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Update on the latest in business:

April 17, 2018


US stock indexes climb

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are sharply higher, adding to the market’s gains from a day earlier. Consumer-focused stocks are among the biggest gainers. Netflix soared 8 percent after reporting huge subscriber gains. Amazon rose 2.6 percent.

Technology, industrial and health care stocks also rose. UnitedHealth added 3.2 percent after it reported a hefty jump in profit and raised its 2018 forecast.


US factory output ticked up just 0.1 percent in March.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output edged up a slight 0.1 percent in March, as strong production gains in motor vehicles and electronics were partially offset by declines in food and textiles.

The Federal Reserve says factory output slowed from a 1.5 percent gain in February, though it has risen 3 percent over the past year.

Stable growth worldwide has led to increased demand for consumer goods and business equipment, driving much of the business seen by manufacturers. The gains during the past 12 months have been led by automobiles, home electronics and metal products. But furniture, clothing and aerospace production has fallen over this period.

Overall industrial production, which includes mines and utilities, rose 0.5 percent in March. Utility production jumped 3 percent last month, while mining output increased 1 percent.


US home building rose slightly in March, led by apartments

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders broke ground on more apartment buildings last month, pushing up overall home construction 1.9 percent.

The Commerce Department says housing starts rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.32 million, driven by a big 16 percent gain in apartment buildings. Single-family home construction slipped 3.7 percent.

Home construction has grown steadily since the housing crash bottomed out in 2012 and has emerged as a potential source of long-term economic growth. The pace of homebuilding is still below its long-run average of about 1.5 million houses and apartments a year. And millennials are increasingly moving out on their own and seeking to buy homes.

Home construction rose nearly 11 percent in March from a year earlier, the government said. Single-family home construction is up 5.2 percent.


IMF: Outlook is bright for US and global economies this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The International Monetary Fund has upgraded its economic outlook for the United States in 2018 and foresees a strong year for the global economy as well. But its chief economist warns that the prospect of an escalating trade conflict “threatens to undermine confidence and derail global growth prematurely.”

The IMF predicts that the U.S. economy will grow 2.9 percent this year, up from the 2.7 percent it had forecast in January and up from the 2.3 percent growth the economy achieved last year. The U.S. economy will enjoy a boost through 2020 from tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law in December, the IMF predicts.

The lending agency kept its forecast for worldwide growth this year at 3.9 percent, which would be its fastest pace since 2011.


China to allow full foreign ownership in auto industry

BEIJING (AP) — China has announced plans to allow full foreign ownership of automakers in five years, ending restrictions that have strained relations with Washington and other trading partners.

The Cabinet’s planning commission said Tuesday it will lift limits on foreign ownership of electric vehicle producers this year, followed by similar action for makers of commercial vehicles in 2020 and passenger vehicles in 2022.

The announcement by the National Development and Reform Commission said, “following a five-year transition period, all ownership restrictions will be lifted.”

That would end rules requiring foreign automakers in China to work through local state-owned partners, an arrangement that forced them to share technology with potential competitors.


Goldman reports 26 percent surge in profits, helped by taxes

NEW YORK (AP) — Investment bank Goldman Sachs is reporting that its first quarter profits rose by 26 percent, helped by a lower tax bill and a surge in market volatility.

Goldman earned $2.83 billion, or $6.95 a share, compared with $2.26 billion, or $5.15 a share, in the same period a year earlier. The results topped analysts’ forecasts, who were looking for Goldman to earn $5.58 a share, according to FactSet.

Revenue increased across its businesses, but most notably in trading, which saw net revenues rise 31 percent from a year earlier. Goldman also said its tax bill will be sharply lower this year, which helped boost its results as well.


Trump energy adviser, fossil fuel champion, resigning

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top White House adviser for energy and environmental policy is resigning.

Michael Catanzaro will be returning to CGCN Group, the law and lobbying firm where he previously worked.

Catanzaro had headed domestic energy issues for the White House National Economic Council.

He had been a leading figure in President Donald Trump’s aggressive deregulatory and pro-fossil-fuel agenda.

The Trump administration has moved to roll back a number of President Barack Obama’s environmental protections. Trump has said they hinder business growth.

Catanzaro is the latest exit from the administration.

The National Economic Council is now led by Larry Kudlow, who took the job after Gary Cohn resigned.

Cohn left after Trump’s decision to place tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. Cohn opposed the move.


Tesla shuts down Model 3 assembly again to fix bottlenecks

FREMONT, Calif. (AP) — Shares of Tesla Inc. traded lower Tuesday after reports that the company had shut down production of its Model 3 mass-market electric car again to solve manufacturing bottlenecks.

The automaker told employees this week there would be a four- or five-day production hiatus. The company says it warned of future production pauses when it shut down the line to improve automation in February .

Tesla says shutdowns are common when a new model is launched and will improve production rates. But Autopacific analyst Dave Sullivan says manufacturing doesn’t normally stop for days, especially nine months after production began.

Tesla shares dropped 1 percent to $287.80 in morning trading. The broader markets were up about 1 percent.

Model 3 production began in early July in Fremont, California. Pricing starts at about $35,000.


Cambridge Analytica ex-CEO refuses to testify in UK

LONDON (AP) — The chair of the British Parliament’s media committee says that Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO, Alexander Nix, says he will no longer testify at an upcoming session on fake news, citing an ongoing investigation by the information commissioner’s office.

Nix had been recalled by the committee to testify Wednesday following testimony by whistleblower Christopher Wylie on the use of data mine from some 87 million Facebook users in the campaign for Donald Trump’s presidential election.

Committee chair Damian Collins rejected Nix’s reason for not appearing, as he has not “not been charged with any criminal offence and there is no active legal proceedings.”

Collins says Tuesday that the committee “is minded to issue a formal summons for him to appear on a named day in the very near future.”


IRS online payment site fails on tax day

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just in time for tax day: the IRS website to make payments is down.

The IRS did not have an immediate explanation for the failure. But it said on its website that its online payment system became unavailable at 2:50 A.M. ET on Tuesday.

IRS Acting Commissioner David Kautter testified during a House Oversight Hearing Tuesday that a number of systems are down at the moment and that they are working to resolve the issue.


Chicago, surfers criticize US Steel spills settlement

PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — Chicago and some Great Lakes surfers say a federal settlement inadequately punishes U.S. Steel for chemical spills into Lake Michigan.

The University of Chicago discovered last year that the steelmaker’s Midwest Plant has violated chromium limits at least four times since 2013.

The proposed deal calls for U.S. Steel to pay nearly $900,000, test for hexavalent chromium daily at the plant, create a preventative maintenance program and upgrade pollution monitoring.

The Chicago Law Department and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency Monday that they’ll oppose the deal in federal court if changes aren’t made.

The groups want environmental improvement projects for communities near the Portage plant, an independent study of potential long-term damage and an automated early warning system to detect future spills.


US regulators float ideas for boosting medical device safety

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials are considering new steps to improve the government’s system for overseeing medical devices.

The approval process has been criticized for years for failing to catch problems with defective implants.

Tuesday’s plan from the Food and Drug Administration includes few immediate changes, but could eventually increase safeguards on such things as pacemakers, artificial joints, medical scanners and other devices.

Among the measures, the FDA says it will consider requiring additional training for doctors who implant certain high-risk devices.

The agency has repeatedly been forced to issue safety alerts about unexpected problems with devices. In some cases, those issues only became clear years after the products were approved for use in patients.


Supreme Court dismisses Microsoft search case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has dismissed a dispute between the Trump administration and Microsoft over emails the government wanted as part of a drug trafficking investigation.

The justices on Tuesday agreed with both the administration and Microsoft that last month’s passage of the Cloud Act as part of a spending bill resolves the dispute and makes the court’s intervention unnecessary.

The legislation updated a 32-year-old law that governs how authorities can get electronic communications held by technology companies. The issue was whether Microsoft had to turn over emails that were stored on its server in Ireland.

The Cloud Act makes clear that the government can obtain the emails.

The court says in an unsigned opinion that “no live dispute remains between the parties.”


Italian restaurant chain Bertucci’s files for bankruptcy

BOSTON (AP) — Italian casual dining chain Bertucci’s has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed 15 restaurants.

The Northborough, Massachusetts-based chain said Monday it made the move “to position Bertucci’s for future growth.”

Fifty-nine locations in 10 states and Washington remain open.

Bertucci’s said it had reached a tentative deal to sell its assets to Chicago-based Right Lane Dough Acquisitions LLC for nearly $20 million.

One of the locations closing is in Taunton, Massachusetts, where in May 2016 a man with a knife fatally stabbed teacher George Heath as he came to the aid of a pregnant waitress. In his honor, Bertucci’s put a plaque on Heath’s favorite barstool. His widow, Rosemary, tells The Taunton Daily Gazette that Bertucci’s has given her the stool.

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