AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

Business Highlights

December 24, 2020 GMT

___

‘We are struggling’: A bleak Christmas for America’s jobless

NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of Americans have been jobless since the viral pandemic ripped through the U.S. economy in March, triggering a deep recession and causing widespread unemployment. Now, many months later, they face a holiday season they hardly could have foreseen a year ago: Too little money to buy gifts, cook large festive meals or pay all their bills. Nearly 8 million people have sunk into poverty since June after having spent the $1,200 checks the government gave most Americans this spring and a $600-a-week supplemental jobless benefit that expired in July, according to research by Bruce Meyer at the University of Chicago and two other colleagues.

ADVERTISEMENT

___

Retailers brace for flood of returns from online shopping

NEW YORK (AP) — A huge surge in online shopping during the pandemic has been a savior for retailers, but it comes at a price. Shoppers are expected to return twice as many items as they did during last year’s holiday period, costing companies roughly $1.1 billion. That’s according to Narvar Inc., a software and technology company that manages online returns for hundreds of brands. Retailers don’t want the returns, but they do want shoppers who may not feel safe going to stores to be comfortable buying things they haven’t seen or tried on in person.

___

Breakthrough: UK and EU reach post-Brexit trade agreement

BRUSSELS (AP) — Britain and the European Union have struck a free-trade agreement that should avert New Year’s chaos for cross-border commerce and bring a measure of certainty to businesses after years of Brexit turmoil. The breakthrough on Thursday came after months of tense and often testy negotiations that whittled differences down to three key issues: fair-competition rules, mechanisms for resolving future disputes and fishing rights. Now comes the race to approve and ratify the deal before the U.K. leaves the EU’s economic structures on Jan. 1. The British and European parliaments both must hold votes to ratify the agreement. And key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain unresolved.

___

Timeline of events in Britain’s exit from the European Union

LONDON (AP) — The milestone that started Britain’s departure from the European Union took place on Jan. 23, 2013, the day British Prime Minister David Cameron promised a voter referendum on the U.K.’s continued membership in the EU. Plenty of political twists and turns marked the road to Brexit since then, including the resignations of both Cameron and his successor, heated Parliament debates in London, late night meetings at EU headquarters in Brussels, postponements and protest marches. Even when Britain finally left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020, it was just the start of another chapter. The two sides spent nine months trying to strike a deal on their new relationship. and announced one on Christmas Eve.

ADVERTISEMENT

___

China steps up pressure on Alibaba with anti-monopoly probe

BEIJING (AP) — China’s market regulator is conducting an anti-monopoly investigation of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, stepping up the ruling Communist Party’s effort to control fast-growing tech industries. The market regulator says it is looking into Alibaba’s policy of “choose one of two,” which requires business partners to avoid dealing with its competitors. Chinese leaders have said anti-monopoly enforcement will be a priority this coming year. Last month, regulators suspended the planned stock market debut of Ant Group, an online finance platform spun off from Alibaba. Internet companies in the United States face similar scrutiny.

___

Truckers finally leave UK after days of virus gridlock

DOVER, England (AP) — Truckers and travelers stuck in a days-long gridlock at the English port of Dover have started heading to France after the country partially reopened its borders with Britain following international concern over a rapidly spreading coronavirus variant. However, thousands of stranded truck drivers still awaited their turns to cross the English Channel, held up by the slow delivery of coronavirus tests that are now required. Trucks inched slowly forward to the ferries and trains that link Britain with France, as authorities checked that drivers had proof of negative test results. Officials warned the backlog could take days to clear, and many truckers will likely spend Christmas waiting in their cabs.

___

Benchmark U.S. 30-year mortgage drops to record low 2.66%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates dropped this week to a record low for the 16th time in 2020, reflecting an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan slipped to 2.66% from 2.67% last week. A year ago, it stood at 3.74%. The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans, popular among homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages, dipped to 2.19% from 2.21%. A year ago, it was 3.19%. The 5-year adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged this week at 2.79%. A year ago, it was at 3.45%.

___

Historic heart of Los Angeles on life support from COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The vibrant Mexican marketplace on the oldest street in Los Angeles is a shadow of its former self during the coronavirus pandemic. Olvera Street, known as the birthplace of Los Angeles, has been particularly hard hit, with shops and restaurants closed and others barely hanging on. Edward Flores, owner of Juanita’s Cafe, says his business is down 90% and some of his neighbors have gone out of business. Only a handful of businesses remain open on weekdays as tourism has cratered and downtown offices are closed and festive events held throughout the year have been canceled. Owners say they’re trying to scrape by on weekends.

___

Epicurious is righting cultural wrongs one recipe at a time

NEW YORK (AP) — With a new Black editor in chief and ambitious promises to do better, a little corner of the Conde Nast universe is taking racial and cultural injustice one recipe at a time. Since July, Epicurious has been scouring 55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Conde Nast magazines. They’re looking for objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens. The so-called Archive Repair Project at the resource site for home cooks is just one effort on a full plate of initiatives. Epicurious and Bon Appetit have been at the center of accusations of racial discrimination that also plague others in the food world.

___

Some businesses thrived, many lagged during pandemic in 2020

The coronavirus pandemic created winners and losers in the business world. Wall Street recovered after March, even though Main Street is still struggling. In 2020, many people took to working remotely in sweatpants, hopped onto an expensive high-tech exercise bike and had their favorite restaurant dish delivered, perhaps by a driver trying to earn an extra buck and hoping not to catch the coronavirus. On the flip side, many office buildings remain deserted, restaurants are empty and gyms remain sparsely populated. As few people traveled, the airline industry needed billions of dollars in aid from the government and is still threatening to lay off workers.

___

The S&P 500 rose 13.05 points, or 0.4%, to 3,703.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 70.04 points, or 0.2%, to 30,199.87. The Nasdaq composite added 33.62 points, or 0.3%, to 12,804.73 The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 3.15 points, or 0.2%, to 2,003.95.