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Update on the latest in business:

May 15, 2018


Stocks lose ground

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are broadly lower today, led by declines in technology, health care and consumer-focused companies.

The slide put the Dow Jones industrial average on track to end an eight-day winning streak.

Homebuilders slumped amid expectations that higher mortgage rates may hurt home sales. Mortgage rates, which have been rising this year, tend to track the movement in the 10-year Treasury yield.

Home Depot dropped 1.9 percent to $187.49 after the home-improvement retailer reported weaker-than-expected sales, partly because of inclement weather, and said the second quarter got off to a slow start.

Banks rose as bond prices fell, sending yields to their highest level in almost seven years. The pickup in bond yields followed a report showing a solid increase in U.S. retail sales last month.


US retail sales rose a solid 0.3 percent in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales rose at a solid pace last month, a sign that consumers are rebounding from weak spending in the first three months of the year and driving better economic growth.

The Commerce Department says retail sales increased 0.3 percent in April, down from a 0.8 percent gain in March, which was revised higher. The spending gains were spread across most retail categories, with big gains at furniture and clothing stores.

A strong job market is showing early signs of lifting Americans’ incomes. The unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low of 3.9 percent. Measures of consumer confidence remain healthy, despite rising gas prices and a rocky stock market.

Clothing-store sales, fueled by price cuts, jumped 1.4 percent, while sales at home and garden stores rose 0.4 percent.


Builder optimisms bounces in May after 4 month slide

U.S. homebuilders are feeling more confident about their sales prospects, reflecting strong demand for newly built homes with existing homes in short supply.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday rose two points to 70 this month. That’s up from a revised reading of 68 in April.

That ends a four-month slide for builders.

Any reading above 50 indicates more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has remained above 60 since September 2016.

May’s index exceeded expectations for a reading of 69, according to FactSet.

Builders’ view of current sales conditions rose two points to 76 this month. The outlook for sales over the next six months held at 77. A measure of buyer traffic held steady at 51.


Kellogg’s latest US brand to close door on Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Kellogg Company says it’s closing operations in Venezuela at a time of widespread hunger in the crisis-wracked South American nation.

The Battle Creek, Michigan-based company said in a statement Tuesday that it was prompted to cease operations as a result of continued economic deterioration.

Kellogg’s factory in the city of Maracay employs around 550 people that produce 75 percent of the breakfast cereals Venezuelans consume.

The company said it looks forward to resuming operations once conditions improve. The company has been producing in Venezuela since 1961 and the market had been its biggest in Latin America after Mexico.

Kellogg’s joins multinationals including Bridgestone, Kimberly-Clark and General Mills that have closed or reduced operations in Venezuela amid hyperinflation, shortages and a recession deeper than the Great Depression of the 1930s.


Seattle OKs tax on companies like Amazon to help homeless

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s largest businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks will have to pay a new tax to help fund homeless services and affordable housing under a measure approved by city leaders.

The City Council on Monday unanimously passed a compromise plan that taxes businesses making at least $20 million in gross revenues about $275 per full-time worker each year — lower than the $500 per worker initially proposed. The so-called “head tax” would raise roughly $48 million a year to build new affordable housing units and provide emergency homeless services.

Amazon, Starbucks and other business groups harshly criticized the council’s decision after Monday’s vote.

But others including worker and church groups cheered the decision as a significant step toward building badly needed affordable housing.


Trade body: EU still providing illegal subsidies to Airbus

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization’s appellate body has ruled that the European Union is continuing to provide illegal subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.

The WTO decision on the latest in a string of tussles between Europe’s Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing comes as the Trump administration has exerted intense pressure on the Geneva-based organization over what the president alleges is its “unfair” treatment of the United States.

The appellate body maintained a ruling by the WTO’s compliance panel that EU “launch aid” provided to Airbus resulted in lost sales for Boeing in the twin-aisle and very-large aircraft markets.

The move means that the U.S., under WTO rules, can ask an arbitrator to determine the level of retaliation it can seek against the European bloc as a result of its failure to comply.


Scottish lawmakers reject Brexit bill in headache for May

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s parliament has rejected the British government’s key Brexit bill, creating another headache for Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for leaving the European Union.

Lawmakers in the Edinburgh legislature passed a motion Tuesday refusing to consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The bill is designed to implement Brexit by translating all EU law into British statute when the U.K. leaves the bloc.

Scotland’s governing Scottish National Party thinks the bill could undermine the Edinburgh government by letting London seize too many powers being returned from Brussels.

Scotland’s parliament doesn’t have the authority to block the legislation, but an attempt to push it through without Scottish consent could prompt a constitutional crisis.

Britain as a whole voted in June 2016 to leave the EU, but Scotland voted to remain.


Swiss police investigate deadly crash, fire involving Tesla

GENEVA (AP) — Police in southern Switzerland say they are investigating the death of a German man after a Tesla car he was driving crashed into a guardrail and burst into flames.

The Bellinzona city fire brigade reportedly pulled down from its Facebook page a comment a day earlier that had suggested that the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries could have triggered a phenomenon involving a “rapid and unstoppable increase in temperature” in the accident on Thursday.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, the fire brigade said simply that an investigation was underway and declined to comment further.

Bellinzona police said the German driver, 48, crashed while driving on the highway in circumstances that have not yet been clarified.

Tesla Europe did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.


Uber shifts policy for alleged sexual misconduct on service

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber’s ride-hailing service will give its U.S. passengers and drivers more leeway to pursue claims of sexual misconduct, its latest attempt to reverse its reputation for brushing aside bad behavior.

The shift announced Tuesday will allow riders and drivers to file allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct in courts and mediation instead of being locked into an arbitration hearing.

The San Francisco company is also scrapping a policy requiring all settlements of sexual misconduct to be kept confidential.

The new rules mark another conciliatory move made by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (kahs-row-SHAH’-hee). He was hired last August amid a wave of revelations and allegations about internal sexual harassment , a cover-up of a massive data breach , dirty tricks and stolen trade secrets .


Mexico acknowledges banks were hacked; losses unknown

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico has established a one-day waiting period on electronic money transfers of over $2,500 in the wake of a hacking attack that may have taken as much as $20 million from several Mexican banks.

The head of the country’s central bank acknowledged that a “cyberattack” was involved in shadowy transfers of between $18 million and $20 million.

The central bank issued a memo late Monday saying banks could opt to immediately pay out transfers for customers they know, but would impose a one-day wait period for others.

The head of the country’s bankers’ association told local media Tuesday that the hackers had apparently duplicated valid settlement payments between banks, with one copy going to the intended recipient and the other going to account set up by hackers.

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