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Business Highlights – Greenwich Time


WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to 779,000 last week, a historically high total that shows that a sizable number of people are still losing jobs to the viral pandemic. Last week’s total dropped from 812,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday, and is the lowest in two months. Before the virus erupted in the United States in March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.


GameStop booster did well; many devotees won’t as shares sag

WILMINGTON, Mass. (AP) — Followers of YouTube personality Roaring Kitty, inspired by his enthusiasm for buying stock in the underdog retailer GameStop, made him an icon in the social media frenzy that shocked Wall Street. But what’s been a big victory for 34-year-old Keith Gill could lead to heartbreak and hardship for followers who jumped on the bandwagon and took risky bets on GameStop’s rollercoaster ride in the stock market. Doubts emerged this week as the stock plummeted, spelling trouble for novice investors who bought too late and too high and got caught up in a made-for-Hollywood story of battling against the 1%.


McKinsey agrees to pay nearly $600M over opioid crisis

The global business consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has agreed to pay nearly $600 million for its role in the opioid crisis. In a deal announced Thursday with attorneys general for most states, the company agrees to make public documents showing communications with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and three other companies that have been in the opioid business. The settlement is novel because McKinsey did not make or sell the powerful painkillers but rather advised companies that did on how to boost their business. States say the company encouraged Purdue to focus on selling higher doses and to high-volume prescribers.


Longtime Merck CEO, minority advocate Ken Frazier to retire

Longtime Merck executive Ken Frazier, one of the few remaining Black CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, is retiring. Frazier, Merck’s CEO since early 2011, is an advocate for minority advancement who took on then-President Trump’s tacit support of white supremacists. Frazier’s leadership helped bring Merck one of the most lucrative medicines in history, $14 billion-a-year cancer blockbuster Keytruda. Frazier, 66, will retire on June 30 and will be replaced by Rob Davis, the chief financial officer since 2014, the company said Thursday as it announced quarterly financial results. Frazier will become executive chairman of the board during a transition period.


Ford loses $1.28B in 2020, raises electric vehicle spending

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. lost $1.28 billion last year as it dealt with a huge restructuring, a costly recall and a decline in the value of its pension fund. But the company said Thursday it was generating strong cash flow and will go all-in on electric vehicles. Ford said it would now spend at least $22 billion developing them through 2025, nearly double what it previously announced. Ford also lost $2.8 billion in the fourth quarter. Excluding one-time items it made 34 cents per share, according to FactSet. That beat Wall Street expectations of a 7-cent-per-share loss.


Voting company sues Fox, Giuliani over election fraud claims

MIAMI (AP) — A voting technology company is suing Fox News, three of its top hosts, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for $2.7 billion, charging that the defendants conspired to spread false claims that the company helped steal the U.S. presidential election away from former President Donald Trump. The cable-news network and its hosts allegedly aired 13 reports falsely stating or implying that Smartmatic stole the 2020 vote in cahoots with Venezuela’s socialist government. A Smartmatic rival, Dominion Voting Systems, was also ensnared in Trump’s baseless effort to overturn the election, and on Jan. 25 sued former Trump lawyers Giuliani and Powell for $1.6 billion.


More GameStops possible as small investors flex muscles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — GameStop and a handful of other stocks whose meteoric rise last month shocked Wall Street began falling back to Earth this week. But the campaign that briefly pushed GameStop up by 1,600% at the expense of hedge funds that were betting it would lose value, known as “shorting,” could be a blueprint for similar efforts with other companies’ shares, some analysts say. Regardless of which stock is hyped next, the recent surge in new accounts subscribing to WallStreetBets suggests the number of potential participants in another stock-buying campaign is massive and growing.


Yellen warns of ‘tough months’ ahead, urges Congress to act

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says America has some “tough months ahead” in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and for that reason it is critical that Congress pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package. In her first public interview since becoming Treasury secretary last week, Yellen said that President Biden was would willing to cooperate with Republicans to pass the measure on a bipartisan basis. However, Democrats in Congress have signaled that if they do not line up GOP support, they are prepared to pass the measure with only Democratic support.


The S&P 500 index rose 41.57 points, or 1.1%, to 3,871.74. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 332.26 points, or 1.1%, to 31,055.86. The technology-heavy Nasdaq gained 167.20 points, or 1.2%, to 13,777.74. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 42.72 points, or 2%, to 2,202.42.

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