Business Highlights

Xi hails China’s economic growth despite pandemic setback

BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping says China has made major progress in developing its economy and eradicating rural poverty over the past year despite the coronavirus pandemic. He said in a New Year address that China is the first major economy to register positive economic growth for 2020, with its gross domestic product expected to exceed 100 trillion yuan (almost $14 trillion) for the year. The International Monetary Fund forecast in October that China, the world’s second-largest economy, would grow 1.9% in 2020. Xi also hailed progress in lifting close to 100 million rural Chinese out of poverty over the last eight years and in “fully building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”


Immigrants get help from states, cheer inclusion in US bill

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Immigrant taxpayers and their families are celebrating a federal relief package that includes spouses and children who are U.S. citizens. Checks sent out in the spring didn’t go to families if one spouse was an immigrant in the country illegally, even if the other was a U.S. citizen or legal resident. About 5 million Americans were left out that way. But even in the new bill, some 2.2 million U.S. citizen children won’t receive a check because they live in immigrant households. In Democratic-controlled areas, officials have targeted rent relief and direct payments to those families. New Mexico lawmakers are unique in sending federal money directly to immigrants.


Auld lang syne: New Year brings final UK-EU Brexit split

LONDON (AP) — Like a separated couple still living together, Britain and the European Union spent 2020 wrangling and wondering whether they could remain friends. On Thursday, the U.K. is finally moving out. At 11 p.m. London time, Britain will economically and practically leave the 27-nation bloc, 11 months after its formal political departure. After more than four years of Brexit political drama, the day itself is something of an anticlimax. Lockdown measures to curb the new coronavirus variant have curtailed gatherings to celebrate or mourn. Friday will bring big changes for businesses and individuals, with truckers and traders bracing for possible gridlock at English Channel ports once Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union.


Brexit’s choice for EU, UK: firm friends or nearby rivals

BRUSSELS (AP) — The New Year could finally bring a fresh start and a commitment to let bygones be bygones for Britain and the European Union. But don’t bet on it. Eleven months after Britain’s formal departure from the EU, Brexit becomes a fact of daily life on Friday, once a transition period ends and the U.K. fully leaves the world’s most powerful trading bloc. The U.K. has set a course away from the continental mainland. But the two sides’ histories have been too intertwined for 1,000 years for the split to be simple. Loose ends will surface for months, even years, to come.


Federal checks salvage otherwise dreadful 2020 for US farms

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. farmers are expected to end the year with higher profits than last year and the best net farm income in seven years thanks to the government paying nearly 40% of their income. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest farm income forecast. Farmer challenges in 2020 included the impact of trade disputes, drought and wind damage, and low prices for corn, cotton, wheat, chicken, cattle and hogs. Farm cash receipts are forecast to be the lowest in more than a decade. But farmers are expected to receive $46.5 billion from the U.S. government. That’s the largest direct-to-farm payment ever. It lifts net farm income to $119.6 billion. And that’s the highest profitability since 2013.


Calamity? Anomaly? 2020 was a box office year like no other

When the sun sets on the 2020 box office, it’ll be difficult to look at the numbers as anything but disastrous. After five consecutive years of North American revenues exceeding $11 billion, this year they’re expected to cap out at an almost 40-year low of around $2.3 billion. That’ll be down 80% from last year according to data firm Comscore. Globally, where markets have been able to recover more fully, ticket sales will likely end up somewhere between $11 and $12 billion. Last year, that total hit $42.5 billion. Experts say the business will recover, but it will take time.


Major US stock indexes waver on final day of tumultuous year

Stocks are wavering between small gains and losses on the last day of 2020, a year that saw a breathtaking nosedive in markets in the spring as the coronavirus took hold, followed by steady gains in the months to come as hopes built for an eventual return to something like normal. The benchmark S&P 500 index was mostly unchanged in afternoon trading. It’s still on track for a gain of more than 15% for the year, or 17% including dividends. Several overseas markets were closed for holidays, and U.S. markets will be closed for New Years Day on Friday.


Some businesses thrived, many lagged during pandemic in 2020

The coronavirus pandemic created winners and losers in the business world. Wall Street recovered after March, even though Main Street is still struggling. In 2020, many people took to working remotely in sweatpants, hopped onto an expensive high-tech exercise bike and had their favorite restaurant dish delivered, perhaps by a driver trying to earn an extra buck and hoping not to catch the coronavirus. On the flip side, many office buildings remain deserted, restaurants are empty and gyms remain sparsely populated. As few people traveled, the airline industry needed billions of dollars in aid from the government and is still threatening to lay off workers.


China fines 3 online vendors for misreported prices, sales

BEIJING (AP) — China’s market regulator has fined three e-commerce outlets on charges of misreporting prices and other offenses. China’s leaders are working to tighten official control over the booming industry and say enforcing anti-monopoly rules are a priority. The market regulator said JD.com, Alibaba’s Tmall and Vipshop E-Commerce Ltd. also engaged in “false promotions” and misreported discounts during the Singles Day shopping period. Customers complained they misrepresented prices, discounts, sale periods and other information about goods ranging from athletic shoes to Thai rice. Each was fined $76,000 and has 60 days to appeal.


The S&P 500 rose 24.03 points, or 0.6%, to 3,756.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 196.92 points, or 0.7%, to 30,606.48. The Nasdaq composite rose 18.28 points, or 0.1%, to 12,888.28. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 5.14 points, or 0.3%, to 1,974.86.