Asian shares mostly higher ahead of Fed policy meeting

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia today as investors await the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting. The advance followed a sell-off that brought a weekslong rally on Wall Street to an abrupt halt.

Japan's Nikkei edged 0.2% higher after the government reported a sharp drop in machinery orders in April. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong inched 0.1% higher.

Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4%. The Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.5% after data showed a drop in producer prices and lower than expected inflation in April.

On Wall Street yesterday, the S&P 500 lost 25.21 points to 3,207.18. It's back in the red for the year and remains 5.3% below an all-time high set in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.1% to 27,272.30. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks fell 1.9%, to 1,507.05.


Trump admin opposes extending enhanced unemployment benefit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is opposing a Democratic proposal to extend a $600 per week federal unemployment benefit approved in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia says the $600 payment has served its purpose but is no longer needed as the economy begins to recover.

The payment is in addition to normal unemployment benefits and has helped millions of workers stay in their homes and pay bills.

The additional benefit is scheduled to end July 31, but Democrats want the extra benefit to continue through January.


California tech chief charged in coronavirus test fraud case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged the president of a Silicon Valley medical technology company with misleading investors by falsely claiming the company had developed an approved blood test for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Mark Schena, the president of Sunnyvale-based Arrayit Corporation, was charged Tuesday with one count of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud after authorities said his company billed Medicare $69 million for coronavirus and unnecessary allergy tests.

Prosecutors say that in March, as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, Schena began making false claims on social media and emails about his company's ability to provide accurate and fast coronavirus tests. Schena did not immediately return a message seeking comment.


Outcry as some nursing homes try to grab stimulus checks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Compounding the hardships of the coronavirus, some nursing homes have demanded that low-income residents turn over their $1,200 economic stimulus checks, a cash grab that lawmakers want to halt.

On Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Health and Human Services inspector general's office to issue a warning to nursing homes and assisted living facilities that such practices are “improper and unlawful.”

In the House, Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to spell out to nursing homes that the relief money from Congress is not considered income that facilities can legally claim to defray the cost of care.

The industry says the problem with stimulus checks is not widespread.


Gold and diamonds lose luster, but garden supply sales shine

UNDATED (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has changed consumer behavior dramatically.

The path of the COVID-19 pandemic was traced fairly closely by the closure of Tiffany & Co. stores across the globe. Revenue in the Asia-Pacific tumbled 46% during its most recent quarter, then in Europe, by 40%, then in the Americas, by 45%. The famed jeweler swung to a $105 million operating loss.

Some of that spending may be shifting.

Gardening and yard work gained a lot of new adherents during lockdown with so many sheltered at home. Scotts Miracle-Gro now expects sales growth of 16% to 18% this year, far beyond earlier projections for 6% to 8% growth. Shares recently hit an all-time high.


New Orleans to let good times roll - with limits

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans is getting ready to let the good times roll in casinos and bars again — with restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The city was once a major hot spot for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But the city began easing restrictions restaurants and other businesses in May.

And on Tuesday, Mayor LaToya Cantrel, outlined plans to lift more restrictions this coming Saturday. That means bars and casinos can open — although at only 25 percent capacity.

Another New Orleans cultural touchstone — live indoor music — will remain off limits.


Movie theaters, shuttered for months, plan July reopening

NEW YORK (AP) — After three months of near total blackout of cinemas nationwide, movie theaters are preparing to reopen — even if it means only a few titles on the marquee and showings capped at as little as 25% capacity.

AMC Theaters, the world's largest theater operator, said Tuesday that it expects to have 97-98% of its theaters worldwide reopened by mid-July.

The National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group that represents exhibitors, expects some 90-95% of cinemas around the world will be opened by mid-July.

Provided flare ups of the coronavirus don’t unmake plans, the industry is gearing up for a dramatic resumption of widespread business just in time for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”


Adidas pledges to hire more black and Latino workers

NEW YORK (AP) — Adidas is facing pressure from a growing number of its black employees and has pledged to fill at least 30% of its new positions with black and Latino people.

The German sportswear and sneaker company says it will also invest $20 million in its black communities over the next four years in the U.S. and invest in university scholarships for black employees over the next five years.

In the days following the killing of George Floyd, Adidas and other companies have come out against racism on social media. But some Adidas employees have dismissed the messages as hypocritical, criticizing the company's record for diversity.


Federal court upholds Enbridge's Great Lakes spill plans

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal court has sided with pipeline company Enbridge in a dispute over plans to deal with a potential oil spill in Michigan's Straits of Mackinac.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week overruled a judge who had found that a federal agency wrongly approved Enbridge's plans. The judge agreed with the National Wildlife Federation that the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration should have considered risks to endangered species and required an environmental impact statement.

But in a 2-1 ruling, the appeals panel said the agency had correctly based its approval of the plans on criteria in the Clean Water Act.


Feds seek $225M fine for pair who made a billion robocalls

UNDATED (AP) — The U.S. communications regulator on Tuesday proposed a $225 million fine, its largest ever, against two health insurance telemarketers for spamming people with 1 billion robocalls using fake phone numbers.

The Federal Communications Commission said two men in Texas, through their companies, made the calls that purported to sell products from major insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealth with an automated message. If consumers pressed a button for more information, however, they were transferred to a call center that sold plans not connected to those companies.

State attorneys general of Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas also sued the two men and their companies in federal court in Texas for violating the federal law governing telemarketing, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.