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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mixed after Wall Street rises to record

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia today after Wall Street recovered to record highs.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.3%, shedding bigger early gains. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3% and the Shanghai Composite index picked up 0.5%. But South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.2%, while India's Sensex edged 0.1% higher. Shares fell in Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore but rose in Jakarta.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.5% to 3,386.15, surpassing its record set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4% to 29,348.03. The Nasdaq climbed 0.9% to 9,817.18 and also set a record.

DIGITAL CURRENCY SCAM

Californian will plead guilty in $150 million currency scam

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California man charged with bilking nearly $150 million out of 70,000 investors worldwide through a phony digital currency scheme has agreed to enter a guilty plea to federal charges. The U.S. Attorney's office says Steven Chen of Bradbury agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion. He could face up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors say Chen ran a company out of Arcadia, California, that sold a phony digital currency, supposedly backed by amber and precious gems from mines the firm owned in several countries. Authorities say the mines didn't exist, either.

Authorities said Chen used millions of dollars in proceeds to buy homes and pay for a gambling habit.

CHINA OUTBREAK-JAPAN QUARANTINE

2 die, Passengers leave ship docked off Japan after quarantine ends

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Japan's health ministry confirms that two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship have died from the new virus, becoming the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel.

Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness. Japan's NHK public television said both were Japanese in their 80s. The new virus began in China late last year has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in China. The Diamond Princess started letting passengers who tested negative for the virus leave the ship Wednesday.

About 500 passengers have left the Diamond Princess cruise ship at the end of a quarantine that failed to stop the spread of a virus among passengers and crew.

AIRLINES-DELAYS

Airline passengers put up with more and longer flight delays

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government report says airline travelers were a bit more likely to be delayed, and more often for longer spells, when flying around the U.S. last year.

Canceled flights were up, and so were the number of passengers bumped off overcrowded flights.

But travelers apparently are learning to take it all in stride. The rate of complaints remained nearly unchanged from 2018.

The Transportation Department says that 79% of domestic flights last year arrived within 15 minutes of the airline’s schedule — the government’s definition of being on time. That was down from 79.2% in 2018.

Hawaiian Airlines took home the prize for being the nation’s most punctual airline for the 16th straight year. Blessed by good weather where it operates most of its flights, Hawaiian scored an 87.7% on-time mark, followed by Delta Air Lines at 83.5%.

QANTAS CUTS FLIGHTS

Qantas cuts flights to Asia amid virus outbreak

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia's Qantas says it will slash flights to Asia as the coronavirus crisis cuts into the airline and travel industries. The decision to reduce the carrier's overall capacity to Asia by 16% until at least the end of May is expected to cut between $67 million and $100 million from Qantas' earnings this year.

The move will affect Qantas services to China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Qantas' secondary carrier Jetstar will cut back services by 14%.

The airline says the impact of the cuts would be offset by a reduction in fuel prices worldwide, also caused by the virus outbreak as other airlines reduce Asian services. Qantas flights between Sydney and Shanghai will remain suspended while the Hong Kong-Sydney service will be cut.

SWITZERLAND-MONEY LAUNDERING

Swiss bank penalized over alleged FIFA, Venezuela corruption

GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s financial market authority has penalized Julius Baer bank for violating its obligations to combat money laundering over a nearly nine-year span.

The sanctions came down in connection with alleged corruption linked to the Venezuelan state-owned oil company and global soccer body FIFA.

The authority known as FINMA blamed Julius Baer for a “serious infringement of financial market law” and barred it from carrying out “large and complex acquisitions until it once again fully complies with the law.”

The bank was also ordered to revamp its hiring and management of client advisers and adjust its remuneration and disciplinary procedures.

CANADA RAIL PROTEST

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees amid Canada rail protests

MONTREAL (AP) — Canada's Via Rail passenger train service is temporarily laying off 1,000 employees due the continued halt in service on CN Rail's tracks in eastern Canada caused by railway blockades protesting a British Columbia pipeline. The government corporation has suspended passenger trains on the Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto routes for nearly two weeks due to the protests that have disrupted rail service across the country. The layoffs come amid growing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to take action against the blockades in support of tribal hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia. The company has cancelled more than 530 trains since blockades began Feb. 6.

Earlier this week, Canadian National Railway Co. temporarily laid off about 450 workers from its operations in eastern Canada after cancelling more than 400 trains since protests arose.

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

The Associated Press

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