Stocks mixed as bond yields resume their climb
NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrial average edging higher and the Nasdaq and S&P 500 lower. Wall Street continues to look to Washington, where economic data, comments out of the Federal Reserve and President Joe Biden’s stimulus package remain front and center. Banks are benefiting from an increase in long-term interest rates in the bond market, which allows them to charge higher rates on mortgages and many other kinds of loans. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.48% from 1.41%.
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Service sector growth slows sharply in February
WASHINGTON (AP) — The services sector, where most Americans works, grew at a sharply slower pace in February with various problems related to the pandemic hindering growth. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of service sector activity dropped to a reading of 55.5% in February, down 3.4 percentage-points from the January level of 58.7, which had been near a two-year high. Even with the decline, it was the ninth straight month of growth in the services sector. Any reading above 50 signifies growth.
Official: Dems OK tighter income limits for COVID-19 relief
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic official says President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have agreed to tighten the upper income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks in the party’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. That’s a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their legislation through the Senate. As part of Democrats’ legislative thrust on what is Biden’s top initial legislative priority, individuals earning up to $75,000 — and couples up to $150,000 — would get $1,400 checks per person. The official said Wednesday the COVID-19 relief measure Senate Democrats plan to unveil will retain the $400 weekly emergency jobless benefits that were included in a House-approved version of the legislation.
Biden administration will partner with health insurance companies
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration will partner with health insurance companies to help vulnerable older people get vaccinated for COVID-19. White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt says the goal is to get 2 million of the most at-risk seniors vaccinated. Many older people live in relative isolation and some lack the internet access to make vaccination appointments. Slavitt says insurers will use their networks to contact seniors with information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer questions, find and schedule appointments for first and second doses and coordinate transportation. The focus will be on reaching people in medically underserved areas.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-SMALL BUSINESSES
Majority of small businesses not requiring vaccines, tests
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A majority of small businesses aren’t requiring their employees to get tested for the new coronavirus or get any COVID-19 vaccines, though the health care and hospitality industries are ahead of the curve on the requirement. A report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau says 70% of the small businesses surveyed said “no” when asked if they required employees to test negative for COVID-19 before coming to work. Another 10% said “yes” and almost 20% said the question was not applicable. Of the small businesses, two sectors, health care and hospitality, had higher rates than the national average.
HEALTH CARE SIGN-UPS
Solid sign-ups for Biden’s new ‘Obamacare’ coverage offer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials say more than 200,000 people have signed up for insurance coverage in the first two weeks after President Joe Biden reopened HealthCare.gov as part of his coronavirus response. The solid start to the three-month special enrollment period indicates a pent-up demand for health insurance as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the one-year mark and many people remain unemployed or unable to work as many hours as they did before the outbreak. The sign-up opportunity for subsidized private health plans remains open through May 15. HealthCare.gov offers subsidized private health insurance under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, catering mainly to low- and moderate-income working people.
Senate Finance panel OKs Tai as top U.S. trade negotiator
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Finance Committee approved President Joe Biden’s pick to be America’s top trade negotiator on a voice vote Wednesday. Katherine Tai’ has promised as the U.S. trade representative, she will make sure that U.S. trade policy benefits America’s workers, not just corporations, and work more closely with U.S. allies to counter an increasingly assertive China. Fluent in Mandarin, Tai spent several years as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s head of China enforcement. She last worked as the top trade staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee and handled negotiations with the Trump administration over a revamped North American trade deal.
House panel seeks storm documents from Texas grid operator
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Oversight Committee is investigating the agency that operates the Texas power grid, seeking information and documents about the lack of preparation for the recent winter storm that caused millions of power outages and dozens of deaths across the state. Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna sent a letter to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, saying he is concerned that the loss of electric service — “and the resulting human suffering, deaths and economic costs” — will happen again unless ERCOT and the state of Texas adequately prepare for a predicted increase in extreme weather events. A spokesperson for ERCOT could not be reached Wednesday.
PHILANTHROPY-NONPROFITS IN DANGER
Pandemic puts 1 in 3 nonprofits in financial jeopardy
NEW YORK (AP) — More than one-third of U.S. nonprofits are in jeopardy of closing within two years because of the financial harm inflicted by the viral pandemic, according to a study being released Wednesday by the philanthropy research group Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The study’s findings underscore the perils for nonprofits and charities whose financial needs have escalated over the past year, well in excess of the donations that most have received from individuals and foundations. The researchers analyzed how roughly 300,000 nonprofits would fare under 20 scenarios of varying severity.
Google vows no new user tracking in Chrome ad data changes
LONDON (AP) — Google says it won’t develop new ways to follow individual users across the internet after it phases out existing ad tracking technology from Chrome browsers. The change threatens to shake up the online advertising industry. The digital giant has been working on proposals to remove so-called third-party cookies from Chrome. These are snippets of code that record browsing history in order to show users personalized ads. Third-party cookies have been a longstanding source of privacy concerns, so Google proposes instead grouping together web users with similar interests. Google itself will still continue to be able to track users through its widely used services like Search or Maps.
Michaels signs a deal with Apollo to go private
NEW YORK (AP) — Arts and crafts retailer Michaels is going private. The Irving, Texas-based retail chain said Wednesday it has agreed to be acquired by Apollo Global Management in a $5 billion deal. Under the terms of the agreement, approved by Michaels’ board, Apollo will begin a tender offer to buy all outstanding shares of Michaels for $22 each in cash. That price represents a 47% premium to the closing stock price on Feb. 26, the last trading day before media speculation about the potential deal. The agreement includes a 25-day go-shop period which lets Michaels solicit and evaluate other offers and to terminate the deal for a better proposal.
BED BATH & BEYOND-NEW BRANDS
Bed Bath & Beyond goes with something new to revive brand
NEW YORK (AP) — Bed Bath & Beyond will launch a slew of store brands aimed at reviving the home retailer and bringing in new customers in their 20s and 30s. The Union, New Jersey-based retailer plans to unveil at least eight new store brands this fiscal year, with six of them being unveiled in the first six months of the year. The company will also launch thousands of new products available only at the retailer as it seeks to take a bigger share of the $180 billion home market. Store brands are expected to increase from roughly 10% of the retailer’s overall sales to approximately 30% within the first three years.
LAS VEGAS SANDS-VENETIAN
With sale of the Venetian, Las Vegas Sands exits the Strip
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas Sands is selling the iconic Venetian casino resort and its Sands Expo and Convention Center for $6.25 billion. It’s withdrawing from gambling operations on the Las Vegas Strip after changing the nature of the casino business there and just about everywhere else. The name of the Venetian, the expo center as well as the Palazzo, the Sands’ luxury casino and resort that is part of the same complex, will remain, and the company’s headquarters will stay in Las Vegas. But the company led by Sheldon Adelson until his death this year will effectively cease U.S. operations. Under Adelson, the company’s focus turned to Asia years ago, where revenue eventually outpaced even the operations on the Las Vegas Strip.
New TCM series takes a look at ‘problematic’ classics
UNDATED (AP) — Turner Classic Movies is launching a new series, “Reframed Classics,” which promises wide-ranging discussions about 18 culturally significant films from the 1920s through the 1960s that also have problematic aspects, from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Mickey Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi to Fred Astaire’s blackface routine in “Swing Time.” It kicks off Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time with “Gone With the Wind.” TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who became the channel’s first African American host in 2019, said that the films selected are the classics of the classics. She says the discussions are intended to give audiences the tools to discuss and even still appreciate problematic films.
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