Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks rally

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are up more than 4% in afternoon trading on Wall Street, putting the market on track for its first three-day rally in six weeks. The S&P 500 has rallied 15% since Monday on expectations Congress would pass an unprecedented rescue package for the economy. The bill cleared the Senate late Wednesday. The House will take it up on Friday.

Airlines, cruise operators and hotels beaten down by the outbreak are helping drive the rally. Investors are anticipating the economic rescue package will help prop up the hard-hit industries.

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The price of U.S. oil slid 8% to $22.53 in afternoon trading. Goldman Sachs has forecast that it will fall well below $20 a barrel in the next two months because storage will be filled to the brim and wells will have to be shut in.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

3.3 million seek US jobless aid, nearly 5 times earlier high

WASHINGTON (AP) — A record-high number of people applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs engulfed the United States in the face of a near-total economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications for benefits far exceeded the previous record set in 1982. Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into what most economists expect to be deep and painful recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have closed factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they’re forced to cut jobs to save money.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Pelosi forecasts House OK of Senate’s $2.2T virus aid plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forecasting quick bipartisan approval of the massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill approved by the Senate. The Senate unanimously passed the bill late Wednesday. Pelosi says the House will vote on the package Friday and she expects it will pass with “strong bipartisan support.”

The package comes as fresh evidence emerges that the U.S. is sinking into recession. President Donald Trump has implored lawmakers to finish the package so he can sign it into law.

The $2.2 trillion rescue package nearing final approval will, for four months, add $600 a week to standard unemployment benefits, which vary by state. It also provides funding for states to let people collect their payments immediately, eliminating a one-week waiting period. And it adds 13 weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted their existing jobless benefits.

The legislation for the first time makes gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed, people with limited work history and part-time workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-NEW-YORK

Cuomo blasts $2.2T federal relief bill as too little

NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak will be dramatic in New York. And he castigated federal officials Thursday for what he called a failure to address lost revenue in their $2.2 trillion relief package. Cuomo said the outbreak creates a “double whammy” of increased state costs and lost revenue as businesses shutter and workers are laid off. A health care worker at one of the New York City hospitals under siege by the coronavirus has died. Co-workers and his sister say assistant nurse manager Kious Kelly died Tuesday from the virus after he got sick two weeks ago. Kelly worked at Mount Sinai Health West Hospital in Manhattan.

FORD-RESTARTING PLANTS

Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota seek to restart factories

DETROIT (AP) — Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota took steps Thursday to restart North American factories that have been closed to protect workers from the coronavirus. The plants would reopen in early or mid-April, restoring the largest source of cash for automakers that generally book revenue when they ship vehicles to dealerships.Auto companies, like other businesses, are trying to manage their way through the coronavirus crisis, which has forced factories to close amid employee concerns that they could catch the virus while working close to others at factory work stations.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL

Fed chair Powell says will provide nearly unlimited lending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jerome Powell says the Federal Reserve would provide essentially unlimited lending to support the economy as long as it is damaged by the viral outbreak. In an interview Thursday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, the Fed chair said the bank’s efforts are focused on helping the economy recover quickly once the threat from the virus has passed. Powell also acknowledged that the economy “may well be” in a recession, but he said that this is a unique downturn in that it was caused by efforts to control the disease. He said the economy itself was strong before the outbreak began, he said.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RESTAURANTS

Restaurant growth screeches to a halt amid pandemic shutdown

UNDATED (AP) — The virus pandemic gripping the nation is slamming the restaurant industry after years of steady growth amid the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.

Restaurants and bars face a catastrophic loss of revenue that could destroy countless operations across that nation as customers stay home and practice “social distancing” to stem the spread of the virus. The industry isn’t alone in feeling pain from the economic hit as the U.S. heads into a likely recession, but it is particularly reliant on people going out and congregating.

National chains’ stock prices have plummeted. Smaller and more local operations are doing their best to switch to “take-out” models to stay alive, but most have had to lay off or furlough staff and don’t know if there will be a business left for employees to return to.

The loss of customers for an indefinite amount of time is particularly painful for restaurants, which operate on tight margins even in good times.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HEAVY EQUIPMENT

Caterpillar, Deere profits to feel virus impact

NEW YORK (AP) — Agricultural and heavy equipment makers are in for a rough year as the virus pandemic delivers a sting to an industry trying to recover form a trade war.

Jefferies analyst Stephen Volkmann slashed his earnings forecast for Caterpillar and Deere because of a series of abrupt production closures and the broader economic shutdown. Both companies have already yanked their financial forecasts for the year. Volkmann now expects a profit of $5.75 per share for Caterpillar, down from $9.50 per share. He also cut his forecast for Deere’s profit to $6 per share from $10 per share.

A slump in spending from the mining and construction industries could be particularly painful for Caterpillar. Deere has been especially hurt as farmers spend less on new equipment because of lower crop prices.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WATCHING AT HOME

TV viewership climbing with people stuck at home by virus

NEW YORK (AP) — With millions of people stuck at home due to the coronavirus outbreak, television viewership is on the rise. That’s some rare good news for an industry that has been shrinking steadily over the past decade. News is obviously the biggest winner. Entertainment programmers are studying the statistics for signs of what stuck and stressed viewers want to see. Many believe that viewers want the television equivalent of “comfort food.” Animal Planet’s response: 94 straight hours of cuddly critters romping on the screen. ABC is hoping to gather families with a David Blaine magic special, while CBS will air a James Corden prime-time special.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-LOTTERY JACKPOTS

Jackpots to shrink with declining ticket sales

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Lottery jackpots are going to shrink as the coronavirus pandemic tamps down lottery sales. The group that oversees the Powerball game announced Wednesday night that it would cut minimum jackpots in half, from $40 million to $20 million, after there is a winner of the current big prize. The jackpot also could grow more slowly, with minimum increases of $2 million instead of the normal $10 million after each twice-weekly drawing. The other national lottery game in the United States, Mega Millions, is considering a similar move. The move by Powerball won’t affect the current $160 million jackpot.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EASTER-PEEPS

Sweet: Peeps production stops, but Easter is taken care of

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — No more Peeps are being hatched for at least a couple of weeks — but it shouldn’t affect Easter baskets.

The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based Just Born confections company said its production facilities there and in Philadelphia closed Wednesday through April 7. But the company says it had already produced and shipped the Easter supply of its signature marshmallow confection to outlets.

Just Born says the popular Peeps & Company retail store in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, is also closed for now.

The company also makes other candies, including Mike and Ikes and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. Just Born officials say that inventories of those candies had been shipped prior to the production stoppage, but that they might be in short supply at some retailers.

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