Stocks rise as bond yields edge lower
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are edging higher on Wall Street as bond yields fell slightly. Bank stocks fell after the Federal Reserve announced it would end some emergency measures put into place for the industry last year to help deal with the pandemic. The S&P 500 index was up 0.2% in afternoon trading, while the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.9%. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury stalled its climb. The security is used to price a multitude of financial products, like the traditional 30-year mortgage, and higher interest rates have given investors some concern that it may slow economic growth.
FEDERAL RESERVE-BANK REGULATION
Fed to end relaxed capital requirements for large banks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says it will restore capital requirements for large banks that were relaxed as part of the Fed’s efforts to shore up the financial system during the early days of the pandemic. The Fed said it will not extend the relief from what is called the supplementary leverage ratio past March 31. The easing of the regulation had been intended to give banks flexibility in what assets they could hold to meet regulatory’ requirements during the turmoil of the pandemic, when banks were having to suddenly write down billions of dollars of loans. Shares of the large Wall Street banks fell on the news.
Powell: US economy gaining, but recovery ‘far from complete’
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated his belief Friday that while the U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from the devastation caused by the pandemic recession, the recovery is far from complete and needs continued support from the Fed. In an opinion piece posted Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Powell characterizes the economy as much improved. Yet he adds, “The recovery is the recovery is far from complete, so at the Fed we will continue to provide the economy with the support that it needs for as long as it takes.”
Congressional Democrats push $50B bill for nonprofits
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats are pushing a federal bill that would give nonprofits $50 billion to help them retain employees, hire newly unemployed workers and expand their operations to combat the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill, which was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate this week by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and three other Senate Democrats, would give individual nonprofits grants of up to $3 million. Most of the money will cover wages and benefits for existing or new employees with salaries of up to $50,000. Nonprofits can also use some of the funds to pay expenses, like rent and utilities, and program costs.
Celebrity Cruises to end yearlong pandemic hiatus in June
MIAMI (AP) — Two Royal Caribbean cruises will resume in June ending a yearlong hiatus, but passengers 18 and older must test negative for COVID-19 before getting on a ship. The company’s Celebrity Cruises subsidiary said its Celebrity Millennium ship will relaunch on June 5 from St. Maarten. One itinerary will stop in Aruba, Curacao and Barbados, and another will stop in Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados. CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said returning to the Caribbean “marks the measured beginning of the end of what has been a uniquely challenging time for everyone.”
BIDEN-100 MILLION DOSES
Biden eyes new goal after US clears 100M shots since Jan. 20
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has cleared President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus shots, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office. This as the president prepared to set his sights higher in the nationwide vaccination effort. The nation is now administering about 2.5 million shots per day. Biden, who promised to set a new goal for vaccinations next week, teased the possibility of setting a 200 million dose goal by his 100th day in office. He told reporters Friday that, “We may be able to double it.” His comments come as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.
WHO backs use of AstraZeneca vaccine
UNDATED (AP) — The World Health Organization’s expert committee on coronavirus vaccines says its review of the AstraZeneca vaccine indicates it has “tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths.” The U.N. health agency says “the available data do not suggest any overall increase in clotting conditions.” It added the reported rates of blood clots after vaccination with COVID-19 shots are in line with the expected number of diagnoses of these conditions. WHO says while some rare clots were detected in a few people among millions who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe, “it is not certain that they have been caused by vaccination.” WHO says health officials and patients should be vigilant in monitoring potential side effects from vaccines and report them.
AstraZeneca vaccinations resume in Europe after clot scare
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Countries across Europe are resuming vaccinations with the AstraZeneca shot, as leaders sought to reassure their populations it is safe following brief suspensions that cast doubt on a vaccine that is critical to ending the coronavirus pandemic. France’s prime minister rolled up his sleeve to get the shot Friday and Britain’s planned to, as did a handful of other senior politicians across the continent. Inoculation drives in Europe have repeatedly stumbled and several countries are now reimposing lockdowns as infections rise in many places. The suspensions came after reports of blood clots in some recipients of the vaccine. On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency said that the vaccine doesn’t increase the overall incidence of blood clots.
G7 suggest boosting IMF reserves to help vulnerable nations
LONDON (AP) — The Group of Seven leading industrial nations have proposed bolstering the International Monetary Fund’s reserves for the first time since 2009 so the Washington D.C. institution can provide more financial support to developing nations during the coronavirus crisis. At a virtual discussion Friday hosted by Britain’s Treasury chief, Rishi Sunak, the seven finance ministers backed a “new and sizeable” increase in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights, a type of reserve that effectively supplements existing reserves of member countries. No financial details were disclosed and any increase will have to be signed off at the IMF’s spring meeting in April. So-called SDRs could free up resources for developing nations to pay for coronavirus vaccines and food imports.
BRITAIN-NEWSPAPER GROUP-WORKING FROM HOME
UK newspaper group backs working from home post-pandemic
LONDON (AP) — The publisher of one of Britain’s most popular tabloids and numerous other national and regional newspapers says a majority of its staff will continue to work from home on a permanent basis after all of the U.K.’s coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Reach owns the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and the Daily Star, and is the country’s biggest regional newspaper group. The company said Friday that it plans to increase home-working as part of its post-lockdown working arrangements. The publisher says it will move to a hub-based model with 15 large offices in many major cities of the U.K. and Ireland. It says the move will free up resources to bolster its journalism.
L.L. Bean sees sales boom amid pandemic’s push to outdoors
FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean saw the best sales in nearly a decade during pandemic. Officials say the Freeport-based retailer started its fiscal year with store closings and worries about survival but the company weathered the turbulent times to revenue growth of 5%. That’s the best showing since 2011. Analyst say L.L. benefited from two of the hottest retail segments during the pandemic — comfort items like slippers, pajamas and loungewear, and outdoor gear like hiking boots, fishing gear and canoes. CEO Steve Smith said the company’s board awarded a cash bonus of 10% of workers’ salary and an additional 401(k) contribution equal to 8% of salary.
Report: DOJ investigating Visa over debit card business
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Visa is under investigation by the Department of Justice’s antitrust division over whether the company pushes merchants into more expensive forms of debit card payments. That’s according to a report Friday in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal cited unnamed sources and said the investigation is focused on how merchants route debit card transactions when a consumer makes an online transaction. San Francisco-based Visa declined to comment on the Journal’s report.
TRUMP LEGAL TROUBLES
NY prosecutors interview Cohen an 8th time in Trump inquiry
NEW YORK (AP) — New York prosecutors have met for an eighth time with former former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen as part of a criminal investigation of the former president’s finances. Cohen met with investigators Friday at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office amid a swirl of new activity in the case. Prosecutors are examining whether Trump or his businesses lied about the value of assets. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. recently obtained eight years of Trump’s tax records after a lengthy legal battle. Cohen was released to home confinement last year after serving federal prison time for tax evasion and campaign finance violations.
TESLA-CYBER ATTACK CHARGE
Russian man admits ransomware plot against Tesla in Nevada
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Court records say a Russian man has pleaded guilty to offering a Tesla employee $1 million to get malware into the electric car company’s plant in Nevada to try to allow a ransomware attack. Attorneys representing Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov did not immediately respond Friday to messages about the guilty plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno. The 27-year-old Kriuchkov told a judge in September that he knew the Russian government was aware of his case, but prosecutors and the FBI have not alleged that he had ties to the Kremlin. He was arrested in August and the FBI has said the plot was stopped before any damage happened.
SPORTS BETTING-MARCH MADNESS
‘We’re owed a March’: Hoop fans flock to bet on NCAA tourney
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Last year, it was March sadness as the NCAA college basketball tournament got canceled days before it was supposed to start, because of the coronavirus. This year it’s March gladness, particularly for college hoops fans who like to bet on the big dance. Fans flocked to casinos and tracks around the country, and many more used their phones to bet online in what is the biggest gambling event of the year in terms of sports betting, exceeding even the Super Bowl. Jonathan Price of Staten Island, New York, went to Atlantic City’s Borgata casino to watch and bet after last year’s washout. He says, “We’re owed a March.”