Business Highlights

·5 min read

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Wall Street hits records as hopes build for more stimulus

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rallied to record highs on Wall Street as traders hoped that new leadership in Washington will mean more support for the economy, which is still reeling from joblessness and business closures because of the pandemic. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% Wednesday. Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th U.S. president, and has already pitched a $1.9 trillion plan to help American families and businesses. The hope is that the additional stimulus will help carry the economy until vaccinations get daily life closer to normal later this year. Treasury yields rose. Netflix soared after passing 200 million subscribers.

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Trump’s pardon blitz keeps ex-Google exec out of prison

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — A long-running Silicon Valley soap opera has taken an unexpected twist after outgoing President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer. Anthony Levandowski had pleaded guilty to stealing self-driving car secrets from Google shortly before he joined Uber to help the ride-hailing service build its own robotic vehicles. Trump’s surprise pardon enables Levandowski to avoid serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison handed down last summer. The pardon came after Trump was lobbied by three of Levandowski lawyers owed $5 million and prominent technology investor Peter Thiel.

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Jack’s back: Chinese e-tycoon ends silence with online video

BEIJING (AP) — China’s highest-profile entrepreneur, e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma, has appeared in a video posted online, ending a 2 1/2-month disappearance from public view that prompted speculation about his status and his business empire’s future. In the 50-second video, Ma congratulated teachers supported by his charitable foundation and made no mention of his absence from public view and scrutiny of his Alibaba Group and Ant Group by regulators. The video appeared on Chinese business news and other websites . The normally voluble, press-friendly Ma was last seen in public after criticizing financial regulators in a speech at a conference in October. Days later, regulators suspended Ant’s planned multibillion-dollar stock market debut.

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Music stars slam UK’s ‘shameful’ failure on EU touring rules

LONDON (AP) — Dozens of U.K. music stars including Elton John, Ed Sheeran and conductor Simon Rattle say musicians have been “shamefully failed” by the British government, which has left them facing post-Brexit restrictions on touring in the European Union. In a letter published Wednesday in the Times of London, more than 100 musicians including Sting, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Roger Daltrey of The Who, said the new U.K.-EU trade deal will make it impossible for many British musicians to perform in the EU.

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United Airlines posts $1.9 billion loss in pandemic-laden 4Q

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines lost $1.9 billion in the last three months of 2020, but the airline says it’s laying the groundwork for a gradual recovery after the coronavirus outbreak is contained. United said Wednesday that its revenue in the fourth quarter tumbled 69%, as concern about the pandemic kept most people grounded. United says, however, that it’s cutting structural costs. United says the combination of cost-cutting and more business travel means profit margins will recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. United says its fourth-quarter loss, adjusted to exclude one-time gains, works out to $7 a share. That’s worse than analysts expected; according to a FactSet survey, they predicted a loss of $6.62 a share.

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UnitedHealth overcomes pandemic hit and tops 4Q expectations

MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) — UnitedHealth’s fourth-quarter earnings tumbled as costs from COVID-19 hit the health insurance provider, but results still easily beat expectations. Health care use rebounded in the final quarter of 2020 after the global pandemic kept people away from doctor offices and surgery centres when it first spread earlier last year. UnitedHealth also said Wednesday that its insurance business spent more in the fourth quarter covering COVID-19 testing and treatment. Medical costs, by far the company’s largest expense, jumped 7% to more than $42 billion. UnitedHealth also reaffirmed its forecast for 2021 earnings, which it first announced in December.

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Morgan Stanley profits rise 48%, helped by strong markets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Morgan Stanley saw its fourth-quarter profits surge 48% from a year earlier, as the Wall Street bank benefited from the market’s upward swing and investors jubilation for tech stocks and IPOs late last year. The New York-based firm earned $3.39 billion, or $1.81 a share, up from a profit of $2.31 billion, or $1.30 a share, in the same period a year earlier. The results were significantly better than the per-share earnings of $1.30 that analysts had expected, according to FactSet.

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Work on Keystone XL pipeline suspended ahead of Biden action

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline says it has suspended work on the pipeline in in anticipation of incoming U.S. President Joe Biden revoking its permit. Biden’s Day One plans included moving to revoke a presidential permit for the pipeline. The 1,700-mile (2, 735-kilometre ) pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The company said Wednesday it will “review the decision, assess its implications, and consider its options.” But it said the project will be suspended.

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The S&P 500 rose 52.94 points, 1.4%, to 3,851.85. The Dow gained 257.86 points, or 0.8%, to 31,188.38. The Nasdaq climbed 260.07 points, or 2%, to 13,457.25. The Russell 2000 picked up 9.48 points, or 0.4%, to 2,160.62.

The Associated Press