Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks mixed in muted trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks indexes are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors study moves by central banks to fight rising inflation. The S&P 500 fell below the record high it reached last Friday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also fell, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose. The muted trading came after the Bank of England became the first central bank among leading economies to raise interest rates to fight inflation. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve of the U.S. announced an acceleration of its pullback of economic stimulus as it pivots to fighting inflation.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

US jobless claims rise but still historically low at 206,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week despite signs that the U.S. labor market is rebounding from last year’s coronavirus recession. Jobless claims were up by 18,000 to a 206,000, still low by historical standards. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell by 16,000 to less than 204,000, the lowest level since mid-November 1969. Altogether, 1.8 million Americans were receiving traditional jobless benefits the week that ended Dec. 4, down by 154,000 from the previous week.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION

Industrial production increases 0.5% in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — US industrial production increased 0.5% in November as output at the nation’s factories reached the highest level since January 2019. The November gain followed an even larger 1.7% increase in October which had represented a rebound following a 1% drop in production in September. The September decline reflected severe supply chain problems that reduced output at U.S. auto plants and also the adverse effects from refinery shutdowns along the Gulf Coast because of Hurricane Ida.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

US home construction rebounds a strong 11.8% in November

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — New home construction in the U.S. rebounded 11.8% in November, as strong demand continues to boost builder confidence even with the slower winter season approaching. The double-digit percentage increase last month left home construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.68 million units, an 8.3% increase from the rate at this time last year, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. October’s home construction number was revised downward slightly to 1.5 million units from 1.52 million units. Applications for building permits, a barometer of future activity, rose 3.6% in November to 1.71 million units and is 0.9% above the rate in November of 2020.

MORTGAGE RATES

Mortgage rates up slightly this week to a still-low 3.12%

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — The average interest rate on a long-term mortgage in the U.S. ticked up slightly this week but remain historically low just as the Federal Reserve announces that it will begin tightening credit. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed rate home loan was up this week to 3.12% from 3.10% last week. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced as expected that it would begin dialing back its monthly bond purchases. That could raise borrowing costs, but even with three rate increases next year, its benchmark rate would still be historically low, below 1%.

BIDEN-DEBT LIMIT

Biden signs bill hiking US borrowing limit by $2.5 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has signed a bill raising the nation’s borrowing limit by $2.5 trillion, avoiding a potentially catastrophic default and resolving the turbulent issue until after the 2022 midterm elections. The House voted early Wednesday to raise the debt limit, amid urgent warnings from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that further delay would jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States. The Senate also voted to approve the debt increase under a deal struck between party leaders to diffuse the issue until after next year’s midterm elections. Republicans used the debt limit to attack Democrats’ big-spending social and environmental agenda while pledging to staunchly oppose the effort to increase the threshold.

BIDEN-CHINA-SANCTIONS

Congress approves import ban targeting forced labor in China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has given final approval to a bill barring all imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labor. In doing so they overcame initial hesitation from the White House and what supporters say was opposition from corporations. The measure is the latest in a series intensifying U.S. penalties over China’s alleged abuses of ethnic and religious minorities in the western region, especially Xinjiang’s millions of predominantly Muslim Uyghurs. The Commerce Department also has levied new sanctions targeting China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutes that focus on using biotechnology to support the Chinese military.

CONGRESS-BUDGET

$2T bill stalled, Senate Dems seem ready to move on for now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats’ vast social and environment package is in Senate limbo. And party leaders’ hopes of resolving holdout Sen. Joe Manchin’s demands and considering the bill in this year’s waning days seem all but dead. For weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he wants to move the 10-year, roughly $2 trillion package through the chamber by Christmas. But as the Senate opened Thursday, Schumer focused on Democrats’ efforts to break a logjam on voting rights legislation and a pile of nominations. He said that in the meanwhile, Democrats would work “to bring the Senate to a position” where the $2 trillion bill could advance.

BIDEN-LEAD PIPES

EPA details push to tighten rules for lead in drinking water

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is taking steps aimed at reducing lead in drinking water, releasing $2.9 billion in infrastructure bill funds for lead pipe removal. It also announced plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to impose stricter rules to limit exposure to the health hazard. The goal is to eventually replace aging lead pipes, which can leach particles of the heavy metal into drinking water, potentially causing severe developmental and neurological issues. The White House estimates as many as 10 million homes in the U.S. get water through lead service lines, which connect buildings to the water main and can leach particles of the neurotoxin into drinking water.

MIDWEST TORNADOES

Tornado-hit factory sued; workers said they couldn’t leave

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Survivors of a tornado that leveled a Kentucky candle factory have filed a lawsuit against their employer. They claim Mayfield Consumer Products demonstrated “flagrant indifference” by refusing to allow employees to go home early. The suit was filed in state court. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the company. A spokesman for the company didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday. Company CEO Troy Propes said Wednesday that the company is confident its team leaders “acted entirely appropriately” leading up to the tornado. The suit was filed less than a week after the storms that began Friday night hit multiple states.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY

Bank of England raises interest rates to combat inflation

LONDON (AP) — The Bank of England has raised interest rates to combat surging consumer prices. The move Thursday makes it the first central bank among the world’s leading economies to do so since the coronavirus pandemic began. The increase in the bank’s main rate to 0.25% from the record low of 0.1% was a surprise given the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus across the country, which is already hurting many businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector. It comes a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it would speed up its tightening of credit to ease inflation.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

European Central Bank to taper pandemic stimulus, but gently

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank has decided not to abruptly pull back its pandemic support for the economy as the new omicron variant of COVID-19 stirs uncertainty about the continent’s recovery. The move Thursday comes despite inflation hitting record highs and the U.S. speeding up its stimulus exit. The bank confirmed that it will phase out its 1.85 trillion euro pandemic bond purchase stimulus on schedule next year but will maintain some of the effect by moving part of the purchases to another support program. The 19 European Union member countries that use the euro already had been seeing the economic rebound slow because of a rise in infections from the delta variant and shortages of parts and raw materials.

INTEL-MALAYSIA

Intel to invest $7.1B in Malaysia chipmaking expansion

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Intel is expanding its manufacturing operation in Malaysia as chipmakers work to diversify global supply chains that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. semiconductor company is no stranger to Malaysia, where it built its first offshore assembly plant in Penang in 1972. But the Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker said Thursday a new investment of 30 billion ringgit ($7.1 billion) will expand the operations of its Malaysian subsidiary across Penang and Kulim, creating more than 4,000 new Intel jobs and more than 5,000 local construction jobs.

MCDONALD’S-CEO-FIRED

Ousted McDonald’s CEO returns $105M after misconduct

UNDATED (AP) — Former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook has paid back more than $105 million in equity awards and cash to the burger giant after it learned that he had lied about the extent of his misconduct while he was its top executive. Easterbrook apologized Thursday, saying that he had “failed at times to uphold McDonald’s values.” McDonald’s fired Easterbrook in late 2019 after he acknowledged a relationship with an employee. Later, the board sued to claw back Easterbrook’s compensation after it learned of several other inappropriate relationships with subordinates.

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