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Business Highlights

February 13, 2019

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Q&A: Should anyone worry about a $22 trillion national debt?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government surpassed a dubious milestone this week: Its debt topped $22 trillion — that’s trillion, with a “t″ — for the first time. Piles of federal debt have been growing ever higher for years, fueled by accumulating annual deficits, which themselves have been driven by tax cuts, government spending increases and the costs of Medicare and Social Security and interest on the debt itself. So just what is the national debt, why does it keep rising and how worried should we be about it?

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China’s Huawei soft power push raises hard questions

TORONTO (AP) — As a feud deepens between China and Canada over telecom giant Huawei, the company’s sponsorship of the flagship “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast has raised questions about its involvement in a beloved national institution. The TV deal is one of many examples of how Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom gear producer and one of the top smartphone makers, has embarked on a global push to win consumers and burnish its brand.

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US consumer prices flat in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices were unchanged in January, as lower gasoline prices offset the rising costs of housing, clothing and medical care. The Labor Department said the consumer price index rose only 1.6 percent last month from a year earlier. Inflation has been tempered by a 10.1 percent plunge over the past 12 months in prices at the gas pump. But housing expenses — the dominant part of the index — have risen 3.2 percent.

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Head of FEMA resigning, questioned over use of vehicles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the federal disaster response agency is resigning, months after an investigation found he misused government vehicles to travel to his home in North Carolina. Brock Long said in a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency employees that he was resigning to spend more time with his family. Long was under investigation by the Homeland Security Department’s watchdog, and word of it leaked just as Hurricane Florence struck last fall.

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US, China envoys hold talks before Trump tariff decision

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. and Chinese trade envoys are due to hold two days of trade talks beginning Thursday that will help decide whether President Donald Trump will go ahead with a March 2 tariff hike on $200 billion of imports from China. Business executives and economists say the talks over Beijing’s technology ambitions will allow too little time to resolve a wide range of disagreements, though China may manage to persuade Trump to push back his deadline.

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Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through. At a hearing by a House committee, the two executives defended the deal, which would combine the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and create a behemoth about the size of industry giants Verizon and AT&T.

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Trump still coy on border deal - but expected to sign

WASHINGTON (AP) — With little Washington appetite for another shutdown, President Donald Trump is expected to grudgingly accept an agreement that would keep the government open but provide just a fraction of the money he’s been demanding for his Mexican border wall. White House officials cautioned on Wednesday that they have yet to receive full legislative language.

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Is it love? Maybe not, as romance scams proliferate

Is it love? Maybe not. The FTC says romance scams have surged and generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency last year. The median reported loss to a victim was $2,600, about seven times more than any other fraud.

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Congress urged to fully open banks to marijuana industry

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Banking officials are urging Congress to fully open the doors of the U.S. bank system to the legal marijuana industry. Most Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form. But most banks don’t want anything to do with pot money for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana as illegal. That conflict has forced many businesses to operate solely in cash and makes them targets for crime.

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Prada announces diversity council after blackface outrage

MILAN (AP) — Italian brand Prada says it is forming a diversity council to “elevate voices of color within the company and fashion industry at large. The move that follows the company’s apology in December for producing bag charms that resembled black monkeys with exaggerated red lips. Critics said the charms resembled blackface caricatures that promote racism. Two Americans, artist Theaster Gates and film director Ava DuVernay, agreed to chair Prada’s council.

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The S&P 500 index gained 8.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,753.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 117.51 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,543.27. The Nasdaq composite added 5.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,420.38. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 4.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,542.94.

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