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2021: Stocks soar, IPOs explode, crypto goes wild

Wall Street delivered another strong year in 2021, as a spike in consumer demand fueled by the reopening of the global economy pumped up corporate profits.

Investors faced plenty of challenges, however, most notably a resurgence of inflation and the persistent coronavirus pandemic. Retail investors made their presence felt by boosting GameStop and other so-called meme stocks to sky-high levels. They also flocked to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Tesla to halt games on screens in moving cars

Under pressure from U.S. auto safety regulators, Tesla has agreed to stop allowing video games to be played on center touch screens while its vehicles are moving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the company will send out a software update over the Internet so the function called “Passenger Play” will be locked while vehicles are in motion.

Jurors review Holmes’ boasts to investors

The jurors assessing 11 charges of fraud and conspiracy against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes asked Thursday to review audio recordings of Holmes boasting to investors about her startup’s progress toward a potentially revolutionary blood-testing technology.

In those recordings, Holmes talked up partnerships with established drug companies that didn’t pan out and contracts that never materialized because of problems with the technology.

Steady gains leave indexes higher

Stocks closed higher on Wall Street Thursday, leaving major indexes with solid gains in this holiday-shortened week.

The S&P 500 closed at another record high. The benchmark index rose 0.6%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6% and the Nasdaq rose 0.8%.

Consumer prices up 5.7% over past year

U.S. consumer prices rose 5.7% over the past year, the fastest pace in 39 years as a surge in inflation battered Americans as the holiday shopping season was getting under way.

The November increase, reported Thursday by the Commerce Department, followed a 5.1% rise for the 12 months ending in October and kept up a trend of annual price gains running well above the 2% inflation target set by the Federal Reserve.

Biden signs bill on forced labor in China

President Joe Biden signed a bill into law Thursday to block imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove the items were made without forced labor, the latest in a series of intensifying U.S. penalties against the Asian power for alleged abuses.

The measure had to overcome some initial hesitation from the White House, as well as corporate opposition, to win final passage last week in the Senate. Biden also signed a separate bill Thursday funding research into a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Officials question San Francisco’s emergency

The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco were meeting Thursday to consider an emergency order requested by the mayor to tackle the opioid epidemic in the city’s troubled Tenderloin neighborhood, with some members clearly dismayed that the declaration could be used to criminalize people who are homeless, addicted to drugs or both.

The public health emergency declaration allows the Department of Emergency Management to re-allocate city staff and bypass contracting and permitting regulations to set up a new temporary center where people can access expanded drug treatment and counseling.

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