Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares advance after stimulus surge on Wall Street

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares have mostly tracked Wall Street’s advance in anticipation congressional approval of massive coronavirus relief for the U.S. economy.

Tokyo jumped 2.5% and Shanghai added 0.9% today. Stocks sank 5.3% in Australia, ending a three-day winning streak as investors reacted to news that cases of new infections in the U.S. have surpassed China’s total.

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India’s Sensex lost 0.9% after the central bank slashed its key lending rate to a decade-low 4.4% from 5.15% to help the economy weather a lockdown aimed at beating the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s second most populous country.

On Thursday, Wall Street appeared to shrug off miserable news on unemployment as the S&P 500 rose 6.2%, bringing its three-day rally to 17.6%. The Dow industrials have risen an even steeper 21.3% since Monday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Washington set to deliver $2.2 trillion virus rescue bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington is about to deliver massive, unprecedented legislation to speed help to individuals and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic takes a devastating toll on the U.S. economy and a health care system straining to keep up.

The House is set to pass the sprawling, $2.2 trillion measure this morning following an extraordinary 96-0 Senate vote late Wednesday.

President Donald Trump is eager to sign it into law. The relief can hardly come soon enough. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the economy “may well be in recession” already and the government has reported a 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims, more than four times the previous record.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TRUMP PROPERTIES

Virus relief package could help Trump, Kushner businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is looking for ways to control who gets the financial aid moving toward passage.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package moving through Congress was carefully written to prevent President Donald Trump and his family from profiting from the federal fund. But the fine print reveals that businesses owned by Trump and his family still may be eligible for assistance.

The massive relief fund, rushed through the Senate and expected to soon be passed by the House, includes language inserted by Democrats that explicitly prevents Trump, who did not divest from his company before taking office, from using the federal money as a windfall for his struggling hotel and country club business. Ethics groups warn that the 880-page bill contains loopholes.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PHONEY CURE

Man arrested for hawking phony cure for coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The FBI has arrested a Southern California man who officials say falsely claimed to have developed a cure for the coronavirus and solicited investments in a company he said would market the medication.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that Keith Lawrence Middlebrook told his 2.4 million Instagram followers that his company would return hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Prosecutors say Middlebrook claimed he had developed pills that would prevent COVID-19 infections and an injectable drug that would cure those already suffering from the virus.

There are no known cures or vaccinations for the coronavirus. The federal case is believed to be one of the first in the U.S. connected to an alleged coronavirus cure scam.

Middlebrook, 53, could face one felony count of attempted wire fraud.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MASK AUCTION

Price-gouging allegation leaves 750,000 face masks in limbo

HOUSTON (AP) — The state of Texas has sued a Houston auctioneer after halting an auction of 750,000 medical-grade and N95 face masks, alleging price gouging in the sale of the masks commonly used by health professionals who are on the front lines battling against the new coronavirus.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by the Texas Attorney General’s Office alleges that a Tuesday auction by Auctions Unlimited had bidding on N95 respirator masks reaching as high as $180 for a package of 16 masks. Amazon sold a set of 100 for $4.21 in late January. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the auctions and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

It was unclear how many bids were taken on the masks, but Auctions Unlimited owner Tim Worstell denied price gouging.

INDIA ECONOMY

India’s central bank cuts benchmark rate to decade-low 4.4%

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s central bank has cut its key interest rate by a sizable 75 basis points to 4.4% from 5.15% to ease financing troubles caused by the coronavirus outbreak and help revive the economy.

That’s the lowest benchmark rate the Reserve Bank of India has charged on lending to commercial banks, its so-called “repo rate,” since March 2010.

The RBI announcement comes a day after India’s finance ministry announced a 1.7 trillion ($22 billion) economic stimulus package that includes delivering grains and lentil rations for three months to 800 million people, some 60% of the world’s second-most populous country.

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