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Update on the latest in business:

February 1, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets mixed after Fed keeps rate unchanged

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian markets were mixed on Thursday with Tokyo stocks higher as the yen weakened against the U.S. dollar. Chinese markets declined after the U.S. Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.7 percent and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.4 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 1 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S. stocks finished with marginal gains, ending a two-day losing streak. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,823.81. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.3 percent to 26,149.39. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.1 percent to 7,411.48.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic reports scheduled for release today

WASHINGTON (AP) — There are two major government economic reports due out today.

The Labor Department issues revised data on fourth quarter productivity and the Commerce Department reports on U.S. construction spending in December.

Other economic reports coming out today include the manufacturing index for January from the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, and this week’s average U.S. mortgage rates from Freddie Mac.

Automakers also release vehicle sales for January.

Quarterly earnings reports today include one from United Parcel Service before the market opens and those from Alphabet, Amazon.com, Visa and Apple after the market closes.

TRUMP-INFRASTRUCTURE-STATES

Trump infrastructure plan seeks to shift burden to states

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan by President Donald Trump could place greater pressure on state and local governments to come up with more of their own money for big projects.

Trump said during his State of the Union address that every federal dollar in his plan should be leveraged by private investors or state and local governments.

Some state transportation officials said Wednesday that they already struggle to meet the matching requirements for their existing federal transportation dollars.

They said a higher matching rate to qualify for Trump’s program could require them to raises taxes or fees to generate enough revenue.

Trump also has suggested that private entities could help finance public infrastructure projects in exchange for collecting fees from users. Some states don’t currently allow that.

BNSF INVESTMENTS

BNSF to invest $3.3 billion in rail maintenance, upgrades

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — BNSF railroad is planning to invest $3.3 billion in its railroad again this year.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad said Wednesday it plans to match last year’s spending on maintenance projects and upgrades to its rail network.

BNSF plans to spend $2.4 billion to maintain and repair its rail network and locomotives. That will include rehabilitating 13,000 miles of track.

The railroad’s plans also include investing about $500 million to expand capacity.

BNSF says it is nearly done with the installation of the automatic braking system federal officials required. So the railroad plans to spend only about $100 million on that system this year.

BNSF is owned by Warren Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. BNSF operates 32,500 miles of track in 28 western states and three Canadian provinces.

FIXING FACEBOOK

Facebook’s ‘fixes’- meaningful or just skin deep?

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made fixing Facebook his personal challenge this year, and the company has already announced several changes to that end.

For example, it’s showing users more posts from friends and family instead of businesses and publishers.

But it’s far from clear if these tweaks will produce lasting change, or if they’re merely cosmetic adjustments designed to generate goodwill while keeping people glued to Facebook.

Critics such as Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist and early Facebook investor, say the recent changes don’t address the threats to elections or public health that Facebook needs to address.

Zuckerberg says it will take some time — “months,” perhaps — for its changes to make their way to users.

JAPAN-NINTENDO

Mario and Minions? Illumination to co-produce Nintendo film

TOKYO (AP) — Mario is getting together with the Minions.

Japanese video-game company Nintendo Co. says a movie starring the plumber in the Super Mario franchise is in the works, being co-produced with Chris Meledandri, the chief executive of Illumination Entertainment, the U.S. animation studio behind the popular “Despicable Me” series.

Nintendo’s star game designer Shigeru Miyamoto told reporters Thursday the script is mostly finished and is promising a “fun” movie, since Meledandri shares his thinking on creative projects.

The movie, two years in the making after a meeting between Meledandri and Miyamoto, is set for global distribution through Universal, which co-owns Illumination, according to the Kyoto-based maker of Pokemon games and the popular Switch machine.

They did not give other details.

SEARS-LAYOFFS

Sears lays off 220 workers at headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp. says it’s laying off 220 workers primarily at its headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois as it struggles to turn around its ailing business.

A company spokesman said Wednesday the job cuts were across the board and are effective immediately. Sears says it’s offering severance and transition assistance to those workers who are eligible.

Earlier in January, the retailer said it was closing more than 100 locations under the Sears and Kmart names. That includes 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores that will be shuttered between early March and early April.

That’s in addition to closing about 250 stores announced last year.

Sears, which struggled through a weak holiday season, has been selling off some of its real estate and brands as it tries to raise cash.

TOYOTA RECALL

Toyota recalls 645,000 vehicles; air bags may not inflate

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is recalling about 645,000 vehicles worldwide to fix an electrical problem that could stop air bags from inflating in a crash.

The recall covers certain Toyota Prius and Lexus RX and NX SUVs. Also covered are some Toyota Alphard, Vellfire, Sienta, Noah, Voxy, Esquire, Probox, Succeed, Corolla, Highlander, Levin and Hilux models. All were produced from May of 2015 to March of 2016.

The automaker says an open electrical circuit could occur over time. That would set off an air bag warning light and could stop the side and front air bags from deploying.

Dealers will inspect serial numbers on sensors and replace them if necessary at no cost to owners. Toyota will notify owners by letter in starting in late March.

SPACEX-SATELLITE LAUNCH

Royal audience as SpaceX launches satellite for Luxembourg

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX had a royal audience as it launched a satellite for Luxembourg.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off late Wednesday afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, hoisting GovSat-1 for the government of Luxembourg and SES, the country’s prime satellite operator. The satellite will support both military and civilian security efforts.

Witnessing the launch were Luxembourg’s Prince Guillaume and his wife, Stephanie. The country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, and other high-ranking officials also were present.

The rocket’s first-stage booster — which also flew last spring — was not recovered this time. Instead, it dropped into the Atlantic.

With GovSat-1 now in orbit, SpaceX can focus on next week’s debut of its new, big Falcon Heavy rocket. The test flight is scheduled for Tuesday.

HASLAMS INVESTIGATION

Prosecution rests in Pilot Flying J trial in Tennessee

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Prosecutors have rested their case against four former Pilot Flying J employees accused in a scheme to shortchange trucking customers on fuel rebates.

News outlets say prosecutors ended Wednesday without calling former Pilot Flying J. Vice President John “Stick” Freeman. The government described Freeman as the scheme’s architect. In one recording, Freeman boasts that Pilot Flying J CEO and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam “loved it” when the sales team swindled customers. Freeman pleaded guilty in July.

Testimony has shown Freeman was friends with Haslam. The company’s controlled by the family of Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. They haven’t been charged with any wrongdoing, and the governor has had no recent involvement with the company.

Attorneys for former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood said they wouldn’t call witnesses.

GIFTING MARIJUANA

Cannabis capitalists exploit loopholes by ‘gifting’ the drug

BOSTON (AP) — Companies are exploiting provisions in state marijuana laws that were intended to allow adults to give small amounts of the drug to each other without legal consequences.

In the Boston area, at least two companies have been operating for the past year. One sells high-priced juice that come with a free “gift” of marijuana. The other sells costly T-shirts that also come with the drug.

Elsewhere, police in Colorado Springs say they shut down 14 similar operations last year.

Morgan Fox, of the Marijuana Policy Project, says retail pot shops should make these so-called “gifting” operations obsolete.

But Leo Beletsky, a Northeastern University law professor, suggests the Trump administration’s decision not to honor state marijuana laws could be a boon for them.

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