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Asia stocks surge after Trump acquitted, China virus aid

UNDATED (AP) — Asian stock markets surged today after President Donald Trump was acquitted in an impeachment trial and China announced a tariff cut on U.S. imports and aid to businesses reeling from a virus outbreak.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.4% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 2.4%. Seoul's Kospi rallied 2.9%. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.7%.

Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 1.1% and benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and most of Southeast Asia also advanced.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the benchmark S&P 500 index hit a record high, driven by gains for health care and financial stocks.

The S&P 500 rose 1.1% to 3,334.69. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.7% to 29,290.85. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.4% to 9,508.68, reaching a new high for a second day.


China cuts tariffs on $75B of US imports in trade truce

BEIJING (AP) — China has announced tariff cuts on $75 billion of imports from the U.S. in response to American reductions as part of their truce in a trade war.

The Ministry of Finance says the reductions apply to tariffs imposed Sept. 1 as the two sides were ratcheting up their dispute over Beijing's technology ambitions and trade surplus.

Washington announced similar reductions last month. Both sides have announced conciliatory steps since agreeing in October to a “Phase 1” deal under which Washington canceled planned additional tariff hikes and Beijing committed to buying more U.S. farm exports.

However, most tariff hikes imposed previously by both sides on billions of dollars of each other's good are still in place.


Stocks rise despite fears over virus from China

NEW YORK (AP) — The virus outbreak out of China has exposed a seeming disconnect between the financial markets and science.

Health experts don't know how far the virus will spread and how bad the crisis will get, yet stocks are rallying as if investors are expecting no more than a modest hit to the global economy.

On Wall Street, the S&P erased all its losses from the past few weeks and hit a record on Wednesday, while markets in Japan and Hong Kong, closer to the center of the crisis, rose as well. The gains came even as the number of people infected globally.

Investors aren't pretending to know any more than the scientists. But after an initial downward reaction to the crisis, investors are weighing better-than-expected earnings from some of the globe's biggest companies and other encouraging economic indicators from outside China.

Investors are looking at more than just the public health measures that are being taken against the virus; they are also considering the financial tools available to counter the economic damage.


Chinese scientists ask for patent on US drug to fight virus

BEIJING (AP) — Scientists in the city at the center of China’s virus outbreak have applied to patent a drug made by U.S. company Gilead Science Inc. to treat coronaviruses, possibly fueling more of the conflict over technology policy that helped trigger Washington’s tariff war with Beijing.

The government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology said this week it applied for the patent in January along with a military laboratory.

An institute statement says it acted to “protect national interests.”

Granting its own scientists a patent might give the Chinese government leverage in negotiations over paying for the drug. But it also might fuel complaints Beijing abuses its regulatory system to pressure foreign companies to hand over valuable technology.


Macy's plans to close corporate headquarters in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (AP) — Macy's has closed its corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati as part of its plan to shutter about a fifth of its retail locations nationwide.

The retail giant announced this week the major restructuring that includes the elimination of 2,000 corporate jobs and the closure of 125 stores in the next three years.

Macy's said the majority of its roughly 500 employees in the Ohio headquarters will be relocated to Springdale. The company will add another 600 new jobs in Mason, where it operates a call center that is growing because of a closure in Arizona.

Macy’s CEO issued a statement that said Macy’s “will focus our resources on the healthy parts of our business, directly address the unhealthy parts of the business and explore new revenue streams,"

Macy's has been shrinking its commitment in Cincinnati over the past few years, with its downtown store closing in 2018 and the store at Northgate Mall expected to close by the end of March.


Facebook, YouTube: Firm must stop scraping faces from sites

UNDATED (AP) — Facebook has joined YouTube, Twitter and payment service Venmo in demanding that a facial recognition company stop harvesting user images to identify the people in them, which the startup does as part of its work with police.

Facebook said it has demanded New York-based Clearview AI stop accessing or using information from its flagship site and Instagram saying it violates Facebook policies.

Clearview has drawn scrutiny following investigative reports in January by the New York Times and Buzzfeed detailing its work with law enforcement agencies and its practice of scraping social media and other internet platforms for images.

Venmo has also said it is sending Clearview a cease-and-desist letter as did Google-owned video service YouTube on Tuesday.

Clearview’s CEO told CBS in an interview that it has a First Amendment right to the roughly 3 billion images it has collected.


Madoff seeks prison release, citing terminal kidney failure

NEW YORK (AP) — Ponzi king Bernard Madoff says he has less than 18 months to live and has asked a federal judge to grant him a compassionate release from his 150-year prison sentence. Madoff's lawyer filed court papers Wednesday saying the 81-year-old has terminal kidney failure.

Madoff told The Washington Post he's remorseful for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history and wants to salvage his relationships with his grandchildren. He says he’s served 11 years already and has “suffered through it”.

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 federal counts in a fraudulent investment scheme involving billions of dollars, admitting he swindled thousands of clients over decades. The rich and famous were among his victims, as well as people of lesser means who had invested with him unknowingly through feeder funds.

The new court filings say Madoff was admitted in July to the palliative care unit of the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the request but are expected to respond in court papers. Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars.

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