The United States and China do not agree on much nowadays, but on climate change both countries are publicly pledging to do more to fight global warming. The problem will be working together on it.
On Thursday, President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, met in Shanghai with his counterpart to press China on reducing its carbon emissions, at a time when an emboldened Communist Party leadership has become increasingly dismissive of American demands.
In Beijing’s view, the United States still has much ground to recover after walking away from the Paris climate agreement, the 2015 accord to address the catastrophic effects of warming.
Mr. Biden’s commitments to now make climate change a top priority are, to officials in Beijing, merely catching up to China after its leader, Xi Jinping, last year pledged to accelerate the country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
article on Wednesday before Mr. Kerry’s visit.
A main purpose of Mr. Kerry’s travels to China and elsewhere has been to rally support for Mr. Biden’s virtual climate summit of dozens of world leaders next week. Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation, but he will join a similar conference on Friday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
rivalry over technology could spill into climate policy, where innovations in energy, batteries, vehicles and carbon storage offer solutions for reducing emissions. Already, American lawmakers are demanding that the United States block Chinese products from being used in the infrastructure projects that Mr. Biden has proposed.
“If there is a serious lack of basic trust, strategic and political, between China and the U.S., that will inevitably hold back deepening cooperation in the specialized sphere of climate change,” Zou Ji, the president of Energy Foundation China, who has advised Chinese climate negotiators, wrote recently in a Chinese foreign policy journal.
Cooperation between the United States, the worst emitter of greenhouse gases historically, and China, the worst in the world today, could spur greater efforts from other countries. China accounts for 28 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; the United States, in second place, emits 14 percent of the global total.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and other American officials have said they are prepared to cooperate with the Chinese government on issues like climate, even as they confront it others, including the crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and the menacing military operations against Taiwan and in the South China Sea.
It is not clear that Mr. Xi’s government is prepared to compartmentalize in the same way. Officials have indicated that the souring of relations has spoiled the entire range of issues between the two countries.
“Chinese-U.S. climate cooperation still faces many internal and external constraints and difficulties,” said a study released this week by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
resume the role of China’s climate envoy.
Both he and Mr. Kerry — a former secretary of state and Senate colleague of Mr. Biden’s — have high-level support from the leaders who appointed them, making them powerful voices in the political bureaucracies they must confront at home.
Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, who closely follows Chinese climate policy. “His position has the aura of having been installed from the top.”
The Chinese climate official also oversaw a study from Tsinghua University last year that he has indicated helped shape Mr. Xi’s goals to achieve net carbon neutrality for China before 2060.
video talk late last month with António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, Mr. Xie said that wealthy countries should deliver on promises of financial support to help poorer countries cope with global warming and acquire emissions-reducing technology.
official Chinese summary of the meeting. He also appeared to gently suggest that the Biden administration should not assume that it naturally belonged at the head of the table.
“We welcome the United States’ return to the Paris Accord,” Mr. Xie said, “and look forward to the United States striving to catch up and exercise leadership.”
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting. Claire Fu contributed research.
STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — You can’t ride the wild mustangs at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Nevada, but you’re nearly guaranteed to see bands of them loping over sagebrush in a scene that feels straight out of the 1800s.
At least until the dust clears and Tesla’s 5.3-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” comes into focus.
Welcome to the Silver State, where Elon Musk, a cryptocurrency tycoon and a brothel owner are using a symbol of Americana as a social media recruiting tool.
The water cooler used to be the spot in the office to talk shop. Then came on-site cafes, fitness and yoga studios, rooftop gardens, fire pits and rock-climbing walls. “The overarching trend of the last five years has been the hotelification of the office,” said Lenny Beaudoin, an executive managing director at CBRE.
For employers, the newest amenities to wow workers are ideological, with environmental commitments topping the list, said Jason H. Somers, the president of Crest Real Estate, a Southern California real estate consultancy.
progress by corporate giants, but most efforts remain so opaque that it’s tough to spot greenwashing, the use of sustainability efforts to appear more attractive.
Embracing high environmental standards can be challenging and expensive. Some companies pay others to reduce emissions. Others plant trees, which can take years to grow and rely heavily on water and care.
Tesla used a $1.3 billion state tax break to build its $5 billion factory, tapping into a local work force still reeling from the Great Recession and ushering in a wave of Silicon Valley heavies. Switch, a technology infrastructure company, set up three data centers, then Google gobbled up 1,200 acres. Blockchains bought 67,000 acres for $170 million in 2018, becoming the park’s biggest tenant.
hoped to transform the expanse into an experimental city run by his encrypted digital systems. He pledged to build 15,000 homes, turning it into a huge innovation zone, with his company overseeing everything from schools to courts, law and water.
“I want this to become the greatest social experiment in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s going to be a cross between Disneyland and the chocolate factory from Willy Wonka.”
He’ll have to rethink the scope: In March, the county voted against the secession plan.
Mr. Berns says he plans to develop around 25,000 of his 67,000 acres, but for now, it will remain an outpost for wild horses.
Nevada is home to more than half of the country’s 95,000 wild horses and burros, descendants of animals brought to the continent by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to the tune of about $100 million annually, wild horses live on protected and private land crisscrossed by freeways.
Wild Horse Connection, an advocacy group. “Horses in traffic, on the wrong side of fencing, vehicular, train accidents, sick or ill horses.”
Rescues triple once mares start foaling, said Ms. Vance, whose annual budget is about $100,000, including small donations from the office park and tenants. She says further expansion depletes open spaces and decreases grazing areas.
“Horses have migration patterns, and when a development comes in, it cuts that off and there’s more interactions with people,” she said.
One solution is humane horse fertility so the animals, which can spend up to 16 hours a day eating, don’t overpopulate and overgraze.
American Wild Horse Campaign, has worked with the office park since 2012, spending more than $200,000 on fertility control, water and feeding in the last three years.
“Development displaces wildlife,” she said. Water stations help, she said, as does an underground crossing built by Switch.
But the horses will not offset the park’s overall carbon footprint, said Simon Fischweicher, the North American head of corporations and supply chains at CDP. Tenants like Tesla, whose lithium-ion batteries are costly to mine and nearly impossible to recycle, require a lot of energy.
Switch is installing its own solar panels, and there are two green fuel plants on site, but distribution and data centers use large amounts of water for heating and cooling, and “supply chain emissions are on average 11.4 times higher than operational emissions,” Mr. Fischweicher said.
Others question the need to use the horses as a lure. Mr. Thompson says most of the roughly 25,000 workers at the office park are blue-collar Nevadans living within an hour commute. They’re here for jobs, not because of horses.
Growth for the industrial park means luring workers from out of state, expanding limited housing nearby and developing more land — all of which jeopardize the wildlife incentive.
“Quality of food, retail choices and housing are going to shape those decisions more than having wild horses nearby,” Mr. Beaudoin of CBRE said. “I would never bet against someone like Elon Musk, but there are other factors to attract workers.”
Two South Korean manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries that are building plants in the United States said on Sunday that they had reached a $1.8 billion settlement in a trade secrets dispute that threatened the domestic battery supply and, with it, the Biden administration’s green agenda.
The announcement came on the day of a deadline set by the United States’ trade representative to decide whether to veto an International Trade Commission ruling in the intellectual property case between LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation. The commission’s ruling in favor of LG had threatened SK with a ban on supplying batteries in the country and put its facility under construction in Georgia at risk.
The plant, which is still under construction, will supply batteries for electric vehicles for Ford and Volkswagen, and with the settlement agreement, SK is now also free to seek business from other companies.
The dispute had threatened the domestic supply of batteries for electric vehicles. The settlement prevents delays in the development of American electric vehicles and supplies.
as DealBook reported on Friday.
“A week ago, talks between these companies had stalled and 2,600 Georgia jobs were at risk,” Mr. Ossoff said in a statement. The settlement, he said, ensures “thousands of jobs, billions in future investment, and that Georgia will be a leader in electric vehicle battery production for years to come.”
vetoed a decision by the International Trade Commission in a dispute between Apple and Samsung on public interest grounds. But such disapprovals are rare, and the settlement spared the Biden administration from having to take a position. LG is building a plant in Ohio that will supply batteries for General Motors electric vehicles, and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, also wrote to President Biden about the dispute last month, urging the president not to veto the decision, arguing that SK should not be allowed to benefit from “stolen intellectual property” against its state workers.
The trade commission’s decision would have excluded SK from the domestic American market while allowing the company to fulfill existing contracts to Ford and Volkswagen. But the plant in Commerce, Ga., is still under construction, and SK expressed hesitation on continuing to build it given that it would be unable to do additional business.
LG countered that SK had overstated its importance to the domestic battery supply and suggested that another company would purchase the plant in Georgia if SK abandoned it. But any disruption to the plans in Georgia could have been a problem for American automakers and the administration, as the international battery supply for electric vehicles is already strained and the administration’s green energy transition plans rely on expanding the use and production of electric vehicles.
We don’t know exactly what Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, will present when she becomes the country’s first woman to deliver a federal budget later this month. But the Liberal government has made it abundantly clear that economic and employment recovery will be its broad theme.
paints a dire picture for one group of workers whose employment is threatened by much more than the pandemic. It forecasts that as the world grapples with climate change, reduced demand for oil and gas will cause to 50 to 75 percent of 600,000 jobs in Canada’s energy sector to vanish.
Beata Caranci, the bank’s chief economist and the main author of the report, told me that while she anticipates the budget will include something for energy workers, the work to transition them to new jobs in the low carbon world should already be underway.
hollowing out of middle income jobs. Wealth and jobs, in turn, became concentrated in a handful of cities.
But in Canada the loss of manufacturing work was offset by well paying jobs in the expanding Canadian energy industry. The rise of fly-in, fly-out work, in which residents of Atlantic Canada and elsewhere commuted to jobs in the oil sands, spread those economic benefits around the country.
visited Canada regularly from 1951, Marilyn Berger writes that he “tried to shepherd into the 20th century a monarchy encrusted with the trappings of the 19th. But as pageantry was upstaged by scandal, as regal weddings were followed by sensational divorces, his mission, as he saw it, changed. Now it was to help preserve the crown itself.” And in Opinion, Tina Brown, author of the forthcoming book “The Palace Papers,” offers her assessment of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Canada is among the nations seized by vaccine envy.
Robert A. Mundell, the Nobel Prize winning economist who was born in Kingston, Ontario, has died. He championed the idea that low tax rates and easy fiscal policies should be used to spur economies, and that higher interest rates and tight monetary policy were the proper tools to curb inflation. Former President Ronald Reagan embraced Professor Mundell’s ideas. Their effects remain a matter of debate.
Vaccine passports might reopen the world. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among those concerned fairness of a two-tier system for haves and have-nots.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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As concerns about climate change push the world economy toward a lower-carbon future, investing in oil may seem a risky bet. For the long term, that may be true.
Yet for the moment, at least, oil and gas prices appear likely to continue to rise as the economy recovers from the pandemic-driven shutdown of millions of businesses, big and small.
These countervailing trends — increasing demand now and falling demand at some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future — create a dilemma for investors.
The good news is that an array of traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are available to help them navigate these uncertain waters. Some funds focus on slices of the industry, such as extracting crude oil and gas from the ground or delivering refined products to consumers. Others focus on so-called integrated companies that do it all. Some spice their holdings with some exposure to wind, solar or other alternative energy sources.
International Energy Agency forecast that oil consumption was not likely to return to prepandemic levels in developed economies.
“World oil markets are rebalancing after the Covid-19 crisis spurred an unprecedented collapse in demand in 2020, but they may never return to ‘normal,’” the I.E.A. said in its “Oil 2021” report. “Rapid changes in behavior from the pandemic and a stronger drive by governments toward a low-carbon future have caused a dramatic downward shift in expectations for oil demand over the next six years.”
alternative energy funds. Many enable investors to zero in on discrete segments of the industry.
The biggest holdings of the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy E.T.F. are producers of raw materials for solar cells and rechargeable batteries or builders and operators of large-scale solar projects. The $2.9 billion fund yields 0.49 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.7 percent.
The First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund focuses on applied green technology. Its biggest holdings are Tesla, the American maker of electric automobiles; NIO, a Chinese rival in that field; and Plug Power, which makes hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles. Also a $2.9 billion fund, it yields 0.24 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.6 percent.
The First Trust Global Wind Energy E.T.F., as its name suggests, targets wind turbine manufacturers and servicers, led by the Spanish-German joint venture Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as operators such as Northland Power of Canada. This $423 million fund yields 0.92 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.61 percent.
Republican senators, singed by their experience on the pandemic aid bill, responded to Mr. Biden’s gestures to bipartisanship by issuing a chilly statement saying that the last time he made a public plea to work together, “the administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, pushed the administration to negotiate an infrastructure measure that would represent about 30 percent of the $2.25 trillion being proposed, before turning to budget reconciliation for any additional spending increases.
“My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Mr. Blunt said.
Importantly, Republicans have no interest in the corporate tax increase that would essentially undo their most significant legislative achievement of the Trump era. Neither do business groups, which have helped broker some bipartisan compromises on economic issues in the past but have lost some power in recent years as populist impulses have swept both parties.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, called the tax proposal “an effort to rewrite the 2017 tax bill,” which itself passed via budget reconciliation with no Democratic votes.
The Trump tax law “in my view was principally responsible for the fact that in February 2020 we had the best economy of 50 years,” Mr. McConnell said. “But they are going to tear that down.”
Still, business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Mr. Manchin’s appeal could prod Mr. Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure. Such deals could including spending big on research and development for emerging industries, like advanced batteries, in the supply chain bill, which carries bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate. They could also include spending a few hundred billion dollars on highways and other surface transportation projects. That could satisfy at least some of Mr. Manchin’s quest for bipartisanship and give both parties the ability to claim victory.
Greenland’s left-wing environmentalist party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, won a victory in national elections on Tuesday after campaigning against the development of a contentious rare earths mine partly backed by China.
The party, which had been in the opposition, won 37 percent of the vote over the longtime incumbents, the center-left Siumut party. The environmentalists will need to negotiate a coalition to form a government, but observers said their election win in Greenland, a semiautonomous territory of Denmark that sits on a rich vein of untapped uranium and rare earth minerals, signaled concerns from voters over the impact of mining.
“The people have spoken,” Múte B. Egede, the leader of Inuit Ataqatigiit, told the Danish broadcaster DR, adding that voters had made their position clear and that the mining project in Kvanefjeld in the country’s south would be halted.
Greenland Minerals, an Australian company behind the project, has said the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would create uranium as a byproduct. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the vote.
rare earths, a crucial part of the high-tech global supply chain and used in the manufacture of everything from cellphones to rechargeable batteries, is currently dominated by China. Shenghe Resources, a Chinese rare earth company, owns 11 percent of Greenland Minerals.
Opposition to the Greenland mine, which the incumbent Siumut party had supported, played a primary role in its defeat, its leader, Erik Jensen, conceded in an interview with the Danish station TV2.
The mining project has been in development for years, with the government approving drilling for research, but not issuing final approval for the mine.
Among Greenlanders, opposition to the mine had grown over potential exposure of a unique, fragile area to “radioactive pollution and toxic waste,” said Dwayne Menezes, director of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative, a London-based think tank. “What they’re opposed to is dirty mining.”
The election result sent a clear message, Mr. Menezes added: Mining companies that want access to Greenland’s deposits will have to abide by stringent environmental standards and should look to give Greenlanders a “viable alternative.”
its polar seas become more navigable and as the melting ice unveils newly accessible resources, including the rare earths that play an essential part in the production of many alternative energy sources.
“On a global level, we are going to need to address head on this tension between Indigenous communities and the materials we are going to most need for a climate-stressed planet,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a nonprofit.
Given China’s dominance over the global rare earth production and supply, Mr. Menezes said that Western countries should be looking for ways to enhance their partnerships with resource-rich Greenland to keep it in “their sphere of influence.”
Two years ago, Greenland’s lucrative resources and its increasing strategic importance led President Donald J. Trump to muse about purchasing the island. Greenland’s government, however, made clear that it was not for sale.
“We’re open for business, not for sale,” the island’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter at the time.
On an older car, following the owner’s manual mileage recommendation for severe conditions will help to keep the lubricant and its blend of protective additives fresh (if you no longer have the manual, they are often available online and from the automaker). The systems built into many new cars that remind you of required service, like oil changes, take into account the length of trips and will recommend changes based on actual driving.
Changing the oil is also the ideal time to look in on other maintenance tasks, including checks of all belts and hoses; while both suffer the effects of engine heat under the hood, they can also develop cracks while the car just sits.
Add car batteries to the time list. They have a limited life that’s not based on miles driven. They often start to decline after three years and give up altogether after five to seven.
Jill Trotta, a certified technician and vice president for marketing at RepairPal, a website that provides cost estimates and connects car owners with qualified mechanic shops, knows how to properly care for a car. Yet even she let a battery run down past the point where it could be revived with a charge, which is exactly what happened to her 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid when it sat in the driveway for months without being driven during the pandemic.
The solution: a low-power battery maintainer, which keeps the charge topped up between drives. Basic ones start at about $25. Keep in mind, too, that while battery replacement is an entirely straightforward swap on most cars, some electronics-intensive models make it more painful. BMWs going back nearly two decades require a registration and programming process, which means added expense and a possible visit to a dealer. It’s worth preventing a dead battery in the first place.
Another maintenance task that should not be deferred is replacing the timing belt in engines that use them. The belt turns the camshafts that open the engine’s valves and can cause major engine damage if it fails. Typically good for 80,000 to 100,000 miles of service, the belt can degrade even while sitting, so stick to the automaker’s recommendation on years between renewal.
Don’t forget the brakes.
A telling sign of a car not being driven is a layer of rust on the brake discs. A light coating is no problem, though it may be noisy for a few blocks; it will be polished off by the first few presses of the brake pedal on a careful drive around the neighborhood.
filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was up modestly from the week before, but still among the lowest weekly totals since the pandemic began.
In addition, 237,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers people who don’t qualify for state benefits programs. That number, too, has been falling.
Jobless claims remain high by historical standards, and are far above the norm before the pandemic, when around 200,000 people a week were filing for benefits. Applications have improved only gradually — even after the recent declines, the weekly figure is modestly below where it was last fall.
But economists are optimistic that further improvement is ahead as the vaccine rollout accelerates and more states lift restrictions on business activity. Fewer companies are laying off workers, and hiring has picked up, meaning that people who lose their jobs are more likely to find new ones quickly.
“We could actually finally see the jobless claims numbers come down because there’s enough job creation to offset the layoffs,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the job site ZipRecruiter.
But Ms. Pollak cautioned that benefits applications would not return to normal overnight. Even as many companies resume normal operations, others are discovering that the pandemic has permanently disrupted their business model.
“There are still a lot of business closures and a lot of layoffs that have yet to happen,” she said. “The repercussions of this pandemic are still rippling through this economy.”
The European Central Bank’s chief economist argued on Thursday that fears of a big rise in inflation are overblown, a sign that the people who control interest rates in the eurozone are likely to keep them very low for some time to come.
The comments — by Philip Lane, an influential member of the central bank’s Governing Council whose job includes briefing other members on the economic outlook — are an attempt to calm bond investors who are nervous that the end of the pandemic will lead to high inflation.
Fueling their fears, inflation in the eurozone rose to an annual rate of 1.3 percent in March from 0.9 percent in February, according to official data released on Wednesday, the fastest increase in prices in more than a year.
Market-based interest rates have been rising because investors worry that President Biden’s $2 trillion stimulus program will provoke a broad increase in prices for years to come. The interest rates that prevail on bond markets ripple through the financial system and can make mortgages and other types of borrowing more expensive, creating a drag on economic growth.
Despite big monthly swings in inflation during the last year, the average had been remarkably stable at an annual rate of about 1 percent, Mr. Lane wrote in a blog post on the central bank’s website on Thursday. That is well below the European Central Bank’s target of 2 percent.
“The volatility in inflation over 2020 and 2021 can be attributed to a host of temporary factors that should not affect medium-term inflation dynamics,” Mr. Lane wrote.
That is another way of saying that the European Central Bank is not going to panic about short-lived fluctuations in inflation and put the brakes on the eurozone economy anytime soon.
On the contrary, Mr. Lane’s analysis suggests that the European Central Bank will continue trying to push inflation toward the 2 percent target. In March, the central bank said it would increase its purchases of government and corporate bonds to try to keep a lid on market-based interest rates.
Mr. Lane said it was no surprise to see “considerable volatility in inflation during the pandemic period.” He attributed the ups and downs to quirky factors that are not likely to recur.
Germany and some other countries cut their value-added taxes to encourage consumer spending, then raised them again later. The price of fuel fluctuated wildly. People spent almost nothing on travel, but increased spending on home exercise equipment or products that they needed to work from home. That affected the way inflation is calculated and made the annual rate look higher, Mr. Lane said.
“The medium-term outlook for inflation remains subdued,” he wrote, “and closing the gap to our inflation aim will set the agenda for the Governing Council in the coming years.”
OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to meet by videoconference Thursday to discuss whether to ease production curbs on oil as countries around the world try to expand from pandemic lockdowns.
Analysts say recent events will support the views of Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, who has argued for caution in increasing supply, noting the risks of swamping the market. But other outcomes are possible at the meeting of the group known as OPEC Plus, including modest increases and even cuts in oil production,
France’s reimposition of a national lockdown, announced Wednesday, underlines persistent doubts about the pace of recovery from the pandemic, as have rising case numbers in the United States.
After modest increases when the Suez Canal was recently blocked by a cargo ship, oil prices were rising again on Thursday, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, about 1.6 percent higher, to $63.75 a barrel.
“All signs seemingly point to the group maintaining current production levels,” Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.
Yet pressure may also come to increase supply. Members of the OPEC Plus group are withholding an estimated eight million barrels of a day, or about 9 percent of current global consumption. As the global economy recovers, it will become increasingly difficult for the Saudis to persuade others to restrain supplies.
U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday and tech stocks were set to extend their rally as traders focused on optimism about the economic recovery. Shares in Europe and Asia were also higher before the Labor Department’s latest weekly report on initial applications for state unemployment benefits.
Bond yields pulled back from their recent 14-month high. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 3 basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 1.71 percent.
Last week, jobless claims were at the lowest for the pandemic, but economists have warned against assuming this is the new trend because of measurement issues. New data released on Thursday showed a slight rise in claims for unemployment benefits, On Friday, the Labor Department will publish its monthly jobs report for March.
Biden’s Infrastructure Plan
On Wednesday, President Biden laid out a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which included money for a range of activities, including repairing roads and bridges, building affordable housing and caregiving facilities, and expanding access to broadband. It would be paid for by an increase in corporate taxes, undoing some of the cut by his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump.
The infrastructure plan also includes spending about $50 billion on the semiconductor industry, where a global shortage in chips has disrupted car manufacturing. Shares in Micron Technology, an Idaho-based chip maker, rose nearly 5 percent in premarket trading.
The plan includes $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles. Tesla shares rose 2.7 percent in premarket trading and ChargePoint Holdings, which has a large network of electric-vehicle charing stations, rose 9 percent premarket, extending a 19 percent increase on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in markets
Most European stock indexes were higher even as more lockdowns were announced in the region. In France, restrictions have been expanded to more regions and schools will close for several weeks. In Italy, business closures will extend until the end of April. But a series of reports published on Thursday showed manufacturing activity picking up in Europe.
Oil prices rose ahead of a meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, at which they are set to decide production quotas for May. Brent Crude, the European benchmark, rose 1.23 percent to more than $63 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, climbed 1.5 percent to just above $60 a barrel.
QuantumScape, a California-based start-up working on a technology that could make batteries cheaper, said it had reached a technical requirement that would clear the way for a $100 million investment by Volkswagen. QuantumScape’s shares jumped 13 percent in premarket trading.
On Friday, markets will be closed in the United States, Europe and some other countries for Good Friday.
The pandemic has intensified a spotlight on long-running questions about how communities can do a better job supporting seniors who need care but want to live outside a nursing home.
The coronavirus had taken the lives of 181,000 people in U.S. nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities through last weekend, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — 33 percent of the national toll.
The occupancy rate in nursing homes in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 75 percent, down 11 percentage points from the first quarter, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a research group. The shift may not be permanent, but this much is clear: As the aging of the nation accelerates, most communities need to do much more to become age-friendly, said Jennifer Molinsky, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.
“It’s about all the services that people can access, whether that’s the accessibility and affordability of housing, or transportation and supports that can be delivered in the home,” she said.
But there are hurdles for those who wish to stay out of a facility, Mark Miller reports for The New York Times:
A major shortage of age-friendly housing in the United States will present problems for seniors who wish to stay in their homes. By 2034, 34 percent of households will be headed by someone over 65, according to the Harvard center. Yet in 2011, just 3.5 percent of homes had single-floor living, no-step entry and extra-wide halls and doors for wheelchair access, according to Harvard’s latest estimates.
Medicare does not pay for most long-term care services, regardless of where they happen; reimbursement is limited to a person’s first 100 days in a skilled nursing facility. Medicaid, which covers only people with very low incomes, has long been the nation’s largest funder of long-term care. From its inception, the program was required to cover care in nursing facilities but not at home or in a community setting. “There’s a bias toward institutions,” said Judith Solomon, a senior fellow specializing in health at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
A year after the pandemic turned the nation’s digital divide into an education emergency, President Biden is making affordable broadband a top priority, comparing it to the effort to spread electricity across the country. His $2 trillion infrastructure plan, announced on Wednesday, includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home.
The money is meant to improve the economy by enabling all Americans to work, get medical care and take classes from wherever they live. Although the government has spent billions on the digital divide in the past, the efforts have failed to close it partly because people in different areas have different problems. Affordability is the main culprit in urban and suburban areas. In many rural areas, internet service isn’t available at all because of the high costs of installation.
“We’ll make sure every single American has access to high-quality, affordable, high speed internet,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Wednesday. “And when I say affordable, I mean it. Americans pay too much for internet. We will drive down the price for families who have service now.”
Longtime advocates of universal broadband say the plan, which requires congressional approval, may finally come close to fixing the digital divide, a stubborn problem first identified and named by regulators during the Clinton administration. The plight of unconnected students during the pandemic added urgency.
“This is a vision document that says every American needs access and should have access to affordable broadband,” said Blair Levin, who directed the 2010 National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission. “And I haven’t heard that before from a White House to date.”
Some advocates for expanded broadband access cautioned that Mr. Biden’s plan might not entirely solve the divide between the digital haves and have-nots.
The plan promises to give priority to municipal and nonprofit broadband providers but would still rely on private companies to install cables and erect cell towers to far reaches of the country. One concern is that the companies won’t consider the effort worth their time, even with all the money earmarked for those projects. During the electrification boom of the 1920s, private providers were reluctant to install poles and string lines hundreds of miles into sparsely populated areas.
Taxpayers who received unemployment benefits last year — but who filed their federal tax returns before a new tax break became available — could receive an automatic refund as early as May, the Internal Revenue Service said on Wednesday.
The latest pandemic relief legislation — signed into law on March 11, in the thick of tax season — made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax-free in 2020 for people with modified adjusted incomes of less than $150,000. (Married taxpayers filing jointly can exclude up to $20,400.)
But some Americans had already filed their tax returns by March and have been waiting for official agency guidance. Millions of U.S. workers filed for unemployment last year, but the I.R.S. said it was still determining how many workers affected by the tax change had already filed their tax returns.
On Wednesday, the I.R.S. confirmed that it would automatically recalculate the correct amount of benefits subject to taxation — and any overpayment will be refunded or applied to any other outstanding taxes owed. The first refunds are expected to be issued in May and will continue into the summer.
The I.R.S. said it would begin processing the simpler returns first, or those eligible for up to $10,200 in excluded benefits, and then would turn to returns for joint filers and others with more complex returns.
There is no need for those affected to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return, the agency said. Those taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well, the I.R.S. said.
People who still haven’t filed and expect to do so electronically can simply answer the questions asked by their online tax preparer, which will factor in the new tax break when they file. The agency provided an updated worksheet and additional guidance in March for taxpayers that prefer paper.
Microsoft said Wednesday that it would begin producing more than 120,000 augmented reality headsets for Army soldiers under a contract that could be worth up to $21.9 billion.
The HoloLens headsets use a technology called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which will equip soldiers wearing them with night vision, thermal vision and audio communication. The devices also have sensors that help soldiers target opponents in battle.
The deal is likely to create waves inside Microsoft, where some employees have objected to working with the Pentagon. Employees at other big tech companies, like Google, have also rejected what they say is the weaponization of their technology.
But Microsoft has long courted Defense Department work, including a $10 billion contract to build a cloud-computing system. Amazon had been seen as a front-runner to win the contract, but the Defense Department chose Microsoft.
Amazon claimed that President Donald J. Trump had interfered in the process because of his feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the owner of The Washington Post. A legal fight over the contract is still active.
Soldiers have tested the Microsoft headsets for two years, the company said. The Army said the devices would be used in combat and training.
Microsoft said its testing of the headsets had helped the Defense Department’s “efforts to modernize the U.S. military by taking advantage of advanced technology and new innovations not available to military.”
The devices will “provide the improved situational awareness, target engagement and informed decision-making necessary” to overcome current and future adversaries, the Army said in a news release.
In 2018, Microsoft won a $480 million bid to make prototypes of the headsets. The Army said Wednesday that the new contract to produce them on a larger scale was for five years, with the option to add up to five more years.
WASHINGTON—President Biden has directed the Pentagon to begin removing some military capabilities and forces from the Gulf region in the first steps of an effort to realign the U.S. global military footprint away from the Mideast, changes that come as Saudi Arabia endures rocket and drone attacks from inside Yemen and Iraq.
In moves that haven’t been previously reported, the U.S. has removed at least three Patriot antimissile batteries from the Gulf region, including one from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, that had been put in place in recent years to help protect American forces.
Some capabilities, including an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems, are being diverted from the Middle East to answer military needs elsewhere around the globe, according to U.S. officials. Other reductions are under consideration, officials said.
The removal of Patriot batteries, the permanent aircraft-carrier presence and other military capabilities means that several thousand troops may leave the region over time. As of late last year there were about 50,000 troops in the region, down from a high of about 90,000 at the height of tensions between the Trump administration and Iran about two years ago.
Defense officials declined to provide specifics about the reductions in military capabilities or forces. Saudi officials didn’t respond to a request for comment about the U.S. plans.