Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks rise as steady bond yields help lift tech companies

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moderately higher in midday trading on Wall Street, helped again by large technology stocks that have benefited from steady bond yields. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note held at 1.65%. It had been as high as 1.75% on Monday. Technology companies had been slipping over the last few months as yields jumped and made the shares look pricey. The sector has also seen choppy trading as investors shift more money into companies that stand to benefit from the economic recovery.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

US jobless claims up to 744K as virus still forces layoffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, consumers gain confidence and the government distributes aid throughout the economy. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

Pandemic impact may weigh on commercial real estate recovery

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is fueling optimism that Americans will increasingly return to the ways they used to shop, travel and work before the pandemic. That would be a welcome change for companies that own office buildings and hotels, or those that lease space to restaurants, bars, department stores and other retailers. These have been the hardest-hit areas of commercial real estate over the past year. But even as the U.S. economy appears set to roar back to life, as many economists now predict, demand for commercial real estate could take longer to recover as businesses reassess their post-pandemic needs, according to a new report by Moody’s Analytics.

MORTGAGE RATES

Mortgage rates dip for first time since January

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Mortgage rates fell this week for the first time in more than two months as buyers continue to be stifled by high prices and limited supply. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the benchmark 30-year loan rate dipped to 3.13% from 3.18% last week. At this time last year it was 3.33%. The rate for a 15-year loan, popular among those looking to refinance, fell to 2.42% from 2.45% last week. Economists expect home loan rates to remain low as the Federal Reserve intends to keep its main borrowing rate near zero until the economy recovers from the pandemic.

NEW AIRLINES

2 new airlines await Americans looking to fly somewhere

UNDATED (AP) — Two new U.S. airlines are planning on starting service this spring, tapping into the travel recovery that is picking up speed. Avelo Airlines says it will begin flying later this month to 11 destinations from Burbank, California. The startup plans to add other routes as it adds more planes to its fleet, which numbers just three planes. Next up will be Breeze Airways, the latest creation of David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue Airways more than 20 years ago. Both hope to draw passengers by filling in smaller, overlooked routes on the spider web of airline routes crisscrossing the United States.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN

UK infections drop about 60% amid vaccinations, lockdown

LONDON (AP) — A new study shows that Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program is beginning to break the link between infection and serious illness or death. Researchers at Imperial College London found that COVID-19 infections dropped about 60% in March as national lockdown measures slowed the spread of the virus. People 65 and older were the least likely to be infected as they benefited most from the vaccination program. The study also found that the relationship between infections and deaths is diverging, “suggesting that infections may have resulted in fewer hospitalizations and deaths since the start of widespread vaccination.” But researchers also urged caution, saying that infection rates leveled off as the government began to ease the national lockdown.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EUROPE-ASTRAZENECA

Governments give varying advice on AstraZeneca vaccine

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A patchwork of advice is emerging from governments across Europe and farther afield, a day after the European Union’s drug regulator said there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare clotting disorder. Regulators in the United Kingdom and the EU both stressed that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people. But some countries are limiting its use among certain age groups. Experts fear the confusing messages about the vaccine could dampen enthusiasm for it at a time when Europe and many other parts of the world are facing surging cases.

UNITED STATES-MYANMAR

US hits state-owned Myanmar gem firm with coup sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is hitting Myanmar’s junta with new sanctions in response to February’s coup. The administration announced Thursday that it’s imposing sanctions on the country’s main, state-owned gem company, Myanmar Gems Enterprise. The penalties freeze any assets the firm holds in the U.S. or in U.S. jurisdictions and bar American citizens from doing business with it. The company is a major exporter of gems and semi-precious stones like jade, which bring in significant amounts of revenue to government coffers. The U.S. and other Western nations have been steadily ramping up sanctions pressure on Myanmar, also known as Burma, since the coup and subsequent deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

GAMESTOP-CHAIRMAN

GameStop nominates Chewy founder Ryan Cohen as chairman

NEW YORK (AP) — GameStop says it’s nominating Chewy founder Ryan Cohen as chairman of the board at its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 9. The current board chair is Kathy P. Vrabeck. In mid-January, the Grapevine, Texas-based retailer added Cohen and two of his former colleagues from Chewy to its board after Cohen had pressed GameStop to focus on its online operations. That move contributed to the stock’s meteoric rise.

Shares have given up some of their over-the-moon gains since the big runup in late January but are still up more than 800% this year.

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