Asian shares mixed as virus worries counter recovery hopes

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are mixed today as market players waffle between hopes for recovery as economies gradually reopen and worries over the havoc wreaked by the pandemic.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei finished 0.8% higher on expectations that a state of emergency still in effect for Tokyo and seven other cities and prefectures may soon end. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2%. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped nearly 0.1%. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.7%.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 30.97 points to 2,922.94, snapping a three-day winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.6% to 24,206.86. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.5% to 9,185.10. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 1.9% to 1,307.72.


Democrats protest removal of Transportation watchdog

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats are protesting President Donald Trump's decision to remove the Transportation Department's acting inspector general, the latest in a string of actions by Trump to fire or replace government watchdogs.

The Democratic chairs of three House panels on Tuesday demanded that Mitch Behm be reinstated immediately as acting inspector general.

The lawmakers also demanded that the Trump administration turn over information about current investigations that might have played a role in Behm's removal, including a review of whether Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has given preferential treatment to Kentucky. Her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is seeking reelection.


Trump again mulls barring flights from Brazil

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has said he is considering barring entry to flights coming from Brazil due to the spread of COVID-19 in Latin America’s hardest-hit country. It was the second time Trump has said he is studying such a measure.

Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting he doesn’t wanted infected people coming here. He said the U.S. is helping Brazil by supplying ventilators.

Hours later Brazil reported more than a thousand deaths from the disease for the first time in a 24-hour period. The health ministry’s announcement of 1,179 deaths on Tuesday boosted the nation’s death toll to 17,971. Brazil has 271,628 confirmed cases, the third most in the world after Russia and the U.S.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who like Trump has previously downplayed the disease and encouraged supporters to go back to work, neither responded to Trump’s remarks nor commented on the record daily figure.


AIRLINES: United Airlines said it is seeing a “moderate“ pickup in travel demand and fewer cancellations, and it plans a 75% reduced schedule in July, compared with 90% cuts during May and June. The airline said in a filing that most of the increased demand has been for domestic flights and a few international routes.

— Southwest Airlines also indicated that April might have been the bottom. Planes were only 8% full on average, and revenue tumbled 90% to 95% from a year earlier. Southwest said bookings now outnumber cancellations, and it forecasts slightly smaller revenue drops in May and June. Southwest expects planes to be about 40% full in June.

— American Airlines is dangling its AAdvantage frequent-flyer program — which it values at $18 billion to $30 billion — as possible collateral for a federal loan. Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said Tuesday the airline hopes to line up a secured loan from the Treasury Department by the end of June. The $4.75 billion loan would be in addition to $5.8 billion in federal cash and loans that American took to help cover payroll costs through September. American said its planes were 15% full on average in April and 35% full so far in May.

— Poland’s national carrier PLL LOT is extending its ban on international flights for two more weeks until June 14, but it is resuming some domestic flights on June 1.

— Long-haul carrier Etihad Airways has started making job cuts due to the pandemic. The airline offered no figures for the number of employees let go.

RETAIL REOPENING: Kohl’s has reopened about half of its nearly 1,200 stores in the U.S. as of this week after temporarily closing them to stop the spread of the virus. The department store chain said stores that have reopened are about 60% as productive as they were before the pandemic. The company expects that to increase as people become more comfortable shopping in person again.

— Kroger Co. says it isn’t asking any employees to pay back coronavirus-related bonuses. Photos of letters from Kroger asking employees to return some of their emergency pay were circulating on Twitter Tuesday. Kroger blamed an accounting error for the letters and said it will inform the employees affected that they don’t need to repay any money.

— Five Chicago McDonald’s workers are suing the burger chain over what they say is an inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic. The workers say McDonald’s and its franchisees at four Chicago-area stores haven’t provided enough masks, gloves and hand sanitizer; haven’t ensured workers are using protective equipment or maintaining social distance; and haven’t informed workers when colleagues have suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.


Police: Man told to wear mask shoots Waffle House cook

DENVER (AP) — A man is accused of shooting and wounding a Waffle House employee in suburban Denver the night after being asked to wear a face covering inside the restaurant.

Police in Aurora arrested 27-year-old Kelvin Watson on a charge of attempted first-degree murder. That’s according to a report by KDVR.

An arrest affidavit says employees told investigators Watson came to the restaurant shortly after midnight Thursday, and a waitress told him he needed to wear a mask to be served. The restaurant was only offering carry-out service.


Tourists, high-end shoppers slowly returning to Rodeo Drive

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — The Maseratis, the Rolls-Royces and the Mercedes-Benzes were back on Rodeo Drive on Tuesday — along with a few high-end buyers — as America's most fashionable shopping street slowly got back to business.

Just a few days after Beverly Hills officials announced the high-end boutiques lining its most exclusive street could reopen for curbside pickup, shoppers began tentatively making their way onto its wide sidewalks and narrow roadway.

They came looking for things like Gucci handbags, Salvatore Ferragomo shoes, Louis Vuitton belts and other designer items.


'Twilight Zone:' Casino closings hurt Mississippi county

TUNICA, Miss. (AP) — A county in the historically impoverished Mississippi Delta region has been dealt a serious economic blow by the new coronavirus.

Gambling halls and associated businesses in Tunica County have been shuttered for two months. That means thousands of people along the Blues Highway south of Memphis, Tennessee, are out of work.

Casinos are supposed to begin reopening on Thursday. But the region that the Rev. Jesse Jackson once referred to as “America’s Ethiopia” was struggling even before the pandemic.

Gambling there has been on a slow decline for years, and officials have recognized a need to diversify the economy.


J&J to stop selling talc-based baby powder in US, Canada

FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson is ending sales of its iconic talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the U.S. and Canada, where demand has dwindled amid thousands of lawsuits claiming it has caused cancer.

The world’s biggest maker of health care products said Tuesday the talc-based powder will still be sold outside the U.S. and Canada.

The company blames declining demand and what it calls “missinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”

J&J faces about 19,400 cases alleging its talcum powder caused users to develop ovarian cancer, through use for feminine hygiene, or the mesothelioma, a cancer that strikes the lungs and other organs.


University of California completes fossil fuel divestment

LOS ANGELES (AP) —The University of California says it has divested from all fossil fuels, removing them from its $126-billion investment portfolio.

The Los Angeles Times reports that according to the university system, it has sold more than $1 billion in fossil fuel assets from its pension, endowment and working capital pools and invested more than that in clean energy - all part of a five-year effort.

With 285,000 students, UC becomes the largest educational system in the nation to shed fossil fuel assets in favor of renewable energy such as solar and wind power.