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Update on the latest in business:

June 30, 2017


Asia shares track Wall St losses, despite strong China data

TOKYO (AP) — Shares slumped in Asia today tracking an overnight decline on Wall Street, while upbeat Chinese manufacturing data failed to lift benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Despite an encouraging report by the Commerce Department, which said U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, increased at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the first quarter, investors unloaded technology stocks as investors bet central bankers may be ready to lift rates. Many traders shifted from growth sectors, like technology, into value stocks, such as banks. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.9 percent to 2,419.70. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.8 percent to 21,287.03 and the Nasdaq composite lost 1.4 percent to 6,144.35.

A survey showed China’s manufacturing activity accelerated in June, helped by stronger foreign demand for Chinese goods.

Japan’s factory output rose in May from a year earlier and the number of jobs per job seekers climbed to a 43-year high, reflecting labor shortages as the economy gains momentum thanks to stronger exports to the rest of Asia.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose above $45 a barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and gained against the euro.


Cheese, please: Japan, EU said near agreement on trade pact

TOKYO (AP) — Countering the backlash against free trade by President Donald Trump, Japan and the European Union are rushing to finalize an agreement on easing barriers between their huge economies.

The two sides hope to have a deal before the Group of 20 industrial nations meets next week in Germany. Local reports said a main point of disagreement was Japan’s up to 40 percent tariffs on imported cheese.

Together, the 28-nation EU and Japan form a market of nearly 640 million people and account for about a third of global GDP.

Japan is keen to see the EU reduce its tariffs on vehicles, electrical machinery and other industrial products.

Europe wants freer access for its farm goods, including dairy products like cheese and to see Japan reduce non-tariff measures of its own.


Consumer spending report

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department will issue its May report on consumer spending, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Last month, Commerce reported that Americans increased their spending in April at the fastest pace in four months, bolstered by a solid gain in incomes.


Japan reports factory output, unemployment rose in May

TOKYO (AP) — Japan reports that its factory output rose in May from a year earlier, while the unemployment rate also edged higher.

Despite the higher jobless rate, today’s (Friday’s) report showed the number of jobs per job seekers rising to its highest level in 43 years. The government said the unemployment rate rose to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent in April as workers quit to seek new jobs in a labor-short market.

Meanwhile, higher oil prices pushed the inflation rate in May to 0.4 percent.

Surging exports to the rest of Asia have helped Japan’s recovery. The 6.8 percent year-on-year increase in factory output was the seventh straight month of gains.

However, output fell 3.3 percent in May from the month before, as transport equipment production fell, partly due to a national holiday.


China manufacturing measure ticks up in June

BEIJING (AP) — A survey shows China’s manufacturing activity accelerated in June, helped by stronger foreign demand for Chinese goods.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics bureau and an industry group on Friday rose to 51.7 from May’s 51.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity expanding.

The Federation of Logistics & Purchasing said it was the 11th straight month of improvement.

A measure of export activity rose 1.3 points to 52.

Chinese economic growth rose slightly in the latest quarter, helped by higher government spending. But forecasters expect activity to weaken as that stimulus effect fades and regulators clamp down on bank lending to slow a rise in debt.


With bank sanctions and arms sales, US hardens line on China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is hardening its approach to China, blacklisting a small Chinese bank over dealings with North Korea while approving more than a billion dollars in military sales to Taiwan.

The twin moves are both expected to infuriate Beijing. They come just days after President Donald Trump appeared to lose faith in his strategy of enlisting Chinese help on North Korea, arguing in a cryptic tweet that it had “not worked out.”

Still, the U.S. is insisting it still wants to work with China to combat the nuclear threat. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says the U.S. is “in no way targeting China with these actions.” He’s referring to sanctions the U.S. is slapping on the Bank of Dandong, accused of illicit dealings with the North.


Global cyberattack seems intent on havoc, not extortion

PARIS (AP) — Security researchers say a cyberattack that caused indiscriminate economic damage around the world was apparently designed to create maximum havoc in Russia’s neighbor and adversary Ukraine.

While the rogue software used in the attack was configured as extortionate “ransomware,” that may have just been a ruse.

Jake Williams, president of the security firm Rendition Infosec, says, “It is clear that this was targeted indiscriminately at Ukrainian businesses, and the Ukrainian government.” Williams, a former member of the U.S. National Security Agency’s elite cyberwarfare group, told The Associated Press in an online chat that “the ‘ransomware’ component is just a smokescreen (and a bad one).”


Blue Apron delivers flat first day on stock market

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street was not hungry for Blue Apron. The meal kit company’s shares ended unchanged Thursday in their first full day on the stock market.

The stock rose as much as 10 percent after its debut, but it ended Thursday at $10. That’s the same at its initial public offering price.

On Wednesday, Blue Apron lowered what it expected its shares to sell for, a sign that the company had trouble attracting investors for its IPO.

Blue Apron ships boxes to customers filled with all the raw ingredients needed to make home-cooked meals. It has many rivals, including HelloFresh and Plated. And there are concerns that competition to deliver groceries to people’s doorsteps will only heat up after e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. announced plans to buy organic grocer Whole Foods.

In some cities, Amazon already sells meal kits with recipes created by home goods mogul Martha Stewart.


What Amazon wants from Whole Foods: Data on shopping habits

NEW YORK (AP) — Why is Amazon spending nearly $14 billion for Whole Foods?

It isn’t just about getting more than 460 grocery stores. Ultimately, Amazon wants to sell Amazon and Whole Foods shoppers alike even more goods and services — including stuff they might not even realize they need.

For that, Amazon will tap data-driven insights into how shoppers behave offline.

Amazon has been quiet on its specific plans so far, but analysts are enthusiastic about the possibilities. Say, you buy a lot of ingredients typically found in Asian recipes. Amazon might then suggest a Thai or Japanese cookbook. It might also recommend a new rice cooker.

The tracking might feel creepy, but one privacy expert, Larry Ponemon, says Amazon and Whole Foods have both earned a high level of trust and loyalty.


Former executive pleads guilty in packaged seafood price fix

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A former StarKist tuna company executive has pleaded guilty to price-fixing of packaged seafood sold in the United States.

Prosecutors say the scheme has led to charges against rival tuna company Bumble Bee Foods.

Stephen Hodge, a former StarKist Co. senior vice president, entered his plea in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

Federal prosecutors say Hodge and rival industry executives agreed to fix the prices of packaged seafood.

The U.S. government began investigating price fixing of canned tuna between StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea more than two years ago.

Two Bumble Bee executives have pleaded guilty to price-fixing, and Bumble Bee has agreed to pay a $25 million fine.


Utility proceeds with big wind investment in top coal state

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back coal and climate-change regulations aren’t discouraging a utility from making a $3.5 billion investment in wind energy.

Rocky Mountain Power plans to spend big on wind power and related infrastructure in three Western states by 2020. Utility officials said Thursday they’re ready to present details of their plan to regulators in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

The plan involves building new power lines and putting longer blades on existing wind turbines. But the biggest part will be building more wind turbines in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state. The new Wyoming turbines will generate enough electricity to power as many as 190,000 homes.

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen says the utility plans farther out than the policies of any one presidential administration.


Appeals court says EPA doesn’t have to count jobs impact

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not required to estimate the number of mining job losses that may be caused by air pollution regulations.

The ruling issued Thursday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a West Virginia judge’s ruling that sided with coal companies. Ohio-based Murray Energy and other companies argued the EPA should have to report on potential job losses caused by its policies. The EPA under the Obama administration had appealed that ruling.

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray has been critical of Obama administration environmental policies, saying they led to massive job losses in the coal industry.

A Murray Energy spokesman says the company plans to appeal the ruling.

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