Update on the latest in business – WRAL.com

update-on-the-latest-in-business-–-wral.com

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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks waver

Stocks have been wobbling between small gains and losses in afternoon trading after the market hit record highs last week.

Investors are continuing to focus on the economic recovery as well as concerns about inflation and rising bond yields.

The S&P 500 index was relatively unchanged.

Big banks will be in focus as several of them report their latest quarterly earnings in the middle of the week. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo report on Wednesday, while Bank of America and Citigroup report on Thursday.

Nuance Communications soared after Microsoft agreed to buy the speech technology company for about $16 billion.

MICROSOFT-NUANCE

Microsoft buying speech recognition firm Nuance in $16B deal

Microsoft, on an accelerated growth push, is buying speech recognition company Nuance in a cash deal worth $16 billion. Microsoft will pay $56 per share. The companies value the transaction including debt at $19.7 billion.

Microsoft’s acquisition comes after the companies formed a partnership in 2019. Nuance’s products are used by the majority of U.S. physicians, radiologists and hospitals.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called artificial intelligence technology’s most important priority and health care its most urgent application.

The transaction is expected to close this year.

CYBERSECURITY-APPOINTMENTS

Biden names 2 ex-NSA officials for senior cyber positions

President Joe Biden has selected two former senior National Security Agency officials for key cyber roles in his administration. That’s according to a White House announcement Monday.

Former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis is being nominated as the government’s first national cyber director. Former NSA deputy for counterterrorism Jen Easterly has been tapped to run the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security. National security adviser Jake Sullivan says “this is the team” to protect America’s networks and meet challenges posed by U.S. adversaries in cyberspace.

The appointments come as the Biden administration grapples with the aftermath of the SolarWinds hack and an intrusion targeting Microsoft Exchange email software.

BIDEN-INFRASTRUCTURE

White House issuing reports on states’ infrastructure needs

The Biden White House is amplifying the push for its $2.3 trillion infrastructure package with state-by-state breakdowns that show the dire shape of roads, bridges, the power grid and housing affordability.

The state summaries were obtained by The Associated Press and paint a decidedly bleak outlook for the world’s largest economy after years of repairs being deferred and delayed.

Monday’s reports show there are 7,300 miles of highway in Michigan alone that are in poor condition. Damaged streets in North Carolina impose an average yearly cost of $500 on motorists. Iowa has 4,571 bridges in need of repair.

UBER-DRIVERS WANTED

Record demand at Uber as vaccinations rise

Uber is offering sign-up bonuses and other incentives for drivers as it faces record demand for rides and meal delivery.

The San Francisco ride-hailing company said Monday that total monthly bookings, including food delivery and passenger service, reached an all-time high in March.

In a government filing, the company said demand for ride-hailing, which plunged during coronavirus lockdowns last year, has recovered more quickly than expected as daily COVID-19 vaccinations exceed 3 million per day in the U.S. Passenger bookings reached the highest level since last March, when spiking infection rates began to shut the country down.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN

Chilly weather doesn’t dampen UK joy at lockdown easing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “behave responsibly” as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopened after months of lockdown.

Monday brought the easing of restrictions that had been in place in England since early January. They were imposed to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections linked to a more transmissible new variant first identified in the southeast of the country.

Long lines formed outside some stores, including a branch of Nike Town in London’s busy Oxford Street, and pubs and restaurants with outdoor space reported a flood of bookings. The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said businesses that have endured months of enforced closure were “excited and desperate” to welcome customers back.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EVENTS

Time to party? Events industry still uncertain about COVID

Although weddings and other big celebrations are going back on the calendar in the U.S., business owners who make those events happen expect a slow recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Owners say inquiries and bookings are picking up, but no one knows yet what kind of restrictions there’ll be on the size of gatherings, and whether traditions like cocktail hours and dancing will be be limited. Event planners and venue operators say it’s not just government restrictions — many people are still uneasy about large gatherings.

Even bridal shop owners see caution — couples aren’t planning weddings with 10 bridesmaids and groomsmen.

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