Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mostly higher on hopes for pandemic recovery

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are mostly higher on cautious optimism that upcoming company earnings reports will reflect a gradual recovery from the damage of the pandemic.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped in afternoon trading today, the first session after its Golden Week series of national holidays. Shares rose in Hong Kong and Seoul but fell in Sydney and Shanghai. Major U.S. stock indexes closed mixed after an early rebound in technology shares faded.

Although the vaccine rollout is progressing slowly in Asia compared to the U.S. and Europe, the global recovery is raising hopes for improved exports and earnings of companies doing business overseas.

GOOGLE-RETURN TO OFFICE

Google says 20% of workers will be remote, many more hybrid

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google says that it expects about 20% of its workforce to still work remotely after the pandemic. In addition, some 60% will work a hybrid schedule that includes about three days in the office and two days wherever the employees work best.

The announcement Wednesday relaxes a stricter stance the company had taken earlier.

For up to 20 days per year, Google employees will also be able to work from any location other than their main office. That’s an increased from a previous allotment of 10 days.

Most of Google’s 135,000 employees can continue to work from home through September of this year.

CDC-CRUISES

CDC sets rules for trial cruises with volunteer passengers

UNDATED (AP) — Cruise lines can soon begin trial voyages in U.S. waters. They’ll have to carry some volunteer passengers, who will have to wear face masks and observe social distancing while on board.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave ship operators final technical guidelines Wednesday for the trial runs.

Volunteer passengers must be at least 18. And they must be either fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that would put them at high risk for severe COVID-19.

At least 75% of them must be tested for the coronavirus at the end of the trip.

SPACEX-STARSHIP TEST

SpaceX launches, lands Starship in 1st successful flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX launched and successfully landed its futuristic Starship on Wednesday, finally nailing a test flight of the rocketship that Elon Musk intends to use to land astronauts on the moon and send people to Mars.

The previous four tests flights ended in fiery explosions before, during or soon after touchdown at the southeastern tip of Texas, near Brownsville.

This latest upgraded version of SpaceX’s full-scale, stainless steel, bullet-shaped rocketship soared more than 6 miles over the Gulf of Mexico before flipping and descending horizontally, and then going vertical again just in time for touchdown.

CHINA-UNITED STATES

US Embassy message sparks online anger in China

BEIJING (AP) — An online message from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has prompted anger online in China. The message sent out on Chinese social media says applications are being accepted for study at American universities and those wishing to go should “jump at the chance like little puppies.”

That description triggered hundreds of thousands of comments calling the post, along with a video of puppy striving to cross a fence, racist.

The controversy comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over disputes involving intellectual property, trade and human rights, among others.

China has taken a hard line under President Joe Biden’s administration as it increases its military spending and diplomatic strength.

PHILIPPINES-CHINESE VACCINE

Philippines to give back donated Chinese vaccine

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The president of the Philippines is asking China to take back 1,000 doses of donated Sinopharm vaccine after facing criticism for receiving a shot even though it has not yet been authorized for public use in the country.

The Philippine health secretary injected Duterte with the coronavirus vaccine Monday.

An unspecified number of Duterte’s guards have also been injected with the Sinopharm (SY’-noh-farm) vaccine in secrecy. The president apologized but says his use of the Chinese vaccine was recommended by his doctors and did not breach any regulation because it was covered by a “compassionate use” exemption.

Critics, however, say Duterte made a mockery of vaccine regulations while ordinary Filipinos have struggled with a plethora of pandemic restrictions.

GERMANY-EARNS-VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen profits jump as China leads pandemic rebound

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen’s earnings bounced back strongly in the first quarter. The company is riding the strong recovery from the pandemic in China. That’s its single biggest market these days. After-tax profit rose to 3.4 billion euros for the first quarter, up from around a half-million euros in the same quarter in 2020. Volkswagen says it has plenty of cash and is pressing ahead with new tech such as electric cars. Sales of battery and hybrid vehicles more than doubled during the first three months of the year to 133,000.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DUBAI-LUXURY BOOM

Dubai luxury home market soars as world’s rich flee pandemic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Foreign buyers flush with cash have flooded the high-end property market in Dubai even as vaccines roll out unevenly across the world and waves of infections force countries to extend restrictions. It’s one of the few places in the world where they can dine, shop and do business in person.

The ultra-wealthy are snapping up record numbers of luxury villas and penthouses, sending prices rocketing in this boom-and-bust market. Sales soared 230% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same time last year.

It’s unclear how long the frenzy will last but the craze reveals how Dubai’s vision for the post-pandemic high life has lured the world’s ultra-rich.

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