Update on the latest in business:

By The Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 28, 2020 at 1:23 a.m.



FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia stocks tumble on virus fears after Wall Street plunge

UNDATED (AP) — Asian stock markets plunged further today on spreading virus fears, deepening a global rout after Wall Street endured its biggest one-day drop in nine years.

The Tokyo and Shanghai benchmarks sank by an unusually wide margin of 3.7%. Seoul and Sydney dropped by more than 3% and Hong Kong lost 2.5%.

Oil prices slumped on expectations industrial activity and demand might contract.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index is down 12% from its all-time high a week ago.

Yesterday, the S&P fell 4.4% to 2,978.76.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 1,190.95 points, its largest one-day point drop in history, bringing its loss for the week to 3,225.77 points, or 11.1%. To put that in perspective, the Dow's 508-point loss on Oct. 19, 1987, was equal to 22.6%.

OFF THE CHARTS-SEEKING SAFETY

Investors shy away from risk as coronavirus rattles markets

LOS ANGELES (AP) — This week’s big sell-off on Wall Street suggests stocks have finally caught up to the bond market, where fear of an economic slowdown has been evident for months.

Signs that the new coronavirus that originated in China is now spreading to other parts of the world rattled investors, intensifying worries about the damage that the outbreak could cause to the global economy and corporate profits.

The anxiety led traders to do something they haven't been doing lately — move away from riskier holdings. They dumped stocks, handing the major U.S. indexes their worst single-day decline in two years Monday. The S&P 500 was on track for its biggest weekly loss since the early months of the 2008 financial crisis.

Investors also continued to shovel money into U.S. government bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note kept setting record lows as the week went on. Last week, the 30-year Treasury yield hit an all-time low.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FACE MASK SHORTAGES

Coronavirus fear touches off a global run on face masks

UNDATED (AP) — Fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to a global run on sales of face masks despite medical experts' advice that most people who aren't sick don't need to wear them.

Many businesses are sold out, while others are limiting how many a customer can buy. Amazon is policing its site, trying to make sure sellers don't gouge panicked buyers.

In South Korea, even rumors that toilet paper and napkins could be used as masks have emptied store shelves in Asia of paper goods over the past few weeks.

In the U.S., Walgreens, Home Depot, Lowe’s and True Value Hardware are reporting a sharp uptick in sales of masks over the past several weeks and say they are scrambling to get more from suppliers.

Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement chain, has limited sales of N95 respirators to 10 per person. They have a close facial fit and more filtration material than general surgical masks, enabling them to keep out at least 95% of particles.

REPLACING-HUAWEI

Bill to help small telecoms excise Huawei goes to Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill to provide $1 billion for small telecom providers to replace equipment made by China's Huawei (WAH'-way) and ZTE, sending the measure to President Donald Trump.

The U.S. government considers the Chinese companies a security risk and has pushed its allies not to use Huawei equipment in next-generation cellular networks, known as 5G. Both companies have denied that China uses their products for spying.

The Federal Communications Commission has already voted to bar U.S. phone companies from using government subsidies for equipment from the two Chinese companies. This affects mostly small, rural companies, because the major U.S. network providers don't use the Chinese equipment.

The small phone companies have complained that it will be difficult and expensive for them to rebuild their networks.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-UTILITY

Regulators boost PG&E's wildfire fine to $2.1 billion

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California power regulators have slapped Pacific Gas and Electric with a $2.1 billion fine for igniting a series of deadly wildfires that landed the beleaguered utility into bankruptcy. The judge's record penalty boosts the punishment that had been agreed upon in a $1.7 billion settlement announced in December.

The increased punishment includes a $200 million payment earmarked for the people who lost family and property in catastrophic wildfires caused by PG&E's outdated electrical grid and negligence during 2017 and 2018. That money will supplement a $13.5 billion fund set up as part of PG&E's bankruptcy case.

The decision will also prevent PG&E from attempting to recover $1.82 billion from its customers, forcing its shareholders to bear the cost instead. The settlement previously had prevented PG&E from recovering $1.63 billion.

UTILITY EXECUTIVES CHARGED

Securities agents sue 2 SC utility execs over nuclear fraud

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Federal officials say two former executives at a South Carolina utility lied repeatedly to regulators and investors about the progress of construction of two nuclear reactors taking more than a billion dollars out of the pockets of investors and ratepayers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued SCANA Corp., its subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas along with the utility's former CEO Kevin Marsh and Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne on Thursday.

Dominion Energy of Virginia bought the South Carolina utility last year and is also included in the suit.

Criminal charges have not been filed.

JAPAN-LEBANON-GHOSN

Japan sends vice justice minister to Lebanon on Ghosn case

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese vice minister for justice is heading to Lebanon for talks on the case of former Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn (gohn), who fled bail for his home country late last year. Ghosn led the company for nearly 20 years.

Japan’s Justice Minister says she has sent the official to Beirut to explain the Japanese criminal justice system and improve cooperation.

Japan and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty and it is thought unlikely that Lebanon would agree to send Ghosn back to Japan to face trial.

Ghosn was arrested in late 2018 and faces charges of under-reporting income and breach of trust. He says he is innocent.

JP MORGAN OIL-RESPONSE

Alaska officials react strongly to JPMorgan oil pullback

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state officials reacted with alarm this week after a second large U.S. bank said it would not support future oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

The Anchorage Daily News reported Alaska’s environmental commissioner responded by shredding his Chase credit card after JPMorgan Chase announced it will not provide financing to be used for new oil and gas development in the Arctic.

The bank says it plans a broad initiative to combat climate change and promote renewable energy.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration says it is subsequently reviewing the state’s business relationship with the bank.

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