Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks slide after weak US data add to global gloom

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly lower today after unexpectedly weak U.S. retail and other data added to gloom about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Benchmarks in Tokyo and Hong Kong declined while Shanghai gained.

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On Wall Street yesterday, the benchmark S&P 500 index sank 2.2% after the U.S. government reported last month’s retail sales plunged by a record 8.7% and factory output fell at the fastest rate for March since 1946. The retail figures hit especially hard because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.9% to 23,504.35. The Nasdaq was down 1.4% at 8,393.18.

US RELIEF CHECKS

US relief checks begin arriving as economic damage piles up

WASHINGTON (AP) — Government relief checks have begun arriving in Americans’ bank accounts as the economic damage to the U.S. from the coronavirus piles up and sluggish sales at reopened stores in Europe and China are making it clear that business won’t necessarily bounce right back when the crisis eases.

With many factories shut down, American industrial output shriveled in March, registering its biggest decline since the U.S. demobilized in 1946 at the end of World War II. Retail sales fell by an unprecedented 8.7%, with April expected to be far worse.

The world’s biggest economy began issuing one-time payments this week to tens of millions of people as part of its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, with adults receiving up to $1,200 each and $500 per child to help them pay the rent or cover other bills. The checks will be directly deposited into accounts or mailed to households in the coming weeks, depending on how people filed their tax returns.

G20-DEBT PAYMENTS

Group of 20 nations agree to suspend debt payments

DUBAI (AP) — The world’s wealthiest countries have agreed to immediately suspend billions of dollars in debt payments for the world’s poorest countries as nations race to spend money on health care and workers impacted by the pandemic.

The Group of 20 nations, which include the U.S., China, India, Germany, France and others, agreed unanimously Wednesday on the suspension of debt payments at a virtual summit of finance ministers that was presided over by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said after the meeting, “All bilateral official creditors will participate in this initiative, which is an important milestone for the G-20.”

The G-20 didn’t say how many countries would be impacted, but French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire says 76 countries were eligible to the moratorium.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA ECONOMY

China tries to revive economy but consumer engine sputters

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese leaders have reopened factories and shops in an effort to revive the economy, but the consumers whose spending propels most of China’s growth have been slow to return to shopping malls and auto dealerships. Authorities are trying to encourage spending by handing out shopping vouchers, but many people are uneasy about a possible resurgence of the coronavirus or losing their jobs. The delay is a blow to automakers and other global companies that hope China will power a worldwide recovery following the most painful peacetime downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Factories reopened in March after President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) visited Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, in a sign of confidence the virus was under control. But the consumers whose spending propels China’s economic growth are still afraid of losing their jobs or catching the virus.

Data due out Friday is expected to show the economy contracted by up to 9% in January-March, its worst performance since the late 1970s.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VIRUS CASES

46 new cases, new flare up along Russian border

BEIJING — China is reporting 46 new virus cases, 34 of them brought from outside the country, but no new deaths from the outbreak.

Of the domestic cases, three are recorded in the capital Beijing, which has been enforcing strict quarantine and social distancing measures. Four others are in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, where authorities have been rushing to stem a new flare-up among Chinese citizens crossing the border from Russia.

China has now reported a total of 3,342 deaths from the virus among 82,341 cases. Around 3,000 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 or under isolation and monitoring for showing signs of the illness or testing positive, but not displaying symptoms.

KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

US judge cancels permit for Keystone XL pipeline from Canada

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that’s expected to stretch from Canada to Nebraska. The ruling Wednesday marks another setback for the disputed project that got underway less than two weeks ago following years of delays.

Judge Brian Morris said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately consider effects on endangered species such as pallid sturgeon, a massive, dinosaur-like fish that lives in rivers the pipeline would cross.

Attorneys say the ruling won’t shut down work that’s started at the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Montana. But pipeline sponsor TC Energy will need the permit for future construction across hundreds of rivers and streams along Keystone’s 1,200-mile route.

Morris is holding a court hearing Thursday on two other lawsuits against the $8 billion pipeline. American Indian tribes and environmental groups want him to halt the construction at the border while a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s approval of the pipeline last year works its way through the courts.

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