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Business Highlights: Stocks sink, Black Friday’s back

November 26, 2021 GMT

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Stocks sink on new COVID variant; Dow loses 905 points

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks sank Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly falling more than 1,000 points, as a new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa appeared to be spreading across the globe. The S&P 500 index fell 2.3%, its worst day since February and the Nasdaq composite had its worst drop in two months. The Dow closed with a loss of 905 points. Travel and energy stocks were among the biggest losers, with Royal Caribbean dropping 13%, United Airlines falling more than 9% and Exxon losing 3.5%. The price of oil fell 13% and bond yields fell sharply.

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Black Friday is back but it’s not what it used to be

NEW YORK (AP) — On this year’s Black Friday, things almost seem normal. Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics. Online shopping is much too common for that now, and big discounts are spread out over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores. But out-of-stock items due to supply crunches, higher prices for gas and food, and labor shortages that make it more difficult to respond to customers are also causing frustrations for shoppers.

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FDA: Merck COVID pill effective, experts will review safety

U.S. health officials say Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill is effective but they raised questions about its safety during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration posted its review Friday ahead of a public meeting next week where outside experts will debate the drug’s benefits and risks. If FDA authorizes the drug it would be the first pill for U.S. patients infected with the virus. All FDA-authorized drugs currently used against coronavirus require an IV or injection. The FDA will ask its experts whether the drug’s benefits outweigh its risks for various patient groups, including pregnant women.

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Will flight restrictions help as new virus variant emerges?

A coronavirus variant recently identified in South Africa is leading to a new round of travel restrictions just as many had finally begun to ease. The risks of the new variant are largely unknown, but governments around the world are not waiting for scientists to better understand the variant to impose flight bans. The moves have renewed a debate over whether these travel restrictions work to prevent the spread of new variants. Some say at best the restrictions can buy time. At worst, they do little to stop the spread and give a false sense of security.

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Hundreds of FedEx packages are found in Alabama woods

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HAYDEN, Ala. (AP) — Authorities are trying to figure out how hundreds of FedEx packages ended up dumped in the woods in Alabama. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office says 300 to 400 packages of various sizes were found in a ravine near the small town of Hayden on Wednesday. Sheriff Mark Moon said deputies were sent to guard the scene until FedEx workers could arrive to pick up the packages. FedEx said in a statement that it’s cooperating with law enforcement and is working to transport the packages as quickly as possible. The sheriff said it wasn’t clear why the packages were in the ravine, but he hoped to have some answers soon.

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Georgia outlines plans to improve slow pace of rental help

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia officials struggling to distribute federal funds to prevent evictions have outlined plans to increase the speed at which they get the money to landlords and renters. The improvement plans were submitted last week to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. If they are not approved, the state risks losing some of the $550 million it was allocated in a first round of federal rental aid. Georgia had spent less than 10 percent of the money to help tenants by the middle of November. The state says it is developing a tool to easily check whether renters already got help and expanding outreach efforts.

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Biden sets out oil, gas leasing reform, stops short of ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has recommended an overhaul of the nation’s oil and gas leasing program to focus on areas that are most suitable for energy development and raise costs for energy companies to drill on public lands and water. The long-awaited report by the Interior Department on Friday stops short of recommending an end to oil and gas leasing on public lands, as many environmental groups have urged. But officials say the report will move toward a more responsible leasing process that provides a better to return to U.S. taxpayers for oil and gas drilling on the nation’s vast public lands and waters.

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Europe’s Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases rise

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Some of Europe’s Christmas markets are warily opening amid surging coronavirus infections. In Germany, the picturesque Frankfurt market is open over a wider area to thin out the crowds. Markets in Budapest are fenced off and customers have to show proof of vaccination. It’s a huge relief for merchants to be open after losing their Christmas business last year despite the restrictions. One ornament seller says that he can cover his bills if he can stay open for three weeks. But that’s no sure thing after two regions in Germany shut down their markets and Austria’s closed amid a 10-day national lockdown. With the closures goes the money tourists would spend in restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

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Americans are spending but inflation casts pall over economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are doing the main thing that drives the U.S. economy — spending — but accelerating inflation is casting a pall. A raft of economic data issued Wednesday showed the economy on solid footing, with Americans’ incomes rising and jobless claims falling to a level not seen since the Beatles were still together. The spike in prices for everything from gas to rent, however, will likely be the chief economic indicator Americans discuss over Thanksgiving Day dinner. The Commerce Department reported that U.S. consumer spending rebounded by 1.3% in October. That was despite inflation that over the past year has accelerated faster than it has at any point in more than three decades.

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EU regulator authorizes Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for kids 5-11

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The European Union drug regulator has authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use on children from 5 to 11 years old. Thursday’s move clears the way for shots to be administered to millions of elementary school pupils amid a new wave of infections sweeping across Europe. It is the first time the European Medicines Agency has cleared a COVID-19 vaccine for use in young children. The agency said it “recommended granting an extension of indication for the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty to include use in children aged 5 to 11.”

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The S&P 500 fell 106.84 points, or 2.3%, to 4,594.62. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 905.04 points, or 2.5%, to 34,899.34. The Nasdaq fell 353.57 points, or 2.2%, to 15,491.66. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 85.52 points, or 3.7%, to 2,245.94.