Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks rise slightly as investors watch bond market

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have been slightly higher in afternoon trading as a modest drop in bond yields was helping lift the broader market.

Technology stocks were among the better performers, while banks fell. The S&P 500 index was up 0.8% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose 1.6%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was down to 1.69% after trading as high as 1.74% last week.

Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all made solid gains. Kansas City Southern was up 11.6% after a Canadian railroad announced it would purchase the company for $25 billion.

EXISTING HOME SALES

Existing US home sales fell in February, while prices rose

UNDATED (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slowed last month as rising prices and a dearth of homes for sale kept some would-be buyers on the sidelines.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that existing homes sales in February fell 6.6% from January to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 6.22 million annualized units. Sales were up 9.1% from February last year. Home prices continued to climb, driven by sales of higher-end homes.

The report showed that the U.S. median home price was $313,000 in February, up 15.8% from a year earlier.

At the end of February, the inventory of unsold homes stood at just 1.03 million homes for sale, down 29.5% from a year earlier.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ASTRAZENECA

AstraZeneca: US data shows vaccine effective for all adults

LONDON (AP) — AstraZeneca says that its COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection among all adults in a long-anticipated U.S. study. The results raised hopes that the findings could help rebuild public confidence in the beleaguered shot in other countries and were a step toward clearance for American use.

AstraZeneca said Monday the vaccine was 79% effective overall at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 — including in older people — and that none of the study volunteers who were vaccinated were hospitalized or developed severe disease.

The company also said its experts did not identify any safety concerns related to the vaccine, including finding no increased risk of rare blood clots identified in Europe.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICROSOFT

Microsoft to start bringing workers back next week

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft will begin bringing workers back to its suburban Seattle global headquarters on March 29 as the tech giant starts to reopen more facilities it largely shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a post on the company’s corporate blog, Executive Vice President Kurt DelBene said Microsoft has been monitoring local health data and decided it can bring more employees back to its Redmond, Washington, campus.

DelBene said workers will have the choice to return to headquarters, continue working remotely or do a combination of both. More than 50,000 people work at the company’s headquarters campus in Redmond, 15 miles east of Seattle.

CYBERSECURITY-MICROSOFT HACK

Tool created to aid cleanup from Microsoft hack in broad use

WASHINGTON (AP) — A tool designed to help businesses protect themselves from further compromises after a global hack of Microsoft email server software has been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was released last week. That’s according to the White House’s National Security Council. As a result, the number of vulnerable systems has fallen by 45%.

The one-click Microsoft tool was created to protect against cyberattacks and to scan systems for compromises and fix them. The tool was developed after a massive hack affecting an estimated tens of thousands of users of servers running Microsoft’s Exchange email program.

POWELL-DIGITAL CURRENCY

Fed’s Powell: Public should understand risks of Bitcoin

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says the U.S. public needs to understand the risks behind Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, even as the central bank itself is studying the potential costs and benefits of a digital dollar.

Powell also said the Fed is researching the potential for a central bank digital currency, though he added that the Fed is not yet near a decision about implementing one.

Bitcoin has soared nearly ten-fold in value compared with a year ago, hovering around $57,000 on Monday. That is up from $5,830 in March 2020. It is often seen as a hedge against inflation.

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