Asian shares up as recovery hopes overshadow virus worries

TOKYO (AP) — Shares rose in Asia today as some regions in Japan resumed close-to-normal business activity, with hopes for economic recovery overshadowing worries over the coronavirus pandemic.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 2.6% higher. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 surged nearly 3.0%. South Korea's Kospi gained 1.7%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 2.1%, while the Shanghai Composite advanced 0.8%.

U.S. markets were closed for Memorial Day on Monday, while European benchmarks ended higher, reflecting the global investor optimism. France’s CAC 40 jumped nearly 2.2%. Germany’s DAX surged 2.9%. Trading was closed in Britain for a bank holiday.


US company trials coronavirus vaccine candidate in Australia

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A U.S. biotechnology company began injecting a coronavirus vaccine candidate into people in Australia today with hopes of releasing a proven vaccine this year.

The research chief of Novavax, Dr. Gregory Glenn, says the company will inject 131 volunteers in the first phase of the trial testing the safety of the vaccine and looking for signs of its effectiveness.

About a dozen experimental vaccines against the coronavirus are in early stages of testing or poised to start, mostly in China, the U.S. and Europe. It’s not clear that any will prove safe and effective. But many work in different ways, and are made with different technologies, increasing the odds that at least one approach might succeed.


Worker shortage concerns loom in immigrant-heavy meatpacking

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — There are roughly 175,000 immigrants in U.S. meatpacking jobs. The industry has historically relied on foreign-born workers — from people in the country illegally to refugees — for some of America's most dangerous jobs.

Now, that reliance and uncertainty about a virus that's killed at least 20 workers and temporarily shuttered several plants, fuels concerns about possible labor shortages to meet demand for beef, pork and chicken.

Companies struggling to hire before the pandemic are spending millions on fresh incentives. Their hiring capability hinges on unemployment, industry changes, employees' feelings about safety, and President Donald Trump’s aggressive and erratic immigration policies. Trump has restricted nearly all immigration. His administration recently granted seasonal workers 60-day extensions, affecting a smattering in meat and poultry.


Walmart Mexico pays Mexico about $359 million in back taxes

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Walmart de Mexico says it has paid the Mexican government the equivalent of about $359 million in taxes for its 2014 sale of a restaurant chain known as VIP’s after tax authorities demanded it.

The payment appears to mark a victory for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has railed against what he claims is tax evasion by big companies.

Walmart confirmed Monday it had paid the tax bill, but it was unclear if Alsea, the buyer, would have to pay anything as well. Alsea, which operates restaurant chains, claimed it had paid all its taxes.

López Obrador has played hardball with companies before. In 2019 he forced gas pipeline companies to renegotiate contracts he said cost too much.

López Obrador forced companies from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to restructure fees and accept about 30% lower profit margins.


Gucci, Saint Laurent seek radical redo of fashion calendars

SOAVE, Italy (AP) — Gucci and Saint Laurent (sahn lah-RAHNT’) are two of the highest profile luxury fashion houses to announce they will leave the fashion calendar behind, with its relentless four-times-a-year rhythm, shuttling cadres of fashionistas between global capitals where they squeeze shoulder-to-shoulder around runways for 15 breathless minutes.

The coronavirus lockdown, which has hit luxury fashion houses on their bottom lines, has also given pause to rethink the pace of fashion, offering the possibility to return to less hectic, more considered periods of creativity and production — and perhaps consumption.

Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele imagines a twice yearly appointments — one in the fall and one in the spring — to present co-ed collections, getting away from the hyped-up calendar which has come to require pre-season collections before the major women’s and men’s runway shows and a one-off cruise collection, increasingly in exotic locations.


Latam Airlines files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

UNDATED (AP) — South American carrier Latam Airlines says it is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it grapples with the sharp downturn in air travel sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Santiago, Chile-based airline says it and its affiliated companies launched the reorganization effort in the United States.

The carrier aims to continue operating and hopes to reduce its debt through the bankruptcy process.


Branson's Virgin Orbit fails on first rocket launch attempt

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit failed Monday in its first test launch of a new rocket carried aloft by a Boeing 747 and released over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California.

The inaugural launch had appeared to be going well until moments after the rocket was dropped from beneath the left wing of the jumbo jet dubbed Cosmic Girl.

There was no immediate word on what went wrong with the rocket, which carried a test satellite.

Will Pomerantz, Virgin Orbit’s vice president for special projects, commented during a preflight briefing Saturday that about half of first rocket launches fail.


Stanley Ho, who built Macao's gambling industry, dies at 98

HONG KONG (AP) —Macao casino tycoon Stanley Ho has died at age 98.

He was considered the father of modern gambling in China and was Macao's richest person, a lavish spender and a dashing ballroom dancer.

Ho secured a four-decade monopoly on casinos in Macao, then parlayed his home advantage to build the empire that still dominated the industry after it opened to foreign companies in 2002.

He wielded great influence both in Macao and in neighboring Hong Kong.

His daughter Pansy Ho said he died today in Hong Kong. His long and eventful life tracked the ebb and flow of southern China’s fortunes.


George R.R. Martin joins group to buy historic railway

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has joined a group to buy the historic Santa Fe Southern Railroad.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Martin, Violet Crown cinema owner Bill Banowsky and National Dance Institute of New Mexico co-founder Catherine Oppenheimer recently purchased the decades-old railway and trains along the 18-mile spur line from Santa Fe to Lamy.

Passenger excursion trains to Lamy ended in 2012 and some residents have been seeking ways to get them started again.

Oppenheimer says the trio did not want to see the financially challenged railway fall into further disrepair or just fade away.