Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Rally stalls as oil prices jump

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street’s big two-day rally is stalling as oil prices jump back above $100 per barrel. The S&P 500 has been drifting between small gains and losses after surging more than 2% in each of the prior two days for its best back-to-back performance in nearly two years.

It was 0.4% higher in afternoon trading. U.S. oil leaped more than 8%...

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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Rally stalls as oil prices jump

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street’s big two-day rally is stalling as oil prices jump back above $100 per barrel. The S&P 500 has been drifting between small gains and losses after surging more than 2% in each of the prior two days for its best back-to-back performance in nearly two years.

It was 0.4% higher in afternoon trading. U.S. oil leaped more than 8% to top $102 per barrel. Such moves have become the norm as investors struggle to handicap what will happen to the economy and inflation because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, higher interest rates and renewed COVID-19 worries.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Jobless claims fall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, as layoffs continue to decline amid a strong job market rebound. The Labor Department says jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 214,000 for the week ending March 12, down from the previous week’s 229,000. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs. The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell to 223,000 from the previous week’s 231,750. In total, 1,419,000 Americans — a 50-year low — were collecting jobless aid the week that ended March 5, down 71,000 from the week before that.

MORTGAGE-RATES

Average U.S. mortgage rates rise; 30-year loan breaches 4%

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week as the key 30-year loan vaulted over 4% for the first time since May 2019. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the average rate on the 30-year loan this week jumped to 4.16% from 3.85% last week. That’s a sharp contrast from last year’s record-low mortgage rates of under 3%. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 3.39% from 3.09%. With inflation at a four-decade high, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday increased its benchmark short-term interest rate — pinned near zero since the pandemic recession struck two years ago.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR-WORLD ECONOMY

War in Ukraine will take global economic toll, group warns

UNDATED (AP) — The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is warning that Russia’s war in Ukraine will disrupt commerce and clog up supply chains, slashing economic growth and pushing prices sharply higher around the globe. In a grim assessment today, the 38-country OECD said that over the next year the conflict would reduce the broadest measure of economic output by 1.08% worldwide. It would drop by 1.4% in the 19 European countries that share the euro currency and by 0.88% in the United States. But the organization said government spending and tax cuts could limit the damage.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR-BONDS

Russia says it transferred bond payment to avoid default

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Finance Ministry said it transferred a $117 million bond interest payment in an attempt to avoid a default on government debt but left it open if the money actually reached foreign investors by the deadline. A ministry statement carried on Russian state media said Thursday the money had been transferred to an account at Citibank in London and that the ministry would make a statement later on the results of the transfer. Citibank had no comment. The payment due Wednesday would be the first on foreign currency debt since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Russia is facing constraints on its finances because of Western sanctions.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR-G7

G-7 decries Russia’s ‘indiscriminate attacks’

BERLIN (AP) — Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies are calling on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its military forces. In a joint statement, the G-7′s top diplomats condemned what they described as “indiscriminate attacks on civilians” by Russian forces including the siege of Mariupol and other cities. The G-7 welcomed work to investigate and gather evidence of war crimes, including by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The group also said it stood ready to further increase the pressure of sanctions on Ukraine and provide further aid to those in need.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR-BUSINESS BACKLASH

Russian businesses in US face backlash from war in Ukraine

UNDATED (AP) — Americans angered by Russia’s war on Ukraine are taking it out on Russian businesses, brands or anything that sounds Russian. Some are pouring out vodka, boycotting Russian restaurants and even leaving threatening voicemail messages at Russian businesses. Experts say it’s the most intense anti-Russian sentiment they’ve seen. They also call the behavior irrational and misplaced, especially when so many business owners are denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and supporting Ukraine, not to mention the fact that some are not even Russian. To clarify their positions to their customers, many have posted Ukrainian signs on their doors or pledged their support for Ukraine on social media while condemning Russia’s actions.

BIDEN-COST OF CARBON

Appeals court revives Biden climate damage cost estimate

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An appeals court has revived a Biden administration effort to account for potential damage from greenhouse gas emissions when creating rules for polluting industries. A Louisiana-based federal judge had blocked the so-called “social cost of carbon” policy. The Trump appointee said its regulatory burdens would drive up energy prices. But a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans stayed that ruling in a decision dated Wednesday, saying any burdens are speculative. For now, it means federal regulations can factor in the cost of carbon dioxide emissions at about $51 per ton. Louisiana’s attorney general is pursuing another appeal.

CALIFORNIA-BIG RESERVOIR

Big new California reservoir on track for $2.2B federal loan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A long-delayed plan to build a giant lake in Northern California has gotten a big boost. The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion. That would cover about half of the project’s total cost. Officials with the agency promoting and overseeing the project called the loan a “game changer.” The project still must clear some regulatory processes, including an environmental review. That’s where it’s likely to face fierce opposition from environmental groups who say the project will divert too much water from the Sacramento River. Sites officials say the project will help the region withstand droughts.

POLLUTED RIVER-SUPERFUND

EPA names part of Hackensack River to Superfund list

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named a 19-mile stretch of the Hackensack River in northern New Jersey to its list of Superfund sites. The announcement on Thursday stems from assessments that showed arsenic and lead among other contaminants in sediment in the riverbed. That’s according to EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa Garcia. She says the listing is good news because it means that the river will now get cleaned up. Still unidentified responsible parties are expected to finance the clean up, which could take years. The EPA says it’s too early to estimate a cost.

AMAZON-MGM

Amazon closes deal to acquire Hollywood studio MGM

UNDATED (AP) — Amazon has closed its acquisition of Hollywood studio MGM, two days after European regulators said the deal “would not significantly reduce competition” in European markets. MGM is one of the oldest studios in Hollywood. The retail giant said in a blog post today that MGM has more than 4,000 film titles, 17,000 TV episodes and awards that “will complement Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ work in delivering a diverse offering of entertainment choices to customers.” MGM still has a vast library, with famous characters such as Rocky, RoboCop and Pink Panther, which Amazon has said it would use to create new movies and shows.

PFIZER-COVID-GENERICS

More than 30 companies to start making Pfizer’s COVID pill

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool says that nearly three dozen companies worldwide will soon start making generic versions of Pfizer’s coronavirus pill. The group, which negotiated the deal, said Thursday the new agreements would allow generic drugmakers in a dozen countries in Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East and eastern Europe to produce either the raw ingredients for the Pfizer drug or the pill itself. Some of the companies might be ready to submit their drugs for approval later this year, with supplies available in 2023. Experts believe the pill’s availability in poor countries where vaccination has been slow, could make a big difference to preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

BRITAIN-FERRIES

Major UK ferry operator fires 800 crew after pausing service

LONDON (AP) — P&O Ferries, one of the largest ferry operators serving the United Kingdom, has fired 800 crew members with “immediate″ effect. Thursday’s announcement, which came without notice, touched off protests in the southeast port of Dover and prompted fired crew members to lock themselves aboard some vessels. Workers fired by Zoom message were told that ferries would be run by a third-party crew provider. P&O, a unit of Dubai-government owned logistics giant DP World, operates ferries between the U.K. and France, Ireland and the Netherlands. A union representing P&O crew members said the company’s action was “scandalous” after it received millions of pounds of British government funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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