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Update on the latest business

May 9, 2019


Trade jitters send US stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are down in midday trading on Wall Street as a midnight deadline approaches for the U.S. and China to reach a trade deal before higher tariffs kick in. Technology and health care companies are falling the most.

Top trade officials from both countries are meeting in Washington. If they don’t reach a deal, the U.S. has said it would raise its tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The tensions between the world’s two largest economies have been weighing on U.S. and global markets all week. The S&P 500 index is on pace for its worst week of 2019.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell to 2.44%.


Chinese companies brace for tariff hike as trade talks begin

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese exporters of all sorts of products, from power adapters and computers to vacuum cleaners, are anxiously hoping trade talks in Washington this week will yield a deal that might stave off higher U.S. tariffs on imports from China.

Companies across China are bracing for a tariff hike after President Donald Trump, complaining Beijing was backtracking and the talks on a festering trade dispute were taking too long, said he would raise import duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.

China vowed Thursday to defend its own interests and retaliate if Trump goes ahead with the tariff hikes.

The tariffs have devastated many factories in Chinese coastal regions that serve the U.S. market. Industries such as electronics have seen sales to the U.S. plummet up to 40%. Overall Chinese exports to the U.S. dropped 13% in April from a year earlier.


China Mobile’s bid to offer US phone service rejected

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. communications regulators are rejecting a Chinese telecom company’s application to provide service in the U.S. due to national-security risks amid an escalation in tensions between the two countries.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted unanimously, 5-0 across party lines, to reject China Mobile International USA Inc.’s long-ago filed application. The Commerce Department had recommended that denial last year.

The company, which the FCC says is ultimately owned by the Chinese government, applied in 2011 to provide international phone service in the U.S.

The Trump administration has been pushing against China in several ways. It has been pressuring allies to reject Chinese telecom equipment for their networks, citing security risks from Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

The U.S. and China are also in the middle of high-stakes trade talks .


US trade deficit edges up to $50 billion in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit increased slightly in March even though the deficit with China fell to the lowest point in five years.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the total deficit in goods and services edged up 1.5% to $50 billion in March, after falling 3.6%in February. The deficit is the difference between what America sells to the rest of the world and what it imports.

Exports rose 1% to $212 billion in March while imports rose a slightly faster 1.1% to $262 billion.

The deficit in goods with China dropped 16.2% to $20.7 billion, the lowest level since March 2014.

The United States and China have been locked in a trade war for the past year with a new round of U.S. tariffs scheduled to go into effect Friday.


Wholesale prices edge up 0.2 percent in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. wholesale prices edged up 0.2% in April, driven higher by a big jump in energy costs.

The Labor Department says the increase in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, followed an even bigger 0.6% March increase.

Wholesale prices are up 2.2% over the past year while prices, excluding volatile food and energy, have risen 2.4%. Inflation pressures remain under control, a fact that has allowed the Federal Reserve to move to the sidelines in terms of pushing interest rates higher. After four rate hikes in 2018, Fed officials have indicated they expect no further rate hikes this year.

For April, energy prices jumped 1.8% following an even bigger 5.6% percent March gain. Gasoline prices were up 5.9%.


US long-term mortgage rates decline; 30-year average 4.10%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates declined this week for a second straight week, reversing the upward trend in April as a lure to potential home buyers.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.10% from 4.14% last week. By contrast, a year ago the benchmark rate stood at 4.55%.

The average rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans eased this week to 3.57% from 3.60% last week.


Powell says policies needed for income growth slowdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the United States needs to find ways to address a decades-long slowdown in income growth and upward economic mobility.

In a speech at a Fed research conference, Powell says that incomes have grown more slowly for middle-class families since the 1970s than for higher-income households. In the 1950s, more than 80 percent of children born into middle-class households grew up to out-earn their parents. But more recently, only about half do.

In addition, Powell says economic resources differ markedly by race, education, occupation and geography.

Powell says it is “crucial” to address these concerns.

“Sound public policies can support families and businesses and help more Americans reach and remain in the middle class,” he says.


Sticker shock: Trump taking aim at ‘surprise medical bills’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says it’s time to end “surprise medical bills,” which can leave insured patients facing sticker shock from charges submitted by doctors outside their insurers’ networks.

Trump spoke at the White House on Thursday to lend his support to efforts by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. White House aides outlined a set of principles for legislation.

Trump was joined by a heart attack patient who got a $110,000 bill even though he had health insurance and by another patient who was charged $17,850 for a test that would have cost $100 in her insurer’s network.

Trump says he thinks legislation can move quickly and “Democrats and Republicans can do this.”

Insurers form networks of doctors and hospitals, in part, to gain leverage for negotiating reimbursements. Usually patients pay a bigger share of the bill for any care sought outside those networks.


Facebook auto-generates videos celebrating extremist images

WASHINGTON (AP) — _ A confidential whistleblower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by The Associated Press alleges the social media company has exaggerated its success in removing extremist content.

Even worse, it shows that the company is inadvertently using propaganda by militants and hate groups to auto-generate videos and pages that could be used for networking.

Facebook likes to give the impression that it’s staying ahead of extremists by taking down their posts, often before users ever even see them.

But over five months last year, researchers monitored pages by users who affiliated themselves with groups designated as terrorist organizations. In that period, only 38 percent of the posts with prominent symbols of extremist groups were removed.

The researchers in the SEC complaint identified over 30 auto-generated pages for white supremacist groups, whose content Facebook prohibits. They include “The American Nazi Party” and the “New Aryan Empire.” A page created for the “Aryan Brotherhood Headquarters” marks the office on a map and asks whether users recommend it. One endorser posted a question: “How can a brother get in the house.”

The company concedes that its systems are not perfect, but says they are improving.


Co-Founder Chris Hughes: Time to break up Facebook

UNDATED (AP) _ Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says it’s time to break up the social media behemoth.

He says in a New York Times opinion piece that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has allowed a relentless focus on growth to crush competitors and “sacrifice security and civility for clicks.”

Hughes says Facebook is a monopoly and should be forced to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram. He says future acquisitions should be banned for several years

Hughes roomed with Zuckerberg at Harvard and left Facebook in 2007 to campaign for Barack Obama.

He says he liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012, the year he became publisher of The New Republic.

Last year, Hughes published a book advocating a universal basic income. In 2017, Forbes put his net worth at more than $400 million.


Chevron bows out of fight for Anadarko

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Chevron won’t increase its buyout offer for Anadarko, cutting short a potential bidding war with Occidental Petroleum.

Occidental challenged Chevron’s initial bid last month, offering $57 billion in cash and stock, including debt and book value of non-controlling interest. Chevron’s offer was worth about $50 billion by the same metric.

Occidental’s bid gained momentum two weeks ago when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said it would put up $10 billion in financing for Occidental.

Chevron Corp. said Thursday that it won’t make a counteroffer and will let the four-day match period expire.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. will have to pay a $1 billion fee for terminating its deal with Chevron.


Nike’s plan for better-fitting kicks: Show us your feet

NEW YORK (AP) — Nike wants to meet your feet.

The sneaker seller will launch a foot-scanning tool on its app this summer that will measure and remember the length, width and other dimensions of customers’ feet after they point a smartphone camera to their toes. The app will then tell shoppers what size to buy each of its shoes in, which Nike hopes will cut down on costly online returns as it seeks to sell more of its goods through its websites and apps.

But Nike will also get a flood of data on the feet of regular people, a potential goldmine for the shoe maker, which says it will use the information to improve the design of its shoes. Nike mainly relies on the feet of star athletes to build its kicks.


Betting predictions to be part of Fox Sports analysis

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Fox Sports viewers tuning in to broadcasts this fall will not only see the game, but also will get betting predictions.

The network announced a partnership Wednesday night with the parent company of the PokerStars online gambling giant.

Fox Sports is buying just under 5% of The Stars Group for about $236 million. Both companies will offer real-money sports betting this fall in states where it is legal and they are licensed.

The Stars Group says it has market access through licensing in 13 states, and is seeking licensing in others.

The network has the option to acquire half of the Stars Group’s U.S. business within 10 years.


High-tech sex toy for women wins back a rescinded award

(Stations: Note nature of the following)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — A trade group has reinstated an award to the makers of a robotic sex toy for women that it had taken away four months ago for not keeping with its image.

The Consumer Technology Association on Wednesday restored the Consumer Electronics Show’s 2019 Innovation Award in the robotics and drones category to the Osé “robotic massager” by the Lora DiCarlo company.

The association says it recognizes the “innovative technology” and “reiterates its sincere apology” to the developer.

Association spokesperson Jean Foster says in a statement that “CTA did not handle this award properly.”

An independent panel of judges had selected the Osé last fall, but the Consumer Electronics Show’s organizer later said it was ineligible.

Lora DiCarlo called it sexism, noting that “a literal sex doll for men was launched on the floor at CES in 2018.”″