Business Highlights

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Fed makes strongest bid yet to protect firms and governments

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is unleashing its boldest effort yet to protect the U.S. economy from the coronavirus by helping companies and governments large and small pay their bills and survive a devastating crisis. With lending in Treasury and mortgage markets at risk of clogging up, the Fed announced an aggressive set of programs to try to smooth out those markets. To do so, it committed to buy as much government-backed debt as it deems necessary and — for the first time ever — corporate debt, too. Its intervention is intended to ensure that households, companies, banks and governments can get the loans they need just as their own revenue is drying up as the economy stalls.

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Stocks slump, despite Fed aid, as virus bill stalls again

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell about 3% on Wall Street after Congress hit another roadblock in talks to inject nearly $2 trillion into the economy. Even an extraordinary flood of support from the Federal Reserve Monday wasn’t enough to lift stocks, as frustration with Washington and the number of coronavirus cases rise. The plan on Capitol Hill would send checks to U.S. households and offer support for small businesses and the hard-hit travel industry, among other things, but Democrats say it too heavily favors corporations at the expense of public health and workers. Markets are likely to remain volatile as long as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates.

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Trump's dilemma: how to protect both health and economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tensions are rising in Washington between those who argue the country needs to get back up and running to prevent an irrecoverable depression, and medical experts who warn that, unless more extreme action is taken, the human cost will be catastrophic. President Donald Trump is caught in the middle of that debate. Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work, isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system. But pushback is growing as the economic impact snaps into focus.

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PG&E to plead guilty to lethal crimes in 2018 wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric will plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for a swath of death and destruction left behind after its fraying electrical grid ignited a 2018 wildfire that decimated three Northern California towns and drove the nation's largest utility into bankruptcy. The plea agreement announced Monday resolves the charges facing PG&E in Butte County for wildfires that killed 85 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the towns of Paradise, Magalia and Concow. No one from PG&E will go to jail for its felony crimes. Instead the company will pay a $4 million fine and help pay to restore water access.

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Germany OKs big aid package to help companies, self-employed

BERLIN (AP) — The German government has approved a massive new package of measures to cushion the devastating effects of the virus outbreak on the economy. The move brings the total aid on offer to more than 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion). The assistance includes money to tide small companies and individual entrepreneurs through the closures that have frozen business activity, and to pump capital into bigger companies where needed. The new measures massively bolster a previous pledge of at least 460 billion euros ($492 billion) in loan guarantees to help Europe’s biggest economy handle the fallout of running down public life to a minimum.

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Boeing to suspend production in Seattle because of virus

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing will suspend operations at its Seattle area facilities due to the spread of coronavirus, idling tens of thousands of aerospace workers, the company said Monday. At least 95 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington state, mostly in the Seattle area. Boeing employs about 70,000 people in the region. The company said 32 employees have tested positive for the virus, including 25 in the greater Seattle area. Operations would be reduced beginning Wednesday, Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement, and production would be suspended for two weeks.

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SoftBank to buy back $41 billion in assets to trim debt

BANKGOK (AP) — The Japanese technology and telecoms company SoftBank said Monday it plans to buy back up to 4.5 trillion yen ($41 billion) of its assets as it seeks to trim its gigantic debt burden. The company's founder, Masayoshi Son, said the move reflected “the firm and unwavering confidence we have in our business." Tokyo-based SoftBank will buy up to 2 trillion yen ($18.1 billion) of its shares, Son said in a statement. Earlier, SoftBank announced a 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) share repurchase.

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The S&P 500 fell 67.52 points or 2.9% to 2,237.40. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 582.05, points, or 3% to 18,591.93. The Nasdaq lost 18.84 points, or 0.3%, to 6,860.67. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks finished down 11.49 points, or 1.1%, at 1,002.40.