Business Highlights

US jobless claims fall below 1 million but remain high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level. The viral pandemic keeps forcing layoffs just as the expiration of a $600-a-week federal jobless benefit has deepened the hardships for many. The Labor Department said applications fell to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week. The decline suggests that layoffs are slowing, though last week’s figure still exceeds the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump payroll tax cut is Social Security risk

BALTIMORE (AP) — President Donald Trump’s proposed payroll tax cut is a threat to Social Security no matter how he casts it. That’s the finding of an AP Fact Check. He insists he can eliminate the tax without undercutting retirement benefits or greatly adding to the deficit. That claim has little basis in reality. By not providing an alternative source of revenues, Trump has actually endorsed defunding Social Security. Over a 10-year period, Trump’s idea would blow a $16.1 trillion hole in a U.S. budget that’s already laden with rising debt loads. During a news briefing Wednesday, Trump also pointed to a manufacturing boom during a coronavirus pandemic that isn’t.

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Ex-Fed Chair Yellen advises Biden on virus economic fallout

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is among a team of advisers who has briefed Joe Biden about the economic fallout from coronavirus — taking on an unusually political role for a former head of the U.S. central bank. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign announced that Yellen was among a group of experts briefing virtually for Biden and his newly chosen running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.

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For Americans waiting on virus aid, no new relief in sight

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Washington talks on emergency coronavirus aid having stalled, both sides are playing the blame game rather than making any serious moves to try to break their stalemate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday pressed the case for funding for the U.S. Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid virus testing. Pelosi blasts Republicans as not caring and says “people will die” if the delay grinds into September. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are “rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19.”

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Wall Street falls just short of record for S&P 500, again

NEW YORK (AP) — Another afternoon fade for stocks left Wall Street just shy of its record heights on Thursday. For the second straight day, the S&P 500 briefly crossed above the record closing level it set in February, before investors appreciated how much devastation the new coronavirus would cause for the global economy. But it began to fade in the afternoon and ended the day down 0.2%. It’s just the second loss for the S&P 500 in the last 10 days. Stocks began stumbling in the early afternoon as Treasury yields were accelerating following an auction of 30-year bonds by the U.S. government.

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Facebook beefs up anti-misinfo efforts ahead of US election

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Facebook will start labeling all U.S. posts about voting to send users authoritative information about the elections. The social network began applying the labels to posts about the voting process by federal politicians, including President Donald Trump, last month. Now it’s expanding it to everyone in the country. The move is part of Facebook’s broader effort to combat election-related misinformation on its platform as the U.S. presidential election nears. The company is also launching a voter information hub, similar to one around COVID-19 it says has been seen by “billions” of users around the world.

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Apple drops Fortnite from App Store over direct payment plan

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple has dropped the hugely popular “Fortnite” game from its App Store after the game’s developer introduced a direct payment plan that bypasses Apple’s platform. Apple takes a 30% cut from in-app revenue purchases, which has long been a sore spot with developers. “Fortnite” is free, but users can pay for in game accoutrements like weapons and skins. The game’s developer, Epic Games, said in a blog post it was introducing Epic Direct payments, a direct-payment plan for Apple’s iOS and Google Play that bypasses the App Store. Apple said the service violated its guidelines. Google did not immediately return a request for comment.

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US long-term mortgage rates rise; 30-year at 2.96%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. average rates on long-term mortgages rose this week but remained at historically low levels. The key 30-year loan stayed below 3%. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the average rate on the 30-year home loan increased to 2.96% from 2.88% last week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 2.46% from 2.44% from last week. Mortgage refinancing, which has boomed amid the record low interest rates this year, could cost many homeowners more because of a new fee announced by Freddie Mac and its larger sibling Fannie Mae.

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The S&P 500 dipped 6.92 points, or 0.2%, to 3,373.43. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 80.12, or 0.3%, to 27,896.72. The Nasdaq composite climbed 30.27, or 0.3%, to 11,042.50. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 3.46 points, or 0.2%, to end at 1,579.79.