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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mixed after Wall Street health-care-led rally

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mixed today after some benchmarks lost earlier gains following a rally in U.S. stocks that mostly was spurred by health care companies' announcements of developments that could aid in the coronavirus outbreak.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose in morning trading but reversed course to close nearly 0.9% lower. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 also fell back, losing 2.0%. But South Korea's Kospi picked up 2.0%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 1.0% higher. and the Shanghai Composite inched up 0.1%.

India's Sensex jumped 3.4%. Shares rose in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore but fell in Malaysia.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 3.4% for its fourth gain in the last five days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.2% to 22,327.48, and the Nasdaq gained 3.6%, to 7,774.15.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BUSINESS OUTBREAK

Businesses of all types experiencing severe pandemic strains

UNDATED — (AP) — Macy's will stop paying tens of thousands of employees who were thrown out of work when the chain closed its stores in response to collapsing sales during the pandemic.

The majority of its 130,000 employees, including stock people and salespeople, will still collect health benefits, but the company says that it is transitioning to an "absolute minimum workforce" needed to maintain basic operations.

Other firms affected:

—Lufthansa is putting 27,000 of its 35,000 employees on short hours under a government support program that will ensure they get most of their pay while the virus outbreak reduces air traffic. The airline also said that top managers and board members would forego part of their pay for at least six months.

__Air Canada will temporarily lay off more than 15,000 unionized workers beginning this week as the airline struggles with fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

— Rent the Runway confirmed that it laid off its entire retail staff and is not sure whether stores will reopen. The layoffs were announced via video conference on Friday. Workers will be getting severance and two months of health insurance.

— Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher, is cutting pay and hours of newsroom employees by 25% in April, May and June because of advertising declines. Executive pay is being cut 25%.

— Dine-in restaurants like Olive Garden and Applebee’s reported sales declines of 71% compared to the same period last year. Fast food sales fell 34%.

Meanwhile, OpenTable — an app that normally lets diners make reservations at 60,000 restaurants worldwide — is getting into the grocery business. Starting this week, OpenTable will let people reserve a time to shop at several California groceries.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WORLD BANK-ASIA

World Bank sees outbreak taking a big toll on Asia's economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank is estimating that the coronavirus outbreak will cause economic growth to slow significantly this year in China and other East Asian-Pacific countries, throwing millions into poverty.

The bank said in an updated forecast on Monday that under a worse-case scenario, the region could suffer its sharpest downturn since a devastating currency crisis more than two decades ago.

The World Bank report projects that growth in the region would slow to 2.1% this year from 5.8% in 2019 under a “baseline” forecast in which economic recovery takes hold this summer.

More than 11 million people could fall into poverty in the region, the bank estimates in stark contrast to its earlier forecast that growth would be sufficient this year to lift 35 million people out of poverty.

The World Bank has pledged to provide $14 billion in financial support through a fast-track package to strengthen the response of developing countries to the virus and expects to deploy up to $160 billion over the next 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable.

CHINA-ECONOMY

China's manufacturing rebounds as virus controls ease

BEIJING (AP) — An official survey shows that China’s manufacturing rebounded in March as authorities relaxed anti-disease controls and allowed factories to reopen.

But an industry group is warning that the economy has yet to fully recover.

The purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics bureau and an official industry group rose to 52 from February’s record low of 35.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity increasing.

The ruling Communist Party is trying to revive the world’s second-largest economy after declaring victory over the coronavirus even as the United States and other governments shut down businesses and close borders.  

TRUMP-MILEAGE ROLLBACK

New Trump mileage standards to gut Obama climate effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to relax ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States' single-biggest efforts against climate change.

The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule today on mileage standards through 2026, watering down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers globally to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles.

Trump's Cabinet heads have continued a push to rollback public health and environment regulations despite the coronavirus outbreak riveting the world's attention.

The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favored for years. Opponents say it will undercut the Obama administration's legacy effort to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions and will kill hundreds more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHEAP GAS

Gas is cheap, but for many motorists there's nowhere to go

DALLAS (AP) — U.S. gasoline prices have dropped to their lowest levels in four years, and they are almost sure to go lower as oil prices plunge.

Price-tracking services put the national average Monday around $2 a gallon. Some stations were spotted charging under a dollar.

But don't expect a stampede to the pumps. Demand is weak because so many Americans are under shelter-in-place rules and businesses have been shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak. Prices have plenty of room to keep falling — maybe below $1.50, according to analysts.

Investors expect weak demand to continuing pushing gasoline prices lower. Contracts in New York for gasoline futures plunged to well under $1 a gallon on Monday.

FILM-SONY RELEASE POSTPONEMENTS

'Ghostbusters,' 'Morbius' postponed to 2021 due to virus

NEW YORK (AP) — Sony Pictures on Monday cleared out its summer calendar due to the coronavirus, postponing the releases of Jason Reitman's “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and the Marvel movie “Morbius” to 2021.

Hollywood's summer season — the film industry's most lucrative time of year — is increasingly shutting down because of the pandemic. Theaters nationwide have closed and major film productions have halted with no clear timeline for resuming.

“Ghostbuster: Afterlife," set 30 years after “Ghostbusters II,” had been scheduled for July 10, but it will now open March 5 next year. The Jared Leto-starring “Morbius," slated for July 31, will now be released March 19 next year. “Greyhound,” a World War II drama starring Tom Hanks, is now to-be-determined instead of opening June 12.

Last week, Warner Bros. postponed “Wonder Woman 1984" to August instead of June, and undated its adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda's “In the Heights.” The Walt Disney Co. took Marvel's “Black Widow” (previously May 1) off the schedule. Those postponements followed others for the “Fast and Furious” movie “F9,” the James Bond film “No Time to Die” and the horror sequel “A Quiet Place Part II.”

Sony also shifted “Fatherhood,” with Kevin Hart, from October to next January.

CHEMOURS-DUPONT LAWSUIT

Judge dismisses Chemours lawsuit against DuPont

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge has granted the DuPont Co.'s request to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that it massively downplayed the cost of environmental liabilities imposed on spinoff company Chemours.

The judge ruled that he has no jurisdiction to hear the case because the separation agreement between the companies clearly states that all disputes arising from the spinoff are subject to binding arbitration.

Chemours sued DuPont last year, alleging DuPont deliberately lowballed the cost of environmental liabilities Chemours would face in reimbursing DuPont for pollution related to man-made chemicals known as PFAS.

A Chemours spokesman says the company will appeal the ruling to the Delaware Supreme Court.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GUNS

LA County sheriff abandons effort to close gun stores

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff says he’s abandoning the effort to shut down firearms dealers in the wake of coronavirus concerns.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva (vee-uh-NWAY’-vuh) ordered the shutdown last week, saying panic-buying that produced long lines at gunshops was worrisome from a public safety standpoint.

Gun-rights groups sued the sheriff, arguing that contending that Villanueva’s actions violated the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.

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