Stocks turn mixed, treasury yields rise
NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks are mixed in on Wall Street following a mixed report on the U.S. job market. Treasury yields rose with much of Wall Street seeing the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates as soon as March. The S&P 500 was 0.2% lower in afternoon trading, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury was at its highest level since COVID-19 began pummeling markets at the start of 2020. If the Fed does raise interest rates, it could help corral the high inflation sweeping the world. But it would also mark an end to the conditions that have put financial markets in “easy mode” for many investors.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The nation’s unemployment rate fell in December to a healthy 3.9% – a pandemic low – even as employers added a modest 199,000 jobs, evidence that they are struggling to fill jobs with many Americans still reluctant to return to the workforce. The drop in the jobless rate, from 4.2% in November, indicated that many more Americans found jobs last month. Indeed, despite the slight hiring gain reported by businesses, 651,000 more people said they were employed in December compared with November. Still, the jobs data reported today reflected the state of the job market in early December – before the spike in COVID-19 infections began to disrupt the economy.
UNDATED (AP) – President Joe Biden’s administration is giving state and local governments greater flexibility in spending $350 billion in federal COVID-19 aid. The new rules from the U.S. Treasury Department come nearly 10 months after Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act. Some cities and counties had said the initial rules were too rigid. The rules released this week relax requirements for governments to prove revenue losses in order to spend the money more freely. Among other things, they allow spending on more types of construction projects and broaden eligibility for high-speed internet projects.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appears skeptical of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. In arguments today, the court’s six conservative justices appeared to view the administration’s requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees as overstepping government authority. This, although seven of the nine justices heard arguments wearing masks for the first time, and one participated only by phone. The court also was hearing arguments on a vaccine mandate for most health care workers. Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.
UNDATED (AP) – The state of Vermont says investment management company Merrill has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle allegations over its handling of accounts used related to the fraud in various northern Vermont developments involving foreign investors’ money. A motion seeking approval of the settlement agreement was filed in federal court in Florida. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation alleged that Merrill’s administration of accounts represented potential violations of the Vermont Securities Act. Merrill had no comment on the settlement.