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Update on the latest business

October 3, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks gain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising broadly at midday on Wall Street following encouraging reports on hiring and the services sector.

Banks are marking some of the biggest gains amid a sharp rise in bond yields. Higher bond yields allow banks to charge higher interest rates on loans including mortgages.

J.C. Penney jumped after naming a new CEO.

European stocks rose after the Italian government said it will gradually reduce its deficits after 2019.

ADP

Survey: US companies added a healthy 230,000 jobs last month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added a robust 230,000 jobs in September, a private survey found, a sign that strong economic growth is spurring companies to add more workers.

Payroll processor ADP says that September’s job gain was the most in seven months. It followed 168,000 new jobs in August, a figure that was revised slightly higher.

Construction firms added 34,000 jobs, while professional and business services, which includes higher-paying jobs such as engineering and accounting as well as temp workers, added a strong 70,000. Education and health services added 44,000 jobs.

The government releases its jobs data for September on Friday. Economists have forecast that Friday’s report will show that employers added 183,000 jobs, according to data provider FactSet.

HOLIDAY-FORECAST

Holiday sales expected to grow in a strong economy

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, says it expects sales in November and December to rise between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent to $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion as shoppers continue to be in a spending mood in a stronger economy.

The sales growth marks a drop from last year’s 5.3 percent, which was the biggest gain since right after the end of the Great Recession. But the figure is still very healthy.

While stores like Sears Holdings Inc. and J.C. Penney are struggling, plenty of others are seeing stronger sales.

The NRF forecast, which considers economic indicators such as consumer credit, disposable personal income and monthly retail sales, excludes sales from autos, gas, and restaurants but includes online spending and other non-store sales like from catalogs.

HEALTH INSURANCE-COST SHIFTING

Survey: Companies continue to pass health costs to workers

UNDATED (AP) — A survey finds more companies are sticking workers with a bigger share of the medical bill before most health insurance kicks in.

That means that those who use the health care system are pouring more of their take-home pay into medical bills even though they have coverage.

The report was released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Kaiser finds that more companies are making workers pay an annual deductible or increasing the amount they must spend before insurance starts covering most care. Annual deductibles for single coverage have now climbed about eight times as fast as wages over the last decade.

Health benefits experts say they see few signs that these rising deductibles will level off anytime soon for employer-sponsored benefits.

FAST FOOD-US ADULTS

Study: 1 in 3 US adults eat fast food each day

NEW YORK (AP) — A government study has found that 1 in 3 U.S. adults eat fast food on any given day. That’s about 85 million people.

It’s the first federal study to look at how often adults eat fast food. An earlier study found a similar proportion of children and adolescents ate it on any given day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Wednesday. It’s based on a survey of about 10,000 adults over four years.

The study did not find a difference between men and women. But higher-income families ate fast food more often than lower-income families, and blacks ate it more than other racial or ethnic groups.

Health officials say too much high-calorie fast food can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.

NORTH KOREA-CYBER THEFT

NKorea said to have stolen a fortune in online bank heists

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have stopped, but its hacking operations to gather intelligence and raise funds for the sanction-strapped government in Pyongyang may be gathering steam.

U.S. security firm FireEye is raising the alarm over a North Korean group it says has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars by infiltrating the computer systems of banks around the world since 2014. It says the group is still operating and poses “an active global threat.”

That is part of a wider pattern of malicious state-backed cyber activity that has led the U.S. to identify North Korea as one of its main online threats.

Last month, the Justice Department charged a North Korean hacker said to have conspired in cyberattacks, including against Bangladesh’s central bank.

North Korea has denied involvement in cyberattacks.

GM-HONDA-AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

GM, Honda team up to produce self-driving vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — General Motors and Honda are teaming up on self-driving vehicle technology as big automakers and tech giants race to be first in their development.

Honda Motor Co. will invest $2.75 billion in the autonomous vehicle unit run by General Motors Co., called GM Cruise.

The goal, the companies said Wednesday, is to develop an autonomous vehicle that can be produced at a high volume for global deployment. The companies will also explore global opportunities for commercial deployment of the Cruise network.

Honda will make an immediate investment of $750 million, and spend $2 billion over 12 years on the project.

ROBOT FARMERS

Meet the farmers of the future: Robots

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Alexander would like to introduce you to Angus, the farmer of the future.

He’s heavyset, weighing in at nearly 1,000 pounds, not to mention a bit slow. But he’s strong enough to hoist 800-pound pallets of maturing vegetables and can move them from place to place on his own.

Of course, Angus is a robot. Even if he looks more like a large tanning bed on wheels than C-3PO.

Alexander’s startup, Iron Ox, aims to feed people with produce grown from the hands of robots at indoor nurseries near cities. The idea is to deliver vegetables and fruits to restaurants and supermarkets more quickly than is now possible.

But other automated indoor farms haven’t panned out, including one tried by Google, where Alexander worked before he started Iron Ox.

ROBOT BROTHEL

Ordinance change would likely stop robot brothel in Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s city council has changed a city ordinance in a move that would essentially stop a so-called robot brothel from opening.

A Canadian company had said it wants to open a “love dolls brothel” in Houston in which people would be able to use its human-like dolls on the premises.

But Houston’s city council on Wednesday unanimously approved a change to a city ordinance that regulates sexually-oriented businesses.

The change would prevent individuals from being able to use devices designed for sexual gratification at such businesses.

Houston city council member Greg Travis said the proposed robot brothel is “not a good business for our city. We are not sin city.”

The company, KinkySdollS, didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment Wednesday. The company has previously opened such a business in Toronto.

REOPENED ATLANTIC CITY CASINOS

100 days in, Atlantic City’s reopened casinos looking good

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — So far, so good for Atlantic City’s two newest casinos as they mark their first 100 days of operation.

The Hard Rock is the former Trump Taj Mahal, and the Ocean Resort Casino is the former Revel, and their reopenings gave a boost to a market that had been hit by casino closings and job losses.

Both casinos opened June 27 and are being closely watched to see if the recently right-sized Atlantic City market can handle the new supply of gambling and hotel rooms. Hard Rock has won more from gamblers, $68 million compared to nearly $41 million for Ocean Resort.

But Hard Rock is replacing its casino president after just three months, bringing in a former Borgata executive to run the place.

A Stockton University analyst says the two new casinos took less business from existing competitors in August than they did in July.

FACEBOOK-MESSENGER KIDS-COMPLAINT

Child experts file FTC complaint against Facebook kids’ app

NEW YORK (AP) — Children’s advocacy groups say Facebook’s kid-centric messaging app violates federal law by collecting kids’ personal information without getting verifiable consent from their parents.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and other groups asked the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to investigate Facebook’s Messenger Kids for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

The complaint says the app does not meet COPPA requirements because it doesn’t try to ensure that the person who sets up the kids’ account and gives consent to have their data collected is the actual parent.

Facebook said Wednesday it hasn’t yet reviewed the complaint letter. The company says it doesn’t show ads on Messenger Kids or collect data for marketing.

YOUTUBE STAR-TOYS

7-year-old toy reviewer on YouTube becomes a toy himself

NEW YORK (AP) — Seven-year-old Ryan drew millions of views reviewing toys on YouTube. Now, he’s become a toy himself.

Walmart is selling action figures in his likeness, putty with his face on the packaging and other toys under the Ryan’s World brand. It’s a bet that kids, who are spending more time tapping tablets, will recognize Ryan from YouTube and want the toys he’s hawking. The new line may also help Walmart lure former Toys R Us shoppers, as many chains make a play for those customers ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The toy line came about after Ryan’s parents signed with Pocket.watch, a two-year-old company that works with several YouTube personalities to get their names products. Pocket.watch says Ryan is the first with a product line because of his large audience.

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