Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL NEWS

Asia stocks mixed after Wall St slips, China travel curbs

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street slipped and China tightened travel controls in some areas in response to coronavirus infections. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney advanced while Tokyo declined.

On Friday, Wall Street’s S&P 500 index declined 0.1%, weighed down by losses for tech companies after a seven-day streak of gains.

A province in China’s northwest closed tourist sites after coronavirus cases were found and the capital, Beijing, banned visitors from areas with infections in the past 14 days. China has reported only a few dozen new cases, but Beijing’s strategy of shutting down travel prompted concern the economy might suffer.

BIDEN-BUDGET

Biden, Manchin and Schumer huddle, but still no budget deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House proposals for new taxes on billionaires and certain corporations to help pay for President Joe Biden’s big domestic policy bill are drawing the backing of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

A person who requested anonymity to discuss Manchin’s position tells The Associated Press the senator is agreeable to the White House’s new approach on the tax proposals.

Biden spent hours Sunday at his home in Delaware with Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Democrats are trying to wrap up talks on the social services and climate change package now being eyed at $1.75 trillion, though it could still climb higher.

NABE-BUSINESS CONDITIONS

Business economists less optimistic about next year’s growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s business economists are slightly less optimistic about growth prospects over the next year.

They note a number of threats ranging from higher-than-expected inflation to lingering disruptions from COVID-19 and snarled supply chains.

The National Association for Business Economics released a new report today that found 66% of NABE members responding to a survey expect the economy to grow by 3% to 5.9% over the next year. Twenty-eight percent were less optimistic and pegged growth over the next year at 0.1% to 2.9%. That result represented a downgrade from the previous survey in July.

In the new survey, no NABE member saw growth higher than the 3% to 5.9% range over the next year.

CLIMATE-AUSTRALIA

Australia gives in-principle support for net zero by 2050

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that a fifth National’s party minister will join his Cabinet as part of deal to cement the junior coalition partner’s support for a national target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

The National party’s in-principle support for the target is a breakthrough for Morrison. He wants to take a more ambitious plan to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to a U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, later this week.

Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquified natural gas and one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its heavy reliance on coal-fired power. The rural-based Nationals are increasingly seen as advocates for fossil fuel industries.

AUSTRALIA-DIGICEL

Australia invests in $1.6 billion South Pacific telco deal

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian telco Telstra has partnered with the Australian government in a $1.6 billion deal to buy the South Pacific operations of Digicel in a deal that would prevent a key part of the region’s telecommunications infrastructure from falling into Chinese hands.

Telstra says in a statement that it would contribute $270 million to the deal and hold 100% of the equity in Digicel Pacific. Telstra says the terms of the sale have been agreed to and will be completed within six months.

Digicel is owned by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien and is incorporated in Bermuda and headquartered in Jamaica. The government says the deal is consistent with Australia’s commitment to growing quality investment in regional infrastructure.

ASEAN-TRAVEL

Widodo calls for ASEAN travel corridor to bolster recovery

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo is urging Southeast Asian countries to speed up plans to create a regional travel corridor to help revive tourism and speed up a recovery from the economic damage of the pandemic.

Citing U.N. and World Trade Organization data, Widodo says the level of restrictions in Southeast Asia is the highest in the world. With coronavirus cases in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations now declining, those restrictions should be eased to allow people to travel more freely.

Speaking at an online business forum, Widodo urged immediate adoption of a regional travel corridor, a concept initiated by Indonesia in 2020, that would include faster immigration lanes and recognition of vaccine certificates.

JAPAN-TOYOTA

Toyota testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars

TOYOTA (AP) — Toyota says it’s testing hydrogen combustion engines in race cars as it works toward using the technology in commercial products. The engines burn hydrogen as fuel instead of gasoline, much like rockets.

The Japanese automaker says testing the technology in race cars in Japan will allow it to collect data and try to fix problems on-site.

Toyota announced earlier it’s developing a hydrogen combustion engine, which Ford and other automakers have also developed. Vehicles powered by such engines are different from fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen to create electricity, and from electric or hybrid vehicles. The chief engineer says Toyota wants to offer various options to meet regional needs.

FILM-BOX OFFICE

Despite hybrid release, ‘Dune’ draws well on the big screen

NEW YORK (AP) — Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” debuted with $40.1 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend in North America, drawing enough moviegoers to see the thundering sci-fi epic on the big screen despite it also being available in homes.

Last week’s top film, Universal Pictures’ horror sequel “Halloween Kills,” also launched well while streaming at home, on Peacock. After debuting with $50.4 million, “Halloween Kills” slid steeply in its second week with $14.5 million, good for second place. In two weeks, it has grossed $73.1 million domestically.

The James Bond film “No Time to Die,” starring Daniel Craig, came in third with $11.9 million in its third week.

GAS PRICES

Average US price of gas spikes 13 cents per gallon to $3.44

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline spiked 13 cents over the past two weeks, to $3.44 per gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey says the price at the pump is $1.22 higher than a year ago.

Nationwide, the highest average price for regular-grade gas is in the San Francisco Bay Area, at $4.65 per gallon. The lowest average is in Houston, at $2.91 per gallon.

According to the survey, the average price of diesel jumped 14 cents to $3.59 a gallon.

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