Asian shares steady after Wall St caps best week since 1974

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares are steady in quiet Good Friday trading after Wall Street closed out its best week in 45 years thanks to the Federal Reserve's titanic effort to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis.

Many regional markets were closed for Easter weekend holidays. Japan's Nikkei 225 index advanced, gaining 0.8%. In South Korea, the Kospi jumped 1.3%. Shares also rose in Taiwan and Malaysia. But the Shanghai Composite index lost 1%.

Thursday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 39.84 points to 2,789.82. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.2%, to 23,719.37, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.8% to 8,153.58.


OPEC: Oil deal starting with 10M barrel cut hinges on Mexico

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — OPEC says a proposed cut to oil production “is conditional on the consent of Mexico” after a marathon teleconference ended without a decision.

The statement today from OPEC confirms figures earlier offered by Saudi Arabia.

The proposal calls for a 10 million barrels per day cut until July, then an 8 million barrels per day cut through the end of the year. Beginning in 2021, a 6 million barrels per day cut will last for 16 months.

Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait earlier blamed Mexico for endangering the proposal. Mexico has not directly acknowledged that.


UN urges governments to tackle recession, scrap debt payment

UNITED NATIONS (AP) —More than 60 U.N. agencies and international organizations are urging governments to take immediate steps to address the unfolding global recession and financial crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

A U.N.-led task force on financing economic development says billions of people live in countries teetering on the brink of economic collapse. This is due to an explosive mix of financial shocks fueled by the pandemic, heavy debt obligations and declining international aid.

In response to COVID-19, investors have moved around $90 billion out of emerging markets — the largest-ever outflow.  


Smithfield temporarily shuts pork plant due to coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota will temporarily close for cleaning after more than 80 employees were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The company says it plans to suspend operations in a large section of the Sioux Falls plant on Saturday, then completely close on Sunday and Monday. The Virginia-based company said it will sanitize the plant and install physical barriers to “enhance social distancing.”

South Dakota health officials have said more than 80 plant workers tested positive for COVID-19, while the union representing workers said more than 120 have confirmed infections. The plant, which employees about 3,700 people in the state’s largest city, has emerged as a hotspot of infections, accounting for almost 30% of cases in Minnehaha County.


State of emergency declared in Toyota’s home city

TOKYO — Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corp. in central Japan, has declared its own state of emergency, saying it cannot wait for a slow-moving decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to add the prefecture to an ongoing emergency declared this week.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura says one-third of about 300 new coronavirus cases in the prefecture have been confirmed in the past week as the infection spreads rapidly in the region, making it the fifth-most infected prefecture in the country.

His announcement came just as Tokyo’s outspoken governor, Yuriko Koike, was to request closures of non-essential businesses and facilities in the city after agreeing with Abe’s government that had asked her to wait two weeks, apparently to avoid impact on the economy.


White House says no 'surprise' bills for COVID-19 patients

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says hospitals taking money from the $2 trillion stimulus bill will have to agree not to send “surprise” medical bills to patients treated for COVID-19.

Surprise bills typically happen when a patient with health insurance gets treated at an out-of-network emergency room, or when an out-of-network doctor assists with a hospital procedure. They can run from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands. Before the coronavirus outbreak, lawmakers in Congress had pledged to curtail the practice, but prospects for such legislation now seem highly uncertain.

The stimulus bill includes $100 billion for the health care system, to ease the cash crunch created by the mass cancellation of elective procedures in preparation to receive coronavirus patients. Release of the first $30 billion, aimed at hospitals, is expected soon.

The prohibition on surprise billing will protect patients covered by government programs, employer plans or self-purchased insurance.


Liberty University pressing charges against journalists

NEW YORK (AP) — Liberty University is pushing for criminal trespassing charges to be lodged against two journalists who pursued stories about why the evangelical college in Virginia has remained partially open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The college, in Lynchburg, Virginia, is led by Jerry Falwell Jr., a supporter of President Donald Trump who has suggested coverage of the epidemic was overblown. Falwell said the university is conducting classes online and obeying social distancing directives.

But he said he has kept the campus open for international students and those with nowhere else to go. On Thursday, there were about 1,000 students living on campus, roughly one-eighth of its normal residential population.

After stories were written saying Liberty's decision caused concerns in the community, the university pursued charges against Alec MacGillis, a reporter for ProPublica, and Julia Rendleman, a photographer who illustrated a March 29 story in The New York Times.


Toy manufacturers look to reduce carbon footprint

NEW YORK (AP) — Taking a toy out of the box can make a mess.

Hardly eco-friendly, the process can yield more clutter from plastic and cardboard than the actual toy.

But there are moves to change that as some toy manufacturers say they’re going green with a series of environmentally friendly initiatives: Army soldiers and Kermit the Frog aren’t the only toys that are green.

“Companies are trying to be more environmentally conscious with their products, whether it's using their packaging that has less plastic or making sure that their packaging is part of the toy

Mattel — the maker of Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price — is touting several of its product lines as sustainable, including the popular Mega Bloks Woodland Friends as well as the traditional Fisher-Price Rock-A-Stack.