Asian stocks mixed after Wall Street rise

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese stocks sank today after April economic activity weakened and other major Asian markets were little-changed following Wall Street's spurt on higher oil prices.

Chinese Government data showed growth in industrial activity, credit, investment and housing sector activity decelerated in April. That added to indications growth in the world's second-largest economy peaked in the first quarter and is declining. Chinese leaders are tightening access to credit to reduce reliance on debt and investment but April's downturn was sharper than forecast.

Energy stocks rose on higher oil prices, pushing the U.S. market back to record highs. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 11.42 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,402.32, edging past its prior record set last week. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 85.33 points and the Nasdaq composite gained 28.44. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks rose 11.15 points.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose above $49 per barre.

The dollar declined against the yen and the euro.


Report: Ford plans job cuts to boost profits

DETROIT (AP) — The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford Motor Co. is planning substantial job cuts in order to boost profits and raise its stock price.

The newspaper says the cuts would target salaried employees and would reduce Ford's global headcount by an equivalent of 10 percent.

Ford didn't confirm the report Monday night.

In a statement, the company said it's focused on reducing costs and improving efficiency. But Ford said it hasn't announced any job cuts and won't comment on speculation.

Investors are concerned that U.S. sales are peaking and Ford's market share is slipping.

Ford's shares have lost more than a third of their value since Mark Fields became CEO in 2014. Electric car maker Tesla Inc. recently surpassed Ford in market value even though it sells far fewer vehicles.


Chinese customers can now order from US Sam's Club stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart is letting online customers in China order from its Sam's Club stores in the U.S. for the first time to cater to China's increasingly affluent, well-traveled shoppers.

It's Wal-Mart's latest attempt to boost growth in China since it sold its online business in the country to JD, China's No. 2 e-commerce site, in June 2016. The U.S. retailer has a 12 percent stake in JD and hopes working with the homegrown company will boost its performance in China. Getting China right is key to bolstering Wal-Mart's global online business.

About 200 products from Sam's Clubs stores will initially be available for Sam's Club customers in China to order online via JD's website, expanding to 700 this year, says Rebecca Lui, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. The company is focusing on personal care, baby supplies and nutritional supplies that are mostly not available in China. Products for sale include Aveeno moisturizers and Waterpik Ultra and Cordless Plus Water Flossers.

Sam's Club has sold products on since October 2016, drawn from the stock in its 15 physical stores in China.

Wal-Mart itself also operates more than 400 stores in China.

The company is also tweaking its partnership with JD's delivery service, Daojia, to guarantee one-hour delivery, down from two hours, and expanding the number of stores where delivery is available. It expects to reach 180 stores this year.


Huge cyberattack ebbs as investigators work to find culprits

NEW YORK (AP) — The global cyberattack that took computer files hostage appears to be slowing as authorities work to catch the extortionists behind it. It's a difficult task that involves searching for digital clues and following the money.

Among their findings so far: The first suggestions of a possible link between the "ransomware" known as WannaCry and hackers linked to North Korea. Those findings remain quite tentative; one firm advancing them described them as intriguing but still "weak."

Experts had warned that WannaCry might wreak renewed havoc on Monday, but while there were thousands of additional infections in Asia, the expected second-wave outbreak largely failed to materialize, in part because security researchers had already defanged it .

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for the Finnish security company F-Secure, said the perpetrators of WannaCry made one crucial mistake -- too much success. He says that shone too bright a light on it.


Judge Oks settlement in Wal-Mart same-sex benefits case

BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge in Boston has approved a $7.5 million class-action settlement between Wal-Mart and a former employee who challenged the retail chain's lack of health insurance benefits for her same-sex spouse.

The settlement would pay for claims by current and former Wal-Mart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that they were unable to obtain health insurance for their same-sex spouses from 2011 to 2013. About 380 people have submitted claims.

U.S. District Judge William Young approved the settlement Monday after a brief hearing in federal court in Boston.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2015 by Jacqueline Cote, a Wal-Mart associate from Massachusetts who said the company denied medical insurance for her wife. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart began offering benefits for same-sex spouses in 2014.


Cheese worker suspected of stealing for syrup side business

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A former Cabot cheese employee suspected of stealing machine parts from the company and using them in his side business selling maple syrup production equipment is being investigated by federal authorities.

Randall Swartz is accused of buying parts for Cabot Creamery with company funds and then using them to build machines he sold in his business, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court. The affidavit also says he's accused of directing other Cabot employees to work for his side business on company time, the affidavit said.

The FBI searched Swartz's home in Orleans, Vermont, in March and seized parts and tools, including stainless steel gauges, clamps, and a drilling machine. They also tool financial documents, a laptop computer and computer disks. No charges have been filed.


Tronc in talks with Wrapports to acquire Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO (AP) — Two longtime newspaper rivalries in the once highly competitive Chicago market may end with the acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times by the owner of the Chicago Tribune. The proposition has caught the attention of the U.S. Justice Department.

Chicago-based Wrapports LLC announced in a statement it has agreed to enter into discussions with tronc Inc., owner of several major newspapers, after failing to interest other media companies in acquiring the Sun-Times.

In a statement, Wrapports states if tronc acquires the Sun-Times, it would operate the newspaper as a separate unit, keeping in place the independent newsroom.

Chairman John Canning of Wrapports said: "The investors and board members of Wrapports have been committed to keeping a strong media voice in Chicago alive. We believe an ownership that can bring substantial digital resources is necessary and is the best path for the Sun-Times long term."

Wrapports said that it voluntarily informed the U.S. Justice Department of its talks with tronc and will accede to the department's suggestion to advertise that the Sun-Times is up for sale. The ad will be placed in the Sun-Times on Tuesday.


Judge tells Uber to return Waymo files taken by engineer

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge's order that bars Uber from using technology taken by a star engineer before he left Waymo is bad news for Uber and likely will hurt the ride-hailing company's own self-driving research, according to legal experts.

The ruling by District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco Monday was mainly a victory for Waymo, the autonomous car unit spun off from Google, even though the judge refused to order a halt to Uber's autonomous car research as Waymo had requested. That's according to experts interviewed about the situation.

The judge's order said that Waymo showed "compelling evidence" that a former Waymo engineer named Anthony Levandowski downloaded thousands of confidential files before leaving the company. Lsup's order also said that Levandowski set up his own firms, which then were sold to Uber for $680 million. Evidence showed that Levandowski and Uber planned the acquisitions before Levandowski left Waymo.


Sears in spat with maker of Craftsman power tools

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears is fighting back against vendors that it says are taking advantage of the department store as it navigates a precarious financial situation.

The retailer on Monday filed a complaint in an Illinois court against the maker of Craftsman power tools, saying it has no right to leave its contract with the chain. Sears CEO Eddie Lampert also blasted the vendor, One World, in a blog post.

One World is a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Techtronic Industries. Techtronic did not immediately reply to emailed questions.

Sears Holdings' quarrels with its vendor underscores the challenges ahead for the retailer. Sears said in March that there's "substantial doubt" about its future.

Its shares fell 12 percent to $8.31 Monday.


Puerto Rico's development bank forges deal with creditors

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The leader of debt-swamped Puerto Rico has announced that its development bank has entered into a deal with financial creditors that would allow it to avoid a lengthy bankruptcy proceeding.

The liquidation agreement still has to be formally approved by creditors of the Government Development Bank, which for decades played a major role in the U.S. Caribbean territory's financial affairs. A financial oversight board and U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico also must sign off on the pact.

But Gov. Ricardo Rossello said in a statement that the so-called restructuring support agreement negotiated over the last two months is backed by "a significant portion of its major stakeholders."


Buffett's firm buys more airline stock in first quarter

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett's company added to its sizeable new investments in major airlines during the first quarter, and eliminated a stake in Twenty-First Century Fox.

Berkshire Hathaway filed an update on the U.S. stocks it held at the end of March with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

Buffett had already disclosed in recent interviews that Berkshire sold off one-third of its 81 million IBM shares and bought about 133 million Apple shares. The filing showed Berkshire added to its investments in American, Delta and Southwest airlines in the quarter. Its United Continental stake was unchanged.

Berkshire sold off nearly 9 million shares in Twenty-First Century Fox.


Keystone XL operator reassessing interest of US producers

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — TransCanada Corp. is reassessing whether oil producers in North Dakota and Montana are still interested in shipping crude through its long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline now that they have other new options to ship their product, including the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Calgary-based company's announcement this month comes with the Keystone XL still needing approval of its proposed route through Nebraska and with the Dakota Access, which was designed to transport about half of North Dakota's oil production, expected to be fully operational by June.

TransCanada announced in 2011 that it had secured five-year contracts to move crude from the oilfields of North Dakota and Montana via a proposed five-mile-long access pipeline. The $140 million project, designed to carry 100,000 barrels of crude daily from the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations, would meet with the Keystone XL in Baker, Montana.


Justices rule against consumers in debt collection case

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court has ruled that debt collection companies can't be sued for trying to recover years-old credit card debt from people who seek bankruptcy protection.

The 5-3 ruling is a blow to consumer groups that complain debt collectors are unfairly misleading people into repaying old debts even when they are not required to under the law.

The court sided with Midland Funding, which was trying to collect $1,879 in debt an Alabama woman had incurred more than 10 years earlier. Aleida Johnson argued that Midland was wrong to go after the debt because Alabama law has a six-year statute of limitations for a creditor to collect overdue payments. While Johnson ultimately avoided paying the debt, a federal appeals court said she could sue Midland for trying to collect it as a violation the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

That law prohibits collection companies from making a "false, deceptive, or misleading representation" or trying to recover debt through "unfair or unconscionable means."


Robert Lightfhizer sworn in as US trade representative

WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Lighthizer has been sworn in as the country's next U.S. Trade Representative.

Vice President Mike Pence is calling Lighthizer "uniquely qualified" for the job and says he'll help ensure the nation's trade deals benefit the American people.

Lighthizer was confirmed last week on a bipartisan vote despite complaints from some Republicans that the Trump administration has an "incoherent and inconsistent trade message."

President Donald Trump has broken with most Republicans in his criticism of free trade agreements.

Lighthizer previously served as deputy U.S. trade representative under President Ronald Reagan and has worked on trade issues as a lawyer representing various manufacturers and high-tech companies.


Sorry, paparazzi, celebrities now can get private treatment at Los Angeles airport

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sorry, paparazzi. Celebrities who are sick of being stalked by photographers at Los Angeles International Airport can now find some privacy — not to mention luxury — at a new terminal.

The $22 million facility called the Private Suite opened Monday and offers an exclusive entrance, one-on-one security screening and plush lounges.

And when it's time to catch the flight, privileged travelers get a private car ride across the tarmac to the aircraft, head-of-state style.

The terminal is available to anyone who can afford fees up to $3,500 for a domestic flight or $4,000 for an international flight. Annual memberships are also available.

The terminal was built by a security consulting firm that says it will generate $35 million in revenue for the airport over the next nine years.