Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia markets follow Wall St higher as virus fears recede

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher for a second day as optimism about a global economic recovery appears to be outweighing concern over rising coronavirus cases.

Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney advanced. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

On Wednesday, Wall Street’s S&P 500 index rose 0.8%, putting it on pace for a weekly gain after rebounding from Monday’s 1.6% loss. Investors are wavering between looking ahead to a global recovery, supported by easy credit from central banks, and unease that it might be delayed by the spread of the virus’s more contagious delta variant.

BIDEN-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Biden admin stepping up community grants from COVID bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration says it is making $3 billion in economic development grants available to communities — a tenfold increase in the program paid for by this year’s COVID-19 relief bill.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo tells The Associated Press her agency will begin accepting applications for the competitive grants, which officials hope will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. The goal is to help struggling cities and towns make long-term investments to drive development for years to come.

The grants will be targeted at supporting local infrastructure, job training programs and developing new industries.

CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRES-UTILTY

PG&E will spend up to $30 billion burying power lines

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines in an effort to prevent its fraying grid from sparking wildfires when electrical equipment collides with millions of trees and other vegetation.

The daunting project announced Wednesday aims to bury roughly 10% of PG&E’s power lines at a projected cost of $15 billion to $30 billion. Most of that expense will likely be shouldered by PG&E customers, whose electricity rates are already among the highest in the U.S.

The commitment comes just days after informing regulators a 70-foot pine tree that toppled on one of its power lines ignited a major fire in Butte County. That’s the same rural area about 145 miles northeast of San Francisco where another fire sparked by PG&E equipment killed more than 80 people and destroyed thousands of homes in 2018.

JAPAN-ENERGY

Japan to boost renewable energy to meet emissions target

TOKYO (AP) — Japan aims to drastically increase its renewable energy use and reduce fossil fuel consumption over the next decade as its pushes to meet its ambitious emissions reduction target.

A draft energy plan presented Wednesday maintains the current target for nuclear energy as officials remain undecided over what to do with the nuclear industry, which has struggled since the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster.

The changes are meant to achieve a carbon emissions reduction target announced in April designed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The economy and industry ministry’s draft energy plan says renewables should account for 36-38% of the power supply in 2030, up from the current target of 22-24%, and that newly introduced fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia should comprise 1%. The new plan slashes the use of fossil fuel from 56% to 41%.

UNITED STATES-CHINA

No. 2 US diplomat Sherman to visit China as tensions soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to China on a visit that comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing soar. Sherman will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office.

The State Department said Wednesday that Sherman will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and others in Tianjin on Sunday as part of her Asia trip, which also takes her to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia.

The department says the discussions are part of efforts to hold “candid exchanges” with Chinese officials.

On Monday, the administration accused China of being behind a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software and indicted four Chinese nationals on charges they tried to steal U.S. trade secrets, technology and disease research. China rejected the hacking accusation and demanded that Washington drop the charges against its citizens.

DOPING CONGRESS

Seeking reform, US holds $1.3 million in dues from WADA

TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. government will hold onto nearly half of the $2.93 million in dues it owes to the World Anti-Doping Agency while it waits to see how the global drug-fighting agency moves forward with reforming its governing structure.

Richard Baum of the White House drug-control office told a Congressional committee Wednesday that a $1.6 payment to WADA would be made soon, but that in breaking with past practice, the full sum would not be delivered all at once.

The news was the latest in a yearlong tussle between WADA and the U.S. government. The government has criticized the agency for not moving urgently enough to reform itself in the wake of the Russian doping scandal.

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