Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks edge higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have moved slightly higher on Wall Street as investors turn their focus to some strong earnings reports from Big Tech companies and hopes for getting more economic stimulus passed in Washington. Investors also continue to watch shares of companies such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment, which have been targets of a community of online investors. The S&P 500 was up 0.2% in afternoon trading. Investors also had two positive economic reports to work through, one showing private sector hiring was better than expected and that service sector activity was also better than forecasts.

ECONOMY-SERVICES

Service sector operates at highest level in almost two years

WASHINGTON (AP) — The services sector, where most Americans work, operated in January at the highest level in almost two years. The Institute for Supply Management reports that activity in the services sector climbed to a reading of 58.7% in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, up a full percentage point from the December reading of 57.7%. This was the highest reading since February 2019 when the index was at 58.8%. The January performance represented the eighth straight month of growth after sharp declines last spring when the economy was leveled by a global pandemic.

BIDEN-ECONOMY

Biden shows flexibility but tells House to ‘go big’ on aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is telling House Democrats he’s not married to all the specifics of the $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan. But he wants them to “go big” and not let the size or scope shrink. Biden delivered private remarks to the Democratic caucus on Wednesday, before a meeting with Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and top senators at the White House. Biden says his proposed $1,400 direct payments to Americans must stay in the bill. Biden has panned a slimmer Republican alternative as insufficient. He’s told Democrats he’s “got your backs” as Congress prepares for votes on the sweeping deal.

WORLD COURT-IRAN-US

UN court says it can hear case brought by Iran against US

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations’ highest court has ruled that it can hear a case brought by Iran against the United States in a bid to end sanctions re-imposed by the Trump administration in 2018 after pulling out of an international deal aimed at curtailing Tehran’s nuclear program. Lawyers for the United States had argued that the case should be thrown out by the International Court of Justice for lack of jurisdiction and admissibility. However, the court’s president, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said Wednesday that judges rejected U.S. arguments. Iran filed the case in July 2018 a few months after then-President Donald Trump said he was pulling the U.S. out of a 2015 international agreement over Iran’s nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

ANHEUSER-BUSCH-INVESTMENT

Anheuser-Busch investing $1B to modernize US facilities

UNDATED (AP) — Anheuser-Busch says it’s investing $1 billion over the next two years to modernize its U.S. facilities. Nearly half that amount will go to the company’s 12 major U.S. breweries. Anheuser-Busch said it will spend $100 million for new can lines and $100 million on solar panel installation and other sustainability measures. It also plans to spend $50 million to increase its seltzer brewing capabilities. U.S. sales of hard seltzers like White Claw and Bon Viv __ which is made by Anheuser-Busch __ have grown rapidly in recent years even as beer sales have declined.

DIAGEO-BLACK COLLEGES

Beer and spirits maker Diageo gives $10M to Black colleges

NEW YORK (AP) — British-based beer and spirits maker Diageo (dee-AH’-jee-oh) is giving a combined $10 million to 25 historically Black colleges and universities across the United States, continuing an upswell of giving to the institutions following last summer’s racial justice protests. The money will create endowments to help colleges financially assist students. Diageo makes Guinness beer, Johnnie Walker whiskies and Smirnoff vodka among other brands. The company says it will also create innovation hubs at some of the colleges, providing students with experience, mentorships, guest lecturers and helping faculty developing curriculum. Locations for the hubs will be announced later.

DAIMLER-CHANGES

Automaker Daimler to spin off trucks business, change name

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Daimler is splitting in two. The maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars will spin off its truck and bus division, which makes Freightliner trucks and Thomas Build buses. The goal is to make both independent companies more nimble so they can move ahead faster with new technology such as zero-emission vehicles and software, two trends that are disrupting the industry. Shares in the truck and bus company will go to existing shareholders. The company says it makes sense because the two businesses have different needs. One result: Daimler will rename itself as simply Mercedes-Benz.

DAVOS FORUM-SINGAPORE

Davos event pushed back to August over COVID-related havoc

GENEVA (AP) — Leaders of the World Economic Forum say their annual gathering — usually held in the Alpine snows of Davos, Switzerland — is being postponed again because of “the international challenges in containing the pandemic.” The forum, which staged a virtual “Davos Agenda” meeting last month, says the in-person event this year will take place in Singapore from Aug. 17-20 and not May 25-28 as previously planned. It’s the latest change of plans for the elite gathering of government leaders, business executives, civil society advocates and artists, actors and musicians. Because of COVID concerns, the event usually held in January was first postponed to May and scheduled for the Swiss city of Lucerne, before the venue was moved to Singapore that same month.

DENMARK-VIRUS PASSPORT

Denmark to develop digital passport proving vaccinations

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s government is developing a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. The idea is that the passport would allow people to travel and could help the government ease restrictions on public life. The finance minister said Wednesday that “in three-four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.” He said “it is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track.” The EU says it is looking into various proposals for similar systems to help travel.

SPAIN-TOURISM

Pandemic pulverizes Spain’s tourism as arrivals plunge 77%

MADRID (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has pulverized Spain’s key tourism industry with arrivals dropping to 19 million in 2020, down from the near 84 million visitors the previous year. The 77% decrease snapped a seven-year trend of annual records and ended a decade-long run of yearly increases. The National Statistics Institute said Wednesday that income from foreign tourism plunged in 2020 to just 20 billion euros ($24 billion), 79% less than the 92 billion euros received in 2019. The private news agency Europa Press said the country had not received as few visitors from abroad since 1969.

GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS-TV

Netflix once again dominates Golden Globe TV nominations

NEW YORK (AP) — Netflix has built on its recent dominance at scooping up Golden Globe TV nominations, getting 20 nods today — nearly three times as many as its closest competitor, HBO. Netflix, which beat its own record of 17 TV nominations from last year, secured three out of the five nominations for best drama TV series — “The Crown,” “Ozark” and “Ratched” — and four of the five acting nods for best actress in that category for Olivia Colman, Emma Corrin, Laura Linney and Sarah Paulson. HBO Max scored nominations with “Lovecraft Country” and “The Flight Attendant,” which also earned “The Big Bang Theory” veteran Kaley Cuoco her first Globe nod.

MORGAN WALLEN

Country singer Morgan Wallen suspended from label after racial slur

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country star Morgan Wallen has been suspended from his label after a video surfaced showed him shouting a racial slur. The video, which was first published by TMZ on Tuesday night, showed him yelling profanities outside a home in Nashville, Tennessee. Wallen said in a statement to TMZ that he is embarrassed and sorry. He said there’s never an excuse for such language. Wallen’s label Big Loud Records says in a statement posted to social media on Wednesday that his contract has been suspended indefinitely. Republic Records, which he is co-signed to, said “such behavior will not be tolerated.”

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