Asian shares mostly lower; China, Japan closed for holidays
UNDATED (AP) – Shares are mostly lower in Asia in thin trading, with some markets including those in Tokyo and Shanghai closed for holidays.
The declines follow a retreat Friday on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 gave up 0.7% but still closed out its best month so far this year.
Markets have mostly climbed in recent weeks as investors remain optimistic that the pandemic is slowly and steadily coming to a close, at least in the United States. In much of Asia and many other countries, caseloads have surged and vaccination levels remain low.
The S&P 500 rose 5.2% in April, its best monthly gain since November 2020, when President Joe Biden was elected. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was steady at 1.62%
Yellen: Biden’s phased-in spending plan won’t fuel inflation
WASHINGTON (AP) – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says President Joe Biden’s massive proposed spending on infrastructure, families and education won’t fuel inflation because the plans would be phased in gradually over 10 years.
Some economists, notably former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, have warned that the Federal Reserve’s current ultra-low interest rates, along with the Biden administration’s proposed $4 trillion in new spending, atop about $5 trillion already approved by Congress, risk accelerating inflation.
Yellen says she doesn’t believe that inflation “will be an issue, but if it becomes an issue, we have tools to address it.” The former Fed chair says the central bank “has the tools to redress inflation should it arise.”
Democrats seek narrow path to rein in cost of medicines
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s call for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices has energized Democrats on a politically popular idea they’ve been pushing for nearly 20 years only to encounter frustration.
This year they still lack a clear path to enact legislation. That’s because a small number of Democrats remain uneasy over government price curbs on pharmaceutical companies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will need every Democratic vote in a narrowly divided Congress. Otherwise Democrats may have to settle for a compromise that stops short of their goal.
APPLE-APP STORE ON TRIAL
Apple’s app store goes on trial in threat to ‘walled garden’
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) – Apple faces one of its most serious legal threats in recent years: A trial that threatens to upend its iron control over its app store, which brings in billions of dollars each year while feeding more than 1.6 billion iPhones, iPads, and other devices.
The federal court case is being brought by Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite. Epic wants to topple the so-called “walled garden” of the app store, which Apple started building 13 years ago as part of a strategy masterminded by co-founder Steve Jobs.
Epic charges that Apple has transformed a once-tiny digital storefront into an illegal monopoly that squeezes mobile apps for a significant slice of their earnings. Apple takes a commission of 15% to 30% on purchases made within apps, including everything from digital items in games to subscriptions. Apple denies Epic’s charge.
US denies Iran claims of prisoner deal; UK plays it down
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The United States and Iran are in active talks over the release of prisoners, but Washington is denying a report by Iranian state-run television that deals had been struck.
Prisoner swaps between the U.S. and Iran are not uncommon and both countries in recent years have routinely sought the release of detainees. But any movement between the two countries is particularly sensitive as the Biden administration looks to restart nuclear talks.
The issue burst into public view with a report in Iran of a deal for the Islamic Republic to release U.S. and British prisoners in exchange for Tehran receiving billions of dollars.
U.S. officials immediately denied the report, though a person with knowledge of the discussions who was not authorized to discuss them publicly said talks are active, with messages passed between intermediaries.
LATIN AMERICA-SPACE AMBITIONS
Latin America looks to space, despite limitations on ground
MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mars missions, astronauts coming and going at the International Space Station, China’s increasingly ambitious space program. Space-related news is flowing, and not just from the world’s richest, biggest nations. Take Latin America.
On Feb. 17, the congress in Nicaragua, one of the region’s poorest, most conflict-prone nations, approved a law creating a space agency. Costa Rica, known for relative growth and stability, did the same on Feb. 18, the day that the NASA rover Perseverance landed on Mars to look for signs of ancient life.
The potential benefits of space are tantalizing for many countries with scarce resources. Satellite technology, international partnerships, national pride and local development all beckon. Inevitably, critics suspect a boondoggle, a vanity project, a diversion from pressing problems on the ground.
Russia, facing lags, turns to China to produce Sputnik shots
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Russia is turning to multiple Chinese firms to manufacture the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in an effort to speed up production as demand soars.
The arrangements could mean quicker access to a vaccine for countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa that have ordered Russia’s shots.
Russia has announced three deals totaling 260 million doses with Chinese vaccine companies in recent weeks. While China has delivered hundreds of millions of doses around the world, Russia has only delivered a fraction. Chinese vaccine makers have yet to start manufacturing Sputnik V, but their distribution of hundreds of millions of doses of Chinese vaccines has proven they can produce in volume.