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Stocks rise on Wall Street, but China's main market dives

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies have been leading U.S. stocks higher in Monday trading as global markets mostly calmed down following a sharp sell-off last week over worries about the spreading virus outbreak that began in China.

China’s main stock index tumbled in its first day of trading after an extended Lunar New Year holiday break bottled up much of the pressure that had already been released in other markets.

The outbreak is threatening China’s economy as much of the nation shuts down. Many analysts have dropped their forecasts for growth in the world's second-largest economy, to near 5% from earlier forecasts of 6% for the year.

But traders in the U.S. appear to have regained an appetite for risk.


Survey: U.S. factories expand for first time since July

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories expanded unexpectedly last month, snapping a five-month losing streak.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index rose to 50.9 in January, from 47.8 in December.

Anything above 50 signals expansion.

The index had showed U.S. manufacturing contracting from August through December, partly because President Donald Trump's trade war with China had raised costs and uncertainty.

Economists had expected another bad month in January.


US construction spending dips 0.2% in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects edged down a slight 0.2% in December, closing out a year when total construction registered its first annual decline in eight years.

The Commerce Department says the decline was the first monthly drop since a 0.9% fall in June. For the year, construction spending fell 0.3%, the first setback since a 2.6% decrease in 2011.

The fall-off reflects weakness in nonresidential construction, which fell 1.8%, the sharpest setback drop since April. Spending for most major categories from office building to shopping centers declined.

Home building rose a solid 1.4%. This category continues to benefit from falling mortgage rates and a strong labor market.


WHO working with Google to combat virus misinformation

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization is working with Google to ensure that people get facts from WHO first when they search for information about the new virus that recently emerged in China.

WHO’s director-general (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) told the opening of WHO's executive board meeting today that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation and rumors about the virus and outbreak that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and has now spread to 23 other countries.

WHO officials have heaped praise on China's response repeatedly in public, echoed Beijing's calls to avoid panic, sought to reinforce weaker health systems and dispel rumors that may have prompted xenophobic invective against Chinese citizens and even other Asians.


YouTube: No 'deepfakes' or 'birther' videos in 2020 election

UNDATED (AP) — YouTube is making clear there will be no “birtherism” on its platform during this year's U.S. presidential election.

It's a belated response to a type of conspiracy theory more prevalent in the 2012 race.

The Google-owned video service is also reiterating that it won't allow election-related “deepfake” videos and anything that aims to mislead viewers about voting procedures and how to participate in the 2020 census.

YouTube clarified its rules ahead of the Iowa caucuses Monday. The company is mostly reiterating content guidelines that it has been putting in place since the last presidential election in 2016.


UK's Johnson talks tough on trade; EU demands fishing rights

LONDON (AP) — Britain and the European Union have set out tough opening gambits in negotiating a trade deal.

Each side has made it clear they will be willing to walk away without a deal rather than compromise on key issues.

Just three days after Britain left the EU, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. won't agree to follow all the rules set by the 27-nation bloc.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier was equally emphatic today, saying that EU nations won't agree to any deal just to avoid a no-deal end to the transition period at year's end.

Barnier signaled a tough road ahead, saying, “We are in favor of free trade, but we are not going to be naive."


Oil spill contained in bay on eastern outskirts of Houston

BAYTOWN, Texas (AP) — A 630-gallon (2,385-liter) oil spill in a bay on the eastern outskirts of Houston has been contained and is being cleaned from the water, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Paige Hause said the mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) spill occurred Saturday at Baytown from a wellhead that was closed and abandoned in 1980s, but it is unclear who the current owner is.

“That's still part of the investigation ... to determine who the responsible party is,” Hause said.

Hause said the spill is not considered large, but the health and environmental impact has not been determined, with surveys of the area now underway. Hause said an absorbent material has been spread along the shoreline of the bay and oil is being vacuumed from the water.

The efforts seek to keep oil out of the Houston Ship Channel, which was closed nearly a year ago after flammable chemicals from a petrochemical storage facility seeped into what is one of America's busiest shipping lanes.

Environmental officials with Harris County, the state of Texas and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately return phone calls for comment.


North Carolina-based Earth Fare to close its stores

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Organic grocery chain Earth Fare says it is closing all of its stores, saying it can't refinance its debt and it faces sales challenges.

The Asheville, North Carolina-based chain said Monday that workers at its stores across the South and in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, have been notified of the pending closures as part of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, citing a news release.

The store didn't immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press on Monday seeking additional comment.

Earth Fare, which started in 1975, has tried "numerous strategic initiatives aimed at growth and expansion and enhancing the customer experience" in recent years, the company said. But it was not enough.

"While many of these initiatives improved the business, continued challenges in the retail industry impeded the company's progress as well as its ability to refinance its debt," the statement reads. "As a result, Earth Fare is not in a financial position to continue to operate on a go-forward basis.

The statement said the chain would continue to look for potential suitors for its stores.


Mall owners among group bidding $81 million for Forever 21

UNDATED (AP) — A consortium of buyers, including mall owners Simon Property Group, Brookfield Property Partners, are bidding $81 million for Forever 21, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

Simon and Brookfield are Forever 21's biggest landlords. The other bidder is Authentic Brands Group, which has acquired the licensing rights to other troubled retailers like Barneys New York.

Forever 21, based in Los Angeles, is a privately held company founded by the Chang family. It joined a rapidly growing list of retailers that have fallen victim to changing shopping behaviors and preferences among teens who have increasingly turned away from malls in favor of online brands, or thrift stores.


Bernie Ebbers, ex-CEO convicted in WorldCom scandal, dies

UNDATED (AP) — A little more than a month after Bernard Ebbers was released from prison, the former chief of WorldCom had died at age 78.

A family statement says the Canadian-born former telecommunications executive died Sunday in Brookhaven, Mississippi, surrounded by his family.

He had been being convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history, but was given early release.

WorldCom Inc. collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002, following revelations of an $11 billion accounting fraud that included pressure by top executives on subordinates to inflate numbers to make the company seem more profitable. The collapse caused losses to stockholders, including those who had invested through retirement plans.

Ebbers was convicted in New York in 2005 on securities fraud and other charges and received a 25-year sentence.

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