Update on the latest in business:


Stocks rise, S&P 500 closes at record high

NEW YORK (AP) — The S&P 500 has closed Friday’s half-day session at a record high as investors continue to look forward to the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and relief for the economy. The benchmark index rose 0.2%, led by gains in technology companies, and closed at an all-time high of 3,638. Optimism about a vaccine persists even as one vaccine candidate suffered a setback and cases of coronavirus remain at elevated levels. Meanwhile, retailers were hoping that their slumping sales get a boost from shoppers on Black Friday but early indications are that store traffic was light. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 0.85%.


Disney to lay off 4,000 more at California, Florida parks

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. is announcing plans to lay off 4,000 more workers in its theme parks division in California and Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the industry. The company has been limiting attendance at its parks and changing protocols to allow for social distancing. Officials haven’t specified the number of workers that would be affected in its Orlando theme parks. Disney’s parks closed in March as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened in the summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen pending state and local government approvals.


UK retail empire of billionaire Philip Green teeters on edge

LONDON (AP) — The owner of some of Britain’s best-known fashion chains like Topshop appears to be on the brink of collapse following the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. Arcadia Group said Friday in a statement that it is working on “contingency options to secure the future of the group’s brands.” It is another devastating blow to the British retailing sector in the run-up to the crucial Christmas trading period. Arcadia’s brands also include Burton, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins. Like others they have suffered during the pandemic and the associated restrictions on public life across the U.K.


WHO says more data needed on AZ-Oxford vaccine

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization’s top scientist says more data is needed to determine if the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca works. Oxford and AstraZeneca reported Monday that their vaccine appeared 62% effective in people who received two doses and 90% effective when volunteers were given a half dose followed by a full dose. They later acknowledged a manufacturing issue had resulted in a half dose mistakenly being administered as the first dose to some participants. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said at a Friday news conference that “the numbers are still too small to really come to any definitive conclusions.” In the study, 2,741 people got a half dose followed by a full dose while 8,895 people got two full doses. None of the people in the half-dose regimen were over age 55.


Keep cool: Germany preps vaccine drive as COVID cases hit 1M

TUTTLINGEN, Germany (AP) — The German government is preparing to roll out a nationwide coronavirus vaccine program as it became the latest country to hit the milestone of 1 million confirmed cases Friday. The efforts involve special freezers capable of keeping one of the leading vaccine candidates colder than Antarctica, building dedicated vaccine centers and finding enough staff to administer the shots. German officials have said the country hopes to secure up to 300 million doses if all vaccines being developed make it to market. That would be more than enough to immunize the population of 83 million, even if two shots are required, as seems likely.


Greece sets price limit on COVID-19 tests at private clinics

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s government said Friday it is putting limits on how much private medical facilities can charge for coronavirus tests. The Commerce and Consumer Protection secretary said the price limits would be 40 euros ($48) for PCR tests and 10 euros ($12) for rapid antigen tests. Private medical clinics and hospitals had been charging about 70-120 euros ($84-$143) for PCR tests and around 40 euros for the rapid tests. Authorities said Friday that Greece was still seeing a high level of infections, particularly in some areas in the north and west, despite a nationwide lockdown imposed on Nov. 7. The government announced Thursday that it was extending the lockdown, which had been due to expire at the end of November, by one week to Dec. 7.


Trump administration moves ahead on gutting bird protections

UNDATED (AP) — The Trump administration is moving forward on gutting a longstanding federal protection for roughly 1,000 species of birds in the United States. Friday’s move comes despite objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish in coming decades as a result. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its assessment of the rule, a final step that means the rollback could become official in 30 days. Oil and gas and other industries had sought the rollback, which sharply limits federal prosecution for industry practices that kill migratory birds. Industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually.


Hyundai, Kia fined for delaying US engine failure recalls

UNDATED (AP) — Hyundai and Kia will spend $137 million on fines and safety improvements because they moved too slowly to recall over 1 million U.S. vehicles with engines that can fail. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the penalties Friday. They resolve a three-year government probe into the companies’ behavior involving recalls of multiple models dating to the 2011 model year. The agency says automakers have to recognize the urgency of safety recalls. Hyundai will pay $54 million and invest $40 million to improve safety operations. Another $46 million in penalties will be deferred as long as it meets safety conditions. Affiliated automaker Kia must pay $27 million and invest $16 million on safety performance measures. Another $27 million payment may be deferred.


US agency investigating Tesla front suspension failures

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government’s road safety agency is investigating complaints that front suspensions can fail on nearly 115,000 Tesla electric vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has 43 complaints that linkages near the ball joints can fail, allowing contact between the tire and wheel liner. The probe announced Friday covers 2015 through 2017 Model S sedans and 2016 through 2017 Model X SUVs. The agency says 32 owners complained of failures at low speeds, but 11 said the links failed on roads while traveling above 10 mph, including four at highway speeds. The probe could lead to a recall. A message was left seeking comment from Tesla.


Many turn to real Christmas trees as bright spot amid virus

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Christmas tree growers who have faced increased interest in artificial trees in recent years say demand for real, fresh-cut evergreens is strong this season. Wholesale growers and small farms alike say customers are showing up earlier than normal and there are more of them. More Americans are staying home for the holidays amid coronavirus restrictions and want a new — or renewed — tradition to end a dreary year on a happier note. Plus, the Christmas Tree Promotion Board says fresh-cut trees are largely displayed outside, where there’s a lower risk of viral spread.


Issa Rae urges participation in Small Business Saturday

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With many small businesses struggling to hold on during the coronavirus pandemic, Issa Rae believes now is the time to support independent stores more than ever. The creator and star of HBO series “Insecure” strongly encourages people to shop locally as part of Small Business Saturday, a couple days after Thanksgiving. She said the initiative created by American Express can help give an extra push during the holidays to small businesses who have gone into survival mode. Rae said using “word of mouth” and tagging a business on social media tremendously helps. On Saturday, Rae will be purchasing products from a few Black-owned businesses including Queen Boutique in Los Angeles. The actor also became a partner and co-owner of a coffee shop called Hilltop Coffee and Kitchen in Inglewood last year.

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