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Update on the latest in business:

January 9, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares rally on hopes for China-US trade breakthrough

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares extended gains in Asia today on hopes for progress in resolving the tariffs battle between the U.S. and China as talks appeared to have been extended in Beijing.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1.3 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 2.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite index surged 1.6 percent while South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1.9 percent. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 surged 0.9 percent. Shares also rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

US-CHINA TRADE

US, China extend talks on trade battle for 3rd day

BEIJING (AP) —U.S. and Chinese negotiators wrapped up three days of talks aimed at ending a costly tariff battle in an optimistic atmosphere today after President Donald Trump said they were “going very well!”

No details were immediately announced, but Asian stock markets rose on news the talks originally planned for two days were extended to three. Hong Kong’s main market index closed up 2.1 percent and Tokyo rose 1.1 percent.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, announced the talks had ended. Lu said he had no details and an official statement would be issued later.

The talks were the first face-to-face meeting since Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed Dec. 1 to suspend further punitive action against each other’s imports for 90 days while they negotiate over the fight sparked by American complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

WORLD BANK-GLOBAL ECONOMY

World Bank cuts forecast for world economic growth in 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank is downgrading its outlook for the global economy this year, citing rising trade tension, weakening manufacturing activity and growing financial stress in emerging-market countries.

The anti-poverty agency expects the world economy to grow 2.9 percent in 2019, down from the 3 percent it forecast back in June. It would be the second straight year of slowing growth: The global economy expanded 3 percent last year and 3.1 percent in 2017.

The bank left its forecast for the U.S. economy unchanged at 2.5 percent this year, down from 2.9 percent in 2018. It predicts 1.6 percent growth for the 19 countries that use the euro currency, down from 1.9 percent last year. For China, the world’s second-biggest economy, it expects 6.2 percent growth versus 6.5 percent in 2018.

CONSUMER BORROWING

US consumer borrowing growth up $22.1 billion in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans slowed their pace of borrowing slightly in November, but it still grew by a robust $22.1 billion. Solid auto and student loans offset some of the decline in the category that covers credit cards.

The Federal Reserve says that November’s figure follows a $25 billion gain in October, which had been the biggest increase in 11 months. Economists had been forecasting more of a slowdown.

Borrowing for auto and student loans rose $17.4 billion in November, up from a gain of $15.6 billion in October.

Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards slowed to a $4.8 billion increase, down from the $9.3 billion advance seen in October. The November credit card gain was the smallest since borrowing in this category had actually fallen slightly in September.

GERMANY-CALIFORNIA FIRE

Insurer: Calif. fire was costliest natural disaster in 2018

BERLIN (AP) — German insurance company Munich Re says the Northern California wildfire that killed dozens of people and burned down the town of Paradise was the world’s costliest single natural disaster in 2018.

The reinsurance giant says the November fire caused overall losses of $16.5 billion. The company says some $12.5 billion in losses were insured.

The firestorm destroyed thousands of homes and other structures.

Munich Re says losses from all natural disasters reached $160 billion last year, above the inflation-adjusted average of $140 billion for the last 30 years but below 2017′s hurricane-driven high of $350 billion.

Board member Torsten Jeworrek says increasing wildfires in California appear linked to climate change and “action is urgently needed on building codes and land use to help prevent losses.

NEIMAN MARCUS-DATA BREACH

Neiman Marcus reaches $1.5 million data breach settlement

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — More than 40 state attorneys general have announced a $1.5 million settlement with The Neiman Marcus Group LLC over a data breach the Dallas-based retailer disclosed in January 2014.

The breach exposed customer credit card data at 77 Neiman Marcus stores nationwide. Over a three-month period in 2013, about 370,000 Neiman Marcus credit cards were accessed by unknown third parties unlawfully, and at least 9,200 were used fraudulently.

Under terms of the settlement announced Tuesday, Neiman Marcus agrees to maintain reasonable procedures to protect customers’ personal data and obtain an information security assessment and report from a third-party professional.

The settlement involves 43 states and the District of Columbia.

FAMILY SEPARATION-DETENTION

Companies argue against proposal not to house separated kids

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The nation’s two largest private detention companies don’t want a shareholder vote on resolutions that would prevent them from housing immigrant children separated from their parents, even though both companies say that is not something they currently do.

An activist shareholder submitted resolutions that would require Tennessee-based CoreCivic and Florida-based GEO Group to adopt policies of not accepting immigrant children separated from parents and vice versa. Both companies have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to exclude the resolutions from shareholders packets sent ahead of their annual meetings, when they’d vote on the proposals.

Their objections contend the proposals would interfere with ordinary business operations.

Supporting statements argue that they would protect the companies from reputational damage.

President Trump scrapped his administration’s policy of separating immigrant families in June after a global uproar.

JAPAN-NISSAN-GHOSN

Tokyo court turns down Ghosn’s appeal of long detention

TOKYO (AP) — The appeal by the lawyers of Carlos Ghosn (gohn), Nissan’s former chairman, against his prolonged detention since his arrest Nov. 19 was rejected today by the Tokyo District Court.

Ghosn’s lawyers filed the appeal a day earlier. Ghosn’s detention on suspicion of breach of trust had been approved through Friday, and likely will be extended.

The lawyers and Ghosn argued in court Tuesday against the detention. In his first public appearance since his arrest, Ghosn vigorously asserted his innocence and defended himself against each allegation.

The judge rejected the arguments, reiterating concerns might flee Japan or tamper with evidence.

Denial of bail for months is common in Japan’s criminal system and is often criticized as “hostage justice.”

Ghosn is charged with falsifying financial reports, but no trial date has been set.

OFFSHORE DRILLING BAN

Lawmakers in 9 states unite against offshore drilling

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A group of nine Democratic lawmakers from different coastal states say they will use their coming legislative sessions to try to block attempts at offshore drilling.

The lawmakers’ announcement Tuesday comes as new and re-elected legislators are entering office. It’s also about a year after Trump’s administration announced plans to expand drilling. The state lawmakers say their bills will seek to limit the possibility of drilling off their coasts.

The lawmakers represent Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island. They say their respective states must do more to encourage renewable energy rather than fossil fuel extraction.

State legislatures are limited in what they can do to stop drilling beyond state waters, but the lawmakers say they’re showing a united stand against the practice.

BANGLADESH-GARMENT WORKERS

Bangladesh garment workers continue protest for higher wages

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of garment workers have staged demonstrations today to demand better wages for the fourth straight day, shutting down factories on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

Police dispersed protesters with water cannons and batons. Security was beefed up around Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and other areas of the city.

Bangladesh has the second-largest garment-export industry in the world after China and makes clothes for big-name retailers including Zara, H&M and Uniqlo.

For months workers have been demanding higher minimum pay than what the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has proposed.

Protesters say they want to be paid the equivalent of $191 USD per month.

SEATTLE TRAFFIC SQUEEZE

Seattle braces for highway closure, historic traffic squeeze

SEATTLE (AP) — A major thoroughfare for commuters along downtown Seattle’s waterfront is set to shut down for good Friday, ushering in what officials say will be one of the most painful traffic periods in the history of the booming Pacific Northwest city.

The double-decker, 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometer) Alaskan Way Viaduct, which carries about 90,000 vehicles each day, will be replaced by a new four-lane tunnel.

But the tunnel won’t open until about three weeks after the viaduct closes as workers realign the highway into it. Other construction projects will further constrain traffic in the hilly city surrounded by water, already known for its population growth and traffic woes.

Washington’s transportation agency on its website has a clock counting down to the viaduct closure , which it says will be the longest major highway closure the Puget Sound region has ever seen.

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