Update on the latest in business:


Asian shares rise amid hopes for global economic rebound

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are rising, echoing a rally on Wall Street as hopes grow for a gradual global economic recovery from the damage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Benchmarks in Japan, South Korea, Australia and China rose in trading today. Asian markets are getting a lift from positive employment data from the U.S., what appears to be a gradual decline in global COVID-19 cases and vaccine rollouts around the world.

Stocks closed higher on Wall Street, helped by strong company earnings and optimism that Washington can reach a deal for another round of fiscal stimulus.


Hiring may have rebounded from 1st monthly loss since April

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. jobs report for January being released today is expected to show a slight rebound after six straight months of weaker hiring. But any job growth might have resulted mainly from a technical adjustment and would make little dent in the vast unemployment caused by the pandemic recession.

Economists have forecast that employers added 100,000 jobs in January, according to data provider FactSet. That would mark a welcome reversal from a loss in December — the first since April.

Still, a gain of that modest size is practically negligible when the economy is nearly 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.


US regulators launch review of stock market turbulence

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s top financial markets regulators say they will look into whether recent stock market turbulence is an indication that current trading practices are not doing enough to protect investors.

In a statement issued after a meeting of regulators convened by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the Treasury Department said that regulators believe the core infrastructure of the market has proved to be resilient. But the statement said that the regulators also believed in the importance of completing a study by the Securities and Exchange Commission into what happened in the recent market upheaval that pitted smaller, online investors against massive hedge funds.

The market battle, led by traders gathered on Reddit, sent shares of severely damaged companies like GameStop and AMC soaring. They have since shed much of their gains.

The Treasury statement said that both the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were reviewing whether trading practices were consistent with “investor protection and fair and efficient markets.”


US long-term mortgage rates flat; 30-year stays at 2.73%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates were flat this week, staying near record lows as the economy remains burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan remained at last week’s 2.73%.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans ticked up to 2.21% from 2.20%.

The government reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to 779,000 last week, a still-historically high total showing that a sizable number of people keep losing jobs to the coronavirus pandemic.

Damage from the pandemic to the U.S. and global economies suppressed mortgage rates through most of 2020.


J&J asks US regulators to OK its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine

UNDATED (AP)— Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S. regulators to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies. According to preliminary results from a massive international study, J&J’s vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19.

Although, it didn’t appear quite as strong as two-dose competitors made by Pfizer and Moderna — a finding that may be more perception than reality, given the differences in how each was tested.

But the Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate all the data behind the single-dose shot before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson filed an application with the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. An FDA panel will meet and pore over the results. The company also is studying a two-dose version of its vaccine, but results won’t be available for several more months.


Ford to cut back F-150 production due to chip shortage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. will cut shifts at two of its U.S. manufacturing plants next week, due to the worldwide chip shortage that has also impacted other automakers.

Starting Monday, the automaker will cut two shifts at its Dearborn, Michigan, facility, going down to one shift per day. It will also cut one shift at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant, going down to two shifts per day.

Both plants produce the F-150 pickup truck, Ford’s most popular model and part of the F-Series, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. Roughly one F-150 rolls off a Ford assembly line every minute.

Ford isn’t alone in cutting back production due to the shortage of chips needed to produce cars. General Motors will have downtime at three of its factories — one in the U.S, one in Canada and one in Mexico — due to the chip shortage, starting Feb. 8.

Other automakers like Nissan, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota have also been impacted by the chip shortage.


Australian man convicted in nearly $90M cryptocurrency scam

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors say an Australian man has pleaded guilty to securities fraud for cheating investors of nearly $90 million by squandering money they spent on his cryptocurrency fund. Stefan He Qin entered the plea Thursday in Manhattan federal court.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss says the 24-year-old Qin spent money from investors on indulgences and speculative personal investments. She called it “brazen thievery.”

Authorities said the fraud occurred from 2017 to 2020. Prosecutors said Qin cheated dozens of investors, including many in the United States. They said the fraud was revealed last summer when he was having difficulty meeting redemption requests from investors.

He faces up to 20 years in prison at a May 20 sentencing.


Surprise tax forms reveal extent of unemployment fraud in US

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Unemployment agencies across the country were bombarded with so many claims during the pandemic that many struggled to distinguish the correct from the criminal.

Simple tax forms — barely enough to fill a half-sheet of paper — are now revealing the extent of the identity theft that made state-run unemployment offices lucrative targets for fraud after millions of people lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Terri Finneman of Lawrence, Kansas, was surprised when she got a form saying she owed taxes on $1,500 in unemployment payments that she never received. In Ohio, the governor and lieutenant governor also learned that fraudulent claims had been filed in their names.


Taiwan says trade office with Guyana now off, blaming China

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan blames Chinese interference for preventing the establishment of a trade office with Guyana in what had been seen as a diplomatic victory just 24 hours earlier. The Foreign Ministry said China had exerted pressure on the South American country’s government and the agreement could not be salvaged despite considerable efforts.

The ministry statement expressed deep regret “toward this”.

China’s Foreign Ministry had responded swiftly to Thursday’s announcement, demanding those concerned avoid setting up any official institutions with each other and to correct mistakes.

China claims the island is its territory and exerts significant diplomatic pressure worldwide to pressure Taiwan to agree.

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