Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks drift amid investors’ tug of war between hope, fear

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are drifting in mixed trading, as Wall Street’s tug of war continues between worries about the worsening pandemic in the present and optimism that a vaccine will come in the future.

The S&P 500 was down 0.2% in midday trading after earlier flipping between small gains and losses. It follows up on a 1.2% slide from yesterday, as the benchmark index edged away from its record set on Monday.

A discouraging report on jobless claims underscored the fears that have slowed Wall Street’s big rally this month. It showed more workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than expected.

IMF-G20

IMF director: virus could disrupt global recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund says that the while the United States and other major economies turned in better-than-expected economic performances in the third quarter the world now faces slower momentum with a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that significant progress on the vaccines raised “hopes of vanquishing the virus that has taken more than a million lives and caused tens of millions of job losses” around the world.

The G-20 virtual leaders summit, which Saudi Arabia is conducting this week in its role as this year’s head of the G-20, will focus on the efforts to stabilize the global economy and foster a rebound growth next year.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT-BENEFITS

US jobless claims rise to 742,000; millions to lose aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week to 742,000, the first increase in five weeks and a sign that the resurgent viral outbreak is likely slowing the economy and forcing more companies to cut jobs.

The Labor Department’s report Thursday showed that applications for benefits rose from 711,000 in the previous week.

Claims had soared to 6.9 million in March when the pandemic first intensified. Before the pandemic, applications typically hovered about 225,000 a week.

The economy’s modest recovery is increasingly at risk, with newly confirmed daily infections in the United States having exploded 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record.

AIRLINES OUTLOOK

Southwest, United Airlines see weak demand over holidays, 1Q

DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines warns that bookings are slowing down and cancellations are on the rise as coronavirus cases spike across the U.S. Southwest Airlines expects travel demand to remain depressed in early 2021.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Thursday that means his airline will have a lot more planes than it needs. Kelly is making the comments as Southwest officials describe how they will prepare for the return of the Boeing 737 Max next spring.

The Federal Aviation Administration is spelling out how airlines can resume using the plane, which was grounded last year after two crashes that killed 346 people.

GENERAL MOTORS-ELECTRIC VEHICLES

GM: New batteries cut electric car costs, increase range

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors says a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline within five years.

The technology also will increase the range per charge to as high as 450 miles.

The company’s product development chief promised a small electric SUV that will cost under $30,000 and pledged to roll out 30 battery-powered models worldwide by 2025. Nearly all current electric vehicles cost more than $30,000.

The announcement illustrates how fast electric vehicle technology is moving and shows that it may become the primary fuel for transportation faster than expected.

BRITAIN RETAILING

Over 4,700 jobs at risk as UK fashion chains seek rescue

LONDON (AP) — Over 4,700 jobs are at risk after the owner of British fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger said it had failed to find a buyer for the troubled businesses, which like others in the sector are reeling from the pandemic.

The two chains, which are owned by EWM Group, have been put into a type of bankruptcy protection after a two-week deadline to find a buyer passed.

The administrators put in charge of the chains said Thursday that they remain hopeful that a deal can be secured. The administrators said no redundancies or store closures have been confirmed yet.

MORTGAGE RATES

US mortgage rates fall to new lows; 30-year loan at 2.72%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, reaching record lows for the 13th time this year amid fresh signs of weakness in the pandemic-ravaged economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported that the average rate on the 30-year benchmark loan declined to 2.72% from 2.84% last week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage eased to 2.28% from 2.34%.

Fresh signs emerged this week that the resurgent coronavirus outbreak is likely slowing the economy and forcing more companies to cut jobs. The government reported that retail sales in the U.S. grew a sluggish 0.3% in October, even as retailers offered early holiday discounts online and in stores.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NURSING HOME NEGLECT

Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows

UNDATED (AP) — As more than 90,000 of America’s long-term care residents have died in the coronavirus pandemic, advocates for the elderly say a tandem wave of death separate from the virus has quietly claimed tens of thousands more, often because overburdened workers haven’t been able to give them the care they need.

Care home watchdogs say they are being flooded with reports of residents withering away in starvation or thirst.

An expert who conducted an analysis of nursing home deaths for The Associated Press believes that non-COVID excess deaths, beyond what is normal, could total 40,000 this year.

TRUMP-LAST-MINUTE ROLLBACKS

Trump pushes new environmental rollbacks on way out the door

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Down to its final weeks, the Trump administration is working to push through dozens of rollbacks that could weaken century-old protections for migratory birds, expand Arctic drilling and hamstring future regulation of public health threats.

The pending last-minute changes that benefit oil and gas and other industries deepen the challenges for President-elect Joe Biden, who made restoring and advancing protections for the environment, climate and public health a core piece of his campaign.

Asked about the last-minute push, an Environmental Protection Administration spokesman says the agency is continuing to advance its regulatory agenda.

EU-BREXIT

Brexit trade talks suspended because of COVID-19 case

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Brexit trade negotiations have been suspended at a crucial stage because an EU negotiator has tested positive for the coronavirus.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that together with his U.K. counterpart David Frost “we have decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period.” He added that talks among lower-ranking officials level would continue.

Any long suspension of talks will make it even tougher for the negotiator to clinch a deal ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline.

CLIMATE

UN climate chief: pledges by big polluters boost Paris hopes

BERLIN (AP) — The U.N.’s top climate chief says deadlines set by some of the world’s top polluters to end greenhouse gas emissions have boosted hopes of meeting the Paris accord’s ambitious goals.

Recent announcements by China, Japan and South Korea to phase out emissions in the coming decades have drawn cautious optimism from climate campaigners.

Their hopes were further boosted by Joe Biden’s U.S. presidential election win earlier this month and his pledge to undo President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Patricia Espinosa, who heads the U.N. climate office, said the announcements are “really extraordinary” and offer hope of meeting the Paris accord’s goal for curbing global warming.

PUERTO-RICO-TROUBLED-TELESCOPE

Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope to close in blow to science

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The National Science Foundation says it will close the telescope at the renowned Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in a blow to scientists worldwide who depend on it to search for planets, asteroids and extraterrestrial life.

The independent, federally funded agency said Thursday that it’s too dangerous to keep operating one of the world’s largest single dish radio telescopes given the significant damage it recently sustained.

An auxiliary cable broke in August and tore a 100-foot hole in the reflector dish and damaged the dome above it. Then on Nov. 6, a main cable snapped, causing further damage and leading officials to warn that the entire structure could collapse.

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