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Update on the latest in business:

February 13, 2018


Asian shares lifted by Wall Street rally, Nikkei falls back

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian shares tracked a rally on Wall Street, though Japan’s Nikkei 225 index ceded early gains as the yen rose against the U.S. dollar.

U.S. stocks finished higher on Monday. The Standard & Poor’s 500, the benchmark for many index funds, gained 1.4 percent to 2,656. The Dow climbed 1.7 percent to 24,601.27 and the Nasdaq composite advanced 1.6 percent to 6,981.96. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 0.9 percent to 1,490.98.

Investors remain wary of turbulence. It took just nine days for stocks to plunge 10 percent from their latest peak, which was reached on Jan. 26. A drop of that size is known on Wall Street as a market “correction.” According to LPL Financial, it was the swiftest move from a record high to a correction in the history of the S&P 500.

JAPAN JITTERS: Japan is due to release fourth quarter GDP data on Wednesday. Local media increasingly are speculating over whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will keep Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda as central bank chief for another term. The decision on the BOJ governorship comes at a time when concern is growing over the central bank’s strategy for eventually winding down its massive monetary stimulus

Benchmark U.S. crude rose above $59.50 per barrel.

The dollar slipped against the yen and the euro.


Can gene therapy be harnessed to fight the AIDS virus?

UNDATED (AP) — For more than a decade, the strongest AIDS drugs could not fully control Matt Chappell’s HIV infection. Now his body controls it by itself, and researchers are trying to perfect the gene editing that made this possible.

Scientists removed some of his blood cells, disabled a gene to help them resist HIV, and returned these “edited” cells to him in 2014. So far, it has given the San Francisco man the next best thing to a cure.

Chappell was lucky, though. Only a few of the 100 others in those experiments were able to stay off HIV drugs for a couple years; the rest still need medicines to keep HIV suppressed.

Now researchers think they can improve the treatment and are trying again to tackle HIV by doctoring DNA. New studies to test these tweaked approaches in people are getting under way.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is funding some new studies, says he doesn’t think the technique will become common because millions of people do well on existing treatments. But he says it could help those who can’t easily control the virus, and should be pursued because it holds potential for a cure.


The Latest: Lotte chairman sentenced to prison for bribery

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The chairman of South Korea’s Lotte Group has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for bribery in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that brought down the country’s president.

The Seoul Central District Court said Tuesday that Shin Dong-bin, chief of South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate Lotte, offered 7 billion won ($6.5 million) in bribery to the former president to curry favors such as to win a license to open a duty free shop and to strengthen his control over the business group.

The sentencing sends another shockwave to the local business community that was relieved to see Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong released from prison last week on a suspended sentence in the same scandal.

The court also sentenced Choi Soon-sil, the former President Park Geun-hye’s confidante to 20 years in prison.

Lotte was one of many major companies that donated money to non-profit foundations controlled by Choi.


MGM opens Macau casino resort as license renewal looms

MACAU (AP) — MGM Resorts is opening a lavish multibillion-dollar casino resort in Macau, in the latest big bet by foreign gambling companies on the southern Chinese gambling haven.

Las Vegas, Nevada-based MGM Resorts International’s opening Tuesday of its $3.5 billion resort is a high-stakes wager on the casino market’s future in the former Portuguese colony, where gambling licenses expire in as little as two years.

CEO James Murren said the company is taking a “leap of faith” that the government will extend its license even though officials have revealed little about the process.

The new resort, dubbed MGM Cotai, is its second in the tiny Chinese enclave but the first on the Cotai Strip, an Asian version of the Las Vegas Strip that’s the epicenter for extravagant new casino expansion projects.

The doors open just in time for the busy Lunar New Year holiday, when mainland Chinese tourists typically flood the tiny enclave.


Opioid makers gave $10M to advocacy groups amid epidemic

WASHINGTON (AP) — According to a report released Monday by a U.S. senator, companies selling some of the most lucrative prescription painkillers funneled millions of dollars to advocacy groups that in turn promoted the medications’ use.

The investigation by Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill sheds light on the opioid industry’s ability to shape public opinion and raises questions about its role in an overdose epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Financial information the companies provided to Senate’s homeland security committee staff shows the firms spent more than $10 million between 2012 and 2017 to support 14 advocacy groups and affiliated doctors. While the new report provides only a snapshot of company activities, experts said it gives insight into how industry-funded groups fueled demand for drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, addictive medications that generated billions in sales despite research showing they are largely ineffective for chronic pain.

The findings could bolster hundreds of lawsuits that are aimed at holding opioid drugmakers responsible for helping fuel an epidemic blamed for the deaths of more than 340,000 Americans since 2000.


Interior to replace Obama-era rule on methane emissions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department is replacing an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands.

A rule being published in the Federal Register this week will replace the 2016 rule with requirements similar to those in force before the Obama administration changed the regulation.

Interior had previously announced it was delaying the Obama-era rule until January 2019, arguing that it was overly burdensome to industry. Officials said then that the delay would give the federal Bureau of Land Management time to review the earlier rule while avoiding tens of millions of dollars in compliance costs to industry.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is frequently wasted through leaks or intentional releases during drilling operations. An estimated $330 million a year in methane is wasted on federal lands, enough to power about 5 million homes a year.


Court declines to tear up NJ’s $225M settlement with Exxon

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey appeals court has turned down a request from environmental groups and a former state senator to undo a $225 million pollution settlement between the state and Exxon Mobil.

Appellate Division Judge Carmen Messano, writing on behalf of the three-judge panel, said Monday that the trial judge had not made a mistake in judgment when he approved the deal in 2015.

The ruling means that the environmental groups and former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak have — for now — failed in their effort to tear up a 2015 agreement between Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and the Texas petroleum company. The groups and Lesniak instead wanted the state to extract more money from Exxon, reflecting the $8.9 billion that the state had earlier estimated it was owed.


GM to close auto plant in South Korea in restructuring

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — General Motors says it will close an underutilized factory in Gunsan, South Korea, by the end of May as part of a restructuring of its operations.

A GM statement said Monday that it has proposed to its labor union and other stakeholders a plan involving further investments in South Korea that would help save jobs. The company’s CEO Mary Barra has said GM urgently needs better cost performance from its operations in the country, where auto sales have slowed.


Barnes & Noble reduces staff after a weak holiday season

NEW YORK (AP) — Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookseller, says it’s laying off staff after a weak holiday shopping season.

The company declined to give the number of jobs cut. The cuts come after New York-based Barnes & Noble said last month that its sales at established stores slid 6.4 percent during the crucial nine-week period ending Dec. 30.

Most retailers have strengthened digital operations and sales have followed. At Barnes & Noble, however, online sales dropped 4.5 percent.

Amazon.com is winning over more people each year to its Prime membership program, at one point handing out trial memberships to 4 million people in one week. The Seattle-based Amazon has also opened more than a dozen physical bookstores so far.

CNBC first reported the news about the layoffs.


Lawsuit halts sale of Weinstein’s movie studio

NEW YORK (AP) — A proposed $500 million deal to sell Harvey Weinstein’s movie studio appears in jeopardy after New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit that could catapult the company into bankruptcy as it smolders in the wake of dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against the Hollywood mogul.

The Weinstein Co.’s board will not consider completing a sale while Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit is pending, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, says he objected because the deal was going to reward a studio executive accused of covering up for Weinstein. He says the deal also shortchanged the mogul’s accusers on financial compensation.

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