Dow Today – Business Highlights: Trade deficit soars, jobless claims low
November trade deficit hits near record-high $80.2 billion
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit surged to a near-record high of $80.2 billion in November as exports slowed while imports jumped sharply. The November deficit was 19.3% higher than the October deficit of $67.2 billion and was just below the all-time monthly record of $81.4 billion set in September, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Through the first 11 months of 2021, the U.S. trade deficit is 28.6% higher than the same period in 2020 as the economic recovery in the United States has outpaced other nations, sending import demand up faster than gains in U.S. export sales.
US jobless claims rise by 7,000, but still low at 207,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at historically low levels, suggesting that the job market remains strong. U.S. jobless claims rose by 7,000 last week to 207,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week gyrations, rose by nearly 4,800 to just below 205,000. Despite the increases, the numbers show that claims remained below the 220,000 typical before the pandemic struck the U.S. economy in March 2020. The highly transmissible omicron variant so far does not appear to have triggered layoffs.
Near-empty flights crisscross Europe to secure landing slots
BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe’s sky is filling up with near-empty flights that even airlines admit serve no purpose except securing valuable time slots at some of the world’s biggest airports. The practice comes as the European Union has committed to being a global leader in combating climate change and flights are known to be major polluters. Environmentalists, major airlines and others are calling for the European Union to tweak the rules on airport slots to cut down on empty or near-empty flights. The rules say airlines must use 50% of their landing and takeoff slots if they want to hold on to them even as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has put many off flying.
More weakness in technology stocks leaves US indexes lower
NEW YORK (AP) — More declines in big technology stocks pulled major indexes lower on Wall Street, driving the market further into the red on the first week of the year. The S&P 500 wobbled between gains and losses for much of the day Thursday before closing down 0.1%. Weakness in big tech companies like Apple was the main culprit. The Nasdaq also fell 0.1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%. Small-company stocks bucked the trend and closed higher. Bond yields continued to rise a day after the Federal Reserve indicated it was ready to raise interest rates to fight off inflation.
France fines Google, Facebook millions over tracking consent
LONDON (AP) — French regulators have fined Google and Facebook a total of more than 200 million euros for not making it as easy for users to opt out of online tracking as it is for them to accept it. The CNIL data privacy watchdog said that while the U.S. online giants gave French users a single button to immediately accept cookies, there wasn’t an equally simple way for them to decline, which means they weren’t freely giving consent. Cookies are used to target internet users for digital ads. Google says it’s committed to further changes, while Facebook said it will work with authorities.
New York Times buys sports site The Athletic for $550M
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times Co. is buying sports news site The Athletic for $550 million. It’s the Times’ latest move in its strategy to expand its audience of paying subscribers as the newspaper print ads business fades. The Times gained millions of subscribers during the Trump presidency and the pandemic, keeping it on track for its goal of 10 million by 2025. As of the most recent quarter, it had nearly 8.4 million. The Athletic’s website says it has over 400 editorial employees, making it a major acquisition for The Times, whose newsroom stands at more than 2,000. Digital media outlets have been consolidating recently to help them compete with tech giants like Google and Facebook.
US service industry grows more slowly in December
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Growth in the U.S. service industry, where most Americans work, pulled back in December after expanding at a record pace the previous two months. The Institute for Supply Management reported Thursday that its monthly survey of service industries declined to a reading of 62 last month, from an all-time high of 69.1 in November. Any reading above 50 indicates growth. Business activity, employment, new orders and supply deliveries all showed slower growth in December, the ISM report said.
US average long-term mortgage rates rise; 30-year at 3.22%
WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose in the past week to start the new year. They reached their highest level since May 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, yet remained historically low. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan increased to 3.22% this week from 3.11% last week. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 2.43% from 2.33%. Many economists expect mortgage rates to rise this year after the Federal Reserve announced last month that it would begin dialing back its monthly bond purchases to tame accelerating inflation.
The S&P 500 dropped 4.53 points, or 0.1%, to 4,696.05. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 170.64 points, or 0.5%, to 36,236.47. The Nasdaq fell 19.31 points, or 0.1%, to 15,080.86. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 12.37 points, or 0.6%, to 2,206.37.