Update on the latest in business:


Asian shares fall as hopes fade for quick economic rebound

UNDATED (AP) — Asian shares declined today on pessimism about life getting back to normal soon amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as Japan prepared to let businesses reopen in some regions.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 1.7%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.4%. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 1.4%, while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.9%.

India’s Sensex lost 2%, while markets also fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

Yesterday on Wall Street, indexes suffered after players saw a quick rebound as less likely, with the S&P 500 falling 1.7%, to 2,820.00 for its second straight loss. The biggest hits targeted companies that most need a healthy economy for their profits to grow.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.2%, to 23,247.97, and the Nasdaq composite lost 1.5%, to 8,863.17. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks dropped 3.3%.


UN forecasts pandemic will shrink world economy by 3.2% this year

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is forecasting that the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2% this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The U.N.’s mid-year report released Wednesday says COVID-19 is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the past four years. In January, the U.N. forecast a modest growth of 2.5 percent in 2020.

The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report says the pandemic is also “exacerbating poverty and inequality,” with an estimated 34.3 million people likely to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020 — 56 percent of them in Africa.

It says an additional 130 million people may join the ranks of people living in extreme poverty by 2030, dealing a “huge blow” to global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the end of the decade.


Consumers, lawmakers rip airlines for withholding refunds

UNDATED (AP) — Airlines are under growing pressure to give cash refunds instead of travel vouchers to passengers who cancel flights because of the coronavirus. The airlines say they are complying with federal regulations by paying cash only if they cancel the flight. Thousands of airline customers have filed complaints with the Transportation Department over the airlines’ refund policy. Industry officials say airlines are bleeding cash because of a sharp downturn in air travel and forcing them to pay cash refunds instead of travel vouchers would push them closer to bankruptcy.

Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass says that “at a time when families are struggling to pay for food, for housing, for prescriptions, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t return this money to consumers.”

Markey and four other Senate Democrats proposed legislation on Wednesday that would require airlines to give full cash refunds to passengers during the pandemic, no matter whether the airline or the passenger cancels the flight. They say they will try to include the requirement in any further virus-relief measures.

The senators have previously estimated that airlines are holding back more than $10 billion by refusing to pay cash refunds.


Dubai airport CEO: Global travel still up in air over virus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The CEO of the world’s busiest airport for international travel wants to get the globe flying again, but even he acknowledges everything remains up in the air amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Griffiths tells The Associated Press that until a vaccine or a permanent solution to the virus exists, there could be “quite a low level of activity for quite some time.”

Thermal heat scanners now look over passengers and the airport has experimented with both coronavirus and antibody tests. However, Griffiths says the airport has no immediate plan to implement that testing on all passengers.


Pandemic wrecks many state budgets, could trigger deep cuts

UNDATED (AP) — As the nation enters a third month of economic devastation, the coronavirus is proving ruinous to state budgets, forcing many governments to consider deep cuts to schools, universities, health care and other basic functions that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Many states expect their revenue to plunge by 15% to 20% because government-ordered lockdowns have wiped out much of the economy and caused tax collections to evaporate. That puts statehouses billions of dollars in the red for the fiscal year that usually begins in July, with no end to the crisis in sight.

Colorado faces a gap of nearly a quarter of the state’s general budget. The projected gap in California is more than a fifth of its spending plan and in Oklahoma, a sixth. The governor of Oregon is preparing to cut 17% of her budget. Michigan may have to slash up to a quarter of the money it sends to schools. The drumbeat of bad news continued Wednesday as Washington’s governor froze most state hiring and called for 15% cuts to many parts of the budget. New Jersey announced that tax revenue for April was down 60% compared with the year before — and that it will look worse next month.


Face mask rules grow but enforcement proves a challenge

NEW YORK (AP) — Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft are requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks while using their services, joining a growing list of transportation companies hoping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as some cities emerge from lockdown. All major U.S. airlines have already rolled out requirements for passengers and crew to wear face coverings in response to concerns over contagion, particularly in small or confined spaces that present higher risks of infection than well-ventilated or outdoor settings. But the rules are only effective if people are willing to follow them and if the companies ferrying passengers are serious about enforcement.

Pilots worry that travelers could remove their masks and spark a confrontation with others during a flight. They are pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to require masks instead of leaving it up to individual airlines.

In ride-hailing vehicles, Uber will make drivers upload a mask-wearing selfie into the app before they can pick up a passenger, the company said Wednesday. Riders also will be required to wear a mask, but they won’t have to provide proof. Either the rider or driver can cancel a ride if the other doesn’t wear a mask, and repeat violators can be kicked off the platform


Virus spikes could emerge weeks after US economic re-openings

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. states are beginning to restart their economies after months of paralyzing coronavirus lockdowns, but experts say it could take weeks until it becomes clear whether those re-openings will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The outbreak’s trajectory varies wildly across the country, with steep increases in cases in some places, decreases in others and infection rates that can shift dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood.

A handful of states started easing their lockdowns about two weeks ago, allowing re-openings by establishments ranging from shopping malls in Texas to beach hotels in South Carolina to gyms in Wyoming. Sparsely populated Wyoming, which has some of the lowest infection numbers in the United States, plans to reopen bars and restaurants Friday. Georgia was one of the first states where some businesses could open their doors again, starting April 24 with barber shops, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors.


Chinese merchants go livestreaming

HONG KONG (AP) — Retailers in China are embracing livestreaming as a sales channel amid a Chinese “shoppertainment” boom that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Via livestreaming, retailers can interact with customers in real time, while customers make purchases directly in the stream.

The industry has created a new niche for retailers and livestreaming celebrities, some of whom rake in hundreds of millions in sales and boast massive fan followings. The trend has encouraged some Chinese entrepreneurs to start their business via livestreaming instead of renting a storefront.

Livestreaming e-commerce might be a new model for battered retailers in the U.S. and Europe, as customers remain wary of crowds.


Agency cites ‘staggering’ cost of reining in US wild horses

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal land managers say it will take two decades and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels on U.S. rangeland.

The Bureau of Land Management’s latest plans envision capturing 200,000 mustangs over the next two decades.

It also calls for new regulations allowing the sterilization of horses roaming federal lands for the first time.

It stops short of repeating past requests to ease prohibitions on the resale of excess horses for slaughter. But horse defenders say that’s clearly the intention of painting such a dire picture of the challenges ahead.

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