Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have moved broadly lower on Wall Street as the major indexes headed for steep monthly losses. The S&P 500 fell 0.8% and is on track for a 4.4% loss in September. It would mark the first monthly loss since January and the worst for the benchmark index since March 2020. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.3% and the Nasdaq fell 0.2%. Banks and a mix of companies that provide consumer goods and services posted some of the biggest losses. Bond yields edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.51%.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Jobless claims rise for 3rd week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has risen for the third straight week, a sign that the highly contagious delta variant may be slowing the job market’s recovery. The Labor Department says claims were up by 11,000 last week to 362,000. Since topping 900,000 in early January, applications have mostly fallen steadily as the economy bounces back from last year’s shutdowns. But they’ve risen recently as coronavirus cases tick up again. The numbers, which are a proxy for layoffs, remain elevated: Before the pandemic hit the United States hard in March 2020, they were typically coming in at around 220,000 a week.

ECONOMY-GDP

US slightly revises up its GDP estimate for Q2 to 6.7%

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department says the U.S. economy expanded at a 6.7% annual pace from April through June. That’s a slight upgrade of its previous estimate of last quarter’s growth. The estimate of growth in the second quarter — its last of three — is up from its earlier estimate of a 6.6% annual pace. It will likely mark a high point for the economy’s expansion this year as the coronavirus slows some activity, government support programs wind down and manufacturing supply-chain issues persist.

SURGING NATURAL GAS PRICES

Surging natural gas prices: Threat to consumers this winter?

NEW YORK (AP) — Brace for a rude surprise on your winter heating bills. After years of unusually inexpensive levels, the price of natural gas in the United States has more than doubled since this time last year. In Europe and Asia, wholesale prices are more than five times what they were a year ago. The surging costs have coincided with a robust recovery from the pandemic recession, with more homes and businesses burning all forms of fuel. That intensified demand is poised to contribute to higher heating costs in many areas of the world.

CONGRESS-BUDGET

Biden plan at stake, Pelosi pushes ahead for $3.5T deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — With President Joe Biden’s government overhaul agenda at stake, Democrats are charging headlong into trouble. Thursday’s promised vote on the first piece, a slimmer $1 trillion public works bill, is faltering amid stalled talks on his more ambitious package. Attention is focused on Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to spell out what size package they can live with. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she’s pressing ahead, trying to strike a Biden deal in time to vote on the companion $1 trillion public works bill. Meanwhile, Congress moved closer to resolving a separate issue over keeping the government funded past Thursday’s fiscal yearend.

CONGRESS-FACEBOOK

Facebook exec defends policies toward teens on Instagram

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing lawmakers’ outrage against Facebook over its handling of internal research on harm to teens from Instagram, a Facebook executive is telling Congress that the company is working to protect young people on its platforms. And she disputes the way a recent newspaper story describes what the research shows. Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety, was testifying for a Senate Commerce subcommittee Thursday. Davis was summoned by the panel as public pressure builds against Facebook for privately compiling information that its Instagram photo-sharing service appears to grievously harm some teens, especially girls, while publicly downplaying the popular platform’s negative impact.

AP POLL-VACCINE MANDATES

Biden vaccine mandate splits US on party lines: AP-NORC poll

A survey of Americans on President Joe Biden’s plan to require most workers to get either vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19 finds a deep and familiar divide: Democrats are overwhelmingly for it, while most Republicans are against it. With the highly contagious delta variant driving deaths up to around 2,000 per day, the poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that overall, 51% say they approve of the Biden requirement, 34% disapprove and 14% hold neither opinion.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNITED AIRLINES

United says some workers facing termination got vaccinated

UNDATED (AP) — United Airlines says only about 300 employees face dismissal for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, about half the number that the airline reported earlier this week. United said Thursday that many employees facing termination uploaded their vaccination cards and won’t get fired. That cuts the number of airline workers facing termination from 593 to 320. United announced the vaccine requirement in August. The airline says about 99% of its workers either got vaccinated or applied for a medical or religious exemption.

MERCK-ACCELERON

Merck spends $11.5B for Acceleron, possible blockbuster drug

UNDATED (AP) — Merck will spend about $11.5 billion to buy Acceleron Pharma and its potential treatment for high blood pressure in vessels that connect the lungs and heart. The drugmaker says it will pay $180 per share in cash for Acceleron in a deal expected to close in the fourth quarter. Acceleron is running late-stage studies of a potential treatment for patients with life-threatening pulmonary arterial hypertension. Merck executives told analysts Thursday that the drug has multi-billion dollar peak sales potential. They hope to launch it in 2024 or 2025.

MAZDA-TOYOTA PLANT

Production begins at new Alabama auto plant; hiring ongoing

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) — Production is beginning at a new auto plant in Alabama and the joint venture between Mazda and Toyota is still hiring workers. The first 2022 Corolla Cross vehicle was produced at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, a joint venture between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. In 2018, the Japanese automakers selected Huntsville, Alabama, for the mammoth facility that will eventually have the capability to produce up to 300,000 vehicles per year: 150,000 each of a new Toyota SUV and a future Mazda crossover vehicle. The joint venture on Thursday said it was in the middle of hiring another 1,700 workers and anticipates reaching up to 4,000 employees once production is in full operation next year.

HYUNDAI-KIA RECALL

Hyundai-Kia recall: turn signal can flash in wrong direction

DETROIT (AP) — Hyundai and Kia are recalling more than 550,000 cars and minivans in the U.S. because the turn signals can flash in the opposite direction of what the driver intended. The recall covers Hyundai’s Sonata midsize car from the 2015 through 2015 model years, and Sonata gas-electric hybrids from 2016 and 2017. Kia’s Sedona minivan from 2015 through 2017 also is affected. Hyundai says software in a junction box may not properly interpret signals sent from a multi-function switch. The Korean automaker says it doesn’t know of any crashes or injuries from the problem. Dealers will update the software at no cost to owners. Hyundai will begin mailing notification letters to customers on Nov. 19, while letters will go to Kia owners starting Nov. 12.

AMAZON-FIRED WORKERS-SETTLEMENT

Amazon settles with 2 outspoken workers it fired last year

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is settling with two former tech workers who accused the company of illegally firing them last year for speaking out against the company. The former employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, publicly criticized the Seattle-based company and pushed Amazon to better protect warehouse workers from COVID-19. They also wanted Amazon to do more to reduce its impact on climate change. Cunningham and Costa said the settlement means Amazon will have to pay them lost wages wages and put up notices saying the company can’t fire workers for organizing and exercising their rights. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

CHURCHILL DOWNS-NEW VENUE

Churchill Downs to open gaming venue in downtown Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The company that owns Churchill Downs racetrack has placed its own big wager by announcing plans to open a casino-style venue in downtown Louisville. With its new entertainment facility, Churchill Downs Inc. is deepening its commitment to wagering on historical horse races. The company said Thursday that the venue will open with 500 historical horse racing machines. The slot-style machines allow people to bet on randomly generated, past horse races. Such ventures have become lucrative revenue sources for Kentucky racetracks. Churchill’s new venture is projected to open in early 2023. The Churchill Downs racetrack is home to the Kentucky Derby.

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