Asian shares mixed as omicron worries crimp market optimism
TOKYO (AP) – Asian shares are rising although optimism set off by a rally on Wall Street was dampened by concerns about the potential impact of the omicron coronavirus variant.
Benchmarks rose in Japan, South Korea and China. Markets were closed in Australia for a national holiday.
Stocks made steady gains on Wall Street, enough to mark another record high for the S&P 500 index. Much is still uncertain about omicron, which is spreading quickly and prompting a return to pandemic restrictions in some places.
Trading is expected to be quiet but potentially volatile this week as the omicron variant continues to spread.
US officials recommend shorter COVID isolation, quarantine
NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. health officials are cutting isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who test positive for the coronavirus and shortening the time that close contacts have to quarantine.
People with the virus can leave isolation after five days, down from 10 days. People exposed to the virus can also leave quarantine after five days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the changes Monday.
CDC officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that the coronavirus is most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptom onset. The decision also was influenced by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the omicron variant.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-AIR TRAVEL
Fauci: US should consider vaccine mandate for US air travel
WASHINGTON (AP) – The top U.S. infectious disease expert says the nation should consider a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel.
Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments Monday signal a potential embrace of an idea the Biden administration has previously eschewed. He says such a mandate might drive up the lagging U.S. vaccination rate as well as confer stronger protection on flights, as infection rates spike.
The Biden administration has thus far balked at imposing a vaccination requirement for domestic air travel. And officials say President Joe Biden’s science advisers have yet to make a formal recommendation for such a requirement. A vaccine mandate for air travel is likely to spark legal challenges.
Biden signs $768.2 billion defense spending bill into law
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, authorizing $768.2 billion in military spending, including a 2.7% pay raise for service members, for 2022.
The NDAA authorizes a 5% increase in military spending over last year, and is the product of intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over issues ranging from reforms of the military justice system to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for soldiers.
The price tag marks $25 billion more than Biden initially requested from Congress, a prior proposal that was rejected by members of both parties out of concerns it would undermine U.S. efforts to keep pace with China and Russia.
Holmes jury ends fourth inconclusive day of deliberations
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – The jury weighing fraud charges against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes completed a fourth day of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict.
Holmes is facing 11 criminal charges alleging that she duped investors and patients by hailing her company’s blood-testing technology as a medical breakthrough when in fact it was prone to wild errors.
The eight men and four women on the jury have been meeting in a San Jose, California, federal courthouse after absorbing reams of evidence during a three-month trial. They completed Monday’s session without providing any clues about how far they are in their deliberations.
CHINA-US CHIP BATTLE
China pursues tech ‘self-reliance,’ fueling global unease
BEIJING (AP) – China’s ruling Communist Party is pressing entrepreneurs to make the country a “technology superpower” that doesn’t need the United States or other foreign suppliers.
The aim is to develop Chinese creators of computer, energy, medical and other technologies that can generate wealth and global influence. That is prompting fear the world might decouple, or split into markets with incompatible standards and products, which would hurt innovation.
Chinese companies including Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, are launching ventures to develop processor chips. Analysts say they are unlikely to be competitive in global markets if they detach from the global supply chain for components and technology, a goal no other country is pursuing.
Judge sets hearing to reconsider trucker’s 110-year sentence
GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) – A truck driver sentenced to 110 years for an explosive crash that killed four people in suburban Denver has moved a step closer to potentially having his prison term reduced.
Judge Bruce Jones on Monday scheduled a hearing for Jan. 13 to reconsider Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence, following unusual request by prosecutors to revisit the matter. One of Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyers says the defense needs some time to do research to see if any similar cases could help guide its approach.
Aguilera-Mederos’ prison term has drawn outrage from around the country and among truck drivers. Around 5 million people have signed an online petition seeking clemency for him.