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Burger King set to bring back $5 value meal, expert weighs in on competitive pricing

A worker hands food to a customer at the drive-thru window of a Burger King fast food restaurant in Hialeah, Florida, April 18, 2024. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Burger King is throwing its crown into the summer savings fast food ring as customers continue to voice frustrations over high costs of food.

The Miami-based burger chain confirmed to ABC News that it will be accelerating value offers, like its $5 Your Way deal. This follows McDonald's adding a value bundle for a limited time this summer.

The deal at Burger King will include a choice of one of three sandwiches, a Whopper Jr., Chicken Jr. or Bacon Cheeseburger, with chicken nuggets, fries and a soft drink for just $5.

Unlike the Golden Arches, which is expected to launch its option for just four weeks in June, Burger King said it plans to run the $5 deal for several months.

Many companies have been implementing new types of pricing models as customers crave discounts, especially with fast food prices up 33% in March compared to 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

For example, Wendy's recently announced a new $3 English muffin meal combo that includes a small portion of seasoned potatoes and choice of either a bacon, egg and cheese English muffin sandwich or a sausage, egg and cheese English muffin sandwich, the company stated.

The latest Consumer Price Index data showed a growing difference between the cost of going out to eat vs. buying groceries, with experts explaining to "GMA" that "When you buy food away from home, 70% of that is overhead and labor, so you're really only buying 30% of the food with the dollar that you spend."

Wells Fargo's Chief Agriculture Economist Dr. Michael Swanson told "GMA" he expects competitive discounts "to continue, because from what we've seen, all these companies are really battling for market share -- and this usually reflects either quality or price and hopefully both."

Restaurant Brands, the parent company of Burger King, has yet to release any further information on the new Burger King promo as of time of publication.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The Biden administration is releasing gasoline reserves. Will it lower prices at the pump?

Tom Merton/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration announced this week that it is releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from a Northeast reserve in an effort to reduce prices when drivers hit the road this summer.

The gasoline will be sold in 100,000-barrel tranches over a six-week stretch between Memorial Day and July 4, bolstering the nation's fuel supply during the busiest driving season of the year, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement.

"The Biden-Harris Administration is laser focused on lowering prices at the pump for American families," Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said.

However, experts who spoke to ABC News rejected the notion that the release of gasoline reserves would meaningfully lower prices at the pump. The move will likely result in a modest reduction for drivers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast but will have little effect nationwide, they said.

"This is not a needle-mover," Patrick de Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told ABC News. "It will not impact prices for the majority of Americans."

The White House did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Since the beginning of the year, the average national price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas has jumped about 16%, amounting to an increase of more than 50 cents per gallon, according to AAA data shared with ABC News.

The national average price for a gallon of unleaded regular stands at $3.61, which marks a slight uptick from where the price stood a year ago, AAA data showed.

The move by the Biden administration will lower gasoline prices for drivers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast by 5 to 15 cents, de Haan said, characterizing the release as a relatively small injection of additional supply.

The release of 1 million barrels, or 42 million gallons, is roughly equivalent to the amount of gasoline consumed by the U.S. every two-and-a-half hours, de Haan said.

Price increases so far this year match the typical bounce in spring when warm-weather travelers drive up demand and refineries switch to a more expensive blend of summer fuel.

By adding gasoline to the marketplace at this time of year, the Biden administration aims to mitigate the risk of further price increases as even more drivers travel over the coming months, experts told ABC News.

"It's a perfect time of year for this release," Timothy Fitzgerald, a professor of business economics at Texas Tech University who studies the petroleum industry, told ABC News.

Still, Fitzgerald added, the ultimate price effect of the move will be modest, in part because the added supply will not make its way to regions like the West Coast where drivers are suffering the highest prices.

In California, the state with the nation's stiffest gasoline prices, an average gallon costs $5.15, according to AAA data. In nearby Washington, AAA said, an average gallon runs $4.58.

"This gasoline [release] is unlikely to help in those markets," Fitzgerald said, pointing to a lack of pipeline capacity necessary to transport gasoline from the Northeast to the West.

The Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve was established in the mid-2010s in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when refinery damage left some New York gas stations without fuel for 30 days, the Department of Energy said.

The decision to empty gasoline from the reserve comes after Congress called for the closure of the facility as part of a spending measure enacted in March.

In a statement this week, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the move makes up part of the Biden administration's effort to lower energy prices for American consumers.

"This builds on other actions by President Biden to lower gas and energy costs -- including historic releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the largest-ever investment in clean energy," Jean-Pierre said.

Despite the rise in gasoline prices, U.S. oil production has surged in recent years.

The U.S. set a record for crude oil production in 2023, averaging 12.9 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal agency.

Rising gas prices can hurt perceptions of an incumbent president and damage the prospects for reelection, experts previously told ABC News.

In 2016, a study in the academic journal, Political Psychology examined the relationship between gas prices and presidential approval rating between the mid-1970s and mid-2000s, finding that elevated gas prices drove a president's approval downward.

To be exact, each 10-cent increase in the gas price was associated with more than half a percentage point decline in presidential approval, the research showed.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department seeks breakup of Live Nation-Ticketmaster through major antitrust suit

In this April 17, 2024, file photo, the Live Nation website is shown on a laptop in New York. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department and dozens of state attorneys general filed a major antitrust lawsuit Thursday seeking the breakup of Ticketmaster owner Live Nation Entertainment over what they allege is the company's unlawful dominance over the concert ticket sales industry.

The lawsuit, filed by the DOJ and 30 state and district attorneys general in federal court in the Southern District of New York, accuses the company of creating a monopoly over the live entertainment market that has harmed music fans, artists and promoters around the United States through higher prices and frustrating consumer experiences.

"The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "It is time to break up Live Nation."

"For too long, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have unfairly and illegally run the world of live events, abusing their dominance to overcharge fans, bully venues, and limit artists," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. "When companies like Live Nation control every aspect of an event, it leads to bad blood -- concertgoers and sports fans suffer and are forced to pay more. Everybody agrees, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are the problem and it's time for a new era. Today, we are taking this important action to protect consumers and force big companies to stop abusing their influence and get in formation."

The sweeping lawsuit is a product of a more than two-year-long investigation into the company that has come under growing public scrutiny since late 2022, following a fiasco over presales for Taylor Swift's Eras Tour.

Ticketmaster, which controls more than 70% of the market for ticketing and live events, crashed during the first day of sales, leaving millions of fans out of luck or seeking higher-priced tickets on the secondary market.

The Justice Department's lawsuit accuses LiveNation of seeking to lock out competitors to protect what the company dubs its "flywheel," described in court documents as "a self-reinforcing business model that captures fees and revenue from concert fans and sponsorship, uses that revenue to lock up artists to exclusive promotion deals, and then uses its powerful cache of live content to sign venues into long-term exclusive ticketing deals, thereby starting the cycle all over again."

Live Nation did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the lawsuit, though its president, Joe Berchtold, has otherwise defended the company's business practices -- including during a contentious appearance before Congress early last year.

Live Nation released a statement Thursday following the lawsuit, saying, in part, that it's "absurd to claim that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are wielding monopoly power."

The lawsuit "blames concert promoters and ticketing companies -- neither of which control ticket prices -- for high ticket prices," said Dan Wall, executive vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs of Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. "It ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public's willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost. It blames Live Nation and Ticketmaster for high service charges, but ignores that Ticketmaster retains only a modest portion of those fees. In fact, primary ticketing is one of the least expensive digital distributions in the economy."

"The defining feature of a monopolist is monopoly profits derived from monopoly pricing. Live Nation in no way fits the profile. Service charges on Ticketmaster are no higher than elsewhere, and frequently lower. And even accounting for sponsorship, an advertising business that helps keep ticket prices down, the company's overall net profit margin is at the low end of profitable S&P 500 companies," Wall said.

"It is also clear that we are another casualty of this administration's decision to turn over antitrust enforcement to a populist urge that simply rejects how antitrust law works," Wall said, in part. "Some call this 'anti-monopoly,' but in reality it is just anti-business."

Among the practices singled out by the DOJ are allegations Live Nation exploited its relationship with the company Oak View Group that the lawsuit says describes itself as a "hammer" for Live Nation and has avoided bidding against the company for exclusive agreements with artists and major venues.

The company, according to the Justice Department, also allegedly carried out a pattern of threatening potential competitors seeking to enter the concert promotions market and creating a climate where venue owners would fear entering into contracts with Live Nation-Ticketmaster's rivals.

Live Nation-Ticketmaster is also accused of using lengthy exclusive contracts with venues that the lawsuit claims prevent them from switching to better or cheaper ticketing systems, and, in certain instances, allegedly blocked venues from even being able to use multiple ticketers for events.

Live Nation was already under a consent decree with the Justice Department after it approved its merger with Ticketmaster during the Obama administration in 2010 -- under conditions that included prohibiting the company from threatening concert venues that opted to use competing ticket firms. That decree was extended in 2019 after the department found the company violated its conditions.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of aggressive antitrust efforts by the Biden administration, which has brought similar enforcement efforts challenging companies like Apple, Google and Amazon over what it alleges are clear anti-competitive practices that have served to harm American consumers.

The White House is supporting the DOJ's lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster, saying Thursday afternoon that "while we do not comment on specific enforcement matters, President Biden strongly supports fair and robust enforcement of the antitrust laws."

"As the President has said, the American people are tired of being played for suckers," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

"The president launched the Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing because no American should pay higher prices or lose choices because companies break the law and engage in anti-competitive practices. His administration has taken action to fight corporate greed by banning hidden junk fees -- including event tickets -- that unfairly increase prices for hardworking families trying to make ends meet," Jean-Pierre said.

ABC News' Zunaira Zaki and Justin Ryan Gomez contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Target, McDonald's and Wendy's announce discounts. Has a price war broken out?

ermingut/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- For more than three years, rapid inflation has frustrated shoppers scanning store shelves for deals. But a host of prominent companies are finally delivering relief.

Target, Ikea, Aldi, McDonald’s and Wendy’s are among several well-known brands that have announced lower prices in recent weeks.

“We know consumers are feeling pressured to make the most of their budget,” Rick Gomez, an executive vice president at Target, said in a statement this week after the company lowered prices for 5,000 items, including frozen pizza and butter.

The rapid-fire series of customer-friendly announcements isn’t a coincidence, economists told ABC News, as many companies fight over customers who are pinching pennies after a prolonged bout of elevated prices.

The competition is most intense between companies, like fast food joints and big-box stores, that cater to low- and middle-income people, experts added.

“After the shell shock of seeing the buying power of their dollar fall so dramatically, consumers are most likely to consider price, price and price as their three most important factors,” Jason Taylor, an economics professor at Central Michigan University, told ABC News.

“It should not be surprising to see firms competing so strongly on price,” Taylor added.

Last week, McDonald’s announced a $5 value meal set to hit stores next month. Wendy’s followed suit on Monday, releasing a $3 deal that features a breakfast sandwich and potatoes.

Aldi, a nationwide grocery chain, said earlier this month that it would lower prices on 250 items, reducing, for instance, the price of sirloin steak from $8.49 to $6.99.

The price cuts come at a time when many customers have few dollars to spare.

In response to accelerated price increases, the Federal Reserve embarked on an aggressive series of interest rate hikes and has yet to ease them. For nearly a year, the Fed has held interest rates at their highest level since 2001.

Price increases, meanwhile, have slowed significantly from a peak of about 9%, but inflation still stands more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2%.

The persistence of elevated inflation alongside high interest rates has squeezed many consumers, who grapple with stiff prices but face expensive borrowing costs for loans that could help ease the financial pain.

Over the first three months of 2024, U.S. household debt ballooned to a record $12.44 trillion, climbing $184 billion over that period, or about 1.1%, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Credit card debt, meanwhile, climbed to a record high $1.13 trillion at the end of last year, New York Federal Reserve data showed.

“Debt burdens are much heavier given the aggressive borrowing these households have done to supplement their income and maintain their purchasing power in the face of their higher costs,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told ABC news.

In turn, strapped shoppers have become more sensitive in their spending, putting pressure on companies to lower their prices or risk losing out on business, Zandi added.

“Price competition among businesses that generally cater to lower income households is heating up,” Zandi said. “Lower income households are under significant financial pressure.”

Meanwhile, many companies can lower prices without suffering losses, since the outbreak of inflation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a surge in profitability, experts said.

In 2021, corporate profit margins skyrocketed from about 11% in the first quarter to 19% in the second, eventually stabilizing at an elevated level of 15% over the ensuing year, Fed data showed.

The profit margins also spur competition, inducing companies to enter a new market or lower prices as a means of capturing some of the lucrative business, Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News.

“If profits start getting fat in a free market system, that invites competition and competition whittles the profit margins down,” Hanke said.

He went on, “Target is not insulated. Neither is Aldi, McDonald’s or Wendy’s.”

The discounts may also offer reason to be optimistic about the outlook for inflation, Hanke said, noting that the lower prices suggest an expectation among business leaders that their input costs are unlikely to accelerate.

“They won’t be facing costs that are rising as fast as they are now,” Hanke said. “The hot costs have come out of their expectations.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Aldi stores focusing on low grocery prices this summer, CEO says

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As inflation continues to worry Americans, Aldi CEO Jason Hart said the discount grocery chain is focused on keeping grocery prices low as the summer season heats up.

Hart joined ABC News' Good Morning America live Thursday to discuss the summer grocery outlook ahead of Memorial Day.

"We don't really focus on what the competition is doing. We're focused on what consumers want and need," Hart said. "Before the consumer was stressed with inflation, we were still about low prices, but those low prices become even more important as value is even more top of mind for the consumer."

"So our actions are all based on consumer demand," Hart continued. "We're always looking for opportunities to lower prices to reduce our cost of doing business, to reduce our cost of product and to lean in on our lower prices. So that's what we're all about."

Earlier this month, Aldi announced it would cut prices on over 250 summer essentials, including barbecue basics like chicken and steak and other family favorites like frozen blueberries and granola bars.

"It's focused on, as you can imagine, fresh meat, snacks for the summer road trip and our fresh meat prices are lower than they were last year and our sales are up 30%," Hart said, adding that low prices are part of the "DNA" of Aldi. "We've got our boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $2.19 a pound. Since we've marked that product down, it's up 50% in movement and that's just showing the popularity of low prices and the popularity of Aldi is as high as it's ever been."

Other major stores followed suit, including Walmart and Target, with the Minneapolis-based store saying it would lower prices on 5,000 items, including "everyday items" such as milk, meat, fresh fruit, vegetables and snacks.

Hart said lower prices are driving Aldi's growth. The discount grocery chain announced this May it would open 800 more stores over the course of the next five years, especially in the Southeast.

"Twenty-five percent of U.S. customers now shop at Aldi. That's twice what it was just six years ago," Hart said. "And Aldi's built to fight inflation. Our business model, which is based on simplicity and efficiency, really provides savings for customers and also saves them time when they're shopping with their grocery lists."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

FDIC head who oversaw alleged 'toxic culture' to stay until his replacement. Experts say that risks more harm

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2024. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said this week that he would leave his role in the aftermath of a probe that documented widespread allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the federal agency.

Martin Gruenberg, a Democrat who began a five-year term in 2023, said he will remain in the top post at the FDIC until a replacement can be confirmed by the Senate, which could take months. President Joe Biden will announce a nominee for FDIC chair soon, the White House told ABC News in a statement this week.

"In light of recent events, I am prepared to step down from my responsibilities once a successor is confirmed," Gruenberg said. "Until that time, I will continue to fulfill my responsibilities as Chairman of the FDIC, including the transformation of the FDIC's workplace culture."

The plan to maintain Gruenberg's leadership until a replacement can be installed presents a setback for efforts to overhaul the organization's toxic culture and prevent further harm, experts told ABC News. The toxic workplace culture at the FDIC took hold alongside complaints about Gruenberg’s own alleged temper, which may hinder his ability to establish trust with employees as the organization pursues the necessary changes, the report said.

The report acknowledged that Gruenberg's conduct did not make up a "root cause" of the pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination at the agency. But, the report added, "culture starts at the top."

A fix for the pervasive misconduct at the agency, experts said, requires long-term reform and employee protections that extend well beyond the departure of Gruenberg.

"Leaders underestimate the shadows that they cast," Allison Gabriel, a professor of management in the business school at Purdue University, told ABC News. "We look to people at the top of an organization or anybody who holds a leadership role as a beacon for what behavior is accepted and rewarded."

"The reality is that it will take a leadership change," Gabriel added. "It will also take a lot of time."

The FDIC and Gruenberg did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

In a statement to ABC News, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sam Michel commended Gruenberg for his service at the FDIC and his commitment to implement workplace changes outlined in the investigation.

"In his long tenure of service at the FDIC, Chairman Gruenberg has helped protect the economy from financial instability and worked to ensure the banking system serves more Americans fairly," Michel said. "While the FDIC is an independent agency, as we have said, the President of course expects the Administration to reflect the values of decency and integrity and to protect the rights and dignity of all employees."

A 234-page report, issued by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton earlier this month, detailed a culture of widespread misconduct at the agency that disproportionately harmed women and minority workers.

Wrongdoers often avoided punishment and, in some cases, received promotions after their misbehavior had been reported, according to the report, which relied on testimony from 500 current and former employees. Hundreds of employees shared their complaints by calling a hotline set up by investigators, the report said.

In one field office, a supervisor routinely commented to women employees about their sexual relationships and bodies, the women told investigators, according to the report. In another instance, a woman examiner received a picture of a senior examiner's genitals out of the blue while working in a field office, the report said, noting that the woman later found out that the senior examiner had a "reputation."

Some allegations detailed in the report focused on Gruenberg, who led the agency for 10 of the last 13 years. Some people interviewed over the course of the investigation recounted "deeply unsettling exchanges during which he was extremely 'harsh,' 'aggressive,' and 'upset,'" the report said.

Gruenberg told investigators that he did not recall ever getting angry with FDIC employees, the report said. In November, he told the Wall Street Journal that harassment and discrimination are “completely unacceptable” and the agency doesn’t tolerate them.

Lisa Avalos, a professor at Louisiana State University Law School who focuses on sexual offenses, said the preservation of Gruenberg as the head of the FDIC for the time being will hamstring efforts to prevent further misconduct and repair the agency's culture.

"The person at the top is always setting an example for everybody else," Avalos said. "Part of it is what he has actively done, which caused discomfort for people. The other part is how he's contributed to the culture through his omissions."

She added, "It's very unlikely that anything is going to change during this time waiting for his replacement."

Gabriel, of Purdue University, agreed.

"Keeping the status quo can continue to harm people," Gabriel said. "It's putting people in a really difficult position now that they've unearthed these problems."

Still, the extensive misconduct at the agency will demand structural and cultural changes that go much further than a swap in leadership, according to recommendations in the report as well as expert analysis shared with ABC News.

The report advises several fixes, including the appointment of a team of staff devoted to addressing the cultural problems as well as bolstered policies covering sexual harassment and discrimination.

"My primary concern when I hear about cases like this is they're going to fire this person and then they're going to do company-wide harassment training and do some other thing that does not have long-term returns," Jennifer Griffith, a professor of organizational behavior and management at the University of New Hampshire, told ABC News.

"I would really, really urge anyone who is trying to make actual, meaningful progress in this area to consider the structural elements in the organization," Griffith added. "Who's being rewarded and who's being penalized, and what are people's daily jobs like?"

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'Now it's bare': NYC's Chinatown small businesses battle to keep doors open

The Ting family spoke to ABC News about their generational store Ting's Gift Shop in Chinatown. (ABC News)

(NEW YORK) -- Ting's Gift Shop in New York City's bustling Chinatown has shuttered after 66 years in business.

The family-run novelty shop, which is situated at the corner of Doyers and Pell streets and distinguished by its vibrant red exterior and abundant merchandise, was a time capsule of goods, offering everything from porcelain soup spoons and pajamas to jewelry and ornate figurines.

"Grandma had the store packed, anywhere she could find a space she had something," Jona Ting told ABC News of her family's matriarch and the store founder, Tam Ting. "Every space was used."

The Ting family announced last month they were saying farewell to their generational gift store, which was opened in January 1958.

"Now it's bare," Eleanor Ting told ABC News of her mother's once-abounding shop, adding, "I need to return the shop to the landlord, so it's bare."

From 2019 to 2021, economic decline compounded by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic left Manhattan's Chinatown with a 26% decrease in jobs, 12% more than the New York City average.

Neighborhood activists and entrepreneurs say the years since severe pandemic hardships haven't eased the stress on the community.

"A lot of us have been here for generations and see our stories as more than just stores in the community," Mei Lum, fifth-generation owner of Wing on Wo & Co. -- the oldest continuously operating family-run business in Chinatown -- told ABC News.

"We're thinking about a storefront and its contributions to a community and a neighborhood beyond the confines of just pure economic exchange," Lum said.

Founded in the 1870s and located in the Lower East Side, NYC's Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese immigrants in the United States.

A cultural hub for Chinese cuisine, retail and immigrant history, the bustling streets of Chinatown have been a flagship of the city for decades.

But as entrepreneurs age, rent prices rise and younger generations take up different occupations, the fate of some of Chinatown's most historic businesses are in jeopardy.

"A lot of these legacy business owners are close to or past their retirement age, and we don't want to lose these legacy businesses," Victoria Lee, co-founder of Welcome to Chinatown, a non-profit organization working to help community business owners, told ABC News.

"They've really shaped the cultural fabric of Manhattan's Chinatown," Lee said, adding, "They've done such a good job of achieving the American dream."

Ting’s was just one of many small family businesses in Chinatown, where 94% of operations have less than 20 employees and face a unique set of problems in the neighborhood's changing landscape -- a broken line of succession.

"They've been able to send their children to school, to be lawyers, doctors, the industries that seem well respected," Lee said of Chinatown entrepreneurs.

"So that makes succession planning particularly difficult because that means that the next generation may not have the desire, or it doesn't make sense for them, to go on and take on the business," Lee said.

Despite nearly shuttering eight years ago, Wing on Wo & Co. has managed to keep doors open, thanks to Lum, its fifth-generation owner.

"It was started by my great-great-grandfather and as a child I came here every day after school and I had Chinese lessons with my grandfather and had an after-school snack with my grandmother," Lum said.

Founded in the 1890s and evolving from a general store to selling porcelain wares, Wing on Wo & Co.'s brick-and-mortar shop serves as an example of generational commitment and a meeting place for community activism.

Before Lum took on the business eight years ago, she said Wing on Wo & Co. was planning to sell the building.

"My family's situation at that time allowed me to understand that letting go of the shop actually would contribute to a larger political context in Chinatown around gentrification, displacement and the acceleration of longtime businesses shuttering and long-time residents being displaced," Lum said.

Coming together as a community, Lum, Lee and the Ting family say that despite the physical closure of Ting's Gift Shop, the store's legacy extends far past the corner of Doyers and Pell streets.

"I think we share that with Ting’s as well, with Eleanore. I'm really excited to see how people continue to stay in a relationship with the neighborhood and to think about how their legacy goes beyond space," Lum said.

Since late 2023, Lee has helped Ting's Gift Shop host three successful pop-ups and a farewell event for their physical location.

"It really shows that love and admiration that the community has to show up for a business that holds such a special place in people's hearts," Lee said.

Reflecting on Ting's Gift Shop's priceless impact on her family and NYC's Chinatown, Eleanore said, "You know, 66 years, it's not chump change," adding, "I've been here from day one and I've enjoyed every second of it."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wendy’s launches $3 English muffin breakfast combo amid soaring prices in fast food

The Wendy's Company

(NEW YORK) -- Wendy’s is enticing its customers with a new deal amid increased prices at fast food chains.

Beginning Monday, May 20, customers can get a breakfast combination deal from Wendy’s for only $3, according to a press release from the chain.

The meal combo includes a small portion of seasoned potatoes and a choice of either a bacon, egg and cheese English muffin or a sausage, egg and cheese English muffin, the release added.

Wendy's did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Earlier this month, Wendy's competitor McDonald's announced that it would be launching a new $5 value meal that will hit the menu this summer.

The upcoming promotion offers four items including a McDouble or McChicken sandwich, small fries, small soft drink and four-piece Chicken McNuggets for just $5, beginning June 25 for a limited time, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

"We know how much it means to our customers when McDonald’s offers meaningful value and communicates it through national advertising. That’s been true since our very beginning and never more important than it is today," the company said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

The new deals from the chains came amid complaints over surging fast food prices prompting consumers to express their frustration on social media.

Colleen Pipes, whose video went viral after she spent $14 on a fast food order, told ABC News, "I joked that this was fine dining now, because I might as well go at a sit down restaurant and be served [to] pay those type of prices."

In March, fast food prices were 33% higher compared to 2019, according to the Department of Labor, while grocery prices were up 26%.

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Target to cut prices on 5,000 items: See which items will cost less

A Target store stands in Manhattan on March 5, 2024 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Retail giant Target announced Monday it is lowering prices on around 5,000 items in its stores across the country.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said the price cuts are meant to both make sure its prices stay competitive and help consumers who are feeling financially strapped in today's economy.

"We know consumers are feeling pressured to make the most of their budget, and Target is here to help them save more," Rick Gomez, Target's executive vice president and chief food, essentials and beauty officer, said in a statement announcing the price changes. "Our teams work hard to deliver great value every day, and these new lower prices across thousands of items will add up to additional big savings for the millions of consumers that shop Target each week for their everyday needs."

Target said the price cuts will take effect "over the course of the summer," and noted that prices on around 1,500 items in its stores have already been cut.

Lower prices to come on 'everyday items'

The products that Target customers will soon see lower prices on include what Target describes as "everyday items," including:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Soda
  • Fresh fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Snacks
  • Yogurt
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee
  • Diapers
  • Paper towels
  • Pet food

Target said in some stores around the country, the price of a frozen pizza has already dropped to $3.99 from $4.19, for example.

A container of Clorox scented wipes is now $4.99 compared to $5.79, according to the company.

Target said the lowered prices will be found online and on the Target app as well as in stores.

Where else can shoppers find savings?

Target's announcement of lower prices comes just weeks after Aldi announced its own price reduction on more than 250 grocery items.

The retail chain said customers will see lower prices this summer on items including meat, bread, organic avocado oil, organic granola bars and dried cranberries.

McDonald's also announced a price reduction this month in the form of a $5 value meal that will hit menus in time for summer.

The fast food chain plans to offer a bundle that includes four items: a McDouble or McChicken sandwich, small fries, small soft drink and a four-piece Chicken McNuggets for just $5.

Overall, data shows that grocery prices are falling for the first time in one year.

In April, the food at home index -- food purchased at grocery stores - decreased by 0.2%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor consumer price index findings.

Some staple food at home products, including bread, poultry and eggs, fell in April compared to a year ago, the CPI data showed.

Prices for other items like breakfast sausage and ice cream, however, increased at a pace near the level of overall inflation.

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Red Lobster voluntarily files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

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(NEW YORK) -- Red Lobster has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a recent press release shared with ABC News.

The largest seafood chain in the U.S., home to Cheddar Bay biscuits, Lobsterfest, Ultimate Endless Shrimp and more, filed the legal action on May 19 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, where the Orlando-based restaurant group is headquartered.

"The Company intends to use the proceedings to drive operational improvements, simplify the business through a reduction in locations, and pursue a sale of substantially all of its assets as a going concern," Red Lobster said in part of its bankrupty filing.

"This restructuring is the best path forward for Red Lobster. It allows us to address several financial and operational challenges and emerge stronger and re-focused on our growth. The support we've received from our lenders and vendors will help ensure that we can complete the sale process quickly and efficiently while remaining focused on our employees and guests," Red Lobster CEO Jonathan Tibus added about the bankrupty filing.

Red Lobster, which was founded in 1968, has been struggling financially and closed multiple locations this May, shuttering at least 99 restaurants in 27 states. But the seafood chain said its remaining open restaurants will continue to operate "as usual."

The restaurant chain claimed its Ultimate Endless Shrimp promotion, which was launched nearly two decades ago and offered customers all-you-can shrimp dishes for just $20, has taken a major toll to its financial bottom line.

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Is it too late to join the bull market? Experts weigh in.

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(NEW YORK) -- The blazing hot stock market seems to set new records just about every day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average stands above 40,000 for the first time in history, after climbing nearly 20% since October. Over that period, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have each soared even higher, climbing 23% and 27% respectively.

The market rally means a windfall for people with stock holdings but it poses a quandary for those on the sidelines: Is it time to jump in or too late to reap the gains?

Experts who spoke to ABC News encouraged investors to take advantage of the market upswing, saying the major indexes have room to rise even further.

The confidence stems from the nation’s sunny economic outlook, they added, as the Federal Reserve stands poised to make interest rate cuts that could boost an already robust economy. However, they cautioned, stubborn inflation or an economic downturn could bring losses.

"This is a pretty awesome environment to own stocks in right now," ​​Tom Essaye, president of financial data firm Sevens Report Research, told ABC News. "There is still time to get in."

The economy is performing well on many key metrics. Unemployment stands near a 65-year low, while economic growth has remained solid and consumer spending has shown resilience.

All of these positive indicators have added up to strong corporate profits, the lifeblood of the stock market. "Growth is good and corporate earnings are good," Essaye said.

Strong stock market performance, however, depends on where company results and economic output are headed rather than where they stand at the present time, experts said.

Fortunately, many observers hold an optimistic outlook about the coming months, since the Fed appears to be on the verge of interest rate cuts that could deliver a jolt to the economy.

In recent months, the Fed had all but abandoned its previous forecast of three quarter-point rate cuts this year. But a slowdown of price hikes offered hope of rekindling those plans.

Inflation data released last week showed that price increases slowed slightly from the annual rate recorded in the previous month, ending a surge of inflation that stretched back to the beginning of 2024.

"Front and center is what the Fed is going to do," Marc Dizard, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group. "There is a bias here that they want to cut rates, which the market is really liking."

Optimism about the stock market also owes to enthusiasm about the impact of artificial intelligence, experts said.

Major stock indexes drew a bump in recent months from investors favorable toward the newly prominent technology. Those gains were concentrated primarily in a handful of tech giants, known as the so-called "Magnificent 7": Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Tesla and Nvidia.

Shares of Nvidia have climbed nearly 120% since October; Microsoft has jumped almost 35% over that period.

Ed Yardeni, the president of market advisory firm Yardeni Research and former chief investment strategist at Deutsche Bank's U.S. equities division, said adoption of AI in the coming months and years would help grow the economy and send the stock market higher.

"The market is right to get excited about technological innovations like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation," Yardeni said. "I think those technologies will boost productivity and productivity boosts real economic growth."

Dizard, of PNC, said the stock market retains the capacity to rise between 5% and 8%. While Essaye, of Sevens Report Research, said the S&P 500 could increase another 3% or more.

Meanwhile, Yardeni offered a longer-term view, saying he expects the major stock indexes to climb 50% by 2030.

Still, the experts warned of potential outcomes that could not only blunt future gains but incur significant losses.

Stubborn inflation could force the Fed to shift its posture, holding rates elevated for longer than expected or even raising them altogether.

"You could see a curveball," Dizard said. "That’s something investors need to be cautious about."

Some economic indicators, meanwhile, have already shown signs of a slowdown. The labor market has continued to add jobs this year but at a slower pace than 2023. The economy grew at the outset of 2024 but cooled off from the final stretch of last year.

"An economic slowdown is the number one thing everybody has to worry about," Essaye said, predicting that such an outcome could bring a market decline of 10% or more.

Even after noting risks, Dizard struck a positive note. "There is momentum to the upside," he said.

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Trump trusted more than Biden on inflation, a top issue for voters, poll shows

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(NEW YORK) -- U.S. adults trust former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden on the issue of inflation by a double-digit margin, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll this month, which found that price increases remain a top concern for voters, with less than six months to go until Election Day.

In all, 85% of poll participants said inflation is an important issue, making it the second-highest priority among adults surveyed. The top priority, the economy, also relates to individuals' perceptions of price increases.

On each of those issues, the economy and inflation, adults surveyed by ABC News/Ipsos said they trusted Trump over Biden by a margin of 14 percentage points.

Price increases have slowed significantly from a recent peak of about 9%, but inflation still stands more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2%.

Rising gasoline and housing costs accounted for 70% of the price increases last month, according to data this week from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Inflation is something that affects absolutely everybody," Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News. "People notice it, whether they're rich or poor."

In response to ABC News' request for comment, the Biden campaign provided a statement touting the president's economic achievements

"President Biden has delivered where Trump failed the American people: 15 million new jobs and record-low unemployment, bringing down costs, and investing billions in communities that have been left behind for too long," the statement said.

"All of this is on the line this November: If Trump sets foot in the Oval Office, he'll make it his mission to undo this progress, ship jobs to China, and send costs through the roof. Voters want a candidate who will make their lives better, and Joe Biden is the only candidate who will," the statement added.

The Trump campaign did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Todd Fisher, 60, a retired automotive engineer who lives in Miami, Florida, said he's noticed rapid price increases for everything from haircuts to groceries.

"Everything keeps going up and up and up," Fisher, who lives on a pension, told ABC News. "I'm not broke or anything but I'd prefer it to be the other way. It's more money for the bank."

Trump is better equipped to address inflation, Fisher said, noting that the onset of elevated inflation in 2021 took place under Biden.

"It wasn't happening when Trump was president," said Fisher, who identifies as an independent. "I think he's more aware of what's going on."

When asked about the cooldown of price increases that began in 2022, Fisher said it still amounts to price increases, given previous hikes.

"When inflation goes down, it doesn't necessarily mean the store is going to take everything back to the way it was," he added.

Analysts who spoke to ABC News said any president retains limited control over the trajectory of prices, but inflation poses a stiff political challenge because progress made on the issue often registers less with voters than the initial problem did.

"For voters, they feel increases in inflation are extremely salient," Francesco D'Acunto, a Georgetown University finance professor who studies how people understand economic news, told ABC News. "They feel this is very problematic and negative for their own finances."

"But there is no symmetric reaction on the decreasing end of inflation," D'Acunto added. "Prices still keep growing but at a slower pace."

Elevated inflation aside, the economy is performing well on other key metrics. Unemployment stands near a 65-year low, while economic growth remains solid and the major stock indexes are fresh off of record highs.

The robust performance has defied expectations amid a prolonged period of high interest rates, which have sent borrowing rates soaring for everything from mortgages to credit cards. The Fed earlier this month opted for the sixth consecutive time to hold interest rates steady, keeping them at a level last seen in 2001.

Still, 43% of respondents surveyed by ABC News/Ipsos said they've become worse off financially under the Biden presidency. Among those who say they've held steady financially, Biden leads by a wide margin of 66% to 21% percentage points, poll results showed.

Kenneth Vickers, 34, an elevator constructor who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, said his finances improved about a year ago when he joined a union. But, he added, inflation remains a top concern.

"I make a good amount of money but a lot of other people don't," Vickers said. "It's difficult to get through the day to day, week to week and month to month issues that might come around when you've got to pay your bills."

Vickers, who identifies as an independent, said he trusts Trump to handle the issue better than Biden.

"Trump is a businessman," Vickers added. "He's been through the wringer as far as running a business and maintaining wealth."

Even so, Vickers said he remains undecided about who he'll vote for in November, noting other issues of importance to him, such as immigration and foreign policy.

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Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against joining UAW, a blow to union's expansion in the South

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(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Thousands of Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Friday, delivering a significant defeat for the union one month after it prevailed at a Volkswagen facility in nearby Tennessee.

Workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama cast ballots against joining the union by a margin of 2,642 to 2,045, or 56% to 44%, the National Labor Relations Board said.

The result hinders the UAW's momentum as it seeks to organize additional plants throughout the South, where it has struggled for decades to gain a foothold.

Analysts expected a difficult contest at the Alabama Mercedes-Benz facility because the company conducted an anti-union campaign, whereas officials at Volkswagen had remained neutral toward worker organization efforts.

Still, the union's landslide victory last month at a Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee came as a surprise to many observers. The breakthrough marked the first car plant in the South to unionize with a vote since the 1940s.

In both recent campaigns, the union faced stiff opposition from local elected officials. Six Southern governors, including Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, both Republicans, issued a statement last month condemning UAW organization efforts in the region.

"We want to keep good paying jobs and continue to grow the American auto manufacturing sector here," the governors wrote. "A successful unionization drive will stop this growth in its tracks, to the detriment of American workers."

In recent months, UAW officials have touted an aggressive campaign to expand the union's membership. Over 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed cards in support of the UAW, and organizing campaigns have begun at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement in March.

The burst of activity followed a high-profile strike carried out by UAW workers against the Big Three U.S. automakers last fall: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, formerly known as Chrysler.

The standoff contributed to billions of dollars in losses for the companies and put thousands of workers temporarily out of work. But the gamble paid off, helping the UAW achieve historic wage gains and other long-sought reforms.

In recent years, the U.S. labor movement has grown in popularity and made headlines with attention-grabbing strikes, but it has overall failed to increase the share of the national workforce that belongs to a union.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans approve of unions, a Gallup poll last year showed, putting the favorability of unions near its highest level since 1965.

Still, union membership has declined. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, which is little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed. However, that figure marks a steep drop from a peak of nearly 25% in the 1950s.

The UAW's defeat in Alabama on Friday amounts to a missed opportunity for membership gains, since a vote to join the union would have added about 5,000 workers to its membership rolls. The UAW presently has declares a membership of roughly 400,000 workers.

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Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 40,000 for the 1st time

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(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 40,000 for the first time in history on Thursday.

This is a significant and symbolic milestone for the index that tracks 30 of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the U.S.

The Dow is now up about 6% so far this year.

The recent rally in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq has been fueled by data showing inflation is cooling, which would allow the Federal Reserve to begin its long-awaited interest rate cuts.

Inflation data released on Wednesday showed that price increases slowed slightly from the annual rate recorded in the previous month, ending a surge of inflation that stretches back to the beginning of 2024.

In recent months, the Fed had all but abandoned its previous forecast of three quarter-point rate cuts this year. But the slowdown of price hikes offered hope of rekindling those plans.

"The combination of the Fed likely to be lowering interest rates because inflation is moderating with a resilient economy is a beautiful scenario for a bull market," Ed Yardeni, the president of market advisory firm Yardeni Research and former chief investment strategist at Deutsche Bank's U.S. equities division, told ABC News.

"It’s more enjoyable to say the market is going to these nice, round numbers in record-high territory than coming back down to them," Yardeni added.

The inflation news on Wednesday sent each of the major stock indexes up more than 5% for the day, propelling all of them to record highs. In early trading on Thursday, the Dow had ticked up a quarter of a percentage point.

Observers have also attributed this year's stock market rally to the rise in value of some major tech firms, driven largely by enthusiasm about artificial intelligence.

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New inflation data could signal cheaper grocery prices, more discounts, expert says

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(NEW YORK) -- As Americans continue to experience sticker shock with volatile food costs, a slight ease of inflation last month could provide relief for consumers' wallets -- particularly at the grocery store.

Food prices rose at a much slower pace than overall inflation since the same time last month, the Department of Labor shared Wednesday in the latest consumer price index findings.

The food at home index -- food purchased at grocery stores -- declined by 0.2%, while the food away from home index -- everything from takeout to dining at restaurants -- rose 0.3% over the month, according to the Department of Labor.

Dr. Michael Swanson, Wells Fargo's Chief Agriculture Economist, told ABC News that this is the first time in a while that consumers have spent more money on dining than on groceries.

"It surprises people because it's kind of a new development in the last couple of years where we finally saw the dollars exceed spending away from home," he said. "When you buy food away from home, 70% of that is overhead and labor, so you're really only buying 30% of the food with the dollar that you spend."

Compared to the same time last year, there has been a 3% increase in the gap between the two categories, which Swanson said indicates will "really push people to prepare more meals at home and take it with them, because it's such a big premium right now to be eating away from home with this inflation rate differential."

Some staple food at home products fell in April compared to a year ago, including bread, poultry and eggs, the CPI data showed.

Prices for other items like breakfast sausage and ice cream, however, increased at a pace near the level of overall inflation.

"Even when we talk about food at home, there's a huge range between highly prepared and more basic ingredients," Swanson said. "You can save a lot of money even at the supermarket buying some food that's less prepared."

Looking at the CPI numbers, Swanson said, "is really important" because it offers "a much bigger survey" thanks to the thousands of government price trackers who gather the new data, rather than if shoppers go with their "gut instinct about what's in their market basket."

What he has observed ahead of the summer months is retailers getting more customers in the door with deals.

"We're hearing from customers that manufactured food is gonna be more of an emphasis on what we used to see a lot," such as "coupons or buy one get one or promotions," Swanson said. 

He added that "consumers should get their game on -- because if you shop around you're going to find some pretty good promotions. But if you don't, you'll miss them."

Aldi, for example, recently announced discounts on hundreds of popular seasonal best-sellers from steaks to road trip snacks.

"I do expect it to continue because from what we've seen, all these companies are really battling for market share -- so we're gonna see more of this competition for market share, and this usually reflects either quality or price and hopefully both," Swanson said.

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How many games will the Cardinals win this year?