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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mostly lower as new China virus cases spike

Bangkok (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower today as reported cases of the new virus jumped in China.

The Shanghai Composite declined 0.7% in afternoon trading. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3%. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.1% lower, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2%. Shares were lower in Singapore, Thailand and India, while New Zealand and Taiwan rose.

Yesterday on Wall Street, stocks marched higher as investors focused on the latest batch of mostly solid corporate earnings.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.65%, to 3,379.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9%, to 29,511.42. And the Nasdaq climbed 87.02 points, or 0.9%, to 9,725.96.

Benchmark crude oil lost 24 cents to $50.93 a barrel. It rose 37 cents to settle at $49.94 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 42 cents to $55.37 a barrel.

The dollar weakened to 109.776 yen from 110.08 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.0885 from $1.0876.

FEDERAL RESERVE-SHELTON

A Trump Fed choice faces Senate scrutiny over policy views

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Donald Trump's nominees for the Federal Reserve will likely face skeptical questioning from a Senate committee today over her unconventional economic views.

Trump has nominated Judy Shelton for the Fed's Board of Governors, a position with significant influence over interest rate policy and the regulation of banks and financial markets. Her views have included support for tying the dollar's value to gold and questioning the need for a fully independent Fed. Shelton has also expressed seemingly contradictory views on interest rate policy and once suggested that the federal government need not guarantee bank deposits.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, when the unemployment rate peaked at 10% in 2009, Shelton opposed the Fed's ultra-low interest rate policy. Yet she has since echoed Trump's support for ultra-low rates even as the unemployment rate has reached a near-half-century low of 3.6%.

SAFE VEHICLES

64 US vehicles get insurance group's top safety rating

DETROIT (AP) — Sixty-four cars and SUVs sold in the U.S. earned Top Safety Pick awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2020 model year vehicles perform well in crash tests and have headlights available that are rated “good” or “acceptable.” They also have front crash prevention systems available such as automatic emergency braking that earn “advanced” or “superior” ratings in detecting other vehicles and pedestrians.

No minivans or pickups made the list because they either lack the safety devices or get “acceptable” rather than the top “good” rating on some crash tests.

Of the 64, 23 got the institute's Top Safety Pick Plus award, meaning they have good headlights as standard equipment, as well as meeting all the other requirements.

Those with a Top Safety Pick Plus rating are the Honda Insight, Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Mazda 6, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, the Subaru Outback built after October of last year, and the Toyota Camry. Also included are the Lexus ES, the Tesla Model 3, the Mercedes C-Class with optional front crash prevention, Mazda's CX-3 and CX-5 with optional crash prevention, and the Subaru Forester.

The institute evaluated more than 200 models from the 2020 model year, although some were not tested in all categories. A list of winners can be found on the institute's website.

MGM RESORTS-CHIEF RESIGNING

Head of MGM Resorts International stepping down

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The head of casino giant MGM Resorts International says he’ll step down soon as the company finds a successor. Jim Murren has led the company since 2008. A corporate statement Wednesday said he intends to leave before his contract expires next year but gave no reason. Publicly traded MGM Resorts has some 80,000 employees at 29 casinos and hotels worldwide. The company is the largest employer in Nevada and owns several Las Vegas Strip properties, but recently sold its Bellagio, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay resorts in a leaseback agreement with Blackstone Group. MGM Resorts continues to manage the properties under a leaseback agreement.

Publicly traded MGM Resorts has some 80,000 employees at 29 casinos and hotels. Company stock closed Wednesday at $33.66, up 95 cents. Share prices fell in after-hours trading following Murren's announcement.

Mandalay Bay was the hotel where a gunman opened fire into a concert crowd across the street in 2017 that left 58 people dead in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Murren has been with MGM Resorts and its predecessors since 1998.

BP EMISSIONS

BP to achieve net-zero emissions

LONDON (AP) — Energy producer BP said Wednesday it wants to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it sells to customers by 2050, an ambitious target born out of pressure to help combat climate change and keep making money.

London-based BP's goals include becoming a net zero emitter in its own production of energy but also to reduce the carbon dioxide created by its customers as they use that energy - the bulk of emissions from the industry. Doing so would require not only a shift to cleaner energy sources but also coming up with new technologies to offset emissions or extract CO2 from the atmosphere.

As such, BP's announcement was less of a detailed restructuring plan and more of a statement of intent from a company that is trying, like the wider energy industry, to ensure its long-term viability as the world decreases its reliance on fossil fuels in an effort to fight climate change.

MEXICO-CORRUPTION

Spanish police arrest former oil executive sought by Mexico

UNDATED (AP) — Authorities say the former head of Mexico's state oil company was arrested Wednesday in Spain on an international warrant issued by Mexico, marking one of the most high-profile detentions for alleged corruption under a president who made fighting graft a core promise to Mexicans.

Mexico’s Attorney General says that Emilio Lozoya was arrested in the southern port city of Malaga and that the goal was his extradition to Mexico.

Lozoya was director of Pemex between 2012 and 2016, during the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexico issued international arrest warrants for Lozoya last year as a result of corruption investigations, including into his alleged ties to Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company that secured contracts across Latin America through a network of bribes.

Officials are also investigating Pemex's purchase of a fertilizer plant in 2015 at an allegedly inflated price.

Lozoya has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

PUERTO RICO-PHISHING SCAM

Official: Puerto Rico govt loses $2.6M in phishing scam

PUERTO RICO (AP) — A senior Puerto Rico official says the island's government has lost more than $2.6 million after falling for an email phishing scam.

The finance director of the island's Industrial Development Company filed a complaint with police Wednesday saying the agency sent the money to a fraudulent account. According to a police statement, agency director Rubén Rivera says the government agency transferred the money on Jan. 17 after receiving an email that alleged a change to a banking account tied to remittance payments.

The situation comes as the U.S. territory remains mired in a 13-year recession that has in part forced the government to cut back on some services.

It’s unclear whether officials have been able to recover any of the money and what impact the financial loss has on the government agency.

OBIT-O’KEEFFE MUSEUM FOUNDER

Anne Marion, founder of Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, dies

DALLAS (AP) — Texas oil and ranching heiress Anne Marion, who founded the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has died. She was 81.

Cody Hartley, director of the O'Keeffe museum, says in a statement that Marion died Tuesday in California. He calls her a “passionate arts patron, determined leader, and generous philanthropist.”

Marion and her husband, John Marion, established the museum in 1997. She served as the chair of the board of trustees until 2016.

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

The Associated Press

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