Update on the latest in business:


Stocks wobble as investors monitor inflation, earnings

UNDATED (AP) — Stocks are wobbling between small gains and losses in midday trading on Wall Street as investors gauge the latest data on inflation and company earnings. The S&P 500 fell 0.6%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1% and the Nasdaq fell 1.3%. Industrial companies made solid gains and Delta Air Lines jumped after reporting surprisingly good fourth-quarter financial results. Banks also gained ground. Major banks, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo will report their latest financial results on Friday. Health care stocks were the biggest weight on the broader market. Bond yields remained stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was little changed at 1.73%.


Wholesale prices jumped a record 9.7% in 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prices at the wholesale level surged by a record 9.7% for all of 2021, setting an annual record and providing further evidence that inflation is still present at all levels of the U.S. economy. The Labor Department reported Thursday that its producer price index, which measures inflation before it reaches consumers, did slow on a monthly basis, rising just rose 0.2% in December compared to November, when prices had shot up 1%.


U.S. jobless claims rise by 23,000 to 230,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since mid-November. The Labor Department says U.S. jobless claims climbed by 23,000 last week to 230,000, still low by historic standards. The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week blips, was up nearly 6,300 to almost 211,000. The weekly applications, a proxy for layoffs, have now risen four of the last five weeks, possibly a sign that the omicron variant is having an impact on the job market, which has bounced strongly from last year’s coronavirus recession.


US average long-term mortgage rates jump; 30-year now 3.45%

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Average long-term mortgage rates have jumped again. They’ve reached their highest level since March 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic was breaking in the U.S. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan rose to 3.45% this week from 3.22% last week. A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 2.79%. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 2.62% from 2.43% last week. Mortgage rates have been expected to rise this year after the Federal Reserve announced last month that it would begin dialing back its monthly bond purchases — which are intended to lower long-term rates — to slow accelerating inflation.


Fed nominee Brainard: Fighting inflation is top priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lael Brainard, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Federal Reserve’s No. 2 spot, said Thursday that combating high inflation is the Fed’s top priority and promised the Fed could bring it down without sacrificing job growth. Brainard’s elevation of inflation-fighting as the Fed’s top goal is notable given that she is, for now, the lone Democrat on the Fed’s board and is seen as more inclined to keeping interest rates low to boost employment than many other Fed officials are.


UN forecasts lower global economic growth for 2022 and 2023

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations is forecasting lower global economic growth for 2022 and 2023. It says this is because the world is facing new waves of COVID-19 infections, persistent labor market challenges, lingering supply chain issues and rising inflationary pressures. The U.N. ‘s global economic forecast launched Thursday says the global economy grew by 5.5% in 2021 — the highest rate of global economic growth in more than four decades. But it’s projected to grow by only 4% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023. The report said last year’s recovery slowed considerably by the end of 2021.


Biden to double free COVID tests, add N95s, to fight omicron

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says the government plans to double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans. Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden says his administration will also make the most protective N95 masks available for no charge. He spoke an event aimed at highlighting the federal government’s efforts to “surge” COVID-19 testing and send personnel to help overwhelmed medical facilities. The effort comes amid the upswing in coronavirus cases and staff shortages due to the omicron variant. Starting next week, 1,000 military medical personnel will begin arriving to help mitigate staffing crunches at hospitals.


COVID-19 pill rollout stymied by shortages as omicron rages

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two brand-new COVID-19 pills that were supposed to be an important weapon against the pandemic in the U.S. are in short supply and have played little role in the fight against the omicron wave of infections. The problem is that production is not yet at full strength, and that the pill considered to be far superior, Pfizer’s, takes six to eight months to manufacture. The supply is expected to improve dramatically in the coming months. But doctors are clamoring for the pills now, as the omicron causes an explosion of cases. Adding to the pressure: Two antibody drugs that were once the go-to treatments for COVID-19 don’t work as well against the variant.


After wave of cancellations, Delta sees recovery in 2022

UNDATED (AP) — Delta Air Lines is reporting a $408 million loss for the final quarter of 2021, dragged down by a COVID-19 surge that rocked the airline in December. It expects to suffer one more quarterly loss before travel picks up in the spring and summer. CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday that 8,000 employees have contracted COVID-19 over the last four weeks. Sick workers and winter storms have led to more than 2,200 cancelled flights since Dec. 24. Cancellations have dropped sharply in the past few days, but the spate of spiked flights cost the airline $75 million.


Honda exec: High auto prices may drop, but not dramatically

DETROIT (AP) — Honda expects its factories to make more vehicles this year despite a computer chip shortage and supply chain troubles. But because it started 2022 with so few vehicles at dealers, the company expects U.S. sales to fall below last year’s numbers. Honda expects U.S. new vehicle prices to ease a bit from the record of over $46,000 in December as automakers increase production. But Executive Vice President of National Operations Dave Gardner told reporters Wednesday that prices won’t fall to where they were before the pandemic. Edmunds.com says new vehicle prices are up about 20% from late in 2019 before the pandemic took hold.


’60 Minutes’ streaming spinoff is shuttered by Paramount+

NEW YORK (AP) — The Paramount+ streaming service has shut down its “60 Minutes+” spinoff that debuted only last year. The show had its own staff and stories separate from the venerable television newsmagazine, and was seen as an effort to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience. The series had some 30 episodes since it started on March 4, 2021. No explanation was given. That means “60 Minutes” has struck out now on two attempts to expand into different platforms; a previous one on the Quibi platform died when that service did. CBS News is talking about new roles at the network for the “60 Minutes+” staff.

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