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Update on the latest in business:

April 20, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares fall back on trade worries, tech outlook

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian shares fell back Friday after a major supplier to Apple forecast continued weak demand for mobile devices. A warning by the head of the IMF over the potential for trade tensions to harm global growth also weighed on sentiment.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent lower, shedding early gains. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.4 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. plunged nearly 6 percent in Taiwan after the key Asian Apple supplier gave a lower-than-expected revenue forecast for the second quarter of $7.8 billion-$7.9 billion. The company predicted demand in the mobile sector would remain weak.

U.S. stock markets finished lower on Thursday, ending a three-day winning streak for the market as technology and consumer products companies went sour. The S&P 500 index fell 0.6 percent to 2,693.13. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.3 percent to 24,664.89. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.8 percent to 7,238.06.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Business and economic reports due out today

UNDATED (AP) — There are no major business or economic reports scheduled for release today.

GLOBAL FINANCE

Lagarde urges countries to settle trade disputes, cut debt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund is urging countries to work out their differences over trade and take advantage of a healthy world economy to reduce debt before the next downturn comes.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says, “The near-term prospect for the global economy appears to be bright.”

But clouds are already gathering: an intensifying standoff between the United States and China that threatens to flare up into the biggest trade conflagration since World War II. Record levels of global debt. Financial markets that are volatile — and vulnerable to an unexpectedly steep uptick in interest rates.

Lagarde’s comments came Thursday at the opening of the spring meetings of the 189-nation IMF and its sister lending organization, the World Bank.

WELLS FARGO FINE

Reports: Wells Fargo to be fined $1B as early as today

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times and other news outlets are reporting that federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo as much as $1 billion as early as today for abuses tied to its auto lending and mortgage businesses.

The potential $1 billion fine would be largest ever imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the bank’s main federal regulator, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said last week that it was in negotiations with federal regulators to pay as much as $1 billion in fines to settle various charges, but that negotiations were still ongoing.

This would be the first fine against a bank by the Trump administration since Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the CFPB, took over the bureau in late-November.

HUAWEI-US-EUROPE EXPANSION

As doors close in the US, China’s Huawei shifts to Europe

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — As trade disputes simmer, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei (hwah-way), the No. 3 smartphone brand, is shifting its growth efforts toward Europe and Asia in the face of mounting obstacles in the U.S. market.

Shenzhen-based Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecoms equipment, has long coveted access to the U.S. but recently laid off key American employees at its Washington D.C. office.

The U.S. has regularly stymied Huawei’s efforts to enter America, citing national security concerns.

Huawei is instead focusing on Europe, where its profits are surging, partnering with European firms to develop next-generation wireless network standards.

CHINA-US-ZTE

ZTE protests ‘unfair’ US penalty, says it’s seeking solution

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese tech company ZTE says it won’t accept what it calls an “unfair” U.S. penalty in a case involving exports of telecoms equipment to North Korea and Iran and is seeking a solution through legal channels.

The Commerce Department on Monday barred the state-owned company from importing American components for seven years after concluding the company paid bonuses to employees involved in the export scheme instead of disciplining them as promised in 2017.

ZTE pleaded guilty in March 2017 and agreed to pay a $1.19 billion penalty for shipping the equipment in violation of U.S. regulations.

TRUMP-EPA

EPA watchdog opens latest investigation into Pruitt security

WASHINGTON (AP) — The internal watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency has launched yet another investigation of travel and security spending involving embattled administrator Scott Pruitt.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote in a letter that his office will review spending by Pruitt’s full-time security detail at times when wasn’t traveling for any official purpose. The review was requested by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who raised concerns about EPA security spending during a family vacation in which Pruitt went to Disneyland and attended a football game at the Rose Bowl.

Elkins office is now conducting at least a half dozen audits and investigations related to Pruitt and his security team. Separate reviews are also underway by Congressional oversight committees, the Office of Government Ethics and the White House.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES-EMERGENCY LANDING

Southwest Airlines sought more time for engine inspections

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Southwest Airlines sought more time to inspect fan blades like the one that snapped off during one of its flights and caused an engine breakup that left a passenger dead.

The airline opposed a recommendation by the engine manufacturer to require ultrasonic inspections of certain fan blades within 12 months, saying it needed more time to conduct the inspections.

Southwest made the comments last year after U.S. regulators proposed making the inspections mandatory. The Federal Aviation Administration has not yet required airlines to conduct the extra inspections but said late Wednesday that it would do so in the next two weeks.

The recommendation for more inspections followed an engine blowup on a 2016 Southwest flight.

On Tuesday, the engine on another Southwest jet exploded over Pennsylvania and debris hit the plane. A woman was killed.

MATTEL-CEO

Mattel CEO leaves after being at helm for 14 months

NEW YORK (AP) — Mattel Inc. says that its CEO Margo Georgiadis is stepping down to pursue a new opportunity in the tech sector.

The toy giant, based in El Segundo, California, says the board has named Ynon Kreiz, a Mattel director since June 2017 as her successor, effective April 26.

Mattel says that Georgiadis will serve in an advisory role through May 10 to ensure a smooth transition.

The departure, announced Thursday, comes after the former Google executive, who took the top spot in February 2017, hasn’t been able to turn around the company’s business.

Kreiz was named a non-executive chairman of the board in February. He brings more than two decades of experience in the media and entertainment industries.

GREAT LAKES-COOLANT SPILL

Michigan sues company over Great Lakes power cable damage

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has sued the company he says damaged electric cables and oil pipelines in a Great Lakes channel by dragging a tugboat anchor across them.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Ingham County Circuit Court against VanEnkevort Tug & Barge Inc. of Escanaba, Michigan.

Two cables were damaged April 1 and released about 600 gallons (2,270 liters) of mineral oil insulation fluid into the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Twin oil pipelines operated by Enbridge Inc. were dented.

The suit seeks a civil fine and reimbursement of the state’s costs, plus steps to prevent a similar event in the future.

VanEnkevort declined comment beyond an earlier statement acknowledging one of its vessels had been in the area the day of the incident.

VETERANS-JOB DISCRIMINATION

Employers urged not to hold discharge status against vets

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut agency has issued new guidance warning employers they could be subject to penalties if they discriminate against job-seeking veterans with less-than-honorable discharges from the military.

The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities says policies against hiring such veterans could be discriminatory because the military has issued so-called bad paper disproportionately to blacks and Latinos as well as service members who are gay or have mental health problems.

Deputy Director Cheryl Sharp said at a news conference on Thursday that the agency wants veterans to be evaluated by employers case by case.

Advocates at the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School say Connecticut is the first state to take the position that discrimination based on discharge status can violate protections based on race, sexual orientation and disability.

KUSHNER COS-FALSE DOCUMENTS

Kushner Cos. subpoenaed by feds after AP report

NEW YORK (AP) — The Kushner Cos. is confirming it was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for information related to an Associated Press report that the company filed dozens of false documents about its buildings in New York City.

Spokeswoman Chris Taylor issued a statement Thursday that the company “has nothing to hide and is cooperating fully.”

Taylor says the request came last month, a day after the AP reported the Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city, stating it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when, in fact, it had hundreds. The company says the documents were filed by third parties and mistakes were quickly corrected.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn issued the subpoena. The office declined to comment to the AP.

GLOBAL FINANCE-US-VENEZUELA

US Officials: 16 nations agree to track Venezuela corruption

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Two senior U.S. Treasury officials say finance ministers from several Latin American nations as well as the U.S. and Europe have agreed to work jointly to locate and seize assets arising from corruption by Venezuelan government insiders.

They say international officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met Thursday in Washington and also discussed ways to provide swift economic and humanitarian assistance to Venezuela in the event socialist President Nicolas Maduro is replaced. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

The gathering of officials from 16 nations took place on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund’s spring meetings.

Mnuchin issued a statement calling for “concrete actions” to restrict the ability of Venezuelan officials from abusing the international financial system.

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