Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks rise after US rally on infrastructure deal

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are rising, buoyed by the rally on Wall Street that came after President Joe Biden announced a bipartisan deal on infrastructure spending.

Benchmarks in Japan, China, South Korea and Australia all rose in afternoon trading. A recovery in the U.S. economy is a boon for this export-driven region.

Although the vaccine rollout in Asia has lagged most parts of U.S. and Europe, the perk from an overseas recovery is likely to come long before herd immunity against the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. infrastructure plan will cost $973 billion over five years, and a bigger spending plan from Biden is still possible. The deal is sure to benefit companies in construction and building materials.

CONGRESS-INFRASTRUCTURE

Biden extols bipartisan infrastructure deal as a good start

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has announced a bipartisan agreement on a pared-down but still huge infrastructure plan.

The agreement Thursday with a group of Republican and Democratic senators would make a start on his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle. However, Biden acknowledged that Democrats will likely have to tackle much of his remaining agenda alone.

The first package, with around a trillion dollars in new and existing spending, has rare bipartisan backing and could open the door to the president’s more sweeping $4 trillion proposals later on.

VOTING COMPANY-LAWSUIT

Judge appears skeptical over effort to dismiss Dominion suit

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge appeared skeptical of arguments Thursday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over baseless 2020 election claims made by Trump allies Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and the MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell.

The voting system company sued for $1.3 billion each after the trio claimed the company rigged the election for Democrat Joe Biden. Those claims, along with lies from former President Donald Trump and others, helped spur a violent mob into storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

On Thursday, the attorneys for Powell, Giuliani and Lindell argued that their clients’ speech was protected by the First Amendment and that Dominion should be considered a government agency and treated like a public figure because it provided voting equipment for elections.

Dominion attorneys said the three made purposeful and specific false claims aimed at defaming the voting company and that the claims persisted even after their legal claims challenging the election failed.

CONGRESS-PAYDAY LENDING RULES

Congress repeals Trump-era regulations on payday lenders

NEW YORK (AP) — Congress on Thursday overturned a set of regulations enacted in the final days of the Trump administration that effectively allowed payday lenders to avoid state laws capping interest rates.

The House voted 218-208 to overturn the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s payday lending regulations, with one Republican voting with Democrats.

Thursday’s vote to overturn the OCC’s “true lender rules” marked the first time Democrats in Congress successfully overturned regulations using the Congressional Review Act.

By overturning the Trump administration rule enacted in late 2020, Democrats aimed to stem a payday lender practice that critics had dubbed a “rent-a-bank” scheme.

The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

ARIZONA-BUDGET

GOP-led Arizona Legislature OK’s $1.8B income tax cut

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House has approved a $1.9 billion income tax cut package that mainly benefits the wealthy as majority Republicans began pushing through a state budget plan opposed by Democrats.

Thursday’s action joined the Senate in approving the tax cuts and another proposal shielding high-earning taxpayers from the effects of a new 3.5% tax surcharge voters approved in November to boost education funding.

Democrats vehemently oppose the tax cuts, saying without them the state could finally fully fund schools and social programs that were never completely restored after the Great Recession.

NBC-UNIVERSAL-NEW MEXICO

NBCUniversal celebrates opening of New Mexico studio

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Executives with NBCUniversal are celebrating the opening of the company’s new production facility in New Mexico. They were joined at a ribbon-cutting event Thursday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

NBCUniversal announced in 2019 that it would build the state-of-the-art television and film studio in a warehouse district just north of downtown Albuquerque as part of a plan to expand its footprint in one of the fastest growing film production hubs in the country.

The company also has committed to $500 million in direct production spending over 10 years. Netflix is also expanding its operations in Albuquerque.

JAPAN-TOSHIBA SHAREHOLDERS

Japan’s Toshiba chairman fails to win shareholder approval

TOKYO (AP) — Battered Japanese nuclear and electronics giant Toshiba Corp. has faced off with shareholders, seeking to shake off serious questions about governance at the once revered brand.

After a meeting lasting nearly three hours, Tokyo-based Toshiba failed to win shareholder approval for the reappointment of Chairman Osamu Nagayama and one other member of the board of directors. The other nine candidates were approved at Friday’s meeting. The company had removed two nominations in a last-minute move to placate disgruntled stockholders.

Nagayama came under pressure to resign after an independent investigation said Toshiba officials colluded with the Japanese government to curb foreign investors’ influence at the shareholder meeting last year.

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