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Update on the latest in business:

February 11, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks trade in narrow range

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are little changed as Wall Street looks ahead to key trade talks between the U.S. and China this week.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin is leading a delegation set to meet with Chinese officials on Thursday and Friday. The talks are aimed at resolving a trade war that threatens to stunt global economic growth.

Earnings season is winding down, with about 60 companies in the S&P 500 expected to report this week. Burger King and Tim Horton’s owner, Restaurant International, gained 1 percent on strong fourth-quarter earnings.

Tesla rose 2.8 percent after an analyst upgraded the stock to a “Buy.”

US STEEL-TRUMP

US Steel cites Trump in resuming construction project

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Steel Corp. says it’s restarting construction on an idled manufacturing facility in Alabama, and it’s giving some of the credit to President Donald Trump’s trade policies.

The Pittsburgh-based company says Trump’s “strong trade actions” are partly responsible for the resumption of work on an advanced plant near Birmingham. The administration’s tariffs have raised prices on imported steel and aluminum.

In a statement, the manufacturer also cites improving market conditions, union support and government incentives.

U.S. Steel suspended work on the electric arc furnace in December 2015. It says work is resuming immediately and the facility will have an annual capacity of 1.6 million tons (1.5 million metric tons).

The company is also updating other equipment. It plans to spend about $215 million and add about 150 full-time workers.

DENVER TEACHERS-STRIKE

Denver teachers go on strike after failing to reach pay deal

DENVER (AP) — Denver teachers went on strike today after failing to reach a deal with administrators on pay in the latest example of educator discontent, following a wave of walkouts over the last year.

Denver’s teachers started picketing before the start of the school day and students crossed through the picket lines on their way to class in some locations. Students in at least one school walked out of class and demonstrated in support of their teachers.

The city’s schools will remain open during the strike and will be staffed by administrators and substitute teachers, the school district said. But canceled classes for 5,000 preschool children were canceled because the district does not have the staff to take care of them.

Union leaders told reporters they were frustrated with failed talks over the weekend aimed at reaching a deal. Union president Henry Roman said teachers were committed to reaching a deal but said that both sides needed a cooling off period. Another negotiation session is expected Tuesday.

PG&E-BOARD

PG&E to reshape board in aftermath of wildfires

UNDATED (AP) — Half of the board at PG&E is unlikely to stand for re-election at the besieged utility company that is reeling in the aftermath of last year’s deadly California wildfires.

The company says it understands the need to “re-earn trust and credibility” with customers and regulators.

PG&E says that it foresees 11 independent directors on its board by the time of its 2019 annual shareholders meeting on May 21. It doesn’t expect more than five of the current directors to seek another term.

It did not say which board members are likely to remain.

PG&E, the nation’s biggest utility, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last month as it faces the possibly of tens of billions of dollars in claims.

PG&E has promised to spend more than $2 billion this year to improve wildfire prevention.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY

Brexit unease sees UK economy takes a turn for the worse

LONDON (AP) — The British economy has not had a worse year since the global financial crisis and Brexit uncertainty is clearly to blame. The government even admits it.

Official figures released today show that a lack of clarity over Brexit weighed on businesses throughout 2018 and kept a lid on their investments.

For 2018 as a whole, the economy grew by 1.4 percent. The last time it performed so weakly was in 2012, during Europe’s debt crisis. The last time it had a worse year was in 2009, when it contracted by 4.2 percent in the wake of the global financial crisis that brought much of the world’s banking system to its knees.

Today’s figures show the slowdown gathering pace as the year came to an end. A surprise 0.4 percent contraction in December means the economy grew at a tepid rate of only 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 0.6 percent in the third quarter.

BREXIT

UK described as a ‘disunited kingdom’ on Brexit

LONDON (AP) — Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel says the U.K. is a “disunited kingdom” where pro-Brexit politicians lack ideas and courage.

With the country’s March 29 date for leaving the European Union closing in, Bettel says “a disunited kingdom is more a reality today than a United Kingdom.”

His remarks to reporters came after talks with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

For remaining EU members, Bettel says the ongoing uncertainty in London “puts us in a position where we don’t know what is likely to happen tomorrow.”

UNITED STATES-HUNGARY

Pompeo warns of risks to US cooperation over Huawei

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that America might be forced to scale back certain operations in Europe and elsewhere if countries continue to do business with the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei (WAH’-way).

Huawei is a major player in Hungary, and Pompeo said he would make the case to the country’s prime minister and other officials that doing business with the company comes with significant risks for information security and privacy that could imperil cooperation with the United States. U.S. officials are deeply troubled by Huawei’s expansion in Europe, especially in NATO members including Hungary, where they believe it poses significant threats.

EUROPE-CAMBODIA-TRADE

EU eyes trade action over rights abuses in Cambodia

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is launching action that could see it suspend Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market over the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in the country.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says, “there are severe deficiencies when it comes to human rights and labor rights in Cambodia that the government needs to tackle if it wants to keep its country’s privileged access to our market.”

The move is allowed under the “everything but arms” arrangement the EU has with developing countries. It grants duty-free and quota-free access to the European market for things other than weapons.

The Commission is starting six months of intensive monitoring and will report on its findings. It could decide in one year to withdraw Cambodia’s trade preferences.

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