Business Highlights

US jobless claims remain high at 712,000 as virus escalates

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a still-high 712,000, the latest sign that the U.S. economy and job market remain under stress from the intensified viral outbreak. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said that initial claims for jobless aid dropped from 787,000 the week before. Before the virus paralyzed the economy in March, the number of people applying for unemployment benefits each week had typically amounted to roughly 225,000. The chronically high pace of applications shows that nearly nine months after the pandemic struck, many employers are still slashing jobs.

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Senate confirms Christopher Waller to serve on Fed’s board

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed the nomination of Christopher Waller for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, placing another of President Donald Trump’s picks on the Fed’s influential board after a string of high-profile rejections. The vote in favor of Waller’s appointment was 48-47. Waller, research director for the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, has built a career of solid economic credentials and has endured far less scrutiny than Judy Shelton, the controversial nominee he was paired with and who was voted down in the Senate last month.

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OPEC, Russia to nudge up oil output after hit from pandemic

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — OPEC and a group of allied countries including Russia have agreed to increase their oil production by 500,000 barrels per day from January. Alexander Novak, deputy prime minister of Russia, announced the decision on Thursday after long talks as oil producing countries weighed the outlook for energy demand amid the pandemic. Oil producing countries face a difficult situation. The pandemic has sapped demand for fuel across the economy, which induced them to cut back production this year to keep prices from sagging even more than they have. Yet the lower production means less revenue for governments that depend on oil sales to fill state coffers.

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Facebook to remove COVID-19 vaccine-related misinformation

LONDON (AP) — Facebook says it will start removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, in its latest move to counter a tide of coronavirus-related online misinformation. The social network said Thursday that it will take down any Facebook or Instagram posts with false information about the vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. The U.S. tech giant is taking action as the first COVID vaccines are set to be rolled out. Facebook said it’s applying a policy to remove virus misinformation that could lead to “imminent physical harm.” Posts that fall afoul of the policy could include phony claims about vaccine safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects.

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Boeing gets a boost from Ryanair order for 75 more Max jets

CHICAGO (AP) — Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet is getting a vote of confidence from one of Europe’s biggest budget airlines. Ireland’s Ryanair announced Thursday that it will order 75 more Max jets, bringing its total orders to 210. The move comes as the plane is expected to resume carrying paying passengers. Last month, regulators in the U.S. and Europe set conditions under which airlines can make changes to the plane and resume passenger flights. The plane was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes that killed 346 people.

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Phishing ploy targets COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort

BOSTON (AP) — IBM security researchers say they have detected a cyberespionage effort that used targeted phishing emails to try to collect vital information associated with a U.N. initiative for distributing coronavirus vaccine to developing countries. IBM says it can’t be sure who is behind the campaign. But it says that the precise and careful targeting — of companies in countries including Germany, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan — suggest a nation-state is behind the campaign. Targets that included solar panel and petrochemical companies got phishing emails from someone posing as an executive with a key Chinese supplier.

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Govt accuses Facebook of discriminating against US workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is accusing Facebook in a lawsuit of discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of foreigners with special visas to fill more than 2,600 high-paying jobs. The Justice Department announced the suit Thursday, alleging that the tech giant refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers for the positions that it reserved for temporary visa holders. Facebook sponsored the visa holders for “green cards” authorizing them to work permanently. The positions at issue offered an average salary of around $156,000.

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In seismic shift, Warner Bros. to stream all 2021 films

NEW YORK (AP) — In the most seismic shift by a Hollywood studio yet during the pandemic, Warner Bros. Pictures on Thursday announced that all of its 2021 film slate — including a new “Matrix” movie, “Godzilla vs. Kong” and the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation “In the Heights” — will stream on HBO Max at the same time they play in theaters. Films will debut simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max in the U.S. After one month, they will stop streaming and continue to play only in theaters. The move follows Warner Bros.′ decision to put “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max next December, in addition to in theaters.

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The S&P 500 slipped 2.29 points, or 0.1%, to 3,666.72. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 85.73 points, or 0.3%, to 29,969.52. The Nasdaq composite added 27.82 points, or 0.2%, to 12,377.18. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks, picked up 10.67 points, or 0.6%, to 1,848.70.