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Jan. 21, 2021, 12:50 p.m. EST

Biden signs flurry of orders to tackle pandemic that has now cost more than 407,000 American lives

Fauci addresses board of World Health Organization with promise that U.S. will join international response to crisis

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

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• The Chinese city of Shanghai reported three locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising concerns about a new wave of infections in the country, Nikkei Asia reported. The city is now conducting mass testing of all hospital workers after two workers at different facilities returned “suspicious” test results.

• There was bad news for fans of music festivals Thursday when the organizers of Britain’s legendary Glastonbury festival canceled the event for a second year in a row, the AP reported. Organizers Michael and Emily Eavis said that “[i]n spite of our efforts to move heaven & earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.” They said everyone who had put down a deposit for tickets to the 2020 festival, which also was canceled (and was to mark Glastonbury’s 50-year jubilee), would be able to attend in 2022.

See now: West Virginia is vaccinating people faster than California — here’s why

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The Month Coronavirus Unraveled American Business - A WSJ Documentary

When the coronavirus tore through industry, commerce and society in March 2020, the U.S. economy came to a screeching halt. Top executives relive the tough decisions they made as they scrambled to weather the storm. Photo Illustration: Adele Morgan/The Wall Street Journal

Latest tallies

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 97 million on Thursday, the Johns Hopkins data shows, and the death toll rose to 2.08 million. About 53.5 million people have recovered from COVID-19.

Brazil has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 212,831 and is third by cases at 8.6 million.

India is second worldwide in cases with 10.6 million, and third in deaths at 152,869.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 144,371 and 13th highest case tally at 1.7 million.

The U.K. has 3.6 million cases and 94,759 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.

See also: The coronavirus pandemic in the U.K. has never been worse. But Brits are moving around more than in March lockdown.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 98,544 confirmed cases and 4,801 deaths, according to its official numbers.

What’s the economy saying?

The number of Americans who applied for jobless benefits fell in the last full week of Donald Trump’s presidency, but layoffs were still running at the highest level in months after a record coronavirus surge, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

Initial jobless claims filed traditionally through the states declined by 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 900,000 in the seven days ended Jan. 16, the government said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal had forecast initial jobless claims to total 925,000.

Another 423,734 applications were filed through a temporary federal-relief program.

Adding up new state and federal claims, the government received 1.38 million applications last week, based on actual or unadjusted figures. Combined claims have yet to drop below 1 million a week since last spring.

“Conditions are unlikely to improve until infections can be curbed and the economy can reopen more completely,” said chief U.S. economist Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s business condition index jumped to 26.5 in January from 9.1 in December. This topped expectations of a reading of 10.5 in January, according to a Wall Street Journal poll of economists.

It’s the highest level since last February, just before the pandemic shut down the U.S. economy.

The six-month outlook rose to 52.8, from 43.1 last month. New orders, employment and shipments all jumped in January. There were signs of inflationary pressures in the supply chain.

Separately, U.S. home builders started construction on homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.67 million in December, representing a 5.8% increase from the previous month’s figure, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Permitting for new homes occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.71 million, up 4.5% from November.

Compared with December 2019, housing starts were up 5%, while permits were up 17%. It was the highest level housing starts and building permits have reached since 2006.

Both figures came in ahead of analysts’ expectations, reflecting growth in the single-family sector. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected housing starts to occur at a pace of 1.56 million and building permits to come in at a pace of 1.61 million.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -2.53% and the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -2.27%  were last up about 0.1%.

See now: Dow trades to records then retreats in first full day of Biden presidency

US : Dow Jones Global
-905.04 -2.53%
Volume: 325.39M
Nov. 26, 2021 2:12p
-106.84 -2.27%
Volume: 2.10B
Nov. 26, 2021 2:12p

Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch's investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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