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September 26, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving higher in midday trading on Wall Street as investors wait for word from the Federal Reserve on interest rates.

The Fed is widely expected to raise its benchmark rate for the third time this year. It’s a positive sign for the economy but will also raise borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.

Most investors expect a fourth rate increase in December with perhaps a few more in 2019, as the economy continues to strengthen.

Bond prices rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.08 percent.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed poised to raise rates for third time this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates for a third time this year and possibly modify the likely direction of rates in the months ahead.

The big question is whether the strong U.S. economy, which has been fueled this year by tax cuts and increased government spending, could weaken next year, especially if President Donald Trump’s trade fights begin to inflict damage and the benefits of tax cuts start to fade.

If the Fed finds that prospect likely, it might signal Wednesday that it expects to slow its rate increases next year.

The Fed’s key short-term rate now stands in a range of 1.75-2 percent after two quarter-point increases in March and June. A similar rate hike Wednesday would raise that range to a still-low 2-2.25 percent.

NEW-HOME SALES

US new-home sales rose 3.5 percent in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sales of new U.S. homes climbed 3.5 percent in August, snapping a two-month decline as buying surged in the pricey Northeast and West housing markets.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that newly built homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 629,000 last month. Sales of new homes have advanced 6.9 percent this year. Still, rising costs and higher mortgage rates have tempered some of the enthusiasm from would-be buyers.

The sales gains mostly came from a 47.8 percent jump in the Northeast and a 9.1 percent increase in the West. New-home sales edged up in the Midwest and fell in the South. The regional figures can be extremely volatile on a monthly basis.

The average sales price has risen 5.2 percent from a year ago to $388,400.

CHINA-TRADE

China announces tariff cut but no action on US complaints

BEIJING (AP) — China announced more tariff cuts Wednesday on imports of construction machinery and other goods, but took no action to address the U.S. complaints about its technology policy that are fueling an escalating trade battle.

The move reflects the Chinese government’s desire to stick to plans to make the economy more competitive and its intention to press on with state-led development of industry. It gave no indication the reductions would apply to U.S. goods, on which Beijing has imposed additional taxes of 5 to 25 percent.

The tariff cut, effective Nov. 1, applies to 1,585 types of goods including construction equipment, industrial machinery, paper products and building materials. It is the second reduction in less than a year following a cut last November for food and consumer goods.

President Xi Jinping’s administration has this year announced a series of measures to open up the Chinese market to outside competition but none addresses U.S. complaints that the government steals or pressures foreign companies into handing over technology.

President Donald Trump went ahead Monday with a tariff increase on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing responded by imposing penalties on $60 billion of American products. That was on top of an earlier duty increase by both sides on $50 billion of each other’s goods.

TRADE WARS

Report: Global trade war would hurt US the most

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Economists at the European Central Bank simulated a wide-ranging global trade war and found it would cost the United States significant amounts of growth, while China might not be hit so badly.

The researchers conclude that “an escalation of trade tensions could have significant adverse global effects” on growth. They added that stock and bond markets could be hit indirectly by a general loss of confidence in the economy.

The researchers used computer models to wargame a scenario in which the United States slaps a 10 percent tariff on all imports and all trade partners respond in kind. It’s purely hypothetical, but the results were significant: a 2 percent loss in growth in the first year for the United States, and a 3 percent drop in global trade.

UBER-DATA BREACH-SETTLEMENT

Uber agrees to $148M settlement with states over data breach

CHICAGO (AP) — Uber has agreed to pay $148 million and take steps to tighten data security, after the ride-hailing company failed for a year to notify drivers that hackers had stolen their personal information.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced the settlement Wednesday between Uber Technologies Inc. and all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Uber learned in November 2016 that hackers had accessed personal data, including driver’s license information, for roughly 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S. The company acknowledged the breach in November 2017, saying it paid $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.

The states sued Uber, saying the company violated laws requiring it to promptly notify people affected by the breach.

Madigan says “Companies cannot hide when they break the law.”

CONGRESS-DATA PRIVACY

Senate panel hears from internet execs on privacy policies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Internet companies are hoping to avoid a patchwork of state laws on consumer data privacy. They are supporting a federal proposal that could negate those state laws, including a recently enacted one in California.

Executives from Google, Amazon, Twitter, Apple and AT&T were asked at a Senate hearing Wednesday if they’d support federal privacy protections that pre-empted “inconsistent” state laws.

All said “yes,” with a few qualifications. Bud Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology, says the bar would have to be “high enough in the federal legislation” to provide meaningful consumer protections.

The Senate Commerce Committee is considering a new national privacy law.

AMAZON-WHOLE FOODS DELIVERY

Amazon pushes Whole Foods grocery delivery to new cities

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon continues to expand delivery from its Whole Foods grocery stores, announcing new service in 10 cities while broadening delivery areas where it’s already operating.

The Seattle company said Wednesday that it’s broadening delivery areas in New York and Seattle, and announced the first expansion of free grocery pick-up service to five new cities.

Amazon’s entry into the grocery arena has forced traditional stores to expand amenities for customers, or at least speed up plans to do so.

Amazon is expanding delivery to its Prime members in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, Florida, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Omaha, St. Louis, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Delivery is now available in 48 cities. Customers can order through the company’s app or online.

FOX-SKY

Fox plans to sell stake in Sky to Comcast for $15B

NEW YORK (AP) — 21st Century Fox will sell its remaining stake in British pay TV provider Sky to Comcast in the latest financial wrangling as Disney prepares to acquire Fox’s entertainment assets.

Over the weekend, Comcast won a rare bidding auction for 61 percent of Sky offering 17.28 pounds per share, almost 30 billion pounds ($39 billion). Fox will sell its 39 percent stake to for 11.6 billion pounds ($15.25 billion).

Last December a bidding war between Walt Disney Co. and Comcast began over Fox’s entertainment assets. Walt Disney Co. prevailed and is in the process acquiring Fox. Comcast dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky.

Disney says the sale will significantly reduce the amount of debt it is taking on by acquiring Fox’s entertainment assets.

TROPICAL WEATHER-RAILROAD SUED

Town residents sue railroad over gap in levee

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) —

Residents of a flooded North Carolina town are suing a railroad company, alleging it impeded efforts to plug a gap in a levee.

Several Lumberton residents sued CSX Corp. this week claiming a railroad underpass owned by the company created a gap in a levee allowing floodwater to pour in after Florence.

The plaintiffs say the company knew about the problem for some time and the gap exacerbated flooding during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The lawsuit cites a May 2018 report by state officials calling for a floodgate and saying planning was underway.

The plaintiffs say Lumberton officials were refused permission by CSX to build a temporary sandbag berm at the underpass as Florence approached. They say an emergency order by the governor allowed them to build a last-minute temporary berm but it was breached by floodwaters.

CSX issued a statement that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but noted the “extraordinary storm” devastated Lumberton and other communities with its flooding.

ZINC-AIR BATTERIES

Zinc-air batteries provide power in remote areas

NEW YORK (AP) — Remote villages in Africa and Asia are receiving electricity using a little-known type of technology: zinc-air batteries.

California-based NantEnergy said Wednesday it has created a zinc-air battery storage system that can provide power at a lower cost than lithium-ion batteries.

Jason Burwen of the Energy Storage Association says utilities across the U.S. are deploying energy storage systems as part of their infrastructure. He says military bases and small communities often use lithium ion batteries, especially to power “micro-grids” found on islands or in remote areas.

NantEnergy says its zinc air battery system can deliver energy for $100 per kilowatt hour. The technology is also being used in cell phone towers.

The company says reducing battery cost to compete with fossil fuels is critical so that more people can afford the technology.

OLD APPLE COMPUTER-AUCTION

Apple computer built in 1970s sold for $375,000 at auction

BOSTON (AP) — A computer built in the 1970s that helped launch the personal computer age as well as a trillion-dollar company has sold for $375,000.

The fully functioning Apple-1 auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction was sold at a live sale Tuesday.

RR says the winning bid came from a U.S.-based businessman who wishes to remain anonymous.

The computer is one of 60 or so remaining of the original 200 designed and built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 and 1977, and one of 16 that still works.

It sold back then for less than $700. The original owner offered to sell it to Wozniak in 1982 for $10,000, an offer that went unanswered.

Cupertino, California-based Apple recently became the world’s first publicly traded company to be valued at $1 trillion.

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