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CDC change spurs more mask sales

Masks had started to disappear from store shelves but they may be front and center again.

A spot check of stores and other data sources are showing that mask sales have been rising again in recent weeks as Americans worry about the surging cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Retail analysts expect mask sales will get another jolt after The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Tuesday changed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the cases are surging.

Still, stores face challenges in figuring how much they should order given so much uncertainty regarding the virus.

 

15-year mortgages fall to low of 2.1 %

Mortgage rates were mixed last week. The key 30-year home loan remained below 3% for the fifth straight week amid continued concern over the surging delta coronavirus variant and the progress of economic recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year mortgage edged up to 2.80% from 2.78% last week. The benchmark rate, which reached a peak this year of 3.18% in April, stood at 2.99% a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, fell to 2.10% from 2.12% last week.

 

Jobless claims dropped last week

Jobless claims dropped by 24,000 to 400,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The weekly applications have fallen more or less steadily this year — from a peak of 904,000 in early to January. But they remain high by historic standards: Before COVID struck the United States in March 2020, claims were coming in at about 220,000 a week.

Overall, 13.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid the week of July 10, down from 31.9 million a year ago.

"Beyond weekly ups and downs, the trend in total filings should remain downward over coming weeks," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research report. " Overall, job growth should pick up and labor shortages should ease as near-term constraints — virus concerns, child-care issues and enhanced unemployment benefits — diminish. But rising virus cases could be a headwind for the labor market and the economy."

 

Infrastructure pact trims Biden EV aid

The bipartisan compromise on infrastructure cuts in half President Joe Biden's call for $15 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging outlets. That raises the stakes as the administration seeks to win auto industry cooperation on soon-to-be-released anti-pollution rules on climate change.

The Senate legislation provides $7.5 billion in federal grants to build a national network of electric charging outlets, an amount that analysts say is a good start but nowhere close enough to spur widespread electric vehicle adoption.

The White House now says it won't set a specific target for the number of charging units but hopes to find other funding to cover the gap.

 

Amazon results mixed during second quarter

Amazon on Thursday turned in a mixed bag of results for its fiscal second quarter, coming up short of Wall Street expectations in revenue but beating on profits.

The world's largest online retailer also offered a revenue forecast for its current quarter that fell short of analysts' projections. It said revenue will be in the range of $106 billion to $112 billion. Analysts were looking for $119.3 billion.

Shares in Amazon.com Inc. fell more than 6% in after-market trading. Amazon is one of the few retailers that has prospered during the pandemic. Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said the slowdown in sales is a result of the company lapping against last year's huge pandemic-induced COVID-19 shopping.

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