Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks shake off an early loss, head for another weekly gain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks shook off an early loss Wall Street and turned higher in afternoon trading, adding to their weekly gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% and the Nasdaq rose 1.4%. Both indexes are on track for their best weekly gains of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose slightly. The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to drive sentiment...

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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks shake off an early loss, head for another weekly gain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks shook off an early loss Wall Street and turned higher in afternoon trading, adding to their weekly gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% and the Nasdaq rose 1.4%. Both indexes are on track for their best weekly gains of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose slightly. The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to drive sentiment after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more help for his country after days of bombardment of civilian sites. Wall Street remains concerned about rising interest rates and surging COVID-19 cases in China and Europe.

HOME SALES

February home sales fall amid higher mortgage rates, prices

UNDATED (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell in February as competition for a near-record low number of properties on the market drove prices higher and rising mortgage rates kept would-be buyers on the sidelines. The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales fell 7.2% last month from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.02 million. That’s less than the roughly 6.1 million sales that economists had been expecting, according to FactSet. Sales declined 2.4% from February 2021 as the median home price jumped 15% from last year at this time to $357,300.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-WAR-SPACE

NASA head: We have cooperation with our Russian colleagues

ATLANTA (AP) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Friday played down recent comments by the head of Russia’s space agency that the United States would have to use broomsticks to fly to space after Russia said it would stop supplying rocket engines to U.S. companies. Nelson told The Associated Press that Dmitry Rogozin “spouts off every now and then” and praised the people who work in the Russian civilian space program. Russia’s war in Ukraine has resulted in canceled launches and broken contracts, and many worry Rogozin is putting decades of a peaceful off-planet partnership at risk, most notably at the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is due to leave the ISS with two Russians for a touchdown in Kazakhstan on March 30.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-WAR-US-OIL

Ukraine war ups pressure for US oil; industry faces hurdles

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — President Joe Biden’s move last week to ban oil from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine was met with calls to boost U.S. production to help bring down soaring gasoline prices. But political rhetoric about quickly ramping up U.S. crude output is at odds with reality for the nation’s oil fields: Not enough workers, scant money to invest in drilling and wariness that today’s high prices won’t last. Analysts say the obstacles to more U.S. oil are surmountable, but will take months to work through and it could be late this year or early next before a significant production increase materializes.

ITALY-EUROPE-ENERGY

Draghi leads push for common EU response to energy crisis

ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi has hosted a huddle of leaders from three fellow Mediterranean countries to push for a common European response to the energy crisis that has been worsened by war in Ukraine. The prime ministers of Spain and Portugal participated in person in the meeting Friday in Rome, while Greece’s premier, who is positive for COVID-19, joined in by video hookup. The four leaders said they agreed to press for the European Union to urgently forge a common policy on energy, whose prices were already soaring before Russia began the war last month. Draghi has been pushing for a strategy of EU-wide stockpiling of energy, plus a cap on prices.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR-ENERGY SAVINGS

Energy agency: 10 steps would save 2.7M barrels of oil a day

BERLIN (AP) — The International Energy Agency says the world could quickly reduce global oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day by cutting down on car and plane travel. The Paris-based agency says it would help ease the supply crunch caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The IEA said in a report Friday that “practical actions by governments and citizens” could significantly reduce oil demand, make fuel cheaper for consumers, shrink Russia’s hydrocarbon revenue and boost efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If fully implemented in advanced economies, the IEA said its plan could cut oil demand by the same amount as all the cars in China within four months.

EUROPE-ENERGY COSTS-PROTESTS

High energy costs trigger unrest in parts of Europe

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — High energy costs are stoking unrest in parts of Europe. Spain is deploying more than 23,000 police amid a truckers’ strike Friday, while farmers in France and Greece are snarling traffic with their protests. Russia’s war in Ukraine has further pushed up costs for oil and natural gas in Europe, driving record inflation and making it ever more expensive for farmers and truckers to fuel their equipment and vehicles. A walkout by a group of truckers in Spain has devolved into attacks, with police escorting convoys of trucks that are still working. In France, about 20 farmers protested by driving their tractors slowly down a highway. Hundreds of protesting farmers blocked traffic in Athens.

BRITAIN-FERRIES

P&O Ferries mass firings of UK crew members outrage unions

LONDON (AP) — Unions are protesting at British ports after major ferry operator P&O Ferries fired 800 U.K. crew members to replace them with cheaper contract staff. P&O has canceled all its ferry crossings between Britain and continental Europe, threatening to disrupt the movement of travelers and goods in key routes across the English Channel and North Sea for days. The British government has expressed outrage at the mass firings but suggested it could do little to reverse them. P&O said it had no choice but to cut costs after posting a $132 million loss last year. The opposition Labour Party demanded Britain’s Conservative government claw back the $5.6 million it gave the company in emergency funding during the pandemic.

VOLKSWAGEN-MYSTERY BRAKING

VW recalls over 246,000 SUVs due to unexpected braking

DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen is recalling more than 246,000 SUVs in the U.S. and Canada because faulty wiring harnesses can make them brake unexpectedly, sometimes while in traffic. The recall comes three days after The Associated Press reported that 47 people had complained to U.S. safety regulators about the problem, some reporting nearly being rear-ended by other vehicles. The recall covers certain Atlas SUVs from 2019 through 2023, Atlas Cross Sports from 2020 through 2023. The documents say the electrical contacts on a wiring harness can corrode, interrupting electrical connections. The problem also can cause the side air bags to deploy late in a crash. The company hasn’t developed a fix yet. Owners will get letters starting May 10.

LL BEAN-REVENUE

February home sales fall amid higher mortgage rates, prices

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — Growing interest in the outdoors during the pandemic continues to give a boost to L.L. Bean. The outdoors retailer reported double-digit revenue growth Friday, allowing the board to provide a healthy bonus for workers. CEO Steve Smith says the company had a “fabulous” year with 14% growth in sales in the company’s 2021 fiscal year, the biggest growth since 1993. The family-owned company’s board shared the wealth with workers who received a 20% bonus — 12% in cash and 8% in 401k contributions. All 5,500 full- and part-time employees were eligible for the bonus.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-GERMANY

German lawmakers vote to abolish most pandemic restrictions

BERLIN (AP) — Lawmakers in Germany have voted to abolish most of the country’s coronavirus pandemic restrictions despite a surge in infections, with almost 300,000 new daily cases reported. The Bundestag passed an amendment to the pandemic rules in a 364-277 vote with two abstentions. The upper house of parliament also approved the measure. The changes mean that the requirement to wear face masks can be dropped for most public settings beginning Sunday, though all German states have said they will keep them in place for up to two weeks. Masks may still be required on public transport. Visitors to nursing homes will continue to need negative COVID-19 tests. German states can still impose new restrictions to curb outbreaks in virus “hot spots.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ITALY-ANNIVERSARY

Italy marks 2nd anniversary of haunting COVID-19 milestone

ROME (AP) — Italy is marking the second anniversary of a tragic milestone of the coronavirus pandemic. It was the day when a convoy of army trucks had to transport the dead out of hard-hit Bergamo because the city’s cemeteries and crematoria were full. The Health Ministry called for Italians to observe a minute of silence and President Sergio Mattarella paid tribute to those who died. The city of Bergamo held a commemoration at its living memorial to COVID’s victims: a park of newly planted trees. Italy became the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe after the first locally-transmitted case was confirmed in late February 2020 in the Lombard city of Codogno. But nearby Bergamo soon became the hardest-hit province in the hardest-hit region.

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