___Holiday season moves into high gear but challenges remainNEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers buoyed by solid hiring, healthy pay gains and substantial savings are returning to stores and splurging on all types of items. But the big question is how much will supply shortages, higher prices and staffing issues dampen shoppers’ mood this holiday season. Shoppers, already fatigued with pandemic-induced social distancing policies and other setbacks, may get grumpy if they can’t find the help they need at the stores, or can’t find their top choice item. They may also be disappointed by some of the skimpy holiday discounts. Still, don’t write off the resilience of shoppers who have shown signs they want to celebrate the holidays after muted celebrations last year.___ Europe’s Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases riseFRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Some of Europe’s Christmas markets are warily opening amid surging coronavirus infections. In Germany, the picturesque Frankfurt market is open over a wider area to thin out the crowds. Markets in Budapest are fenced off and customers have to show proof of vaccination. It’s a huge relief for merchants to be open after losing their Christmas business last year despite the restrictions. One ornament seller says that he can cover his bills if he can stay open for three weeks. But that’s no sure thing after two regions in Germany shut down their markets and Austria’s closed amid a 10-day national lockdown. With the closures goes the money tourists would spend in restaurants, hotels and other businesses.___Global stocks mixed after Fed says ready to act on inflationBEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets are higher after Federal Reserve officials indicated they were ready to hike interest rates sooner than expected if needed to cool U.S. inflation. London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Hong Kong advanced while Shanghai declined. U.S. markets were closed for a holiday. Notes of the Fed’s October policy meeting showed officials said they “would not...
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