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Update on the latest in business:

January 21, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets advance on optimism over China-US trade

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares in Asia rose Monday, extending gains on Wall Street last week. Buying enthusiasm has been spurred by renewed hopes for progress on resolving the trade standoff between the U.S. and China. Shares rose in Shanghai and Hong Kong early Monday despite news that China’s economy grew at its lowest pace in three decades last year.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.6 percent over a year earlier, down from 2017′s 6.9 percent. Official data showed that Growth in the three months ending in December cooled to 6.4 percent from the previous quarter’s 6.5 percent. China’s communist leaders are trying to steer China to slower, more self-sustaining growth based on consumer spending instead of trade and investment. But the slowdown has been sharper than expected.

On Wall Street last week, the S&P 500 climbed 1.3 percent to 2,670.71 and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 1.4 percent to 24,706.35. The Nasdaq composite added 1 percent to 7,157.23. Stock indexes have surged since reaching a low point on Christmas Eve, as the S&P 500 has risen for four weeks in a row. It climbed 2.9 percent this week. It’s risen at least 1.9 percent every week during that rally. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.9 percent and the S&P 500 index has risen 6.5 percent so far this year, a surprisingly strong showing coming off a punishing end to 2018.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to remain above $54 per barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and the euro.

CHINA-ECONOMY

China’s 2018 economic growth sinks to 3-decade low

BEIJING (AP) — China’s 2018 economic growth fell to a three-decade low, adding to pressure on Beijing to settle a tariff war with Washington.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.6 percent over a year earlier, down from 2017′s 6.9 percent, official data showed Monday. Growth in the three months ending in December dipped to 6.4 percent — the lowest quarterly level since the 2008 global crisis — from the previous quarter’s 6.5 percent.

Communist leaders are trying to steer China to slower, more self-sustaining growth based on consumer spending instead of trade and investment. But the deceleration has been sharper than expected, prompting Beijing to step up government spending and order banks to lend more to shore up growth and avoid politically dangerous job losses.

Exports held up through most of 2018 despite President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports in a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions. But they contracted in December as the penalties began to depress U.S. demand.

Economic growth in 2018 was the lowest since 1990′s 3.9 percent in the aftermath of the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported that growth in investment, retail spending and factory activity all declined.

US-UNITED STATES-CHINA-TRADE

Trump says trade deal with China ‘could very well happen’

WASHINGTON (AP) — As trade talks between the U.S. and China move to Washington later this month, President Donald Trump is hopeful that the economic powers can find a way to end a costly tariff fight.

Trump tells reporters that “we’ve really had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very well happen with China.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (LYT’-hy-zur) and China’s economy czar, Vice Premier Liu He, are expected to hold talks at the end of January.

Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) agreed on Dec. 1 to suspend further tariff increases for 90 days while they negotiate. The two sides have imposed tariff increase of up to 25 percent on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

DAVOS-GLOBAL INEQUALITY

Oxfam says world wealth gap widening, advocates fairer taxes

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Wealth inequality around the world is “out of control” and doing particular harm to women, anti-poverty campaigner Oxfam warned Monday ahead of the annual gathering of business and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Oxfam, which has for years been trying to bring attention to the issue ahead of the World Economic Forum, said in a report that billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year — the equivalent of $2.5 billion a day — while the 3.8 billion people who make up the world’s poorest half saw their wealth decline by 11 percent.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director called it “unacceptable” in an interview with The Associated Press.

In the report, which is based on figures from Credit Suisse’ Wealth Databook and Forbes’ annual list of billionaires, Oxfam said the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis a decade ago yet tax rates on the wealthy and corporations have fallen to their lowest levels in decades.

Oxfam said making taxes fairer will help address many of the world’s ills.

DAVOS-TRUST SURVEY

Survey: Workers trust their employer over other institutions

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — With trust in governments taking a hit since the global financial crisis, people around the world view their employer as the most trusted institution in their lives, according to a survey published Monday.

In a survey of trust in institutions that public relations firm Edelman releases each year on the eve of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, the firm found that 75 percent of respondents trusted their employer. That’s a hefty 19 percentage points more than the equivalent trust in business as a whole and 27 points more than governments.

Waning trust in public institutions in recent years has accompanied a rise in populist and nationalist politics, from the election of President Donald Trump to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. And over the past year, the #MeToo movement has spread from Hollywood into the political and corporate worlds, while the yellow vest movement in France — initially a protest over a fuel tax — has shaken the country and caused President Emmanuel Macron to backtrack on some reforms.

The survey also found the largest ever difference in trust in public institutions between wealthier people with college educations and poorer ones without degrees.

MEXICO-PIPELINE FIRE

Death toll reaches 85 in Mexico fuel pipeline fire horror

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico (AP) — People in the town where a gasoline explosion killed at least 85 people say the section of pipeline that gushed fuel has been a habitual gathering site for thieves, repeatedly damaged and patched like a trusty pair of jeans.

On Friday, amid countrywide fuel shortages at gas stations as the government attempts to stem widespread fuel theft, this particular section of pipeline had come back into service after being offline for nearly four weeks when somebody punctured the line again. Word quickly spread through the community of 20,000 people that gas was flowing. Come one, come all.

Hundreds showed up at the spigot, carrying plastic jugs and covering their faces with bandanas. A few threw rocks and swung sticks at soldiers who tried to shoo them away. Some fuel collectors brought their children along.

The fireball that engulfed those scooping up gasoline underscores the dangers of the epidemic of fuel theft that Mexico’s new president has vowed to fight.

By Sunday evening, the death toll blaze had risen to 85, with 58 others hospitalized, federal Health Minister Jorge Alcocer said. Dozens more were listed as missing.

Soldiers formed a perimeter around an area the size of a soccer field where townspeople were incinerated by the fireball, reduced to clumps of ash and bones. Officials suggested Sunday that fields like this, where people were clearly complicit with the crime of fuel theft, could be seized by the government.

VIRGINIA INVESTOR-DOMINION

Virginia investor tries to curb Dominion’s influence

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Rich people using their wealth to try to influence politics is nothing new, but not many launch multimillion-dollar crusades against their local electric company.

That’s just what Charlottesville investor and Democratic donor Michael Bills is doing in Virginia, where’s he’s taking on Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility and most politically powerful corporation.

Dominion has had a major say in writing Virginia energy laws for years, helping shape a regulatory scheme Wall Street analysts have called one of the most utility-friendly in the country. Critics say Dominion has used its political muscle to overcharge customers by billions of dollars and stifle competition. Dominion says it’s an engaged corporate citizen with a strong record of providing reasonably priced, reliable power.

Bills said Dominion has effectively captured the General Assembly to boost profits. The result, he said, isn’t just overpaid Dominion executives, unnecessarily high electric bills and bad environmental policy, but a deep rot in the democratic process.

Bills is funding a group called Clean Virginia that plans to spend about $8 million to $10 million on a lobbying and public relations campaign over several years. Those efforts include running targeted ads in key lawmakers’ districts to counter Dominion’s sway.

BREXIT

May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay

LONDON (AP) — As Prime Minister Theresa May prepared her next move in Britain’s deadlocked Brexit battle, a senior opposition politician said Sunday that it’s unlikely the U.K. will leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29.

A government minister, however, warned that failure to deliver on Brexit would betray voters and unleash a “political tsunami.”

May is due to present Parliament with a revised Brexit plan on Monday, after the divorce deal she had struck the EU was rejected by lawmakers last week. With just over two months until Britain is due to leave the bloc, some members of Parliament are pushing for the U.K. to delay its departure until the country’s divided politicians can agree on a way forward.

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said “it’s inevitable” Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year countdown to exit that ends on March 29.

Britain’s political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies. Many economists expect Britain to plunge into recession if there is a “no-deal” Brexit.

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