Afternoon Coffee: Metal prices fall after Chinese edict for a freeze; Amazon is sued over antitrust issues; Self-driving tractors open up greener farming

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Worldwide prices for industrial metals fell after Chinese authorities notified commodity companies that they could not increase prices, according to the BBC.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told firms to maintain “normal market orders.” The guidance comes after metal prices surged in recent months while major economies emerge from the Covid pandemic. The NDRC said the meeting was held because of continuous and drastic increases in a handful of commodities.

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The price of metals for copper and aluminum were among those affected, the BBC reported. Global prices for many raw materials — like copper, coal, steel and iron ore — that are needed for certain industries have risen sharply this year while lockdowns and other measures to fight the coronavirus have eased.

MetalMiner, a sister site of Spend Matters, tracks metals and other commodity prices.

D.C. attorney general sues Amazon over antitrust issue

Washington, D.C.’s Attorney General Karl Racine announced that he sued Amazon over antitrust issues, alleging the company has unfairly raised prices for consumers while suppressing innovation, according to CNBC.

Racine seeks to end what he says is Amazon’s illegal use of price agreements to beat competition. The lawsuit asks for damages and penalties to deter similar conduct.

CNBC reported that the lawsuit alleges Amazon illegally maintained monopoly power by using contract provisions that prevent its third-party sellers from offering products for lower prices on other platforms. The attorney general’s office said in a press release that the contracts create “an artificially high price floor across the online retail marketplace."

An Amazon spokesperson said Tuesday that, “The D.C. attorney general has it exactly backwards — sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store,” CNBC reported.

Self-driving tractors open up options for cheaper, greener farming

A California start-up has developed a fully electric, self-driving tractor to help farmers be greener and more profitable, according to CNN Business.

Monarch Tractor’s product is able to perform tasks like plowing, harvesting and mowing. It can also operate for more than 10 hours from a four- to five-hour charge. It doesn’t need a driver, but US regulations require a designated remote operator that receives real-time alerts and can stop the vehicle at any time.

"Society is asking farmers to do an awful lot," said David Rose, an associate professor of agriculture innovation at the University of Reading, on CNN. "I don't think we look at our plate three times a day and think of all the challenges farmers have faced to put that food on the table."

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