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Business Highlights

US job market’s modest improvement may be stalling

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely fell last week, and the reopening of small businesses has leveled off — evidence that the job market’s gains may have stalled just as a surge in coronavirus cases is endangering an economic recovery. The government also reported that the economy contracted at a 5% annual rate in the first three months of the year, a further sign of the damage being inflicted by the viral pandemic. The economy is expected to shrink at a roughly 30% rate in the current quarter. That would be the worst quarterly contraction, by far, since record-keeping began in 1948. ___

US GDP fell at 5.0% rate in Q1; worse is likely on the way

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at a 5.0% rate in the first quarter with a much worse decline expected in the current three-month economic period because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the decline in the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services was unchanged from the estimate made a month ago. That was the sharpest quarterly decline since an 8.4% fall in the fourth quarter of 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis. ___

Fed stops big banks from buying back stock, paying dividends

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Reserve says a worst-case scenario for the U.S. economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic would cause nation’s 34 largest banks to collectively lose roughly $700 billion. To bolster the banks ahead such a potentially damaging recession, the Fed ordered the banks to suspend stock buybacks and dividend payouts until Sept. 30. The moves came as the central bank unveiled its latest “stress tests,’” which are designed to test the resiliency of the nation’s largest banks. ___

Audit: US sent $1.4B in virus relief payments to dead people

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government watchdog says nearly 1.1 million relief payments totaling some $1.4 billion went to dead people in the government’s coronavirus aid program. More than 130 million so-called economic impact payments were sent to taxpayers as part of the $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package enacted in March. The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing arm, cites the number of erroneous payments to deceased taxpayers in a new report on the government programs. The IRS asked in May for the money back from the deceased taxpayers’ survivors. ___

Banks lead gains for stocks on Wall Street in jumpy trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Financial companies led stocks broadly higher on Wall Street Thursday as traders welcomed news that the Federal Reserve and other regulators are removing some limits on the ability of banks to make investments. The S&P 500 rose 1.1% after a jumpy day of trading. News on the economy was mixed. The U.S. shrank at a 5.0% rate in the first quarter, but a much worse decline is expected in the current period. Another 1.5 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. However, that’s the 12th straight drop and a sign that layoffs are slowing but still at a painfully high level. ___

Federal banking agencies ease Volcker Rule restrictions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve and four other regulatory agencies say that they have finalized a rule that will ease restrictions curtailing the ability of banks to make investments in such areas as hedge funds. The announcement of the easing of regulations know as the “Volcker Rule” gave an immediate boost to bank stocks because the rule change could free up billions of dollars in capital in the banking industry. The Volcker Rule was part of the overhaul of banking regulation approved in the Dodd-Frank Act passed by Congress in 2010 in an effort to curtail excesses that had led to the 2008 financial crisis, the country’s worst banking crisis since the 1930s. ___

Pandemic takes a bite, Chuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy

NEW YORK (AP) — Chuck E Cheese is filing for bankruptcy protection. The 43-year-old chain, which drew kids with pizza, video games and a singing mouse mascot, was struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic. But it said the prolonged closure of many venues due to virus restrictions led to Thursday’s Chapter 11 filing. Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc. has reopened 266 company-operated Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza restaurants, but it’s unclear how willing parents will be to host birthday parties and other gatherings. The company says it will continue to reopen locations and offer carryout while it negotiates with debt and lease holders.

US mortgage rates stall; 30-year remains at all-time low

NEW YORK (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage were unchanged this week as the benchmark 30-year home loan remains at a its lowest rate in nearly 50 years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the key 30-year loan stood at 3.13%. It is the lowest level since Freddie began tracking average rates in 1971. A year ago, the rate stood at 3.73%. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose slightly to 2.59% from 2.58% last week, but down from 3.16%. a year ago. ___

The S&P 500 added 33.43 points, or 1.1%, to 3,083.76. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 299.66 points, or 1.2%, to 25,745.60. The Nasdaq gained 107.84 points, or 1.1%, to 10,017. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks climbed 23.57 points, or 1.7%, to 1,413.31.

Updated : 2021-04-20 05:42 GMT+08:00