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Update on the latest in business:

May 23, 2019


Stocks continue to slide down

NEW YORK (AP) _ Continued trade worries between the U.S. and China continue to weigh on the markets. Stocks continued to fall in afternoon trading. China has said they are more open to talks no new meetings have been set and tensions between the two sides remain high. Investors worry that a prolonged trade war could hurt economic growth and corporate profits. The Dow and S&P each fell 1.5%. The yield on the 10 year Treasury slipped to 2.35%, the lowest level in more than a year. Energy stocks slumped as the price of oil fell more than 5%.


US new-home sales fell 6.9% in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new U.S. homes sank 6.9% in April, driven by a decline in the sale of homes worth less than $300,000 that are generally bought by middle-class and first-time buyers. Still, year-to-date home sales are running 6.7% above the pace set in 2018. Higher prices and a lack of sales listings have been an obstacle this year for sales of new and existing homes, limiting the number of people who can afford to buy.

The median sales price of a new home jumped 8.8% from a year ago to $342,200.


Long-term mortgage rates slip; 30-year average at 4.06%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell slightly this week, marking a fourth straight week of declines to lure prospective purchasers in the spring homebuying season.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 4.06% from 4.07% last week. By contrast, a year ago the benchmark rate stood at 4.66%.

The average rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans declined this week to 3.51% from 3.53% last week.


Ag Secretary doesn’t expect deal by late summer

NEW YORK (AP) — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the U.S. and China probably won’t reach a trade deal by July or August, when the government will likely make its first aid payments to farmers from a new $16 billion support program.

Perdue said Thursday that “It would be very difficult to understand how a trade deal could be consummated before that first payment.” He noted that President Donald Trump will likely meet with China’s President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) in late June on the sidelines of an international summit. Currently there aren’t any plans for talks to resume before then.

Perdue and other officials said that an agreement could happen before the second of three payments are made in the late fall.


Bank CEO charged with trying to trade loans for Trump post

NEW YORK (AP) _ Federal prosecutors in New York have charged a banker with trying to buy himself a role in President Donald Trump’s administration by making risky loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Stephen M. Calk was arrested Thursday in New York City on a financial institution bribery charge and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court in this afternoon.

Authorities said Calk committed the crime while serving as CEO of The Federal Savings Bank in Chicago.

Federal prosecutors described the charge in a release, saying Calk abused his bank position by approving millions of dollars in high risk loans that were ultimately downgraded.

Prosecutors say Calk wanted to be appointed Secretary of the Army or some other high level post.


House passes bill to help workers with retirement savings

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House has approved a bill to promote retirement security by making it easier for small businesses and other companies to offer retirement plans.

The bill also makes it easier for workers to transfer retirement plans when they change jobs and allows part-time workers to save for retirement.

It fixes a provision of the 2017 tax cut law that raised taxes on benefits received by family members of deceased military veterans. The bill now goes to the Senate.


Older Americans more likely to cite workplace discrimination

CHICAGO (AP) _ A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says about half of Americans think there’s age discrimination in the workplace. But there’s a split by age.

The poll finds 60% of adults 60 and over say older workers in the U.S. are always or often discriminated against. Among adults younger than 45, it’s 43%. One in 10 older Americans and 2 in 10 of those 45 to 59 say they have been passed over for a raise or promotion because of their age.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act bars discrimination in the workplace on the basis of age.


Analyst predicts more trouble for Tesla amid stock drop

UNDATED (AP) _ Shares of Tesla opened lower today, a day after Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told investors on a private call that demand for Tesla’s cars was lower than predicted. He says if it continues into next year then Tesla will become a restructuring story. A recording of the call was obtained by The Associated Press.

Jonas also says that Tesla has 49,000 employees and is the size of a company that sells a million vehicles per year. But last year it sold about 245,000.

Tesla stock fell 3% after the opening bell to $186.97, its lowest level since February of 2016.


Vegas tourism board backs $49M Elon Musk transit system

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A company backed by tech billionaire Elon Musk has been granted a nearly $49 million contract to build a transit system using self-driving vehicles underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center. The board of directors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved the contract Wednesday with The Boring Company. It’s a Musk-backed enterprise based in Hawthorne, California.

The system will use self-driving electric vehicles capable of transporting up to 16 people and will include three underground stations and a pedestrian tunnel.

The company plans to start construction in September and debut the system by December 2020. The company will be reimbursed as it completes certain stages of the project.


Facebook removes 3B fake accounts, but how many missed?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Facebook says it removed more than 3 billion fake accounts from October to March, twice as many as the previous six months. What Facebook’s new report Thursday doesn’t say, though, is how many it also missed.

The increase shows the challenges Facebook faces in removing accounts created by computers to spread spam, fake news and other objectionable material.

Even as Facebook’s detection tools get better, so do the efforts by the creators of these fake accounts. Facebook says most of the fake accounts were blocked “within minutes” of their creation, before someone saw and reported them to the company.

Facebook has 2.4 billion active monthly users. Most of the removed accounts won’t count in this figure. Still, the company estimates that 5% of its monthly active users are fake.


Rotten Tomatoes to link audience ratings to ticket purchases

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Rotten Tomatoes is taking another step to verify that users posting a rating of a movie have actually seen it. The review aggregator says Thursday that users who purchase tickets on Fandango will get a verified badge next to their review, beginning with films out this weekend like “Booksmart” and “Aladdin.” The verified audience scores will also be displayed on Fandango, which owns Rotten Tomatoes.

Fandango says that this step will increase consumer confidence in the sites. Rotten Tomatoes had been a place where trolls could post negative scores for films that hadn’t been released, which happened recently to “Captain Marvel.” The company responded by shutting down user reviews until a film officially hits theaters.

Exhibitors AMC, Regal and Cinemark will join later this year.


Theme park attendance crosses half-billion mark for 1st time

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Worldwide attendance at the 10 biggest operators of amusement parks increased 4% last year and crossed the half-billion-visitors mark for the first time.

According to a report released this week by Themed Entertainment Association and the Economics Practice at AECOM, global attendance at waterparks increased by 2.5%, and the top museums had relatively flat attendance last year.

The report credits the adaptation of strong intellectual properties into new attractions.

Walt Disney parks across the globe had more than 157 million visitors in 2018, more than double the next-closest theme park company, Merlin Entertainment Group, which owns the Legoland parks and other attractions.

Magic Kingdom in Florida was the best-attended park with 20.8 million visitors in 2018, followed by Disneyland in California with 18.6 million visitors.

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