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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mixed as earnings fuel gains on Wall Street

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares are mixed in Asia, with markets in China still closed for Lunar New Year holidays. Tokyo and Sydney declined, while Seoul advanced as markets there reopened.

Shares rose Wednesday on Wall Street as the latest batch of company earnings reports kept investors in a buying mood. The S&P 500 rose 0.9% and the Nasdaq added 0.5%. The Dow industrials 0.6%.

Major indexes are on track for solid gains this week, a welcome turnaround from January’s losses. But investors were rattled after Facebook parent company Meta Platforms’ latest quarterly earnings fell below Wall Street estimates.

META-RESULTS

Shares of Facebook parent Meta plunge 23% on lower profits

UNDATED (AP) — Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, saw its stock plunge in after-hours trading after reporting a rare decline in its fourth quarter profit due to a sharp increase in expenses.

Meta Platforms Inc. renamed itself during the quarter to reflect CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ambition of building the “metaverse,” an expanded 3-D version of the internet where people could theoretically meet, work and play using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.

Meta is investing heavily in its futuristic “metaverse” project, but for now, it relies on advertising revenue for nearly all its income. So when it posted sharply higher costs but gave a weak revenue forecast late Wednesday, investors got spooked — and knocked almost $200 billion off the valuation of the company.

NAVY-BRIBERY SCANDAL

AP-US-Navy-Bribery-Scandal

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former U.S. Navy captain has pleaded guilty to bribery for accepting nearly $68,000 worth of dinners, hotels, parties and prostitute services from a Malaysian defense contractor.

Prosecutors say Donald Hornbeck of Indiana entered the plea Wednesday in San Diego federal court.

Authorities say Hornbeck acknowledged that in 2007 and 2008 he took bribes from Leonard Francis to provide classified Navy information and steer ships to Western Pacific ports where the contractor’s company offered services.

Hornbeck is one of 34 Navy officials and defense contractors charged in a massive fraud and birbery case involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Authorities say the scheme cost the Navy some $35 million.

MEXICO-LITHIUM

Mexico plans state lithium company, questions Chinese mine

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president says he will create a state-owned company to mine lithium and appears to suggest he will seek to cancel one of the few existing permits held by a Chinese company.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had said in October that he wanted to declare lithium a “strategic mineral,” but it had been unclear if that meant hiring private contractors with more experience.

But López Obrador said Wednesday a newly created government firm will do the mining, something Mexico has no experience in. He also questioned whether a lithium mining concession now owned by a Chinese company was legitimately issued by a previous administration.

PAKISTAN-IMF

IMF to release $1 billion loan to Pakistan following reforms

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The International Monetary Fund has approved a $1 billion loan as part of a bailout package to Pakistan, following reforms to rein in state spending, increase tax collection and make the central bank more independent. That’s according to the IMF and Pakistan’s finance minister.

The much-needed tranche was initially to be released last year, under an agreement signed in 2019, but was held back because of a delay in Pakistan’s compliance with terms. Public and political opposition had been strengthened by worries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The IMF says the disbursement means some $3 billion will have been loaned out to date from the total $6 billion bailout package.

SANCTIONS-MARITIME TECHNOLOGY

Digital warfare tech at sea helping US foes evade sanctions

MIAMI (AP) — A maritime intelligence company whose data is used by the U.S. government to investigate sanctions violations says that since January 2020 it has detected more than 200 vessels using technology to hide a ship location that was previously available only to militaries.

The Windward company says the vessels were involved in more than 300 incidents in which they appear to have electronically manipulated their GPS locations to appear somewhere they were not.

One of the more egregious examples involves an oil tanker that could be tracked sailing to Iraq even as it was in reality loading crude in Iran, which is banned from selling its oil by U.S. sanctions.

POSTAL SERVICE-ELECTRIC VEHICLES

EPA: New mail-delivery fleet needs more electric vehicles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says a U.S. Postal Service plan to replace its huge fleet of mail-delivery trucks has too few electric vehicles and falls short of President Joe Biden’s goals to slow global warming.

In a sharply worded letter, the EPA says the Postal Service plan to make 10% of its next-generation fleet electric is a “crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world.″

Biden has set a goal to slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, with a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

PUERTO RICO-POWER GRID

US to modernize, speed up work on Puerto Rico power grid

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Three federal agencies have promised to help modernize Puerto Rico’s outage-plagued power grid and speed up efforts to strengthen it more than four years after Hurricane Maria razed it.

More than $12 billion in federal recovery funds are available for projects scheduled to start this year. The deal also aims to help Puerto Rico reach 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The announcement comes as Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority struggles to emerge from bankruptcy and restructure some $9 billion in debt as power outages continue to hit the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people, with many worried about the state of the grid four months before the Atlantic hurricane season starts.

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