Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares fall after Wall St slips on grim economic news

UNDATED (AP) — Shares fell in Asia today after a crush of dismal data about the economy sent markets lower in a meek ending to a historic, juggernaut month for stocks.

Most regional markets are closed for May Day holidays. But Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slipped 2.8% while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gave up 4.2%.

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Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 27.08 points to 2,912.43. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.2% to 24,345.72, and the Nasdaq fell 0.3% to 8,889.55.

And Wall Street is expected to open this morning with more losses, as Dow futures are down 1.5% and S&P futures are own 1.7%.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PROTESTS

Work safety strike, virus lockdown protest set for May Day

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Essential workers will strike nationwide on May Day to demand safer conditions during the coronavirus outbreak, while other groups plan rallies against tight stay-at-home orders they say are crippling the U.S. economy.

Organizers say employees of Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and FedEx have become the unexpected frontline workers of the pandemic.

Workers will walk off the job or call out sick to demand unpaid time off work, hazard pay, sick leave, protective gear and cleaning supplies.

Meanwhile protesters will take to the streets in cities nationwide to demand states loosen shelter-in-place rules and “reopen.” 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico to partially reopen despite coronavirus concerns

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico is taking its first tentative steps in relaxing a nearly two-month lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic, while health officials warn that the U.S. territory is relying on faulty statistics and has not yet seen its peak of cases.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced Thursday night that starting Monday certain sectors including finance, construction and manufacturing will reopen. Other businesses also allowed to reopen on weekdays include laundromats, moving services and those that repair elevators and air conditioning units.

The retail trade, barbershops and beauty salons will be allowed to operate beginning in mid to late March.

The lockdown for everyone else is being extended until May 25.

APPLE RESULTS

Apple pinched by pandemic; profit, iPhone sales decline

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Apple’s profit dipped slightly while revenues rose in the January-March quarter, reflecting early fallout from a coronavirus pandemic that shut down its factories and then forced hundreds of Apple retail stores to close. The results released Thursday provide the first snapshot of how one of the world’s best-known companies is faring as the U.S. plunges into its first recession in more than a decade. The numbers released Thursday suggest that Apple is holding up remarkably well so far.

Apple’s revenue edged up by 1% from the same time last year to $58.3 billion during the company’s fiscal second quarter. To no one’s surprise, the iPhone was the company’s hardest hit segment, with sales for the device falling 7% from the same time last year. Apple’s profits fell to $11.2 billion, a 2% decline from last year. The company told investors Thursday that iPhone sales will deteriorate even further during the April-June quarter.

The numbers were far better than analysts, who were braced for a 6% revenue decline, had feared.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the current downturn could be harder on the company than what it experienced during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when consumers were still captivated by the then-new iPhone.

VISA RESULTS

Visa 2Q profits up 3.6%, helped by more spending on network

UNDATED (AP) — Visa says its fiscal second-quarter profits increased 3.6% from a year earlier, helped by growth in payments being processed over the company’s namesake network.

The company reported net income of $3.08 billion, or $1.38 per share, compared with a profit of $2.98 billion, or $1.31 per share, in the same period last year.

Excluding one-time items, including acquisition costs and the impact of equity investments, Visa earned $1.39 a share, or 5 cents more than what the consensus analyst forecast. Revenue increased 7% to $5.9 billion, topping analysts’ estimates for $5.7 billion.

In a statement, CEO Alfred Kelly says the company’s business model is resilient, but warns “the road ahead will likely be challenging for a number of quarters.”

Like other companies, Visa declined to provide a full-year earnings outlook, citing the “significant uncertainty” in the global economy due to COVID-19.

AMAZON

Pandemic brings fortunes to Amazon – and headaches too

UNDATED (AP) — Amazon has spent years honing the business of packing, shipping and delivering millions of products to doorsteps around the world. Now it has a captive audience.

With much of the globe in various stages of a lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest online retailer has become a lifeline to many shoppers. But it is also grappling with delivery delays and mounting complaints from workers who worry about contagion while on the job.

Online research company Comscore reports that Amazon’s website hit 2.54 billion visitors for the entire month of March. That marks a 65% jump from the same period last year.

Discounters like Walmart and Dollar General that sell essential products have seen their shares soar 8% and 15% respectively. But Amazon has been a standout, with its stock up 22% so far this year. That’s in contrast to the S&P, which has slid 11%. Amazon is also hiring 175,000 more workers at a time when many businesses have cut back and are seeking federal aid.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AIRLINES-MASKS

Major US airlines to require passengers to wear face masks

DALLAS (AP) — The three biggest U.S. airlines say they will require passengers to wear face makes during flights.

Face coverings are strictly optional on other airlines.

Democrats in Congress have been pressuring the Trump administration to require masks, which they say will help protect passengers and airline crews from COVID-19. Beyond masks, several airlines are blocking at least some middle seats, but they say that’s just a temporary measure. Airlines say they are stepping up airplane cleaning and taking other steps during the virus pandemic.

Most flights are nearly empty these days — air travel is down 95% from a year ago, and the average domestic flight has 17 passengers, according to industry figures.

But recently passengers have posted photos on social media of crowded planes with many passengers who weren’t covering their faces despite the recommendation by federal health officials to wear a mask when in public to prevent spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TEXAS

Texas reopens today

PARIS, Texas (AP) — Starting today, retailers, restaurants and movie theaters in Texas have permission to let customers back in the door.

Counties with fewer than five active cases of COVID-19 can reopen businesses at 50% capacity, which Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said would apply to nearly half of Texas’ 254 counties.

Everywhere else — which is where the vast majority of Texas’ nearly 30 million people live — can open back up at 25% capacity.

Beaches in Texas are reopening this weekend, while hair salons, gyms and bars remain closed.

RIVER FISH KILL-LAWSUIT

Alabama sues Tyson Foods over wastewater spill, fish kill

HANCEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama is suing Tyson Foods over a 2019 wastewater spill that caused the largest recorded fish kill in the state.

The Alabama attorney general’s office filed the suit Thursday, saying Tyson was negligent “by causing a public nuisance.”

The lawsuit says a pipe failure at the Tyson plant caused over 200,000 gallons of “insufficiently-treated wastewater” to flow into the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, killing around 175,000 fish.

The attorney general’s office says they’re seeking compensation for damages to the community and the environment. A Tyson spokesman says the company was disappointed in the state’s decision and has tried to work with the state on conservation projects. 

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