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Update on the latest in business:

August 20, 2018


Stocks mostly rise on hope for progress on China trade talks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks are mostly higher Monday as investors welcomed signs of progress in resolving the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. The Wall Street Journal reported the countries hope to have a resolution by November.

Asian regional markets are generally dependent on harmonious global trade relations. The Wall Street Journal cited officials in both the U.S. and China in its report that said negotiators want to end the trade war before President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at multilateral events in November.

Wall Street ended the week on a positive note. The S&P 500 index rose 9.44 points, or 0.3 percent Friday, to end last week at 2,850.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 110.59 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,669.32. The Nasdaq composite edged up 9.81 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,816.33. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 7.19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,692.95.

U.S. benchmark crude oil fell to remain below $66 a barrel.

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


Survey of economists: Some Trump policies could slow growth

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. business economists are concerned about the risks of some of President Donald Trump’s economic policies, saying they fear his tariffs and higher budget deficits could eventually slow the economy.

More than 90 percent of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics in a report being released Monday said they think the Trump administration’s current and threatened tariffs will harm the economy.

The administration has imposed tariffs on goods from many of America’s main trading partners — from China and Europe to Mexico and Canada. Trump officials argue that the tariffs, which are taxes on imports, will help the administration gain more favorable terms of trade. But so far, U.S. trading partners have simply retaliated with tariffs of their own.

Seven in 10 of the economists surveyed by the NABE said they thought Trump’s tax cuts were “too stimulative” because of the resulting increase in the national debt, even though two-thirds said the corporate tax cuts generally benefit their companies.

The 251 respondents, surveyed between July 19 and Aug. 2, said they do envision some of Trump’s policies as supporting the economy. Eighty percent, for example, told the NABE that the administration’s efforts to ease regulations would boost growth in the short run.

As a whole, though, the responses of the business economists represent a rebuke of the Trump administration’s overall approach to the economy. The administration has been hailing a recent pickup in growth as heralding the start of an enduring and more vigorous economic boom.


North Carolina acts deep blue with state worker minimum wage

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republicans have infuriated liberal activists by slashing income-tax rates, defending illegally gerrymandered districts and passing a now-partially repealed “bathroom bill” aimed at transgender people.

But GOP legislators surprised critics by acting more like lawmakers in a deep-blue state when they passed a $15-per-hour “living wage” for about 10,000 state government and university system employees, including secretaries, hospital workers, security guards and housekeepers.

At least four other states have steps already in place to increase pay for state workers to $15. But North Carolina sped to the front of the line, with salary bumps for many arriving in their late-July paychecks.

The lawmakers’ motives appear to be both economic and political. One top budget writer at the legislature says it helps state agencies retain veteran workers doing often-thankless jobs. But it also wins favor with North Carolina’s chief state employees’ union in an election year for Republicans trying to hold onto their control of the General Assembly.

Until now, the North Carolina state employee salary floor was about $24,300, or about $11.70 per hour. That means some received as much as a 28 percent raise to bring them up to the new minimum equivalent of $31,200 per year.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the U.S.

The Department of Energy announced the policy shift in a memo made public this month. The memo comes in support of an administration proposal to freeze car mileage standards.

The statement takes note of a shale oil boom that has made the country a contender for title of top global oil producer.

The Energy Department says the boom gives the country more flexibility “to use our oil resources with less concern” for supply or price shocks.

The memo says the Energy Department still believes in the need to use energy “wisely,” but doesn’t elaborate.

Environmental Defense Fund lawyer Sean Donahue says the policy shift ignores the risk from climate change.


Elon Musk says cutting back on work hours isn’t an option

UNDATED (AP) — Arianna Huffington is calling on Elon Musk to adopt a healthier work-life balance, but the Tesla CEO says that’s not an option.

In a tweet early Sunday after arriving home from a late night at a Tesla factory, Musk tells the Huffington Post founder that his electric car company and Ford are the only two American automakers that have avoided bankruptcy.

He added, “You think this is an option. It is not.”

Musk is responding to a letter from Huffington on Friday in which she called on him to take more time to “refuel and recharge.”

Musk conceded in an interview last week with The New York Times that he’s overwhelmed by job stress and has been working up to 120 hours a week.


‘Crazy Rich Asians’ shines bright at the box office

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Glitz has won out over guns at the North American box office this weekend as the gilded romance “Crazy Rich Asians” took No. 1 over Mark Wahlberg’s action-packed “Mile 22.”

Studios on Sunday say that “Crazy Rich Asians” took in an estimated $25.2 million from 3,384 locations over the weekend. The film starring Constance Wu has banked $34 million since opening Wednesday, far surpassing early industry expectations.

It’s a surefire win for the film distributed by Warner Bros., which cost $30 million to produce.

“Crazy Rich Asians” outshone Warner Bros.′ shark movie “The Meg,” which fell to second place with $21.2 million in its second weekend.

Wahlberg’s R-rated “Mile 22” opened with an estimated $13.6 million. It had a $35 million production budget.


Judge upholds delay of anti-segregation housing rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has upheld a decision by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to delay an Obama-era anti-discrimination rule.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday threw out a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups challenging HUD’s delay of the rule.

Finalized in 2015, the rule for the first time required more than 1,200 jurisdictions receiving HUD block grants and housing aid to analyze housing stock and come up with a plan for addressing patterns of segregation.

HUD said in January that it would immediately stop reviewing plans that had been submitted but not yet accepted, and jurisdictions won’t have to comply with the rule until after 2020. The agency says it’s seeking to amend the rule.


Venezuelan jittery ahead of sudden economic reforms

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelans are bracing for dramatic economic measures the government has announced, including a 3,000 percent hike in the minimum wage.

The changes start to take effect Monday with introduction of a new currency that lops five zeros off the country’s fast-depreciating bills.

President Nicolas Maduro is also raising gasoline prices in hopes of rescuing a plummeting economy.

Opposition leaders are seizing on the public’s unease to call a nationwide protest.

Economists say Maduro’s measures are likely to accelerate hyperinflation rather than address core economic troubles, like plunging oil production.

Johns Hopkins University economist Steve Hanke compares the changes to a superficial face-lift.

Butcher Jesus Pacheco says he may have to fire some of his six employees just to stay in business because of the sudden leap in the minimum wage.


Egypt president ratifies law imposing internet controls

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has ratified an anti-cybercrime law that rights groups say paves the way for censoring online media.

The law, published Saturday in the country’s official gazette, empowers authorities to order the blocking of websites that publish content considered a threat to national security. Viewers attempting to access blocked sites can also be sentenced to one year in prison or fined up to EGP100,000 ($5,593) under the law.

Last month, Egypt’s parliament approved a bill placing personal social media accounts and websites with over 5,000 followers under the supervision of the top media authority, which can block them if they’re found to be disseminating false news.

Amnesty International criticized the legislations in a July statement saying they “give the state near-total control over print, online and broadcast media.”


Nigel Farage joins campaign to stop ‘sell-out’ of Brexit

LONDON (AP) — Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage says he is joining up with a pro-Brexit pressure group to oppose British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for future ties with the European Union.

Farage was a key figure in getting Britain to hold a referendum in 2016 on EU membership, and helped lead the successful “leave” campaign.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but divorce negotiations have faltered.

May’s proposal to retain close economic ties has been received coolly by the EU. And it has infuriated hardcore Brexit-backers in Britain, who say it will leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc.

Farage wrote in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that he would join a campaigning bus tour by the group Leave Means Leave to oppose May’s “cowardly sell-out.”


Turkey’s president says country will defy economic threats

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president has said his country will stand strong against an “attempted economic coup” amid heightened tensions with the U.S.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday told thousands of supporters in Ankara that the country was being “threatened by the economy, sanctions, foreign currency, interest rates and inflation.”

He said: “we tell them that we see their game and we challenge them.”

Turkey is reeling from a massive sell-off of its currency as Washington imposed sanctions and threatened new ones if an American pastor under house arrest isn’t released.

The lira’s value dropped 38 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year and sunk as low as 7.24 this week.

On Friday, ratings agencies Standard & Poor and Moody’s downgraded Turkey’s credit rating further to “junk” status.


Malaysian leader tours Alibaba, meets Jack Ma on China visit

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese state broadcaster says Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has met with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma at the start of his trip to China.

The China Global Television Network said Mahathir on Saturday also toured the campus of Alibaba Group, the online shopping giant Ma founded.

Mahathir is making a five-day visit to China at a time when ties between Beijing and the Southeast Asian nation are being tested by the Malaysian leader’s suspension of multibillion-dollar Chinese-backed infrastructure projects.

Days before heading to Beijing for his first visit since his stunning electoral victory three months ago, Mahathir said Malaysia doesn’t need a Chinese-backed $20 billion East Coast Rail Link and two energy pipelines worth $2.3 billion. The projects have been suspended pending renegotiation.

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