Stocks fall, pulled down by tech and energy; bond yields rise
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are mostly lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street, as rising bond yields once again pulled down shares of technology companies as well as the energy sector. Bank stocks are among the best performers as investors bet that higher interest rates would translate into higher profits. The S&P 500 index was down 0.2% at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.6% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.5. Bond yields ticked higher again, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 1.73%, near levels not seen since January 2020.
US jobless claims rise to 770,000 with layoffs still high
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 770,000, a sign that layoffs remain high even as much of the U.S. economy is steadily recovering from the coronavirus recession. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims climbed from 725,000 the week before. The numbers have dropped sharply since the depths of the recession last spring but still show that employers in some industries continue to lay off workers. Before the pandemic struck, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any one week.The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly variations, dropped to 746,000, the lowest since late November.
LONDON (AP) — The European Union’s drug regulatory agency says experts have concluded that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not linked to an overall increase in the risk of blood clots and that the benefits of use outweigh the risks. The finding from the European Medicines Agency could open the way for European countries that had suspended the use of the vaccine over the past week to resume dispensing the shots. The head of the EMA, Emer Cooke says the vaccine is “safe and effective.” Cooke said said the agency “cannot rule out definitively a link” between rare types of blood clots and the vaccine, and experts recommend raising awareness among doctors and recipients of possible risks.
UK regulator: People should keep getting AstraZeneca shots
LONDON (AP) — British regulators say people should keep getting AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following its review of data on patients who suffered from blood clots after getting the shot. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said there is no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots in veins. The agency says a further review of five reports in the UK of a rare type of clot in the brain is continuing, but the condition, which can occur naturally, has been reported in less than 1 in a million people vaccinated so far and no causal link has been established.
Biden to send COVID shots to Mexico, Canada in first exports
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is planning to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots. A White House official confirms Thursday that the Biden administration is planning to send 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a “loan.” The details are still being worked out. The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S. but has been authorized by the World Health Organization. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the the transaction before it was officially announced.
BIDEN-100 MILLION DOSES
Biden to highlight vaccine as US nears 100 millionth shot
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to highlight his administration’s push to dramatically expand distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as the nation is on the cusp of meeting his goal of injecting 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office. Biden is likely to mark the occasion Thursday on his 58th day in office. He has made a priority in his early days in office to set clear and achievable metrics for success, whether it be vaccinations or school reopenings. It’s part of a deliberate strategy of underpromising, then overdelivering. Aides believe that exceeding his goals breeds trust in government after the prior administration’s fanciful rhetoric on the virus.
Becerra confirmed to head up Biden’s ambitious health agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as President Joe Biden’s health secretary. Becerra fills a key position in the administration’s coronavirus response and its ambitious push to lower drug costs, expand insurance coverage, and eliminate racial disparities in medical care. Thursday’s largely party-line vote was 50-49. The 63-year-old Becerra is the first Latino to head the Health and Human Services Department. The core components of the $1.4 trillion department are the boots on the ground of the coronavirus response, from the Food and Drug Administration’s review of vaccines to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for reopening schools. He’ll also be the point man on Biden’s sweeping health care agenda.
Students who got partial loan relief to see full discharge
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration says students who were defrauded by their colleges and received only partial relief from their federal loans could now have them fully erased. The action, announced Thursday, reverses a Trump administration policy. The Education Department says the change could lead to $1 billion in loans being canceled for 72,000 borrowers, all of whom attended for-profit schools. The department says the action applies to students who already had their claims approved and received “less than a full loan discharge.” A senior department official briefing reporters says they are reviewing the backlog of claims yet to be decided and those that have been denied.
Hot housing market fuels a rise in homeowners’ equity
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The red-hot U.S. housing market is paying off for many homeowners, even those who aren’t looking to sell their home. Real estate information company CoreLogic says that on average, homes with a mortgage gained $26,300 in equity over the last three months of 2020 versus a year earlier. That average gain in home equity is the highest since 2013, the firm says. CoreLogic says homes with a mortgage account for about 62% of all U.S. properties. Taken together, the home equity for those properties surged in the fourth quarter to more than $1.5 trillion, an increase of 16.2% from a year earlier.
Prepare the popcorn: AMC opening more movie theaters
UNDATED (AP) — It’s showtime! AMC Theatres says it will have 98% of its U.S. movie theaters open on Friday as a bunch of theaters reopen in California. Even more theaters are expected to open by March 26. AMC said that California is expected to open 52 of its 54 locations by Monday. The company is preparing to resume operations at the rest of its California locations once the proper local approvals are in place. AMC’s announcement is welcomed by movie fans not only because more of them will get to return to AMC’s reclining seats and stadium style format, but because it means the company has hopefully put the worst behind it.