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    Shares advanced in most Asian markets on Wednesday after a rebound on Wall Street that reversed most losses from a sell-off the day before. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 2.8%, to 27,174.43 after reopening from Lunar New Year holidays, while other Chinese markets remained closed. The U.S. rally overnight snapped a two-day skid driven by fears that the spread of a new virus in China could snag global economic growth. China reported Wednesday that the virus has sickened more than 6,000 people in China and over a dozen other countries and killed 132 people. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.7% to 23,379.40 and in South Korea the Kospi picked up 0.5% to 2,188.04. Australia's S&P ASX/200 rose 0.5% to 7,031.50, while the Sensex in India climbed 0.8% to 41,283.40. Shares also rose in Southeast Asia, apart from Kuala Lumpur, which fell 1.4% as trading resumed after the Lunar New Year. Investors placed their concerns about the virus’ potential economic impact on the back burner on Tuesday and snapped up U.S. stocks beaten down earlier in the week, particularly chipmakers and other technology companies. The sector notched the biggest gain Tuesday and powered much of the rally. The S&P 500 index rose 1% to 3,276.24. The Dow gained 0.7% to 28,722.85. The Nasdaq climbed 1.4% to 9,269.68, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 0.9%, to 1,658.31. But the potential for still more virus-related scares remains, analysts cautioned. “Markets may enjoy one or two days in the sun. I would be remiss in my role as the voice of reason if I did not caution investors to be wary of chasing, what may be temporary, dead cat bounces,' Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary, “Until we have much more clarity on the controlling of the Wuhan virus outbreak at the very least.' Bond prices fell, sending yields higher following a significant drop a day earlier. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 1.65% from 1.60% late Tuesday. Despite the rebound, the major U.S. indexes are still down for the week. The losses have hit smaller company stocks hardest, erasing the Russell 2000’s gains for the year. U.S. stocks were running at all-time highs at the start of the month. An index measuring volatility in the market was running at 12-month lows and the benchmark S&P 500 had climbed around 13% since early October after Washington and Beijing announced they would sign a preliminary trade deal. That set the market up for a pullback, and investors’ jitters over the virus outbreak centered on the central Chinese city of Wuhan fit the bill. “It may be symptomatic about how bullish overall people have been and how much money still sits on the sidelines,” Frederick said. “People are just looking for any opportunity to get a bargain right now, but it could ultimately end up being a little bit risky to do that.” Hong Kong has joined much of China in seriously restricting travel by cutting all rail links to the mainland as of Friday. China's containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan and has now expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed. The United States and several other nations were taking steps to airlift citizens out of a Chinese city at the center of the outbreak. Still, U.S. health officials said Tuesday that, for now, the risks to Americans is very low. Otherwise, it's a heavy week for corporate earnings. Boeing, McDonald’s, Facebook and Microsoft will all report results on Wednesday. Other big names reporting this week include Coca-Cola, Amazon, Caterpillar and Exxon Mobil. The Federal Reserve is also set to deliver its latest interest rate and economic policy update Wednesday. The central bank lowered its key interest rate three times last year in a bid to shield the economy from slowing global growth and the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war. Benchmark crude oil rose 59 cents to $54.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 34 cents to settle at $53.48 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 65 cents to $59.46 per barrel. Overnight it picked up 23 cents to close at $58.81 a barrel. Gold fell $4.30 to $1,565.50 per ounce, silver was unchanged at $17.46 per ounce and copper fell 2 cents to $2.58 per pound. The dollar slipped to 109.09 Japanese yen from 109.12 yen on Monday. The euro fell to $1.1018 from $1.1025. ___ AP Business Writers Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise contributed.
  • President Donald Trump is eager to show off a big policy win during his impeachment trial by signing into law a major rewrite of the rules of trade with Canada and Mexico. Trump made renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement a priority during his 2016 campaign, although trade experts say the impact of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will be modest. He will sign the bill Wednesday. Canada and Mexico already represent the top two export markets for U.S. goods. But the pact, along with the signing of a “phase one” agreement with China, dials down trade tensions that contributed to slowing economic growth globally. The leaders of the three nations signed the new pact in late 2018. Legislation implementing the USMCA received overwhelming, bipartisan support in Congress after several months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration. Still, it appeared that prominent Democratic lawmakers were left off the White House guest list for Wednesday’s event. The snub came after the Democratic-led House impeached Trump. “The White House hasn’t invited House Democrats to their USMCA signing ceremony. But we’ll be well represented in the huge changes to the original USMCA draft that Democrats wrested out of the administration on labor, prescription drugs, environment and enforcement mechanisms,” said Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump showcases the agreement as a “a new model of trade for the 21st century.” Speaking to supporters at a New Jersey rally on Tuesday night, Trump said: “Tomorrow we will replace the NAFTA nightmare, one of the worst trade deals ever in history.' NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, tore down trade barriers between the three North American countries and commerce between them surged. But Trump and other critics said NAFTA encouraged factories to leave the United States and relocate south of the border to take advantage of low-wage Mexican labor. Trump threatened to leave NAFTA if he couldn't get a better deal, creating uncertainty over regional trade. His trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, pressed for a revamped pact designed to bring factory jobs back to the United States. USMCA, for example, requires automakers to get 75% of their production content (up from 62.5% in NAFTA) from within North America to qualify for the pact's duty-free benefits. That means more auto content would have to come from North America, not imported more cheaply from China and elsewhere. At least 40% of vehicles would also have to originate in places where workers earn at least $16 an hour. That would benefit the United States and Canada — not Mexico, where auto assembly workers are paid a fraction of that amount. The independent U.S. International Trade Commission last year calculated that USMCA would add 0.35%, or $68 billion, to economic growth and generate 176,000 jobs over six years — not much of a change for a $22 trillion economy with 152 million nonfarm jobs. “It's a blip,'' said Syracuse University economist Mary Lovely, who studies trade. “The main thing is what it isn't: It isn’t a continuation of uncertainty, and it isn’t a major disruption'' to business. Critics include environmental groups concerned that the agreement does not address global warming. Some conservatives say the agreement will make cars and other products more expensive for consumers. The president wasn't wasting any time highlighting the deal in battleground states that will determine who wins this year’s presidential election. He will travel Thursday to Michigan, where some of the state’s auto workers should benefit from a deal that encourages more manufacturing in the United States. Trump wants to talk up a deal that about 4 in 5 Americans have heard little or nothing about. Indeed, while a third of the public approves of the deal and only 5% disapprove, a solid majority, 61%, have not formed an opinion, according to a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University. _____ Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
  • Slumping Nissan Motor Co. is offering voluntary separation packages to many of its U.S. workers as it tries to resize itself to match lower sales. The Japanese automaker wouldn't say how many employees it is targeting to leave, how much money it expects to save, or give details of the severance offers. The offers are being made to factory and white-collar workers over the age of 52. Nissan's U.S. sales were down almost 10% last year, with the Nissan brand down 8.7% and its Infiniti luxury brand off 21.1%. Many analysts expect total U.S. auto sales to drop this year. “To adapt to current business needs and improve efficiencies, Nissan will offer voluntary separation packages to eligible U.S.-based employees,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. Company spokeswoman Lloryn Love-Carter said although she couldn't give a specific number of workers the company is seeking to cut, it would not be in the thousands. She said the offers will be in the U.S. only. Earlier in January, Nissan made its U.S. employees take two unpaid furlough days. The company has more than 20,000 U.S. workers, concentrated mainly at its U.S. headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, at factory complexes in Canton, Mississippi, and Smyrna, Tennessee, and a technical center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Eligible workers will be notified by Friday and would leave later in the year. Not all applications will be approved, Love-Carter said. Nissan also said it would cut two sales regions and reduce the frequency of its sales reports to quarterly from monthly, following the lead of Detroit automakers. Last summer the Nissan said it would cut 12,500 jobs, or about 9% of its global workforce, to pare costs and turn around its business. The company reported in November that its July-September profit tumbled to half of what it earned the year before as sales and brand power crumbled following the arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, by Japanese authorities. Ghosn, who fled from Japan to Lebanon, was charged with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for personal gain. He says the compensation was never decided on or paid, and the payments were for legitimate business.
  • A moderator for AlphaBay — a defunct darknet site that authorities said was once the world's largest online marketplace for illegal drugs — has pleaded guilty in California to racketeering conspiracy. Bryan Connor Herrell, 25, of Colorado, entered the plea Monday to a charge of conspiring to engage in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott announced in a statement. He could face up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced in May in Fresno federal court. Prosecutors said that Herrell was a moderator who settled more than 20,000 disputes between sellers and buyers on AlphaBay, a gigantic global marketplace for “guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers and other illegal items,' the stateent said. “At the time, AlphaBay was considered to be the world’s largest online drug marketplace,' the statement said. Herrell also was a “scam watcher' who monitored attempts to defraud AlphaBay users, authorities said. He was paid in bitcoins, authorities said. AlphaBay had hundreds of thousands of users before law enforcement authorities shut it down in 2017. The man prosecutors described as its founder, Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Fresno and arrested in Bangkok. But the case was dismissed after he was found hanged in his cell while awaiting extradition to the U.S.
  • Total losses from the closure of Libya’s major oil fields and production facilities has accelerated, reaching more than $502 million over a 10-day period, the country’s national oil company said Tuesday. The announcement came as an artillery shell exploded close to a school south of the capital, Tripoli, killing at least three children, health authorities said. The oil closures came when powerful tribal groups loyal to military commander Khalifa Hifter earlier this month seized several large export terminals along Libya's eastern coast as well as southern oil fields. Hifter controls eastern Libya and much of the southern part of the country. The moves were meant to challenge Hifter’s adversaries in the internationally backed but weak rival government that controls Tripoli and western areas. The National Oil Corporation, which dominates Libya’s critical oil industry, said, “The total value of losses since the beginning of the blockades has reached $502,289,339 as of Monday, January 27, 2020.” It put the average daily loss at $50.2 million. The corporation said oil production had fallen from over 1.2 million barrels a day before the seizures to 271,204 barrels on Monday. Seeking to reassure Libyans, the corporation said fuel levels in the country’s central and eastern regions “remain sufficient.” It added, however, that the western and southern regions have faced “some supply shortage due to the deteriorating security situation” because of the fighting between Hifter's forces and Tripoli-allied militias. The oil shutdown was seen as part of Hifter’s efforts to take control of Tripoli and punish his adversaries there for sealing security and maritime agreements with Turkey, opening doors for unlimited military support from the Turks. Oil, the lifeline of Libya’s economy, has long been a key factor in the civil war, with rival authorities jostling for control of oil fields and state revenue. Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa. The closure came just two days before world powers with interests in Libya’s long-running conflict pledged at a conference in Berlin to respect a much-violated arms embargo and push opposing factions to reach a cease-fire. Hifter’s self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces began the offensive against the capital last April, and fighting with an array of militias loosely allied with the Tripoli-based government have killed over 3,000 people and displaced 200,000 in the city. Tripoli health authorities said three children were killed Tuesday when a shell hit close to a school in the southern town of al-Hadaba al-Badri. Another child was critically wounded. The Tripoli fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later slain. Hifter is supported by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, while the embattled U.N.-backed government is aided by Turkey and Qatar.
  • It was a happy holiday at Starbucks, but the company's sales momentum could start to slow due to the coronavirus outbreak in China. Starbucks said it had intended to raise its full-year earnings guidance Tuesday, but uncertainty about China put that on pause. Starbucks said it has already closed more than half of its stores in China due to coronavirus. China's 4,292 Starbucks stores brought in 10% of the company's revenue during the October-December period, so the closure will affect earnings, the company said. But it's not yet clear how much of an impact there will be. Starbucks had expected full-year revenue growth in the 6% to 8% range and same-store sales growth of 3% to 4%. “We remain optimistic and committed to the long term growth potential in China,' Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson said in a conference call Tuesday with analysts. Starbucks shares fell 1.6% to $87.20 in extended trading following the earnings report. Johnson said the holiday season was one of the best in the company's history. New drinks like the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew were a hit with customers. Starbucks' new four-story Reserve Roastery in Chicago — which opened in November — is serving an average of 10,000 visitors each day, he said. A combination of new stores and solid foot traffic helped the Seattle-based coffee giant handily beat Wall Street's forecasts in the October-December period. The company opened 539 net new stores in its fiscal first quarter. It now has nearly 32,000 stores worldwide. Starbucks' earnings rose 16% to $886 million in the fiscal first quarter. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring items like restructuring charges, were 79 cents per share. That beat Wall Street's forecast of 76 cents. Starbucks said same-store sales — or sales at stores open at least 13 months — jumped 5% worldwide in the October-December period, ahead of analysts' forecast of 4.4%. Revenue was up 7% to $7.1 billion, in line with analysts' forecasts. Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer said she's confident the company can sustain that momentum because of new products and technology in the pipeline. Starbucks is adding new equipment to stores to improve its cold brew process, she said. The company also plans to introduce a plant-based sausage sandwich at breakfast and more non-dairy milks based on customer requests, she said. Starbucks also plans more mobile order and pickup locations in the U.S. after the successful opening of a small-format store in New York during the quarter. Mobile ordering and payment represented 17% of U.S. sales in the first quarter.
  • Now that football season is almost finished, the dominant nights in broadcast television are coming into focus. As illustrated in the Nielsen company's ratings for last week, that would be CBS' night of drama on Tuesday and Dick Wolf's trilogy of “Chicago” series Wednesday on NBC. Even though it has been on the air since 2003, CBS' “NCIS” continues a remarkable streak of popularity. With nearly 11.4 million viewers on the night it aired last Tuesday, it was the only television show aside from the Grammys to pass the 10 million mark last week, at least before delayed viewing is counted in. Paired with “FBI,” it makes for a strong one-two punch of action for CBS on Tuesdays. The newer “FBI: Most Wanted” has some distance to go before reaching that level. Wolf is a proven television hitmaker, and NBC does very well on Wednesdays with his three dramas that focus on a Chicago hospital, police department and fire department. All three finished among Nielsen's top 10 shows last week. The third season premiere of “Station 19”on ABC did slightly better than the series it spun off from, “Grey's Anatomy.” The Grammys reached nearly 18.7 million viewers on CBS Sunday, down about a million from each of the last two years. CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 7.2 million viewers. ABC eked out a second place showing, averaging 4 million viewers, while NBC had 3.9 million. Fox had 2.4 million, Univision had 1.5 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 690,000. News dominated the cable ratings last week with President Donald Trump's impeachment hearings. Fox News Channel averaged 3.32 million ratings in prime time, MSNBC had 1.96 million, ESPN had 1.22 million, TLC had 1.2 million and CNN had 1.18 million. ABC's “World News Tonight” won the evening news ratings race, averaging 9.1 million viewers. NBC's “Nightly News” had 7.9 million viewers and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.9 million. For the week of Jan. 20-26, the top 20 shows, their networks and viewerships: 1. “Grammy Awards,” CBS, 18.69 million. 2. “NCIS,” CBS, 11.37 million. 3. “FBI,” CBS, 9.25 million. 4. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 8.44 million. 5. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 8.19 million. 6. “Grammy Awards Red Carpet,” CBS, 7.19 million. 7. “America's Got Talent Champions,” NBC, 7.05 million. 8. “Station 19,” ABC, 7.02 million. 9. 'Chicago PD, NBC, 6.92 million. 10. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 6.81 million. 11. “Grey's Anatomy,” ABC, 6.67 million. 12. “This Is Us,” NBC, 61 million. 13. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 6.6 million. 14. “Bob Hearts Abishola,” CBS, 6.51 million. 15. “The Bachelor,” ABC, 6.29 million. 16. “Bull,” CBS, 6.05 million. 17. “911: Lone Star,” Fox, 5.95 million. 18. “America's Funniest Home Videos,” ABC, 5.86 million. 19. “All Rise,” CBS, 5.81 million. 20. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 5.6 million.
  • Apple is still reaping huge profits from the iPhone while mining more moneymaking opportunities from the growing popularity of its smartwatch, digital services and wireless earbuds. That combination produced a banner holiday season for a company whose fortunes appeared to be sliding just a year ago amid declining sales for the iPhone, its marquee product for the past decade. Apple’s fiscal first-quarter results, released Tuesday, provided the latest proof that the fears hanging over the consumer electronics icon might have been unfounded. Apple’s profit and revenue for the October-December period topped analysts’ projections, providing another boost to a stock that has more than doubled in less than 13 months. The shares surged more than 1% to $322.14 in extended trading after the numbers came out. That’s up from $142 in January 2019 after Apple warned that consumers weren’t buying as many new iPhones as they once were, especially in China, the company’s biggest market outside the U.S. and Europe. China is also where Apple makes most of its iPhones and several other products. If the shares move similarly in Wednesday's regular trading session, they will flirt with a new all-time high for the stock and further cement Apple's position as the most valuable company in the U.S., with a market value of $1.4 trillion. A deadly viral outbreak in China, which has curtailed travel and threatens the world economy, looms as a potential concern for Apple. But investors for now are focusing on what looks like an even more prosperous road ahead for a company that turned a $55 billion profit in its past fiscal year. In a conference call Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said the coronavirus outbreak has already caused some of Apple's suppliers in China to delay reopening their factories closed for the Lunar New Year holiday from the end of this month until Feb. 10. And some stores in China selling Apple products already have temporarily closed or reduced their operating hours because fewer customers are shopping as virus worries escalate. “The situation is emerging and we're still gathering lots of data points and monitoring it very closely,' Cook said. Apple got off to a fast start for fiscal 2020, with a first-quarter profit of $22.2 billion, or $4.99 per share, on revenue of $91.8 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet had predicted earnings of $4.54 per share on revenue of $88.5 billion. As usual, the iPhone remained Apple’s marquee attraction. Boosted by the release of the iPhone 11 heading into the holiday season, the product generated sales of $56 billion, an 8% increase from the previous year’s disappointing showing. Besides rolling out high-end phones with more cameras and a starting price of $1,000, Apple sold a more basic model starting at $700 — a $50 drop from a comparable version released in 2018. Apple’s division that includes its app store, product warranties, music streaming and a new Netflix-like video service delivered revenue of $12.7 billion, up 17% from the previous year. Apple is hoping its service division will produce revenue of at least $50 billion this year, doubling its output in just four years. The services division is feeding into all iPhones, iPads, Macs and other Apple products already being used, which the company said Tuesday now totals 1.5 billion devices, up by 100 million from the previous year. “We see this as a powerful testament to the satisfaction, engagement and loyalty of our customers — and a great driver of our growth across the board,' Cook said. The Apple TV Plus video streaming service, which Apple launched amid great fanfare in October, is supposed to help that cause, but it may not be a huge contributor this year. That’s because Apple is initially selling it for just $5 per month to help drum up interest. That's less than half the price of Netflix’s most popular plan. What’s more, Apple is giving away a free year of Apple TV Plus to anyone who buys a new iPhone or several other devices, a promotion that means tens of millions of people aren’t paying anything for the service yet. Apple hasn't released subscription numbers for the video service. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch, which the company began selling nearly five years ago, continued to gain new converts, and the latest version of its wireless earbuds, AirPods, emerged as a hot commodity during the holiday season. Apple introduced the AirPods after removing the headphone jack from the iPhone in 2016, but the product picked up more momentum in October with a next-generation set designed to fit better in people’s ears. That version, called AirPods Pro, proved so popular that Apple had trouble keeping it in stock. The AirPods Pro also cost more at $250, compared with $160 to $200 for the previous models. All those factors helped Apple’s “wearables, home and accessories” category garner sales totaling $10 billion in the past quarter, a 37% increase from the previous year. That prompted Cook to hail it as a “blowout” quarter for the wearables and accessories division, which is now Apple's fastest growing category.
  • Ford is recalling its popular F-150 pickup truck in Canada to fix a problem with electric tailgate latches, but identical trucks aren't being recalled in the U.S. Ford's F-Series pickups are the top-selling vehicles in the U.S. An auto safety advocate says the company is avoiding a U.S. recall to save money. The recall covers nearly 90,000 trucks in Canada that were built at two U.S. factories. Water can get into the electrical wiring and cause a short-circuit in the electric latch release switch. That can activate the switch and cause the tailgates to open unexpectedly, possibly allowing unsecured cargo to fall out. The trucks are from the 2015 through 2018 model years. Ford said in statement that it has received far fewer reports of the problem in the U.S. than in Canada. It said the problem occurs mainly in areas of Canada that are cold and wet and far from the U.S. border. Ford says it will notify U.S. owners that they can get a free repair if they have the problem. But Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said the problem is just as likely to happen in the U.S. as it is in Canada. “This isn’t about weather and it isn’t about safety,' he said in an e-mail. 'It’s about the money Ford doesn’t want to pay for a recall of its most popular vehicle in America.” The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's vehicle safety agency, said it is reviewing F-150 data to determine if further action is needed. “So far, NHTSA has not seen the frequency of complaints in the United States as Canada has on this issue,” the agency said. In December, Ford recalled nearly 262,000 heavy-duty pickup trucks in both Canada and the U.S. for a similar electric tailgate problem. The recall covers F-250, F-350 and F-450 trucks from the 2017 through 2019 model years. Trucks with manual tailgates are not affected. A Ford spokeswoman said the heavy-duty trucks have different electrical systems and a higher rate of problems than the F-150s. In both the light-duty and heavy-duty recalls, dealers will change the tailgate frame wiring and install a new tailgate handle release switch, Ford said. Ford sold just over 3.4 million F-Series pickups in the U.S. from 2015 through 2018, and about two-thirds of those were F-150s. Ford only reports a combined number for the F-Series and does not break out numbers for the lighter-duty F-150s.
  • This should be peak season for a 12-room hotel near the train station in the Chinese industrial hub of Wuhan. The Chinese New Year usually brings in plenty of travelers and delivers profits of around $3,000 a month. But the place is empty. Wuhan, the center of a deadly viral outbreak, is on lockdown. “There is not a single customer,’’ said the hotel’s owner, who gave only his surname, Cui. He still has to pay rent and his utility bills. Instead of counting his earnings, he’s expecting to lose $1,500 a month. The outbreak arrives at a bad time for Wuhan, China and the world economy. China, with the world’s No. 2 economy, was decelerating even before the coronavirus hit. And the world economy is coping with an unexpectedly sharp slowdown in No. 7 India, which prompted the International Monetary Fund last week to downgrade its outlook for global growth this year. The coronavirus is drawing comparisons to the SARS outbreak, which paralyzed the economies of China and Hong Kong for weeks in 2003. But what happens in China carries a lot more weight these days: In 2003, China accounted for 4% of global output. Now its share is 16%, according to the World Bank. “A growth slowdown in China could have sizable ripple effects across Asia and the rest of the world, given the size of China’s economy and its role as the key driver of global growth in recent years,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division. No one knows exactly how the outbreak will play out or what its economic impact will be. Authorities are still trying to better understand the new virus. It is from the coronavirus family, which also can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS. So far, China has confirmed more than 4,500 coronavirus cases and more than 100 deaths. The Chinese government has locked down Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province, isolating more than 50 million people. The United States and other countries prepared Tuesday to airlift their citizens out of Wuhan. The outbreak has brought every day business to a standstill and closed down such popular tourist attractions as Beijing's former imperial palace, Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland and the city's Ocean Park. The significant decline in travel has already caused United Airlines to suspend some flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, the airline said in a statement. “It’s still too soon to measure what the impact is going to be from an economic perspective,’’ said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors. The SARS experience offers some reason for economic optimism. That outbreak, centered in southern China, initially clobbered the Chinese economy. In the April-June quarter of 2003, China’s economic growth dropped to an annual rate of 9.1% from 11.1% the previous quarter, noted economists Tommy Wu and Priyanka Kishore of Oxford Economics. But as the health crisis subsided, growth picked back up, recovering to a 10% annual rate in the second half of the year. “From what we know, it’s likely to be similar this time,’’ said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia. “People shouldn’t get panicked that growth is going to slow sharply’’ over a sustained period. Still, the Chinese economy isn’t the dynamo it was in the early and mid-2000s when growth routinely hit double digits. The IMF expects China’s growth to drop from 6.1% in 2019, already the slowest since 1990, to 6% this year and 5.8% next. The slowdown reflects China’s difficult transition from fast but unsustainable growth built around often-wasteful investments to steadier but less striking growth built on consumer spending by the country’s growing middle class. The Chinese economy has also been buffeted by a trade war with the United States. The two countries signed a truce earlier this month that was expected to provide some economic relief. Then the viral outbreak hit. As part of the so-called Phase 1 deal, China agreed to increase purchases of U.S. products by $200 billion over this year and next. That goal sounded ambitious even before the viral outbreak isolated tens of millions of Chinese consumers and delivered a wallop to consumer and business confidence. Rothman suspects the United States might give the Chinese a little leeway. “Both governments really want the deal to work,’’ he said. “Ïf it is clear that (Chinese purchases) are off to a slow start not because the Chinese government is not trying its best but because of the virus, the Trump administration is likely to be sympathetic.’’ There has been no immediate impact on China’s vast manufacturing industries because factories already were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday and weren’t due to reopen until this week or later. “I think the first quarter looks like it will take quite a significant hit,” said Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia economist for IHS Markit. “This still is escalating, so it’s hard to talk about when this will be contained.” Further delays in restarting production could send shock waves through Asian suppliers of components and exporters of iron ore, copper and other commodities as far away as Australia, Brazil and Africa. Foreign suppliers usually see a surge in Chinese orders as factories restock after shutting down for 10 days or more during the holiday. “The loss of economic output could be quite substantial, and that has consequences for the Asian manufacturing supply chain, because orders won’t come in the way people expect,” Biswas said. The impact in other developing Asian countries might reduce their 2020 economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points, according to a forecast by Edward Glossop of Capital Economics. Growth in Asian emerging markets “will slow sharply in the first quarter of the year,” Glossop said in a report. Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that Japanese exports, production and corporate profits could be pinched by the new virus, stressing that he was closely monitoring the situation. A more direct hit is already coming from the decline in tourist traffic from China. Nishimura said Chinese travelers usually account for about a third of tourists from abroad. Chinese tourists to Japan tend to be relatively big spenders. The virus has hit right at the time when Chinese travel for the lunar new year. Japan’s economy suffered from the SARS outbreak in 2003, but the damage was limited to several months. The big difference is that Japan has far more Chinese tourists these days. Now “the impact on the Japanese economy would be far greater,” said Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at Nomura Research Institute, while adding that much depends on how widespread the outbreak proves to be. “There is hardly anything good that can be hoped for economically because of the new virus,” he said. Increased sales of masks and other protective gear, he noted, will hardly pick up the slack. ___ Wiseman reported from Washington, McDonald from Beijing and Kageyama from Tokyo. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

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  • Florida's St. Augustine Police Department said they are searching for the suspect who robbed a group of children at gunpoint at a popular park. The robbery happened at Project Swing park on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. Several signs at the park read, “For your safety, park is closed from dusk to dawn.” According to the report, the victims, whose ages are redacted, were sitting at the tables in the middle of the park when a man approached them and demanded money. In the report, one of the victims said the suspect pointed the gun into his chest when he told him he didn’t have any money. Police said the man took $16 from one of the victims before he tried to grab a backpack from the other. The victims told investigators when the suspect tried to take the backpack, they ran towards the parking garage for help. Detectives said the suspect took off running in the opposite direction toward Ketterlinus gym. By the time police responded, the suspect was gone. Investigators said they found a bag believed to belong to the suspect near the tennis courts next to the park. It was sent to the lab for DNA testing. Anyone with information on the suspect is encouraged to call the police department.
  • A 77-year-old man was punched in the face as he walked into a grocery store in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and now police are looking for the person responsible. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. The victim, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Jan. 23 around 4:30 p.m. he pulled up, saw someone parked there, and on his way inside the store, he said, “You're not supposed to park here.” Police said surveillance video shows a woman, who was in the parked car in the fire lane outside, go in the store, walk up to the victim and say something. Officials said a man who was with her then assaulted the 77-year-old man. “And the next thing I know, this jerk comes around and just cold-cocks me right flat on the floor,” the victim said. Witnesses told police they couldn’t believe it happened. The suspect took off and police are still looking for him now. There’s video of the assault that Kroger cameras recorded, but investigators said they’re not releasing it yet because the case is still open. “I had no idea he was even in the place until he came round in front and punched me,” the victim said. The incident is a reminder to shoppers that you may want to tell police when someone is doing something illegal instead of saying something to that person. You never know what they are going to do.
  • A bill sponsored by Utah Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, would restrict people from purchasing a hunting license if they aren’t up to date on child support payments. The “Fishing and Hunting Restrictions for Nonpayment of Child Support” House bill would prohibit “the issuance of a license, permit, or tag related to fishing or hunting if an individual is delinquent in child support.” According to KUTV, the bill would affect anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support. Once a person is no longer behind on their child support payments, they can obtain a hunting license. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in the summer of 2021.
  •  For the first time, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal opened up about the death of his former teammate and friend, Kobe Bryant. Bryant, his daughter 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California. O’Neal’s comments came at the start of TNT’s pregame show, as he sat on the court at Staples Center along with the rest of the network’s studio team. TNT was supposed to televise a doubleheader, but the NBA canceled the Lakers-Clippers game that was scheduled to be the nightcap because the Lakers organization is still too devastated after the death of Bryant and his daughter. I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said. Shaq said he was working out with his son and nephew, when another nephew walked into the room crying and showed him the phone. “I snapped at him,” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘Get that out of my face.'” O’Neal said he thought it was a hoax at first, and then he started getting phone calls from friends and other fellow basketball players. “Forty-seven years old, I’ve lost two grandmothers … lost my sister. And now I’ve lost my little brother,' O’Neal said. O'Neal and Bryant teamed to help the Lakers win three straight championships from 2000-02, but they occasionally feuded and O'Neal was traded to Miami in 2004. He would win another title there, while Bryant would win two more with the Lakers. O’Neal said his heart broke even more when he learned who else was on the chopper. “It’s sort of like a triple stabbing to the heart because after you cry and wonder about that, then I get back on the internet – Rick Fox is on the (helicopter). So now, I’m sick even more,” O’Neal said. “And then the final blow, his lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter.” They eventually patched up their relationship and O'Neal said they texted frequently, though he said he hadn't actually seen Bryant since the final day of his career in 2016. O'Neal said he told Bryant to score 50 points and Bryant instead scored 60. O’Neal said Bryant even checked in with his son Shareef, who underwent heart surgery in December 2018. “Shareef called me, devastated, and said Kobe just texted me to check and see how he was doing. And he used to do that from time to time,” O’Neal said. O’Neal said this year’s NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be a solemn event. “The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, Ha. I got five. You got four.’ The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we had stayed together to get 10,’ those are the things we can’t get back,” O’Neal said. O'Neal's comments were his first that were televised since Bryant's death. He had previously only posted on social media and spoken on a podcast. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Last week, the head of a Chinese government expert team said that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people avoid travel to China. Here are some tips for travelers who may be making their way to or from China or other destinations:  Check the CDC website for updates on the outbreak The CDC has a dedicated page that is kept up to date with travel information to China, impacted transportation in China and status of medical care in the country. Maintain good personal hygiene According to The New York Times, passengers should avoid touching their faces and practice proper coughing etiquette, such as coughing or sneezing into an arm instead of your hands or the environment. The CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used when soap is not available. The Times also reminded travelers that seatbacks and tray tables are wiped down by ground crews, but cleaning them again with a disinfecting wipe is recommended. Lastly, try to keep a safe distance from anyone who appears to be ill. If you are seated next to someone who may be ill, you can ask a flight attendant to reseat you. Please note that they may not be able to accommodate the request. Do I need a mask while traveling? Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University’s division of infectious diseases, told CNN that the benefit of masks may be impractical. “The scientific basis showing that people in the community wearing masks actually has any benefit is very thin and questionable,” Shaffner told CNN. Schaffner also told CNN that U.S. travelers who are traveling only within the United States should not be as concerned about the virus. Other noteworthy tips Henry Harteveldt, of Atmosphere Research, told USA Today that travelers should consider keeping air vents open above the seat to improve ventilation but also noted that he aims them away from his body. USA Today also suggested bringing tissues with you to use to avoid touching door handles when you use the bathrooms on flights. Book a window seat. A study published in 2018 concluded that the window seat is more likely to keep a passenger away from people who might be sick because it is furthest from the aisle where more people move through the cabin. What are other countries doing in response to the outbreak? Many countries are checking the temperatures of arriving airline passengers and adopting precautionary quarantine procedures in response to a new virus. India, Nigeria, Japan and the United States are some of the countries where airport screening procedures were in place. Below are some of the public health measures in multiple countries intended to prevent a repeat of the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which started in China and killed nearly 800 people (Source:The Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2020) MAINLAND CHINA China’s often-secretive Communist government was blamed for making SARS far worse by initially hiding information and blocking the work of the World Health Organization. This time, leader Xi Jinping has called for tough measures and said “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.” At the airport in Wuhan, the temperatures of departing passengers were checked and outbound tour groups were banned from leaving the city. Virtually everyone in a public role, from traffic police officers to bank tellers, is wearing a protective face mask. JAPAN Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged officials to step up quarantine checks at airports and other entry points, and Japan will require visitors arriving from Wuhan to fill in health forms. HONG KONG The semiautonomous city is one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese. It has stepped up surveillance and ordered more cleaning and disinfecting for planes and trains from Wuhan, as well as for train stations and the airport. Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said authorities are ready for a worst-case scenario and are on extremely high alert. A lack of information and low levels of vigilance were blamed for Hong Kong becoming the second-hardest hit area by SARS after mainland China in the early 2000s. As in much of mainland China, Hong Kong residents favor traditional markets where live poultry and other animals are sold. The government advises people against visiting such markets or touching animals or their droppings. SOUTH KOREA South Korea reported its first case of the virus in mid-January, in a Chinese woman who works at a South Korean company. At Incheon International Airport near Seoul, the only airport in South Korea with direct flights from Wuhan, two special gates are designated for passengers from the city and ear thermometers are used to check their temperatures. Arrival halls are being sprayed with disinfectant twice a week, up from once a week previously, and escalator handrails, elevator buttons and other sensitive surfaces are wiped with disinfectant twice a day. NIGERIA Nigeria’s government says health authorities at points of entry are on alert for cases of coronavirus arriving in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control asked that travelers from Wuhan report to a medical facility and the center if they feel ill. China is Africa’s top trading partner. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said anyone with a severe respiratory illness should be tested if they have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks or had close physical contact with a coronavirus patient or treatment at a facility where a confirmed case has been reported. There were more than 200,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of the end of 2017, not including numerous informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. INDIA India will expand thermal screening of passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, to seven airports from the current three. In-flight announcements before arrival will direct passengers with a fever or cough who have traveled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days to declare themselves to health authorities. Thermal screening will begin in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin, and continue in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA Singapore will expand temperature screening at Changi Airport, one of Asia’s busiest travel hubs, for all travelers on flights arriving from China beginning on Wednesday. The health ministry said individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days of the onset of symptoms will be isolated in a hospital as a precautionary measure and investigated. Neighboring Malaysia has also beefed up screening at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Deputy health Minister Lee Boon Chye said staff are being trained to handle possible cases. “If a case emerges, then we may have to take more drastic measures, but for now, we hope we can nip it at the entry point,” Lee told reporters. BANGLADESH Bangladesh civil aviation authorities have ordered airport managers to start screening incoming passengers from China. A.H.M. Touhid-ul Ahsan, director of the main Shahjalal International Airport, said doctors at the airport would look for fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties and sore throats. The country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research will be notified of any passengers with symptoms for further examination, he said. AUSTRALIA Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said biosecurity staff and state health officials in New South Wales are meeting flights from Wuhan and are distributing pamphlets printed in English and Chinese to all passengers. The pamphlets describe symptoms of infection and ask people to identify themselves if they are experiencing any. RUSSIA Russia’s Healthcare Ministry described the virus as a biological hazard, with Deputy Minister Sergei Krayevoy saying the virus was a “striking example” of the biological threats Russia faces. The Russian public health service, Rospotrebnadzor, said it had developed a testing kit that would allow labs to detect the new coronavirus quickly. Russia is one of the three most popular tourist destinations for people from China, according to Russian officials. They estimate that about 2 million tourists from China visited Russia in 2018. ITALY The Italian Health Ministry says passengers making direct and indirect flights from Wuhan, China, to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport will be checked for potential signs of the virus. People with suspected infections will be quarantined at an infectious disease hospital in Rome, the ministry says. No cases have been reported so far. Posters at the airport advise travelers to consider delaying trips to the Wuhan area and if they do go there, to avoid touching animals or uncooked animal products. The Associated Press contributed to this story. Associated Press journalists Moussa Moussa in Canberra, Australia, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, Cara Anna in Johannesburg, South Africa, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report. xxx
  • It is a sad time. I need to have a pity party and go get some of my friends...let's go cry a minute.' That's Carol, one of the many dedicated and loyal customers of Life Grocery, the natural and organic foods and products store in Marietta. Carol's been a customer for 20-plus years. There's also Richard, who's been a customer even longer - since the 1980's. 'This was the original and only health food store where you could get organic groceries. It's very sad.'  On a Monday in the last week of January, the store along Roswell Rd. between the Big Chicken and the 120 Loop was busy. Busier than normal. A good bet that had lots to do with deep discounts at Life Grocery, as the store was closing its doors by the end of January.   'People are coming in, wanting to say goodbye. It's the end of an era,' store general manager Ronnie Hudson tells WSB Radio. It's been emotional for her too. She's been with the co-op business since the mid 90's and admits there will be a void as the doors close for good.  Life Grocery was founded by Life University students when Gerald Ford was president - back in 1976. Hudson says the business was one of the pioneers in the natural, organic food market, 'there weren't options back then...we were the template.' Stores like Life and some other early ones set the stage for what came years later - an explosion in the organic/natural food space, now dominated by major players like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and others. Life Grocery's reasons for closing are many says Hudson. 'The main distributor that we use, Whole Foods is their priority. So sometimes we can't even get our whole orders full.' Not only competition though. Aging equipment has also been an issue, rising costs, and location has played a part Hudson says. Life Grocery sits in an aging strip mall. Whole Foods used to be across the street. But when it left for a better location, Hudson says some of her customers told her, they'd forgotten about Life.  Still, in the store's final hours of existence Monday, longtime customers were stopping in for their last purchases. Hudson was exchanging hugs with many of them. 'The emotions at this point, even from our customers, has been so touching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. It feels good to know that people have appreciated what we have.'