NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are modestly higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street, helped by a bit of good economic data. Trading has been relatively quiet with many investors having closed out their positions for the year. Companies that rely on consumer spending rose, as did energy and materials companies. Travel and leisure companies rose, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival and Wynn Resorts. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 200,000 last week. The Chicago Purchasing Manager Index, a gauge of manufacturing and economic activity, came in at a better-than-expected reading of 63.1 for December.
WASHINGTON (AP) —The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has fallen below 200,000, more evidence that the job market remains strong in the aftermath of last year’s coronavirus recession. The Labor Department says jobless claims dropped by 8,000 to 198,000 last week. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell to just above 199,000, the lowest level since October 1969. The numbers suggest that the fast-spreading omicron variant has yet to trigger a wave of layoffs. Altogether, 1.7 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment aid the week that ended Dec. 18, lowest since March 2020 and down by 140,000 from the week before.
Average rates edge higher
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Long-term mortgage rates have moved slightly higher in the final week of 2021. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark, 30-year home loan ticked up to 3.11% this week from 3.05% last week. A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 2.67%. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 2.33% from 2.3% last week. It was 2.17% a year ago. Many economists expect rates to rise next year after the Federal Reserve announced earlier this month that it would begin dialing back its monthly bond purchases.
Tesla recalls Model 3s over rear camera connection
NEW YORK (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla is recalling certain Model 3s because a coaxial cable for its backup camera can become worn and fail to transmit to the driver’s main console. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says all Model 3s from model years 2017 to 2020 are included in the recall. Tesla is not aware of any crashes, injuries or deaths caused by the defect. Tesla discontinued the problematic trunk harness at the end of the 2020 model year. All 2021 Model 3 vehicles have a different harness design.
Times Square show will go on despite virus surge, mayor says
NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation. De Blasio said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that he wants to show the world that the city is “fighting our way through this.” After banning revelers from Times Square a year ago due to the pandemic, city officials announced plans previously for a scaled-back New Year’s bash with smaller crowds and vaccinations required. The city’s next mayor, Eric Adams, will take the oath of office in Times Square shortly after the ball drops.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-NURSING HOMES
Feds press nursing home COVID boosters as staff cases spike
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials are pressing nursing home workers to get their booster shots amid a spike in COVID-19 cases among staffers and a concerning lag in booster vaccination for residents and staff. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday the nation cannot afford another COVID-19 surge in nursing homes. With medical experts advising that a booster shot is critical to defend against the omicron variant, Becerra says only 57% of nursing home residents and 25% of staff and have gotten boosters. Those numbers are clearly behind booster rates of nearly 66% for senior citizens and about 45% for the adult population in general.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A study of health workers in South Africa has found that a booster shot of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduced the risk of hospitalization during the omicron surge. J&J said Thursday that the second dose was 85% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations in November and December. That’s according to preliminary results of a study of 69,000 health workers in South Africa. Omicron is highly contagious and can evade some of the protection offered by vaccination or prior infection. But earlier studies of other COVID-19 vaccines have suggested vaccination still strongly protects against severe illness.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEXICO-CUBAN VACCINE
Mexico approves use of Cuba’s Abdala vaccine
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico has given approval to the use of Cuba’s three-dose Abdala coronavirus vaccine. Mexico’s health safety council says it has sufficient evidence the vaccine is safe and effective. The approval for emergency use does not necessarily mean the Mexican government will acquire or administer the Abdala vaccine in Mexico. Mexico has approved 10 vaccines for use, but has made little use of some, like China’s Sinopharm. Cuba has approved Abdala for use domestically and begun commercial exports of the three-dose vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela.