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On this year’s Black Friday, things almost seem normal. Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics. Online shopping is much too common for that now, and big discounts are spread out over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores. But out-of-stock items due to supply crunches, higher prices for gas and food, and labor shortages that make it more difficult to respond to customers are also causing frustrations for shoppers.

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Stocks are opening sharply lower on Wall Street Friday after South Africa found a fast-spreading coronavirus variant and the European Union proposed suspending air travel from southern Africa. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 900 points in the first 20 minutes of trading. The S&P 500 index was down 1.7%, on pace for its worst day since late September and the Nasdaq composite is also dropping. Travel and energy stocks are among the biggest losers, with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruises all off about 10%. The New York Stock exchange closes early at 1 p.m. Eastern.  


A sharply divided House has approved the Democrats’ sweeping social and environment bill, a big victory for President Joe Biden. Republicans solidly opposed the measure, but Democrats prevailed after the party's progressives and moderates ended months of disputes over its size and scope. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where moderates like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin are poised to curtail the bill further. The measure would bolster child care assistance, create free preschool, curb seniors’ prescription drug costs and combat climate change. Passage came after new cost estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the legislation would cause federal deficits to grow by $160 billion over the coming decade.