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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares rise ahead of US-China 'Phase 1' trade deal

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares mostly followed Wall Street higher today amid optimism that a trade deal between the U.S. and China will be a boon for the regional economy.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 finished 0.7% higher, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9%. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.4% while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.1% lower.

Monday's rally on Wall Street added to gains from last week driven by an easing of tension between the U.S. and Iran. Investors are now looking ahead to the signing of an initial trade deal between Washington and Beijing and the potential for future talks.

IRAN-US

US warns vessels transiting Gulf amid tensions with Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United States is warning of threats to commercial vessels in and around the Persian Gulf in the wake of its confrontation with Iran.

Tensions have soared since the U.S. airstrike earlier this month that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran's top general and the architect of its regional military activities. Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq, without wounding anyone, and accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran, killing all 176 on board.

Iran was accused of sabotaging oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last year. It denied those allegations, but acknowledged seizing a British-flagged oil tanker in response to the impounding of an Iranian oil tanker by authorities in Gibraltar.

RUSSIA HACK-UKRAINE

Researchers: Russians hacked company key to Ukraine scandal:

BOSTON (AP) — A U.S. cybersecurity company says Russian military agents successfully hacked the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the scandal that led to President Donald Trump's impeachment.

Russian agents launched a phishing campaign in early November aimed at stealing the login credentials for employees of Burisma Holdings, the gas company. That’s according to Area 1 Security, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in e-mail security.

Hunter Biden, son of former U.S. vice president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, previously served on Burisma's board.

It was not clear from an eight-page report posted online by Area 1 what the hackers were looking for or may have obtained. The timing of the operation suggests, however, that the Russian agents could be searching for material that could damage the Bidens. The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December for abusing the power of his office by enlisting the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, a political rival, ahead of the 2020 election. A second charge accused Trump of obstructing a congressional investigation into the matter.

CURRENCY REPORT

US drops designation of China as currency manipulator

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is dropping its designation of China as a currency manipulator in advance of the signing Wednesday of a Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement.

The preliminary pact that the two sides are set to sign includes a section that's intended to prevent China from manipulating its currency to gain trade advantages.

The action announced Monday comes five months after the Trump administration had branded China a currency manipulator — the first time that any country had been so named since 1994 during the Clinton administration.

The Treasury Department is required to report to Congress twice a year in April and October on whether any countries are manipulating their currencies to gain unfair trade advantages against U.S. businesses and workers. The new report is technically three months late, apparently because the Trump administration had delayed its release until it had achieved the currency Phase 1 commitments from China. The designation is largely symbolic.

CHINA-US-TRADE

China's exports end 2019 up 0.5% despite US tariff war

BEIJING (AP) — China's global exports rose 0.5% in 2019 despite a tariff war with Washington as the two governments prepared to sign an interim trade deal.

China's global exports rebounded in December, rising 7.8% over a year earlier due to stronger demand from non-U.S. markets.

Exports to the United States fell 12.5% compared with 2018 after a 14.5% decline in December.

American and Chinese envoys are due to sign an interim trade agreement this week that investors hope will be a first step toward ending the costly tariff war over Beijing's technology ambitions and trade surplus.

VISA PLAID

Visa buys financial technology company Plaid for $5.3B

NEW YORK (AP) — Visa is purchasing the financial technology company Plaid for $5.3 billion, a major push by the payment processor into other types of money transfer systems outside of credit and debit cards.

Plaid allows consumers to connect their bank accounts to other types of financial services apps like Venmo, PayPal, Betterment and Transferwise. It’s an important but relatively unknown middle man between the banks, who hold consumers's cash, and the platforms who help send that money.

The announcement is Visa's first big push into a product that isn't just credit and debits cards. Visa is the world's largest payment processing company, but it makes almost entirely all of its money from swipe fees it earns from merchants whenever its cards are accepted.

BOEING-NEW CEO

New Boeing CEO inherits crisis created under his predecessor

UNDATED (AP) — Changing CEOs was the easy part. Now it's up to Boeing's new leader to deal with a crisis caused by two crashes and the grounding of the company's best-selling plane.

David Calhoun took over Monday as Boeing's third CEO in the last five years, following the firing last month of Dennis Muilenburg.

Calhoun will oversee Boeing's legal strategy as it deals with dozens of lawsuits by families of the 346 people who died in crashes of the 737 Max jetliner. Calhoun's to-do-list also includes repairing Boeing's strained relationship with its chief regulator and overseeing compensation to airline customers who canceled thousands of flights because their Boeing jets were grounded.

OPIOID LAWSUIT-OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma attorney general sues distributors of opioids

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday brought a lawsuit against three distributors of opioids after winning a lawsuit against one drug manufacturer and reaching pretrial settlements in other cases.

Hunter filed the lawsuit in Cleveland County District Court against Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp. and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

Hunter says the state faces a man-made crisis.” The lawsuit alleges the firms “distributed what can only be called a major oversupply of opioids into Oklahoma.”

TOYOTA RECALL

Toyota recalls nearly 700K vehicles to fix faulty fuel pumps

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is recalling nearly 700,000 vehicles in the U.S. because the fuel pumps can fail and cause engines to stall. That can increase the risk of a crash.

The recall covers certain 2018 and 2019 Lexus LS 500, LC 500, RC 350, RC 300, GS 350, IS 300, ES 350, LX 570, GX 460, and RX 350 models. Also included are certain 2018 and 2019 Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, and Tundra models. Some 2019 models also are affected including the Avalon and Corolla.

Toyota is still developing repairs. Owners will be notified by mail in mid-March.

MICROSOFT-WINDOWS 7

Microsoft ends free Windows 7 security updates today

NEW YORK (AP) — If you're still using Microsoft's Windows 7, your computer might soon be at risk.

Microsoft will stop providing free security updates for the system on Tuesday, meaning computers using it will be more vulnerable to malware and hacking.

Users who want to protect their computers need to upgrade to Windows 10. They may also need to buy new computers because older machines might not be compatible with Windows 10.

Tech companies typically phase out older systems after a number of years and focus efforts on updating current versions of software. Windows 7 came out in 2009. Windows 8, which came out in 2012, will have free support end in 2023.

Windows 10 starts at $139 for a basic, “Home" version. Microsoft charges $200 for a “Pro" version meant for businesses and individuals who need its advance features. Windows 10 comes with regular free updates for security and additional features. Although Windows 10 isn't likely to be phased out anytime soon, older versions will require those updates to keep working.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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