NEW YORK (AP) — The S&P and the Dow ended 2020 at more record highs Thursday, closing out one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory. The rose 0.6% and ended the year up 16%, or roughly 18% including dividends. 2020 saw a breathtaking nosedive in markets in the spring as the coronavirus took hold, followed by steady gains in the months to come as hopes built for an eventual return to something like normal. Several overseas markets were closed for holidays, and U.S. markets will be closed Friday.
PARIS (AP) — France’s government is pledging to pick up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations after being criticized for a glacially slow rollout. French President Emmanuel Macron has also intervened in what is becoming an increasingly sharp debate about the slow start of the country’s vaccination program. Macron used his traditional New Year’s address to the nation on Thursday night to promise that he will personally ensure that the program does not drag its heels unnecessarily. Before he spoke, his health minister tweeted that shots would be offered from Monday to health care workers age 50 and over.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. farmers are expected to end the year with higher profits than last year and the best net farm income in seven years thanks to the government paying nearly 40% of their income. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest farm income forecast. Farmer challenges in 2020 included the impact of trade disputes, drought and wind damage, and low prices for corn, cotton, wheat, chicken, cattle and hogs. Farm cash receipts are forecast to be the lowest in more than a decade. But farmers are expected to receive $46.5 billion from the U.S. government. That’s the largest direct-to-farm payment ever. It lifts net farm income to $119.6 billion. And that’s the highest profitability since 2013.
UNDATED (AP) — Microsoft said Thursday in a blog post that hackers tied to a massive intrusion of dozens of U.S. government agencies and private companies sneaked further into its systems than previously thought, although the intrusion doesn’t appear to have caused any additional harm. The company said the hackers were able to view some of the code underlying Microsoft software, but weren’t able to make any changes to it. Microsoft said its defense plans assumed that hackers could see its code and that it found no evidence of hacker access to customer data or any indications that its systems were used to attack others.
NEW YORK (AP) — Five female anchors will no longer work at a New York news channel after settling discrimination claims. The women include Roma Torre, who was NY1′s first on-air hire when it started airing in 1992. The settlement of the lawsuit filed in June 2019 in Manhattan federal court was announced in statements by the women, their lawyers and by NY1. It came a month after a judge allowed some of the lawsuit’s age and gender discrimination claims to proceed but rejected some hostile work environment and retaliation claims.