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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Wall Street pushes higher to extend week's healthy gains

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is rallying again, extending this week’s climb built on hopes for a coming economic revival. The S&P 500 was on track for its fourth straight gain. That would be its longest winning streak since early February, before the market began to sell off on worries about the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tech and health care stocks were helping to drive the gains, offsetting losses for banks and energy stocks. The S&P 500 is on pace for its third weekly rise of at least 3% in the last four weeks. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

41 million have lost jobs since virus hit, but layoffs slow

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees. About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans. The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression.

ECONOMY-GDP

US economy shrank at 5% annual rate in Q1

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at an even faster pace than initially estimated in the first three months of this year with economists continuing to expect a far worse outcome in the current April-June quarter. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, fell at an annual rate of 5% in the first quarter, a bigger decline than the 4.8% drop first estimated a month ago. It was the biggest quarterly decline since an 8.4% fall in the fourth quarter of 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis.

DURABLE GOODS

Orders for US big-ticket factory goods drop 17.2% in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. orders for big-ticket factory goods plunged for the second straight month in April as the coronavirus pandemic hammered the economy.The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods dropped 17.2% last month after falling 16.6% in March. Excluding orders for transportation equipment, which can be volatile from month to month, durable goods orders fell 7.4%. New orders for cars, trucks and auto parts shrank 52.8%. A category that tracks business investment — orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft — decreased 5.8%. The lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing measures meant to contain COVID-19 have brought economic activity to a near standstill across the United States.

PENDING HOME SALES

Pending home sales plunged 21.8% in April on a monthly basis

BALTIMORE (AP) — April had a record collapse in Americans signing contracts to buy homes. It's a reflection of the broader shutdown of economic activity in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its pending home sales index plunged 21.8% from the prior month to a level of 69, the largest decline registered in data going back to 2001. Pending home sales have fallen 33.8% from a year ago.

MORTGAGE RATES

30-year loan at all-time low 3.15%

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week as the key 30-year home loan marked an all-time low for the third time in the last few months since the coronavirus outbreak took hold.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan tumbled to 3.15% from 3.24% last week. It was the lowest level since since Freddie started tracking rates in 1971. A year ago, the rate stood at 3.99%.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 2.62% from 2.70% last week.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

House to pass changes to business virus aid subsidy program

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan measure to modify a new “paycheck protection” program for businesses that have suffered COVID-related losses. It would give businesses more flexibility to use federal subsidies for other business costs and extend the program for four additional months. Senate passage is likely next week. But talks on a much bigger measure to inject more than $3 trillion more into the economy remain stalled. The Paycheck Protection Program required businesses to spend their loan money within an eight-week window to get the loans forgiven. The new measure gives business owners 24 weeks to spend the federal aid.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VIRGINIA UNEMPLOYMENT

Virginia lags in implementing extended unemployment benefits

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Tens of thousands of Virginians who are eligible for an expanded unemployment benefit Congress enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic are waiting for their money because the state hasn't managed to get the program running yet. A spokeswoman for the Virginia Employment Commission says the agency hopes to have the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program online by July 2. It offers an extra 13 weeks of payment to people who have exhausted their regular benefits. As of early this week, Virginia was one of 19 states that have yet to start making payments. Many laid-off workers are frustrated with the delay and a lack of information.

BRITAIN-EASYJET CUTS

EasyJet, American Airlines to slash workforce amid pandemic

LONDON (AP) — European budget carrier easyJet and American Airlines both plan to cut large parts of their workforces as the global aviation industry struggles to cope with a near total halt to travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Easyjet said Thursday it will cut up to a third of its 15,000 employees. It aims to resume limited service on June 15, but estimates that it may take three years for demand to get back to the levels of 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak grounded flights around the world. American Airlines, meanwhile, plans to cut its 17,000 management and support staff by 30%, or about 5,100 jobs.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DEFIANT BARBER

Court orders defiant Michigan barber to close his shop

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has ordered a barber who has been defying the state's coronavirus restrictions to close his shop. Karl Manke reopened his shop in Owosso on May 4 in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders for certain types of businesses to close to help slow the spread of the disease. The 77-year-old Manke has become a symbol of resistance to the business closures. The appeals court ruled Thursday that Manke failed to rebut the state's claim that barbershops and hair salons pose a risk to public health. Manke told The Associated Press that he doesn't care what the appeals court said and that he'll continue to cut hair.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW YORK

'No mask, no service' rule is OK for NY businesses, governor says

NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will give businesses the right to deny entry to people not wearing masks or face coverings. The promised executive order from Cuomo comes as restrictions on shops are beginning to loosen around the state, though not yet in New York City. The immediate effect of the order is unclear. Many stores already require patrons to wear masks. Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City businesses that try to reopen before coronavirus restrictions are lifted will face fines starting at $1,000. The mayor said Thursday that businesses are not supposed to "make up their own rules and jump the gun."

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ECONOMY

White House won't issue economic projections this summer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump administration official says the White House won't release its official midyear economic update this summer. That means the White House is declining to put its stamp on data documenting the plunge into recession during the pandemic and avoiding going on record with a prediction about the economy’s future. The official says updated information about the budget picture will come out as planned. A significant decline in tax receipts as well as outlays from almost $3 trillion in coronavirus-related aid bills are sure to produce a multitrillion-dollar government deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30.

TRUMP-TWITTER

Trump preparing order targeting social media protections

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is preparing to sign an executive order aimed at curbing liability protections for social media companies. This comes after Trump lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets. Trump had threatened social media companies with new regulation or even shuttering, but he alone can’t do that. The proposed order, which administration officials said he could sign Thursday, would direct executive branch agencies to study whether they can place new rules on the companies. Legal experts have expressed doubts much could be done without an act of Congress, and the order is certain to face legal challenges.

CVS HEALTH-SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE DELIVERIES

CVS Health tests self-driving vehicle prescription delivery

UNDATED (AP) — CVS Health will try delivering prescriptions with self-driving vehicles in a test that begins next month. The drugstore chain said Thursday that it will partner with the Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro on the delivery of medicines and other products to customers near a Houston-area store. A CVS spokesman said the prescriptions will routinely be delivered within an hour of being ordered. Customers will have to confirm their identity in order to unlock their delivery after the Nuro vehicle arrives.

Nuro has previously started partnerships to test the delivery of pizzas for Domino’s or groceries for Kroger, also in the Houston area. And drugstores like CVS Health Corp. and competitor Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. have been expanding home delivery services for a few years now. But using unmanned vehicles to deliver potentially sensitive prescriptions is uncharted territory.

SIMON AND SCHUSTER CEO

Simon & Schuster names Jonathan Karp as new CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Jonathan Karp has been named the new CEO of Simon & Schuster. He replaces Carolyn Reidy, who died two weeks ago. Karp has worked with authors ranging from Sen. Edward Kennedy to Susan Orlean. He joined the company in 2010 and most recently served as president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing. The 56-year-old has a long history of critical and commercial success at Random House, at Twelve and at Simon & Schuster. Notable books he has worked on include Kennedy’s “True Compass,” Orlean’s “The Library Book,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit.” 

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