Business Highlights

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US jobless claims up to 744K as virus still forces layoffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, consumers gain confidence and the government distributes aid throughout the economy. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.

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Vote counting starts in Amazon union election

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Vote counting in the union push at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, has begun, but hundreds of contested ballots could muddy the outcome if it’s a close race. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said that 3,215 votes were sent in, about 55% of the nearly 6,000 workers who were eligible to vote. Hundreds of those votes were contested by Amazon or the union for various reasons. In order to determine a winner, the margin of victory must be more than the number of contested votes, otherwise a hearing will be held on whether or not to open the contested votes and count them toward the final tally.

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Fed’s Powell: US nears full reopening to ‘different economy’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says the U.S. economy is headed toward a strong recovery, though he cautioned not all will immediately benefit. He cited quickening vaccinations and signs of rapid hiring in a speech Thursday during the virtual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Still, Powell says that many of those out of work will struggle to find new jobs. He says some industries will likely be smaller than they were before the pandemic, and in other cases employers are seeking to use technology instead of workers where possible.

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Netflix scores streaming rights to new top Sony films

NEW YORK (AP) — Netflix further beefed up its film catalog on Thursday in a multi-year deal that will make it the new streaming home to Sony Pictures’ top releases in the U.S. Beginning next year, Sony’s new films will stream domestically on Netflix after their theatrical runs. That includes movies in popular franchises like “Spider-Man,” “Venom” and “Jumanji,” as well as 2022 releases like “Morbius,” “Where the Crawdads Sing,” “Uncharted” and “Bullet Train.” The agreement also gives Netflix a first-look option on any films the Culver City, California-based studio elects to send directly to streaming.

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IMF policy panel endorses $650 billion increase in resources

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund has given the go-ahead to a $650 billion expansion of the resources of the 190-nation lending institution with the aim of providing more support for vulnerable countries as they battle the coronavirus pandemic. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the $650 billion increase in reserves would be the largest in IMF history and would provide badly needed reserves for poor countries struggling with deep recessions caused by the pandemic and the need to obtain and administer millions of doses of vaccines.

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2 new airlines await Americans looking to fly somewhere

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — Two new U.S. airlines are planning on starting service this spring, tapping into the travel recovery that is picking up speed. Avelo Airlines said Thursday that it will begin flying later this month to 11 destinations from Burbank, California. The startup plans to expand to other routes as it adds more planes to its fleet, which numbers just three planes. The next addition will be Breeze Airways, the latest creation of David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue Airways more than 20 years ago. Both hope to draw passengers by filling in smaller, overlooked routes on the spider web of airline routes crisscrossing the United States.

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Chip shortage forces more production cuts by GM, Ford

DETROIT (AP) — The global shortage of semiconductors is forcing General Motors and Ford to further cut production at North American factories as chip supplies seem to be growing tighter. The shutdowns likely will crimp dealer inventory of vehicles made at the plants. GM says it has managed to keep factories humming that make hot-selling and profitable full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. The chip shortage has already been rippling through markets since last summer, but it has hit the global auto industry hardest. GM says Thursday that production cuts will take place at its Spring Hill, Tennessee; Ramos Arizpe, Mexico; Ingersoll, Ontario; Fairfax, Kansas; Lansing, Michigan, Delta Township; and Lansing, Michigan, Grand River factories.

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Stocks rise as lower bond yields help lift tech companies

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing moderately higher on Wall Street. The S&P 500 was helped to a new high Thursday by large technology companies that benefitted from lower bond yields. Bank stocks and energy companies fell, which muted the market’s overall gains. The S&P 500 index gained 0.4%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 1%. Stocks have benefited this week from a cooling off in the bond market. Yields, which had been steadily ticking higher, have retreated from highs hit earlier in the month. The easing yields have taken some pressure off of technology stocks.

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The S&P 500 rose 17.22 points, or 0.4%, to 4,097.17. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 57.31 points, or 0.2%, to 33,503.57. The Nasdaq composite climbed 140.47 points, or 1%, to 13,829.31. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 19.54 points, or 0.9%, to 2,242.60.