Across US and Europe, pandemic’s grip on economies tightens
WASHINGTON (AP) — The worsening of the viral pandemic across the United States and Europe is threatening their economies and intensifying pressure on governments and central banks on both continents to intervene aggressively. In a worrisome sign of the harm the virus is inflicting in the U.S, the government said Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped last week to 853,000 — the most since September. The surge in jobless claims made clear that many companies are still shedding workers as states reimpose business shutdowns and consumers avoid shopping, traveling or dining out.
US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The group, in a 17-4 vote with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older. A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.
UK’s Johnson: ‘Strong possibility’ Brexit talks will fail
BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is a “strong possibility” that talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU will end without agreement. The U.K. and the EU have given themselves a deadline of Sunday to unlock their gridlocked trade talks. Both sides told their citizens to brace for a New Year’s shock, as trade between the U.K. and the European mainland could face its biggest upheaval in almost a half century. Johnson’s gloomy comments came as negotiators sought to find a belated breakthrough in technical talks, where their leaders failed three times in political discussions over the past week.
Airbnb shares more than double in price in long-awaited IPO
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Airbnb shares more than doubled in price as the home sharing company made its debut Thursday on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Airbnb’s shares closed Thursday at $144.71, giving the company a valuation of $100 billion. San Francisco-based Airbnb raised $3.7 billion in the offering, making it the largest U.S. IPO of the year. Airbnb has never made an annual profit, and its revenue has fallen 32% this year due to the pandemic. But its home rentals are recovering more quickly than hotels as guests flee crowded cities.
US budget deficit up 25.1% in first 2 months of budget year
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s deficit in the first two months of the budget year ran 25.1% higher than the same period a year ago, as spending to deal with the COVID pandemic soared while tax revenues fell. The Treasury Department reported Thursday that with two months gone in the budget year, the deficit totaled $429.3 billion, up from $343.3 billion in last year’s October-November period. The deficit — the shortfall between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends — reflected an 8.9% jump in outlays and a 2.9% decline in tax revenues.
November consumer prices up 0.2% as energy costs rise
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices edged up 0.2% in November as a rise in energy costs and variety of other items offset a drop in food costs. The Labor Department reported that the gain in the consumer price index followed an unchanged reading in October and matched the 0.2% September advance. Still, the increase remained far below the 0.6% increases seen in June and July.
Stock indexes end mixed as damage to the economy piles up
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks wobbled to a mixed finish on Wall Street Thursday following more evidence that the pandemic is tightening its grip on the economy. Meanwhile, efforts in Congress to supply more financial support to people and businesses remain stuck. The S&P 500 slipped 0.1%. Treasury yields fell following a worse-than-expected report on unemployment claims. It’s the latest reminder that the pandemic is doing more damage to the economy in the near term, even if prospects are rising that a COVID-19 vaccine will get the economy healthy in the longer term. Shares of Airbnb soared in their stock market debut.
Visa, Mastercard won’t allow charges for services on Pornhub
NEW YORK (AP) — The credit card companies Visa and Mastercard says they will no longer allow its customers use the cards to charge for services on the pornographic website Pornhub. The website, which claimed 42 billion visits last year, has been accused of showing videos that depict rape, underage and nonconsensual sex — most prominently in an investigation published last weekend in The New York Times. Mastercard says it has terminated its relationship with Pornhub after its own investigation confirmed violations of standards. Visa says it is still investigating, but suspended use of the card on the site. Pornhub called the decisions ‘exceptionally disappointing.’
The S&P 500 fell 4.72 points, or 0.2%, to 3,668.10. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 69.55 points, or 0.2%, to 29,999.26. The Nasdaq composite rose 66.85 points, or 0.5%, to 12,405.81. The Russell 2000 of smaller-company stocks climbed 20.56, or 1.1%, to 1,922.70.