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01/12/2022 | 06:05am EDT

U.S. inflation is on track to have closed out 2021 near its highest level since 1982 as robust consumer demand exacerbated pandemic-related supply shortages.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimate the Labor Department's consumer-price index-which measures what consumers pay for goods and services-rose 7.1% in December from the same month a year ago, up from 6.8% in November. That would mark the fastest pace since 1982 and the third straight month in which inflation exceeded 6%.

China's Inflation Pressure Eased in December

BEIJING--China's factory-gate prices and consumer inflation in December both eased more than expected compared with the previous month, thanks to the plunge in oil prices, as well as Beijing's efforts to ensure commodity and food supply, which gives more room for policy easing in 2022, official data showed Wednesday.

The producer-price index rose 10.3% from a year earlier in December, down from a 12.9% increase in November, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The result was lower than the 11.2% forecast by economists in a poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal.

Southern California Ports Struggle to Trim Cargo Backlog as Omicron Surges

The Covid-19 Omicron variant is hampering efforts to clear a backlog of about 100 container ships at the nation's busiest port complex as infections rise among Southern California dockworkers.

About 800 dockworkers-roughly 1 in 10 of the daily workforce at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach-were unavailable for Covid-related reasons as of Monday, according to the Pacific Maritime Association. Absentees included workers who tested positive for the virus, were quarantining or awaiting test results, or who felt unwell.

Covid-19 Hospitalizations Reported in U.S. Hit New High

U.S. hospitals are caring for the highest number of patients with Covid-19 reported during the pandemic, according to federal government data, as the Omicron variant worsens pressures on the already strained facilities.

The U.S. seven-day average reached 140,576 people hospitalized with confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, more than the previous high recorded during the surge last winter, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.

Chinese Banks' Loan Issuance Declined in December

New loans issued by Chinese banks fell in December, according to data released by the People's Bank of China on Wednesday.

Chinese banks extended 1.13 trillion yuan ($180 billion) worth of new yuan loans in December, down from CNY1.27 trillion in November, the People's Bank of China said. The result undershot the CNY1.2 trillion expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Strikes Deal for Additional Supply of Covid-19 Antibody Treatment

U.S. officials on Tuesday ordered 600,000 doses of Covid-19 treatment sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody therapy thought to work against the Omicron variant, as a record number of cases puts hospitals under increasing pressure in parts of the U.S. and Europe.

Sotrovimab, made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Vir Biotechnology Inc., is now the only Covid-19 monoclonal antibody available for patients in the U.S. The government paused distribution of two other treatments, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. in late December, after early laboratory tests suggested they lost effectiveness against the new strain.

Fed's Powell Says Economy No Longer Needs Aggressive Stimulus

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called high inflation a "severe threat" to a full economic recovery and said Tuesday the central bank was preparing to raise interest rates because the economy no longer needed emergency support.

Mr. Powell said he was optimistic that supply-chain bottlenecks would ease this year to help bring down inflation as the Fed takes its foot off the gas pedal. But he told lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing that if inflation stayed elevated, the Fed would be ready to step on the brakes. "If we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will," he said.

After Months of Ethics Controversy, Fed's New Trading Rules Will Be Implemented Soon, Powell Says

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday the central bank is close to finalizing a broad revamp of its ethics rules prompted by criticism of officials' financial transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Powell's comments came a day after Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said he would resign this week, becoming the third central bank policy maker to step down following questions raised over personal trades.

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This article is a text version of a Wall Street Journal newsletter published earlier today.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-12-22 0604ET

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (AUD/USD) -0.13% 0.7032 Delayed Quote.-3.01%
BANK OF CHINA LIMITED 1.32% 3.06 Delayed Quote.8.90%
BRITISH POUND / US DOLLAR (GBP/USD) 0.19% 1.24866 Delayed Quote.-7.89%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (CAD/USD) -0.17% 0.7783 Delayed Quote.-1.43%
EURO / US DOLLAR (EUR/USD) -0.11% 1.0548 Delayed Quote.-6.97%
GLAXOSMITHKLINE PLC 1.87% 1764 Delayed Quote.9.80%
INDIAN RUPEE / US DOLLAR (INR/USD) -0.59% 0.012844 Delayed Quote.-3.79%
LONDON BRENT OIL 0.94% 112.54 Delayed Quote.42.93%
NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (NZD/USD) 0.38% 0.64048 Delayed Quote.-6.67%
ON SEMICONDUCTOR CORPORATION 0.70% 56.46 Delayed Quote.-16.87%
REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. 0.61% 661.14 Delayed Quote.4.69%
S&P 500 0.01% 3901.36 Real-time Quote.-18.14%
VIR BIOTECHNOLOGY, INC. -2.29% 24.36 Delayed Quote.-41.82%
WTI 1.22% 110.515 Delayed Quote.44.84%
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