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TALKING POINTS

Working from home means smoking from home

Associated Press

TOBACCO

Working from home means smoking from home

Big Tobacco is one of the sectors that’s sticking to its forecasts as the coronavirus outbreak hardly dents cigarette demand — and may be leading to smokers lighting up on the job when they work at home. Imperial Tobacco, the maker of Kool cigarettes, said Tuesday the outbreak has had no material impact on its business and that current trading remains in line with expectations. British American Tobacco, whose brands include Lucky Strike and Kent, said something similar two weeks ago, when it reiterated its 2020 guidance. The resilience of an industry based on the addictiveness of nicotine contrasts with other sectors, such as alcoholic drinks and confectionery. Cigarette consumption levels are likely to remain robust as quarantined consumers may face boredom and forms of stress or anxiety, and as tobacconists stay open alongside essential shops like grocery stores and pharmacies in countries such as France. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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ECONOMY

Companies cut 27,000 jobs in March

US companies shed 27,000 jobs in March, according to a private survey, a figure that mostly reflected the economy as it stood before the full impact of the viral outbreak. Payroll processor ADP said small businesses took the biggest hit, losing 90,000 jobs, while medium-sized and large companies still added workers. Economists forecast that much larger job losses, probably in the millions, will be reported in the coming months. March’s figures are the first monthly job loss reported by ADP since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma slammed Texas and much of the southeast in September 2017. Just one month ago, ADP said that businesses gained a solid 179,000 jobs in February. On Friday, the government will issue its monthly jobs report, which is expected to show a loss of about 150,000 jobs, according to FactSet. That will snap a record-long streak of 113 straight months of hiring. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

FINANCE

Home loan applications fall to lowest level since November 2016

Loan applications to purchase homes declined for a third straight week to the lowest since November 2016 as coronavirus mitigation efforts stymied house hunting. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s purchase index dropped 10.8 percent in the period that ended March 27 after tumbling 14.6 percent — the worst two weeks since May 2010, data from the Washington-based group showed Wednesday. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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INTERNATIONAL

Five lenders drop out of UK’s small business bailout program

Five lenders have temporarily withdrawn from the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme because they can’t handle the soaring demand for emergency loans from small- and medium-sized businesses. Four of these small lenders have disappeared from the list of participating institutions on the program’s website. A spokeswoman for the British Business Bank, the state-owned organization administering the plan, confirmed the lenders have asked to be removed until they can work through the applications they’ve received since the program went live on March 23. A similar program in the United States, under the Small Business Administration, begins acccepting applications on Friday. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

AUTOMOTIVE

Car sales plunged in first quarter

Automakers reported a plunge in new-vehicle sales as fear of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders kept consumers from dealerships, adding to the troubles of the country’s largest manufacturing sector. General Motors said sales fell 7 percent in the first quarter and Fiat Chrysler said first-quarter sales fell 10 percent. Both companies said a significant decline in March offset strong sales in January and February. In addition, Hyundai reported a 42 percent drop in US sales in March, and Mercedes-Benz had a 50 percent decline. Other automakers will report monthly and quarterly totals later on Wednesday. ALG, a company that tracks trends in auto sales, estimated that industrywide March sales fell 37 percent from a year ago. — NEW YORK TIMES

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INTERNATIONAL

Russian banking official to hold weekly briefings on economy

Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina will start holding news briefings every Friday to clarify policy changes as the economy gets battered from a nationwide shutdown and the collapse in oil prices. The first meeting will be held online at 3 p.m. Moscow time on April 3 and Nabiullina will discuss past and planned measures, according to a statement on the central bank’s website. Tougher social isolation measures announced Sunday mean the central bank of the world’s biggest energy exporter now has to grapple with an economic slump as well as an oil price crash. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

AUTOMOTIVE

Mercedes is slowest in repairing air bag inflators

Of all the automakers that are recalling dangerous Takata air bag inflators, Mercedes is the laggard when it comes to getting repairs done. The German automaker ranks last of 16 companies tracked by the US government, finishing repairs in 40.1 percent of its recalled vehicles. All other companies are above 57 percent, with Honda leading at 88.8 percent, followed by Jaguar-Land Rover at 83.8 percent, according to an analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

MORTGAGES

Bank of America allows 50,000 customers to defer payments

Bank of America said it has agreed to allow 50,000 mortgage customers to defer payments for three months because they’ve lost income as a result of the pandemic. The borrowers have all kinds of home loans, including some that are not federally backed, said Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America. To qualify for the government forbearance program, passed last week by Congress as part of the stimulus package, homeowners must contact their lenders and request help. It’s for people who have a hardship because of COVID-19, but it doesn’t require proof. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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GROCERY

Dean & DeLuca, iconic NYC gourmet store, files for bankruptcy

Dean & DeLuca Inc., the pioneering gourmet grocer that shuttered its New York stores last year, filed for bankruptcy with hopes of revitalizing the chain. The company’s goal is to cut a restructuring deal with creditors and eventually reopen its stores, according to Chapter 11 papers filed late Tuesday in US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. The filing follows a failed effort to restructure outside of court. Dean & DeLuca ceased operations in New York in mid-2019 after running short of cash. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

MOBILE PHONES

Takeover of Sprint by T-Mobile complete

Mobile carrier T-Mobile has completed the takeover of smaller rival Sprint, creating a new wireless giant that rivals AT&T and Verizon in size. The companies announced the deal, valued at $31.6 billion based on T-Mobile’s closing stock price Tuesday, two years ago. It has taken a long time to close because of pushback from state and federal regulators. The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice approved the deal last year, with DOJ telling the companies that they must set up satellite TV company Dish as a new wireless carrier — an unusual arrangement — in order to win approval. Public-interest groups said this was insufficient to correct the harms from the merger. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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