Beyond the county: Libyan truck bombing, China’s market turmoil, Man with fake explosives killed
Stocks slump the most in 3 months on new China worries
NEW YORK— Stocks and oil prices plunged again Thursday on spreading fears that China’s economy, a major engine of global growth, is sputtering.
It was the worst one-day drop on Wall Street since late September, and the main U.S. benchmark, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, has now had its worst four-day opening of a year in history.
The latest bout of market volatility came after China allowed its currency to weaken further, a dangerous omen for the world’s second-largest economy. That helped set off a 7 percent plunge in China’s main index, causing trading to be halted after just 30 minutes.
The sell-off spread across continents, sending indexes sharply lower in the U.S. and Europe. The price of U.S. crude oil plunged to its lowest level since 2004 as traders worried that weakness in China would translate into lower global demand for energy.
The downturn in the U.S. has been concentrated in technology stocks, which could suffer if demand for iPhones and other electronics weakens. Apple sank 4 percent and has now fallen 27 percent since July.
All the winter’s a weird weather stage; Here are the players
WASHINGTON— Get ready for weather whiplash as powerful climatic forces elbow each other for starring roles in a weird winter show.
The spine-chilling polar vortex is taking center stage in Europe and bringing persistent cold to much of North America – except in Hollywood, where soggy El Nino won’t give up the spotlight.
After El Nino delivered a balmy Christmas Eve to the eastern U.S. and shattered national records with a warm, wet and wild December, Minnesota may host one of the coldest NFL playoff games in history this Sunday, with wind chills around 20 below, meteorologists predict.
“The biggest thing is this whiplash,” said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado. “It’s going to be a shock for people.”
The center of the cold blast starts this weekend in the U.S. in the upper Midwest, and then moves to the Hudson Bay area next week, while in Europe it starts in the east and north and then spreads, Furtado said. Europe may have to get used to temperatures 20 or so degrees below normal.
Man in fake explosives vest killed amid high Paris tension
PARIS— A man wearing a fake explosives vest and wielding a butcher knife was shot to death by police outside a Paris police station Thursday, jolting an already anxious French capital with a new dose of fear as the nation grimly marked a year of terror that started with the newsroom massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
The assailant – who shouted “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!”- as he waved the knife at officers, was carrying a document with an emblem of the Islamic State group and “an unequivocal claim of responsibility in Arabic,” the prosecutor’s office said.
The extremist group claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7, 2015, attack at Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher grocery store three days later that killed 17 people. The Islamic State group also claimed the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris cafes, restaurants, a sports stadium and a music hall that killed 130 people.
Thursday’s attempted attack shortly before noon in Paris’ multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or neighborhood came almost one year to the minute after two Islamic extremists burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people. Just moments earlier, President Francois Hollande had paid respects to fallen security forces – three of whom were killed last year in terrorist violence – saluting their valor in protecting “this way of life, the one that terrorists want to attack.”
The fallen were killed “so that we can live free,” Hollande said, describing the November attacks as “acts of war.”
China’s market turmoil: Worry, but don’t panic
NEW YORK— There’s no reason for panic. Worry, yes, but not panic.
That was the opinion of some U.S. investment strategists after another free-fall on China’s main stock market reverberated around the globe Thursday and sent the Dow Jones average to a loss of nearly 400 points.
Stock prices in China fell so fast that for the second time in four days, circuit-breaker mechanisms kicked in and halted trading, this time after just 30 minutes.
China’s tumbling stock prices are, in themselves, nothing for investors outside the country to panic over. Because of government regulations, very few foreigners even own stocks on the Chinese markets that seized up.
But the selling was prompted by a surprise currency devaluation by the Chinese government and by worries about a slowdown in the country’s manufacturing and service sectors. Because China is the second-largest economy in the world, those problems could spell trouble around the globe.
World could face months of Chinese market aftershocks
BEIJING— The latest trigger was currency jitters, but Thursday’s plunge in Chinese stocks was just one in a series of aftershocks from last year’s boom and bust that could shake markets for months to come.
Investor anxiety over economic weakness and a possible glut of unwanted shares flooding the market have complicated Beijing’s efforts to withdraw emergency controls imposed after Chinese stock prices collapsed in June.
On Thursday, trading halted for the day after a stock index fell 7 percent a half-hour into the trading day. It was this week’s second daylong suspension after a plunge in prices Monday tripped the same “circuit breakers” that were introduced Jan. 1.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index more than doubled between late 2014 and June, then dived 30 percent. Supported by a multibillion-dollar government intervention, the market rose almost 25 percent in the final months of 2015, only to collapse in the new year. That left the main index down 15 percent from its December peak.
Wild price swings could continue through the first half of this year, according to financial analysts. Even after the latest declines, the Shanghai index is up 36 percent from October 2014.
Californians finally see sun after series of El Nino storms
LOS ANGELES— Californians cautiously ventured outside Thursday after days of powerful El Nino-driven storms drenched the region, stopping cable cars in San Francisco, stranding motorists and dumping heavy snow in northern Arizona.
Earlier in the day, the last major storm expected this week lashed coastal areas of California, stirring waves as high as 16 feet and flooding some low-lying streets, before turning east toward Nevada and Arizona.
The sun eventually came out in parts of Los Angeles but rain lingered in San Diego County, where 45-year-old Eddie Vera marveled at the monster surf that crashed against the closed Ocean Beach Pier.
“This city in general is not ready for this type of rain,” he said, as gawkers took selfies using the giant waves as a backdrop.
Vera, a maintenance supervisor, had spent time filling sandbags for use at apartment buildings where drainage systems flooded during the storms that began Sunday and answered the question: When will it rain?
In Iowa, establishment GOP candidates play expectations game
DES MOINES, Iowa— Jeb Bush and Chris Christie won’t win Iowa. Marco Rubio probably won’t either.
But these Republican presidential candidates are devoting significant time and resources to the state in a battle to beat expectations – and each other – in the Feb. 1 GOP caucuses. Each hopes a surprisingly strong showing in Iowa will give him a boost heading into the New Hampshire primary, where the political landscape is more favorable to more traditional candidates.
The expectations game for “establishment” candidates has added intrigue to the final sprint to Iowa’s lead-off caucuses. While the fight for first place has settled into a two-way race between conservative favorites Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, some of the biggest unknowns surround the candidates for whom a loss in Iowa could still be viewed as a win.
“January in the Iowa caucus is all about the establishment race,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican strategist who has not backed a candidate in the 2016 contest.
While Iowa’s social and religious conservatives hold significant sway, 43 percent of GOP caucus-goers said they did not identify as evangelicals and 34 percent said they were either neutral or did not support the tea party, according to polls of participants in 2012.
Libya truck bombing kills at least 60 policemen, wounds 200
TRIPOLI, Libya— A massive truck bomb exploded near a police base in the western Libyan town of Zliten on Thursday, killing at least 60 policemen and wounding around 200 others, officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but a local Islamic State affiliate has been trying to gain a foothold in Zliten, spreading westward from its central stronghold in the city of Sirte along the North African country’s coast.
The U.N. special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, denounced the attack and urged Libyans to “put their differences aside and unite to confront the scourge of terrorism.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack as well as ongoing attacks by the Islamic State group on oil facilities near Sidra and called for a national unity government as “the best way for Libyans to confront terrorism in all its forms.”
The bombing was yet another reminder for Libyans that “urgent progress is required” toward empowering a unity government and rebuilding state bodies, Kobler said in a statement.
Hours after the blast, rescue crews at the scene had only managed to extract 60 bodies out of the wreckage, said a hospital spokesman, Moamar Kaddi. Libyan officials said they believed there might be dozens more dead.
NY salt miners rescued after frigid night in stuck elevator
LANSING, N.Y.— Seventeen miners spent a frigid night in a broken-down elevator in America’s deepest salt mine, huddling with heat packs and blankets before being rescued early Thursday, a mishap that highlighted the sometimes-risky work of churning out the road salt that keeps traffic moving on ice and snow.
The workers were descending to start their shifts around 10 p.m. Wednesday when the roughly 5-by-6-foot car abruptly stopped about 90 stories below ground in the Cayuga salt mine while heading to a floor nearly deep enough to fit two Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another.
The miners would spend the next 10 hours stuck in a shaft that’s also an air intake, with night air less than 20 degrees rushing in as they tried to stay warm with heat pads, blankets and containers of coffee that were lowered down, officials said. Ultimately, a crane was brought in from 30 miles away to pull the miners to safety in a cage-like basket, a few at a time, as those gathered up top cheered.
“Their spirits are tremendous. I’m inspired by them, to be quite honest with you,” mine manager Shawn Wilczynski said. “The first four that came out of the mine waited until the last two came out.”
The rescued miners, who ranged in age from 20 to 60, were checked out and found to be uninjured, and some colleagues who had already descended into the 2,300-foot-deep mine when the lift got stuck emerged safely via another route.
In 2016, Clinton and Sanders turn to GOP to win Democrats
LAS VEGAS— Hillary Clinton wants you to know that she won’t need a “tour of the White House” if she wins the presidency, warning again and again that a Republican in the Oval Office would derail everything the Democrats have achieved.
Her main Democratic rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, argues that staving off a GOP victory depends on stoking voter enthusiasm by breaking with Clinton’s brand of “establishment politics” – a quality he feels he is uniquely positioned to offer.
“The only way that Democrats win elections is when we have a large voter turnout,” Sanders said at a Las Vegas dinner Wednesday, as his raucous supporters blasted air horns and blew into yellow vuvuzelas.
In the final weeks leading up to the first round of primary voting, the two leading Democratic candidates are urging their voters to look down the road to the general election this November, offering competing strategies for how Democrats can defy history by capturing a third consecutive White House term.
The dueling arguments are coursing through the electorate as Democrats face an uphill battle in Congress, where Republicans hold a large majority in the House and a 10-seat advantage in the Senate. The GOP will be forced to defend two dozen Senate seats in 2016, including several in contentious election year swing states.
— Associated Press
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