Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move higher, pushing S&P 500 over 4,000

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street, helped by a rise in technology companies as well as smaller companies, which would benefit from a quickly growing economy. The S&P 500 rose 0.9%, crossing the 4,000-point mark for the first time. Companies including Tesla that would benefit from greater sales of electric vehicles rose after President Joe Biden outlined various measures to support their use as part of his massive infrastructure plan. Electric vehicle charger operators ChargePoint and Blink Charging rose. Stock trading will be closed for Good Friday but bond trading will be open for half a day, closing at noon Eastern Time.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

US jobless claims rise to 719K as virus still forces layoffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 61,000 last week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy. The Labor Department says the number of claims increased from 684,000 the week before. Though the pace of applications has dropped sharply since early this year, they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic flattened the economy a year ago, jobless claims typically ran below 220,000 a week.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

Construction spending dips 0.8% in February amid bad weather

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending fell in February after several months of steady gains, likely because of unseasonably cold weather and winter storms in the south. The Commerce Department says spending on building projects slipped 0.8% in February, after a 1.2% gain in January. The drop was driven by lower spending on apartments, hotels, hospitals and educational facilities. Single-family home building rose slightly.

MANUFACTURING

US factory activity expands at fastest pace since 1983

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturers expanded in March at the fastest pace in 37 years, a sign of strengthening demand as the pandemic wanes and government emergency aid flows through the economy. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said that its measure of factory activity jumped to 64.7 last month, from 60.8 the previous month. That’s the highest since December 1983. Some of the gain may reflect a bounce-back from February, when harsh winter weather in Texas, Louisiana and other southern states knocked some oil refineries and petrochemical plants offline.

CYBERSECURITY-SUPPLY CHAIN

After hack, officials draw attention to supply chain threats

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is working to draw attention to supply chain vulnerabilities. It’s an issue that received particular attention late last year after suspected Russian hackers gained access to federal agencies and private corporations by sneaking malicious code into widely used software. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center is warning that foreign hackers are increasingly targeting vendors and suppliers that work with the government to compromise their products in an effort to steal intellectual property and carry out espionage. April marks what the government describes as the fourth annual National Supply Chain Integrity Month. This year’s event comes as federal officials deal with the aftermath of the SolarWinds intrusion.

OPEC-OIL PRICES

OPEC and allies agree to gradually boost crude oil output

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The OPEC oil cartel and allied countries say they have decided to gradually add back some 2 million barrels per barrel per day of oil production from May to July. They’re moving cautiously in pace with the recovery of the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is gingerly adding back production that was slashed last year to support prices as demand sagged during the worst of the pandemic recession, which sapped demand for fuel. The group will add back 350,000 barrels per day in May, 350,000 in June, and 400,000 in July. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia will restore an additional 1 million barrels per day that it made on its own.

SUPREME COURT-MEDIA OWNERSHIP RULES

Justices uphold FCC’s easing of local media ownership limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has unanimously upheld federal regulators’ decision to ease ownership limits on local media, rejecting a claim that the change would hurt minority and female ownership. The court ruled Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission acted reasonably in 2017 when it modified rules that predated the internet. The old rules prohibited a single entity from owning a radio or TV station and a daily newspaper in the same media market. They also limited how many radio and TV stations one company could own in a single market and restricted the number of TV stations a company could operate in one media market.

SUPREME-COURT-FACEBOOK

Supreme Court sides with Facebook in text message dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has sided with Facebook in a lawsuit over unwanted text notifications it sent, rejecting a claim the messages violated the federal ban on robocalls. The high court’s ruling for the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant Thursday was unanimous. The case was brought by a man who lacked a Facebook account but said he received text messages from the company notifying him an attempt had been made to log in to his account. The man filed a class action lawsuit when he was unable to stop the notifications. Facebook said it was possible the man’s cellphone number previously belonged to a Facebook user who opted to receive notifications.

SUPREME COURT-WATER WAR

Supreme Court gives Georgia win in water war with Florida

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously for Georgia in its long-running dispute with Florida over water. The court on Thursday rejected Florida’s claim that Georgia uses too much of the water that flows from the Atlanta suburbs to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida says that its neighbor’s overconsumption is to blame for the decimation of the state’s oyster industry. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the court that Florida failed to prove its case. The justices dismissed Florida’s lawsuit, which had been before the court twice in the past three years. The case involved the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia, which join to form the Apalachicola River at the Florida line.

CLEAN WATER RULE-TRIBES

New Mexico tribes sue US over federal clean water rule

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Indigenous communities in New Mexico are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the nation. The pueblos of Jemez and Laguna are the latest to raise concerns over inadequate protections for local water sources in the desert Southwest. The challenge follows a similar case filed in 2020 by the Navajo Nation, the nation’s largest Native American tribe, and several environmental groups. Like other Indigenous communities, Laguna and Jemez say waters that flow through their lands are used for domestic and agricultural uses and are essential for cultural and ceremonial practices.

PORK PLANT-LAWSUIT

Judge rejects rule that let pork plants speed up production

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out a rule allowing pork plants to speed up production lines because the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t properly consider the risks to workers before the rule was issued in 2019. Union officials praised Wednesday’s ruling because they say faster line speeds at pork plants increase the risk of injuries for workers. The lawsuit was filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union along with local unions in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma and the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. The USDA says the agency is reviewing the ruling, and it remains “deeply committed to worker safety and a safe, reliable food supply.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FLORIDA FARMWORKERS

Groups rush to get Florida farmworkers vaccinated

MIAMI (AP) — Farmworker advocates are racing against time to get vaccinations for migrant workers newly eligible for the jab as Florida lowers its age limits, so they can be inoculated before they travel north to harvest crops in other regions. Officials in South Florida are telling advocates not to worry about state residency requirements for the vaccine and to focus on outreach to get farmworkers ready for the shot. Farmworkers were denied priority access in Florida, unlike other states. Advocates are asking the state and counties to quickly mobilize to areas such as Homestead, south of Miami, and Immokalee, east of Naples.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PFIZER VACCINE

Pfizer: Vaccine effective up to 6 months later

UNDATED (AP) — Pfizer says its vaccine continues to be effective against COVID-19 up to six months later. Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, announced updated results from late-stage study of more than 44,000 volunteers. The companies say the vaccine was 91% effective against symptomatic disease and was even more protective in preventing severe disease. There were no serious safety concerns and the vaccine also appeared to work against a variant first detected in South Africa, the companies say. The U.K. and U.S. gave the emergency green light to roll out Pfizer’s vaccine late last year followed by many other countries. The vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and up.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-J&J-SUPPLIER

Company producing J&J vaccine had history of violations

UNDATED (AP) — The company at the center of quality problems that led Johnson & Johnson to discard 15 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine has a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems. Little-known pharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions was a key to Johnson & Johnson’s plan to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the United States by the end of May. But records obtained by The Associated Press show that Emergent has been cited repeatedly by the Food and Drug Administration for problems ranging from poorly trained employees to cracked vials and mold around one of its facilities.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FLORIDA FARMWORKERS

Groups rush to get Florida farmworkers vaccinated

MIAMI (AP) — Farmworker advocates are racing against time to get vaccinations for migrant workers newly eligible for the jab as Florida lowers its age limits, so they can be inoculated before they travel north to harvest crops in other regions. Officials in South Florida are telling advocates not to worry about state residency requirements for the vaccine and to focus on outreach to get farmworkers ready for the shot. Farmworkers were denied priority access in Florida, unlike other states. Advocates are asking the state and counties to quickly mobilize to areas such as Homestead, south of Miami, and Immokalee, east of Naples.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HOME TESTS

US allows 2 more over-the-counter COVID-19 home tests

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials have authorized two more over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that can be used at home to get quick results. The Food and Drug Administration decision this week is expected to vastly expand the availability of cheap home tests that many experts have recommended for months. The FDA said tests made by Abbott and Quidel can now be sold without a prescription. That will allow people to test themselves repeatedly at home. Both tests were first OK’d last year but came with conditions that limited their use. Experts have long argued that the U.S. needs millions more rapid tests to help control the outbreak.

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