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Business Highlights

January 7, 2021 GMT

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Social platforms flex their power, lock down Trump accounts

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After years of treating President Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Instagram are silencing his social media accounts for the rest of his presidency. The move, which many called long overdue following Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is also a reminder of the enormous power that social-media platforms can wield when they choose. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to use the platform is too great; his account could be locked indefinitely. Twitter also temporarily locked President Donald Trump’s accounts after he repeatedly posted false accusations about the integrity of the election. ___

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Boeing will pay $2.5 billion to settle charge over plane

CHICAGO (AP) — Boeing will pay $2.5 billion to settle a criminal charge related to its troubled 737 Max jetliner. The Justice Department announced the settlement Thursday, nearly two years after the second of two crashes that killed 346 people in all. Boeing is agreeing to pay money for crash victims’ families, airline customers and airlines, as well as a fine. The 737 Max entered service in 2017. The first crash occurred in October 2018 in Indonesia, and a second occurred five months later in Ethiopia. In both cases, an automated system pushed the noses of the planes down, and pilots were unable to regain control.

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US unemployment claims slip to still-high 787,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell slightly to 787,000, evidence of a job market stumbling in the face of the viral pandemic and the damage it has inflicted on the economy for nearly 10 months. Thursday’s figure from the Labor Department, a slight decline from the previous week, showed that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restrictions and leads anxious consumers to stay home. ___

Wall Street keeps rising on Democratic wins, stimulus hopes

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street rallied to more record highs as investors hope the Democratic sweep of Washington means more stimulus is on the way for the economy. The S&P 500 rose 1.5% Thursday after Congress confirmed Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election and Jon Ossoff was declared the winner of a Georgia runoff election, tipping control of the Senate to Democrats. Investors and analysts are anticipating Congress will try to deliver $2,000 checks to most Americans, increase spending on infrastructure and take other measures to nurse the economy amid the worsening pandemic. Treasury yields continued to climb.

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Didn’t get your relief payment yet? You aren’t alone

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury and IRS have sent out the bulk of the second economic impact payments, which are intended to provide some relief to Americans. However, frustration is high among millions of people who did not receive payments yet and must wait for the mail or file their taxes before they receive it. The payments, worth $600 per eligible adult and dependent, are being distributed by direct deposit, paper checks and debit cards. Those who did not receive a payment or received the wrong amount must file their 2020 taxes to get it. ___

US trade deficit jumps to $68.1 billion in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit jumped to $68.1 billion in November, the highest monthly deficit in 14 years, as a surge in imports overwhelmed a smaller increase in exports. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the November gap between what America buys from abroad compared to what it sells rose 8% from October. The increase reflects a 2.9% increase in imports of goods and services to $252.3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis. That jump swamped a 1.2% rise in exports which totaled $184.2 billion in November. Through the first 11 months of 2020, the deficit stands at $604.8 billion, 13.9% higher than the same period in 2019. President Donald Trump has insisted that his get-tough trade policies with the rest of the world would shrink the deficit and bring back American jobs. ___

US long-term mortgage rates hit new lows; 30-year at 2.65%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates declined this week to new record lows for the first week of 2021. The year opens against the continuing backdrop of damage from the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. and global economies, which suppressed home loan rates through most of 2020. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan slipped to 2.65% from 2.67% from last week. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans ticked down to 2.16% from 2.17%. Mortgage rates are set to rise modestly this year as economic factors shift, according to Freddie Mac’s chief economist. ___

The S&P 500 rose 55.65 points, or 1.5%, to 3,803.79. The Dow gained 211.73 points, or 0.7%, to 31,041.13. The tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 326.69 points, or 2.6%, to 13,067.48. The Russell 2000 picked up 38.96 points, or 1.9%, to 2,096.89.