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Business Highlights

Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 at 6:14 pm EDT

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Stocks have first back-to-back gains since sell-off began

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks scored their first back-to-back gains since a brutal sell-off began five weeks ago, but much of an early rally faded late in the day as a last-minute dispute threatened to hold up a $2 trillion economic rescue package in Congress. The S&P 500 rose 1.2% Wednesday, bringing its two-day gain to 10.6%. It had been up 5.1% earlier in the day as Congress moved closer to approving the plan to provide badly needed aid to an economy that has been ravaged by the coronavirus. The market is down nearly 27% since hitting a record high a month ago.

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$2 trillion virus rescue bill hits late snags in Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate leaders are racing to unravel last-minute snags in a $2 trillion economic rescue package to ease the financial pain of the coronavirus epidemic. The measure is the largest economic relief bill in history. Both parties’ leaders are pushing for quick passage so they can get the legislation to the House and freed up for the country. But several conservative Republican senators want late changes. They say the bill as written could provide an incentive for companies to lay off workers. They want the bill altered to ensure that employees don’t earn more money if they’re laid off than if they’re working.

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Airlines, others to benefit from $2 trillion rescue bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Senate leaders agreed early Wednesday on a $2 trillion economic rescue package, the largest in the country’s history. The bill comes in response to the viral pandemic that has shut down businesses and crippled economies around the globe. It would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide direct grants and loans to businesses and hospitals. The Republican-controlled Senate must still approve the bill before sending it to the Democratic-controlled House, so final details could change. Passage in the Senate was expected later Wednesday.

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‘The whole city laid off’: US jobless claims climb sky high

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New unemployment benefit claims are rising to levels unseen in recent U.S. history as a result of coronavirus concerns. States have reported receiving tens of thousands of new claims for unemployment insurance last week. Officials figures are to be released Thursday, and some economists project that new claims could reach 3 million nationwide. Some laid-off workers have encountered delays in filing claims because of overloaded websites and phone systems. Some states are warning that it could take longer than the normal two to three weeks to receive unemployment payments because of the sudden surge in claims.

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Drugmaker backpedals on specialty status for COVID-19 drug

WASHINGTON (AP) — The maker of an experimental coronavirus drug is giving up the specialty status it received days ago from U.S. regulators. Gilead Sciences faced criticism from public advocacy groups that it could use the designation to boost profits amid the pandemic. The specialty status for rare disease treatments is potentially worth millions of dollars in tax breaks and competition-free sales. The designation was created by Congress decades ago to encourage companies to develop drugs for niche diseases and conditions. Gilead Sciences said Wednesday it would ask the Food and Drug Administration to revoke the designation it received this week.

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First signs of disruption appear in housing; markets ‘calm’

NEW YORK (AP) — Economists have been waiting for the first signs of virus-related disruptions in housing with the expectation that they will be seismic. Federal housing data looks further back for trends, meaning there is a lag in real world activity. But details have begun to emerge in private surveys. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications plunged 29.4% last week. Also on Wednesday, Target significantly rolled back efforts to modernize stores and open new ones, given the rapidly changing needs of customers. Target said it will remodel 130 stores this year, less than half of 300 it has planned. It will open only 15 to 20 smaller format stores this year, down from the 36 it had hoped to.

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Rural America watches pandemic erupt in cities as fear grows

DUFUR, Ore. (AP) — The pandemic’s toll in big cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco has dominated headlines, but large swaths of rural America are also deeply affected. Tiny towns tucked into Oregon’s windswept plains or on Alaska’s arctic tundra might not have a single case of the new coronavirus yet, but these small communities are still wary. They fear the spread of the disease to areas with scarce medical resources, the social isolation that comes when the only diner in town closes its doors and the economic free fall that’s hitting hard in places where jobs were already hard to come by.

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The S&P 500 index ended up 28.23 points to 2,475.56. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 495.64 points, or 2.4%, to 21,200.55. The Nasdaq dropped 33.56 points, or 0.5%, to 7,384.30. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained 13.79 points, or 1.3%, to 1,110.34.

The Associated Press

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