Mask mandates remain for air and public transit travel through mid April and more business news

Mask mandates remain for air and public transit travel through mid April

Federal officials are extending the requirement for masks on planes and public transportation for one more month — through mid-April — while taking steps that could lead to lifting the rule.

The mask mandate was scheduled to expire March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it will extend the requirement through April 18.

TSA said the extra month will give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time to develop new, more targeted policies that will consider the number of cases of COVID-19 nationally and in local communities, and the risk of new variants. The TSA enforces the rule, which extends to planes, buses, trains and transit hubs.

As of Thursday, more than 98% of the U.S. population is living in areas with low or medium COVID-19 case levels, meaning that the CDC no longer recommends face masks in public indoor settings.


Mortgage rates rise but remain under 4%

Average long-term U.S. 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%, up from 3.76% last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday. A year ago, the long-term rate was 3.05%.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those refinancing their homes, climbed to 3.09% from 3.01% a week earlier. It stood at 2.38% a year ago.


Europe’s central bank ending stimulus

The European Central Bank says it will make an early exit from its economic stimulus efforts as it combats record inflation. The move Thursday was a tough choice because the invasion also has exposed Europe to a potential hit to economic growth. But the bank chose higher inflation as the bigger threat, surprising many analysts who had expected no change in the bank’s roadmap for the coming months.

The bank says it will end its bond purchases in the third quarter. But it didn’t move up its schedule for a first interest rate increase, dropping a promise that rates would go up shortly after the end of bond purchases.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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