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Wall Street mixed after jobless data; Amazon up, banks down
NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street after the government reported that 5.2 million more people filed for unemployment benefits last week. While that number is huge, markets had braced for news that was even worse.
Gains for health care stocks, big tech companies and several retailers were offsetting losses for banks and energy companies, which have sunk sharply this week.
Amazon, Dollar General and Walmart are all trading near record highs as people shop for staples. Netflix and video-game companies Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts are also at all-time highs as people spend more time than ever at home.
Treasury yields fell again and remain extremely low, though, which shows how pessimistic investors are about the economy’s prospects.
Record 22 million have sought US jobless aid since virus.
The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week.
Roughly 22 million have sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. It means that roughly one in seven workers have lost their jobs in that time.
All told, roughly nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks, roughly matching the peak reached in January 2010, shortly after the Great Recession officially ended.

US home construction collapsed 22.3% in March
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home-building activity collapsed in March as the coronavirus spread, with housing starts tumbling 22.3% from a month ago.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that groundbreakings occurred last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.2 million units, down from a 1.56 million pace in February. Construction of single-family houses fell 17.5%, while apartment and condo starts were off 32.1% from a month ago. There was also a 6.8% drop in permits to begin construction.
There was a 6.1% decline in the completion of homes being constructed, which means many homes are being left half built. The drop was 15% of single-family houses, meaning that unless economic activity picks up soon there could be ghost towns half-built housing developments, a phenomenon last seen in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
US long-term mortgage rates hover near low; 30-year at 3.31%
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates hovered near all-time lows for the third straight week amid fresh signs of severe damage to the economy and the housing market from the shutdown spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan slipped to 3.31% this week from 3.33% last week. A year ago the rate stood at 4.17%. The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 2.80% from 2.77% last week.
Small business lending program on hold after reaching limit
NEW YORK (AP) — The government’s lending program for small businesses is on hold.
The Small Business Administration said Thursday that it reached the $349 billion lending limit for the program, after approving nearly 1.7 million loans.
Thousands of small business owners whose loans have not yet been processed must now wait for Congress to approve a Trump administration request for another $250 billion for the program. Lawmakers have been haggling over whether to extend the program as it stands now, or whether to add provisions that, among other things, would help minority businesses. It’s unclear when they might reach an agreement that would allow loan approvals to continue.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA head Jovita Carranza on Wednesday urged Congress to approve more funds. Meanwhile, thousands of businesses are still applying, hoping to get loans when Congress approves an extension of the program.
Trump readies roadmap for economic recovery from virus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is preparing to unveil national guidelines on when and how the country starts to recover from the sharp economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic. As he does so, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers is urging him to heed the advice of public health experts.
The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit places. Ultimately, decisions on when to ease up will rest with governors. The recommendations also will make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned.
Reopening could require thousands more public health workers
SEATTLE (AP) — Before stay-at-home orders are lifted, the nation’s public health agencies want to be ready to douse any new sparks of coronavirus infection — a task they say could require tens of thousands more investigators.
Many of those extra workers would help with so-called contract tracing, the critically important process of calling people who test positive, tracking down their contacts and getting them into quarantine. The exact number of workers needed is a subject of debate.
But some agencies are so desperate they are considering recruiting librarians and Peace Corps volunteers to join the effort.
Tribes press judge to halt US-Canada pipeline as work starts
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — American Indian tribes and environmental groups are pressuring a federal judge to shut down work on the disputed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Nebraska less than two weeks after it started, because of fears over workers spreading the coronavirus and worries about a future spill.
Attorneys for several tribes and groups alleged in court documents ahead of a Thursday teleconference hearing that pipeline sponsor TC Energy is rushing ahead amid the pandemic as it tries to complete significant work on the pipeline to make it harder to stop. They warned that plans to build construction camps housing up to 1,000 workers each “pose serious, immediate and irreparable health risks to the tribes during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Facebook to warn users who 'liked' coronavirus hoaxes
NEW YORK (AP) — Have you liked or commented on a Facebook post about the COVID-19 pandemic that turned out to be a hoax? The social media company says it's going to notify users if they liked, reacted or commented on harmful misinformation removed from Facebook's news feed. Facebook will then direct those users to information about virus myths debunked by the World Health Organization. Facebook says people will start seeing these warning messages in the coming weeks. Conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus and the vaccines being developed to prevent it still pop up daily on social media platforms.
Brewery taps new ale honoring coronavirus expert Fauci
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia brewery is tapping into the nation’s thirst for coronavirus responses to name its new beers. Atlanta-based Wild Heaven Beer has just released a new brew called “Fauci Spring” in honor of the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. It’s described as a pale ale brewed with acai berries and an experimental variety of hops. The brewery also put out a lager called “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” for socially distant drinking, and brewery president Nick Purdy their next release will be a rye IPA they're calling “We Will Meet Again” to honor Queen Elizabeth's inspiring speech to the British people.
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