Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

World shares climb after S&P 500 record, despite virus woes

UNDATED (AP) — Shares have started out the week on a strong footing after the S&P 500 hit a fresh high on Friday, with robust data from Japan and China adding to optimism over economic recoveries even as coronavirus caseloads surpass earlier records.

Stock benchmarks re up today in Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and most other markets. Asian markets got a lift from the signing of a regional trade agreement over the weekend that is expected to boost trade, though the immediate effects are not likely to be big.

On Wall Street today, S&P futures are up 0.9% and Dow futures are 1% higher.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

Japan pandemic-hit economy returns to growth July-September

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says its economy grew at an annual rate of 21.4% in the July-September quarter as some business activity recovered from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Preliminary data from the Cabinet Office show a distant road to a full recovery. The world’s third largest economy previously logged three straight quarters of contraction and was already in recession by the time the pandemic hit.

News that the economy returned to growth in the last quarter sent share prices higher in Tokyo.

Japan, like the rest of the world, is suffering from the slowdown brought on by business closures, plunging tourism and travel and social distancing measures for COVID-19.

MALL MERGER

After price cut, Simon and Taubman aim to ring up mall deal

UNDATED (AP) — Like shoppers haggling over a deal, two big shopping mall owners have agreed to a price cut that apparently will save their deal.

Simon Property Group and Taubman Centers said Sunday they have reworked their merger, which was first announced in February, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic devastated the retail industry.

Simon will pay $43 a share for Taubman. That’s down from the original price of $52.50 a share. Both companies agreed to drop lawsuits against each other.

Malls were struggling for years before the pandemic, as more shoppers went online, but their condition has grown more dire with the virus cutting into sales.

PNC-BBVA

Report: PNC in talks to buy US unit of Spain’s BBVA bank

NEW YORK (AP) — PNC Financial Services Group is reportedly discussing a purchase of the U.S. subsidiary of Spain’s BBVA in a deal that could be valued at more than $10 billion.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Sunday that a deal could be announced by Monday barring a late breakdown in the talks.

The newspaper said the deal would create the nation’s fifth largest retail bank, with more than $550 billion in assets and a large presence on the East Coast.

Mergers and acquisitions of big banks have declined greatly since the financial crisis in 2008. Regional banks such as PNC face stiffer competition now from big national banks and have been hurt more than larger banks by low interest rates.

BRITAIN-JANSSEN VACCINE

UK to run final stage trials of Janssen Covid vaccine

LONDON (AP) — Britain will be the first country to run final stage trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical company Janssen, which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Scientists will begin recruiting some 6,000 people across the U.K. today for the 12-month trial. Dr. Saul Faust is helping lead the study, and he says the research will start first in Britain but aims to recruit a total of 30,000 people in six countries around the world.

The shot uses a harmless cold virus to deliver the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body, which scientists hope will prompt an immune response.

Faust says the news from Pfizer and BioNTech last week that their vaccine appears to be 90% effective is a welcome boost for their research.

BRITAIN-VACCINE

BioNTech scientist: Vaccine could halve virus transmission

LONDON (AP) — One of the scientists behind the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer says he’s confident that it could halve the transmission of the virus, resulting in a “dramatic” curb of the virus’ spread.

The chief executive of Germany’s BioNTech said Sunday it is “absolutely essential” to have a high vaccination rate before next fall to ensure a return to normal life next winter.

He says he’s very confident that transmission between people will be reduced by a highly effective vaccine. Adding, maybe not 90% but maybe 50%.

Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that interim results show the vaccine is 90% effective.

JAPAN-WALMART

Walmart sells majority stake in Japanese Seiyu supermarket

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. retailer Walmart is selling 85% of its stake in its wholly owned Japanese supermarket subsidiary Seiyu, while retaining a 15% stake. The deal is valued at 172.5 billion yen ($1.6 billion). The companies say KKR & Co., a global investment firm, will purchase a 65% stake, while Japanese online retailer Rakuten (RAK’-uh-ten) will acquire a 20% stake from Walmart. KKR and Rakuten say they will bring their expertise in e-commerce and global digital marketing to strengthen Seiyu in the increasingly digital shopping age. The transaction, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-MALL SANTAS

Here comes Santa Claus – with face masks and plexiglass

NEW YORK (AP) — Santa Claus is coming to the mall — just don’t try to sit on his lap.

Malls are doing all they can to keep the jolly old man safe from the coronavirus, including banning kids from sitting on his knee, completely changing what a Santa visit looks like.

Kids will have to tell him what they want for Christmas from six feet away, and sometimes from behind a sheet of plexiglass. Santa and visitors may need to wear a face mask, even while posing for photos. And some malls will put faux gift boxes and other decorations in front of Santa to block kids from charging toward him.

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