Asian shares fall, oil gains after OPEC plus strikes deal

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mostly lower today in Asia while crude prices held steady after OPEC and other oil producing nations agreed to cut output to reflect the collapse of demand due to the pandemic.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 2.3% today, while the Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.5%. The Kospi in South Korea shed 1.8% to 1,827.35. India's Sensex slipped 0.7%.

Markets in Hong Kong, Sydney and some other regional markets were closed for Easter holidays.

Wall Street closed out its best week in 45 years on Thursday, thanks to unprecedented efforts by the Federal Reserve to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis.

On Thursday, 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.

For the week, the S&P 500 jumped 12.1%, its best performance since late 1974.


OPEC, oil nations agree to nearly 10M barrel cut amid virus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing nations on Sunday finalized an unprecedented production cut of nearly 10 million barrels, or a tenth of global supply, in hopes of boosting crashing prices amid the coronavirus pandemic and a price war.

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette says it could be the largest reduction in production from OPEC for perhaps a decade. He credits President Donald Trump's personal involvement in getting dueling parties to the table and helping to end a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Oil prices have collapsed as the coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have largely halted global travel and slowed down other energy-chugging sectors such as manufacturing. It has devastated the oil industry in the U.S., which now pumps more crude than any other country.

The group reached the deal just hours before Asian markets reopened Monday and as international benchmark Brent crude traded at just over $31 a barrel and American shale producers struggle.


Average US gas price drops 14 cents over 2 weeks to $2.01

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline fell 14 cents over the past two weeks, to $2.01 per gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that gas prices have dropped 52 cents over the past seven weeks as demand declines amid widespread stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The highest average price in the nation for regular-grade gas is $3.22 per gallon in Honolulu.

The lowest average is $1.42 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The average price of diesel is $2.69, down 7 cents.


Pakistan PM wants help from richer countries

ISLAMABAD— Pakistan’s prime minister has issued a global plea directed at the world’s richer countries and international financial institutions to provide debt-relief to poor countries who are being devastated by the battle against the coronavirus. Forced lockdowns to stem COVID-19’s rapid transmission are crippling already wretched economies and causing widespread hunger and misery for the poor.

In Pakistan the government has launched an ambitious program to help the millions of daily wage earners who barely rise to poverty level. The program provides 12,000 rupees (roughly $75) to 10.2 million low income families hit hardest by the countrywide lockdown that has been in effect in Pakistan for nearly one month.


From people and firms desperate for aid, one question: When?

UNDATED (AP) — It’s been two weeks since President Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package that will distribute money to struggling individuals and businesses. The administration is in a race against time, trying to provide families and businesses with enough money to survive the devastating economic plunge caused by the pandemic.

Neither the White House nor the Treasury Department could say when asked late last week how much of the $2.2 trillion has actually reached needy Americans. Economists have said that the cash infusions, whenever they arrive, will be crucial for sustaining the world’s largest economy.

Comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and a memo from the IRS suggest that the $290 billion in checks to individuals is just starting to flow and might go out in meaningful sums beginning today.

About a third of the $349 billion for preserving small businesses' payrolls has been approved. But the government hasn't said how much money has actually gone to those employers so far.


Smithfield closes South Dakota pork plant due to coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Virginia-based Smithfield Foods is closing its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls until further notice after hundreds of employees tested positive for the coronavirus — a step the head of the company warns could hurt the nation's meat supply.

The announcement came Sunday, a day after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wrote to Smithfield and urged the company to suspend operations for 14 days so that its workers could self-isolate and the plant could be disinfected.

The plant, which employs about 3,700 people in the state's largest city, has become a hot spot for infections. Health officials said Sunday that 293 of the 730 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Dakota work at the plant.


Virginia governor seeks to delay minimum wage, collective bargaining

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Citing economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed an amendment to a bill increasing the state's minimum wage that would delay its implementation several months.

The governor wants the wage increase to kick in May 1, 2021, instead of in January 2021. He’s proposed the same delay for a number of other labor-related measures, including a bill that would allow limited public sector collective bargaining.

Advocates for workers had urged the governor to sign the bills without a delay, and several union officials on Sunday criticized the delay on collective bargaining. Business groups had lobbied Northam to delay or veto the measures, saying they would strain employers and add costs for taxpayers.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly is scheduled to take up the governor’s vetoes and amendments during a one-day session later this month.