Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Tokyo falls back, other Asian markets track Wall St gains

TOKYO (AP) — Shares in most Asian markets tracked overnight gains on Wall Street, but Tokyo’s benchmark fell back today as gnawing concerns over the virus outbreak chilled buying sentiment.

Traders were awaiting talks between central bankers and other financial leaders of the Group of Seven industrial nations on how to tackle the slowdown brought on by the outbreak that began in China and has spread to dozens of countries, killing about 3,100 people and sickening more than 90,000.

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Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished 1.2% lower after gaining in the morning. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7% after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its key interest rate to a record-low 0.5%.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was little changed but inched up less than 0.1%, while the Shanghai Composite advanced 0.6%. India’s Sensex was little changed after rising earlier in the day, while Taiwan’s benchmark surged 1.4%.

Monday on Wall Street, technology companies led the broad gains, where the S&P 500 index jumped 4.6% to 3,090.23 in its best day since December 2018. Apple climbed 9.3% and Gilead Sciences rose 8.7%. The biotechnology company has been testing one of its drugs as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. The Nasdaq added 4.5% to 8,952.16. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 2.9% to 1,518.49.

Even with Monday’s big rally, the major U.S. indexes remain in the red for the year.

AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY

Australia cuts rate to record low 0.5% because of virus

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a record low of 0.5% in response to the economic shock of the new coronavirus.

The reduction at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s monthly meeting is the first since October last year and the fourth since June last year. Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said his board took the decision to “to support the economy as it responds to the global coronavirus outbreak.”

DRUG PRICE FIXING

Feds: Sandoz Inc. to pay $195M over antitrust allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says pharmaceutical company Sandoz Inc. will pay a $195 million penalty to resolve criminal charges of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for generic drugs.

The Justice Department said it was the largest fine the department had levied in a domestic antitrust case. Under the agreement, criminal prosecution will be deferred for three years.

As part of the agreement, the generic pharmaceutical company headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey will admit guilt and pay the penalty, which the Justice Department says is the largest fine the department had levied in a domestic antitrust case.

Officials said the company conspired between 2013 and 2015 with other drug manufacturers and their executives to raise prices for critical medications, hurting vulnerable consumers such as the elderly. The price-fixing affected more than $500 million in Sanoz’s generic drug sales.

APPLE-BATTERYGATE SETTLEMENT

Apple to pay up to $500M over battery-related phone slowdown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — IPhone owners could get $25 from Apple after the company agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims over intentionally slowing down older phones to preserve older batteries.

Apple and lawyers representing iPhone consumers agreed to a deal stemming from Apple’s 2017 admission that it was slowing down phone performance in older models to avoid unexpected shutdowns related to battery fatigue.

That admission led to Apple offering discounted battery replacements at $29, but many people claimed they had already spent hundreds of dollars to buy new phones because Apple didn’t reveal the cause of the problem. If they had known they could just buy new batteries, they might not have bought new phones, some consumers in the case said.

Apple did not admit wrongdoing. But as part of the settlement, the company will pay $310 million to $500 million, including about $93 million to lawyers representing consumers.

KUSHNER-OPPORTUNITY ZONES-SALE

Kushner sells stake in firm using tax breaks he lobbied for

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has sold his stake in a company investing in Opportunity Zone projects offering tax breaks he had personally lobbied for in Washington, sparking criticism that he was benefiting from his White House role.

A filing at the Office of Government Ethics released Monday shows that Kushner received permission to defer capital gains on the sale of his stake in Cadre, a digital platform for smaller investors to buy stakes in commercial properties. Kushner’s holding in the private Cadre is worth between $25 million and $50 million, according to a financial disclosure report he filed with federal ethics officials last year.

Kushner pushed for the Opportunity Zone tax breaks to be included in Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. The breaks offer investors big cuts in capital gains taxes if they put money into businesses and buildings in 8,700 poor, struggling neighborhoods across the country that otherwise might not attract the money.

WELLS FARGO ARCTIC OIL

Wells Fargo third major bank to end Arctic oil investment

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Wells Fargo & Co. has become the third major U.S. bank to announce it will not support financing for oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the bank identified the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s North Slope as an area where it will not invest.

Well Fargo joins The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the decision not to provide Arctic funding.

Well Fargo says the decision applies only to project finance and that the bank plans to continue ongoing relationships with oil and gas companies in the Arctic.

AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY

Australia cuts rate to record low 0.5% to fight virus impact

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a record low of 0.5% in response to the economic shock of the new coronavirus.

The reduction at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s monthly meeting today is the first since October and the fourth since June.

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said his board took the decision to “to support the economy as it responds to the global coronavirus outbreak.”

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the slowdown in the global economy that started in 2018 appeared to be coming to an end. Lowe said it’s too early to tell when the outlook will begin to improve.  

AUSTRALIA-NEWS AGENCY

Australian Associated Press closing after 85 years

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — National news agency Australian Associated Press announced on Tuesday that it is closing after 85 years.

AAP Editor-in-Chief Tony Gillies said in a tweet: “The saddest day: AAP closes after 85 years of excellence in journalism. The AAP family will be sorely missed.” AAP Chief Executive Officer Bruce Davidson said operations would cease at the end of June.

AAP employs more than 170 journalists who work in bureaus in all states and territories of Australia. It also maintains correspondents in New Zealand, London and Los Angeles as well as using a network of contributors from the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. AAP’s domestic news coverage is complemented by alliances with the major international news agencies including The Associated Press.

Australian media organizations are under mounting financial pressure with global digital giants Google and Facebook taking a growing chunk of advertising revenue.

DISNEY-FIRST MICKEY RIDE

First ride featuring Mickey Mouse debuts at Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. was built on the shoulders of Mickey Mouse, so it may come as a surprise that there never has been a theme park attraction based on the lovable rodent.

That’s about to change with the debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride on Wednesday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

The ride gives visitors the impression that they are watching a cartoon featuring Mickey and Minnie come to life as the Disney characters look for the perfect place for a romantic picnic and then end up on a train ride on the “Runnamuck Railroad.”

The ride features trackless vehicles, multiple dimensional sets and projections on multiple planes, as well as animatronic figures and theatrical effects.

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