Business Highlights

US jobless claims fall again as some states end federal aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week — the latest encouraging sign for the rebounding U.S. economy — just as Republican-led states are moving to cut off a federal benefit for the jobless. Twenty-two states, from Texas and Georgia to Ohio and Iowa, plan to begin blocking a $300-a-week federal payment for the unemployed starting in June, according to an Associated Press analysis. Jobless people have been able to receive the $300 federal benefit on top of their regular state unemployment aid.


Nervous workers struggle to adjust to new mask policies

NEW YORK (AP) — An abrupt relaxation of mask policies at some retail and grocery stores has left workers reeling as they try to sort out what the new environment means for their own safety and relationship with customers. Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, Costco, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s and Target were among the growing list of big chains that are allowing vaccinated customers to shop mask-less, following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Many, including Walmart and Target, are also allowing vaccinated workers to drop their masks. Some workers took to social media to cheer, but many others protested. Some don’t trust customers to be truthful about their vaccination status.


Ford’s big bet: Fans of F-150 pickup will embrace electric

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The electric version of Ford’s F-150 pickup looks much like its wildly popular gas-powered version. Yet the resemblance is deceiving. With its new battery-powered truck, Ford is making a costly bet that buyers will embrace a vehicle that would help transform how the world drives. Branded the F-150 Lightning, the pickup will be able to travel up to 300 miles per battery charge, thanks to a frame designed to safely hold a huge lithium-ion battery that can power your house should the electricity go out. If it succeeds, it could speed the nation’s transition away from petroleum burners.


New Ford venture to build 2 electric vehicle battery plants

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is forming a joint venture that will build two North American factories to make make batteries for roughly 600,000 electric vehicles per year by mid-decade. The deal with battery maker SK Innovation of Korea was announced Thursday. It sets up a possible confrontation between the companies and the United Auto Workers, which issued a statement saying Ford has a moral obligation to make sure plant workers are paid union wages. The joint venture called BlueOvalSK is the start of Ford’s plan to vertically integrate key parts of the electric vehicle supply chain. The companies say they have signed a memorandum of understanding, but details on the ownership structure, factory sites and union representation have yet to be worked out.


Warm welcome for oat milk maker Oatly in Wall Street debut

Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk company, raised $1.4 billion in an initial public offering on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Oatly priced its shares at $17 apiece ahead of the IPO, giving the company a valuation of nearly $10 billion. Its shares then jumped 24% when the began trading Thursday. The closed up almost 19%. It’s the latest milestone in the rapid rise of oat milk, which is winning consumers _ and big-name investors like Oprah Winfrey _ with the message that it’s healthier and more environmentally sustainable than cow’s milk. U.S. sales of oat milk jumped 131% over the last year, according to Nielsen.


JPMorgan dives back into fixing health care with new venture

JPMorgan Chase will take another crack at fixing health care after a push with two other corporate giants dissolved earlier this year. The bank said Thursday that it formed a new business focused on improving care provided for about 285,000 people through its employer-sponsored health plan. Morgan Health will start with $250 million for investments and a health policy veteran as its CEO, former Clinton administration official Dan Mendelson. The announcement comes a few months after a similar venture backed by JP Morgan, the retail giant Amazon and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway shut down.


High inflation? A generation of investors has never felt it

NEW YORK (AP) — The central question gripping Wall Street this spring is whether the burst of inflation hitting the economy as it recovers from the pandemic is just temporary or the start of a real problem. The answer threatens to crack the stock market’s incredible, record-setting run that began in March 2020. No U.S. investor has had to contend with significant inflation for more than a generation. The last time inflation troubled the economy was in the 1970s and early 1980s, when it remained stubbornly above 10%.


Stocks end higher on Wall Street, breaking a 3-day slump

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock closed higher on Wall Street Thursday, ending a three-day losing streak. Technology and communications companies led the way higher. Chipmaker Nvidia and Netflix were among the winners. The S&P 500 rose 1.1%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq added 1.8%. Investors were encouraged by the latest jobs data that showed fewer Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week, another sign that the economic recovery is underway. Oil prices fell and dragged down energy stocks. Oatly, the largest maker of oat milk in the world, rose sharply on its first day of trading. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.63%.


The S&P 500 rose 43.44 points, or 1.1%, to 4,159.12. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 188.11 points, or 0.6%, to 34,084.15. The Nasdaq rose 236 points, or 1.8%, to 13,535.74. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 14.12 points, or 0.6%, to 2,207.76.