Stocks tumble…Walmart tests higher hourly wages in 500 stores…Houston explosion kills 2
NEW YORK (AP) – Stock indexes are tumbling in afternoon trading on Wall Street amid increasing fears that a deadly virus could continue spreading globally. Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries are sliding, along with health care companies. Financial stocks are also faring poorly. Falling oil prices are dragging down energy stocks. A blowout earnings report from chipmaker Intel propelled technology shares higher. That sector got an additional push from Broadcom, which landed a deal to supply wireless components to Apple.
UNDATED (AP) – Walmart says it’s testing higher wages for new hourly positions at 500 of its U.S. stores as part of an overall strategy to better empower its staff. The nation’s largest private employer says it will be raising the starting hourly wages to $12 from $11 for these new roles. These workers will help solve problems like inventory issues instead of only completing tasks given to them by managers. The moves come as Walmart, like many other retailers, are under pressure to improve customer service as they fight online behemoth Amazon.
HOUSTON (AP) – A massive explosion has leveled a warehouse in Houston, leaving at least two people dead and damaging nearby buildings and homes. It happened at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, which makes valves and provides thermal-spray coatings for equipment in various industries. Police say a criminal investigation is underway, even though authorities don’t believe the explosion was intentional.
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Officials in Maine say a company that severed an underground propane line, causing a deadly explosion, has been cited for violating the state’s Dig Safe law, but no criminal charges are warranted. The state fire marshal’s office says the propane line was ruptured by a Manchester company that was installing safety posts in a parking lot about 5 feet from a building. The September blast leveled the building and damaged nearby homes. A firefighter was killed and a half-dozen others injured. Also injured was the building’s maintenance manager, who remains hospitalized.
PARIS (AP) – French officials have filed preliminary charges of money laundering and extortion against Russian bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik, who is tangled in a multi-country legal battle. The United States also wants to prosecute Vinnik, accusing him of laundering billions of dollars through BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges. His native Russia also wants to put him on trial. He was arrested in Greece in 2017 at the request of U.S. authorities. After a two-year legal tug-of-war, Vinnik was extradited from Greece to France yesterday.