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Asian stocks, oil prices rebound as Iran anxiety eases

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rebounded today as anxiety over potential U.S.-Iranian conflict eased.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 2.2% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1%.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.6%. Seoul's Kospi rose 1.2% and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.7%.

India's Sensex opened 1.3% higher. Taiwan and Southeast Asian markets also advanced while New Zealand declined.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.5% to 3,253.05. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.6% to 28,745.09. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7% to a record 9,129.24.


China's economy czar going to Washington to sign trade deal

BEIJING (AP) — China's government says its economy czar will go to Washington next week for the signing of an interim trade deal.

The Commerce Ministry announcement is the first official confirmation of widespread expectations that Vice Premier Liu He (hoo as in put) would attend the signing.

The ministry said Liu would be in Washington from Monday to Wednesday.

Under the “Phase 1” deal, China agrees to buy more American farm exports and Washington postpones additional planned tariff hikes on Chinese imports.

The two sides have yet to release details.


China food prices jump despite effort to ease pork shortage

BEIJING (AP) — Soaring pork prices that nearly doubled in December kept China's inflation at a seven-year high despite government efforts to ease meat shortages caused by a disease outbreak. Surging inflation adds to challenges for communist leaders who are trying to reverse a slowdown in economic growth and resolve a tariff war with Washington. Government data showed pork prices rose 97% over a year earlier despite increased imports of China's staple meat and the release of supplies from stockpiles.

Food costs rose 17.4% and overall consumer inflation was 4.5%, well above the ruling Communist Party's 3% official target. Pork supplies have plunged after authorities destroyed animals and blocked shipments to stop an outbreak of African swine fever.

Beijing announced in September it would lift punitive tariffs imposed on American pork and soybeans during its trade war with Washington. That would ease pressure on Chinese pig farmers that use soy as animal feed.


Deadly crash of a Boeing jet in Iran adds to company's woes

UNDATED (AP) — Still reeling from a crisis involving its long-grounded Max jet, Boeing faces new questions after an earlier model of the 737 crashed Wednesday in Iran. It is too early to know what caused the crash and whether Boeing bears any responsibility for the lives of all 176 people who died aboard the 3 1/2-year-old plane.

At a minimum, however, the disaster will add to the burden facing Boeing's incoming CEO, David Calhoun, as he tries to repair the iconic airplane maker's balance sheet and reputation.

Even experts who discount the likelihood of a design or manufacturing problem with the 737-800 say that Boeing's public image will suffer. Boeing was mostly quiet after the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines jet, expressing sympathy for the crew and passengers and their families.


US to probe fatal Indiana crash involving Tesla Model 3

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's road safety agency is sending a special crash team to Indiana to investigate a fatal crash involving a Tesla electric vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday that its team will check the crash scene and inspect the Model 3 involved in the Dec. 29 crash with a parked firetruck on Interstate 70 near Terre Haute. The crash killed the driver's wife, who was a passenger in the Tesla. It's the second Tesla crash in the past two weeks to be investigated by the agency. Also on Dec. 29, police said a Tesla Model S sedan left a freeway in Gardena, California, at a high speed, ran a red light and struck a Honda Civic, killing two people inside.

NHTSA’s crash program has inspected 23 crashes involving vehicles that the agency believed were operating on some form of partially automated advanced driver assist system. Fourteen of these cases involved Tesla models. The team investigates more than 100 crashes per year.

The firetruck in the Indiana crash was in the freeway travel lanes with its lights flashing as crews handled a different problem.

Also, on Dec. 7, yet another Model 3 struck a police cruiser on a Connecticut highway, though no one was hurt. NHTSA also is investigating that crash.


New Mexico to host world's largest meeting on chilli peppers

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University is preparing to host the world's largest conference dedicated to chili peppers.

The 2020 New Mexico Chile Conference will run Feb. 3-4 at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

The university's Chile Pepper Institute has been organizing the annual conference for about three decades.

It draws experts in breeding, processing, pest management and overall sustainability of the industry.

Students also will present their pepper-related research during the two-day gathering. The chili pepper has long been one of New Mexico's signature crops. It's the state vegetable and the basis for the official state question: “Red or green?"

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