Stocks edge lower
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street as investors reviewed the latest economic data and corporate earnings amid lingering concerns about inflation and rising interest rates. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose less than 0.1%, and the Nasdaq fell 1.6%. Investors again turned their attention to the drama surrounding Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and Twitter. Musk offered to buy the social media company for $54.20 a share, two weeks after revealing he’d accumulated a 9% stake. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.5% in March, as consumers continue to spend despite high inflation.
Retail sales rise 0.5% in March amid soaring inflation
NEW YORK (AP) — Retail sales rose modestly in March, but higher prices for food, gasoline and other basics took a big share of consumers’ wallets. The Commerce Department says retail sales increased 0.5% after registering a revised 0.8% jump from January to February. Spending has been fueled by wage gains, solid hiring and more money in banking accounts. January’s increase of 4.9% was the biggest jump in spending since March 2021, when American households received a final federal stimulus check of $1,400. Excluding an 8.9% increase at gas stations, overall retail sales were actually down 0.3% last month.
US jobless claims rise but remain near a half-century low
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits ticked up last week but remained at a historically low level, reflecting a robust U.S. labor market with near record-high job openings and few layoffs. Jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 185,000, the Labor Department said, after nearly touching the lowest level since 1968 in the previous week. The four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week ups and downs, edged up from 170,000 to 172,000. Two years after the coronavirus pandemic sent the economy into a brief but devastating recession, American workers are enjoying extraordinary job security. Weekly applications for unemployment aid, a proxy for layoffs, have remained consistently below their pre-pandemic level of 225,000.
Rates continue to climb
WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates continued to climb this week as the key 30-year loan rate reached 5% for the first time in more than a decade amid persistent high inflation. Freddie Mac says the average rate of 5% on the 30-year mortgage was up from 4.72% last week. The average rates have been showing the fastest pace of increases since 1994. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 4.17% from 3.91% last week. With inflation at a four-decade high, rising mortgage rates and elevated home prices, the goal of homeownership has become the most expensive in a generation.
Big bank profits decline as deal-making, mortgages slow
NEW YORK (AP) — Four big banks reported noticeable declines in their first quarter profits on Thursday, as the volatile markets and war in Ukraine caused dealmaking to dry up and a slowdown in the housing market caused the mortgage market to slow. The results from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo were similar to the results out of JPMorgan Chase, which on Wednesday reported a double-digit decline in profits for similar reasons. At Goldman Sachs, profits fell 43% to $3.63 billion. Citigroup posted a 47% decline in profits to $4.00 billion, Wells Fargo’s profits fell 21% and Morgan Stanley’s earnings fell 11%.
UnitedHealth tops Q1 forecasts, raises 2022 outlook
UNDATED (AP) — UnitedHealth Group delivered a better-than-expected first quarter and raised its 2022 forecast, as growth in Medicare Advantage coverage and care delivery once again helped the health care giant. The nation’s largest health insurance provider said enrollment in its Medicare Advantage plans grew nearly 9% to about 6.9 million people. The company also booked growth in other government-funded coverage while its larger commercial enrollment stayed nearly flat. Aside from providing insurance, UnitedHealth also runs an Optum segment that provides care and manages pharmacy benefits for millions of people. First-quarter operating earnings grew 20% to $3.2 billion for that segment.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk offers to buy Twitter for $43 billion
UNDATED (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter outright, saying the social media platform “needs to be transformed” from his perspective as a self-identified “free speech absolutist.” Musk is currently Twitter’s biggest individual shareholder. The company says in a regulatory filing that he has proposed buying the remaining shares of Twitter that he doesn’t already own at $54.20 per share. It’s an offer worth more than $43 billion. Twitter said it has received Musk’s offer and will evaluate it to decide whether it is in the best interests of shareholders to accept or continue to operate as a publicly traded company.
LETGO-WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT
Online marketplace Letgo sued after Denver-area slayings
DENVER (AP) — The online marketplace Letgo is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after the parents of five children were fatally shot and robbed while using the app to try to buy a used SUV in suburban Denver in 2020. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver on Thursday on behalf of the victims’ family. It claims Letgo was negligent because it allowed the alleged shooter to become a “verified seller” using a fake name and despite his criminal history. Letgo has been acquired by Bellevue, Washington-based OfferUp, which also is named as a defendant. Attorneys are seeking damages to be determined by a jury.
IMF chief: Ukraine war and inflation threaten global economy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning that Russia’s war against Ukraine is weakening the economic prospects for most of the world’s countries and calls high inflation “a clear and present danger’’ to the global economy. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says the consequences of Russia’s invasion are contributing to economic downgrades for 143 countries. The war has disrupted global trade in energy and grain and is threatening to cause food shortages in Africa and Middle East. Georgieva made her comments in remarks prepared for a speech ahead of next week’s spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington.
Anti-virus shutdowns in China spread as infections rise
BEIJING (AP) — Anti-virus controls are shutting down some of China’s biggest cities and fueling public irritation as infections rise. That is hurting a slowing economy and prompting warnings of possible global shockwaves. Shanghai is easing rules that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes, but most of its businesses are closed. Other cities are cutting off access or closing factories and schools. Nomura economists warned spring planting by farmers might be disrupted. That might boost demand for imported wheat and other food and push up already high global prices. The closures are an embarrassment to the ruling Communist Party and a setback for official efforts to shore up slumping growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-KID BOOSTER
Pfizer to seek COVID booster for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds
Pfizer wants to expand its COVID-19 booster shots to healthy 5- to 11-year-olds. U.S. health authorities already urge everyone 12 and older to get one booster dose for the best protection. And those 50 and older have the option of a second booster. Pfizer said Thursday new data shows its kid-sized booster could help healthy elementary-aged children rev up virus-fighting antibodies. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech plan to seek authorization of a booster soon. While COVID-19 is a bigger threat to adults, youngsters can get severely ill and omicron caused a surge in child hospitalizations.
CALIFORNIA-FOOD PLANT FIRE
California food plant fire prompts evacuations for thousands
SALINAS, Calif. (AP) — A massive fire at a Northern California food processing plant prompted authorities to tell thousands of nearby residents to evacuate and to order tens of thousands more to stay inside their homes. The fire at the Taylor Farms packaged salad plant in Salinas started Wednesday night and was still burning Thursday morning. Authorities initially said they feared the fire could generate an explosion and a plume of hazardous ammonia. But the Salinas Fire Department said later that those threats appeared to be minimal. About 2,700 people near the plant were told to evacuate and 35,000 were told to stay inside with windows closed.
Amazon CEO Jassy says he wants to improve warehouse safety
UNDATED (AP) — In his first letter to Amazon shareholders, CEO Andy Jassy offered a defense of the wages and benefits the company gives its warehouse workers while also vowing to improve injury rates inside the facilities. Jassy, who took over from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as CEO last July, wrote the company has researched and created a list of the top 100 “employee experience pain points” and is working to solve them. A report released this week by a coalition of four labor unions found Amazon employed 33% of all U.S. warehouse workers in 2021, but was responsible for 49% of all injuries in the industry.
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