Update on the latest in business:


Stocks rise on hope that worst of economic plunge has passed

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares surged today on optimism the worst of the economic fallout from the pandemic may be over, as Wall Street logged its biggest rally in a week.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 2.6% in afternoon trading today, helped partly by local media reports about fresh government aid to ride out the pandemic. South Korea’s Kospi added 1.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1%, while the Shanghai Composite picked up 0.7%.

India’s Sensex gained 1.4%. Shares were mixed in Southeast Asia.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 climbed 1.2% to 2,881.19. That was its third gain in four days, following similar increases in European markets. Other areas of the market were still showing much more pessimism, though, including bonds.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9% to 23,875.89. The Nasdaq rose 1.4% to 8,979.66, erasing the last of its losses for 2020 so far.


A devastating jobs report for April will show virus’s impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is expected to report the worst set of job numbers since record-keeping began in 1948, a snapshot of the devastating damage the coronavirus outbreak has inflicted on the economy.

The unemployment rate could reach 16% or more. Twenty-one million jobs may have been lost in April. If so, it would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession ended had vanished in one month.

Even those grim numbers won’t fully capture the scope of the damage the coronavirus has inflicted on jobs and incomes. Many people who are still employed have had their hours reduced. Others have suffered pay cuts.


Study: WeChat content outside China used for censorship

BOSTON (AP) — A new report says documents and images shared by users outside China with the country’s most popular social media platform are being monitored and cataloged for use in political censorship in China. The online watchdog Citizen Lab says WeChat users outside of China are thus unwittingly contributing to censorship in China. WeChat is the world’s third most popular messaging platform with more than 1 billion users. Until now, it was not known to be subjecting accounts registered outside of China to the same pervasive surveillance as domestic accounts. WeChat’s parent, Tencent, did not immediately respond to an online inquiry seeking comment.

Citizen Lab says its findings are based on technical experiments. It says it did not detect censorship in communications among accounts registered outside China. But it says it did identify surveillance of content being sent exclusively between such accounts.

Citizen Lab says Tencent does not clearly state in its terms of service that it is surveilling accounts registered outside of China.


Regulators waive $200M fine on PG&E for causing deadly fires

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California regulators have suspended a $200 million fine that Pacific Gas & Electric was supposed to pay as punishment for the utility’s neglect of electrical equipment that ignited a series of deadly wildfires in Northern California.

The waiver approved Thursday by California’s Public Utilities Commission will deprive state coffers of money that could offset revenue expected to be lost as the coronavirus pandemic depletes funds from sales and income taxes.

PG&E had asserted it might not be able to raise the tens of billions of dollars it needs to get out of bankruptcy if it had been forced to pay the $200 million.

Regulators backed down, despite a warning from its public advocates office that letting PG&E get away without paying the $200 million would set a troubling precedent that could lead to more problems in the future.


Dead taxpayers got relief checks. Can survivors keep them?

UNDATED (AP) — The IRS is asking people who received payments for a deceased taxpayer to return the money to the government. But some legal experts say there is no law requiring people to do that.

Some of the more than 130 million economic impact payments that went out to taxpayers as part of an economic relief package were sent to dead people. That is mainly because of a lag in reporting data on who is deceased. It’s the first time the agency has asked for the money back.

The IRS on Wednesday updated its website, stating that if a person died before a payment was issued, the money should be returned. It also provides instructions on how to do so. The IRS and Treasury have not said what would happen if these payments were not returned or otherwise repaid.

Former Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson says there’s nothing in the law prohibiting payments from going to the deceased or is there anything in the law requiring people to return the payments. And she notes that the language used on the IRS website does not say that returning the payments is required by law.


California sees possible restaurant openings on horizon

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says restaurant dining rooms shut down since March by the coronavirus outbreak could begin opening in certain counties within a week or two. No dates have been set, but the Democratic governor says he’ll release guidelines next week for restaurants to reopen their doors. However, counties must first meet a set of benchmarks that show the spread of the virus is in check.

The California Restaurant Association submitted proposed guidelines to Newsom that suggest food servers wear masks and buffets and salad bars be eliminated. Tables would be limited to no more than 10 people.

It’s likely to be a disjointed process, with restaurants in rural areas opening first, and eateries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other urban areas that have been hot spots for infections remaining closed longer.


America’s business of prisons thrives even amid a pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As the coronavirus pandemic decimates many companies, big business that has become synonymous with the world’s largest prison system continues to make money.

Men and women behind bars in at least 40 states continue to work, sometimes earning next to nothing to make masks and hand sanitizer to help guard others from the pandemic.

They have been cut off from family visits for weeks but get charged as much as $25 for a 15-minute phone call.

They also pay marked-up prices at the commissary for soap so they can wash their hands more frequently. That service can carry a 100% processing fee.


More evacuations near Indian factory after fatal gas leak

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Indian authorities are evacuating more people from villages near a South Korean-owned chemical factory where a gas leak killed 12 people and left about 1,000 struggling to breathe.

Authorities say the evacuation is precautionary, but it triggered panic among people overnight that another gas leak was occurring.

Factory owner LG Chem says it asked police to evacuate residents because of concerns that rising temperatures could cause a leak. It’s injecting water into the gas tank and working to control the temperatures.

Authorities say 316 people remain in hospitals.

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