Stocks mostly higher; Netflix slumps on slower growth
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are mostly higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors continued to work through company earnings reports and closely watch the bond market. Netflix led a decline in communications sector stocks with a drop of 7.3%. The video streaming pioneer disappointed investors Tuesday with its latest report on subscriber additions, which came in below its own forecasts. Much of the market’s focus over the next two weeks will be on individual company stocks and how well their quarterly results turn out. This week roughly 80 members of the S&P 500 are due to report, as well as one out of every three members of the Dow.
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New enrollments push Anthem beyond expectations in Q1
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Anthem delivered a better-than-expected first quarter and pushed its 2021 forecast past expectations as enrollment growth lifted the health insurer. A 20% jump in membership for state and federally funded Medicaid plans that Anthem manages spurred a 3% overall enrollment gain compared to last year’s opening quarter. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer has 43.5 million customers and is the nation’s second-largest health insurer, trailing only UnitedHealthcare. Anthem said Wednesday it has about 9.2 million Medicaid customers, up from 7.6 million last year. Growth was helped by a temporary suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic of state requirements that Medicaid customers certify they are still eligible to receive the benefits.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-HIRING PROBLEMS
Businesses scramble for help as job openings go unfilled
NEW YORK (AP) — It looks like something to celebrate: small businesses posting “Help Wanted” signs as the economy edges toward normalcy. Instead, businesses are having trouble filling the jobs, which in turn hurts their ability to keep up with demand for their products or services. Owners say that some would-be workers are worried about catching COVID-19 or prefer to live off unemployment benefits that are significantly higher amid the pandemic. Child care is another issue — parents aren’t able to work when they need to tend to or home-school their children. So, whe
VIRUS OUTBREAK-J&J VACCINE
FDA inspection found problems at factory making J&J vaccine
UNDATED (AP) — U.S. regulators say the Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff. The problems resulted in contamination of a batch of material that was going to be put in the shots. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday released a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent Biosciences factory. J&J and Emergent say they’re working to fix the problems. Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed yet.
White House aims to make it easier for people to get vaccine
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is trying to overcome diminishing demand for COVID-19 shots by making it easier for Americans to get vaccinated. The effort comes as the U.S. is set to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office. As the vaccination program progresses, the administration believes it will be more difficult to sustain the current pace of about 3 million shots per day. More than 130 million Americans have yet to receive one dose. And over the last week, the pace of inoculation in the U.S. has slowed slightly.
Europe lines up more shots, hoping to beat back virus surge
BERLIN (AP) — The European Union has ramped up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts amid doggedly high infection rates. The EU still lags far behind Britain and the United States. Only about 1 in 5 of of the bloc’s 450 million inhabitants have received their first shot — approximately half the U.S. share. But European officials say they have turned the corner. The distribution of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine this week after European regulators deemed it safe is adding to the momentum.
France imposes restrictions on India travelers
PARIS (AP) — A government official says France is about to impose new entry restrictions on travelers from India to fight a contagious coronavirus variant spreading in that country. The restrictions come in addition to those previously announced regarding four other countries, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, which will be implemented starting from Saturday. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal confirmed that France will lift its ban on domestic travel as planned on May 3. But it will maintain its nighttime curfew, now in place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The official says nonessential shops, closed since the partial lockdown of the country in early April, won’t reopen before mid-May.
Greece to reopen tourism services on May 15
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister says the country’s tourism industry will open on May 15 when a ban on travel between different regions in the country will also be lifted. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the announcement in a televised address Wednesday, adding that restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen in outdoor areas starting on May 3. Restrictions, many of which have been in effect since early November, will remain in place over the Orthodox Easter on May 2.
Germany vows to boost cycling as part of climate effort
BERLIN (AP) — The German government has agreed a new national cycling strategy to boost bike use and safety by 2030, and cut down carbon emissions from driving. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said Wednesday the plan would “make Germany a bicycle country.” It aims to increase the average number of bike journeys each German makes by half — from 120 a year at present to 180 in ten years time. The government wants to expand the number of “cycling highways” in the country, create more dedicated bike lanes and cut the number of cyclists killed on German roads by 40% in the coming decade. Officials say the plan would result in greenhouse gas emissions savings equivalent to 3-4 million tons of carbon dioxide.
EU proposes rules for high-risk artificial intelligence uses
LONDON (AP) — European Union officials have unveiled proposals for reining in high-risk uses of artificial intelligence such as live facial scanning that could threaten people’s safety or rights. The draft regulations from the EU’s executive commission made public on Wednesday include rules on the use of the expanding technology in activities such as choosing school, job or loan applicants. They also would ban artificial intelligence in a few situations, such as “social scoring” and systems used to manipulate human behavior. The proposals are the 27-nation bloc’s latest move to maintain its role as the standard-bearer for technology regulation. EU officials say they want to balance the need to protect data privacy against the need to encourage innovation.
AMAZON-PAY BY PALM
Amazon begins rollout of pay-by-palm at Whole Foods near HQ
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is rolling out pay-by-palm technology at some Whole Foods grocery stores near its headquarters to make paying quicker and more convenient. The technology, called Amazon One, lets shoppers scan the palm of their hand and connect it to a credit card or Amazon account. After the initial set up, which Amazon says takes less than a minute, shoppers can scan their hand at the register to pay for groceries without having to open their wallets. Amazon first launched the technology late last year and at the time said the technology could be used at stadiums, office buildings and other retailers.
Bad offshore weather delays SpaceX crew launch until Friday
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX has bumped its next astronaut launch by a day because of dangerously high waves and wind offshore. Liftoff is now scheduled for early Friday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Officials announced the flight delay Wednesday for the two Americans, one Japanese and one French. The astronauts will spend six months at the International Space Station, arriving aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The capsule has the ability to abort the launch all the way to orbit in case of an emergency. That’s why SpaceX needs good weather not only at the Florida launch site, but all the way up the East Coast and across the North Atlantic to Ireland.
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