Fed and Treasury urge Congress to approve more virus relief
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are urging Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic. In his most direct comments so far, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that it’s “very important” for Congress to provide economic support. New funding would serve as a “bridge” for the economy to get from the current environment in which virus infections are spiking, to next year when vaccines should be widely available, Powell said. Powell said, “We are trying to get as many people across that bridge as we can.” Powell said.
Top Democrats swing behind bipartisan coronavirus aid bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders have swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort. They’re cutting their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid at the end of a tempestuous congressional session. It’s aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall. The new plan would establish a $300 per week jobless benefit, send $160 billion to help state and local governments, revive popular “paycheck protection” subsidies for businesses, and bail out transit systems and airlines.
Walmart drops $35 minimum for its members’ online orders
NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers on Walmart.com who pay a $98-a-year membership fee will get free shipping on orders of any size starting Friday. Walmart announced the membership perk on Wednesday, doing away with a previous requirement that orders amount to at least $35 to qualify for free shipping. The perk comes two months after Walmart launched its membership service called Walmart+, which it hopes will compete with Amazon’s Prime membership program. Walmart+ members will receive free next-day and two-day shipping on non-perishable items shipped by Walmart, no matter the purchase amount. The move builds on the retailer’s pledge to continue adding benefits to its membership program, which also includes unlimited free grocery deliveries and fuel discounts.
Fed reports slowing US economic activity due to virus surge
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve survey of business conditions around the country has found that economic activity in several regions slowed in November as coronavirus cases surged. The Fed report released Wednesday says that overall, the Fed’s 12 regional banks characterize the economic expansion as “modest or moderate.” But it notes that three Midwest regions and the Philadelphia region reported activity had begun to slow in early November as COVID-19 cases surged. The report says that most districts found that optimism among business contacts has “waned” with many citing concerns about the wave of virus cases and renewed lockdown restrictions.
Stock indexes shake off a weak start and end mostly higher
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks shook off early losses and managed to end mostly higher on Wall Street, even as weakness in technology companies weighed on major U.S. indexes. The S&P 500 edged up 0.2% Wednesday after trading lower for much of the day. The Nasdaq fell slightly and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked up 0.2%. Salesforce.com sank after announcing a deal late Tuesday to buy messaging platform Slack for $27.7 billion. The mixed trading came as investors become more optimistic that coronavirus vaccines could start driving a stronger economic recovery. Treasury yields rose and crude oil prices ended higher.
US tightens definition of service animals allowed on planes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Say goodbye to emotional-support animals in airplane cabins. The Transportation Department issued a final rule Wednesday covering service animals. The rule says only dogs can qualify, and they have to be specially trained to help a person with disabilities. For years, some travelers have been bringing untrained dogs and all kinds of other animals on board by claiming they need the animal for emotional support. Airlines believe some passengers were avoiding pet fees by calling their pets emotional-support animals. The new rules take effect in 30 days.
Waiting for passengers, American puts Boeing Max in the air
DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines is taking its long-grounded Boeing 737 Max jets out of storage, updating key flight-control software, and flying the planes in preparation for the first flights with paying passengers later this month. The airline invited press reporters and photographers on board one of the planes Wednesday to demonstrate its confidence in the plane’s safety. All Max jets worldwide were grounded in March 2019 after the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes — mainly in flight-control software — that will allow airlines to resume flying the plane.
The S&P 500 rose 6.56 points, or 0.2%, to 3,669.01. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 59.87 points, or 0.2%, to 29,883.79. The Nasdaq composite slipped 5.74 points, or 0.1%, to 12,349.37. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks finished up 1.98 points, or 0.1%, at 1,838.03.