Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia shares fall as US-China tensions douse rally on Wall St

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares fell today in Asia.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.6%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 skidded 0.8%.

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The Kospi in South Korea added 0.4%, while the Shanghai edged 0.1% higher.

Weak economic data from Japan also cast a pall, as the government reported that industrial production fell more than 9% in April from the month before, while retail sales dropped nearly 10%, month-on-month. That was the biggest fall since a sales tax hike in 1997.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended the day 0.2% lower at 3,029.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6% to 25,400.64 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.5%, to 9,368.99.

Even with Thursday’s loss, the S&P 500 is still on pace for its third weekly gain of at least 2.5% in the last four weeks.

UNITED STATES-CHINA

Chinese grad students may be next hit by US-China tensions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration may soon expel thousands of Chinese graduate students and impose other sanctions against Chinese officials.

These are the latest signs of escalating tensions over trade, the coronavirus pandemic, human rights and the status of Hong Kong.

President Donald Trump says he intends to make an announcement today. Officials say he is considering a proposal to revoke the visas of Chinese students affiliated with educational institutions in China that are linked to the People’s Liberation Army or Chinese intelligence. They say Trump is also weighing targeted travel and financial sanctions against Chinese officials for actions in Hong Kong.

US SANCTIONS-NORTH KOREA

US charges North Koreans in $2.5B sanctions-busting scheme

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is accusing a network of North Korean and Chinese citizens of secretly advancing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by channeling at least $2.5 billion in illicit payments through hundreds of front companies.

The indictment, unsealed on Thursday, is believed to be the largest criminal enforcement action ever brought against North Korea. The 33 defendants include executives of North Korea’s state-owned Foreign Trade Bank, which in 2013 was added to a Treasury Department list of sanctioned institutions and cut off from the U.S. financial system.

According to the indictment, the bank officials — one of whom had served in North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau — set up branches in countries around the world, including Thailand, Russia and Kuwait, and used more than 250 front companies to process U.S. dollar payments to further the country’s nuclear proliferation program.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BENEFITS FRAUD

The state of Washington recovers $300M in fraudulent unemployment claims

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state officials say the state has recovered $300 million paid to criminals who used stolen personal information to file fraudulent unemployment benefit claims.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine says the initial recovery was a result of the state’s collaboration with federal law enforcement and financial institutions. The scope of the fraud was first detailed last week indicating that the information of tens of thousands of people in the state was used to fraudulently receive hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

According the cyber security firm Agari, which monitors the Nigerian fraud group dubbed Scattered Canary, much of the funds apparently went to a West African fraud ring using identities stolen in prior data breaches, such as the massive 2017 Equifax breach. Several attacks have been detected in Washington, New Mexico, Michigan and Montana.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEAT PACKING PLANTS

Meatpacking union: 44 COVID-19 deaths among workers

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The largest meatpacking union estimates that at least 44 U.S. meatpacking workers have died from the new coronavirus and another 3,000 have tested positive. The plants have become hot spots for infections across the country, but, have mostly stayed open since being declared critical infrastructure in late April.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union says 30 meatpacking plants have closed at some point since March, resulting in an estimated 40% reduction in pork production and a 25% reduction in beef. The union has called for more safety measures to protect workers and preserve food supply.

OPIOID LAWSUITS

Suits accuse retail chains of flooding Ohio with painkillers

CLEVELAND (AP) — New lawsuits filed by two Ohio counties against five retail chains claim they flooded communities with painkillers through their pharmacies for years and did little to stop drugs from being abused or diverted. The complaints unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Cleveland say the retailers’ pharmacies sold tens of millions of painkillers in Ohio’s Lake and Trumbull counties between 2006 and 2014, helping fuel a national drug crisis that has killed more than 430,000 people since 2000.

Their lawsuits allege CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Giant Eagle helped fuel a national drug crisis that resulted in more than 430,000 deaths since 2000.

The counties’ complaints are scheduled for trial in May 2021 before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing more than 2,000 lawsuits filed by governments, tribal authorities and others in Cleveland.

FRANCE-RENAULT

French carmaker Renault announces 15,000 job cuts worldwide

PARIS (AP) — French carmaker Renault (reh-NOH’) is cutting 15,000 jobs worldwide as part of a 2 billion-euro cost-cutting plan over three years.

Renault says nearly 4,600 jobs will be cut in France in addition to more than 10,000 in the rest of the world.

The group’s global production capacity will be revised from 4 million vehicles in 2019 to 3.3 million by 2024.

Renault came into the virus crisis in particularly bad shape: Its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi is a major global auto player but has struggled since the 2018 arrest of its longtime star CEO Carlos Ghosn (gohn).

CHINA-VW-ELECTRIC CARS

VW spending $2.2B to expand in China’s electric car market

BEIJING (AP) — Volkswagen is spending 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to expand its presence in China’s electric car industry in the biggest foreign investment announced since the country shut down to fight the coronavirus.

Volkswagen AG says it will buy control of its electric vehicle venture with a Chinese partner in a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) deal.

The German automaker says it will spend another 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to become the biggest shareholder in a battery producer.

The ruling Communist Party scrapped limits on foreign ownership of electric vehicle manufacturers in 2018 in an effort to promote the industry’s development. China accounts for about half of global electric car sales.

TESLA-ELON MUSK-WINDFALL

Tesla’s Musk earns $770M in stock options, company confirms

DETROIT 9AP) — Tesla has confirmed that CEO Elon Musk will get the first tranche worth nearly $770 million of a stock-based compensation package triggered by the company meeting several financial metrics.

The electric car company says in a U.S. regulatory filing that Tesla’s board certified that Musk earned the big payout. The filing says Musk can buy 1.69 million shares of Tesla stock for $350.02 each, but it wasn’t clear whether he had exercised the stock options.

According to the filing, the board certified that Tesla had reached the milestones by hitting $20 billion in total revenue for four previous quarters and a total market value of $100 billion. The filing also says that the company reached $1.5 billion in adjusted pretax earnings, but that must still be certified by the board.

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