Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks turn mixed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street following mixed news about the U.S. job market. Treasury yields rose with much of Wall Street seeing the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates as soon as March. The S&P 500 was 0.1% lower and the yield on the 10-year Treasury was at its highest level since COVID-19 began pummeling markets at the start of 2020. If the Fed does raise interest rates, it could help corral the high inflation sweeping the world. But it would also mark an end to the conditions that have put financial markets in “easy mode” for many investors.

ECONOMY-JOBS REPORT

US unemployment sinks to 3.9% as many more people find jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s unemployment rate fell in December to a healthy 3.9% — a pandemic low — even as employers added a modest 199,000 jobs, evidence that they are struggling to fill jobs with many Americans still reluctant to return to the workforce. The drop in the jobless rate, from 4.2% in November, indicated that many more Americans found jobs last month. Indeed, despite the slight hiring gain reported by businesses, 651,000 more people said they were employed in December compared with November. Still, the jobs data reported Friday reflected the state of the job market in early December — before the spike in COVID-19 infections began to disrupt the economy.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE MANDATES

Supreme Court weighs vaccine rules affecting more than 80M

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appears skeptical of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. In arguments Friday, the court’s six conservative justices appeared to view the administration’s requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees as overstepping government authority. This, although seven of the nine justices heard arguments wearing masks for the first time, and one participated only by phone. The court also was hearing arguments on a vaccine mandate for most health care workers. Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MODERNA BOOSTER

FDA shortens timing of Moderna booster to 5 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators are shortening the time that people who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine have to wait for a booster — to five months rather than six. The Moderna vaccine is open to Americans 18 and older. Friday’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration means recipients are eligible for a booster at least five months after their second shot. The move should ease some booster confusion, as now the booster timing is the same for both Moderna and the similar two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA-ECONOMY

Chinese anti-virus lockdowns add to concerns over economy

BEIJING (AP) — China’s lockdowns of big cities to fight coronavirus outbreaks are prompting concerns about more disruptions for the economy after two makers of processor chips said their factories were affected. That adds to unease over the omicron variant’s global economic impact. Analysts warn Vietnam, Thailand and other countries important for manufacturing chains might impose anti-disease measures that would delay deliveries. The Chinese economy already was cooling under pressure from unrelated official efforts to force real estate developers and other companies to reduce surging levels of debt that has fueled China’s boom over the past two decades.

BIDEN-UTILITY BILLS

White House highlights effort to cover winter heating bills

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is distributing an additional $4.5 billion in funds to help low-income Americans cover heating costs during a second pandemic winter, with cold-weather states receiving the largest share. That’s according to a state-by-state breakdown of funds being distributed under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The funding boost is part of last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday also announced commitments from seven major utility companies across the country to guarantee no shutoffs for customers seeking assistance and to identify and notify recipients eligible for government aid. The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the state allocation breakdown.

WINTER WEATHER

Winter storm snarls travel, forces tough choices for schools

BOSTON (AP) — A winter storm that already blanketed the U.S. South in snow has snarled Northeast air travel, crushed morning commutes and created a dilemma for school districts already struggling to stay open amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Many spots in New England had received more than a foot of snow by late Friday morning. Schools in Boston closed. Providence, Rhode Island, schools switched to distance learning. New York City kept the nation’s largest school system open. The mayor says the city doesn’t have more days to waste because of coronavirus-driven closures. Officials are advising people to stay off the roads, and more than 2,400 flights have been scrubbed.

JAPAN-SPACE

Tycoon Maezawa returns from space with business dreams

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has returned from space with hopes of new celestial investments. But he wants to first recover, as returning to life with gravity has proved heavier than he’d expected. Maezawa blasted off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with a Russian cosmonaut on Dec. 8, becoming the first self-paying tourist to visit the station since 2009. He returned to earth after spending 12 days at the orbiting outpost, where he took videos of himself clowning around in weightlessness. He says living in space has him appreciating everyday things more: the wind, the changing seasons, smells and sushi.

POLAND-NSO HACKS

Polish leader admits country bought powerful Israeli spyware

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland’s ruling conservative party has acknowledged that the country bought advanced spyware from the Israeli surveillance software maker NSO Group. But Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski denied the Pegasus software was being used to target his political opponents. Kaczynski said the secret services in many countries are using Pegasus to combat crime and corruption. He said “it would be bad if the Polish services did not have this type of tool.” Kaczynski made his comments in an interview to be published in the Monday edition of a weekly news magazine. A cyber watchdog group at the University of Toronto has reported that three Polish government critics were hacked with Pegasus.

OBIT-REX RUST

Rex Rust, co-president of Rust Communications, dies

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Rex Dearmont Rust, co-president of the Missouri-based media company Rust Communications, has died. The company’s flagship newspaper, the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, reported that Rust died Thursday evening after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 52. Rust grew up in Cape Girardeau and graduated from Harvard University in 1992. He worked in finance before returning to Missouri. In 2001, Rust and his brother, Jon K. Rust, were named co-presidents of the company founded by their father, Gary Rust, who continued on as chairman of the board. Today, Rust Communications owns more than 40 newspapers in eight states, numerous magazines and websites, and has minority ownership of 17 radio stations.

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