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Business Highlights

January 22, 2021 GMT

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Biden ordering stopgap help as talks start on big aid plan

BALTIMORE (AP) — President Joe Biden is taking executive action to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief to millions of Americans. Biden wants to get assistance flowing while Congress begins to consider the Democratic president’s much larger $1.9 trillion package to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The two executive orders that Biden signed Friday would increase food aid, protect job seekers on unemployment and clear a path for federal workers and contractors to get a $15 hourly minimum wage. The Biden White House has not provided a timeline for getting its proposed relief package through. ___

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Chipmaker Intel Corp. probes reported website hack

BOSTON (AP) — The computer chipmaker Intel Corp. says it is investigating a reported hack of its corporate website that prompted it to release a quarterly earnings report early. The company’s chief financial officer, George Davis, told The Financial Times that Intel published its earnings ahead of the stock market’s close on Thursday because it believed a hacker stole financially sensitive information from the site. A company statement said a graphic from Intel’s earnings material may have been taken. Such information could benefit stock traders. Intel had no comment beyond a Thursday statement in which it said it is investigating reports of “non-authorized access” to its earnings material.

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Google threatens to pull search engine in Australia

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Google is threatening to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government proceeds with plans to make tech giants pay for news content. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly hit back, saying it doesn’t respond to threats. Morrison’s comments came after Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, told a Senate inquiry into the bill that the new rules would be unworkable. She said Google was willing to pay a wide and diverse group of news publishers for the value they added, but not under the rules as proposed. The mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government aims to make Google and Facebook pay Australian media companies fairly for using news content the tech giants siphon from news sites.

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Existing home sales rise in 2020 to highest in 14 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of existing homes rose 0.7% in December, helping to push sales for the entire year to the highest level in 14 years, giving the economy a rare bright spot in a global pandemic. The National Association of Realtors reported Friday that the December sales increase lifted activity to a seasonally adjusted annual ratee of 6.76 million units. For the year, sales rose to 6.48 million, the highest level since 2006 at the height of the housing boom. The report showed that the median sales prices was $309,800 in December, up 12.9% from a year ago.

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Mixed finish on Wall Street as worldwide rally takes a pause

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks struggled to a mixed finish on Wall Street, trimming the weekly gain for the S&P 500 even as the Nasdaq eked out another record high. Small-company stocks also bounded ahead, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average of big blue-chip stocks fell. Overseas markets also hit pause on their recent rally as worries mounted about resurgent coronavirus cases in China and weak economic data from Europe. In the U.S., IBM sank after a weak earnings report. Treasury yields edged lower and crude oil prices fell. Even after losing 0.3% Friday the S&P 500 still manged a gain of 1.9% for the week.

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Yellen nomination as Treasury secretary clears committee

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Finance Committee approved President Joe Biden’s nomination of Janet Yellen to be the nation’s 78th Treasury secretary on Friday, and supporters said they hoped to get the full Senate to approve it later in the day, making her the first woman to hold the job. The Finance Committee approved her nomination on a 26-0 vote. The administration is urging a quick confirmation vote, saying it’s critical to get the top member of Biden’s economic team in place as the Democratic president seeks to win approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. ___

Google’s parent deflates internet-beaming balloon company

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Google’s parent company is letting the air out of an internet-beaming balloon company that was providing online access from the stratosphere. The plan to shut down Loon ends what started out nine years ago as one of Google’s secret projects in its so-called “moonshot factory,” a division now called X. Google, Loon and X all are owned by Alphabet Inc., which draws upon Google’s digital advertising empire finance risky ideas like internet-beaming balloons and another high-profile flop, internet-connected glasses. As reflected by its name, Loon was viewed as a crazy idea from the start.

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The S&P 500 slipped 11.60 points, or 0.3%, to 3,841.47. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 179.03 points, or 0.6%, to 30,996.98. The Nasdaq inched up 12.15 points, or 0.1%, to 13,543.06. The Russell 2000 added 27.34 points, or 1.3%, to 2,168.76.