Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:54 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
Stocks swing on Wall Street as September stays volatile
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising in afternoon trading on Wall Street, as volatility continues to be the dominant force in a tumultuous month for the market. The S&P 500 was 0.8% higher, after earlier yo-yoing between small losses and gains. The day’s headline report showed that 870,000 workers filed for unemployment claims last week, a worse number than economists expected. But stocks recovered from their early losses following a report on home sales that was much stronger than economists expected. A turnaround for Big Tech stocks also helped to lift the market. The market’s momentum has shifted with lightning speed recently, often changing direction by the hour.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-JOBLESS CLAIMS
Jobless claims at 870,000 as fraud and backlogs cloud data
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose slightly last week to 870,000, a historically high figure that shows that the viral pandemic is still squeezing restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it first erupted. The figure coincides with evidence that some newly laid-off Americans are facing delays in receiving unemployment benefits as state agencies intensify efforts to combat fraudulent applications and clear their pipelines of a backlog of jobless claims.
NEW HOME SALES
Sales of new homes surge
NEW YORK (AP) — Sales of new homes rose by a very strong 4.8% in August to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.01 million units. The gains reported today by the Commerce Department follow steep declines in March and April when COVID-19 infections spread in the U.S. That pace picked back up in the summer, driving home prices in many places to record highs.
The median price of a new home sold last month was $312,800.
Rates tick up
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Average rates on long-term mortgages are up slightly this week but remain at historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year home loan edged up to 2.90% from 2.87% last week. One year ago, the rate averaged 3.64%. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also rose, to 2.40% from 2.35% last week.
Mnuchin and Powell back jobless aid and small business loans
WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday that the government’s top priorities in any new economic relief package should be to provide affordable loans to small businesses and further support for millions of Americans who remain unemployed. With the prospects for any new federal aid package appearing dim, members of the Senate Banking Committee pressed both officials to list improvements that could be quickly made in the nearly $3 trillion in support that Congress has passed to fight the pandemic-induced recession that’s left nearly 11 million people still jobless.
UK announces new plan to help workers hit by pandemic
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s treasury chief has announced a new income support program for workers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic as the government races to prevent widespread layoffs when earlier employer subsidies end next month. Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his plan Thursday to subsidize the wages of workers whose hours are cut due to the pandemic as part of a wider package of measures to help businesses and bolster the economy. The plan comes in response to pressure from businesses and labor unions for the government to step in with more direct support for people in precarious work situations. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to soar across the U.K., which has the deadliest outbreak in Europe.
Drug companies work jointly to boost vaccine confidence
LONDON (AP) — Top officials of two firms developing COVID-19 vaccines say pharmaceutical companies are working together to see how much information they can release to the public about their testing regimes as drugmakers and public health officials try to boost confidence that any vaccine approved by regulators will be safe to use. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, said Thursday during a panel discussion sponsored by the World Economic Forum that they recognize the coronavirus emergency demands increased transparency from vaccine developers to ensure the public has faith in the end product. But they stressed that there are limits to this transparency because they must protect patient confidentiality.
Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021
BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese pharmaceutical company says its coronavirus vaccine candidate will be ready for the world by early next year. SinoVac currently has clinical trials in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. The company has already injected thousands of people with the vaccine in China, including 90% of its staff and its CEO, under emergency use approval from the Chinese government. The vaccine has passed stage 1 and stage 2 clinical trials, but has not finished stage 3 trials, which are the global standard. The company says it will prioritize distribution of the vaccine to countries hosting its human trials.
Lufthansa to try out pre-flight corona tests on routes to US
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Lufthansa says it’s going to test the practice of offering coronavirus tests before flying on intercontinental routes. The Germany airline says it’s working with pharmaceutical companies to obtain antibody tests that give results in 15 minutes. The pilot project will be tested on several routes to the US in October. Lufthansa cautions that such testing is going to require government approval. Airline industry representatives are calling for testing to replace quarantines as a way to get people flying again despite the pandemic.
Rite Aid tops Street 2Q expectations, revises forecast
CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) — Rite Aid topped Wall Street expectations for the fiscal second quarter and gave a revised annual forecast, one quarter after withdrawing it due to COVID-19 uncertainty. The drugstore chain said Thursday that its quarterly loss shrank to $13.2 million from $79.3 million in the previous year’s quarter. An income tax drop, an inventory credit and pharmacy sales growth helped. Rite Aid now expects full-year results to range from a loss of 67 cents per share to earnings of 9 cents per share. The company runs more than 2,400 pharmacies in 18 states and provides pharmacy benefits through its Elixir business.
APP FAIRNESS COALITION
Apple’s smaller rivals unite to fight iPhone app store rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — Spotify and the makers of Fortnite and Tinder are taking on Apple and Google as part of a newly formed coalition calling for “fair treatment” in the way the tech giants run their app stores. The Coalition for App Fairness, a Washington-based nonprofit, launched Thursday and will advocate for legal and regulatory changes. Those could include measures that could block Apple and Google from favoring their own apps in the iPhone and Android operating systems they control. The activism from smaller rivals adds to scrutiny the tech giants are facing from U.S. and European regulators and lawmakers.
Facebook oversight board to start operating in October
LONDON (AP) — Facebook’s long-awaited oversight board that will act as a referee on whether specific content is allowed on the tech giant’s platforms is set to launch in October. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced two years ago that he was setting up the quasi-independent board, following criticism that the company wasn’t moving fast enough to remove misinformation, hate speech and malign influence campaigns. The board is intended to rule on thorny content issues, such as when Facebook or Instagram posts constitute hate speech. The board said it’s testing newly deployed technical systems and if those tests go to plan, it would start accepting and reviewing appeals from users in mid to late October.
TikTok’s owner applies for Chinese license to close US deal
BEIJING (AP) — TikTok’s owner says it has applied for a Chinese technology export license as it tries to complete a deal with Oracle and Walmart to keep the popular video app operating in the United States. Responding to Washington’s attempt to force an outright sale of TikTok to U.S. owners on security grounds, Beijing tried to gain leverage by expanding its list of regulated technologies to include “personalized information services.”
President Donald Trump said this week he would approve a proposed deal in which Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. would own 20% of a new U.S. entity, TikTok Global. ByteDance said Thursday it applied to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce for a technology export license and awaited a reply.
Former VW boss Winterkorn faces trial on 2nd set of charges
BERLIN (AP) — A German court has ruled that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn must face trial on a second set of charges in the company’s diesel emissions scandal, these ones related to alleged market manipulation. Thursday’s announcement by the Braunschweig state court followed a decision earlier this month that he must stand trial on fraud charges. No date has been set for either set of proceedings. Winterkorn, who has denied wrongdoing, resigned days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a notice of violation on Sept. 18, 2015. The company had for years been using software that turned emission controls off during normal driving.
FRUITS OF LABOR
Palm oil labor abuses linked to world’s top brands, banks
PENINSULAR MALAYSIA (AP) — An Associated Press investigation into the invisible workforce of millions of laborers toiling in the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia found many of them suffering from various forms of exploitation — the most serious including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape. The workers from some of the poorest corners of Asia tend the heavy reddish-orange palm oil fruit that makes its way into the supply chains of many iconic food and cosmetics companies like Unilever, L’Oreal, Nestle and Procter & Gamble. Together, the two countries produce about 85 percent of the world’s estimated $65 billion palm oil supply.