Business briefing

The daily business briefing: October 15, 2021

Weekly new jobless claims fall to pandemic-era low, stocks surge after strong start to earnings season, and more

1

Weekly jobless claims fall below 300,000 for 1st time since pandemic hit

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell below 300,000 last week for the first time since the pandemic crisis began, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time jobless claims dropped by 36,000 to 293,000 for the week that ended Oct. 9 in what was widely interpreted as a sign that hiring was bouncing back as the summer coronavirus surge driven by the highly infectious Delta variant wanes. Continuing claims, which run behind the "headline number" by one week, also dropped to their own pandemic-era low, having fallen by 134,000 to 2.59 million. The decline came after a record 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August, suggesting one reason for declining layoffs was that many workers are leaving voluntarily.

2

Strong start to earnings season sparks Wall Street rally

U.S. stocks surged on Thursday with a boost from better-than-expected earnings reports from several big companies, including Walgreens Boots Alliance, UnitedHealth, and Bank of America. The S&P 500 jumped by 1.7 percent, its biggest one-day gain since March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq rose by 1.6 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. All three of the main U.S. averages are now on track to finish the week with gains. The Dow and the S&P are about 2 percent below record highs. U.S. stock futures rose further early Friday. Futures tied to the S&P 500 and the Dow were up by about 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. Nasdaq futures gained 0.3 percent as the strong start to earnings season lifted investor sentiment.

3

FDA advisers recommend limited emergency use of Moderna booster 

A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers recommended emergency-use authorization of Moderna's coronavirus booster shot for people 65 and older, and those 18 to 64 at high risk of severe COVID-19 or elevated risk due to their jobs. The panel's 19 members unanimously backed starting to give these groups the 50-microgram third dose, which is half the size of the initial two doses. Patients in the targeted groups would be eligible six months after receiving the initial two-dose regimen. Committee members said they would have liked to see more data justifying the Moderna booster, but that it made sense to approve it given that they have already cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for emergency use. Regulators aren't obligated to follow the advisers' recommendations, but typically do.

4

Former Boeing chief test pilot indicted in connection with 737 Max

Mark A. Forkner, a former chief test pilot for Boeing, was indicted on fraud charges Thursday for allegedly lying to federal authorities who were evaluating the 737 Max airplane. Forkner, 49, is accused of giving the Federal Aviation Administration false and incomplete information regarding the plane's automated flight-control. The system played a role in two crashes in late 2018 and early 2019 left 346 people dead. Following the accidents, the 737 Max was grounded so authorities could investigate. "His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency's ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls," said Chad Meacham, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

5

Nearly 40 percent of households faced financial problems during coronavirus surge

A recent survey found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. households reported facing financial problems as the highly infectious Delta variant drove a summertime coronavirus surge. More than 50 percent of Black, Latino, and Native American households said they had financial difficulties in the last few months. Some had trouble paying utility or credit card bills. Nearly 60 percent of households with annual income of $50,000 or less had serious financial challenges, with 30 percent of those saying they had depleted their entire savings, according to the poll conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Public Radio. The survey also found that two-thirds of parents said their children had fallen behind in school.

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