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Update on the latest business

November 14, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks erase an early gain and head lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have turned lower in afternoon trading, erasing a modest early rally and extending the market’s losses from yesterday.

Technology stocks and banks have been taking some of the heaviest losses, outweighing gains in industrial companies and other sectors.

Apple fell 1.8 percent and Morgan Stanley lost 1.1 percent.

Energy stocks gave up an early gain even as crude oil prices headed higher. Oil has fallen sharply in recent weeks on concerns of rising supplies.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE-UTILITY LAWSUIT

PG&E shares plummet as California burns

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Shares in PG&E are trading at their lowest level in more than a decade with some Californians who have lost homes saying that the power company is at fault for the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire.

In a lawsuit filed this week, homeowners said a high voltage transmission line failed, sparking the fire. They accuse Pacific Gas & Electric Co. of failing to maintain infrastructure.

Shares in the San Francisco company plunged another 31 percent Wednesday, to $25.99. The have lost about 45 percent of their value since last week.

PG&E told state regulators last week that it experienced a problem on a transmission line just before the blaze erupted in the vicinity.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the blaze.

CONSUMER PRICES

US consumer prices increased 0.3 percent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices climbed 0.3 percent in October, with higher prices for gasoline, used autos and housing contributing to the increase.

The Labor Department says that this measure of inflation has increased 2.5 percent over the past 12 months. Adjusted for rising prices, average weekly wages have improved 0.9 percent this year.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food costs, rose 0.2 percent in October and 2.1 percent from a year ago.

Gas prices rose 3 percent in October, after having dipped 0.2 percent in September. Housing — the single largest component of the index — increased 0.3 percent last month. But food prices slipped in October as fruits, vegetables, cereals and bakery products became cheaper.

The Federal Reserve targets inflation at 2 percent.

OIL MARKET

Energy agency: Global oil supply jumps, sending prices lower

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The International Energy Agency says global oil supplies are growing rapidly as Saudi Arabia, the United States and Russia pump oil at a record rate in response to the higher prices stoked by renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Producers heeded warnings that U.S. sanctions could mean loss of Iranian oil to the market and thus lead to higher prices. But although President Donald Trump imposed sanctions Nov. 5, he issued six-month waivers for some of Iran’s biggest oil customers. That helped send prices lower.

The IEA said Wednesday in its monthly report that October output rose by 2.6 million barrels a day to 100.7 million barrels, helping send prices for Brent crude sharply lower to around $70 per barrel from a four-year high above $86 per barrel in early October.

BREXIT

LONDON (AP) — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May says a draft divorce agreement with the European Union “takes us significantly closer to delivering what the British people voted for” when they decided to leave the bloc.

May told lawmakers that the deal means Britain will “take back control” of its laws and borders “while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom.”

May’s Cabinet is due to meet later Wednesday to consider whether to back the deal. Pro-Brexit politicians are already attacking it, saying it will bind Britain to EU rules and regulations long after it leaves the bloc in March.

May said the Cabinet would decide what to do “in the national interest.”

UNITED STATES-CHINA-TECH RISK

US panel warns against government purchase of Chinese tech

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional advisory panel says the purchase of internet-linked devices manufactured in China leaves the United States vulnerable to security breaches that could put critical infrastructure at risk.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission issued the warning Wednesday in a report focused on the increasing use of the internet in household appliances. It says China’s push to dominate the so-called internet of things creates “enormous” privacy and security risks to the United States.

China’s bid to dominate in the high-tech industry by 2025 already is a sore point with Washington and a contributing factor in trade tensions that have seen the world’s two largest economies slap billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on each other’s products this year.

The U.S. also has had concerns about state-backed cyber theft of corporate secrets, something China agreed to stop in 2015.

INSURANCE COMPANY LAYOFFS

Insurer Nationwide cutting 1,100 jobs across country

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nationwide intends to eliminate the jobs of about 1,100 employees across the country — around 3.6 percent of its workforce.

The insurance and financial services company says about 80 workers in Des Moines and 350 in Columbus, Ohio, were told Tuesday that their jobs would be eliminated by the end of March. The remaining workers affected will be informed in the coming weeks.

Nationwide says the employees will receive severance pay and other support, and they can apply for company jobs elsewhere. Nationwide is based in Columbus.

The job cuts will occur mostly in information technology, marketing, property and casualty operations and bank organizations.

Nationwide says it is taking advantage of new technologies as it positions the organization for long-term success and growth.

POSTAL SERVICE-FINANCES

Postal Service’s red ink for 12th year as letter mail drops

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service is reporting a financial loss for the 12th straight year, citing declining mail volume as well as the costs of its pension and health care obligations.

The Postal Service is awaiting a report ordered by President Donald Trump to address the agency’s “unsustainable financial path.”

Postal officials expect finances next year to be helped somewhat by another strong holiday season of package deliveries and from higher stamp prices, which take effect in January. A first-class stamp will increase from 50 cents to 55 cents.

The Postal Service reported a loss of $3.9 billion for the budget year that ended Sept. 30. That compares with a $2.7 billion loss in 2017.

Increases in package delivery were unable to offset drop-offs in letter mail.

BORDER WALL-TEXAS

US awards second border wall contract in Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government has awarded a $167 million contract to build 8 miles of border wall in south Texas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the contract Wednesday. Construction will begin in February. CBP already announced a $145 million award for another 6 miles (10 kilometers) in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

Galveston, Texas-based construction firm SLSCO won both contracts.

CBP says it plans to install fence posts on the levee north of the Rio Grande, the river that separates the U.S. and Mexico in Texas, as well as lighting, patrol roads, and the clearing of vegetation.

Environmental advocates warn that construction will damage sensitive areas and endanger wildlife.

President Donald Trump has made the border wall a priority, promising during his campaign that Mexico would pay for it.

FORD-WALMART-DELIVERY

Ford, Walmart test self-driving grocery delivery service

UNDATED (AP) — Ford and Walmart are teaming up to test a self-driving grocery delivery service.

The pilot program in Florida’s Miami-Dade County will incorporate Postmates, a logistics company that operates a network of couriers, to deliver groceries and more. The vehicles will collect data on consumer preferences to help the companies understand what people want. Ford said Wednesday that it’ll also look at different vehicle configurations or modifications that may be needed to accommodate orders such as perishable goods, or when a vehicle is making multiple deliveries on a single trip.

Ford will work with Walmart over the next couple months to determine what goods it can feasibly transport and figure out any issues that may need to be addressed to successfully deliver orders via self-driving vehicles.

RUSSIA-SIBERIA SOJOURN

Passengers reach China after 3-day layover in Siberia

MOSCOW (AP) — More than 250 airline passengers who endured an unexpected three-day layover in Russia’s Siberia region have finally made it to their destination in China.

The extended travel delay began Sunday when an Air France flight from Paris to Shanghai made an emergency landing in the eastern Siberia city of Irkutsk after smoke appeared in the cockpit.

The 264 passengers and 18 crew members were taken to hotels, but many weren’t dressed for the minus-15 degrees Celsius (5 F) weather. In any case, they couldn’t leave the hotels because they were without Russian visas.

The China-bound travelers boarded a replacement plane on Tuesday, but it couldn’t take off because of problems in the hydraulic system.

A second replacement plane got them to Shanghai on Wednesday.

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