Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks rise after Fed chief optimistic about recovery

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rose today after the chief U.S. central banker expressed optimism that the American economy might start to recover this year from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7% and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.6%. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.4%. The Kospi in Seoul was 0.5% higher and Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 1.1%.

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India’s Sensex opened down 3.1%. Markets in New Zealand and Singapore also advanced.

Last Friday on Wall Street, U.S. stocks turned in their biggest weekly loss in nearly two months.

The S&P 500 index rose 11.20 points to 2,863.70. It ended down 2.3% for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3% to 23,685.42. The Nasdaq composite added 0.8% to 9,014.56.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL- ‘60 MINUTES’

Powell: Recovery may begin by summer, will likely be slow

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is expressing optimism that the U.S. economy can begin to recover from a devastating recession in the second half of the year, assuming the coronavirus doesn’t erupt in a second wave.

But he suggested in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that a full recovery won’t likely be possible before the arrival of a vaccine.

Powell says the economy was fundamentally healthy before the virus struck suddenly and forced widespread business shutdowns and tens of millions of layoffs. He says once the outbreak has been contained, the economy should be able to rebound “substantially.”

In the interview with CBS, Powell played down comparisons to the Depression. While acknowledging that unemployment could peak near the Depression high of 25%, he said U.S. banks are far healthier now and that the Fed and other central banks are much more able and willing to intervene to bolster economies than they were in the 1930s.

CHINA-US-HUAWEI

U.S. restriction on chipmakers deals critical blow to Huawei

HONG KONG (AP) — The latest U.S. sanctions on Huawei threaten to devastate China’s first global tech competitor, escalating a feud with Beijing that could disrupt technology industries worldwide.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. is one of the world’s biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment, but that business is in jeopardy after Washington announced restrictions on use of American technology by foreign companies that produce its processor chips.

Huawei has few alternatives if Washington refuses to allow its suppliers of processor chips to use American technology, as local chip manufacturers continue to lag behind global makers when it comes to producing advanced chipsets.

SOFTBANK

Alibaba’s Jack Ma quits board of Japan’s struggling SoftBank

TOKYO (AP) — Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is stepping down from the board of SoftBank Group Corp., as the Japanese technology company struggles over its risky investments such as office-sharing venture WeWork.

Tokyo-based SoftBank announced Ma’s resignation today, ahead of releasing financial results. It did not say why he is leaving.

Ma, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has been focusing on philanthropy lately, such as donating masks and test kits to help in the efforts against the new coronavirus pandemic.

SoftBank also announced three new board members.

JAPAN ECONOMY

Japan’s growth drops amid pandemic, worse times likely ahead

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economic growth plunged into recession in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic squelched production, exports and spending.

The Cabinet Office reports a drop of 3.4% annual pace in gross domestic product for the January-March quarter. Exports dove 21.8%. Private residential investments slipped nearly 17%, and household consumption edged down 3.1%. Things are likely to worsen as the world’s third-largest economy undergoes its biggest challenge since World War II.

CHURCH SERVICES-ZOOM OUTAGES

Church services disrupted by outages Zoom says were limited

WASHINGTON (AP) — Video conferencing service Zoom says it’s investigating the cause of outages Sunday that apparently affected some church services that had shifted their weekly services online due to the coronavirus concerns. Several migrated to YouTube and Facebook or rescheduled services. The company said the problems seemed to affect a limited number of users.

According to the website Downdetector, the problems appeared to have peaked around 5 a.m. Eastern time, with another spike around noon. The site tracks disruptions in tech services and collects reports. Zoom says it’s assessing the situation and apologizes for any inconvenience.

TANKER-PIRATE ATTACK

Pirates attack tanker off Yemen coast, causing minor damage

CAIRO (AP) — Stolt Tankers says pirates have attacked a U.K.-flagged chemical tanker off the coast of Yemen. A statement by the company Sunday said two skiffs running at high speed with six armed pirates approached the vessel Stolt Apal in the Gulf of Aden.

The vessel’s armed guards exchanged fire with the pirates, disabling one skiff and ending the pursuit. There were no injuries from the standoff, and only the vessel’s bridge area sustained minor damage from bullets. The tanker has since resumed its voyage.

According to maritime security firm Dryad Global, it was the ninth reported attack in the Gulf of Aden this year. Many vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden have armed guards abroad because of the threat of piracy.

SYRIA-FALLEN TYCOON

Cousin of Syria’s Assad faces legal action over telecom debt

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s telecommunications authority says a deadline for a cellular company owned by President Bashar Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, to pay to pay back its debts to the state has ended. Sunday’s statement said legal measures would be taken against the company to recover the money. It came hours after Assad’s cousin released a new video, in which the businessman said he’d been asked to step down from the leadership of Syriatel, the biggest telecommunications company in the country.

This third video in less than a month was another hint of a major rift in the tight-knit ruling Assad family, and the fall from grace of a once-powerful tycoon who is under American and European sanctions.

He was once described as central to Syria’s economy and a partner to the president. His videos, posted on a new Facebook page, seem to be a running public diary of a widening rift — and the fall from grace of a once-powerful tycoon.

In the latest video, he, vowed not to give up the company and apologized to his arrested employees, whom he was unable to get released after they were detained in recent weeks. He did not say who had called on him to step down.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-IMMIGRATION

Immigration agency asks for emergency funds, will raise fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government agency that processes citizenship applications and work visas is running out of money because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it needs to raise its fees and receive emergency funding from Congress to stay afloat.

The agency is typically funded through fees it charges people seeking to live or work in the country. But the agency said Sunday that it has seen a dramatic decrease in applications.

It has asked Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding and will add a 10% surcharge to fees to reimburse taxpayers. 

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