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TALKING POINTS

Rates fall to historic lows on coronavirus fears

MORTGAGES

Rates fall to historic lows on coronavirus fears

Rates for 30-year mortgages tumbled to the lowest on record as fears of a blow to the economy from the coronavirus sent investors rushing to the safety of Treasuries. The average rate was 3.29 percent, down from 3.45 percent last week and the lowest in 49 years of data-keeping, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. The previous low, in November 2012, was 3.31 percent. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

RETAIL

Gap names Old Navy head as CEO

Gap Inc. named its Old Navy leader, Sonia Syngal, as chief executive officer as the apparel retailer looks to reverse falling foot traffic and sales while it pivots to a new strategy. Syngal, 50, will take over as of March 23, the company said in a statement. She became CEO of Old Navy in 2016 and her previous roles include executive vice president for global supply chain and product operations at Gap. She joins the small cohort of female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

LABOR

An extra 35,000 foreign workers to be allowed into US under seasonal visas

An additional 35,000 temporary foreign workers will be allowed into the US this year to fill seasonal jobs amid a tight labor market, the Trump administration said Thursday. In expanding the number of so-called H-2B visas for temporary non-farm workers, the administration is siding with business groups and members of Congress who have argued that there are not enough Americans to fill many service-sector and food-processing jobs across the country. But it also puts the administration in conflict with those who favor more restrictive immigration policies, including many supporters of President Trump.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS

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LABOR

Former president of UAW charged with embezzling union funds

Federal prosecutors have charged a former president of the United Auto Workers union with embezzlement of union funds and other crimes, the biggest step yet in a broad investigation of financial wrongdoing by union and management officials. In a criminal filing unsealed Thursday, Gary Jones is accused of conspiring in the misuse more than $1 million of union money for extravagant meals, golf outings, cigars, and apparel over several years, even before he was elected president in 2018. He is the highest-ranking UAW official charged in the inquiry. In August, his home in Canton, Mich., was raided by FBI agents. He resigned Nov. 20 after the union’s executive board found he had submitted false and misleading expense records and was moving to oust him. At a news conference in Detroit, the US attorney overseeing the investigation, Matthew Schneider, said he could not rule out a federal takeover of the union. — NEW YORK TIMES

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SPORTS BETTING

Gambling industry launches campaign urging responsibility

The gambling industry is launching a campaign to urge sports bettors to wager responsibly, including setting and sticking to a budget, and learning thoroughly about anything on which they make a bet. The American Gaming Association on Thursday launched its “Have A Game Plan” campaign in hockey arenas in Washington and Las Vegas. The campaign will soon expand to other states where sports betting is legal. Fourteen states currently offer sports betting, and many others are considering it. The gaming association says Americans have bet more than $19 billion on sports with licensed sports books since the US Supreme Court cleared the way for it in May 2018, ruling in a case brought by New Jersey. But the campaign is an acknowledgment that sports betting can be problematic — or worse — for some people. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

CRIMINAL

Weinstein moved to Rikers Island infirmary

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein is being transferred to an infirmary at New York City’s Rikers Island jail after undergoing a medical procedure to clear a heart blockage, his spokesman said. Weinstein, who had been held under guard at Bellevue Hospital since he was convicted of rape and a criminal sexual act on Feb. 24, is moving to the North Infirmary Command at the jail complex, defense spokesman Juda Engelmayer said in an interview Thursday. The fallen Hollywood power broker was en route to Rikers after the verdict when he complained of chest pain and his ambulance was diverted to the hospital. Weinstein “underwent a procedure to clear a blockage, and since it’s now resolved, he’s been deemed fit to be sent to Rikers,” Engelmayer said. “He’s being moved as we speak.” — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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RESTAURANTS

Olive Garden fires manager who acquiesced to diner’s demand for a non-black server

Olive Garden has fired the manager of one of its restaurants in southwestern Indiana who was accused of complying with a white customer’s demand to replace her table’s black server with one who wasn’t black. An Olive Garden spokeswoman, Meagan Bernstein, said Wednesday that the company does not tolerate discrimination and decided to “separate with the manager involved” after completing its investigation of the incident last weekend at its restaurant in Evansville. Amira Donahue, a black 16-year-old host at the restaurant that night, said a woman seated with a group of customers, including two children, requested that the table’s black server be replaced with a non-black one and began screaming before a manager acquiesced to her demands. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

TAKEOVERS

HP rejects unsolicited offer from Xerox

HP Inc. said it has rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from Xerox Holdings Corp. and has asked shareholders not to tender their shares. The offer “meaningfully undervalues HP and disproportionately benefits Xerox shareholders,” the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said in a statement on Thursday. Xerox’s “urgency” in launching the offer shows its “desperation to acquire HP to address its continued business decline.” The offer valued HP at approximately $34 billion as of Wednesday. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Google teams up with AT&T on 5G products

Google’s cloud arm is partnering with AT&T Inc. on a suite of business products to be delivered over 5G networks, the latest tie-up between tech giants and wireless carriers hoping to capitalize on the rollout of faster connectivity. The Alphabet Inc. unit and AT&T said Thursday they were testing products designed to bring software and data services to fifth-generation, or 5G, customers, an initiative targeting sectors including retail, manufacturing, and transportation. The deal, which will see Google cloud offerings delivered by AT&T’s network in major metropolitan areas around the United States, is part of a set of services Google is unleashing that the company said will give telecommunications providers more computing power and better margins. — BLOOMBERG NEWS