FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks surge despite trade tensions after US gains

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets surged Tuesday despite U.S.-Chinese trade tensions after Wall Street posted its strongest gains in a week. U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to defend his plan to raise tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, which have riled trading partners and already sparked talk of possible retaliation. Trump highlighted trade deficits with Canada and Mexico, and he said tariffs "will only come off if" the three countries sign a new free-trade agreement.

On Wall Street, markets rebounded from morning losses to post their best day in a week, highlighting the uncertainty surrounding Trump's tariffs plans and possible foreign reaction. The Standard & Poor's 500 index finished up 1.1 percent at 2,720.94. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 1.4 percent to 24,874.76. The Nasdaq composite gained 1 percent to 7,330.70.

Forecasters expect the latest monthly data Friday to show the number of new jobs created by the economy held steady at 200,000, with hourly earnings up 0.2 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil inched ahead and remain just above $62.50 per barrel.

The dollar gained against the yen and edged down against the euro.

TRUMP-TRADE

Republicans want Trump to back off his tariff proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a remarkably public confrontation, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican allies of President Donald Trump pleaded with him Monday to back away from his threatened international tariffs, which they fear could spark a dangerous trade war. Trump retorted: "We're not backing down."

The president said U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico would not be spared from his plans for special import taxes on steel and aluminum, but he held out the possibility of later exempting the longstanding friends if they agree to better terms for the U.S. in talks aimed at revising the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump spoke shortly after a spokeswoman for Ryan, a Trump ally, said the GOP leader was "extremely worried" that the proposed tariffs would set off a trade war and urged the White House "to not advance with this plan."

Likewise, Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee circulated a letter opposing Trump's plan, and GOP congressional leaders suggested they may attempt to prevent the tariffs if the president moves forward.

GUN SALE POLICIES-LAWSUIT

20-year-old sues Dick's, Walmart over new gun policies

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man filed suits Monday claiming Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart discriminated against the 20-year-old when they refused to sell him a rifle.

Dick's and Walmart restricted gun sales to adults 21 and older in the wake of the Florida high school massacre. The 19-year-old accused in the school slaying bought the AR-15 used in the attack legally.

Oregon law allows residents to buy shotguns or rifles starting at age 18.

Tyler Watson's lawsuits filed against the retailers in two separate counties claim he faced age discrimination from Dick's and Walmart, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported . The lawsuit is believed to be the first filed over the new gun policies enacted on Feb. 28.

The lawsuit claims a store owned by Dick's Sporting Goods in Medford, Oregon, refused to sell Watson .22-caliber Ruger rifle on Feb. 24. The suit says Grants Pass Walmart in Oregon refused to sell him a gun on March 3.

It's not clear if Watson knew at that point of the restrictions.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retailer plans to defend the new policy.

GENERAL MILLS-ORGANIC WHEAT

General Mills, Annie's Mac & Cheese tap South Dakota farm

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — General Mills announced a deal Tuesday to create South Dakota's largest organic crop farm as the food giant works to secure enough organic ingredients to meet growing consumer demand worldwide.

Gunsmoke Farms will convert 34,000 acres — more than 53 square miles — near Pierre to organic by 2020, giving it enough space for all the organic wheat needed to make General Mills' popular Annie's Macaroni & Cheese line.

General Mills, which is guaranteeing a market for the wheat, is working with Madison, Wisconsin-based Midwestern BioAg to develop the crop rotation and soil-building program needed for such a large farm to go organic.

Golden Valley, Minnesota-based General Mills, like many other food companies, has ambitious environmental goals, and like other big industry players it has bought smaller brands and tweaked its own products to appeal to consumers who want more organic and natural products. It wants to double its organic acreage by 2020 and to cut greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2025 throughout its supply chain all the way down to consumers, because it believes climate change will be bad for business.

TREASURY BILLS

Rate rises on 3-month US Treasury bills at weekly auction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The interest rate on three-month Treasury bills rose in Monday's auction to the highest level in more than nine years. The rate on six-month bills was unchanged at a continued high level.

The Treasury Department auctioned $51 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.660 percent, up from 1.645 percent last week. Another $45 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 1.830 percent, steady from last week.

The three-month rate was the highest since those bills averaged 1.690 percent on Sept. 8, 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. The six-month rate was the highest since those bills averaged 1.900 percent, also on Sept. 8, 2008.

Interest rates generally have increased in recent weeks in response to higher levels of U.S. government debt and expectations of rising inflation.

CONGRESS-BANKING

Senate poised to ease Dodd-Frank rules for most banks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten years after a financial crisis rocked the nation's economy, the Senate is poised to pass legislation that would roll back some of the safeguards Congress put into place to prevent a relapse.

The move to alter some key aspects of the Dodd-Frank law has overwhelming Republican support and enough Democratic backing that it's expected to gain the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate in coming days.

Several Democratic lawmakers facing tough re-election races this year have broken ranks with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The legislation would increase the threshold at which banks are considered too big to fail. Such banks are subject to stricter planning requirements, and lawmakers are intent on easing financial rules in hopes that it will boost the economy.

EPA-ETHICS

EPA appointee gets approval to consult for outside clients

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been granted permission to make extra money moonlighting for private clients whose identities are being kept secret. A letter approving outside employment contracts for John Konkus — signed by an EPA ethics lawyer in August — was released Monday by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The letter gave Konkus approval to work for at least two clients. Those names were blacked out by the agency before a copy was provided to Congress.

Federal regulations would still limit Konkus from receiving more than $27,765 from outside clients in 2017, according to the letter. His taxpayer-funded salary is about $145,000 annually.

TRUMP-PANAMA-HOTEL

Judge, police help oust Trump Hotels from Panama property

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Lawyers for the Trump Organization say they will eventually prevail in a management dispute of the company's luxury hotel in Panama.

On Monday, Trump's executives were ousted from their management offices in a business dispute under orders from Panamanian officials. Trump's security guards also left. The end to a 12-day standoff over control of the property came early in the day when a Panamanian judicial official and police officers backed the hotel's majority owner. He's taken possession of the offices at the 70-story, waterfront high-rise in Panama City.

Workers pried President Donald Trump's name from signs outside.

SOUTH SUDAN-OIL CORRUPT

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Two investigative groups allege that South Sudan's state-owned oil company is being used to fund the country's civil war, including a government-aligned militia accused of human rights abuses.

Global Witness, in a report released Tuesday, says millions of dollars in oil revenue are being funneled from Nile Petroleum into South Sudan's national security service, footing the bill for war, now in its fifth year. The Sentry, an investigative group co-founded by George Clooney, alleges that more than $80 million was paid to South Sudanese politicians, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and members of their families.

The United States calls the findings deeply disturbing.

Nile Petroleum denies funding any military activity and says the money is being used for community projects such as roads, schools and hospitals.

NET NEUTRALITY

Washington becomes 1st state to approve net-neutrality rules

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington has become the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or interfering with online traffic.

"We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,"

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure on Monday. It passed with bipartisan support.

As he has done frequently over the past year, Inslee took aim at President Donald Trump's administration, saying the decision by the Federal Communications Commission was "a clear case of the Trump administration favoring powerful corporate interests over the interests of millions of Washingtonians and Americans."

The FCC voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet. The regulations had prohibited providers from favoring some sites and apps over others.