Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 26, 2021

New jobless claims fall to lowest level in a year, New York leaders reach a deal on legalizing recreational marijuana, and more

1

Initial jobless claims reach pandemic low

The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits fell to 684,000 last week, the lowest number since the coronavirus pandemic triggered widespread business shutdowns across the United States, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The last week with fewer than 700,000 initial jobless claims was in March 2020. Last week's figure was down from 781,000 the previous week, and significantly below the 735,000 expected by economists. Continuing claims fell by 264,000 to just under 3.9 million. "Things have improved over the last year, but there are still millions of people dealing with real economic pain," said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. "Increased vaccinations are hopefully the beginning of the end. Once the public health situation is improved, a full recovery can finally take place."

2

N.Y. leaders reach deal on legalizing recreational marijuana

New York officials on Thursday sealed a deal seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. If the legislature passes the bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs it, the law will make it possible to establish a $4.2 billion industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs, while potentially ending years of drug policing that resulted in a disproportionate number of arrests of Black and Latino suspects. The agreement between lawmakers and Cuomo calls for legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older. It also would allow deliveries of the drug and club-like lounges where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

3

Grounded ship could block Suez Canal traffic for 'days to weeks'

At least 150 commercial ships were blocked from passing through the Suez Canal on Thursday as crews continued efforts to refloat a massive container ship that wedged across the crucial waterway during a sandstorm on Tuesday. A Lloyd's List estimate indicates "the blockage is costing about $400 million an hour," as westbound traffic is worth about $5.1 billion a day, while eastbound traffic is worth about $4.5 billion a day. The chief executive of Boskalis, which is involved in the ongoing rescue operation, said it may "take days to weeks. Bringing in all the equipment we need, that's not around the corner." Bloomberg reports that "the best chance for freeing the ship may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will reach a peak." Experts said the delays could affect supply chains for months.

4

Stock futures edge higher after Dow's Thursday swing

U.S. stock index futures made modest gains early Friday after a dramatic Thursday turnaround for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Futures for the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent several hours before the opening bell. The Dow closed up by about 200 points or 0.6 percent on Thursday after dropping by as much as 300 points earlier in the day. Futures got a boost from bank stocks, which gained strength after the Federal Reserve said that banks could raise dividends and resume buybacks in late June. The central bank earlier had said it would lift the restrictions, imposed during earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, in the first quarter of this year. Shares of major banks, including JPMorgan and Citigroup, made modest gains in after-hours trading.

5

Trump's Mar-a-Lago to reopen after partial closure due to coronavirus outbreak

Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club will reopen this weekend after a partial shutdown triggered by employee coronavirus infections, according to an email to club members obtained by The Washington Post. "Thank you for your patience and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the club!" the email said. The club announced last Friday in another email that because "some of our staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and à la carte Dining Room." The Trump Organization told the Post after the closure that some workers had been quarantined, although it didn't say how many. The Palm Beach, Florida, club is where Trump has made his home since leaving office.

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