Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia shares fall as WHO says China virus a global emergency

UNDATED (AP) — Shares were mostly lower in Asia today after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a new virus that has spread from China to more than a dozen countries a global emergency.

Markets in mainland China remained closed as the U.S. warned against all travel to China following the WHO’s announcement.

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Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1%, while the S&P ASX/200 edged 0.1% higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2% and the Sensex in India gave up 0.2%. Taiwan’s benchmark picked up 0.6%, while South Korea’s Kospi skidded 1.4%. Shares also fell in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

On Wall Street Thursday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.3% to 3,283.66 after falling as much as 0.9% earlier in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.4% to 28,859.44, while the Nasdaq added 0.3% to 9,298.93. Smaller company stocks recovered most of the way after taking the brunt of the selling. The Russell 2000 index slipped 0.1% to 1,648.22.

CHINA-OUTBREAK

US advises against travel to China; virus declared emergency

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. is advising against all travel to China after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a new virus that has spread to more than a dozen countries a global emergency. The number of cases spiked more than tenfold in a week, including the highest death toll in a 24-hour period reported today.

The State Department’s travel advisory told Americans currently in China to consider leaving using commercial means and requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel “in light of the novel coronavirus.”

The advisory said that Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advanced notice and that Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PILOTS

American Airlines pilots sue to halt flights to China

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines pilots have sued their company to make it stop all flights to China immediately because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s 15,000 pilots, asked a state district court in Dallas for an injunction to halt the flights immediately. The union cited declarations by international health experts that the virus is a public health emergency. The union’s president is directing his members to reject assignments to fly to China, and for those there to leave the country as soon as they can.

American announced Wednesday that it will suspend flights between Los Angeles and both Beijing and Shanghai beginning Feb. 9. The airline has not announced changes in flights between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong or between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

CHINA OUTBREAK-WILBUR ROSS

Commerce secretary: China virus could bring jobs back to US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested that the viral outbreak in China might offer an unexpected benefit for the U.S. economy: It could encourage American manufacturers in China to return to the United States. Ross emphasized that he wasn’t celebrating what he described as a very unfortunate, very malignant disease. He added, though, that the outbreak gives businesses “yet another thing to consider” when they go through their review of their supply chain. The crisis has begun to ripple through U.S. companies with operations in China. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company’s suppliers in China have been forced to delay reopening factories that closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. More than half of Starbucks’ stores in China are now closed. McDonald’s has closed several hundred restaurants in China.

Skeptics doubt that many American companies with deep roots in China might abandon the country purely over the virus.

AMAZON RESULTS

Commerce secretary: China virus could bring jobs back to US

NEW YORK (AP) — It was another prime Christmas for Amazon. The online retailer says it now has more than 150 million Prime members, who pay $119 a year for faster shipping and other perks. That’s up 50% from the last time Amazon disclosed the number in 2018. It also beats Netflix, which has 139 million members who pay to stream movies and TV shows. And its financial results during the busy holiday shopping season were far better than Wall Street analysts expected. Shares of Amazon.com Inc. soared 10% in after-hours trading Thursday.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder said that “more people joined Prime this quarter than ever before”. The staggering number of Prime members is sure to spook other retailers. Analysts have said Prime subscribers typically spend more of their money at Amazon than other places.

KOHLER-EMISSIONS-SETTLEMENT

Kohler to pay $20M penalty for California engine emissions

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) — Kohler Co. has agreed to pay a $20 million civil penalty to resolve allegations that emissions from its small spark-ignition engines violated the Clean Air Act and California law. The Wisconsin-based company reached the agreement Thursday with the Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

Regulators say the alleged violations involved Kohler’s manufacture and sale of millions of small, spark-ignition engines that did not conform to certification applications Kohler was required to submit. Kohler says the company voluntarily and promptly reported the issues when the company became aware of them in late 2015.

Small, spark-ignition engines are used in lawn mowers, ride-on mowers, commercial landscaping equipment and generators. The engines in question were sold from 2010 to 2015.

Regulators also allege that more than 144,000 of the engines also were equipped with a fueling strategy known as a “defeat device” designed to cheat emissions testing standards.

BIODIESEL-POLYGAMY FRAUD

Lawyer: Businessman was used by polygamists in fraud scheme

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An attorney for a California businessman who prosecutors allege led a nearly $500 million fraud scheme against the U.S. says his client is being scapegoated by polygamists. In opening statements, the attorney for Lev Arslan Dermen says Derman was used by others accused in the scheme to avoid having to share proceeds with others in the polygamous group.

Prosecutors contend the men joined Dermen in exchange for protection by Derman’s “umbrella” of law enforcement and government sources. And, prosecutors say Dermen pushed the Kingstons to expand the operation exponentially by using burner phones, elaborate money transfers through Turkey and Luxembourg, and shipping fuels from countries such as Ireland and India through Panama.

Dermen has pleaded not guilty. The polygamists pleaded guilty and are expected to testify against Dermen.

IBM-CEO RETIRES

Ginni Rometty, 1st female CEO at IBM, to step down in April

ARMONK, N.Y. (AP) — Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO in IBM’s century-long history, is leaving the helm in April. Rometty will remain IBM’s executive chairwoman until the end of the year. Her departure caps nearly 40 years with a technology giant famous for its conservative corporate culture. Rometty became IBM CEO eight years ago.

IBM said the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion advanced under Rometty’s leadership. This includes extending parental leave and making it easier for women to return to work after taking time off to care for children.

The company also credited Rometty for “reinvented more than 50% of IBM’s portfolio” during her tenure, building a $21 billion cloud business while also advancing the company’s initiatives in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchain technology.

The company said Thursday that Arvind Krishna will take over as CEO starting April 6. Krishna has been IBM’s senior vice president for cloud computing and cognitive software. IBM has been trying to revitalize its business to become a leader in cloud technology.

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