State economic index rebounds slightly in May

The North Carolina economy experienced a slight recovery from April to May amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an index compiled by economics professor Michael Walden of N.C. State University.

The index, released Monday, measures leading state economic indicators, such as manufacturing employment hours and wages, residential building permits and initial jobless claims.

It ordinarily serves as a forecast of the state economy four to six months out. The data is seasonally adjusted.

The index rose 4.9% from April to May, but remained down 10.9% from May 2019. It had been in negative territory for much of 2019 and the early part of 2020.

“This is the first positive reading of the state economy since the onset of the coronavirus,” Walden said. “The improvement was broad-based, with all components of the index showing gains with the exception of manufacturing earnings. Of particular notice is the 46% drop in initial unemployment claims.

“The gain in the Index in May reflects the relaxation of restrictions on economic activity in the state. However, the Index is still far below its pre-virus level.”

Richard Craver

Lowe’s providing another round of employee bonuses

Lowe’s Cos. Inc. said Monday it is providing an additional $100 million in bonuses to front-line employees.

All active hourly associates in Lowe’s stores, distribution centers and store support centers will receive the bonuses in mid-July.

Full-time hourly associates will receive $300, and part-time and seasonal associates will receive $150. The bonus matches the funds provided to all hourly associates in both March and May.

The company previously announced $87 million in profit-sharing bonuses to front-line associates in June and continues to offer telemedicine services to all associates and their families, even if they are not enrolled in Lowe’s medical plans.

Richard Craver

Truist converts brand of insurance holdings unit

Truist Financial Corp. said Monday it has converted the brand name of its insurance holdings unit to Truist from BB&T.

With $30 billion in premiums in 2019, Truist Insurance is the fifth-largest insurance broker in the U.S. and sixth-largest in the world.

The company, based in Charlotte, has more than 7,500 employees in more than 250 locations nationwide.

Truist Insurance has a portfolio of five complementary businesses: McGriff, CRC Group, Crump Life, AmRisc and Premium Finance (AFCO, Prime Rate and CAFO).

BB&T Life Insurance Services has been rebranded as Truist Life Insurance Services, a division of Crump Life Insurance Services Inc.

Richard Craver

Catalyst Biosciences joins Russell 2000 index

Catalyst Biosciences Inc. said Monday that its stock has been added to the Russell 2000 index, effective immediately.

The annual Russell index reconstitution involves the 4,000 largest U.S. stocks as of May 8, ranking them by total market capitalization.

Membership in the Russell 2000 Index lasts one year, and means automatic inclusion in the appropriate growth and value style indices.

About $9 trillion in assets are benchmarked against Russell’s U.S. indices.

In 2015, Catalyst acquired Targacept Inc. of Winston-Salem. Targacept shareholders own 42% of Catalyst’s shares and eventually could have a 57% capital stake.

Richard Craver

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