Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stability in bond market helps lift major US stock indexes

NEW YORK (AP) — Major U.S. indexes are moving higher as stability in the bond market translates into gains for stocks. A key measure of inflation came in lower than expected for February and helped calm investors who had worried that prices could rise too quickly as the economy recovers. Investors are also looking toward Washington, where President Joe Biden’s stimulus bill approaches passage. The S&P 500 index rose 0.7% in midday trading. Markets have benefited from calmer bond trading the last few days. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury fell to 1.52%. It hit 1.60% late last week.

CONSUMER PRICES

Consumer prices up 0.4% last month but core prices moderate

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices increased 0.4% in February, the biggest gain in six months, led by a sharp jump in gasoline prices. But core inflation, excluding food and energy, posted a much smaller 0.1% gain, easing fears about a possible sustained acceleration in inflation. The Labor Department said Wednesday that the February advance in its consumer price index followed a 0.3% rise in January and was the largest advance since a similar 0.4% increase in August. Consumer prices are up 1.7% over the past year, a still moderate performance for inflation which is running below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target for price increases. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, is up just 1.3% for the past 12 months.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Huge virus aid bill nears final OK in win for Biden, Dems

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is heading toward final approval of a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. The House is on track to send the measure to President Joe Biden on Wednesday as the new president and Democrats move within reach of a triumph advancing their priorities and showcasing the unity they’ll need to forge future victories. A virtual party-line vote to approve the 628-page measure is expected. The bill represents Democrats’ effort to bridle the catastrophic pandemic and revive the enfeebled economy. The Senate passed the measure over unanimous Republican opposition four days ago.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-JOBS IN PERIL

Pandemic left long-term scars on global job market

UNDATED (AP) — When the viral pandemic slammed violently into the U.S. economy a year ago, igniting a devastating recession, it swept away tens of millions of jobs. Even as viral vaccines increasingly promise a return to something close to normal life, the coronavirus seems sure to leave permanent scars on the job market. At least 30% of the U.S. jobs lost to the pandemic aren’t expected to come back — a sizable proportion of them at employers that require face-to-face contact with consumers: Hotels, restaurants, retailers, entertainment venues. The threat to workers in those occupations, many of them low-wage earners, marks a sharp reversal from the Great Recession, when middle- and higher-wage workers bore the brunt of job losses.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FARM WORKERS

Clinics wait to vaccinate farmworkers: ‘Our hands are tied’

UNDATED (AP) — Many U.S. health centers that serve agricultural workers across the nation are receiving COVID-19 vaccine directly from the federal government in a program created by the Biden administration. But in some states, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots. The federal vaccine came with a restriction: The health centers must follow state priorities. The situation troubles farmworkers and activists. Farmworkers run an elevated risk of getting infected because of their work conditions. Purdue University estimates a half-million people the agriculture industry have been infected and thousands have died.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-J&J VACCINES

AP source: US to buy additional 100M J&J doses

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to announce the U.S. is buying an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. The drugmaker is already obligated to supply 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of June. The additional vaccine would be delivered in the months following. A White House official previewed the news on the condition of anonymity before the president’s remarks. The U.S. is set to receive enough doses of the three approved vaccines by the middle of May to cover all adults. The surplus would ensure supply to cover young adults and children, pending the result of safety and efficacy trials. They also could be used as potential “boosters” to further protect against emerging virus variants.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE-BRIDGESTONE

Tire company Bridgestone offers employees $100 to vaccinate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bridgestone is joining a group of large companies offering to pay employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The tire company announced Wednesday that it’s offering its 33,000 U.S. employees $100 each for getting the shots. The company is also exploring the possibility of similar programs for employees in Canada and Latin America. Bridgestone has its Americas headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, with employees spread around the country at its tire and retread manufacturing facilities, research and development centers, and 2,200 company-owned tire and automotive service centers. The company says it’s providing the payments to make it easier for employees to get vaccinated but isn’t requiring they be vaccinated.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPAIN

Doctors urge Spain to use AstraZeneca vaccine more widely

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s doctors and regional health authorities are pushing for the central government to widen the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Other European countries like Germany, France and Italy have overcome their initial reluctance to use the vaccine made by a British-Swedish company on elderly patients. Spain, however, has stuck to administering it to those 55 and under. Critics say that this strategy is creating a vaccine gap leaves vulnerable people exposed. Only 1.4 million of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants have been inoculated so far.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EUROPEAN HOTSPOTS

EU gets extra vaccine doses to tackle virus border clusters

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Commission has secured an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for an extra 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to tackle a surge of coronavirus clusters that have prompted border restrictions. The doses are expected to be delivered before the end of March. The EU’s executive arm is worried by the worsening situation in several areas, mainly due to the spread of new variants. It also does not want virus clusters to prompt more border restrictions. The EU has cited Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany as places where COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EUROPE-AID

EU to step up aid effort as virus deepens global crises

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union plans to step up international aid efforts, support humanitarian agencies and encourage new donors to contribute as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens crises around the world. The 27-nation bloc wants to set up a crisis response system so it can provide transport and logistical help when countries and aid agencies are overwhelmed. It also aims to help prevent crises by boosting development assistance. Part of the plan is to focus on the impact of climate change. The bloc also hopes to draw in more donors and the private sector to make up the funding shortfall. The U.N estimates that over 235 million people will require humanitarian aid this year, 40% more than in 2020.

TURKEY-RUSSIA-NUCLEAR

Erdogan, Putin remotely start nuclear reactor construction

ISTANBUL (AP) — The presidents of Turkey and Russia have remotely inaugurated the construction of a third nuclear reactor of Akkuyu power plant in southern Turkey, vowing to continue their close cooperation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday the plant would launch Turkey into the “league of nuclear energy countries” and called it a “symbol of Turkish-Russian cooperation.” Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast in Mersin province. The two countries signed a cooperation agreement in 2010 and began construction in 2018.

RUSSIA-TWITTER

Russia slows down Twitter, part of social media clampdown

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities say they are slowing down the speed of uploading photos and videos to Twitter over its failure to remove banned content. The move is part of Russia’s growing efforts to curb social media platforms that have played a major role in amplifying dissent. The state communications watchdog said it began the slowdown after it said the platform failed to remove the content encouraging suicide among children and containing information about drugs and child pornography. Twitter’s user policies outline a host of banned behaviors, including prohibiting content that involves child sexual exploitation or material that promotes or encourages suicide or self harm. An email seeking comment on the Russian action was sent to Twitter.

CYBERSECURITY-MICROSOFT HACK

FireEye CEO: Reckless Microsoft hack unusual for China

RESTON, Va. (AP) — Cyber sleuths have already blamed China for a hack that exposed tens of thousands of servers running Microsoft’s Exchange email program to potential hacks. The CEO of a prominent cybersecurity firm says it now seems clear China also unleashed an indiscriminate, automated second wave of hacking that opened the way for ransomware and other cyberattacks. Kevin Mandia is the head of FireEye. He says the second wave, which began Feb. 26, is highly uncharacteristic of Beijing’s elite cyber spies and far exceeds the norms of espionage. In its massive scale it diverges radically from the highly targeted nature of the original hack, which was detected in January.

BOEING-CRASH ANNIVERSARY

Families of Boeing crash victims renew push for FAA changes

UNDATED (AP) — Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane will mark today’s two-year anniversary of the disaster by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again. But that is unlikely to happen. Boeing says Max jets have made 9,000 flights for 14 airlines without incident since returning to service late last year. And the head of the Federal Aviation Administration has personally vouched for the plane’s safety. The FAA had originally certified the plane and let it keep flying after another Max crashed in Indonesia, five months before the Ethiopian accident. A total of 346 people died in both crashes. The family members say they are trying to prevent a third crash.

GE-AERCAP

GE, AerCap join air leasing businesses in $30 billion deal

UNDATED (AP) — General Electric is combining its aircraft leasing business with Ireland’s AerCap Holdings in a deal valued at more than $30 billion, a big step in what has become a six year endeavor to reshape the one-time global conglomerate. The agreement to push GE Capital Aviation Services, or GCAS, into a separate business puts GE closer to its goal of shedding most of its enormous financial wing that nearly sank it during the 2008 financial crisis. AerCap will pay about $24 billion in cash for GCAS, and GE will take an approximately 46% ownership stake in combined company, and $1 billion paid in AerCap notes or cash at closing.

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