Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Wall Street climbs after Fed stuns markets again with aid

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising in afternoon trading on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve launched its latest unprecedented effort to support the economy through the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 is up more than 2%, putting the index on track for its best week since 1974.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.2% in afternoon trading, and the Nasdaq was up 1.3%.

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This is a short trading week on Wall Street, with markets closed on Good Friday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FEDERAL RESERVE

A new $2.3 trillion Fed plan to buttress towns, businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is taking additional steps to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy. The money will be provided to American households and businesses as well as local governments as they deal with the coronavirus.

The Fed said Thursday that among the actions it is taking is the activation of a Main Street Business Lending Program that was authorized by the CARES Act, the largest economic rescue program ever approved by Congress. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the Fed’s role is to “provide as much relief and stability as we can during this period of constrained economic activity.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Record 16.8 million have sought US jobless aid since virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks. The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948. They paint a picture of a job market that is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country because of the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 20 million Americans may lose jobs this month.

PRODUCER PRICES

Wholesale prices fall 0.2% in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wholesale prices have fallenl for a second consecutive month, led by a big drop in energy prices.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that its producer price index, designed to measure inflation before it reaches the consumer, dropped 0.2% in March after a bigger 0.6% decline in February.

Energy prices dropped a sharp 6.7% in March, the third straight monthly decline as global oil prices have taken a nosedive, in part because of falling demand as the coronavirus impacts travel. Food prices were unchanged in March after having fallen 1.6% in February.

MORTGAGE RATES

US long-term mortgage rates flat to lower; 30-year at 3.33%

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term mortgage rates were stable to slightly lower this week after two weeks of declines amid deepening anxiety over the severe damage to the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. Home-loan rates have been hitting all-time lows, and mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says there’s room for them to move lower. Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year loan was unchanged this week at 3.33%. A year ago the rate stood at 4.12%. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined this week to 2.77% from 2.82% last week.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Democrats stall Trump’s $250B business virus aid package

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s urgent request for $250 billion to supplement a business “paycheck protection” program for firms crippled by the coronavirus outbreak has hit a roadblock in the Senate. Democrats stalled the legislation Thursday, demanding protections for minority-owned businesses as well as matching money for health care providers and state and local governments. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to fast-track Trump’s request, but Democrats refused to provide unanimous consent. That doesn’t mean the legislation is dead. Democrats and Republicans agree it’s urgently needed. The program, which involves direct subsidies to companies to keep employees on payroll, is being quickly depleted as businesses rush to apply for the aid.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AIR TRAVEL

Pandemic has set the number of air travelers back decades

UNDATED (AP) — The steep drop in air travel is passing a milestone. Fewer than 100,000 people went through airport checkpoints on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the lowest numbers since the Transportation Security Administration started keeping track. That’s down 96% from a year ago, and could be the smallest number since the 1950s.

There was no commercial air travel in the U.S. for several days after the terror attacks in September 2001, but people gradually got back on planes over the following months. It could be a slower recovery this time, according to outfits that have surveyed people about when they’ll feel safe flying again.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEAT PLANT

Smithfield temporarily shuts pork plant due to coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Smithfield Foods says its pork processing plant in South Dakota will temporarily close for cleaning after over 80 employees were confirmed to have the coronavirus. The company plans to suspend operations in a large section of the Sioux Falls plant on Saturday, then completely close on Sunday and Monday. It plans to sanitize the plant and install physical barriers to “enhance social distancing.” South Dakota health officials announced Wednesday that over 80 employees of the plant had tested positive for COVID-19. The Department of Agriculture says there has been no evidence that the coronavirus is being transmitted through food or its packaging.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GLOBAL POVERTY

Report: Half billion more people face poverty due to virus

LONDON (AP) — A report by aid group Oxfam says that around half a billion people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic unless richer countries help them. The fight against poverty could be pushed back by a decade and by as much as 30 years in some areas, including Africa and the Middle East. The report was based on research at King’s College London and the Australian National University. It warns that between 6% and 8% of the global population could be forced into poverty as governments shut down entire sectors of their economies to manage the outbreak.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GERMANY-SEASONAL WORKERS

Germany flies in seasonal farm workers amid virus measures

BERLIN (AP) — Two planes carrying Eastern European farmhands arrived in Germany Thursday as an ambitious government program to import thousands of seasonal agricultural workers got underway amid strict precautions to protect both the laborers and the country from the new coronavirus. The flights to Berlin and Duesseldorf were arranged to address a massive labor shortage created when Germany banned most foreign travelers from entering the country last month in response to the virus outbreak.

Seasonal workers caught up in the ban were not available to pick asparagus, which has already sprouted in Germany, and to plant other crops in the fields where some 300,000 such workers were employed last year.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTS SPONSORSHIPS

Coronavirus shutdown presents challenges for teams, sponsors

UNDATED (AP) — Amid the coronavirus shutdown, sports business executives are having tough conversations about advertising and marketing contracts with no games on the horizon.

Everyone involved knows the relative insignificance of the discussions in the greater scheme of things. But billions of dollars are in play, and the results could have far-reaching implications for sports for years to come.

The conversations are made even more complicated by an almost infinite number of variables such as if, how and where games can be safely played again this year. It’s unclear when the NBA and NHL will be able to resume this season, if at all. If they start play again, it’s uncertain how they will deal with the rest of their regular seasons and playoffs. Major League Baseball is looking at myriad scenarios for its season, and even the NFL in its offseason is dealing with its own set of potential issues.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TOILET PAPER

Wiped out of toilet paper? Here’s why

UNDATED (AP) — Finding toilet paper in a global pandemic is a struggle. That’s because it’s part of a very tight supply chain.

Toilet paper is so bulky and cheap that stores don’t keep big inventories on hand. So as more households buy a little extra, that causes a lot of disruption. Also, household demand is up 40% as offices and schools close.

But toilet paper companies can’t easily switch to make more household paper because commercial paper is very different.

There is some good news. Analysts say the panic buying from mid-March has eased somewhat, and toilet paper companies say they’re making fewer varieties in an effort to speed product to stores.

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