Stocks meander on final day of 2020
NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street on the last day of a year that saw a breathtaking nosedive in markets in the spring followed by steady gains in the months that followed. The benchmark S&P 500 index was flat in morning trading but remains on track for a gain of more than 15% for the year, or 17% once dividends are included. Several overseas markets were closed for holidays, and U.S. markets will be closed tomorrow.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 but remain elevated at 787,000 as a resurgent coronavirus grips the U.S. economy. While at the lowest level in four weeks, the new figures released today by the Labor Department are nearly four times higher than a year ago before the virus struck. Employers continue to cut jobs as rising coronavirus infections keep many people at home while state and local governments re-impose restrictions. Jobless claims were running around 225,000 a week before the pandemic was declared last March. Weekly jobless claims surged to a high of 6.9 million in late March as efforts to contain the virus sent the economy into a deep recession.
MCLEAN, Va. (AP) – Long-term mortgage rates have ticked up slightly this week but remain near record lows. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan rose to 2.67% from a record-low 2.66% last week. A year ago, it stood at 3.72%. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans dipped to 2.17% from 2.19% last week. A year ago it averaged 3.16%. The 5-year adjustable rate mortgage averaged 2.71%, down from last week’s 2.79%.
UNDATED (AP) – When the sun sets on the 2020 box office, it’ll be difficult to look at the numbers as anything but disastrous. After five consecutive years of North American revenues exceeding $11 billion, this year they’re expected to cap out at an almost 40-year low of around $2.3 billion. That’ll be down 80% from last year, according to data firm Comscore. Globally, where markets have been able to recover more fully, ticket sales will likely end up somewhere between $11 and $12 billion. Last year, that total hit $42.5 billion. Experts say the business will recover, but it will take time.
PARIS (AP) – French wine exporters are warning that they’ll take a billion-euro hit in 2021 from the latest ratcheting-up of punitive tariffs between the United States and Europe in a trade dispute over aircraft subsidies. The U.S. government yesterday announced the imposition of additional tariffs on French and German wines and brandies, as well as aircraft manufacturing parts. They are the latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs in a years-long conflict over subsidies to plane makers Boeing and Airbus. The French Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters decries the U.S. measures as “a sledgehammer blow.” In Brussels, European Union officials expressed regret and pledged to seek a solution.