Friday, April 1, 2022

U.S. Stocks End Higher Friday, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Book Third Week of Gains. U.S. stocks finished higher Friday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite booking a third straight week of gains, as investors focused on a strong labor market that could smooth the way for a more aggressive path of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve as it seeks to tackle hot inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 140 points, or 0.4%, ending near 34,818. The S&P 500 index edged up 0.3%, or 15 points, to close at 4546, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 41 points, or 0.3%, to finish near 14,262. For the week, the S&P 500 rose 0.1% and the Nasdaq gained 0.7%, but the Dow ended 0.1% lower, halting its weekly win streak at two.

U.S. Job Growth Remains Solid as Pandemic Funk Fades Further

The U.S. economy created 431,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate fell, showing continued strength in the labor market’s pandemic recovery even as the pace of job growth slowed down.
With the economy creating more than half a million jobs each month on average since the start of this year—a pace on par with 2021’s growth—the labor market is continuing to surge ahead despite significant uncertainties dragging on other parts of the economy, including rising inflation and the Russia-Ukraine war.
That could keep the Federal Reserve on track for a half-point interest-rate increase in May, as some officials have recently suggested.

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Ukraine’s Friends Refuse to Pay Russia Rubles for Gas. What Could Come Next.

Vladimir Putin was rash enough to invade Ukraine. Could he double his bet by cutting Russian natural gas exports to Ukraine’s supporters in Europe? It doesn’t look like it, for the moment.
Russia’s leader launched his latest stare-down with the West a week ago, announcing that “unfriendly states” would have to start paying for their gas in rubles, not euros or dollars. His unfriendly counterparts across the European Union duly refused.

CDC Says BA.2 Is the Dominant Covid-19 Strain in the U.S.

The BA.2 variant of Omicron, the highly contagious Covid-19 strain causing surges of cases in Europe, has reached 55% of cases in the U.S. as of March 26, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That is up from 14.3% of cases in the week ending March 5.

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Amazon Workers in New York Vote for First Union at the E-Commerce Giant

Amazon.com workers at a site in New York voted to form a union, the first at the e-commerce giant. The fate of unionization efforts in Alabama remains undecided.
The latest vote tally had 2,654 warehouse workers in New York voting to unionize at the Amazon plant in Staten Island vs. 2,131 against.

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FDA Authorizes Second Covid Booster for Adults Ages 50 and Up

U.S. regulators authorized a second booster dose of either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for adults ages 50 and over this week, executing what appears to be a rapid change in strategy as the BA.2 variant threatens a new wave of Covid-19 infections in the U.S.
Soon after the Food and Drug Administration issued its updated authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a concurring statement.

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Crypto Thieves Strike as Currencies Move Into Mainstream

Regulation around cryptocurrencies was back in focus this week after hackers stole around $600 million in one of the world’s biggest ever crypto heists.
The security breach comes as governments grapple with implementing new regulatory regimes for crypto. The U.K. government is set to reveal plans within weeks, according to a report.

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Activision’s Merger With Microsoft Is Getting New Pushback From U.S. Senators

A group of prominent Senate Democrats is urging the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize Microsoft’s proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The letter, signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Cory Booker (N.J.), cited media reports and lawsuits regarding Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture and argues the merger with Microsoft threatens worker-led demands for accountability.

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Biden Uses Executive Authority to Boost the EV Industry

The Biden administration’s blueprint for fighting “Putin’s price hike at the pump” goes beyond the short-term fix of boosting the supply of oil. It also includes using the Defense Production Act to boost the U.S.’s capability to produce supplies needed to make electric vehicles.
The administration will release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve as well as pressing domestic energy companies to increase production. Biden is proposing new fees on unused oil and gas leases.

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FDA Advisors Narrowly Oppose Amylyx’s ALS Drug

A panel of scientific advisors to the Food and Drug Administration this week narrowly opposed approval of a new drug designed to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, concluding that data from the sole trial of the drug did not prove it was an effective treatment.
The members of the advisory body voted six to four against the contention that the drug developed by Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, AMX0035, had been shown to be effective against ALS.

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Teva, Others to Pay Millions in Florida Opioid Settlements

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries said this week it has reached an agreement with Florida to settle opioid-related claims, but that the deal isn’t an admission of liability or wrongdoing.
The settlement, one of several Florida said it has reached with pharmaceutical producers or distributors, will give the state $177 million over 15 years. The deal also includes doses of Teva’s generic version of the drug Narcan valued at $84 million over 10 years, according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

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