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Business Highlights

May 20, 2020 GMT

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Cash, long a refuge in uncertain times, now under suspicion

BEIRUT (AP) — In troubled times, people have been known to hoard currency at home. It’s often a financial security blanket against deep uncertainty. But in this crisis, things are different. This time cash itself, passed from hand to hand just like the coronavirus, is part of what some people fear. Money’s status has changed during the virus era — perhaps for good. Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus from person to person through the use of bills and coins is extremely minimal. But the pandemic has reawakened debate about their continued viability.

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Apple, Google release technology for pandemic apps

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple and Google on Wednesday released long-awaited smartphone technology to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. The companies said 22 countries and a number of U.S. states are already planning to build voluntary phone apps using their software. It relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for the virus. The new app-building interface comes as many governments have already tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to roll out their own phone apps to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Q&A: Safety a big concern as workers return to their jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — The new challenge for businesses as their employees slowly start to return to work will be how to keep them safe during the pandemic. A variety of new protocols are being implemented, including temperature checks, contact tracing, social distancing and staggered schedules. The stakes are high since without a vaccine or treatment, an outbreak of the new coronavirus could be devastating for companies and workers alike. And even with protocols in place, some still feel nervous about contagion. The protocols also raise concerns over privacy.

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Reopening: It’s back to business, but not business as usual

NEW YORK (AP) — As countries around the world loosen their coronavirus restrictions, it’s back to business, but not business as usual. In fact, it is becoming all too clear that without a vaccine against the scourge, the disruptions could be long-lasting and the economy won’t simply bounce right back. In Connecticut, restaurants are reopening with outdoor-only dining and tables 6 feet apart. In Beverly Hills, California, the rich and glamorous are doing their shopping from the curb along Rodeo Drive. And preschools around the U.S. plan to turn social distancing into an arts-and-crafts project by teaching kids how to “create their own space” with materials such as yarn and masking tape.

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Regional Fed chief: A slow rebound would boost loan program

WASHINGTON (AP) — The president of a regional Federal Reserve bank that will oversee a groundbreaking business lending program said he thinks a slower-than-expected recovery from the economic downturn would lead companies to seek critical support from the program. Eric Rosengren, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the Fed’s new Main Street Lending Program will provide bridge loans to formerly healthy companies that are struggling because of the virus and the resulting business shutdowns and economic downturn. The Main Street program, announced in March, is expected to begin operations by June 1.

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Big box rules: Target’s online push readied it for pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — Online sales at Target more than doubled as the pandemic put millions in lockdown during the first quarter, revealing further the critical role big box stores played in getting supplies to an immobilized population. The Minneapolis company reported Wednesday that comparable-store sales, which include online purchases, rose 10.8% for the three-month period that ended May 2. That was fueled by a 12.5% jump in the number of items customers bought with each trip to the store as families made major restocking runs, but made fewer trips.

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US farmers leaning more heavily on government loan programs

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — U.S. farmers leaned more heavily upon the federal government last year to finance their agricultural operations amid low commodity prices and trade disputes. And more of the money they borrowed is now delinquent. The Agriculture Department said it has not seen significant change in loan delinquency rates because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it does expect an impact if the the economic fallout continues. Farm foreclosures have not increased.

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Stocks close higher as investors regain some more confidence

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks posted solid gains on Wall Street Wednesday, erasing their losses from a day earlier. Big-name investor favorites like Facebook, Apple and Amazon helped pull the market higher. The S&P 500 rose 1.7%. Technology, the only sector that’s holding on to a gain for the year, accounted for much of the market’s upward move. Communications companies and banks also helped drive the market higher. The price of crude oil jumped 4.8%, its fifth straight gain. Small-company stocks did better than the rest of the market. Bond yields moved broadly lower, a sign of caution in the market.

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The S&P 500 gained 48.67 points, or 1.7%, to 2,971.61. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 369.04 points, or 1.5%, to 24,575.90. The Nasdaq composite climbed 190.67 points, or 2.1%, to 9,375.78. The Russell 2000 index rose 39.21 points, or 3%, to 1,346.93.

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