Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move lower on Wall Street following a big 3-day rally

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving lower on Wall Street as the market gives back some of the gains it piled up over the past three days. Major indexes are down more than 2% in afternoon trading.

The S&P 500 had shot up 17% over the previous three days as traders became hopeful that Congress would pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The House passed the bill Friday afternoon, a day after it made it through the Senate.

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Even after the rally this week the market is down 25% from the peak it reached a month ago.

European markets also fell.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

House passes $2.2T rescue package, rushes it to Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package, rushing it to President Donald Trump for his signature. The measure tosses a life preserver to a U.S. economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation’s history. It will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, and offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small. It also will flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system. 

President Donald Trump has said he would sign the bill immediately.

CONSUMER SPENDING

US consumer spending up modest 0.2% in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their spending by a modest amount in February but the expectation is that spending will be hit hard in coming months reflecting the shutdown of the American economy by the coronavirus. The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged up 0.2% last month and personal incomes rose a solid 0.6 percent. Those strong increases are likely to fall off as millions of Americans lose their jobs amid efforts to fight the spread of the virus.

Consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity but surveys are already showing the virus is having a big impact on the biggest driver of the economy.

Coresight, a data research firm, found that almost half of U.S. consumers — 47% — are now extremely concerned about the outbreak, up 10 percentage points in just one week. About 9.1% of people have lost their jobs, up from 4.2%. And 95% of respondents are avoiding public areas and travel, up from approximately 85% a week ago. Shopping centers and malls are the third most avoided location, following restaurants/bars/coffee shops and movie theaters, respectively.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AIRLINES

Airlines look for help to avoid layoffs

UNDATED (AP) — Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the company is losing big money on every single flight as travel demand slumps amid the virus outbreak. But Kelly said in a company video that the grants set aside for airlines under the just-passed economic rescue bill.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker is telling employees that the company is eligible for about $12 billion of the $50 billion in grants and loans set aside for passenger airlines under the bill. But he says some of the terms of the grants aren’t yet clear, so it’s possible American won’t meet the conditions, including that airlines not furlough or lay off workers until Sept. 30.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CANADA

Canada to cover up to 75 percent of salaries for businesses

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian government is increasing a payroll subsidy to small- and medium-sized businesses to now cover up to 75 percent of salaries amid the pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the major increase over the original 10 percent subsidy plan. Trudeau said it became clear they needed to do much more.

The prime minister said it means people will continue to be paid even though their employer has had to slow down or stop its operations because of COVID-19. He said he hopes employers who are being pushed to lay off workers will think again.

TRUMP-BREATHING MACHINES

Trump accuses GM of overpromising on breathing machines

DETROIT (AP) — President Donald Trump attacked General Motors Friday, alleging that the company promised to build thousands more breathing machines than it can deliver for coronavirus patients and that it wants too much money for them.

Trump wrote on Twitter that GM promised 40,000 ventilators quickly but now says it will build only 6,000 in late April. Trump also tweeted that Ford should start making ventilators fast.

The move escalated a feud involving the president, GM, several governors and medical experts over the severity of the crisis and just how many ventilators will be needed to handle it.

Experts say the U.S. is hundreds of thousands of breathing machines short of what it likely will need to treat a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients. New York, Michigan, Louisiana and the state of Washington have been singled out as virus hot spots in the U.S.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RATINGS

Fitch affirms US AAA rating, but sees risks from pandemic

UNDATED (AP) — Fitch is affirming the United States’ sovereign rating at “AAA,” but cautions there are risks to it amid the pandemic. Fitch said high fiscal deficits and debt — which were already rising before the economic shock precipitated by the coronavirus — are starting to erode U.S. credit strengths that include the dollar and financing flexibility.

The agency added that the risk of a near-term negative rating action has climbed given the magnitude of the shock to the economy and public finances from the virus and the fiscal policy response, particularly in the absence of a credible consolidation plan for the country’s preexisting, longer-term public finance and government debt challenges.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RESTAURANTS ADAPT

Restaurants, trying to stay afloat, revamp menus, operations

CINCINNATI (AP) — With business sinking under coronavirus outbreak restrictions, restaurants are transforming operations and menus to try to stay afloat. For an Italian restaurant in New York City, that meant sending meals out for delivery for the first time, an effort it decided Friday to halt. A Cincinnati-based burger chain has gotten into the grocery business, and a Chicago fine-dining restaurant offers a carryout special dinner at a fraction of its usual dine-in meals.

In an industry with historically tight profit margins, there is worry about the future. The National Restaurant Association is warning 5 million to 7 million jobs are in jeopardy.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GUNS

Are gun shops ‘essential’ businesses during a pandemic?

UNDATED (AP) — In some parts of the U.S., authorities say gun shops aren’t essential businesses and should close during stay-at-home orders meant to slow the coronavirus. In other places, officials are stopping background checks for concealed carry permits. Elsewhere, city leaders have invoked emergency powers allowing bans on gun sales.

As the nation grapples with a pandemic that has upended daily life, some gun rights advocates are concerned about an erosion of Second Amendment rights just as Americans are buying firearms in record numbers to try to ensure their safety.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion Friday saying that emergency orders in his state can’t restrict gun sales. He said any order that excludes gun stores from “essential” businesses that can stay open are in conflict with state law banning limits on gun sales.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EU-CRIME

Europol: Criminals exploit virus crisis as fresh opportunity

PARIS (AP) — European law enforcement agency Europol says criminals are preying on a fearful public and disrupting the provision of medical care during the coronavirus pandemic. Europol issued a report Friday that said organized crime groups and con artists are selling counterfeit products, impersonating health workers and hacking computers as many citizens do their jobs online at home. The report says a cyberattack on a major hospital in the Czech Republic where COVID-19 tests are carried out forced the cancellation of planned surgeries. Coronavirus-related criminal activity is not limited to Europe. A week-long operation in 90 countries overseen by international police agency Interpol dug out suspects seeking fast cash with counterfeit face masks and medicines.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SCRAMBLE FOR TESTS

Virus test results in minutes? Scientists question accuracy

MADRID (AP) — Some political leaders are hailing a potential breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19: simple pin-prick blood tests or nasal swabs that can determine within minutes if someone has, or previously had, the virus. The tests could reveal the true extent of the outbreak and help separate the healthy from the sick. But some scientists have challenged their accuracy. Hopes are hanging on two types of quick tests: antigen tests that use a nose or throat swab to look for the virus, and antibody tests that look in the blood for evidence someone had the virus and recovered.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MOVIE-CONTAGION

Stars of ‘Contagion’ reunite to offer coronavirus advice

NEW YORK (AP) — The stars of the 2011 thriller “Contagion” have reunited for a series of public service announcements to warn about COVID-19. Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle have teamed up with scientists from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health to offer four individual homemade videos with advice and a message of unity. They stress washing hands, staying 6 feet apart and staying home. “Contagion,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, explores a scenario in which a lethal and fast-moving influenza is spreading around the world.

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