Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets mostly higher on optimism about US-China deal

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are mostly higher on optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal as regional markets open the new year’s first day of trading today.

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.1%, while South Korea’s Kospi lost nearly 1.0%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.1%, while the Shanghai Composite gained 1.1%. Tokyo was still closed for the New Year’s holiday.

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U.S. trading was closed Wednesday for the New Year’s holiday and opens today.

On Tuesday, the last day of trading for 2019, the S&P 500 rose 9.49 points, or 0.3%, to 3,230.78. The Dow gained 76.30 points, or 0.3%, to 28,538.44. The Nasdaq climbed 26.61 points, or 0.3%, to 8,972.60.

The Russell 2000 index picked up 4.32 points, or 0.3%, to 1,668.47. The index ended the year with a gain of 23.7%.

JAPAN-CARLOS GHOSN

Japanese prosecutors raid Nissan ex-chair Ghosn’s Tokyo home

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese prosecutors are raiding the Tokyo home of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn (gohn) after he skipped bail before a trial on financial misconduct charges and left for Lebanon.

Tokyo prosecutors and police have not commented. Japanese media report and are showing photos of the raid. Government offices are closed this week for the New Year’s holidays.

It is unclear how Ghosn avoided the tight surveillance he was under in Japan. Ghosn said he left for Lebanon because he thought the Japanese judicial system was unjust, and he wanted to avoid “political persecution.” 

CHINA-BANK RESERVE RATE

China to cut reserve ratio by 50 basis points from Jan. 6

BEIJING (AP) — China’s central bank says it will cut the amount of money banks will be required to have on hand from Jan. 6 in an effort to boost the slowing economy. The People’s Bank of China announced Wednesday that the reserve requirement ratio for financial institutions would be lowered by 50 basis points. The official Xinhua (shihn-wah) News Agency says that step will release about 800 billion yuan (yoo-AHN’), or $114.6 billion, into the economy for lending purposes, delivering a shot in the arm to the economy ahead of the Lunar New Year that falls on Jan. 25, a time when companies typically need cash to pay bonuses and clear debts.

However, Xinhua quoted an unidentified central bank official as saying that Wednesday’s move does not presage a large-scale government stimulus program, ruling out the possibility of a “flood-like” flow of fresh money.

FRANCE-STRIKES

For France’s Macron, 2020 again brings rocky start, outlook

PARIS (AP) — France’s leader has sparked a fresh barrage of anger from critics by reaffirming his determination to press ahead with contested pension reforms. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon accused French President Emmanuel Macron (eh-mahn-yoo-EHL’ mah-KROHN’) of declaring war on French workers with his new year’s address insisting that the pension system will be overhauled. The far-right National Rally party was equally damning likening Macron to “a spoiled child clinging to his toy.”

The start of 2020 brought the 28th consecutive day of disruptive nationwide transport strikes against Macron’s reforms, which aim to make pensions fairer to all workers. Unions are gearing up for new walkouts next week.

The National Rally — then called the National Front — and France Unbowed were among the biggest vote-getters in the 2017 presidential election that Macron won with a centrist, pro-European Union platform of labor reform and promises to reshape French politics.

MARIJUANA-ILLINOIS

Illinois sees first legal sales of recreational marijuana

CHICAGO (AP) — The sale of marijuana for recreational purposes is now legal in Illinois. The change took effect with the new year, to the delight of pot fans. Many began lining up hours early at dispensaries. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that about 500 people were outside Dispensary 33 in Chicago on Wednesday morning.

Illinois already allowed medical marijuana, but it is now the 11th state to allow its use and sale for recreational purposes and to broadly allow marijuana’s use and sale for people 21 or older. Neighboring Michigan made it legal starting Dec. 1.

Police were on-hand at most shops mostly to control traffic.

GLOBAL AIR CRASH DEATHS

Global air crash deaths fall by more than half in 2019

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Far fewer people died in major air crashes around the world last year. Statistics compiled by aviation consulting firm To70 in the Netherlands show that the number of deaths fell by more than half in 2019, to 257 fatalities in eight accidents all year. That’s significantly less than the 534 air fatalities in 2018.

The 2019 death toll rose in late December after a plane crash in Kazakhstan that took 12 lives. The worst crash of 2019 involved an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX plane that crashed March 10, killing 157 people.

The report said fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019 that led to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX raised questions about how aviation authorities approve aviation designs derived from older ones, and about how much pilot training is needed on new systems.

The group said it expects the 737 MAX to eventually gain permission to fly again in 2020.

All in all, however, the numbers show that flying got safer last year. There was just one fatal accident for every 5.58 million takeoffs.

WOMEN IN POLITICS-CHILD CARE

As more women run for office, child care remains a hurdle

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Women are expected to run for office in high numbers in 2020, but many of them face financial hurdles paying for child care while they campaign. Candidates for federal office can tap their campaign accounts to pay for it, but it’s a patchwork at the state level. Just six states have laws specifically allowing the use of campaign money for child care. In most states, the law is silent on the issue and up to interpretation. Female candidates say the expense is an unnecessary barrier and shows why more women are needed in positions of power.

Experts predict a large number of women will again run for office in 2020 like they did in 2018, and child care remains a hurdle for many of them.

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