Update on the latest business


It’s up again for stocks as Wall Street’s wild ride extends

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks jumped Wednesday morning and clawed back much of their sharp losses from the day before as Wall Street’s wild, virus-fueled swings extend into a third week.

Health care stocks led the market’s spurt after a strong performance by Joe Biden in state primaries on Tuesday moved him to top-tier status for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many investors believe he is more friendly to businesses than the other top contender, Bernie Sanders, whose proposals for health care and the economy could hurt profits at insurers and other companies.


Investors are also anticipating other central banks will follow up on the Federal Reserve’s surprise move Tuesday to slash interest rates by half a percentage point in hopes of protecting the economy from the economic fallout of a fast-spreading virus. Canada’s central bank cut rates on Wednesday, also by half a percentage point and citing the virus’ effect.

Some measures of fear in the market eased, but Treasury yields fell again toward more record lows in a sign that the bond market remains concerned about the economic pain possible from the fast-spreading virus.


U.S. businesses add 183K jobs in sign of pre-virus health

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added 183,000 jobs last month, a solid gain that shows the economy was largely healthy when the coronavirus outbreak spread further around the globe.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that February’s hiring was down from 209,000 in the previous month. Manufacturing and mining firms shed jobs last month, while hiring in health care and a category mostly made up of hotels and restaurants was strong.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which helps prepare the report, said that the figures were compiled the week of February 12th, before the viral outbreak was widespread outside China. He also said warm weather likely boosted job gains in construction, which added 18,000 positions, and in the hotels and restaurants category, which gained 44,000. That suggests hiring in those industries could slip in the coming months.

Economists forecast that the government will report on Friday that 173,000 jobs were added last month, according to data provider FactSet. The ADP report doesn’t include government hiring and often diverges from the official figures.


US services companies grow in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Services companies grew at a faster pace in February than the previous month, an indication that the economy was still expanding immediately after the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in the U.S.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its service-sector index rose to 57.3 from 55.5 in January. Any reading above 50 signals an expansion. The index covers retail, health care, hotels and restaurants, and professional services, among other sectors.

Services companies added jobs at a faster pace last month than in January while business activity declined, according the survey. Strong consumer spending, a healthy job market and decent pay gains are driving a healthy service sector and broader economy, but businesses have been cutting sales an profit expectations as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.


Companies trim outlooks, travel and staff as virus spreads

UNDATED (AP) — General Electric is cutting its profit expectations, Starbucks big annual meeting will go virtual, and companies are reporting illnesses among workers.

The spread of the novel coronavirus is having a broad impact on supply chains, communications and staffing as the virus shifts westward.

GE became the latest to trim expectations, saying Wednesday that outbreak could have a negative impact of about $300 million to $500 million on its first-quarter industrial free cash flow.

Business air travel is freezing up. The International Air Transport Association says that January had the slowest monthly year-over-year growth since April 2010, at the time of the volcanic ash cloud crisis in Europe that led to massive airspace closures and flight cancellations.

Amazon has asked its 800,000 employees worldwide to postpone non-essential travel. It is also conducting some job interviews on video conference calls instead of in its offices. Ford Motor Co. has banned all domestic and international travel, unless approved at the highest levels of the company.

The International Monetary Fund said its spring meetings in Washington, D.C., along with those of the World Bank, will now be “virtual” to limit the risk from traveling.

The release of the James Bond film “No Time To Die” is being pushed back several months because of concerns about coronavirus. MGM, Universal and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced on Twitter Wednesday that the film will be released in November, rather than next month as originally planned.


Virus causes $47 billion drop in world exports

UNDATED (AP) — A U.N. agency estimates that a shortage of industrial parts from China caused by the coronavirus outbreak has set off a “ripple effect” that caused exports from other countries around the world to drop $47 billion last month.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says figures from Chinese businesses suggest an annualized 2% decline in output in China. That has led to shrinking supplies for automotive, chemicals, communications and other industries in many countries, in turn reducing their export capacity.

The agency said Wednesday that the preliminary figures show industries outside of China that rely on components, parts and other inputs from the country aren’t able to export goods as much as they had before the virus erupted. The outbreak began late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, shutting down factories and quarantining workers at home.


Virus concerns: What to know if you’re planning a trip

UNDATED (AP) — The fast-spreading coronavirus is forcing travelers to reconsider their trips. In response, some airlines and hotels are adjusting their usual cancellation policies.

More people are buying travel insurance, doling out extra money for the right to get reimbursed after canceling a trip for any reason. This comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is recommending avoiding all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, and says older adults or those with chronic medical conditions should postpone travel to Japan. 

Most major airlines — including Delta, Emirates, Lufthansa, United and American —- have suspended flights to mainland China through the end of April. Some have also suspended flights to Hong Kong, while others are flying there but on reduced schedules. Airlines have also reduced or suspended some flights to Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and northern Italy.

Cruise lines have been moving Asia-based ships to other destinations such as Australia and Alaska and are turning away potential travelers who have recently traveled in Iran, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Macau, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group. Some cruise lines, including Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, are also denying boarding to passengers who traveled through northern Italy.


Looking for hand sanitizer? Good luck finding it

NEW YORK (AP) — Fear of the coronavirus has led people to stock up on hand sanitizer, leaving store shelves empty and online retailers with sky-high prices set by those trying to profit on the rush.

But more of the gel is on the way. Purell, the best-selling hand sanitizer, is pumping up production. And Walmart and other stores say they are talking to suppliers to stock up bare shelves.

Sales of hand sanitizers in the U.S. were up 73% in the four weeks ending Feb. 22, compared with the same period the year before, according to market research firm Nielsen. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand sanitizer isn’t the best way to clean your hands. For that, soap and water still reigns supreme. The agency recommends first washing hands with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under finger nails before rinsing off.

Hospitals are more concerned about a shortage of face masks, which people have also been snatching up despite pleas from health officials.


Toyota adds 1.2M vehicles to US fuel pump recall

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is adding 1.2 million vehicles to a major recall in the U.S. to fix possible fuel pump failures that can cause engines to stall.

The company said Wednesday that the added vehicles bring the total to 1.8 million.

In January Toyota recalled nearly 700,000 vehicles in the U.S. for the same problems. Engine stalling can increase the risk of a crash, although the company wouldn’t say if there have been any. The automaker said Wednesday that about 118,000 vehicles in the January recall shouldn’t have been included.

The vehicles include trucks, SUVs, minivans and cars across the model lineups of Toyota and its Lexus luxury vehicle brand.

The company says owners of vehicles not involved in the January recall will be notified in early May about when to make a service appointment. Dealers will replace the fuel pump with an improved one.


GM shows 13 electric vehicles as it tries to run with Tesla

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors, trying to refashion itself as a futuristic company with technology to compete against Tesla, rolled out plans Wednesday for 13 new electric vehicles during the next five years.

The company touted an exclusive new battery technology that could propel some of the vehicles as far as 400 miles on a single charge as it tries to capture electric vehicle enthusiasm that has brought wild growth to rival Tesla’s share price.

At an event for investors, dealers and analysts at its sprawling technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan, GM executives said the new vehicles would be built using modular chassis and drive systems for manufacturing simplicity.

GM will be able to build trucks, cars, SUVs and even an autonomous shuttle based on the new systems, the company said. The global vehicles will include affordable transportation, work trucks, luxury SUVs and performance vehicles.

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