Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks wobble as traders weigh outlook for rates, inflation

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are wobbling in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors consider the outlook for rising interest rates and inflation. The S&P 500 rose 0.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3% and the Nasdaq rose 0.3%. Bond yields continued to rise a day after the Federal Reserve indicated it was ready to raise interest rates to fight off inflation. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, the benchmark for home mortgage rates, rose to 1.73% Banks made broad gains. Energy stocks rose along with crude oil prices. A mix of retailers and health care stocks fell.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

US jobless claims rise by 7,000, but still low at 207,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at historically low levels, suggesting that the job market remains strong. U.S. jobless claims rose by 7,000 last week to 207,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week gyrations, rose by nearly 4,800 to just below 205,000. Despite the increases, the numbers reported today by the Labor Department show that claims remained below the 220,000 typical before the pandemic struck the U.S. economy in March 2020. The highly transmissible omicron variant so far does not appear to have triggered layoffs.

TRADE GAP

November trade deficit hits near record-high $80.2 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit surged to a near-record high of $80.2 billion in November as exports slowed while imports jumped sharply. The Commerce Department says the November deficit was 19.3% higher than the October deficit of $67.2 billion and was just below the all-time monthly record of $81.4 billion set in September. Through the first 11 months of 2021, the U.S. trade deficit is 28.6% higher than the same period in 2020 as the economic recovery in the United States has outpaced other nations, sending import demand up faster than gains in U.S. export sales.

ECONOMY-SERVICES

US service industry grows more slowly in Decembe

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Growth in the U.S. service industry, where most Americans work, pulled back in December after expanding at a record pace the previous two months. The Institute for Supply Management reports that its monthly survey of service industries declined to a reading of 62 last month, from an all-time high of 69.1 in November. Any reading above 50 indicates growth. Business activity, employment, new orders and supply deliveries all showed slower growth in December.

MORTGAGE RATES

US average long-term mortgage rates rise; 30-year at 3.22%

WASHINGTON (AP) ) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates have risen to start the new year. They reached their highest level since May 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, yet remain historically low. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan increased to 3.22% this week from 3.11% last week. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 2.43% from 2.33%. Many economists expect mortgage rates to rise this year after the Federal Reserve announced last month that it would begin dialing back its monthly bond purchases to tame accelerating inflation.

MORTGAGE LENDING

Red-hot housing market to fuel record borrowing in ’22

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fierce competition, low mortgage rates and soaring prices helped raise the amount borrowers took on to buy homes last year to an all-time high, eclipsing the mid-2000s housing bubble. Banks issued an estimated $1.61 trillion in home purchase loans last year, up about 9% from 2020, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That tops the previous high of $1.51 trillion in 2005. While lenders issued around 4% fewer home purchase loans last year, their dollar value increased as home prices surged. The MBA expects home purchase mortgages will climb to a new high of $1.74 trillion this year.

WALGREENS-RESULTS

Vaccinations, tests give Walgreens a fiscal 1Q sales jolt

UNDATED (AP) — COVID-19 vaccines and testing boosted Walgreens store sales growth to its highest level in more than two decades, as the drugstore chain beat fiscal first-quarter expectations. Walgreens doled out 15.6 million vaccines in the quarter that ended in Nov. 30, as more Americans sought booster shots and vaccine eligibility expanded to children between the ages of 5 and 12. That was up nearly 16% from the previous quarter. The company also administered 6.5 million COVID-19 tests in its first quarter, which ended before the omicron variant of the virus sent case numbers soaring in the United States.

BED BATH & BEYOND-RESULTS

A weak quarter at Bed Bath & Beyond, and shares soar

UNDATED (AP) — Bed Bath & Beyond’s fiscal third-quarter loss widened, with the home goods retailer saying supply chain issues are continuing to squeeze its business. The Union, New Jersey-based company lost $276.4 million, or $2.78 per share, for the three months ended Nov. 27. That compares with a loss of $75 million, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier. Losses, adjusted for restructuring costs and other items, came to 25 cents per share. That’s below the breakeven results that analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research were looking for.

FRANCE-GOOGLE-FACEBOOK

France fines Google, Facebook millions over tracking consent

LONDON (AP) — French regulators have fined Google and Facebook a total of more than 200 million euros for not making it as easy for users to opt out of online tracking as it is for them to accept it. The CNIL data privacy watchdog said that while the U.S. online giants gave French users a single button to immediately accept cookies, there wasn’t an equally simple way for them to decline, which means they weren’t freely giving consent. Cookies are used to target internet users for digital ads. Google says it’s committed to further changes, while Facebook said it will work with authorities.

EUROPE-MEANINGLESS FLIGHTS

Near-empty flights crisscross Europe to secure landing slots

BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe’s sky is filling up with near-empty flights that even airlines admit serve no purpose except securing valuable time slots at some of the world’s biggest airports. The practice comes as the European Union has committed to being a global leader in combating climate change and flights are known to be major polluters. Environmentalists, major airlines and others are calling for the European Union to tweak the rules on airport slots to cut down on empty or near-empty flights. The rules say airlines must use 50% of their landing and takeoff slots if they want to hold on to them even as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has put many off flying.

BRITAIN-PRINCE WILLIAM-EARTHSHOT-PRIZE

Prince William seeks nominees for $1 million Earthshot prize

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Prince William has appealed for innovators around the world to submit nominations for his Earthshot Prize, a competition aimed at finding new ways to tackle climate change. William and his charity, The Royal Foundation, launched the prize in 2020 inspired by U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 “Moonshot” speech that challenged Americans to go to the moon by the end of the decade. The prize, to be awarded to five winners every year until 2030, is billed as the most prestigious of its kind. Each winner will receive a grant of 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) to develop and scale up their ideas.

BOSTON-MARATHON-BOMBING

Feds want marathon bomber’s COVID payment to go to victims

UNDATED (AP) — Federal prosecutors want convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) to use a $1,400 COVID-19 stimulus payment he received as well as other money held in his inmate trust account to help pay the millions of dollars he was ordered to pay his victims. In a filing Wednesday, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston asked a judge to order the federal Bureau of Prisons to turn the money over to the Clerk of the Court. Tsarnaev was ordered to pay his victims more than $101 million, but so far has not paid any. He currently has about $3,900 in his account.

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