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Business Highlights

March 31, 2021 GMT

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Eager to build infrastructure, Biden plans to tax business

PITTSBURGH (AP) — President Joe Biden wants $2 trillion to reengineer America’s infrastructure and expects the nation’s corporations to pay for it. The Democratic president traveled to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil what would be a hard-hatted transformation of the U.S. economy. It includes $621 billion for roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure. The plan would also move the country away from fossil fuels toward cleaner energy. It would be financed by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, among other measures. That could lead to fierce resistance from the business community and thwart attempts to work with Republican lawmakers.

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Under pressure, some Ga. corporate leaders slam voting bill

ATLANTA (AP) — Some of Georgia’s most prominent corporate leaders are beginning to more forcefully criticize the state’s sweeping new election law. They’re acknowledging the concerns of civil rights activists who say the law threatens the democratic process. The chief executives of Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola have now called the law “unacceptable.” Their criticism is opening an unusual rift with Republican leaders who championed the restrictions and typically enjoy a cozy relationship with Georgia’s business community. The Major League Baseball Players Association also has raised the idea of moving the summer All-Star game from the Atlanta Braves home stadium.

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S&P 500 climbs, closing out its 4th straight quarterly gain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed mostly higher on Wall Street, clinching the 4th straight quarterly gain for the S&P 500. The benchmark index rose 0.4% Wednesday, bringing its gain for the first three months of the year to 5.8%. The gain for the index, which tracks large U.S. companies, was eclipsed by the 12.4% jump in a popular index tracking small-company stocks. Investors have favored smaller companies for months in anticipation that the U.S. economy will pick up this year as more people get vaccinated and as more pandemic restrictions are lifted. Investors are waiting to hear details about President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

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Sports cards have gone virtual, and in a big way

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Just a few months ago, almost no one would have paid actual money for a digital image that could be copied for free. But sports trading cards have gone convincingly virtual thanks to a clever use of the technology that underlies Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies. These virtual collectible cards -- spinning, floating digital cubes that each feature a video highlight of an NBA player — typically cost $10 to $20 on the trading site Top Shot, created by a Canadian startup and the NBA. But a LeBron James dunk highlight that’s easy to find on the internet for free recently sold for $210,000.

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Robinhood cans the confetti, unveils new celebratory designs

NEW YORK (AP) — The bursts of confetti that shower screens of Robinhood investors when they make their first trade — and serve as the punchline for critics who say the popular app treats investing like a game — are going away. Starting this week, Robinhood will begin replacing them with a suite of animations that are decidedly measured in pace.

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Microsoft wins $22 billion deal making headsets for US Army

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft won a nearly $22 billion contract to supply U.S. Army combat troops with its virtual reality headsets. Microsoft and the Army separately announced the deal Wednesday. The technology is based on Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, which can superimpose virtual imagery over real scenery. Tech companies originally designed such goggles for the video game and entertainment industries but have increasingly pitched other uses for them. Military officials have described the futuristic technology — which the Army calls its Integrated Visual Augmentation System — as a way of boosting soldiers’ awareness of their surroundings and their ability to spot targets and dangers.

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An unwelcome prank: Volkswagen purposely hoodwinks reporters

NEW YORK (AP) — Journalists are wary of looking out for pranksters around April Fool’s Day, but this time it came from a multi-billion dollar corporation. Volkswagen admitted that it hoodwinked reporters at several news organization with the fake news that it was changing its name in America to “Voltswagen.” It was all an attempt to promote a new electric utility vehicle, but it angered news organizations who take their reputations for accuracy very seriously. The Associated Press said the deliberate release of false information “hurts accurate journalism and the public good.” VW admitted to the deception late Tuesday.

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Feb. US home contract signings tumble, now lag year-ago pace

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes last month fell by the most since last year’s virus outbreak sent the economy into freefall. The National Association of Realtors’ index of pending home sales tumbled 10.6% to 110.3 in February, its lowest level since May of last year. Combined with a 2.4% dip in January, contract signings are now 0.5% behind where they were last year after eight straight months of year-over-year gains. Contract signings, considered a barometer of purchases that will take place in the next two months, fell in all four regions in February.

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The S&P 500 rose 14.34 points, or 0.4%, to 3,972.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average 85.41 points fell, or 0.3%, to 32,981.55. The Nasdaq composite climbed 201.48 points, or 1.5%, to 13,246.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 24.72 points, or 1.1%, to 2,220.52.