US economy shrank 3.5% in 2020 after growing 4% last quarter
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stuck in the grip of a viral pandemic, the U.S. economy grew at a 4% annual rate in the final three months of 2020 and shrank last year by the largest amount in 74 years. For 2020 as a whole, a year when the coronavirus inflicted the worst economic freeze since the end of World War II, the economy contracted 3.5% and clouded the outlook for the coming year. The economic damage followed the eruption of the pandemic 10 months ago and the deep recession it triggered, with tens of millions of Americans left jobless.
US jobless claims drop; still at 847,000 as pandemic rages
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a historically high 847,000 last week, a sign that layoffs remain high as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage. The Labor Department said Thursday that last week’s claims were down by 67,000 from 914,000 the week before. Before the virus hit the United States hard last March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000. But the four-week moving average for claims, which smooths out weekly gyrations, rose to the highest level since September. Overall, nearly 4.8 million Americans are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits.
Brokerages limit trading in GameStop, sparking outcry
NEW YORK (AP) — Robinhood and other online trading platforms are moving to restrict trading in GameStop and other stocks that have soared recently due to rabid buying by smaller investors. GameStop stock has rocketed from below $20 to more than $400 this month as a volunteer army of investors on social media challenged big institutions who has placed market bets that the stock would fall. Among the restrictions announced by Robinhood on Thursday, investors would only be able to sell their positions and not open new ones in some cases, and Robinhood will try to slow the amount of trading using borrowed money.
Stocks claw back some lost ground; GameStop swings wildly
NEW YORK (AP) — Major stock indexes clawed back some of the ground they lost a day earlier in their biggest loss since October. Much of the market’s attention Thursday remained glued to the wild swings in GameStop, AMC and handful of other stocks which online investors have been buying feverishly in an effort to take on big hedge funds betting they will fall. GameStop and several other stocks fell sharply after Robinhood and other trading platforms restricted trading in them, causing an outcry among customers. In Washington and elsewhere, calls were growing for regulators to step in to curb the speculative frenzy.
Airlines close books on rotten 2020 and so far, 2021 is grim
DALLAS (AP) — The books are closed now and the largest U.S. airlines lost a combined $34 billion last year. Southwest suffered its first full-year loss since Richard Nixon was president. And early 2021 doesn’t look much better, with travel getting choked by the pandemic. Southwest, American and JetBlue said Thursday that first-quarter revenue will remain weak and passenger bookings have stalled. That outlook echoed similar pessimism from Delta, United and Alaska, which posted financial results earlier this month.
Facebook panel overturns 4 content takedowns in first ruling
LONDON (AP) — Facebook’s quasi-independent oversight board issued its first rulings on Thursday, overturning four of five decisions by the social network to take down questionable content. The social media giant set up the panel to rule on the thorniest issues about content on its platforms. In its initial batch of rulings, the board ordered Facebook to restore posts by users that the company said broke standards on adult nudity, hate speech, dangerous individuals and misinformation. The board agreed with only one of Facebook’s decisions, involving its takedown of a post with an ethnic slur.
Apple CEO escalates battle with Facebook over online privacy
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook has fired off a series of thinly veiled shots at Facebook and other social media companies. Cook is escalating an online privacy battle pitting the iPhone maker against digital services that depend on tracking people to help sell ads. In a video presentation at a tech conference Thursday, Cook said social networking services’ invasive and misleading tactics could lead to a social catastrophe. His remarks came as Apple prepares to roll out a privacy control in the early spring to prevent iPhone apps from secretly shadowing people. The feature has irked Facebook and other services that depend on such data surveillance to help sell ads.
American Airlines affiliate grounds planes for inspections
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — An American Airlines subsidiary grounded most of its planes Thursday to conduct overdue inspections of bolts that secure doors on the nose gear. The grounding affected two models of Bombardier regional jets operated by PSA Airlines, which operates flights under the American Eagle name. PSA has 130 of the planes, and all but a few were grounded, according to American.
The S&P 500 rose 36.61 points, or 1%, to 3,787.38. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 300.19 points, or 1%, to 30,603.36. The Nasdaq composite added 66.56 points, or 0.5%, to 13,337.16. The Russel 2000 index of smaller companies slipped 2.09 points, or 0.1%, to 2,106.61.
The Associated Press