NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks wobbled in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors weighed the latest corporate earning reports and the Federal Reserve chair’s comments on inflation. Technology companies made broad gains, while banks were mostly weaker after several of them reported their latest quarterly results. American Airlines rose after giving investors a strong outlook. Energy companies had some of the biggest losses, partly due to a drop in the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.35%. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reaffirmed the central bank’s position that inflation will eventually ease.
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Wholesale inflation over past year jumps by record amount
WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation at the wholesale level jumped 1% in June, pushing price gains over the past 12 months up by a record 7.3%. The June increase in the Labor Department’s producer price index follows a gain of 0.8% in May and is the largest one-month increase since January. For the 12 months ending in June, wholesale prices are up 7.3%, the largest increase since the government began the current series on wholesale prices in 2010.
Powell says inflation, though elevated, will likely moderate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested Wednesday that inflation, which has been surging as the recovery strengthens, “will likely remain elevated in coming months” before “moderating.” At the same time, Powell signaled no imminent change in the Fed’s ultra-low-interest rate policies. In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Powell reiterated his long-held view that high inflation readings over the past several months have been driven largely by temporary factors, notably supply shortages and rising consumer demand as pandemic-related business restrictions are lifted.
Biden heads to Capitol to firm up Dem support for spending
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is stepping up his bid to push his multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda through Congress. He’s having lunch with Senate Democrats at the Capitol. The gathering comes a day after party leaders announced a compromise for pouring federal resources into climate change, health care and family service programs. The midday session is Biden’s first working meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol since becoming president. White House aides say it will mark only the start of his efforts to firm up support for forthcoming legislation embodying his priorities among Democrats. His party’s slim congressional majorities leave him with virtually no votes to lose.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-HEALTH CARE
More health care signups through pandemic plan
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 2 million people have signed up for subsidized health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act since President Joe Biden reopened health insurance markets as part of his pandemic response plan. The Department of Health and Human Services says 1.5 million enrolled through the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace and 600,000 through state-run insurance exchanges. Since April 1, all “Obamacare” customers have been eligible for much more generous financial assistance with their coverage, a temporary benefit boost that Biden and congressional Democrats hope to make permanent through legislation later this year. The special enrollment period is scheduled to end on Aug. 15. But HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra hinted Biden may revisit the issue and decide to extend the deadline.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-OVERDOSE DEATHS
US overdose deaths hit record 93,000 in pandemic last year
NEW YORK (AP) — Overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government estimate released Wednesday eclipses the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in 2019 and amounts to a 29% increase. Experts say lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get. Prescription painkillers once drove the opioid epidemic in the U.S. But now it is fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid. Overdose deaths in 2020 are just one facet of what was overall the deadliest year in U.S. history, with about 378,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
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WHO: Weekly virus cases at nearly 3M globally
GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization says there were nearly 3 million coronavirus cases globally last week, a 10% increase accompanied by a 3% rise in deaths, reversing a nine-week trend of declining COVID-19 incidence. The U.N. health agency says the highest numbers of cases were from Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain. WHO says the easier-to-spread delta variant has now been identified in 111 countries since first being detected in India. It expects the variant to become globally dominant in coming months. WHO says more transmissible versions could emerge and “coupled with the relaxation and inappropriate use of public health and social measures and increased social mobility and mixing,” numerous countries will see higher cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORWEGIAN CRUISES-VACCINE LAWSUIT
Norwegian cruises sues Florida over virus vaccination law
MIAMI (AP) — Norwegian Cruise Line is challenging a new Florida law that prevents cruise companies from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami federal court, contends that the law jeopardizes safe operation of cruise vessels by increasing risk of contracting the virus. Norwegian intends to restart cruises from Florida ports Aug. 15 with vaccinations required for all passengers. Norwegian wants a judge to lift the ban by Aug. 6. The law imposes a fine of $5,000 each time a cruise line mandates that a passenger provide vaccination proof.
Spain’s top court rules pandemic lockdown unconstitutional
MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Constitutional Court has ruled that last year’s stay-at-home lockdown order by the government under a state of emergency was unconstitutional. The court ruling on Wednesday was in response to a suit brought by the far-right Vox party. It was a split decision according to a brief statement issued by the court. State broadcaster TVE says it was six magistrates in favor and five against. Spain’s government declared the state of emergency on March 14, 2020, ordering people off the streets except for basic shopping for several weeks. It is immediately unclear if the ruling will open the gates for lawsuits against the government.
Bennett: Israel could beat COVID-19 variant without lockdown
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his country can beat the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus without a national lockdown. He told reporters on Wednesday that a shutdown is a “last resort,” but that depends on people complying with new rules to wear masks indoors. He spoke as new infections climbed to more than 700 a day on Wednesday. Most are mild cases and hospitalizations remain low. More than 5.7 million people of Israel’s population of 9.3 million have been vaccinated at least once. Some 5.2 million people have received two doses.
Facebook asks for recusal of FTC head in antitrust probes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook is asking that the new head of the Federal Trade Commission step away from antitrust investigations into the social network giant, asserting that past public criticism of the company’s market power makes it impossible for her to be impartial. Facebook petitioned the agency Wednesday to remove Chair Lina Khan from taking part in current probes of the company’s market conduct. Khan has been a persistent critic of Amazon, Google and Apple, as well as Facebook. FTC officials declined comment on Facebook’s motion, which came two weeks after Amazon requested that Khan be excused from taking part in investigations of that company.
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