Update on the latest in business:


Stocks inch lower in subdued trading on the last day of 2021

UNDATED (AP) — Stocks are slightly lower in thin trading on Wall Street, closing out what has turned out to be another banner year for the stock market. Energy and banks are among the biggest gainers, a common occurrence for the last month. The S&P 500, which hit its latest record high on Wednesday, is heading for a gain of more than 27% for the year, or 29% including dividends. That’s nearly as much as the index gained in 2019. The yield on the 10-year Treasury inched up to 1.52%.


Wave of canceled flights from omicron closes out 2021

Flight cancellations surged again on the last day of 2021, with airlines blaming it on crew shortages related to the spike in COVID-19 infections. By late morning Friday on the East Coast, airlines scrubbed more than 1,300 flights, according to tracking service FlightAware. That compared with about 1,400 cancellations for all of Thursday. The disruptions are likely to inconvenience hundreds of thousands of air travelers over the New Year’s holiday weekend. Canceled flights began rising shortly before Christmas, driven by the remnants of the delta variant and the rise of the new omicron variant of COVID-19.


Limited revelers return to Times Square to usher in 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — The annual New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square will come just as the year prior began, with the pandemic clouding an already uncertain future. The city said it would limit the number of people Friday to about 15,000 in-person spectators. That’s far fewer than the 50,000 revelers initially envisioned. Doubts swirled whether New York would have to cancel this year’s bash as the city posted record numbers of COVID cases in the days leading to it. Incoming Mayor Eric Adams is scheduled to take his oath in Times Square soon after the ball drop.


US Postal Service recovers from poor holiday showing in 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service pulled out all the stops to avoid a repeat of the 2020 holiday shipping disaster, and it worked. The Postal Service and several other private shippers reported that holiday season deliveries went smoothly, for the most part. ShipMatrix, which analyzes shipping package data, reported that nearly 97% of the Postal Service’s shipments were on time during a two-week period in December. ShipMatrix President Satish Jindel said shippers were better prepared than last holiday season. He said they were aided by a trend toward more people shopping in stores instead of ordering online this holiday season.


New year brings new laws across US

UNDATED (AP) — Minimum wage increases, animal protections, police accountability, cutting and increasing taxes are all part of a series of new laws taking effect across the country on Saturday, the first day of 2022. Some of the laws such as abortion restrictions in New Hampshire or police reform measures passed in Illinois, Oregon and North Carolina address some of the most contentious issues of our time. The Connecticut Parentage Act allows unmarried, same-sex or nonbiological parents to establish parenting rights through a simple form that gives parents legal capabilities immediately after a child is born. In Kansas, people will be allowed to buy specialized license plates featuring the “Don’t Tread on Me” and coiled snake symbol featured on what’s known as the Gadsden flag. Critics suggested that the Gadsden flag has become a racist symbol that has been adopted by some far-right groups.


$15B from Gates, French Gates tops 2021 biggest gift list

UNDATED (AP) — It was a healthy year for big gifts to charitable causes in 2021, a year that saw one of the largest multibillion-dollar contributions in more than a decade, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy tally. The power philanthropists Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced in May that they were divorcing and then gave a jaw-dropping $15 billion to their foundation in July. The money will bolster its endowment and support the grant maker’s work in global health, development, policy and advocacy, and U.S. education well into the future. The gift increased the grant maker’s endowment to about $65 billion.


‘Pooh,’ ‘Sun Also Rises’ among works going public in 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Sun Also Rises” are going public. A.A. Milne’s children’s book and Ernest Hemingway’s novel are among the works from 1926 whose copyrights will expire Saturday, putting them in the public domain in 2022. Poetry collections “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes and “Enough Rope” by Dorothy Parker will also turn 95, putting them in the public domain under U.S. law. The silent films “Battling Butler” starring Buster Keaton, “The Temptress” starring Greta Garbo, “The Son of the Sheik” starring Rudolph Valentino, and “For Heaven’s Sake” starring Harold Lloyd will also become public.


Food disruptions feared in UK as new Brexit rules kick in

LONDON (AP) — New post-Brexit custom rules for goods arriving from the European Union to Britain are taking effect on Saturday. A leading food industry body has warned that the new border controls could lead to food shortages. Beginning Jan. 1, importers must make a full customs declaration on goods entering the U.K. from the EU or other countries. Businesses will no longer be allowed to delay completing full import customs declarations for up to 175 days. The British Frozen Food Federation says the new restrictions on animal and plant products from the EU could result in major delays at ports in the New Year. The U.K. imports five times the amount of food it exports to the EU.


Europe’s shared notes and coins turn 20 at New Year’s

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — This New Year’s the European Central Bank is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the euro’s notes and coins. The physical euro was introduced on January 1, 2002, three years after the euro was adopted for noncash purposes by fixing its exchange rate to legacy national currencies. The occasion is being marked by a light display on the facade of the bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt. The euro has been through its ups and downs including a crisis over too much government and bank debt. But now the 19 member countries are taking a further step to connect their economies by borrowing together to fund their recovery from the pandemic.


Germany shuts down half of its 6 remaining nuclear plants

BERLIN (AP) — Germany is shutting down half of the six nuclear plants it still has in operation. It comes a year before the country draws the final curtain on its decades-long use of atomic power. The decision to phase out nuclear power and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy was first taken by the center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2002. The three reactors now being shuttered were first powered up in the mid-1980s. Together they provided electricity to millions of German households for almost four decades. The German government said this week that decommissioning all nuclear plants and phasing out the use of coal by 2030 won’t affect the country’s energy security or its goal of making Europe’s biggest economy ‘climate neutral’ by 2045.

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