Business Highlights

March 2, 2020 GMT

China manufacturing slumps as anti-virus controls bite

BEIJING (AP) — Two measures of Chinese manufacturing fell to their lowest levels on record in February as anti-virus controls shut factories. But companies express confidence activity will rebound following government stimulus efforts. The results of two surveys, coming as global stock markets fall on fears the virus will spread abroad, add to mounting evidence of the worldwide cost of the disease that emerged in central China in December. The slump sent shock waves through Asian economies and other suppliers of components and raw materials to Chinese factories that assemble most of the world’s smartphones, appliances and other consumer goods.


Markets want Fed to save them. Why its tools might not work.

NEW YORK (AP) — As stocks tumble on worries about a fast-spreading virus, investors have been clamoring for the superheroes of the financial world to ride to the rescue once again. Yet this time, there are doubts: Can central banks really fix this crisis as they have so many others? As much as anything, the Federal Reserve and its counterparts around the world have helped drive up stocks over the past decade with their interest-rate cuts, stimulus programs and promises of support. Now, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index having just plunged 12.8% in barely more than a week, many investors are calling for the Fed to swoop in yet again.


Jack Welch, the GE chief who became a superstar, has died

BOSTON (AP) — Jack Welch, who transformed General Electric into a highly profitable multinational conglomerate, has died. He was 84. Welch became one of the nation’s most well-known and highly regarded corporate leaders during his two decades as GE’s chairman and chief executive, from 1981 to 2001. He personified the so-called “cult of the CEO” during the late-1990s boom, when GE’s soaring stock price made it the most valuable company in the world. Welch’s results-driven management approach and hands-on style were credited with helping GE turn a financial corner, although some of the success came at the expense of thousands of employees who lost their jobs in Welch’s relentless efforts to cut costs and rid GE of unprofitable businesses.


ECB’s Lagarde: ‘Ready to take targeted action’ on economy

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The head of the European Central Bank says Europe’s top monetary authority is ready to take “appropriate and targeted measures” if necessary to support the economy against the headwinds from the coronavirus. Christine Lagarde said in a statement Monday that the virus “is a fast developing situation which creates risks for the economic outlook.” She said the bank would closely monitor developments and act “as necessary and commensurate with the underlying risks.”


Twitter shares rise on reports of activist investor stake

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter shares rose Monday following reports an activist investor took a stake in the social media service and plans to push for changes. People familiar with the matter say Elliott Management has taken a $1 billion stake in Twitter and plans to nominate four directors to the board. The people say Elliott has been in talks with Twitter’s board to discuss how the lack of a full-time CEO has affected high-level executive retention and product innovations. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey splits his time with payments company Square and plans to spend three to six months in Africa this year.


World economy may shrink because of virus, watchdog says

PARIS (AP) — A global agency says the spreading new virus could make the world economy shrink this quarter. That would be a first since the international financial crisis more than a decade ago. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says the world economy is still expected to grow overall this year and rebound next year. But it lowered its forecasts Monday for global growth in 2020 in a special report about the effect of the coronavirus. It said China’s reduced production is hitting Asia particularly hard. It urged governments to act fast to prevent contagion and restore consumer confidence.


Virus spreads to more countries as new cases slow in China

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus is spreading to ever more countries and world capitals — and the U.S. death toll has climbed to six — even as new cases in China drop to their lowest level in over a month. A shift in the crisis appears to be taking shape: Hundreds of patients are being released from hospitals in China, while the World Health Organization says that over the past 24 hours, nine times as many new infections were recorded outside the country as inside it.


Apple to pay up to $500M over battery-related phone slowdown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple has agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims over intentionally slowing down older phones to preserve batteries. The company will pay eligible iPhone owners $25 each. But that amount could be reduced if too many people file claims. The case stems from admissions in 2017 that Apple was slowing down older iPhones to avoid unexpected shutdowns related to battery fatigue. Plaintiffs in the case claimed that they spent hundreds of dollars buying new phones, rather than just replacing the batteries, because Apple didn’t reveal the cause of the problem. A judge still needs to approve the settlement.


Dow surges 5% on hopes for central bank help on the economy

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged nearly 1,300 points, or 5%, on hopes that central banks will take action to shelter the global economy from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. The huge gains Monday clawed back some of the ground lost in a massive sell-off last week. Technology companies led the gains. The Dow jumped 1,293 points to 26,703. It was the biggest-ever point gain for the Dow and the biggest percentage gain since March 2009. The S&P 500 index rose 135 points, or 4.6%, to 3,089. The Nasdaq added 384 points, or 4.5%, to 8,952. Bond prices rose again, sending yields lower.


The Dow jumped 1,293.96 points, or 5.1%, to 26,703.32. The S&P 500 index gained 135.17 points, or 4.6%, to 3,089.39. The Nasdaq added 384.80 points, or 4.5%, to 8,952.16. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 40.84 points, or 2.8%, to 1,517.18.