Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks down 4% on Wall Street as stakes rise in pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are falling sharply again on Wall Street, wiping out virtually all of Tuesday’s huge rally as Wall Street continues to reel from worries about the coronavirus. The losses deepened after global authorities declared the coronavrius crisis a pandemic.

Stocks fell from the opening of trading in New York, including a 4.5% loss for the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,200 points.

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Another big central bank made an emergency cut to interest rates in hopes of blunting the economic pain caused by COVID-19, which economists call the global economy’s biggest threat. But investors are still waiting for details promised earlier by President Donald Trump on potential aid for the economy through tax breaks and other relief.

Britain took bold steps on Wednesday to cushion the economic shock of the outbreak. The government announced a 30 billion-pound ($39 billion) stimulus package and the Bank of England slashed its key interest rate to a record low of 0.25%.

Italy’s government announced $28 billion in financial support for health care, the labor market and families and businesses that face a cash crunch due to the country’s nationwide lock down on travel.

Trump hinted at plans for tax cuts and other economic relief late Monday, but he has yet to unveil any details. His proposal for a cut to payroll taxes has met resistance on Capitol Hill.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TAX DELAY

Administration weighs delaying tax deadline amid outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is working on plans to delay the April 15 federal tax deadline for most individual taxpayers as well as small businesses.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Wednesday that the administration is “looking at providing relief to certain taxpayers and small businesses who will be able to get extensions on their taxes.”

Mnuchin said the administration believes this payment delay would have the effect of putting more than $200 billion back into the economy that would otherwise go to paying taxes next month.

He told Congress that the administration could grant the tax delay without having to go to Congress for approval. He said a formal announcement should come soon.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEDICAL SUPPLIES

Trump order expected on medical supplies amid outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to announce an executive order insisting on American-made medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Thats’ according to a person familiar with the plan who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Word of the planned announcement comes amid another tumultuous day in the crisis. Confirmed cases in the United States are topping 1,000, fluctuations in the financial markets are continuing and Washington is straining to respond. The White House is also considering a host of more aggressive responses, including a declaration of a national disaster.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA-BACK TO WORK

Province at China virus’s center lets some companies reopen

BEIJING (AP) — The province at the center of China’s virus outbreak began allowing factories and some other businesses to reopen Wednesday in a show of confidence that Beijing is gaining control over the disease that devastated its economy.

Chinese leaders are trying to revive business after the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed shut down manufacturing, travel and other industries in late January, sending shock waves through the global economy.

The Hubei provincial government announced that manufacturers, food processors and other businesses in Wuhan that are essential to the national economy or providing daily necessities can resume operation. The city of 11 million people, about 450 miles west of Shanghai, is the manufacturing hub of central China.

CONSUMER PRICES

US consumer prices grew 0.1% in February as food costs rose

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices increased slightly last month, driven higher by more expensive food.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the consumer price index ticked up 0.1% last month, matching its January increase. Prices rose 2.3% compared with a year earlier. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, prices increased 0.2% in February and 2.4% compared with a year earlier.

Inflation has been mild since the Great Recession ended more than a decade ago, and Wednesday’s figures indicate that hasn’t changed. Even though unemployment is at a half-century low, wages aren’t yet increasing quickly enough to force employers to boost prices to cover higher labor costs.

The price of clothing, used cars, and medical care rose last month, while the cost of airline fares and gas dropped.

CHINA-FORCED LABOR

US report finds widespread forced Uighur labor in China

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. lawmakers are pushing for a ban on exports from an area of northwest China following a report that found widespread use of forced labor.

U.S. law already prohibits the importation of goods made with forced labor. But a new report by the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China finds that there is no way to ensure that goods from the Xinjiang region are not being produced by detained members of the Uighur (WEE’-gur) ethnic group.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress introduced a bill Wednesday that would ban all textiles, electronic products and other goods made with materials from the region. China denied the findings of the report.

CONGRESS-ENERGY

Senate energy bill falls apart amid dispute over coolants

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sweeping Senate energy package touted as a “down payment” on fighting climate change is falling apart amid a push to limit coolants used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

The energy legislation would boost efficiency and authorize billions of dollars to develop a wide range of clean energy options to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The bill is widely supported but stalled this week amid a dispute over a proposed amendment to impose a 15-year phase down of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that are used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners. HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are being phased out worldwide.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware pushed for the amendment, which they said would give U.S. companies the certainty needed to produce “next-generation” coolants as an alternative to HFCs. Both men represent states that are home to companies that produce the alternative refrigerants. The amendment is opposed by Senate GOP leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

FAA-AIRLINES-SLOTS

FAA waives rules that led airlines to fly empty planes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are temporarily waiving a rule that has been causing airlines to fly nearly empty planes to avoid losing precious takeoff and landing rights at major airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration limits takeoff and landing rights or “slots” at a few big, congested airports. Airlines must use 80% of their slots or risk losing them.

On Wednesday, the FAA said it was waiving the 80% rule through May 31 to help airlines that are canceling flights because of the coronavirus outbreak. Airline officials had criticized the slot-use requirement. The president of United Airlines called it crazy.

T-MOBILE-SPRINT-CALIFORNIA

California AG drops challenge to T-Mobile-Sprint merger

NEW YORK (AP) — California’s attorney general said Wednesday that the state will not appeal a judge’s decision approving T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion purchase of Sprint.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra (hahv-YEHR’ beh-SEH’-rah) and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 14 state attorneys general who sued to stop the deal. They had argued that eliminating a major wireless company would harm consumers by reducing competition and adding billions of dollars in costs through higher phone bills.

The companies said the deal would benefit consumers by helping the companies build a better next-generation, 5G wireless network than each could do alone. A federal judge in New York sided with the companies in February. New York decided not to appeal a few days later.

SEXUAL-MISCONDUCT-WEINSTEIN

Weinstein sentenced to 23 years for sexual assaults

NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison after he pleaded for mercy in the landmark #MeToo rape case. His accusers said his punishment was long overdue.

Weinstein was convicted last month of raping a woman in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on another woman at his apartment in 2006. He faced a maximum of 29 years in prison.

Weinstein broke his courtroom silence and said he felt “remorse for this situation.”

The two accusers who helped seal his conviction also spoke in court Wednesday. One of the women said she believed he would have continued assaulting women “again and again and again” if he wasn’t convicted.

PEPSICO-ROCKSTAR

PepsiCo buying energy drink maker Rockstar for $3.85B

NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo is buying the energy drink maker Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.85 billion.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have moved aggressively in their pursuit of consumers that have a much wider variety of drinks to choose from than several ago. Both must compete with smaller seltzer, soda, sparkling juice and energy drink makers that each market to a subset of consumers.

Coca-Cola has branched out from its Classic Coke to keep customers who have given up, or cut back drastically, on sugary drinks. The company said in its most recent quarter that Coca-Cola Zero Sugar had double digit sales gains last year. Coffee and tea sales — boosted by the company’s 2018 acquisiton of Costa Coffee — grew 4% in the final three months of 2019.

The acquisition announced Wednesday expands PepsiCo’s portfolio of energy drinks, which already includes Mountain Dew’s Kickstart, GameFuel and AMP.

Rockstar, founded in 2001, makes 30 varieties of drinks and is sold in more than 30 countries. It is based in Las Vegas.

DISNEYLAND-AVENGERS

Avengers Campus to let Disneyland visitors sling like Spidey

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Some assembling is still required, but the Avengers are gathering in a big way at Disneyland.

A new Spider-Man attraction that allows riders to sling webs with their bare hands and live-action fights between Avengers members and Marvel supervillains are among the highlights of the new Avengers Campus that arrives July 18 at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.

Taking its cues from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which debuted across the resort at Disneyland Park last year, the Avengers Campus will be an immersive experience that seeks to tell super-heroic stories across a series of rides, shows and eateries.

The four-seat cars that have been set up to begin test runs through the facility look like many other people-moving vehicles on Disneyland attractions, but its creators say the experience will be something entirely new.

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