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November 19, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mostly up cheered by Wall Street buying spree

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher today after a buying spree on Wall Street sustained investor optimism into the new week, despite continuing worries over trade tensions.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished 0.7 percent higher and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.8 percent and India’s Sensex climbed 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

On Wall Street Friday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 2,736.27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.5 percent to 25,413.22 and the Nasdaq composite slid 0.2 percent to 7,247.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 0.2 percent to $1,527.53. But the S&P 500, which finished higher for the second straight day, ended the week with a 1.6 percent loss.

JAPAN-TRADE

Japan’s exports recover but reports trade deficit in October

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is reporting a trade deficit in October but is seeing a recovery in exports after getting slammed by natural disasters in September.

Japan’s Ministry of Finance says exports grew 8.2 percent from the same month the previous year.

In September, exports fell 1.2 percent from the previous year in the first decline for the world’s third-largest economy since 2016.

Imports in October grew 19.9 percent on-year.

Worries are continuing over trade tensions after President Donald Trump imposed penalty tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports.

Weaker U.S.-China trade generally hurts the export-dependent Japanese economy. Trump has also complained about Japanese auto imports. Bilateral trade talks are expected next year.

Today’s data shows Japan racked up a trade deficit of 449 billion yen ($4 billion).

AUSTRALIA-FAIRFAX-NINE-MERGER

Shareholders support major Australian media merger

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Shareholders today gave final approval to the merger of television network Nine Entertainment and newspaper publisher Fairfax Media into an Australian media giant to be known only as Nine despite one shareholder’s late bid to stop the deal.

Antony Catalano, a former chief executive of the online real estate listings portal Domain Group which is majority-owned by Fairfax, said he will ask the Federal Court on Nov. 27 to stop the merger.

Catalano, who owns shares in both Domain and Fairfax, wrote to Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon late Sunday offering to buy 19.9 percent of Fairfax and asking for Monday’s Fairfax shareholders meeting to be delayed.

The Fairfax board says that it remains unanimously behind the merger with Nine.

The merger was supported by 81.5 percent of Fairfax shareholders representing 88.6 percent of shares. The deal had needed the support of at least 60 percent of shareholders representing at least 70 percent of shares.

The merger would give Nine shareholders 51.1 percent of the combined entity and make Nine chief executive Hugh Marks leader of the new company.

Fairfax shareholders would own the remaining 48.9 percent of the company, which will become Australia’s largest media player.

GERMANY-FRANCE

Macron, Merkel seek common approaches to Trump, euro

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel consulted Sunday on migration, fixing the euro currency, Europe’s defense, taxing digital companies and other issues as the two leaders looked to preserve their influence abroad while their authority flags at home.

Macron, who came to Berlin to take part in Germany’s national remembrance day for the victims of war and dictatorship, urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defense.

Macron said that the French-German alliance “is invested with this obligation not to allow the world to slide into chaos, and to accompany it on the road of peace.”

He said that Europe can’t play its role “if it doesn’t take more responsibility for its defense and security and is content to play a secondary role on the international scene.” Macron looked ahead to the European Parliament elections in May, which will give populist and anti-EU parties another chance to test their appeal with voters.

The two biggest countries in Europe can be a powerful force, but their leaders at the moment are hampered by falling domestic support.

Merkel has offered support for Macron’s proposal for a European army someday. Both leaders have said Europe needs to depend less on others — such as the U.S. — for its defense.

BREXIT

UK leader warns ousting her won’t make Brexit talks easier

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s besieged Prime Minister Theresa May warned Sunday that a leadership change wouldn’t make Brexit negotiations easier, as opponents in her Conservative Party threaten to unseat her and the former Brexit secretary suggested she failed to stand up to bullying from European Union officials.

As furious Conservative rebels try to gather the numbers to trigger a no-confidence vote, May insisted she hadn’t considered quitting.

May added that the next seven days “are going to be critical” for successful Brexit talks, and that she will be travelling to Brussels to meet with EU leaders before an emergency European Council summit on Nov. 25.

An announcement this week that Britain has struck a draft divorce agreement with the EU triggered a political crisis in Britain, with the deal roundly savaged by both the opposition and large chunks of May’s own Conservatives. Two Cabinet ministers and several junior government members quit, and more than 20 lawmakers have submitted letters of no confidence in May. Forty-eight such letters — or 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — are needed for a leadership challenge vote.

Many pro-Brexit Conservatives want a clean break with the EU and argue that the close trade ties between the U.K. and the EU called for in the deal would leave Britain a vassal state, with no way to independently disentangle itself from the bloc.

BLOOMBERG-DONATION

Bloomberg donates ‘unprecedented’ $1.8B to Johns Hopkins

BALTIMORE (AP) — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday he’s donating $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to boost financial aid for low- and middle-income students.

The Baltimore university said the contribution — the largest ever to any education institution in the U.S. — will allow Johns Hopkins to eliminate student loans in financial aid packages starting next fall. The university will instead offer scholarships that don’t have to be repaid.

University President Ronald Daniels said Bloomberg’s contribution will also let the institution permanently commit to “need-blind admissions,” or the principle of admitting the highest-achieving students, regardless of their ability to pay for their education.

By way of comparison, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Gates Millennium Scholars program in 1999 with a $1 billion commitment over 20 years. The Chronicle of Higher Education listed it as the largest private donation to a higher-education institution in the U.S. earlier this month.

Bloomberg said he expects the money will allow Hopkins to offer more generous scholarships and ease the debt burden for graduates.

The 76-year-old founder of the global finances services and media company, Bloomberg L.P., is among the world’s richest people. He graduated from Hopkins in 1964, served as New York mayor from 2002 to 2013 and has for years weighed running for president — including in 2020.

DAY AHEAD

Housing market report due

WASHINGTON — The National Association of Home Builders releases its housing market index for November (10 a.m. EST).

OLDER WORKERS-RETIREMENT PLANS

Turbulent stock markets spooking older workers, retirees

CHICAGO (AP) — The recent turbulence in the U.S. stock markets is spooking some older workers and retirees, a group that was hit especially hard during the most recent financial crisis.

There’s no indication, though, that the recent volatility has brought about large-scale overhauls in retirement planning.

A vice president at Allianz Life Insurance Co., Paul Kelash, says the market fluctuations are like a return to normalcy after what had been a steady upturn. He says he hasn’t seen much evidence of Americans drastically altering their retirement plans

A Bankrate survey says 62 percent of Americans — and 76 percent of those 65 and over — don’t believe their financial situation has improved in the two years since Donald Trump’s election. Nearly 1 in 5 say their finances have actually gotten worse.

TURKEY-SALMONELLA

Salmonella outbreak linked to turkey need not ruin Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials say there’s no reason to skip Thanksgiving dinner because of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey. But they say it’s a reminder to properly prepare your holiday bird. Cooking kills salmonella.

Since it began last year, the outbreak linked to raw turkey has caused one death and more than 160 illnesses around the country. But until last week, regulators hadn’t been able to tie any cases to a specific product. That’s when one case was linked to ground turkey.

Salmonella is considered widespread in poultry and supermarkets can sell raw turkey with the bacteria. But inspectors check to make sure it’s within standards. Regulations are tighter for whole turkeys, and the industry says the chances of finding salmonella in whole birds are “exceedingly low.”

GAS PRICES

Average US price of gas drops 12 cents per gallon to $2.72

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline has dropped 12 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.72.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that falling crude oil costs are the main reason for the decrease at the pump.

The average gas price is 11 cents per gallon higher than it was a year ago.

The highest average price in the nation is $3.77 a gallon in Honolulu. The lowest average is $2.19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The average price of diesel fell 4 cents over the past two weeks, to $3.27.

BOX OFFICE

‘Fantastic Beasts’ flies to top of weekend box office

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” worked its magic at the weekend box office and opened as the top film.

The latest offering from the Harry Potter universe earned $62.2 million for Warner Bros. in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That fell short of the opening of the first film in the series, 2016′s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which debuted with $74 million in a similar November release and went on to earn $234 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Last week’s top film, “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” was second with $38.1 million, bringing its domestic tally to $126 million for Universal after two weekends.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is still rocking, taking third place with $15.7 million for a total of $127 million.

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