Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mixed in muted trading, echoing Wall St close

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares have meandered, echoing Wall Street’s mixed close last week. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei rose in afternoon trading today, while shares in South Korea and Hong Kong fell. Australia’s index was higher.

Several central bank rate decisions are expected in the region this week, in New Zealand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Tokyo shares were higher as the government prepared to extend a “state of emergency” to curb the spread of COVID-19. The uneven rollout for the vaccines against COVID-19 remains a risk factor for regional markets.

On Wall Street on Friday, the S&P 500 ended lower.

GAS PRICES

Average US price of gas jumps 8 cents per gallon to $3.10

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline jumped 8 cents over the past two weeks, to $3.10 per gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the increase is attributed to supply disruption from the 10-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline following a cyberattack, and a rise in prices for corn, a key ingredient in corn-based ethanol that must be blended by refiners into gasoline.

The price at the pump is $1.05 higher than it was a year ago. The highest average price in the nation right now is $4.23 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area. The lowest average is $2.53 in Houston.

CHINA-US-SOLAR DILEMMA

Biden’s solar ambitions collide with China labor complaints

BEIJING (AP) — The Biden administration’s solar power ambitions are colliding with complaints the global industry depends on Chinese raw materials that might be produced by forced labor.

A big hurdle is polysilicon, used to make solar panels. The global industry gets 45% of its supply from Xinjiang, the northwestern region where the ruling Communist Party is accused of mass incarceration of minorities and other abuses. Other parts of China supply 35%. Only 20% comes from U.S. and other producers.

Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, says Washington is deciding whether to block solar products from Xinjiang. That would conflict with President Joe Biden’s plans to cut climate-changing U.S. carbon emissions by promoting solar.

CONGRESS-EARMARKS

As Congress returns to funding earmarks, who will benefit?

HUFFMAN, Texas (AP) — Earmarks were banished from Congress over a decade ago, but the funding for lawmakers’ pet projects is marking a sudden return.

About $14 billion, or 1% percent of discretionary spending, will be devoted to earmarks in this year’s spending bills. Aiming to avoid scandal, lawmakers have revamped and renamed the process, requiring that earmark requests be made public and that lawmakers attest to having no conflicts of interest.

The experiment could rise or fall on the reaction from voters, particularly those skeptical of federal spending. Many Republicans are refusing to join in, characterizing earmarks as a kind of graft.

ELECTION 2021-MANHATTAN DA

Election-2021-Manhattan-District-Attorney

Trump criminal investigation looms over Manhattan DA race

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City voters will be casting their last ballots next month in an election that’s sure to have consequences for former President Donald Trump. Democrats will be voting in party primary for Manhattan’s next district attorney.

The winner could end up taking over an ongoing investigation of Trump’s business dealings. Current District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is leaving office at the end of the year.

The matter of who will take over has taken on new urgency after the announcement this week that the state attorney general’s office had joined the DA’s Trump criminal investigation — a sweeping look at hush-money payments, property valuations, tax strategies, executive compensation and other dealings.

In a solidly Democratic borough, the party’s June 22 primary is highly likely to decide the winner.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRITAIN

Vaccines effective against Indian variant

LONDON (AP) — British health officials have expressed optimism that the coronavirus restrictions remaining in England can be lifted in June. The chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency said officials in England are on track to proceed with the final stage of unlocking the country from June 21 if the public remains cautious.

Her comments Sunday came after an official study found that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines offer effective protection against the variant first identified in India.

The study by Public Health England found that the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective against the variant after two doses.

The AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective after both doses.

SAMOA-LEADERSHIP BATTLE

Samoa in crisis as elected leader locked out of Parliament

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoa was plunged into a constitutional crisis after the woman who won an election last month was locked out of Parliament and the previous leader claimed he remained in charge. The fast-moving events marked the latest twists in a bitter power struggle that has been playing out in the small Pacific nation since it elected its first female leader.

Not only is Samoa’s peace and stability at stake, but also its relationship with China, which backs a port development project Samoa’s newly elected leader wants to cancel.

On Monday morning, Prime Minister-elect and her supporters showed up to Parliament to form a new government but were not allowed inside.

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