President Biden cheered the report in a statement Thursday morning. “For months, doomsayers have been arguing that the U.S. economy is in a recession, and congressional Republicans have been rooting for a downturn,” he said. “But today we got further evidence that our economic recovery is continuing to power forward.”

By one common definition, the U.S. economy entered a recession when it experienced two straight quarters of shrinking G.D.P. at the start of the year. Officially, however, recessions are determined by a group of researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who look at a broader array of indicators, including employment, income and spending.

Most analysts don’t believe the economy meets that more formal definition, and the third-quarter numbers — which slightly exceeded forecasters’ expectations — provided further evidence that a recession had not yet begun.

But the overall G.D.P. figures were skewed by the international trade component, which often exhibits big swings from one period to the next. Economists tend to focus on less volatile components, which have showed the recovery steadily losing momentum as the year has progressed. One closely watched measure suggested that private-sector demand stalled out almost completely in the third quarter.

Mortgage rates passed 7 percent on Thursday, their highest level since 2002.

“Housing is just the single largest trigger to additional spending, and it’s not there anymore; it’s going in reverse,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm KPMG. “This has been a stunning turnaround in housing, and when things start to go really quickly, you start to wonder, what are the knock-on effects, what are the spillover effects?”

The third quarter was in some sense a mirror image of the first quarter, when G.D.P. shrank but consumer spending was strong. In both cases, the swings were driven by international trade. Imports, which don’t count toward domestic production figures, soared early this year as the strong economic recovery led Americans to buy more goods from overseas. Exports slumped as the rest of the world recovered more slowly from the pandemic.

Both trends have begun to reverse as American consumers have shifted more of their spending toward services and away from imported goods, and as foreign demand for American-made goods has recovered. Supply-chain disruptions have added to the volatility, leading to big swings in the data from quarter to quarter.

Few economists expect the strong trade figures from the third quarter to continue, especially because the strong dollar will make American goods less attractive overseas.

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.

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How Credit Suisse Became a Meme Stock

“Credit Suisse is probably going bankrupt.”

It was Saturday, Oct. 1, and Jim Lewis, who frequently posts on Twitter under the moniker Wall Street Silver, made that assertion to his more than 300,000 followers. “Markets are saying it’s insolvent and probably bust. 2008 moment soon?”

Mr. Lewis was among hundreds of people — many of them amateur investors — who had been speculating about the fate of Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank. It was in the middle of a restructuring and had become an easy target after decades of scandals, failed attempts at reform and management upheavals.

There seemed to be no immediate provocation for Mr. Lewis’s weekend tweet other than a memo that Ulrich Körner, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, had sent employees the day before, reassuring them that the bank was in good financial health.

But the tweet, which has been liked more than 11,000 times and retweeted more than 3,000 times, was one of many that helped ignite a firestorm on social media forums like Twitter and Reddit. The rumor that Credit Suisse was in trouble ricocheted around the world, stumping bank executives and forcing them to call shareholders, trading partners and analysts to reassure them that everything was fine before markets reopened on Monday.

prop up the shares of GameStop, the video game retailer, determined to outsmart hedge funds that had bet the company’s shares would fall.

But what started as a spontaneous effort to take down Wall Street has since become an established presence in the market. Millions of amateur investors have embraced trading, including more sophisticated strategies such as shorting. As the Credit Suisse incident shows, their actions highlight a new source of peril for troubled companies.

Founded in Switzerland in 1856 to help finance the expansion of railroads in the tiny European nation, Credit Suisse has two main units — a private wealth management business and an investment bank. However, the bank has often struggled to maintain a pristine reputation.

It has been the repository of funds from businesspeople who are under sanctions, human rights abusers and intelligence officials. The U.S. government has fined it billions of dollars for its role in helping Americans file false tax returns, marketing mortgage-backed securities tied to the 2008 financial crisis and helping customers in Iran, Sudan and elsewhere breach U.S. sanctions.

In the United States, Credit Suisse built its investment banking business through acquisitions, starting with the 1990 purchase of First Boston. But without a core focus, the bank — whose top bosses sit in Switzerland — has often allowed mavericks to pursue new revenue streams and take outsize risks without adequate supervision.

collapsed. Credit Suisse was one of many Wall Street banks that traded with Archegos, the private investment firm of Bill Hwang, a former star money manager. Yet it lost $5.5 billion, far more than its rivals. The bank later admitted that a “fundamental failure of management and controls” had led to the debacle.

surveillance of Credit Suisse executives under his watch. He left the bank in a stable and profitable condition and invested appropriately across its various divisions, his spokesman, Andy Smith, said.

Credit Suisse replaced Mr. Thiam with Thomas Gottstein, a longtime bank executive. When Archegos collapsed, the bank kept Mr. Gottstein on the job, but he started working with a new chairman, António Horta-Osório, who had been appointed a few months earlier to restructure the bank.

resigned after an inquiry into whether he had broken quarantine rules during the pandemic. But he made swift changes in his short tenure. To reduce risk taking, Mr. Horta-Osório said, the bank would close most of its prime brokerage businesses, which involve lending to big trading firms like Archegos. Credit Suisse also lost a big source of revenue as the market for special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, cooled.

By July, Credit Suisse had announced its third consecutive quarterly loss. Mr. Gottstein was replaced by Mr. Körner, a veteran of the rival Swiss bank UBS.

Mr. Körner and the chairman, Axel Lehmann, who replaced Mr. Horta-Osório, are expected to unveil a new restructuring plan on Oct. 27 in an effort to convince investors of the bank’s long-term viability and profitability. The stock of Credit Suisse has dipped so much in the past year that its market value — which stood around $12 billion — is comparable to that of a regional U.S. bank, smaller than Fifth Third or Citizens Financial Group.

appeared on Reddit.

Mr. Macleod said he had decided that Credit Suisse was in bad shape after looking at what he deemed the best measure of a bank’s value — the price of its stock relative to its “book value,” or assets minus liabilities. Most Wall Street analysts factor in a broader set of measures.

But “bearing in mind that most followers on Twitter and Reddit are not financial professionals,” he said, “it would have been a wake-up call for them.”

The timing puzzled the bank’s analysts, major investors and risk managers. Credit Suisse had longstanding problems, but no sudden crisis or looming bankruptcy.

Some investors said the Sept. 30 memo sent by Mr. Körner, the bank’s chief executive, reassuring staff that Credit Suisse stood on a “strong capital base and liquidity position” despite recent market gyrations had the opposite effect on stock watchers.

Credit Suisse took the matter seriously. Over the weekend of Oct. 1, bank executives called clients to reassure them that the bank had more than the amount of capital required by regulators. The bigger worry was that talk of a liquidity crisis would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, prompting lenders to pull credit lines and depositors to pull cash, which could drain money from the bank quickly — an extreme and even unlikely scenario given the bank’s strong financial position.

“Banks rely on sentiment,” Mr. Scholtz, the Morningstar analyst, said. “If all depositors want their money back tomorrow, the money isn’t there. It’s the reality of banking. These things can snowball.”

What had snowballed was the volume of trading in Credit Suisse’s stock by small investors, which had roughly doubled from Friday to Monday, according to a gauge of retail activity from Nasdaq Data Link.

Amateur traders who gather on social media can’t trade sophisticated products like credit-default swaps — products that protect against companies’ reneging on their debts. But their speculation drove the price of these swaps past levels reached during the 2008 financial crisis.

Some asset managers said they had discussed the fate of the bank at internal meetings after the meme stock mania that was unleashed in early October. While they saw no immediate risk to Credit Suisse’s solvency, some decided to cut trading with the bank anyway until risks subsided.

In another private message on Twitter, Mr. Lewis declined to speak further about why he had predicted that Credit Suisse would collapse.

“The math and evidence is fairly obvious at this point,” he wrote. “If you disagree, the burden is really on you to support that position.”

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Kroger and Albertsons Announce Plan to Merge in $25 Billion Deal

“Divestiture is always a bright idea for merging parties, and it’s not always a very good idea for consumers.,” he added.

Albertsons shares fell on Friday, a sign that investors are skeptical that the deal will get past regulators. By late morning, the stock was trading below $27 a share, more than 21 percent below Kroger’s $34.10 a share offer price.

In announcing the deal, Kroger also sought to ease concerns about the impact on consumers by saying that it expects to save about $500 million in costs, which it plans to use to “reduce prices for customers.” Whether it follows through with those plans will likely be a key focus for regulators.

Though cost savings in acquisitions often come from layoffs, the grocers may also point to fact that their workforces are unionized as part of their discussions with regulators. The Biden administration has been a significant proponent of unions. Neither Walmart nor Amazon are unionized on a large scale.

Consumer protection groups raised concerns about the deal following reports of a possible merger on Thursday. The American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit that promotes antitrust legislation, criticized it as a “bad deal for consumers, workers and communities.”

“There is no reason to allow two of the biggest supermarket chains in the country to merge — especially with food prices already soaring,” Sarah Miller, the group’s executive, said in a statement on Thursday.

As part of their pitch to regulators, Kroger and Albertsons will likely try to convince them that their scale is needed to compete against big box stores like Aldi, Lidl — two European chains that have been expanding quickly in the United States — and Costco, as well as Amazon.

The agency, though, has not always allowed retailers to use Amazon as a boogeyman to help clear their deals. In 2015, the F.T.C. successfully sued to block a merger between the retailers Office Depot and Staples, even after they had positioned the deal as an effort to take on Amazon and lower prices.

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Moss & Company Finds More Property Owners Choosing to Go Local for Management Needs

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–When it comes to choosing a property management company, the size of a company often becomes a sticking point for many property owners. It’s not hard to understand the many advantages a national property manager can offer to an owner, such as vast resources and economies of scale at a national level. In the past year, however, there’s been a trend of many property owners turning to the regional managers, in some cases at a higher fee, to improve their bottom line. So, what is it that prompts the property owners to leave their national operators and go local? We’ve spoken with a few of these property owners and it turns out bigger isn’t always better when it comes to operating real estate.

Location, location, location!

Property owners often turn to regional property managers for the extensive knowledge of the area. In most cases, the regional companies have the staff, including key decision makers, live and work in the areas where the properties are located. It is not uncommon for a CEO of a regional company to personally stop by the properties they manage and shop the competition. This type of a hands-on approach allows regional operators to make better informed decisions to improve operations, and to adopt to any sub-market changes quickly.

To reduce liability and risk, a property manager must be current and well-versed not only in Federal Fair Housing laws, but also in the local ordinances and regulations. Regional operators are typically very familiar with all the nuances of the local laws, and are often the first to hear and act on any changes that occur in their localities. This enables regional operators to ensure protection of the managed assets while reducing liability and risk for property owners.

A more concentrated regional footprint of a local company can offer better economies of scale when compared to a dispersed footprint of a national company. The local plumber doesn’t care about how many buildings their customer has in other states. Having more properties located near each other gives regional operators greater leverage to negotiate with property vendors. This leverage leads to better service and greater savings for property owners.

Flexibility and Agility.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to property management. Every asset and every owner requires individual attention and strategy, and tailoring to each need can be a challenge for any operator. A national operator may have a steady hand on the pulse of their portfolio at a macro level, but can miss the mark by not adjusting to the unique needs of a property. This is often the case when a national company takes on smaller size properties, and tries to fit them into their national model. National operators usually look for cost-saving models based on streamlined process and limited flexibility, often unwilling to take on properties smaller than 100 units or an owner with a single asset. On the other hand, most regional companies will gladly take on smaller buildings as their models typically allow for more flexibility and agility, which in turn better aligns with the owner’s vision and goals.

Human Connection.

It doesn’t matter how big or technologically advanced the property management company is, if it lacks human connection it is destined to eventually lose customers. So, while national operators become increasingly reliant on automation and tech-heavy reporting, regional operators continue focusing on personal interactions and building relationships.

To understand the importance of human connection in property management, we spoke with Chris Gray, President at Moss & Company Property Management. “Property management companies are only as good as the people that make up the team of employees,” says Mr. Gray. “Good team members want progress and growth in their careers. With 14,000 units in Los Angeles, we are able to offer our employees more opportunities for advancement without having to pack their bags and move their families across the state lines. Our concentrated footprint allows us to build a tight knit culture resulting in employment tenure of 20-30 years. Our clients love the consistency, and our employees love the growth. This along with our local purchasing power, due to size, provides our clients with better results and therefore greater returns.”

About Moss & Company

Moss & Company boasts its reputation of being the regional expert, operating nearly 14,000 residential units and approximately 2 million square feet of commercial space in the Greater Los Angeles area. Founded in 1960 with headquarters in Sherman Oaks, Moss & Company is Southern California’s premier property management firm.

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A Strong Dollar Is Wreaking Havoc on Emerging Markets. A Debt Crisis Could Be Next.

The average household in Ghana is paying two-thirds more than it did last year for diesel, flour and other necessities. In Egypt, wheat is so expensive that the government has fallen half a billion dollars short of its budget for a bread subsidy it provides to its citizens. And Sri Lanka, already struggling to control a political crisis, is running out of fuel, food and medical supplies.

A strong dollar is making the problems worse.

Compared with other currencies, the U.S. dollar is the strongest it has been in two decades. It is rising because the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates sharply to combat inflation and because America’s economic health is better than most. Together, these factors have attracted investors from all over the world. Sometimes they simply buy dollars, but even if investors buy other assets, like government bonds, they need dollars to do so — in each case pushing up the currency’s value.

That strength has become much of the world’s weakness. The dollar is the de facto currency for global trade, and its steep rise is squeezing dozens of lower-income nations, chiefly those that rely heavily on imports of food and oil and borrow in dollars to fund them.

But much of the damage is already behind us.

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  • “We are in a fragile situation,” Mr. El-Erian said. “Country after country is flashing amber, and some are already flashing red.”

    Many lower-income countries were already struggling during the pandemic.

    Roughly 22 million people in Ghana, or a third of its population, reported a decline in their income between April 2020 and May 2021, according to a survey from the World Bank and Unicef. Adults in almost half of the households with children surveyed said they were skipping a meal because they didn’t have enough money. Almost three-quarters said the prices of major food items had increased.

    Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war between two of the world’s largest exporters of food and energy led to a big surge in prices, especially for importers like Ghana. Consumer prices have gone up 30 percent for the year through June, according to data from the research firm Moody’s Analytics. For household essentials, annual inflation has reached 60 percent or more this year, the S&P data shows.

    To illustrate this, consider the price of a barrel of oil in dollars versus the Ghanaian cedi. At the beginning of October last year, the price of oil stood at $78.52 per barrel, rising to nearly $130 per barrel in March before falling back to $87.96 at the beginning of this month, a one-year increase of 12 percent in dollar terms. Over the same period, the Ghanaian cedi has weakened over 40 percent against the dollar, meaning that the same barrel of oil that cost roughly 475 cedi a year ago now costs over 900 cedi, almost twice as much.

    Adding to the problem are large state-funded subsidies, some taken on or increased through the pandemic, that are now weighing on government finances.

    Ghana’s president cut fuel taxes in November 2021, losing roughly $22 million in projected revenue for the government — the latest available numbers.

    In Egypt, spending on what the government refers to as “supply commodities,” almost all of which is wheat for its long-running bread subsidy, is expected to come in at around 7 percent of all government spending this year, 12 percent higher — or more than half a billion dollars — than the government budgeted.

    As costs ballooned throughout the pandemic, governments took on more debt. Ghana’s public debt grew to nearly $60 billion from roughly $40 billion at the end of 2019, or to nearly 80 percent of its gross domestic product from around 63 percent, according to Moody’s.

    It’s one of four countries listed by S&P, alongside Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, where interest payments alone account for more than half of the government’s revenues.

    “We can’t forget that this is happening on the back end of a once-in-a-century pandemic in which governments, to try and support families as best they could, did borrow more,” said Frank Gill, an analyst at S&P. “This is a shock following up on another shock.”

    In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its government debt for the first time in its history. Over the past month, the governments of Egypt, Pakistan and Ghana have all reached out to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout as they struggle to meet their debt financing needs, no longer able to turn to international investors for more money.

    “I don’t think there is a lot of appetite to lend money to some of these countries,” said Brian Weinstein, co-head of credit trading at Bank of America. “They are incredibly vulnerable at the moment.”

    That vulnerability is already reflected in the bond market.

    In 2016, Ghana borrowed $1 billion for 10 years, paying an interest rate of just over 8 percent. As the country’s financial position has worsened and investors have backed away, the yield — indicative of what it would now cost Ghana to borrow money until 2026 — has risen to above 35 percent.

    It’s an untenable cost of debt for a country in Ghana’s situation. And Ghana is not alone. For bonds that also mature in 2026, yields for Pakistan have reached almost 40 percent.

    “We have concerns where any country has yields that calls into question their ability to refinance in public markets,” said Charles Cohen, deputy division chief of monetary and capital market departments at IMF.

    The risk of a sovereign debt crisis in some emerging markets is “very, very high,” said Jesse Rogers, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. Mr. Rogers likened the current situation to the debt crises that crushed Latin America in the 1980s — the last time the Fed sought to quell soaring inflation.

    Already this year, more than $80 billion has been withdrawn from mutual funds and exchange-traded funds — two popular types of investment products — that buy emerging market bonds, according to EPFR Global, a data provider. As investors sell, the United States is often the beneficiary, further strengthening the dollar.

    “It’s by far the worst year for outflows the market has ever seen,” said Pramol Dhawan, head of emerging markets at Pimco.

    Even citizens in some of these countries are trying to exchange their money for dollars, fearful of what’s to come and of further currency depreciation — yet inadvertently also contributing to it.

    “For pockets of emerging markets, this is a really challenging backdrop and one of the most challenging backdrops we have faced for many years,” Mr. Dhawan said.

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    How a Hospital Chain Used a Poor Neighborhood to Turn Huge Profits

    RICHMOND, Va. — In late July, Norman Otey was rushed by ambulance to Richmond Community Hospital. The 63-year-old was doubled over in pain and babbling incoherently. Blood tests suggested septic shock, a grave emergency that required the resources and expertise of an intensive care unit.

    But Richmond Community, a struggling hospital in a predominantly Black neighborhood, had closed its I.C.U. in 2017.

    It took several hours for Mr. Otey to be transported to another hospital, according to his sister, Linda Jones-Smith. He deteriorated on the way there, and later died of sepsis. Two people who cared for Mr. Otey said the delay had most likely contributed to his death.

    the hospital’s financial data.

    More than half of all hospitals in the United States are set up as nonprofits, a designation that allows them to make money but avoid paying taxes. Although Bon Secours has taken a financial hit this year like many other hospital systems, the chain made nearly $1 billion in profit last year at its 50 hospitals in the United States and Ireland and was sitting on more than $9 billion in cash reserves. It avoids at least $440 million in federal, state and local taxes every year that it would otherwise have to pay, according to an analysis by the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

    In exchange for the tax breaks, the Internal Revenue Service requires nonprofit hospitals to provide a benefit to their communities. But an investigation by The New York Times found that many of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital systems have drifted far from their charitable roots. The hospitals operate like for-profit companies, fixating on revenue targets and expansions into affluent suburbs.

    borrowing tricks from business consultants, have trained staff to squeeze payments from poor patients who should be eligible for free care.

    John M. Starcher Jr., made about $6 million in 2020, according to the most recent tax filings.

    “Our mission is clear — to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved,” the spokeswoman, Maureen Richmond, said. Bon Secours did not comment on Mr. Otey’s case.

    In interviews, doctors, nurses and former executives said the hospital had been given short shrift, and pointed to a decade-old development deal with the city of Richmond as another example.

    In 2012, the city agreed to lease land to Bon Secours at far below market value on the condition that the chain expand Richmond Community’s facilities. Instead, Bon Secours focused on building a luxury apartment and office complex. The hospital system waited a decade to build the promised medical offices next to Richmond Community, breaking ground only this year.

    founded in 1907 by Black doctors who were not allowed to work at the white hospitals across town. In the 1930s, Dr. Jackson’s grandfather, Dr. Isaiah Jackson, mortgaged his house to help pay for an expansion of the hospital. His father, also a doctor, would take his children to the hospital’s fund-raising telethons.

    Cassandra Newby-Alexander at Norfolk State University.

    got its first supermarket.

    according to research done by Virginia Commonwealth University. The public bus route to St. Mary’s, a large Bon Secours facility in the northwest part of the city, takes more than an hour. There is no public transportation from the East End to Memorial Regional, nine miles away.

    “It became impossible for me to send people to the advanced heart valve clinic at St. Mary’s,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, a cardiologist who worked at Richmond Community until Bon Secours scaled back the specialty service in 2019. He said he had driven some patients to the clinic in his own car.

    Richmond Community has the feel of an urgent-care clinic, with a small waiting room and a tan brick facade. The contrast with Bon Secours’s nearby hospitals is striking.

    At the chain’s St. Francis Medical Center, an Italianate-style compound in a suburb 18 miles from Community, golf carts shuttle patients from the lobby entrance, past a marble fountain, to their cars.

    after the section of the federal law that authorized it, allows hospitals to buy drugs from manufacturers at a discount — roughly half the average sales price. The hospitals are then allowed to charge patients’ insurers a much higher price for the same drugs.

    The theory behind the law was that nonprofit hospitals would invest the savings in their communities. But the 340B program came with few rules. Hospitals did not have to disclose how much money they made from sales of the discounted drugs. And they were not required to use the revenues to help the underserved patients who qualified them for the program in the first place.

    In 2019, more than 2,500 nonprofit and government-owned hospitals participated in the program, or more than half of all hospitals in the country, according to the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

    in wealthier neighborhoods, where patients with generous private insurance could receive expensive drugs, but on paper make the clinics extensions of poor hospitals to take advantage of 340B.

    to a price list that hospitals are required to publish. That is nearly $22,000 profit on a single vial. Adults need two vials per treatment course.

    work has shown that hospitals participating in the 340B program have increasingly opened clinics in wealthier areas since the mid-2000s.

    were unveiling a major economic deal that would bring $40 million to Richmond, add 200 jobs and keep the Washington team — now known as the Commanders — in the state for summer training.

    The deal had three main parts. Bon Secours would get naming rights and help the team build a training camp and medical offices on a lot next to Richmond’s science museum.

    The city would lease Bon Secours a prime piece of real estate that the chain had long coveted for $5,000 a year. The parcel was on the city’s west side, next to St. Mary’s, where Bon Secours wanted to build medical offices and a nursing school.

    Finally, the nonprofit’s executives promised city leaders that they would build a 25,000-square-foot medical office building next to Richmond Community Hospital. Bon Secours also said it would hire 75 local workers and build a fitness center.

    “It’s going to be a quick timetable, but I think we can accomplish it,” the mayor at the time, Dwight C. Jones, said at the news conference.

    Today, physical therapy and doctors’ offices overlook the football field at the training center.

    On the west side of Richmond, Bon Secours dropped its plans to build a nursing school. Instead, it worked with a real estate developer to build luxury apartments on the site, and delayed its plans to build medical offices. Residents at The Crest at Westhampton Commons, part of the $73 million project, can swim in a saltwater pool and work out on communal Peloton bicycles. On the ground floor, an upscale Mexican restaurant serves cucumber jalapeño margaritas and a Drybar offers salon blowouts.

    have said they plan to house mental health, hospice and other services there.

    a cardiologist and an expert on racial disparities in amputation, said many people in poor, nonwhite communities faced similar delays in getting the procedure. “I am not surprised by what’s transpired with this patient at all,” he said.

    Because Ms. Scarborough does not drive, her nephew must take time off work every time she visits the vascular surgeon, whose office is 10 miles from her home. Richmond Community would have been a five-minute walk. Bon Secours did not comment on her case.

    “They have good doctors over there,” Ms. Scarborough said of the neighborhood hospital. “But there does need to be more facilities and services over there for our community, for us.”

    Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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    How the Car Market Is Shedding Light on a Key Inflation Question

    In a recent speech pointedly titled “Bringing Inflation Down,” Lael Brainard, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, zoomed in on the automobile market as a real-world example of a major uncertainty looming over the outlook for price increases: What will happen next with corporate profits.

    Many companies have been able to raise prices beyond their own increasing costs over the past two years, swelling their profitability but also exacerbating inflation. That is especially true in the car market. While dealerships are paying manufacturers more for inventory, they have been charging customers even higher prices, sending their profits toward record highs.

    Dealers could pull that off because demand has been strong and, amid disruptions in the supply of parts, there are too few trucks and sedans to go around. But — in line with its desire for the economy as a whole — the Fed is hoping both sides of that equation could be on the cusp of changing.

    data, and several industry experts said they didn’t see a return to normal levels of output for years as supply problems continue. Prices are still increasing swiftly, and dealer profits remain sharply elevated with little sign of cracking.

    Ford Motor said on Monday that it would spend $1 billion more on parts than it was planning to in the third quarter because some components had become more expensive and harder to find.

    By contrast, the supply of used cars has rebounded after plunging in the pandemic, and prices have begun to depreciate at a wholesale level, where dealers buy their stock. But, so far, those dealers aren’t really passing those savings along to consumers. The price of a typical used car has stabilized around $28,000, up 9 percent from a year ago, based on Cox Automotive data. Official used-car inflation data is easing, but only slightly.

    Why consumer used-car prices — and dealer profits — are taking time to moderate is something of a mystery. Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive, said dealers might be basing their prices on what they paid earlier in the year, when costs were higher, for the cars sitting on their lots.

    “Dealers are feeling it,” Mr. Smoke said of the price moderation. “But because they price their vehicles based on what they pay for them, the consumer isn’t seeing the price discounts yet.”

    Some early instances of discounting are showing up. At the Buick and GMC dealership that Beth Weaver runs in Erie, Pa., demand for used cars has begun to slow down, and the business has sold a few vehicles at a loss.

    rolling lockdowns in China.

    The Fed could raise rates so much that it snuffs out demand, but given how much pent-up car-buying appetite exists, Mr. Murphy thinks it would take a lot.

    “You probably would have to go farther on rates than they have so far, or even than they are expected to go,” he said. “There may be a point at which you have enough pain that you see a pause on demand.”

    If demand continues to outstrip new-car supply and dealers continue to reap big profits, that could limit how quickly inflation will ease. If the mismatch is large enough for sellers to keep pushing up prices without losing customers, it could even continue to fuel inflation.

    While the car market is just one industry, the uncertainty of its return to normal holds a few lessons for the Fed. For one thing, new-car production makes it clear that supply chain disruptions are improving but not gone.

    More hopefully, the car industry could offer evidence that the laws of economics are likely to reassert themselves eventually. Used-car prices have at least stopped their ascent as inventory has grown, and experts say discounting is likely around the corner. If that happens, it could be evidence that companies won’t be able to keep prices and profits high indefinitely once supply catches up with demand.

    But cars reinforce the prospect that the readjustment period could last a while.

    Automakers are flirting with the idea of keeping production lower so there are fewer cars in the market and price cuts are less common. Mr. Smoke is skeptical that they will hold that line once it means ceding market share to competitors — but the process could take months or years.

    “I’m hesitant to say that we won’t have discounting again,” Mr. Smoke said. “But it’s going to take a while to get back to that world.”

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    Ethereum’s Long-Awaited ‘Merge’ Reaches the Finish Line

    The moment finally arrived, in the last minutes before midnight on the West Coast on Wednesday.

    After years of delays, discussions and frantic experimentation, the popular cryptocurrency platform Ethereum completed a long-awaited software upgrade known as the Merge, shifting to a more environmentally sustainable framework.

    Ethereum is arguably the most crucial platform in the crypto industry, a layer of software infrastructure that forms the basis of thousands of applications handling more than $50 billion in customer funds. The upgrade is expected to reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption and set the stage for future improvements that will make the platform easier and cheaper to use.

    Celebrations erupted on a YouTube livestream where engineers and researchers who worked on the Merge had gathered to mark the milestone. It was a rare moment of joy in a grim year for crypto that saw a devastating market crash drain nearly $1 trillion from the industry, forcing some prominent crypto companies into bankruptcy.

    announced in August that it would pause certain Ethereum deposits and withdrawals during the Merge as a precautionary measure.

    In interviews before the Merge, Ethereum developers said they had prepared for snags, though they downplayed the possibility of a systemwide collapse.

    “I don’t want to claim everything will go perfectly without a hitch,” said Tim Beiko, who works for the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit that helps maintain the platform. “We’re kind of confident we won’t see network-level issues just because we’ve run through the thing so many times before.”

    The technical details of the Merge are mind-bendingly complex. But, ultimately, the process boils down to a shift in how cryptocurrency transactions are verified.

    In traditional finance, an exchange of funds involves an intermediary, like a bank, which verifies that one entity has enough money to make a payment to another.

    Crypto was designed to eliminate such financial gatekeepers. So, early crypto engineers had to devise an alternative system to ensure that users had the funds they claimed to have. Their solution was called “proof of work.” Under that system, powerful computers run software that races to solve complex problems, verifying transactions in the process. The system is widely known as “mining” because the computers earn payments in cryptocurrency as rewards for the verification service.

    Bitcoin, the original and most valuable cryptocurrency, runs on a proof-of-work system. And, until the Merge, so did Ethereum. But the process is environmentally draining: To run all those computers requires an enormous amount of energy.

    The Merge shifts Ethereum to a verification system called “proof of stake” that uses less energy. Unlike proof of work, the new framework does not involve an energy-guzzling computational race. Instead, participants deposit (or “stake”) a certain amount of their crypto savings in a pool, which enters them in a lottery. Every time a crypto transaction requires approval, a winner is selected to verify the exchange and receive a reward.

    By some estimates, Ethereum’s shift to proof of stake will reduce its energy consumption by more than 99 percent. And the project’s developers say the switch will make it easier to design future updates that minimize so-called gas fees — the costs of executing a transaction in Ether, the cryptocurrency associated with the Ethereum platform.

    The process of shifting Ethereum to proof of stake required years of intense study and debate. The platform was founded in 2013 by a teenage software engineer, Vitalik Buterin, who remains one of the most influential people in the crypto industry. Ethereum is now run by a loose network of coders from around the world. For months, they have gathered on video calls streamed on YouTube to discuss the intricacies of the Merge.

    The shift to proof of stake took so long partly because it required the construction of an entirely new blockchain — the public ledger where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded for all to see. That new chain, the Beacon Chain, was unveiled in December. A series of tests followed this year.

    The Beacon Chain has now finally combined with the original Ethereum blockchain, signifying the “merge.”

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    The Supply Chain Broke. Robots Are Supposed to Help Fix It.

    The people running companies that deliver all manner of products gathered in Philadelphia last week to sift through the lessons of the mayhem besieging the global supply chain. At the center of many proposed solutions: robots and other forms of automation.

    On the showroom floor, robot manufacturers demonstrated their latest models, offering them as efficiency-enhancing augments to warehouse workers. Driverless trucks and drones commanded display space, advertising an unfolding era in which machinery will occupy a central place in bringing products to our homes.

    The companies depicted their technology as a way to save money on workers and optimize scheduling, while breaking down resistance to a future centered on evolving forms of automation.

    persistent economic shocks have intensified traditional conflicts between employers and employees around the globe. Higher prices for energy, food and other goods — in part the result of enduring supply chain tangles — have prompted workers to demand higher wages, along with the right to continue working from home. Employers cite elevated costs for parts, raw materials and transportation in holding the line on pay, yielding a wave of strikes in countries like Britain.

    The stakes are especially high for companies engaged in transporting goods. Their executives contend that the Great Supply Chain Disruption is largely the result of labor shortages. Ports are overwhelmed and retail shelves are short of goods because the supply chain has run out of people willing to drive trucks and move goods through warehouses, the argument goes.

    Some labor experts challenge such claims, while reframing worker shortages as an unwillingness by employers to pay enough to attract the needed numbers of people.

    “This shortage narrative is industry-lobbying rhetoric,” said Steve Viscelli, an economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream.” “There is no shortage of truck drivers. These are just really bad jobs.”

    A day spent wandering the Home Delivery World trade show inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center revealed how supply chain companies are pursuing automation and flexible staffing as antidotes to rising wages. They are eager to embrace robots as an alternative to human workers. Robots never get sick, not even in a pandemic. They never stay home to attend to their children.

    A large truck painted purple and white occupied a prime position on the showroom floor. It was a driverless delivery vehicle produced by Gatik, a Silicon Valley company that is running 30 of them between distribution centers and Walmart stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

    Here was the fix to the difficulties of trucking firms in attracting and retaining drivers, said Richard Steiner, Gatik’s head of policy and communications.

    “It’s not quite as appealing a profession as it once was,” he said. “We’re able to offer a solution to that trouble.”

    Nearby, an Israeli start-up company, SafeMode, touted a means to limit the notoriously high turnover plaguing the trucking industry. The company has developed an app that monitors the actions of drivers — their speed, the abruptness of their braking, their fuel efficiency — while rewarding those who perform better than their peers.

    The company’s founder and chief executive, Ido Levy, displayed data captured the previous day from a driver in Houston. The driver’s steady hand at the wheel had earned him an extra $8 — a cash bonus on top of the $250 he typically earns in a day.

    “We really convey a success feeling every day,” Mr. Levy, 31, said. “That really encourages retention. We’re trying to make them feel that they are part of something.”

    Mr. Levy conceived of the company with a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab who tapped research on behavioral psychology and gamification (using elements of game playing to encourage participation).

    So far, the SafeMode system has yielded savings of 4 percent on fuel while increasing retention by one-quarter, Mr. Levy said.

    Another company, V-Track, based in Charlotte, N.C., employs a technology that is similar to SafeMode’s, also in an effort to dissuade truck drivers from switching jobs. The company places cameras in truck cabs to monitor drivers, alerting them when they are looking at their phones, driving too fast or not wearing their seatbelt.

    Jim Becker, the company’s product manager, said many drivers hade come to value the cameras as a means of protecting themselves against unwarranted accusations of malfeasance.

    But what is the impact on retention if drivers chafe at being surveilled?

    “Frustrations about increased surveillance, especially around in-cab cameras,” are a significant source of driver lament, said Max Farrell, co-founder and chief executive of WorkHound, which gathers real-time feedback.

    Several companies on the show floor catered to trucking companies facing difficulties in hiring people to staff their dispatch centers. Their solution was moving such functions to countries where wages are lower.

    Lean Solutions, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sets up call centers in Colombia and Guatemala — a response to “the labor challenge in the U.S.,” said Hunter Bell, a company sales agent.

    A Kentucky start-up, NS Talent Solutions, establishes dispatch operations in Mexico, at a saving of up to 40 percent compared with the United States.

    “The pandemic has helped,” said Michael Bartlett, director of sales. “The world is now comfortable with remote staffing.”

    Scores of businesses promoted services that recruit and vet part-time and temporary workers, offering a way for companies to ramp up as needed without having to commit to full-time employees.

    Pruuvn, a start-up in Atlanta, sells a service that allows companies to eliminate employees who recruit and conduct background checks.

    “It allows you to get rid of or replace multiple individuals,” the company’s chief executive, Bryan Hobbs, said during a presentation.

    Another staffing firm, Veryable of Dallas, offered a platform to pair workers such as retirees and students seeking part-time, temporary stints with supply chain companies.

    Jonathan Katz, the company’s regional partnerships manager for the Southeast, described temporary staffing as the way for smaller warehouses and distribution operations that lack the money to install robots to enhance their ability to adjust to swings in demand.

    A drone company, Zipline, showed video of its equipment taking off behind a Walmart in Pea Ridge, Ark., dropping items like mayonnaise and even a birthday cake into the backyards of customers’ homes. Another company, DroneUp, trumpeted plans to set up similar services at 30 Walmart stores in Arkansas, Texas and Florida by the end of the year.

    But the largest companies are the most focused on deploying robots.

    Locus, the manufacturer, has already outfitted 200 warehouses globally with its robots, recently expanding into Europe and Australia.

    Locus says its machines are meant not to replace workers but to complement them — a way to squeeze more productivity out of the same warehouse by relieving the humans of the need to push the carts.

    But the company also presents its robots as the solution to worker shortages. Unlike workers, robots can be easily scaled up and cut back, eliminating the need to hire and train temporary employees, Melissa Valentine, director of retail global accounts at Locus, said during a panel discussion.

    Locus even rents out its robots, allowing customers to add them and eliminate them as needed. Locus handles the maintenance.

    Robots can “solve labor issues,” said Nathan Ray, director of distribution center operations at Albertsons, the grocery chain, who previously held executive roles at Amazon and Target. “You can find a solution that’s right for your budget. There’s just so many options out there.”

    As Mr. Ray acknowledged, a key impediment to the more rapid deployment of automation is fear among workers that robots are a threat to their jobs. Once they realize that the robots are there not to replace them but merely to relieve them of physically taxing jobs like pushing carts, “it gets really fun,” Mr. Ray said. “They realize it’s kind of cool.”

    Workers even give robots cute nicknames, he added.

    But another panelist, Bruce Dzinski, director of transportation at Party City, a chain of party supply stores, presented robots as an alternative to higher pay.

    “You couldn’t get labor, so you raised your wages to try to get people,” he said. “And then everybody else raised wages.”

    Robots never demand a raise.

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