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Moderna studying booster that targets Omicron

Denise Cathey/Associated Press


Moderna studying booster that targets Omicron

Moderna said it has started a study of a booster shot that combines a formulation designed to fend off the Omicron variant with the company’s current COVID-19 vaccine. The company said in a statement Thursday that the first participant in the study had been given the experimental shot. Moderna plans to enroll about 375 people in the trial, which it said will be conducted at about 20 sites in the United States. The shot will be studied in adults 18 and older who previously received the two-dose primary series of Moderna’s vaccine, as well as a Moderna booster shot at least three months ago. Omicron cases have been in rapid decline across the country in recent weeks after the variant caused a spike in cases earlier in the year. Pfizer is also studying a vaccine that combines an Omicron-targeting candidate with its approved vaccine. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Twitter removes false tweets from Russian embassy in London

Twitter has removed false tweets from the Russian embassy account in London that claimed images from the bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, were fake. The now-removed tweets claimed the hospital was “used by armed forces and radicals” and that an injured, pregnant woman who had been photographed in the attack was an actor, according to screenshots published by The Guardian. A Twitter spokesperson said the tweets were taken down because they violated the social media company’s policies on hateful conduct and abusive behavior. Other official accounts linked to the Kremlin have tweeted false information, including a post from the account of the Russian embassy in South Africa that claimed South Africans had sent a “great number of letters of solidarity” to the embassy and said Russia is fighting “Nazism in Ukraine.” The post is still live on Twitter. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Shell says no one will be fired over Russian oil purchase

Shell’s chief executive officer took personal responsibility for a controversial purchase of Russian crude oil last week and said no one would be fired for it, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Europe’s largest oil company suffered blowback after buying a cargo of Urals crude at a record-low discount from Trafigura Group on March 4, just days after saying it would divest from Russia because of the Ukraine invasion. Shell initially defended the deal, saying it was in line with government guidance, but the energy giant later apologized and committed to ending all purchases of Russian oil, refined products, and gas. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Rash of catalytic converter thefts nationwide

State Farm said Thursday that metal thieves in search of platinum, rhodium, and palladium are stealing catalytic converters in ever-greater numbers, sending auto-insurance claims soaring across the United States. Last year, State Farm paid $62.6 million for 32,265 catalytic converter theft claims nationally — a 1,173 percent increase from 2019. A catalytic converter is an emissions-control device that’s in the exhaust system under many gas-powered vehicles. State Farm doesn’t track which models are targeted most often, but thieves tend to hit smaller, lighter cars that are left unattended in parking lots. California, the nation’s largest auto market, accounted for more than a quarter of catalytic converter claims in 2021. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Amazon announces stock split, buyback

A stock split and a massive buyback could just be the boost Amazon needs to break out of a spell of prolonged share price weakness. Amazon said late Wednesday it intends to boost its outstanding shares by a 20-to-1 ratio, the e-commerce giant’s first stock split in more than two decades. Amazon shares fell to levels not seen since mid-2020 earlier this week, the only laggard among trillion-dollar tech companies in the past year. The stock slid almost 9 percent in 12 months, compared with rallies of between 24 percent and 36 percent for Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft. Small investors have needed upward of $2,500 to own an Amazon share and a 20-for-1 split would reduce the price to roughly $139, based on Wednesday’s closing level. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Progressive lawmakers, including Warren, question Spirit/Frontier merger

A group of progressive lawmakers wants federal officials to scrutinize the proposed merger of Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines over concerns that the combination could prove anticompetitive and hurt customers and workers. The lawmakers — including Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — warn that the merger could drive up ticket prices, worsen customer service, and reduce worker leverage. They laid out those misgivings in a letter on Wednesday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, the top antitrust official in the Justice Department. — NEW YORK TIMES


ECB to end stimulus early

The European Central Bank said Thursday that it will make an early exit from its economic stimulus efforts as it combats record inflation that threatens to go ever higher as energy prices soar during Russia’s war in Ukraine. The move was a tough choice because the invasion also has exposed Europe to a potential hit to economic growth. But the ECB chose higher inflation as the bigger threat, surprising many analysts who had expected no change in the bank’s roadmap for the coming months. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Owners ask crews to abandon vessels stuck off Ukraine

Some shipowners have begun to ask crew to abandon their ships stuck off the coast of Ukraine, as Russia’s invasion of its neighbor reached the end of its second week. M.T. Maritime has evacuated 22 Filipino seafarers from its oil-products tanker MTM Rio Grande, leaving the vessel unmanned and moored at Nika-Tera port in Ukraine, the company said in an e-mailed reply to queries. The crew are currently in Romania waiting for a flight back to the Philippines, it said. Ukraine’s ports closed on Feb. 24, when Russian troops began their incursion. At least five out of 140 ships stuck in the country’s waters have been hit by explosions, killing a Bangladeshi seafarer. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Rates rise but remain low

Average long-term US mortgage rates rose this week but remain at historically low levels as the Federal Reserve prepares to raise its main borrowing rate. The average rate on a 30-year loan hit 3.85 percent, up from 3.76 percent last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday. A year ago, the long-term rate was 3.05 percent. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those refinancing their homes, climbed to 3.09 percent from 3.01 percent a week earlier. It stood at 2.38 percent a year ago. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Marks & Spencer CEO to step down

Marks & Spencer said Steve Rowe is stepping down as chief executive after leading the UK retailer during six years and steering it through the pandemic. Rowe will step down on May 25, when chief operating officer Stuart Machin will become CEO and Katie Bickerstaffe co-CEO, to be focused on areas such as online operations, the UK. retailer said Thursday. Rowe joined the company at the age of 15 and worked his way to the top, holding several leadership roles before taking over as CEO in 2016. He has overseen a difficult time at M&S, closing more than 60 stores and adapting the company to the rise in online shopping. — BLOOMBERG NEWS