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Stocks tick higher…Unemployment claims soar

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are ticking higher in early Wall Street trading despite a dismal report on the number of layoffs sweeping the country. The S&P 500 was up 0.2%, still hovering near its record high set last week. Investors are waiting to hear later in the day from President-elect Joe Biden, who’s expected to detail his plan bolster the economy. That, plus the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, has Wall Street expecting a powerful rebound for the economy later this year and willing to look past a much worse report on U.S. layoffs than economists expected.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment aid soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August. It’s evidence that the resurgent virus has caused a spike in layoffs. The Labor Department’s latest figures for jobless claims remain at levels never seen until the virus struck. Before the pandemic, weekly applications typically numbered around 225,000. Last spring, after nationwide shutdowns took effect, applications for jobless benefits spiked to nearly 7 million — 10 times the previous record high. After declining over the summer, weekly claims have been stuck above 700,000 since September.

UNDATED (AP) — Delta Air Lines is reporting a $755 million loss for the fourth quarter, which brings its loss for all of 2020 to more than $12 billion, a company record. And Delta gave a cautious outlook today for the first quarter of 2021, saying it expects to lose $10 million to $15 million a day in the next three months. After that, however, executives at the Atlanta-based airline think things will get better. CEO Ed Bastian is sticking to a prediction that Delta will reach break-even sometime this spring. Delta is the first U.S. airline to report its fourth-quarter numbers.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Flights were briefly delayed when an air traffic control center near Jacksonville had to close for several hours for extensive cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Yesterday’s closure was the second time this year that the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight-control center in Hilliard has closed for cleaning due to the coronavirus. Agency data shows a dozen of the center’s employees have tested positive since the summer. Overall, FAA data show hundreds of air traffic control workers have been infected since the pandemic began.

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Samsung’s next crop of smartphones will boast bigger screens, better cameras, and longer-lasting batteries at lower prices than than last year’s lineup that came out just before the pandemic toppled the economy. The three Galaxy S21 phones unveiled today during a virtual event will face similar challenges in an economy still hobbled by the COVID-19 crisis. But this time Samsung has made some pricing adjustments that reflect the hard times. All three phones will be less expensive than last year’s comparable models, with the reductions ranging from 7% to 20%. The starting prices will range from $800 to $1,300, with all three phones due in stores Jan. 29.

Associated Press

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