Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mixed in scant New Year Eve trading

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares are mixed in Asia after a late slide pulled major indexes into the red on Wall Street, leaving the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly below record highs they set a day earlier.

Hong Kong jumped in New Year’s Eve trading and Shanghai also rose, while Sydney declined. Trading was relatively quiet with many investors having closed out their positions for the year.

Crude oil prices fell back. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 1.51%. On Thursday, the benchmark S&P 500 gave up 0.3% and the Dow and the Nasdaq each fell 0.2%.

ASIA TRADE BLOCK

Asia looks to China-focused trade bloc for virus recovery

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian countries are looking to a China-centered trade bloc encompassing about a third of world trade and business activity to help power recoveries from the pandemic.

The Regional and Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, takes effect on Jan. 1. It includes China, Japan, South Korea and many other Asian countries but not the U.S. or India.

The trading bloc will slash tariffs on many products, streamline trade and is meant to provide mutual advantages for member nations. Experts say it’s expected to boost trade within the region by about 2%, or $42 billion.

Countries in Southeast Asia are hoping the initiative will help power their recoveries from the prolonged miseries of the coronavirus pandemic.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

Chinese factory activity edges higher in December

BEIJING (AP) — A survey shows Chinese factory activity edged higher in December as supply disruptions eased and export demand weakened.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the national statistics agency and an industry group shows 50.3 from November’s 50.1. That’s on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity accelerating.

Chinese manufacturing has been hampered by shortages of some components including semiconductors and disruptions in shipping. Some areas ordered factories to shut down temporarily starting in September to meet official energy efficiency targets.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HONG KONG-CATHAY PACIFIC

Cathay Pacific suspends cargo flights due to virus controls

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airlines is suspending cargo flights for a week due to stricter quarantine requirements for air crews, potentially adding to strain on global supply chains.

The airline says long-haul flights to Europe, across the Pacific and to Riyadh and Dubai are suspended through Jan. 6. It’s promising to try to help customers “mitigate the disruption.”

The airline’s workforce is stretched thin after the quarantine for Cathay Pacific flight crews who return from abroad was extended to one week in a hotel room from three days. Cathay said earlier it would reduce its schedule of passenger flights in the first three months of 2022 due to staff shortages.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CRUISE SHIPS

Cruise Line Association reacts CDC warning

MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, because of onboard outbreaks fueled by the omicron variant.

The CDC said Thursday that it has more than 90 cruise ships under investigation or observation as a result of COVID-19 cases. The agency did not disclose the number of infections.

The Cruise Lines International Association says it’s disappointed with the new recommendations, saying the industry was singled out despite the fact it follows stricter health protocols than other travel sectors.

The Association says the decision “is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard.” And, it says the “majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore.”

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