy preferences or the debt-financing needs of the Treasury will play no role in that decision.”

Mr. Waller noted that the government’s pandemic response spending packages — which totaled more than $5 trillion — have pushed the U.S. debt to a level last seen in World War II, relative to the nation’s output.

At the same time, the Fed has been keeping short-term policy interest rates near zero while buying up huge amounts of government debt to make financing of all kinds cheaper, helping to stoke demand and fuel an economic recovery.

That has contributed to a narrative that “the Federal Reserve will succumb to pressures” to keep rates low and continue buying bonds, Mr. Waller said, policies that would make it easier for the government to borrow and spend.

“It is simply wrong,” he said. “Monetary policy has not and will not be conducted for these purposes.”

Instead, the Fed will focus on fostering maximum employment and price stability — its two Congress-given goals. The Fed is politically independent, and although it has traditionally cooperated with the Treasury Department during times of crisis, elected officials and those with close ties to the presidential administration do not have a say in how it sets monetary policy to achieve its targets.

Mr. Waller’s remarks do not mean interest rates are poised to rise soon, though. The Fed has signaled that it will leave them near rock-bottom until inflation has moved higher and looks poised to stay there, and until the economy has returned to what they see as full employment.

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Suez Canal Live Updates: Aided by Moon and Tide, Giant Ship Is Partially Refloated

celebrated the moment on Twitter, writing that “Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.”

However, others involved in the operation urged caution.

While the ship was moving, what remained unclear was whether the bulbous bow — a protrusion at the front of the ship just below the waterline — is totally clear of dirt and debris. If it is still stuck in clay or obstructed by rocks, the early morning optimism could quickly fade.

Peter Berdowski, the chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, which has been appointed by Ever Given’s owner to help move the vessel, told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS on Monday that he understood the bow to be stuck “rock solid.”

“The ship is like a giant whale that we have to slide off the beach, back in the water,” he said early Monday. Pulling the stern lose, he said, was the easy part.

“We shouldn’t start cheering just yet,” he cautioned.

The high tide on Monday morning peaked at 11:42 a.m. local time, and crews will continue maneuvers as long as the water remains high, according to the authority. The next high tide will crest around midnight.

Despite the note of caution, workers at the scene could be seen in images circulating on social media celebrating their progress in the predawn hours.

There was widespread hope it was a a turning point in one of the largest and most intense salvage operations in modern history, with the smooth functioning of the global trading system hanging in the balance.

Each day the canal is blocked put global supply chains another day closer to a full-blown crisis.

Vessels packed with the world’s goods — including cars, oil, livestock and laptops — usually flow through the waterway with ease, supplying much of the globe as they traverse the quickest path from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

With concerns the salvage operation could take weeks, some ships decided not to wait, turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, a voyage that could add weeks to the journey and more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

Suez Canal

Sinai Peninsula

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

Suez Canal

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

Suez Canal

The army of machine operators, engineers, tugboat captains, and other salvage operators know they are in a race against time.

Late Saturday, tugboat drivers sounded their horns in celebration of the most visible sign of progress since the ship ran aground late Tuesday.

The 220,000-ton ship moved. It did not go far — just two degrees, or about 100 feet, according to shipping officials. That came on top of progress from Friday, when canal officials said dredgers had managed to dig out the rear of the ship, freeing its rudder.

The company that oversees the ship’s operations and crew, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said 11 tugboats were helping, with two joining the struggle on Sunday. Several dredgers, including a specialized suction dredger that can extract 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour, dug around the vessel’s bow, the company said.

Salvagers were determined to free the vessel as the spring tide rolls in, raising the canal’s water level as much as 18 inches, analysts and shipping agents said.

It is a delicate mission, with crews trying to move the ship without unbalancing it or breaking it apart.

With the Ever Given sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which they were not designed, the hull is vulnerable to stress and cracks, according to experts. Just as every high tide brought hope the ship could be released, each low tide puts new stresses on the vessel.

Teams of divers have been inspecting the hull throughout the operation and have found no damage, officials said. It would need to be inspected again once it was completely free.

And it would take some time to also inspect the canal itself to ensure safe passage. With hundreds of ships backed up on either side, it could be days before operations return to normal.

Thomas Erdbrink contributed reporting.

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A ship has been wedged in the Suez Canal in Egypt since Tuesday evening, shutting down traffic in both directions.CreditCredit…Sima Diab for The New York Times

From the deck of a tugboat in the Suez Canal, where the Egyptian authorities allowed journalists to glimpse the salvage operation for the first time on Saturday, the Ever Given looked like a fallen skyscraper, lights ablaze.

Three boats that barely reached halfway up the word EVERGREEN painted on the ship’s side, for its Taiwan-based operator, had nosed up to its starboard side, keeping it stable.

A powerful tugboat sat near the ship’s stern, waiting for the next attempt to push and pull it out.

Together, the armada of tugboats — their engines churning with the combined power of tens of thousands of horses — have been pushing and pulling at the Ever Given for days.

Then, before dawn on Monday, the ship broke free from the shore and was partially refloated — a moment both shipping and Egyptian officials hoped marked the beginning of the end of the saga.

Once fully afloat, the ship can be easily controlled by tugboats and safely pushed out of the way.

It was a possible turning point in a drama that had been building for days, where optimism seemed to rise and fall like the tides themselves.

With the ship too heavy for tugboats alone, the effort on the water was being aided by teams on land, where cranes that look like playthings in the shadow of the hulking cargo ship have been scooping mountains of earth from the area where the ship’s bow and stern are wedged tight.

As the dredgers worked, a team of eight Dutch salvage experts and naval architects overseeing the operation were surveying the ship and the seabed and creating a computer model to help it work around the vessel without damaging it, said Capt. Nick Sloane, a South African salvage master who led the operation to right the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized in 2012 off the coast of Italy.

If the tugboats, dredgers and pumps are unable to get the job done, they will be joined by a head-spinning array of specialized vessels and machines requiring perhaps hundreds of workers: small tankers to siphon off the ship’s fuel, the tallest cranes in the world to unload containers one by one and, if no cranes are tall enough or near enough, heavy-duty helicopters that can pick up containers of up to 20 tons — though no one has said where the cargo would go. (A full 40-foot container can weigh up to 40 tons.)

All this because, to put it simply: “This is a very big ship. This is a very big problem,” said Richard Meade, the editor in chief of Lloyd’s List, a maritime intelligence publication based in London.

An aerial view of ships stranded in the Red Sea on Saturday.
Credit…Mahmoud Khaled/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With hopes rising that the partial refloating of the Ever Given means the Suez Canal will soon be reopen for business, shipping analysts cautioned that it will take time — perhaps days — for the hundreds of ships now waiting for passage to continue their journeys.

Shipping analysts estimated the traffic jam was holding up nearly $10 billion in trade every day.

“All global retail trade moves in containers, or 90 percent of it,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence, a maritime data and analysis firm. “Name any brand name, and they will be stuck on one of those vessels.”

The Syrian government said over the weekend that it would begin rationing the use of fuel after the closure of the Suez Canal delayed the delivery of a critical shipment of oil to the war-torn nation.

And in Lebanon, which in recent months has been suffering blackouts amid an economic and political crisis, local news outlets were reporting that the country’s shaky fuel supply risked further disruption if the blockage continued.

With the backlog of ships now stuck outside the canal growing to over 300 on Sunday, the threat to the oil supplies in Lebanon and Syria was an early indication of how quickly the disruption to the smooth functioning of global trade could ripple outward.

Virtually every container ship making the journey from factories in Asia to consumer markets in Europe passes through the channel. So do tankers laden with oil and natural gas.

The shutdown of the canal is affecting as much as 15 percent of the world’s container shipping capacity, according to Moody’s Investor Service, leading to delays at ports around the globe. Tankers carrying 9.8 million barrels of crude, about a tenth of a day’s global consumption, are now waiting to enter the canal, estimates Kpler, a firm that tracks petroleum shipping.

The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said the blockage of the canal had “hindered the oil supplies to Syria and delayed arrival of a tanker carrying oil and oil derivations to Syria.”

Rationing was needed, the ministry said in a statement, “in order to guarantee the continued supply of basic services to Syrians such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers, and other vital institutions.”

Cargo ships in the Red Sea near the opening of the Suez Canal, on Monday.
Credit…Sima Diab for The New York Times

From the outset, when winds of more than 70 miles per hour whipped up the sands surrounding the Suez Canal into a blinding storm and the Ever Given ran aground, the forces of nature have played an outsize role in the drama that has disrupted the free flow of goods and oil around the planet.

Since the 1,300-foot cargo ship laden with nearly 20,000 containers found itself wedged in the single lane of the canal, salvage teams have had to calculate complicated questions regarding not just engineering and physics, but also meteorology and earth science.

And no natural phenomenon has been as critical as the tides.

“The rising and falling of the sea is a phenomenon upon which we can always depend,” according to the National Ocean Service, which is part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Tides are the regular rise and fall of the sea surface caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun and their position relative to the earth.”

The tides are constant, but they can rise higher and fall lower depending on the location of the sun and moon.

When the sun and moon are in alignment — as was the case with the full moon on Sunday — their combined gravitational pull results in exceptionally high tides, known as Spring Tides.

That is the case at the moment in the Suez, with water levels rising some 18 inches above normal. The most recent high tide peaked at 11:42 a.m., and the next will peak around midnight.

High tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart, according to NOAA. It takes six hours and 12.5 minutes for the water at the shore to go from high to low, or from low to high.

This is the window for salvage crews to free the Ever Given. Each time the tide rises, the 220,000-ton vessel stands a better chance of becoming buoyant, and the scores of tugboats can use the tidal forces to help them in their struggle to free the ship.

But every time the tide falls, new stresses are put on the hull of the ship and the dangers rise.

The tidal flows in the Suez were at their peak Sunday and Monday, meaning this is a critical moment to finally free the ship. If the salvage crews cannot build on their progress to completely free the ship before the day is out, the tides will not be as favorable for weeks.

Pictures of the ship, from satellite views to those on the ground, reveal the true scale of the issue.

Tankers and freight ships near the entrance of the Suez Canal.
Credit…Ahmed Hasan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Oil prices fell and then rose again Monday as news reports suggested that the Suez Canal drama might be drawing to a close.

Prices dipped more than 2 percent early in the day after tugboats and dredgers succeeded in partly freeing the giant containership Ever Given, which has been blocking the canal since early last week. News reports raised the prospect that the tankers waiting at the entrances to the canal might be able to transit within days and deliver their cargoes to Europe and Asia.

But then prices crept back up again after the Suez Canal authorities said there was more work to be done before maritime traffic could resume. By midday in London, Brent crude, the international benchmark, was selling for $65.15 a barrel, up 0.9 percent on the day.

The Suez Canal is a key chokepoint for oil shipping, but so far the impact on the oil market of this major interruption of trade flows has been relatively muted. Though prices jumped after shipping on the canal was halted, oil prices still remain below their nearly two-year highs of about $70 a barrel reached earlier this month.

Analysts say that traders are focused on other factors beyond the logjam, including the reimposition of lockdowns in Europe that may hold back the recovery of oil demand from the pandemic.

From a global perspective, oil supplies are considered adequate, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, the group known as OPEC Plus, are withholding an estimated 8 million barrels a day, or about 9 percent of current consumption, from the market. Officials from OPEC Plus are expected to meet by video conference on Thursday to discuss whether to ease output cuts.

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The Ever Given container ship on Saturday remained lodged in the Suez Canal in Egypt, where it had been stuck since Tuesday. Authorities said the jam has caused a backlog of more than 300 ships waiting to cross.CreditCredit…Sima Diab for The New York Times

The operators of the Ever Given have said that the vessel ran aground because of the high winds of a sandstorm. While shipping experts said that wind might have been a factor, they also suggested that human error may have come into play.

Egyptian officials offered a similar assessment at a news conference on Saturday.

“A significant incident like this is usually the result of many reasons: The weather was one reason, but maybe there was a technical error, or a human error,” said Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chief of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority.

The ship’s operators had said this week that its stacked containers had essentially acted like a giant sail amid the sandstorm.

But villagers in nearby Manshiyet Rugola noted that other ships in the same convoy had passed through the canal without incident. So had previous ships in previous storms, they pointed out.

“We’ve seen worse winds,” said Ahmad al-Sayed, 19, a security guard, “but nothing like that ever happened before.”

Shipping experts have asked the same question.

“I am highly questioning, why was it the only one that went aground?” said Capt. Paul Foran, a marine consultant who has worked on other salvage operations. “But they can talk about all that later. Right now, they just have to get that beast out of the canal.”

General Rabie said that ship captains are asked to keep any material that might be required for an investigation. He noted that 12 northbound ships had passed through the canal ahead of the Ever Given that day, and another 30 ships had traveled through from the opposite direction.

Last year, General Rabie said, 18,840 ships had traversed the canal without an accident.

After 10 years of hard labor — during which tens of thousands of Egyptian workers died — the barrage of the Suez plains reservoir was breached on Nov. 17, 1869.

For the first time, waters of the Mediterranean flowed into the Red Sea and the canal was opened for international navigation. For nearly a century, it was mostly controlled and operated by the French and British.

In 1956, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt nationalized the waterway. But almost as soon as his government took control, it was forced to briefly close after an invasion by an expeditionary force of British, French and Israeli soldiers.

The canal was reopened in 1957 and, firmly under Egyptian control, it became a symbol of the end of the colonial era.

A second closing occurred after the June 1967 War with Israel and lasted until 1975, when Egypt and Israel signed the second disengagement accord.

President Anwar el‐Sadat called the reopening the “the happiest day in my life,” according to an account of the event in The New York Times.

He “stood in an admiral’s white uniform on the bridge of the destroyer Sixth of October as it cut a thin chain across the canal’s entry and sailed south from Port Said harbor at the head of a ceremonial convoy.”

Doves were released to celebrate the moment.

Thousands of people identified with the vessel’s stubborn determination to stay lodged across the vital waterway.
Credit…Sima Diab for The New York Times

The saying goes that all good things must come to an end. But when it was announced that the ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal for days had been set partially afloat again — and could possibly be freed before the end of the day on Monday — social media users lamented the news.

“PUT IT BACK” became a trending topic on Twitter in the United States.

In the five days that it has blocked the canal, the gargantuan Ever Given had single-handedly snarled global trade, shaking up global shipping paths and costing billions of dollars.

But the light relief that the vessel’s situation had brought to the world? Priceless, in some people’s eyes.

Thousands of people identified with the canal and the vessel’s stubborn determination to stay lodged across the vital waterway.

Others shared handy guides on how everyone could do their bit to help.

The photo of a tiny digger working away at the mammoth task of trying to unstick the stuck ship firmly established itself as one of the most shareable memes 2021 has produced so far.

And after closely monitoring the situation, many shared their tongue-in-cheek answers to getting the boat dislodged, if only the teams attempting the rescue would listen.

After the news of the partial refloating, how long do internet users have to squeeze in the last of their jokes about the Ever Given? It’s anyone’s guess.

While President Sisi of Egypt declared his countrymen had “succeeded in ending the crisis,” shipping officials warned that the efforts to completely free the vessel were ongoing.

So is the ship still stuck? For the website built specifically for that question, the answer on Monday was: “Sort of?”

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Saudi Aramco’s Profit Fell 44 Percent in 2020

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, said on Sunday that its net income last year had fallen by 44 percent, to $49 billion, as lower oil prices stemming from the pandemic cut into earnings.

The company’s chief executive, Amin H. Nasser, described 2020 in a statement accompanying the earnings data as “one of the most challenging years in recent history.”

But Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, said that it would stick by a pledge to pay a $75 billion dividend. Nearly all of the payment will go to the Saudi government, which owns about 98 percent of the company.

The company was listed on the local Tadawul exchange in 2019 in the largest valuation for an initial public offering.

a price war with Russia. The surge led the company to hit a record production levels of 12.1 million barrels a day in April and also contributed to a glut of oil and a sharp fall in global prices.

More recently, Aramco has been throttling back production under an agreement with other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as Russia and some other producers, a group called OPEC Plus. In January, Saudi Arabia said it would cut an additional 1 million barrels a day below the quota agreed with OPEC Plus, a policy which it is continuing. Average production for 2020 was 9.2 million barrels a day.

The data released on Sunday showed that Aramco is paying out more money in dividends than it is earning from oil activities. Free cash flow, a measure of earnings produced after expenses, was also $49 billion, meaning, in effect, the company was borrowing $26 billion to pay shareholders.

In another reflection of last year’s tumult in the oil markets, the company also cut capital spending by 18 percent compared with 2019, to $27 billion. Aramco said it expected capital expenditures in 2021 to be around $35 billion, less than its previous guidance of $40 billion to $45 billion.

Aramco in recent years has held the prize as the world’s most profitable company. But the impact of the pandemic, which briefly caused some oil futures to fall below zero, plus the appeal of tech products and services while people worked from home, has let Apple surge ahead. Apple’s net income for its fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 26, was $57 billion.

The earnings statement on Sunday was limited to a few highlights. Saudi Aramco is expected to provide more details during a call with financial analysts on Monday.

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Japan’s central bank will ease its support for the stock market.

about 17.2 million have HBO Max accounts. That suggests that of the company’s new subscriber target, not all of them will necessarily be streaming HBO Max.

The company has a complicated setup around HBO Max. People can sign up for the service directly, and those who already pay for the premium cable channel through their cable or satellite provider also have access, but not everyone has set up their streaming account. The service is also offered for free or at a reduced price to AT&T’s wireless customers.

The jump into international markets shows how aggressively AT&T needs to expand its streaming enterprise. The addition of an advertising-based service means the company sees an opportunity to capture the ad dollars that have started to move away from traditional television. It’s unclear if the ad-supported version will be free or whether it will only be available at a reduced price from HBO Max’s current $15 per month cost.

Jason Kilar, the chief executive of WarnerMedia, the unit that manages HBO, said the service is expected to start making money after 2025. It should generate about $15 billion in sales by that year, he added.

HBO Max has become a key part of AT&T’s overall strategy to keep and grow mobile customers, so losing money is less of an immediate concern if it helps AT&T retain its core wireless subscribers. Mr. Kilar emphasized HBO Max’s value to the phone business, citing that 25 percent of HBO Max customers have come via AT&T.

He ended his presentation with a cliché from the Warner Bros. film archives: “It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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Microsoft Executive Says Tech Consolidation Threatens Journalism

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told Congress he supports the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, which empowers news publishers to collectively bargain with online platforms like Facebook and Google.

I think that you all are on the right path. That’s why Microsoft is endorsing the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, the J.C.P.A., to give news organizations the ability to negotiate collectively, including with Microsoft, because as presently drafted, we will be subject to its terms. I hope that the subcommittee will continue its work to think more broadly about the fundamental lack of competition, especially in search and digital advertising, that are at the heart of not just the decline in journalism, but the decline and challenge in many sectors of the economy. What we’re finding is that the big publishers are not interested in negotiating collectively. The three largest news organizations in Australia are all negotiating separately. It is the small publishers that are negotiating collectively. If this bill is passed, that means that these news organizations would be able to negotiate collectively with us. I assume that they will negotiate effectively with us. It is far bigger than us. It is far bigger than technology. It is more important than any of the products that any of us produce today. And let’s hope that if a century from now people are not using iPhones or laptops or anything that we have today, journalism itself is still alive and well because our democracy depends on it.

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Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told Congress he supports the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, which empowers news publishers to collectively bargain with online platforms like Facebook and Google.CreditCredit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Lawmakers on Friday debated an antitrust bill that would give news publishers collective bargaining power with online platforms like Facebook and Google, putting the spotlight on a proposal aimed at chipping away at the power of Big Tech.

At a hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, emerged as a leading industry voice in favor of the law. He took a divergent path from his tech counterparts, pointing to an imbalance in power between publishers and tech platforms. Newspaper ad revenue plummeted to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005, he said, while ad revenue at Google jumped to $116 billion from $6.1 billion.

“Even though news helps fuel search engines, news organizations frequently are uncompensated or, at best, undercompensated for its use,” Mr. Smith said. “The problems that beset journalism today are caused in part by a fundamental lack of competition in the search and ad tech markets that are controlled by Google.”

The hearing was the second in a series planned by the subcommittee to set the stage for the creation of stronger antitrust laws. In October, the subcommittee, led by Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, released the results of a 16-month investigation into the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The report accused the companies of monopoly behavior.

This week, the committee’s two top leaders, Mr. Cicilline and Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, introduced the Journalism and Competition Preservation Act. The bill aims to give smaller news publishers the ability to band together to bargain with online platforms for higher fees for distributing their content. The bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of that chamber’s antitrust subcommittee.

Global concern is growing over the decline of local news organizations, which have become dependent on online platforms for distribution of their content. Australia recently proposed a law allowing news publishers to bargain with Google and Facebook, and lawmakers in Canada and Britain are considering similar steps.

Mr. Cicilline said, “While I do not view this legislation as a substitute for more meaningful competition online — including structural remedies to address the underlying problems in the market — it is clear that we must do something in the short term to save trustworthy journalism before it is lost forever.”

Google, though not a witness at the hearing, issued a statement in response to Mr. Smith’s planned testimony, defending its business practices and disparaging the motives of Microsoft, whose Bing search engine runs a very distant second place behind Google.

“Unfortunately, as competition in these areas intensifies, they are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests,” wrote Kent Walker, the senior vice president of policy for Google.

Union members canvassing at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala.
Credit…Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida became the most prominent Republican leader to weigh in on the unionization drive at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., with a surprising endorsement of the organizing effort on Friday.

“The days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over,” Mr. Rubio wrote in an opinion piece published in USA Today.

“Here’s my standard: When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy — I support the workers,” he continues. “And that’s why I stand with those at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse today.”

More than 5,800 workers at the Amazon warehouse, outside Birmingham, are voting by mail this month to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Last week, President Biden posted a video message on Twitter referring to the vote in Alabama and espousing on the importance of unions in helping build the middle class, while excoriating employers who interfere in unionization efforts. He did not mention Amazon by name, but his remarks followed reports that the online retailer was engaged in aggressive anti-union tactics.

“We welcome support from all quarters,” the union’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a statement. “Senator Rubio’s support demonstrates that the best way for working people to achieve dignity and respect in the workplace is through unionization. This should not be a partisan issue.”

The unionization drive has also continued to attract backing from Democrats. A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an email on Friday that she supported the workers in their effort.

Mr. Rubio, who recalls marching in a union picket line with his father, a hotel bartender, accused Amazon of expressing “woke” values, while bowing to Chinese censorship. And he warned the company not to expect Republicans to come to its rescue and condone its anti-union efforts.

“Its workers are right to suspect that its management doesn’t have their best interests in mind,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “Wealthy woke C.E.O.s instead view them as a cog in a machine that consistently prioritizes global profit margins and stoking cheap culture wars. The company’s workers deserve better.”

Simon Hu, the chief executive of Ant Group, at a conference in Shanghai in September. Mr. Hu asked to resign for personal reasons, the company said.
Credit…Cheng Leng/Reuters

The chief executive of Ant Group, the Chinese internet finance giant, has stepped down, the company said on Friday, a move that came in the middle of a business overhaul meant to address regulators’ concerns about its rapid growth.

Ant said its chief executive, Simon Hu, had asked to resign for personal reasons. The company’s chairman, Eric Jing, was named as Mr. Hu’s replacement, effective immediately. Mr. Jing, who will remain Ant’s chairman, previously served as chief executive until December 2019, when Mr. Hu took over the post.

Hundreds of millions of people in China use Ant’s Alipay app to make everyday payments, sock away savings and shop on credit. Ant, which was spun out of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has faced rising scrutiny from China’s government, and officials scuttled the company’s plans last year to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The company had been preparing to raise more than $34 billion by listing its shares in November, in what would have been the largest initial public offering on record. Instead, days before Ant’s shares were scheduled to begin trading, Chinese officials summoned company executives — namely, Mr. Hu, Mr. Jing and Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder — to discuss regulation. The I.P.O. was halted soon after, and financial watchdogs said Ant had taken advantage of gaps in China’s regulatory system and ordered it to revamp its business.

Mr. Hu joined Alibaba in 2005 and was president of its cloud division from 2014 to 2018. He joined Ant as president that year before becoming chief executive in 2019. Mr. Jing, also an Alibaba veteran, has been Ant’s executive chairman since April 2018. They are both members of the Alibaba Partnership, the company’s club of elite management partners.

Ford Motor said two members of the Ford family have been nominated to join the automaker’s board of directors, replacing one family member who is retiring and an independent director who has chosen not to seek re-election.

Alexandra Ford English, 33, daughter of Ford’s chairman, Bill Ford, and Henry Ford III, 40, son of Edsel B. Ford II, a current board member, are expected to be elected to the board by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on May 13. Both are great-great-grandchildren of Henry Ford, who founded the company in 1903.

Ms. English is a director in corporate strategy at the company. Henry Ford III is a director in investor relations.

They will replace Edsel Ford II, 72, who is retiring after being on the board since 1988, and John C. Lechleiter, 67, who joined Ford’s board in 2013 and is a former president of Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company.

Although the Ford family only owns a small portion of the company’s common stock, it retains effective control of the automaker though Class B shares with super-voting rights.

A banner for the South Korean retailer Coupang hung in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, the day the company’s shares began trading.
Credit…Courtney Crow/New York Stock Exchange, via Associated Press

The stock of Coupang, a start-up in South Korea that is sometimes called the Amazon of South Korea, drifted after trading publicly for the first time in New York on Thursday.

Coupang — the company’s name is a mix of the English word “coupon” and “pang,” the Korean sound for hitting the jackpot — was founded by a Harvard Business School dropout and has shaken up shopping in South Korea, an industry long dominated by huge, button-down conglomerates.

The initial public offering raised $4.6 billion and valued Coupang at about $85 billion, the second-largest American tally for an Asian company after Alibaba Group of China in 2014. Coupang’s shares rose 6.6 percent on Friday as trading began but ended the day down 2 percent.

Coupang is South Korea’s biggest e-commerce retailer, its status further cemented by people stuck at home during the pandemic and those in the country who crave faster delivery. In a country where people are obsessed with “ppalli ppalli,” or getting things done quickly, Coupang has become a household name by offering “next-day” and even “same-day” and “dawn” delivery of groceries and millions of other items at no extra charge.

The electric Endurance pickup truck made by Lordstown Motors. An investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks.
Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Shares of Lordstown Motors, an electric-vehicle start-up, fell more than 19 percent on Friday after an investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks and overstated its technological and production capabilities.

The revelations are the latest to call into question the promises made by an electric vehicle company that has gone public by merging with a shell company that has a stock market listing, cash and no operating business. Lordstown, which gained prominence by buying a former General Motors factory in Ohio to make electric trucks for commercial users, completed its merger with a shell company and started trading on the stock market in October 2020.

In a lengthy post on its website, the investment firm, Hindenburg Research, said that Lordstown’s claim of having 100,000 “pre-orders” for its electric pickup truck included tens of thousands from small companies that do not operate fleets, and others who merely agreed to consider buying trucks but made no commitment to do so. Hindenburg said it had bet against Lordstown’s stock by selling its shares short, a maneuver used by some professional investors when they believe a stock is overvalued and poised to fall.

“Our conversations with former employees, business partners and an extensive document review show that the company’s orders are largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy,” Hindenburg said.

A Lordstown spokesman said, “We will be sharing a full and thorough statement in the coming days, and when we do we will absolutely be refuting the Hindenburg Research report.”

One company that Lordstown said was prepared to buy 14,000 trucks, E Squared Energy, appears to be based in an apartment in Texas, have two employees and owns no vehicles. Hindenburg also unearthed a police report that showed a Lordstown prototype caught fire and burned to a shell during a test drive in January in Michigan.

On Friday morning, Lordstown shares were trading at just over $14 a share, down from their close the previous day of $17.71.

Former President Donald J. Trump hailed Lordstown in 2018 when it agreed to buy a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that General Motors had closed, and former Vice President Mike Pence participated in an unveiling of the company’s truck in June. In September, Mr. Trump hosted Lordstown’s chief executive, Steve Burns, at the White House and praised the company’s technology.

Hindenburg Research gained prominence last year when it released a report saying Nikola, an electric truck start-up, and its executive chairman, Trevor Milton, had mislead investors and exaggerated the capabilities of that company’s technology. The revelations resulted in Mr. Milton’s departure from Nikola, and prompted General Motors to scale back a partnership with the company.

Nikola denied some of Hindenburg’s claims but recently acknowledged to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Mr. Milton had made statements that were “inaccurate in whole or in part.”

Target will cease operations in the City Center building in downtown Minneapolis, relocating 3,500 employees.
Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Target, a fixture in downtown Minneapolis, is giving up space in a large office building there, becoming the latest company to permanently allow its staff to spend more time working from home.

The retailer told employees it would cease operations in the City Center building in downtown Minneapolis and that the 3,500 employees working there would relocate to other nearby offices, while also working from home part of the time. More than a quarter of Target’s corporate employees in the Minneapolis area work in the City Center building.

“This change is driven by Target’s longer-term headquarters environment that will include a hybrid model of remote and on-site work, allowing for flexibility and collaboration and ultimately, requiring less space,” the company said Thursday.

Office landlords across the country have been struggling to retain tenants as the pandemic drags on and companies realize their staff has been able to work effectively in a remote setting. Empty office buildings are putting a squeeze on city budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes.

Salesforce, the software company based in San Francisco, adopted a flex model in which most of its employees would be able to come into the office one to three days a week. In a bet that more people would work from home after the pandemic ends, Salesforce acquired the workplace software company Slack in December.

After the move, Target said it would still occupy about three million square feet of office space in the Minneapolis area.

“It’s not easy to say goodbye to City Center, but the Twin Cities is still our home after all these years,’’ Target’s chief human resources officer, Melissa Kremer, said in an email to employees.

Microsoft offices in Beijing. Microsoft owns LinkedIn, which has operated in China by conforming to the authoritarian government’s tight restrictions on the internet.
Credit…Wu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

LinkedIn has stopped allowing people in China to sign up for new member accounts while it works to ensure its service in the country remains in compliance with local law, the company said this week, without specifying what prompted the move. A company representative declined to comment further.

Unlike other global internet mainstays such as Facebook and Google, LinkedIn offers a version of its service in China, which it is able to do by hewing closely to the authoritarian government’s tight controls on cyberspace.

It censors its Chinese users in line with official mandates. It limits certain tools, such as the ability to create or join groups. It has given partial ownership of its Chinese operation to local investors.

In 2017, the company blocked individuals, but not companies, from advertising job openings on its site in China after it fell afoul of government rules requiring it to verify the identities of the people who post job listings.

The backdrop to the suspension of new user registrations is not clear. The government has previously blocked internet services that it believes to be breaking the law. In 2019, Microsoft’s Bing search engine was briefly inaccessible in China for unclear reasons. Microsoft also owns LinkedIn.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

Shoppers wait in line at an outlet mall in Southaven, Miss. on Saturday. Many Americans are set to benefit from the new economic relief plan.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

The economic relief plan that is headed to President Biden’s desk has been billed as the United States’ most ambitious antipoverty initiative in a generation. But inside the $1.9 trillion package, there are plenty of perks for the middle class, too.

An analysis by the Tax Policy Center published this week estimated that middle-income families — those making $51,000 to $91,000 per year — would see their after-tax income rise by 5.5 percent as a result of the tax changes and stimulus payments in the legislation. This is about twice what that income group received as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Here are some of the ways the bill will help the middle class.

Americans will receive stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per person, including dependents.

The size of the payments are scaled down for individuals making more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000. And they are cut off for individuals making $80,000 or more and couples earning more than $160,000. Those thresholds are lower than in the previous relief bills, but they will still be one of the biggest benefits enjoyed by those who are solidly in the middle class.

The most significant change is to the child tax credit, which will be increased to up to $3,600 for each child under 6, from $2,000 per child. The credit, which is refundable for people with low tax bills, is $3,000 per child for children ages 6 to 17.

The legislation also bolsters the tax credits that parents receive to subsidize the cost of child care this year. The current credit is worth 20 to 35 percent of eligible expenses, with a maximum value of $2,100 for two or more qualifying individuals. The stimulus bill increases that amount to $4,000 for one qualifying individual or $8,000 for two or more.

After four years of being on life support, the Affordable Care Act is expanding, a development that will largely reward middle-income individuals and families, since those on the lower end of the income spectrum generally qualify for Medicaid.

Because the relief legislation expands the subsidies for buying health insurance, a 64-year-old earning $58,000 would see monthly payments decline to $412 from $1,075 under current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

One of the more contentious provisions in the legislation is the $86 billion allotted to fixing failing multiemployer pensions. The money is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.

The legislation gives the weakest plans enough money to pay hundreds of thousands of retirees their full pensions for the next 30 years.

A drill ship contracted by ExxonMobil off the coast of Guayana in 2018. The temptation to produce more when prices rise has not disappeared completely, especially for countries like Guyana that want to pump as much oil as they can while oil is still valuable.
Credit…Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Even as they are making more money thanks to the higher oil and gasoline prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference.

Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas producer, predicted that American production would remain flat at 11 million barrels a day this year, compared with 12.8 million barrels immediately before the pandemic took hold.

Even the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers like Russia surprised many analysts this month by keeping several million barrels of oil off the market, The New York Times’s Clifford Krauss reports. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.

Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.

“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”

Shoppers in Southaven, Miss. Higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

While the Biden administration’s stimulus bill, which will funnel nearly $1.9 trillion to American households, made its way through Congress, some politicians and economists began to raise concerns that it would unshackle a long-vanquished monster: inflation.

The worries reflect expectations of a rapid economic expansion as businesses reopen and the pandemic recedes. Millions are still unemployed, and layoffs remain high, The New York Times’s Nelson Schwartz and Jeanna Smialek report. But for workers with secure jobs, higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings built up over the last year.

Healthy economies tend to have gentle price increases, which give businesses room to raise wages and leave the central bank with more room to cut interest rates during times of trouble.

Over the long term, inflation can be a concern because it hurts the value of many financial assets, especially stocks and bonds. It makes everything from milk and bread to gasoline more expensive for consumers, leaving them unable to keep up if salaries stall. And once inflation becomes entrenched, it can be hard to subdue.

Inflation is expected to increase in the coming months as prices are measured against weak readings from last year. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the Consumer Price Index to hit an annual rate of 2.9 percent from April through June, easing to 2.5 percent in the three months after that before easing gradually to year-over-year gains of 2.2 percent in 2022, based on the median projection.

But those numbers are nothing like the staggering price increases of the 1970s, and evidence of renewed inflation is paltry so far.

The headquarters of the Bank of Japan in Tokyo.
Credit…Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

The Bank of Japan said on Friday that it would scrap its annual minimum target for equity fund purchases, a decision that comes as Japan’s stock markets hit levels unseen since the collapse of the country’s economic bubble in the early 1990s.

The decision was announced as part of a three-month policy review meant to give the central bank more flexibility to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under its previous policy, the bank aimed to invest around $55 billion annually in exchange-traded funds — baskets of equities that can be bought and sold on the stock market. That was part of a policy of monetary easing intended to stimulate inflation to combat sagging prices, which sap corporate profits.

Since 2010, when the purchases began, the bank has become Japan’s single largest stockholder. Share prices are now at their highest point in over three decades. Friday’s decision will give the bank the flexibility to make future purchases at more favorable prices. It will also help to address concerns that the program has distorted Japanese stock markets.

The bank will continue to invest in equities that track Japan’s Topix stock index “as necessary,” it said. It will maintain the upper limit of $110 billion in purchases per year that was set earlier in the pandemic, as part of emergency measures to stimulate the economy.

The bank also said that it would maintain its current interest rate targets while allowing long-term rates slightly more room to breathe, increasing the band to 0.25 percent from 0.2 percent.

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Target Sheds Office Space in Switch to Flexible Work Model: Live Updates

work effectively in a remote setting. Empty office buildings are putting a squeeze on city budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes.

Salesforce, the software company based in San Francisco, adopted a flex model in which most of its employees would be able to come into the office one to three days a week. In a bet that more people would work from home after the pandemic ends, Salesforce acquired the workplace software company Slack in December.

After the move, Target said it would still occupy about three million square feet of office space in the Minneapolis area.

“It’s not easy to say goodbye to City Center, but the Twin Cities is still our home after all these years,’’ Target’s chief human resources officer, Melissa Kremer, said in an email to employees.

Microsoft offices in Beijing. Microsoft owns LinkedIn, which has operated in China by conforming to the authoritarian government’s tight restrictions on the internet.
Credit…Wu Hong/EPA, via Shutterstock

LinkedIn has stopped allowing people in China to sign up for new member accounts while it works to ensure its service in the country remains in compliance with local law, the company said this week, without specifying what prompted the move. A company representative declined to comment further.

Unlike other global internet mainstays such as Facebook and Google, LinkedIn offers a version of its service in China, which it is able to do by hewing closely to the authoritarian government’s tight controls on cyberspace.

It censors its Chinese users in line with official mandates. It limits certain tools, such as the ability to create or join groups. It has given partial ownership of its Chinese operation to local investors.

In 2017, the company blocked individuals, but not companies, from advertising job openings on its site in China after it fell afoul of government rules requiring it to verify the identities of the people who post job listings.

The backdrop to the suspension of new user registrations is not clear. The government has previously blocked internet services that it believes to be breaking the law. In 2019, Microsoft’s Bing search engine was briefly inaccessible in China for unclear reasons. Microsoft also owns LinkedIn.

President Biden addressed the nation after signing the nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus package into law. That jolt of spending, and the easing of virus restrictions, has fed into fears about inflation.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

U.S. stock futures dropped on Friday, indicating the S&P 500 would pull back from the record high it set on Thursday when markets start trading. Another jump in bond yields has rocked equity markets, which also fell in Europe, as investor digested news about the rapid pace of vaccinations in the United States.

S&P 500 futures predicted the benchmark index would open 0.8 percent weaker, and Nasdaq futures dropped 1.6 percent. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes surged 7 basis points, or 0.07 percentage point, to 1.61 percent.

On Thursday, President Biden promised that all adults would be eligible for the vaccine by May 1, signaling a possible return to normality in the summer. As more businesses and services open up, the economy should also be feeling the effects of Mr. Biden’s nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, which he signed into law on Thursday. It provides another round of direct payments to American taxpayers, sending checks of up to $1,400, and more money for state and local governments and industries including airlines.

But so much good news has also fed into fears about inflation, or that central banks will begin to pull back on their stimulus measures, which have helped keep asset prices high.

Higher interest rates and tighter central bank policies are now considered to be the single biggest threat to so-called risk assets, mainly stocks, according to a Bank of America survey of fund managers.

Several tech companies, including Tencent and Baidu, were fined by China’s antitrust regulator over past acquisitions. Shares in Tencent dropped 4.4 percent on Friday after Bloomberg reported that this was just the start of a crackdown on the tech giant. Last year, the target was Alibaba.

Shoppers wait in line at an outlet mall in Southaven, Miss. on Saturday. Many Americans are set to benefit from the new economic relief plan.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

The economic relief plan that is headed to President Biden’s desk has been billed as the United States’ most ambitious antipoverty initiative in a generation. But inside the $1.9 trillion package, there are plenty of perks for the middle class, too.

An analysis by the Tax Policy Center published this week estimated that middle-income families — those making $51,000 to $91,000 per year — would see their after-tax income rise by 5.5 percent as a result of the tax changes and stimulus payments in the legislation. This is about twice what that income group received as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Here are some of the ways the bill will help the middle class.

Americans will receive stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per person, including dependents.

The size of the payments are scaled down for individuals making more than $75,000 and married couples earning more than $150,000. And they are cut off for individuals making $80,000 or more and couples earning more than $160,000. Those thresholds are lower than in the previous relief bills, but they will still be one of the biggest benefits enjoyed by those who are solidly in the middle class.

The most significant change is to the child tax credit, which will be increased to up to $3,600 for each child under 6, from $2,000 per child. The credit, which is refundable for people with low tax bills, is $3,000 per child for children ages 6 to 17.

The legislation also bolsters the tax credits that parents receive to subsidize the cost of child care this year. The current credit is worth 20 to 35 percent of eligible expenses, with a maximum value of $2,100 for two or more qualifying individuals. The stimulus bill increases that amount to $4,000 for one qualifying individual or $8,000 for two or more.

After four years of being on life support, the Affordable Care Act is expanding, a development that will largely reward middle-income individuals and families, since those on the lower end of the income spectrum generally qualify for Medicaid.

Because the relief legislation expands the subsidies for buying health insurance, a 64-year-old earning $58,000 would see monthly payments decline to $412 from $1,075 under current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

One of the more contentious provisions in the legislation is the $86 billion allotted to fixing failing multiemployer pensions. The money is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.

The legislation gives the weakest plans enough money to pay hundreds of thousands of retirees their full pensions for the next 30 years.

A drill ship contracted by ExxonMobil off the coast of Guayana in 2018. The temptation to produce more when prices rise has not disappeared completely, especially for countries like Guyana that want to pump as much oil as they can while oil is still valuable.
Credit…Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Even as they are making more money thanks to the higher oil and gasoline prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference.

Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas producer, predicted that American production would remain flat at 11 million barrels a day this year, compared with 12.8 million barrels immediately before the pandemic took hold.

Even the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers like Russia surprised many analysts this month by keeping several million barrels of oil off the market, The New York Times’s Clifford Krauss reports. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.

Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.

“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”

Shoppers in Southaven, Miss. Higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

While the Biden administration’s stimulus bill, which will funnel nearly $1.9 trillion to American households, made its way through Congress, some politicians and economists began to raise concerns that it would unshackle a long-vanquished monster: inflation.

The worries reflect expectations of a rapid economic expansion as businesses reopen and the pandemic recedes. Millions are still unemployed, and layoffs remain high, The New York Times’s Nelson Schwartz and Jeanna Smialek report. But for workers with secure jobs, higher spending seems almost certain in the months ahead as vaccinations prompt Americans to get out and about, deploying savings built up over the last year.

Healthy economies tend to have gentle price increases, which give businesses room to raise wages and leave the central bank with more room to cut interest rates during times of trouble.

Over the long term, inflation can be a concern because it hurts the value of many financial assets, especially stocks and bonds. It makes everything from milk and bread to gasoline more expensive for consumers, leaving them unable to keep up if salaries stall. And once inflation becomes entrenched, it can be hard to subdue.

Inflation is expected to increase in the coming months as prices are measured against weak readings from last year. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the Consumer Price Index to hit an annual rate of 2.9 percent from April through June, easing to 2.5 percent in the three months after that before easing gradually to year-over-year gains of 2.2 percent in 2022, based on the median projection.

But those numbers are nothing like the staggering price increases of the 1970s, and evidence of renewed inflation is paltry so far.

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As Oil Prices Rise, Executives Aim to Keep Them High

HOUSTON — Even as oil and gasoline prices rise, industry executives are resisting their usual impulse to pump more oil out of the ground, which could keep energy prices moving up as the economy recovers.

The oil industry is predictably cyclical: When oil prices climb, producers race to drill — until the world is swimming in petroleum and prices fall. Then, energy companies that overextended themselves tumble into bankruptcy.

That wash-rinse-repeat cycle has played out repeatedly over the last century, three times in the last 14 years alone. But, at least for the moment, oil and gas companies are not following those old stage directions.

An accelerating rollout of vaccines in the United States is expected to turbocharge the American economy this spring and summer, encouraging people to travel, shop and commute. In addition, President Biden’s coronavirus relief package will put more money in the pockets of consumers, especially those who are still out of work.

to less than zero.

That bizarre day seems to have become seared into the memories of oil executives. The industry was forced to idle hundreds of rigs and throttle many wells shut, some for good. Roughly 120,000 American oil and gas workers lost their jobs over the last year or so, and companies are expected to lay off 10,000 workers this year, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.

Yet, even as they are making more money thanks to the higher prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference, an annual gathering that was virtual this year.

several million barrels of oil off the market. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.

rising concerns about climate change reduce the demand for fossil fuels in favor of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Russia has been pressing Saudi Arabia to loosen production caps, while Kazakhstan, Iraq and several other countries are exporting more. Even Iran and Venezuela, which have struggled to sell oil because of U.S. sanctions, are beginning to export more.

attacked American military forces.

Some tensions in the region could ease if the Biden administration and Iranian officials restart negotiations on a new nuclear agreement to replace the one that was negotiated by the Obama administration and abandoned by the Trump administration. Iran would then most likely export more oil.

Of course, U.S. oil executives have little control over those geopolitical matters and say they are doing what they can to avoid another abrupt reversal.

“We’re not betting on higher prices to bail us out,” Michael Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive, told investors on Tuesday.

Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.

“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”

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