Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks edge higher as Wall Street looks to close wobbly week

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are edging higher as Wall Street looks to close a wobbly week of trading. The S&P 500 index was up 0.2% in afternoon trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was mostly unchanged and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.2%. The market remains focused on trillions of dollars of potential government aid that could be coming for the economy, as Democrats move forward with their stimulus package. Companies continued reporting mostly solid earnings, including manufacturer Mohawk Industries and genetic testing company Illumina. Bond yields rose, giving banks a boost. Bumble shares continued to climb after the company’s IPO the day before. Most Asian markets were closed on Friday to mark the Lunar New Year.

ECONOMY-INEQUALITY-REGAINING INCOME

Sign of inequality: US salaries recover even as jobs haven’t

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the virus struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working — a stark sign of the economic inequality that has marked the pandemic recession and recovery. The turnaround in total wages underscores how disproportionately America’s job losses have afflicted workers in lower-income occupations — from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues — rather than in higher-paying industries, where employees have actually gained jobs as well as income since early last year.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VEGAS TOLL

Viral Vegas: Deaths jump, tourism slumps amid long pandemic

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The toll of the coronavirus is reshaping Las Vegas almost a year after the pandemic took hold. The tourist destination known for bright lights, big crowds, indulgent meals and headline shows is a much quieter place these days. Visitors arrive to find some freedoms curtailed and some familiar attractions closed. Some marquee properties have been idled, including the Mirage casino and its iconic man-made volcano eruptions on the Strip. Other places are open only on weekends. Parking and bargain prices are abundant. January was Nevada’s deadliest month since the pandemic began, with more than 1,100 deaths.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN-ECONOMY

UK economy suffers biggest drop since 1709

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s economy suffered its biggest decline in more than 300 years in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic closed shops and restaurants, devastated the travel industry and curtailed manufacturing. Official data released Friday show that the economy shrank 9.9% last year, more than twice the figure for 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis. The drop is the largest since 1709, when a cold spell known as the Great Frost devastated what was then a largely agricultural economy. The data comes as Britain’s economy remains shackled by restrictions designed to combat COVID-19. The Bank of England hopes that as vaccinations roll out, the economy is likely to rebound this year, “like a coiled spring.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN-INFECTIONS

The Latest: Britain’s infection rate lowers to July numbers

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s scientific advisers say they are confident the coronavirus outbreak is shrinking across the country for the first time in more than six months. The government says the reproduction or R number, which measures how many people each infected person passes the virus on to, is between 0.7 and 0.9. A number below 1 means the outbreak is shrinking. It is the first time since July that the R number has been below 1 for every region of the country. Britain registered 15,144 new coronavirus cases to surpass 4.0 million. Another 768 deaths raised the official death toll to 116,287, the fifth highest in the world behind the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and India.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-FRANCE-VACCINES

France recommends 1-shot vaccine for people who had virus

PARIS (AP) — France’s highest health authority has recommended that people who have had COVID-19 receive only one dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus. The High Authority of Health said Friday that since recovered individuals had developed an immunity response akin to a vaccine, a single shot is probably sufficient. If applied, the decision is expected to speed up the pace of France’s vaccination drive. All three of the vaccines authorized for use in the European Union – the ones made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca- were developed to be administered in two doses delivered a few weeks apart.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-JAPAN-PFIZER VACCINE

Japan expected to approve Pfizer vaccine

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s health minister says the efficacy of Pfizer vaccine has been endorsed by a ministry panel and formal approval is expected Sunday. The vaccine is already administered in the U.S. and many other countries since December. Vaccines are considered key to holding the delayed Olympics this summer. Japan is expected to receive 144 million doses from Pfizer, 120 million from AstraZeneca and about 50 million from Moderna before the end of this year, enough to cover its population. Japan must rely on imports, many subject to the EU’s export control, and a cause for concern about supplies. Vaccines developed by Japan are still in the early stages.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EUROPE-RECOVERY

EU aims to release virus recovery fund billions by summer

BRUSSELS (AP) — Top European Union officials are urging member countries to swiftly submit plans for how they would use their share of the bloc’s massive coronavirus recovery fund so that the sorely-needed money can be released starting this summer. The call came as the officials signed an agreement on a 672.5 billion-euro “Recovery and Resilience Facility” made up of loans and grants. It’s aimed at helping countries breathe new life into their virus-ravaged economies. It still has to be endorsed by national parliaments. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says that once it is, her services “will go to the market, raise money, and disburse.” Up to 13% could be handed over by mid-year.

BRITAIN-KPMG

UK boss of KPMG quits after slamming staff COVID complaints

LONDON (AP) — The chairman of accounting firm KPMG in Britain has resigned after reportedly telling staff to stop complaining about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives and jobs. Bill Michael said Friday he would leave at the end of this month because his position had become “untenable.” The Financial Times reported that in a staff conference call on Monday, Michael told staff not to “moan” about the pandemic and to “stop playing the victim card” over concerns about possible cuts to pensions, pay and bonuses. He also reportedly admitted to meeting clients for coffee during lockdown, and called training against unconscious bias — the idea that people can hold stereotypes and prejudices without realizing it — “complete crap.” In a statement, the 52-year-old Australian executive said he was “truly sorry that my words have caused hurt amongst my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them.”

BRITAIN-NIGERIA-SHELL

Court: Nigerian farmers can sue Shell in UK over pollution

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that a group of Nigerian farmers and fishermen can sue Royal Dutch Shell PLC in the English courts over pollution in a region where the energy giant has a subsidiary. The justices said Shell may owe a “duty of care” to the claimants over the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary. Members of Nigeria’s Ogale and Bille communities took Shell to court in Britain in 2015, alleging that decades of oil spills have fouled the water, contaminated the soil and destroyed the lives of thousands of people in the Niger River Delta. Shell argued that the U.K. courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case, but the Supreme Court disagreed. Shell called the ruling “disappointing.”

FOX-LIBEL LAWSUIT

Fox hosts Dobbs, Bartiromo strike back in voting fraud suit

UNDATED (AP) — Three hosts for Fox News have filed motions to dismiss claims against them and their employer as part of a $2.7 billion libel lawsuit brought by a voting technology company. Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro were sued this month by Smartmatic. They and Donald Trump lawyers Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell are accused of conspiring to spread false claims that the company was involved in an effort to steal the election from Trump. The Fox personalities argue they were doing their job in covering newsworthy assertions by the president that the electoral process was marred. A lawyer says Smartmatic is confident in its case.

EX-NISSAN BOSS-ESCAPE-ARRESTS

Ex-Nissan boss’ accused smugglers seek Supreme Court’s help

BOSTON (AP) — An American father and son accused of sneaking former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn (gohn) out of Japan in a box are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt their extradition so they have time to pursue an appeal. Michael and Peter Taylor have fought for months to keep the U.S. government from handing the men over to Japan. They say they can’t legally be extradited and will be treated unfairly in the Japanese legal system. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston refused Thursday to put the extradition on hold. U.S. officials had said they could surrender the men to Japan as early as Friday.

CZECH-COLT

US gun maker Colt bought by Czech company

PRAGUE (AP) — A Czech firearms company has signed a deal to acquire Colt, the American gun maker that helped develop revolvers in the 19th century and has since supplied the armed forces in the U.S. and other countries. The company (Ceska Zbrojovka Group) says it has purchased all the shares in Colt Holding Company LLC, the parent company of Colt’s Manufacturing Company and its Canadian subsidiary. The deal is worth $220 million plus newly issued shares in the Czech company. It is subject to approval by regulators.

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