Update on the latest in business:


Asian shares drop after US stocks’ worst day since October

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares have fallen as a reality check set in about longtime economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, giving Wall Street its worst day since October.

Benchmarks in Japan, South Korea, Australia and China declined today.

The region is looking ahead to earnings season for a read on how companies are faring amid COVID-19 infections, which have been relatively low in some nations such as New Zealand, compared to other global regions. Selling Wednesday was broad, including Facebook, Netflix and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The Federal Reserve’s sobering assessment of the gradual recovery ahead also has dimmed buying sentiment.


Samsung reports profit jump driven by strong chip demand

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics Co. says its operating profit for last quarter rose by more than 26% as it capped off a robust business year. But the South Korean tech giant expects its profit to weaken in the current quarter with a weak dollar and costs associated with expanded production lines.

The company’s dual strength in parts and finished products allowed Samsung to thrive during the coronavirus pandemic. Samsung has also dealt with legal issues surrounding its de facto chief, Lee Jae-yong, who last week was sentenced to prison in a bribery scandal.

Samsung saw its semiconductor business rebound sharply last year after a sluggish 2019, driven by robust demand for PCs and servers as virus outbreaks forced millions of people to stay and work at home. The Trump administration’s sanctions against China’s Huawei Technologies also hindered one of Samsung’s biggest rivals in smartphones, smartphone chips and telecommunications equipment.


Apple to crack down on tracking iPhone users in early spring

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple says it will roll out a new privacy control in the spring to prevent iPhone apps from secretly shadowing people.

The delay in its anticipated rollout aims to placate Facebook and other digital services that depend on such data surveillance to help sell ads.

Although Apple didn’t provide a specific date, the timetable disclosed today means a feature known as App Tracking Transparency is likely to arrive in March or April. Apple has been holding off to give Facebook and other app makers more time to adjust to a feature that will require iPhone users to give explicit consent before apps can track them.


Apple posts big quarter on fast sales start for iPhone 12

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple’s delayed launch of its latest iPhones unleashed a holiday buying frenzy that propelled sales of the trendsetting company’s most popular product to its fastest start in years. The apparently pent-up demand for four different iPhone 12 models highlighted Apple’s latest quarterly report Wednesday.

Apple’s iPhone sales during the October-December period totaled $65.6 billion, a 17% increase from the same time in the previous year. Part of the gain reflected pandemic-driven production problems that pushed back the release of the new iPhone until October and November, later than the product’s usual September launch. But analysts also believe the sales surge was driven by the iPhone 12′s popularity.


Regulator says Australia must address Google ad dominance

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s competition watchdog says a lack of competition for Google and a lack of transparency in the digital advertising supply chain need to be addressed because they are impacting publishers, advertisers and consumers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released an interim report on its inquiry into the Google-dominated digital advertising services industry in Australia.

Google not only powers the digital display technology, it also controls much of the advertising space.

The Commission chair said there was often a real lack of choice and transparency in the industry and Google often was acting on behalf of both publishers and advertisers for the same ad sale while selling its own ad inventory.


Kansas to shut down unemployment system to deal with fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of fraudulent unemployment claims are prompting Kansas to shut down its processing system this weekend, meaning some jobless workers will have payments delayed as the state installs new anti-fraud protections.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly made the announcement Wednesday shortly after Republican lawmakers said they will push to protect employers from being on the hook for fraudulent claims.

GOP lawmakers said a surge in claims is a signal that the state is potentially seeing thousands more fraudulent claims.

Kelly said they might be right and that the unemployment system will go down from 2 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Tuesday. No benefits will be paid during that time but Kelly said the state will try to catch up afterward.


Watchdog: Least corrupt nations produce best virus response

BERLIN (AP) — A closely-watched annual study by an anti-graft watchdog organization suggests that countries with the least corruption have been best positioned to weather the health and economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index concludes that countries that performed well invested more in health care and were “better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms.”

Transparency’s chief says: “COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis, it is a corruption crisis — and one that we are currently failing to manage.”


Chinese app TikTok cuts jobs in India following ban

NEW DELHI (AP) — Popular short-video Chinese app TikTok is cutting its workforce in India after hundreds of millions of its users dropped it to comply with a government ban on dozens of Chinese apps amid a military standoff between the two countries.

A TikTok statement expresses the hope the company will get a chance to relaunch the app in India to support hundreds of millions of users, artists, storytellers, educators and performers. The statement didn’t give details, but media reports say it has more than 2,000 employees in India. China says New Delhi is using national security as an excuse to prohibit Chinese mobile apps.

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