Update on the latest in business:


Stocks climb more than 2% as investors get back to buying

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising across the board on Wall Street as traders welcome a move lower in long-term interest rates in the bond market.

Investors were also watching Washington as a big economic stimulus bill moved to the Senate.

The S&P 500 rose 2.3% in early afternoon trading. More than 95% of the stocks in the index were higher, led by energy and technology companies.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.43% after going as high as 1.5% last week, the highest level in more than a year. Higher interest rates can slow the economy and discourage borrowing.


US manufacturing activity jumps to 3-year high in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing expanded in February at the fastest pace three years, helped by a strong gain in new orders.

The Institute for Supply Management reported Monday that its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to a reading of 60.8% last month, 2.1 percentage-points above the January level of 58.7%. It was the strongest performance since February 2018.

Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector.


US spending on construction projects rises 1.7% in January

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose 1.7% in January as new home building continues to lift the sector.

The Commerce Department reports that last month’s increase followed small revised gains in December and November. Spending on residential construction rose 2.5% in January, with single family home projects up 3%.

Despite an economy that’s been battered for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, historically low interest rates and city dwellers seeking more space in the suburbs and beyond has boosted the housing market.

Spending on government projects rose 1.7%.


Senate Democrats consider changes to House virus relief bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are considering reshaping parts of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House. As they do, party leaders who are hoping to salvage a minimum wage increase have abandoned one proposal aimed at pressuring big companies to boost workers’ pay.

The chances seem slim that Senate Democrats will find a way to include a minimum wage boost in the massive relief package. Last week, the nonpartisan parliamentarian said it violated the chamber’s rules and had to fall from the bill. Compared to that, most other changes the party is considering seem modest.


New WTO chief pushes for vaccine access, fisheries deal

GENEVA (AP) — The new head of the World Trade Organization called for “technology transfer” when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and urged member nations to reach a deal on fisheries subsidies that could reduce overfishing after years of fruitless talks.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist and former government minister, donned a mask and doled out elbow bumps as she took up the job at WTO headquarters in Geneva. She also immediately began trying to change the organization’s culture.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is both the first woman and the first African to serve as the WTO’s leader. Her appointment was delayed by the Trump administration but supported by President Joe Biden’s government.


Countries urge drug companies to share vaccine know-how

PARIS (AP) — Across Africa and Southeast Asia, governments and aid groups, as well as the World Health Organization, are increasingly calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their coronavirus vaccine know-how and technology more broadly. They say it’s the only way to meet a huge global shortfall in a pandemic that already has claimed over 2.5 million lives.

The Associated Press found three factories on three continents who say they could make hundreds of millions of doses beginning in weeks.

Pharmaceutical companies that took taxpayer money from the U.S. or Europe to develop inoculations at unprecedented speed say they are negotiating contracts and exclusive licensing deals with producers on a case-by-case basis to protect their intellectual property and for safety.


AG sues Texas utility over customers’ sky-high energy bills

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ attorney general is suing electricity provider Griddy for passing along massive bills to its customers during last month’s winter storm. The lawsuit comes days after Texas’ power grid manager effectively shut down Griddy by revoking its access to the state’s electricity market.

Griddy charges $10 a month to give people a way to pay wholesale prices for electricity. But when temperatures plummeted, wholesale prices spiked and Griddy customers were left with sky-high electricity bills.

Griddy said in a statement after it was effectively shut down that it’s “always been transparent and customer-centric at every step.”

The storm blanketed much of Texas with snow, knocking out electricity to 4 million customers and leaving many struggling to find clean water.


Texas power company seeks bankruptcy protection after storm

UNDATED (AP) — The largest and oldest power cooperative in Texas is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection citing last month’s winter storm that left millions without power.

Brazos Electric Power, which serves 16 distribution member cooperatives that cater to more than 1.5 million Texans, said Monday that it was a “financially robust, stable company” prior to the severe cold weather that hit Texas between February 13 and February 19.

Brazos said that it received excessively high invoices from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for collateral and for purported cost of electric service. Brazos says it’s decided not to pass on the ERCOT costs to its members or the consumers.


2 Americans wanted in Ghosn’s escape in Japanese custody

BOSTON (AP) — An American father and son wanted by Japan for aiding former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape the country in a box have been transferred to Japanese custody.

One of Michael and Peter Taylor’s attorneys says says U.S. officials handed them over to Japanese custody on Monday. The Taylors had fought for months to stay in the U.S. but failed to convince American officials and courts to block their extradition.

Japan wants to try the Taylors on charges that they smuggled Ghosn out of the country in a box in 2019 while he was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.


China not ready to allow the Boeing 737 Max back in the air

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing isn’t ready to follow the United States in allowing Boeing’s 737 Max back into the air.

China was the first country to ground the 737 Max after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people. U.S. regulators approved the plane’s return to the skies in November after Boeing made technical changes and a new training regime was put into place for pilots.

The deputy administrator of China’s aviation agency, Dong Zhiyi, said “major safety concerns” raised by Chinese regulators have not been fully resolved. Dong said design changes must pass approval for airworthiness, pilots must receive effective training and conclusions of crash reports must be clear.


FCA pleads guilty in plot to enrich Detroit union officials

DETROIT (AP) — Automaker FCA US has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting that it paid off leaders of the United Auto Workers to try to win concessions in negotiations covering thousands of workers.

FCA’s conviction follows a series of guilty pleas from UAW officials. They were showered with more than $3.5 million in cash and items of value from a jointly run training center in Detroit.

FCA stands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is part of Stellantis. The head of FCA labor relations executed the scheme with five UAW officials and a spouse. General Holiefield, a union vice president, eliminated a $262,000 home mortgage in 2014 with training center money.

FCA will pay a $30 million fine for its crime.


US probing engine fires in nearly 1.9M Toyota RAV4 SUVs

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government is investigating complaints of engine compartment fires in nearly 1.9 million Toyota RAV4 small SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating after getting 11 fire complaints involving the 2013 through 2018 model years.

The RAV4 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. that isn’t a pickup truck. In documents posted Monday, the agency says fires start on the left side of the engine compartment. Most of the fires happened while the vehicles are being driven, but four took place with the engine off. Investigators will try to understand better what is contributing to the fires.

The vehicles aren’t being recalled but the investigation could lead to one.


Online review platform Trustpilot chooses London for IPO

LONDON (AP) — Online review platform Trustpilot is planning to sell shares in London, in a stock offering that helps shore up the city’s status as a financial hub and destination for tech companies after Brexit.

Copenhagen-based Trustpilot said it will hold an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange to sell 25% of its shares to raise $50 million. While not yet profitable, Trustpilot’s net loss narrowed last year as its revenue rose to $102 million.

Trusptilot is going public as a boom in online transactions due to the coronavirus pandemic is driving demand for reviews.

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