Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks fall as economy’s pain deepens, head for weekly loss

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are falling on Wall Street after reports showed the pandemic is deepening the hole for the economy, as Washington prepares to throw it another lifeline. The S&P 500 was down 0.5% in afternoon trading, with stocks of companies that most need a healthier economy taking the sharpest losses. President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled details of his $1.9 trillion plan to prop up the economy, but markets had already rallied big on expectations of such a proposal. A report also showed sales at retailers sank 0.7% in December, a crucial month for the industry. The S&P 500 is heading for its first weekly loss in the last three.

RETAIL SALES

U.S. retail sales fell in December for 3rd straight month

NEW YORK (AP) — Retail sales fell for a third straight month, as a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the holiday shopping season. The report released Friday is yet another sign that the pandemic is slowing the U.S. economy. Last month, the country lost jobs for the first time since the spring. And government numbers out this week reported a spike in weekly unemployment claims, indicating that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers. U.S. retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in December from the month before, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. They also fell in October and November, even though many retailers tried to get people shopping early for their Christmas gifts by offering deals before Halloween. (backslash)

HOLIDAY SALES

Retail group: holiday sales up 8.3% amid big spending shift

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s largest retail trade group said holiday sales soared 8.3%, far exceeding its forecast even as the coronavirus kept shoppers away from physical stores. The National Retail Federation had expected growth in a range of 3.6% to 5.2% for the November and December period compared to the year-earlier period. The outsized gains show how the pandemic has caused a major shift in spending away from restaurants and travel and more toward buying goods that focus on activities around the home like home furnishings and food. That trend has benefited retailers. The retail sales figures exclude sales from auto, restaurants and gas.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION

US industrial production jumps 1.6% in December

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — U.S. industrial production rose 1.6% in December, a third straight monthly gain, but remains below its pre-pandemic level. The Federal Reserve reported Friday that the December gain in industrial output followed a 0.5% increase in November and a 1% increase in October. Even with those gains, industrial output is still about 3.3% below its level in February before the pandemic hit. Manufacturing increased 0.9% while mining production rose 1.6%. Utilities’ output rose 6.2% as a rebound in December demand followed unseasonably warm weather in November. U.S. industry operated at 74.5% of capacity in December, still below the pre-pandemic levels.

PRODUCER PRICES

December wholesale prices up 0.3% with sharp jump in energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 0.8%.

BANK EARNINGS

Optimistic banks start moving ‘bad’ loans back to ‘good’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The financial performance of the big U.S. banks has improved from earlier in 2020, when the virus pandemic walloped the global economy. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo saw fourth quarter profits rise; Citigroup’s profit fell in the last quarter of 2020, but increased from the third quarter. The three banks have a more positive, though cautious outlook for the economy, which was reflected in an accounting maneuver each employed that contributed significantly to the their better results.

BIDEN-ECONOMY

Biden’s aid plan could revamp economy, prompt GOP resistance

BALTIMORE (AP) — The $1.9 trillion rescue plan unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden offers the chance to sculpt the U.S. economy toward the Democrats’ liking: a $15 minimum wage, aid to poor families and federal dollars going to public schools. It’s an ambitious effort that would arrive after roughly $4 trillion has already been devoted to fighting the pandemic. Biden’s plan could quickly be trimmed by congressional Republicans, who are skeptical about raising the minimum wage and increasingly focused on the mounting federal budget deficit.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BIDEN-VACCINES

Biden taps former FDA chief Kessler to lead vaccine science

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden has picked a former Food and Drug commissioner to lead vaccine science in his drive to put 100 million shots into the arms of Americans in his administration’s first 100 days and stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. David Kessler, who will have the title of chief science officer of COVID response, headed the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s under presidents of both political parties. He has been acting as a top pandemic adviser to Biden and his appointment was announced Friday by the presidential transition office.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINES-SENIORS

Online sign-ups complicate vaccine rollout for older people

DENVER (AP) — As states across the U.S. roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, senior citizens are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots. Many states and counties ask people to make appointments online, but glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people who are often less tech-savvy, live far from vaccination sites and are more likely to not have internet access at all, especially people of color and those who are poor. Seniors, doctors and other health officials are saying there’s a flood of confusion, and some places are looking for solutions, like partnering with community groups.

EU-VIRUS OUTBREAK-PFIZER

Pfizer temporarily reduces European deliveries of vaccine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer has confirmed it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year. “This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. Germany’s Health Ministry said Friday that Pfizer had informed the European Commission, which was responsible for ordering vaccines from the company, that it won’t be able to fulfill all of the promised deliveries in the coming three to four weeks. The ministry said German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission “with regret” because the company had made binding delivery commitments by mid-February.

EU-REGULATOR HACKED

EU regulator: Hackers ‘manipulated’ stolen vaccine documents

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The European Union’s drug regulator said COVID-19 vaccine information stolen from its servers in a cyberattack last year have been not only leaked to the web but “manipulated” by hackers. The European Medicines Agency said Friday that an ongoing investigation into the cyberattack showed that hackers obtained emails and documents from November related to the evaluation of experimental coronavirus vaccines. The agency said some of the correspondence had been “manipulated by the perpetrators…which could undermine trust in vaccines.” The EMA says law enforcement authorities are taking “necessary action” in response to the cyberattack. (backslash)

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SEAFOOD

Federal report says pandemic hit seafood industry hard

UNDATED (AP) — A federal report says the coronavirus pandemic has taken away about a third of the commercial fishing industry’s revenue. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday that revenues from catch brought to the docks by commercial fishermen fell 29% over the course of the first seven months of the year. The report says revenues declined every month from March to July, including a 45% decrease in July. The NOAA report says the seafood industry at large has been hit hard by restaurant closures, social distancing protocols and the need for safety measures.

FRANCE-OIL-TOTAL

Oil giant Total withdraws from US energy lobbying group

PARIS (AP) — French oil giant Total has decided to withdraw from energy association American Petroleum Institute because it disagrees on climate-related policies. Total said in a statement Friday it would not renew its membership for 2021 following an analysis of API’s climate positions that has shown “certain divergences.” The company notably mentions API’s “support during the recent elections to candidates who argued against the United States’ participation” in the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate change. The API said it “believe that the world’s energy and environmental challenges are large enough that many different approaches are necessary to solve them.”

CHINA-US-STARBUCKS-LETTER

Xi asks Starbucks’ Schultz to help repair US-China ties

BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) has asked former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to help repair U.S.-China relations amid a tariff war and tension over technology and security. The letter reported by state media was a rare direct communication from Xi to a foreign business leader. In a statement, Schultz said Friday that the letter was a reply to one he sent to Xi along with a Chinese-language edition of his autobiography. Schultz didn’t directly respond to Xi’s request to help repair relations but said Starbucks’ growth in China is a good blueprint for cooperation between the countries. China is Starbucks’ largest market outside the U.S.

WALMART-ONLINE CHIEF-DEPARTURE

Walmart’s e-commerce chief to leave after nearly 5 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Marc Lore, Walmart’s e-commerce chief, is leaving the world’s largest retailer, nearly five years after he joined to super charge its online business amid stiffer competition from online leader Amazon. Under Lore’s stewardship, Walmart led the redesign of the company’s website, expanded its online assortment from 10 million items to more than 80 million and transformed its delivery network to add two-day and same-day delivery. Lore, who served as CEO of Walmart’s e-commerce division, joined the company in September 2016 when Walmart bought Jet.com, an e-commerce company he founded, for more than $3 billion.

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