Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets advance after S&P 500 snaps losing streak

UNDATED (AP) — Asian shares are mostly higher after stocks eked out small gains on Wall Street following a mixed set of reports on the economy.

Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. Stocks fell in Shanghai after China’s market regulator said it has launched an anti-monopoly investigation of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, stepping up official efforts to tighten control over the country’s fast-growing tech industries.

The S&P 500 inched up 0.1% on Wednesday, enough to break a three-day losing streak. Investors seem to have shrugged off President Donald Trump’s suggestion he may not sign the $900 billion economic rescue package that Congress just approved.

CHINA-ALIBABA INVESTIGATION

China steps up pressure on Alibaba with anti-monopoly probe

BEIJING (AP) — China’s market regulator has launched an anti-monopoly investigation of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, stepping up official efforts to tighten control over the country’s fast-growing tech industries.

The market regulator says it’s looking into Alibaba’s policy of “choose one of two,” which requires business partners to avoid dealing with its competitors.

Chinese leaders announced earlier that an economic priority in the coming year will be to step up anti-monopoly enforcement. Regulators earlier forced the suspension of the stock market debut of Ant Group, an online finance platform spun off from Alibaba.

Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce company by total sales volume, and another company were fined in mid-December for failing to apply for official approval before proceeding with some acquisitions.

In November, the government released proposed regulations aimed at preventing anti-competitive behavior by internet companies such as signing exclusive contracts and using subsidies to squeeze out competitors.

TRUMP-DRUG PRICES

Trump plan to curb drug costs dealt setback in court

WASHINGTON (AP) — A late-term maneuver by President Donald Trump to use lower drug prices paid overseas to limit some of Medicare’s costs has suffered a legal setback that appears likely to keep the policy from taking effect before the president leaves office.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in Baltimore issued a nationwide injunction that prevents the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, from carrying out the so-called “most favored nations” rule as scheduled on Jan. 1. The policy would have applied to drugs administered in a doctor’s office, including many cancer medications.

A coalition of groups including the Association of Community Cancer Centers and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America quickly sued to block the rule. Some opponents have likened the Trump policy to a form of socialist price controls.

Even if the Trump rule is ultimately blocked, the idea of using international prices to lower costs for Americans is very much alive. It’s at the heart of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislation to empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. And President-elect Joe Biden also supports the approach.

BRAZIL-UK FLIGHTS

Brazil is latest to ban flights from Britain

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil has become the latest country to bar flights from the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent contagion from a new strain of the coronavirus.

The government announced in an extra edition of the country’s official gazette released late Wednesday that it is temporarily prohibiting flights either originating in the U.K. or passing through.

The government also is suspending authorization for foreigners who have been in the U.K. in the preceding 14 days from boarding Brazil-bound flights.

The new rules take effect Friday.

BREXIT

UK, EU on cusp of striking Brexit trade deal at last

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union and British negotiators have worked through the night and right into Christmas Eve to put the finishing touches on a trade deal that should avert a chaotic economic break between the two sides on New Year’s Day.

After resolving the remaining fair-competition and fisheries issues on Wednesday, negotiators combed through hundreds of pages of legal text that should become the provisional deal for a post-Brexit relationship after nine months of talks.

Sources on both sides say the long and difficult negotiations are on the cusp of being wrapped up after the negotiators lived off a stack of pizzas in their quest to deliver the text to their leaders at dawn today.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA-STRANDED SAILORS

Anti-virus controls strand merchant sailors aboard ships

BEIJING (AP) — The crew of the U.S.-owned Horizon Spirit expect to spend Christmas looking after their 800-foot-long (240-meter-long) container ship in a southern Chinese shipyard while they are barred, like thousands of sailors worldwide, from going ashore due to pandemic restrictions.

Third mate Harvey Smith says the 22-member crew left Los Angeles on Oct. 22, and most have been aboard the ship since then while it is being overhauled in Nantong, on the Yangtze River in eastern China.

The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents shippers, says that worldwide, nearly 400,000 merchant sailors are blocked from going ashore.

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