Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks mostly lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are mostly lower as another surge in bond yields is causing big declines in technology stocks and the broader market. Investors are cautiously awaiting remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who is expected to speak on inflation and what the central bank may do to combat it. The S&P 500 index was down 0.5% at midday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.3%. The 10-year Treasury yield hit 1.67% vs 1.62% the day before. It’s now the highest since January 2020.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

US housing construction tumbled 10.3% in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Severe winter weather in much of the country pushed home construction down a sharp 10.3% in February while applications for new construction fell 10.8%. The Commerce Department says the decline pushed home and apartment construction down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million units last month, compared to a rate of 1.58 million units in January when housing starts had fallen 5.1 percent. Even with the two months of declines, economists are optimistic that housing will bounce back in coming months, helped by ultra-low mortgage rates and rising demand by American who have been couped up for the past year as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

BIDEN-CABINET-TRADE

Senate confirms Katherine Tai as Biden’s top trade envoy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed Katherine Tai to serve as the nation’s top trade envoy in President Joe Biden’s administration. She will be the first Asian American and first woman of color to hold the position. Tai is considered a problem-solving pragmatist and was confirmed Wednesday on an overwhelming 98-0 vote. She has vowed to work for a trade policy that benefits ordinary workers, not just big corporations. She also promised to work more closely with America’s allies to confront China. In her confirmation hearing, she ducked questions about how she’d handle several politically sensitive questions such as whether to drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WORK FROM HOME

Will work from home outlast virus? Ford’s move suggests yes

DETROIT (AP) — It’s a question occupying the minds of employees who have worked from home the past year: Will they still be allowed to work remotely — at least some days — once the pandemic has faded? On Wednesday, one of America’s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: It told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Ford’s announcement sent one of the clearest signals to date that the pandemic has hastened a cultural shift in Americans’ work lives by erasing any stigma around remote work and encouraging the adoption of technology that enables it.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SCHOOL TESTING

Biden administration to send $10B to states

UNDATED (AP) — The Biden administration is sending $10 billion to states to expand COVID-19 testing in schools, as part of its push to get more schools open five days a week before the end of the school year. The funding is meant to help schools test symptomatic and exposed individuals, as well as establish screening testing for students, teachers and staff members to identify asymptomatic individuals in the community. The Department of Health and Human Services is announcing the spending Wednesday, funded by the newly passed $1.9 trillion virus relief bill.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE-CLOTS

WHO official calls blood clots ‘very rare’

UNDATED (AP) — A top World Health Organization expert on vaccines says people should feel reassured that even if health authorities turn up a link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, such cases are “very rare.” Dr. Kate O’Brien said WHO and the European Medicines Agency are trying to investigate the possibility of a link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca shots. The potential side effect has prompted some countries to temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. O’Brien said during a Wednesday news conference that the current “benefit-risk assessment” is for countries to continue giving the vaccine. Both WHO and the European agency are expected to present updated recommendations on Wednesday or Thursday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK

Experts: Virus surge in Europe a cautionary tale for US

UNDATED (AP) — Health experts say the surge in coronavirus cases in Europe should serve as a warning to the U.S. not to drop its safeguards too early. Optimism is spreading in the U.S. as virus deaths are plummeting and states are easing restrictions. But across Europe tighter restrictions are returning amid a surge of cases that are straining some hospitals. The pandemic’s diverging paths on the two continents can be linked to the more successful vaccine rollout in the U.S. and a wave of more transmissible variants in Europe. Health experts add that some areas of Europe also were too quick to relax distancing requirements.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EU-TRAVEL PASSES

EU sets out virus pass plan to allow free travel by summer

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s executive body has presented a proposal that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc by the summer as long as they have been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease. With summer looming and tourism-reliant countries anxiously waiting for the return of visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission foresees issuing free “Digital Green Certificates” to facilitate travel. The commission on Wednesday proposed delivering the passes to to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but also to those who have tested negative for the virus or can prove they recovered from it.

NCAA TOURNAMENT-FANS

Crowded bars: March Madness or just plain madness?

CHICAGO (AP) — Sports bars all over the country are again able to show March Madness after cities and states across the country have relaxed or totally done away with restrictions that were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For many fans, the experience of watching the games in a favorite watering hole provides a welcome return to some sort of normalcy. But some public health experts worry that crowded bars may lead to an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths. Only a limited number of fans will be allowed in the stands to watch the games in Indiana. As for those who choose to watch at bars or restaurants, their experiences will vary depending on their location.

AMAZON HEALTH CARE

Amazon jumps into health care with telemedicine initiative

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Amazon is making its first foray into providing health care services. The tech giant announced Wednesday that it will be offering its Amazon Care telemedicine program to employers nationwide. Amazon Care is an app currently available only to its employees in Washington state. The app connects users virtually with doctors and nurses who can provide services and treatment over the phone 24 hours a day. In the Seattle area, it’s supplemented with in-person services like pharmacy delivery and house-call services from nurses who can take blood work and provide similar services. Now Amazon says it will expand the service to interested private employers across the nation by summer.

JAPAN-NUCLEAR

Japanese regulators say TEPCO nuclear plant prone to attack

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese nuclear regulators have said the world’s largest nuclear power plant will not restart anytime soon due to serious holes in the anti-terrorism measures found at the facility on the northern Japanese coast. The Nuclear Regulation Authority at its weekly meeting decided to suspend further safety inspection and other processes for a restart of the No. 7 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant on the northern Japanese coast in Niigata prefecture. The plant is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility behind the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The authority said regulators since last March have found malfunctioning equipment for anti-terrorism measures and nuclear materials protection at multiple locations at the plant.

GERMANY-BMW-ELECTRIC CARS

German automaker BMW ramps up electric vehicle offerings

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German automaker BMW is stepping up its push into electric transportation. The company said Wednesday that it is aiming to make half of its sales from battery-powered models by 2030. The company underlined the point by unveiling a new all-electric model three months ahead of plan. However, BMW declined to follow General Motors and other automakers who intend to completely phase out internal combustion cars by a specific date. Instead, the Munich-based carmaker said it would adjust production among battery, hybrid and efficient internal combustion engines as different parts of the world adopt cars that produce zero emissions at different speeds.

PHILANTHROPY-CORPORATIONS-RACIAL-INJUSTICE

Corporations become unlikely financiers of racial equity

UNDATED (AP) — An unexpected group, not known for activism, emerged in 2020 as an unlikely financier of social change: corporations. The philanthropy research organization Candid says corporations pledged about $8.2 billion out of the $12 billion in contributions. Experts say its the first time direct corporate giving to racial equity causes has reached this magnitude. But tracking those funds can pose a challenge since many of the initial pledges lack details on where the money is going. Candid’s figures don’t even count other types of investment pledges by companies, which a report by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company December found reached $66 billion in October.

ANGIE’S LIST-NEW NAME

Angie’s List changes its name to Angi

NEW YORK (AP) — Angie’s List has a new name: Angi. The website said Wednesday that it changed its name to better reflect what it does now. Founded in 1995 as an online directory to research and rate local plumbers and other home contractors, it has evolved into a site where users can book, schedule and pay someone to unclog a toilet or mount a TV to the wall. As part of the revamp, its Denver-based parent company, ANGI Homeservices Inc., will also change its name to Angi Inc. The company’s stock symbol will remain unchanged as “ANGI.”

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