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Stocks edge higher…Jobless claims rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moderately higher in early trading on Wall Street, helped again by large technology stocks that have benefited from a drop in bond yields. Bank stocks and energy companies fell, which muted the market’s overall gains. The S&P 500 index was up 0.2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2%, pulled lower by banks and energy companies that dominate that index, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was up 1%. Investors will get more color on the Fed’s thinking later today, when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks in front of the International Monetary Fund starting at noon, Eastern time.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and the government distributes aid throughout the economy. The Labor Department says applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Mortgage rates fell this week for the first time in more than two months as buyers continue to be stifled by high prices and limited supply. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the benchmark 30-year loan rate dipped to 3.13% from 3.18% last week. At this time last year it was 3.33%. The rate for a 15-year loan, popular among those looking to refinance, fell to 2.42% from 2.45% last week. Economists expect home loan rates to remain low as the Federal Reserve intends to keep its main borrowing rate near zero until the economy recovers from the pandemic.

UNDATED (AP) — Two new U.S. airlines are planning on starting service this spring, tapping into the travel recovery that is picking up speed. Avelo Airlines says it will begin flying later this month to 11 destinations from Burbank, California. The startup plans to add other routes as it adds more planes to its fleet, which numbers just three planes. Next up will be Breeze Airways, the latest creation of David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue Airways more than 20 years ago. Both hope to draw passengers by filling in smaller, overlooked routes on the spider web of airline routes crisscrossing the United States.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A patchwork of advice is emerging from governments across Europe and farther afield, a day after the European Union’s drug regulator said there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare clotting disorder. Regulators in the United Kingdom and the EU both stressed that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people. But some countries are limiting its use among certain age groups. Experts fear the confusing messages about the vaccine could dampen enthusiasm for it at a time when Europe and many other parts of the world are facing surging cases.

Associated Press

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