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U.S. factory activity increased in December, showing signs of manufacturing recovery

Sixteen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in December, led by apparel, furniture, wood products and fabricated metals.

The gauge of prices paid for materials rose to the highest since May 2018 against a backdrop of firmer demand, lean stockpiles and supply-chain disruptions. All 18 industries reported paying higher prices in December.

States sue to block Trump lending rule

A group of states led by New York sued to block a Trump administration rule they claim would permit predatory lenders to avoid state consumer protection laws and charge excessive interest rates.

Seven states and the District of Columbia sued the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency seeking to invalidate the “true lender rule,” saying it allows non-bank lenders to partner with national banks, which are heavily regulated at the federal level, to avoid state usury laws. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan.

The other states are New Jersey, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina.

White wealth soared as others dropped

The net worth of White Americans hit a record high last year, driven by a stock market rebound that defied the pandemic, while other ethnic groups saw their share of the nation’s wealth decline, according to recently released data from the Federal Reserve.

Wealth held by White households rose to $98.6 trillion in the third quarter of 2020 — 84.6 percent of the total, the biggest share in three years.

But the portion of overall wealth held by Blacks fell to 3.8 percent — down from 4.4 percent two years earlier. For Hispanics it dropped to 2.1 percent.

The shift was largely driven by stock markets. White households own almost 90 percent of corporate equities and mutual funds, which posted a $2 trillion jump in value in the third quarter.

Assets held by other groups proved more vulnerable to the coronavirus slump. Wealth held by Hispanic households in the form of business ownership dropped by almost one-quarter from a year earlier to $188 billion, the lowest since 2013.

Amazon is buying 11 used Boeing 767-300 planes, the first time the online retail giant has purchased, rather than leased, aircraft for its fast-growing air cargo operation. The company said it was buying seven aircraft from Delta Air Lines and four from WestJet Airlines. The WestJet aircraft are being converted from passenger to cargo use and will join Amazon’s fleet this year. The Delta jets will start flying routes in 2022. By the end of next year, Amazon expects to have more than 85 planes in service, a spokesperson said. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

IBM named Gary Cohn, a former top economic adviser to President Trump and former president at Goldman Sachs, as vice chairman. Cohn served as assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council from January 2017 until April 2018. Before serving in the White House, Cohn was president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs from 2006-2016.

American Express will once again add perks to its popular Platinum cards to avoid losing customers as the pandemic continues to curtail spending on the firm’s cards. The company will offer as much as $180 in credits for purchases made through PayPal with the $550-a-year consumer Platinum card, and up to $1,700 in credits for virtual personal training with luxury-gym chain Equinox, car rentals with Avis Budget Group, purchases on Home Depot’s website and spending with other retailers.

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