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Update on the latest in business:

January 28, 2019


Asian markets gain after US suspends government shutdown

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares rose in Asia on Monday after President Donald Trump temporarily re-opened the U.S. government. Japan was the main regional outlier, as the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.5 percent to 20,759.48 with uncertainty over China-U.S. trade talks bringing a lull in buying sentiment.

There was muted reaction in U.S. markets on Friday to news that Trump and congressional leaders had reached a deal to reopen the federal government for three weeks while talks continue over Trump’s demands for money to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Talks aimed at resolving the impasse over Chinese technology ambitions and other issues are due to resume in Washington later in the week, led by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Analysts are forecasting progress in redressing the trade imbalance between the world’s two largest economies, perhaps staving off further hikes in punitive tariffs imposed by both sides, but they expect gaps to remain on key problems such as China’s blueprint for state-led development of leading technologies.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher Friday, recovering a chunk of their losses from earlier in the week. Technology and industrial companies jumped as companies continued to report solid results for the fourth quarter. The S&P 500 index rose 0.85 percent to 2,664.76, but the index fell 0.2 percent for the week after big gains in the previous four. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.7 percent, to 24,737.20. The Nasdaq composite surged 1.3 percent to 7,164.86 while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks also increased 1.3 percent, to 1,482.85.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil slipped below $53.50 per barrel.

The dollar was down against the yen and the euro.


Survey of economists: US recession unlikely within 12 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — A majority of business economists foresee no recession in the United States within the next 12 months but do predict a slowdown in growth this year.

A survey by the National Association for Business Economics finds that nearly two-thirds of respondents think the economy will keep growing this year in what would become the longest expansion on record in U.S. history at more than 10 years.

Still, the survey results being released Monday reflect a collective belief that some of the economy’s momentum is fading. Compared with the NABE’s previous survey in October, for example, a smaller proportion of economists said their companies’ sales were rising. And fewer expect profit growth to increase. Corporate investments in new equipment has also cooled.

Most of the economists say President Donald Trump’s economic policies have done little to affect their businesses’ plans. An overwhelming majority — 84 percent — say Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, which sharply reduced the burden on corporations, failed to influence their companies’ hiring or investment outlooks. A nearly equal proportion of respondents (77 percent) indicated that Trump’s trade policies haven’t affected their companies’ plans for hiring, pricing or investment.


Israeli Cabinet approves medical marijuana exports

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has given final approval to a law permitting the export of medical marijuana, a move the government expects will catapult investment in local industry and agriculture.

The Cabinet’s decision Sunday came a month after the Israeli parliament unanimously approved the decision, making Israel the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Canada, to allow export of medical cannabis products.

Israel is home to dozens of companies active in the medical marijuana industry, and approved companies will be able to export to countries where it is legal.

The law has been in the works for years, but had long been stymied by concerns from security agencies over marijuana leaking to the black market. Lawmakers eventually compromised to grant Israeli police oversight of the industry.


Military recruits getting Made-in-the-USA athletic trainers

NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine (AP) — Thanks to congressional intervention, military recruits are going be outfitted in Made-in-the-USA goods right down to their sneakers used for physical fitness training.

New Balance in New England, along with two companies based in Texas and Missouri, is producing Made-in-the-USA running shoes for military recruits — bolstering domestic production at a time when nearly all footwear purchased in the U.S. is made overseas.

The contract reflects only a sliver of the 3 million New Balance sneakers produced each year in the U.S. — and even more worldwide.

But it’s a big victory for workers at a plant in a quiet town of 3,500 people bisected by the Kennebec River, who say they are proud to be helping the military.

Members of the congressional delegations in Maine and Massachusetts pressed for years for athletic footwear to be made subject to the Berry Amendment, which requires the Defense Department to give preference to home-grown products for military contracts. Most military gear, including helmets, boots and fatigues, have been compliant with the amendment for years.

Some in Congress, concerned about limiting choices for recruits, didn’t see the need to disrupt the status quo of the old policy of providing vouchers and letting them purchase sneakers of their choosing.

Production of the initial round of 92,000 sneakers is underway at the largest of three New Balance’s factories in Maine. The order could be expanded to 248,000.

The other two companies are making athletic trainers for the first time. Missouri-based defense contractor Propper International has a contract for up to 348,000 units, which are being produced in Puerto Rico. San Antonio Shoe won a contract for up to 398,000 units that are being made in Texas.


Presidential standoff may worsen Venezuelans’ misery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The U.S. recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president is being touted by the Trump administration as the only way to restore the country’s democracy. But as Elizabeth Pineda was stocking up on staples Sunday at a sidewalk market near a Caracas slum, she was bracing for things to get a lot worse, not better.

A retired secretary, Pineda survives on a monthly pension of just 18,000 bolivars, or about $6. She supplements her income working as an astrologer, and although the stars have been telling her Venezuelans are on the road to ridding themselves of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, she doesn’t expect him to go quickly or quietly.

Economists agree that the longer the standoff between the U.S.-backed Guaido and Maduro drags on, the more regular Venezuelans are likely to suffer.

Maduro, who so far appears to have the backing of the decisive military, has dug in, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating a coup by encouraging Guaido to declare himself interim president and then leading a chorus of nations that immediately recognized his rule.

The high-risk and seldom-used strategy of recognizing an alternative government that doesn’t already have de facto power is tantamount to blocking Maduro’s access to Venezuela’s all-important oil revenue, with enormous legal and financial entanglements.


Another week, more UK jockeying over who controls Brexit

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May faces another bruising week in Parliament as lawmakers plan to challenge her minority Conservative government for control of Brexit policy.

Amendments designed to change the course of Britain’s planned March 29 departure from the European Union escalated the political jockeying. Several would delay the exit or make a Brexit without a divorce deal with the EU impossible.

The final lineup to be considered in the House of Commons is not expected to be announced until Tuesday, hours before the next Brexit debate and voting begins.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party would support postponing Brexit day.

Sturgeon said the possibility of a second U.K. referendum on leaving the EU was not gaining traction in Parliament because of opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguous position.

Voters supported Britain’s withdrawal from the EU during a June 2016 referendum. Brexit opponents and others who have qualms about the process now underway have suggested holding another vote.


Business and economic reports scheduled for today

UNDATED (AP) — Caterpillar reports quarterly financial results before the market opens today.

Tomorrow, Standard & Poor’s releases its S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for November. And the Conference Board reveals January’s Consumer Confidence Index.

Also, Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.

On the corporate earnings front Tuesday, Pfizer reports quarterly financial results before the market opens while Apple reports earnings after the closing bell.


Trump rollbacks for fossil fuel industries carry steep cost

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — As President Donald Trump rolls back rules on the energy sector, government projections show the savings reaped by companies will come at a steep cost.

An Associated Press review of rules targeted under Trump identified up to $11.6 billion in future savings for companies engaged with fossil fuels. Billions more could come from a freeze in vehicle efficiency standards that’s expected to boost fuel consumption.

The trade-off is more premature deaths from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying fuels.

AP’s tally was derived from projections required under executive order. Of 11 rule changes AP examined, five are pending.

The rules were crafted in response to climate change, the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill, coal ash releases and fuel train explosions.


Treasury lifts sanctions against 3 Russian companies

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department is lifting sanctions on three companies connected to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The move comes despite an effort in Congress to block the action with many lawmakers concerned that the Trump administration is not being tough enough on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies.

Treasury announced Sunday that it is removing Russian aluminum giant Rusal and two other companies from its sanctions list on the grounds that the companies have reduced Derapaska’s direct and indirect shareholding stake in the three companies.

Congress voted earlier this month to try to block the administration’s efforts to remove the sanctions. In the House, 136 Republicans joined Democrats to disapprove the deal while in the Senate 11 Republicans supported the move but fell short of the 60 votes needed.


‘Glass’ is No. 1 again, McConaughey’s ‘Serenity’ flops

NEW YORK (AP) — M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is again No. 1 at the box office, while Matthew McConaughey’s tropical noir “Serenity” flopped and Oscar nominees saw only modest bumps.

On a quiet weekend at North American movie theaters, “Glass” easily remained the top film with an estimated $19 million in ticket sales. While not performing quite as well as Shyamalan’s previous release, “Split,” ″Glass” has made $73.6 million in 10 days.

Again in second place was Kevin Hart’s “The Upside.” The comedy co-starring Bryan Cranston grossed $12.2 million in its third weekend.

New releases flopped. The updated King Arthur tale “The Kid Who Would Be King” debuted with just $7.3 million. “Serenity” opened with a mere $4.8 million.

“Green Book” saw the biggest post-nominations bump with $5.4 million in its 11th weekend.

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