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Update on the latest in business:

July 31, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets mixed ahead of Bank of Japan policy statement

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mixed on Tuesday with narrow trading ahead of a key statement by the Bank of Japan, which could indicate a tightening of its monetary policy.

Technology stocks have tumbled for the third day in a row, leading U.S. indexes to close lower. Microsoft and Alphabet slumped Monday and Facebook, Twitter and Netflix have all fallen at least 20 percent from their record highs earlier this month. The S&P 500 dropped 0.6 percent to 2,802.60. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6 percent to 25,306.83. The Nasdaq composite, which has more technology stocks among its ranks, gave up 1.4 percent 7,630.00. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 0.6 percent to 1,653.13.

Investors are watching the Bank of Japan’s statement on monetary policy due Tuesday. Sustained relatively strong growth has raised expectations that the central bank may need to consider further tempering its massive purchases of government bonds and other assets. They are also watching monetary policy meetings in the U.S. and U.K. The Bank of England is expected to nudge up its key interest rate by a quarter point on Thursday despite uncertainty around Brexit as inflation remains high.

China’s manufacturing activity pulled back slightly in July, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index was 51.2 in July, down from 51.5 a month earlier. Readings above 50 indicate expansion on the index’s 100-point scale.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil inched to to remain above $70 per barrel.

The dollar rose against the yen and was flat against the euro.

3D GUNS

States suing Trump administration, company over 3D guns

UNDATED (AP) — Eight states are filing suit against the Trump administration over its decision to allow a Texas company to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety.

The suit, filed Monday in Seattle, asks a judge to block the federal government’s late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the company to make the plans available online. Officials say that 1,000 people have already downloaded blueprints for AR-15 rifles.

Joining the suit were Democratic attorneys general in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia. Separately, attorneys general in 21 states urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to withdraw from the settlement with Defense Distributed, saying it “creates an imminent risk to public safety.”

People can use the blueprints to manufacture a plastic gun using a 3D printer. But gun industry experts have expressed doubt that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns are very expensive, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by.

Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, first published downloadable designs for a 3D-printed firearm in 2013. It was downloaded about 100,000 times until the State Department ordered him to cease, contending it violated federal export laws since some of the blueprints were downloaded by people outside the United States.

The State Department reversed course in late June, agreeing to allow Wilson to resume posting the blueprints. The files were published on Friday.

PIG FARM-UNDERCOVER VIDEO

Undercover video shows pig abuse but also common practices

DENVER (AP) — Recently released undercover video showing pigs being kicked, hit and punched at a Kentucky supplier for the world’s largest meat producer drew prompt condemnation from animal rights groups and the agricultural industry alike.

However, the images sandwiched in between — adult pigs in cages barely bigger than their bodies and a piglet squealing while being castrated — show still widely accepted industry practices, but were aimed at pressuring Brazilian-based JBS to abandon them.

Ten states — none major pork producers — have passed laws that ban or phase out the use of those narrow metal cages, known as gestation crates or stalls, where sows are confined during their frequent pregnancies.

Among them is California, where voters agreed to phase out the crates along with chicken cages and veal crates starting in 2015. This fall, voters will be asked to go further and ban the sale of pork from pigs confined to the crates, along with pork from their offspring. The measure also would bar the sale of veal from crated calves and eggs from caged chickens.

Massachusetts voters passed a similar ban in 2016 that takes effect in 2022.

Sows account for only about 6 percent of the pigs on American farms, but pork producers have been slow to give up confinement, said Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States.

OPEN TO ALL

Levi’s, Yelp join coalition pledging not to discriminate

UNDATED (AP) — Levi Strauss, Yelp and Lyft are leading a coalition of 1,200 businesses and cities that are pledging not to discriminate against employees or customers based on race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

Normally, making a promise to serve every customer might seem like a no-brainer. But the Open to All coalition is launching in a highly charged atmosphere, with florists refusing to provide flowers for gay weddings and stores turning away Muslim customers. On the same June weekend that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because of her affiliation with President Donald Trump, a transgender woman was harassed by staff at a Washington restaurant for using the women’s restroom.

So it remains to be seen if the “Open to All” message — on businesses’ Yelp pages or on stickers in their windows — will calm frayed tempers or anger customers and businesses who might question its motives.

Tia Agnew, co-founder and CEO of New Day Craft, an Indianapolis-based producer of mead and cider, is excited to put up her “Open to All” window sticker, which she says matches her “personal and professional ethos.” She’s not worried that it will be a turn-off to some potential patrons.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

Survey: China manufacturing weakens in July

BEIJING (AP) — China’s manufacturing decelerated in July as exports and domestic demand weakened, a survey showed Tuesday, adding to challenges for Beijing amid rising trade tension with Washington.

The China Federal of Logistics & Purchasing said its monthly purchasing managers’ index declined to 51.2 from June’s 51.5 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity expanding.

Measures for output and new orders declined while the export index was unchanged at 49.8 on the same 50-point scale.

Forecasters have expected Chinese industrial activity to weaken since regulators started tightening controls on bank lending last year to rein in surging debt.

Beijing’s trade dispute with Washington has added to concern about the impact on manufacturing.

The Trump administration raised import duties July 6 on $34 billion of Chinese goods in a dispute over technology policy. Beijing retaliated by hiking its own tariffs on the same amount of U.S. imports.

Exports have shrunk as a share of China’s economy and contribute less than 1 percent of annual economic growth but still support millions of manufacturing jobs.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts this year’s Chinese economic growth to decline from last year’s 6.9 percent to a still-robust 6.6 percent. Longer-term, the IMF expects growth to decline to 5.5 percent by 2023.

AUSTRALIA-US-JAPAN

Australia says US, Japan partnership doesn’t challenge China

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian minister said on Tuesday a new infrastructure partnership with the United States and Japan did not challenge growing Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific region.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp., the Japan Bank for Investment Cooperation and the Australian government announced on Monday a trilateral partnership to invest in infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region.

The move comes amid growing concerns about an increase in Chinese influence through the country’s One Belt One Road infrastructure program.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo denied the three-way initiative was a challenge to China, saying it only added to various regional programs already underway.

Ciobo said he did not expect backlash from China.

Without making specific reference to China, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday the United States were seeking “partners, not domination” in the region.

The three partners said in a joint statement that good investments stem from transparency, open competition, sustainability, adhering to robust global standards, employing the local workforce, and avoiding unsustainable debt burdens.

JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA

Honda profits jump on strong car and motorcycle sales

TOKYO (AP) — Honda Motor Co. says its profits jumped 17.8 percent in the latest quarter, driven by strong auto sales in North America and motorcycle sales in Asia.

The Japanese automaker reported profits Tuesday of 244.3 billion ($2.2 billion) yen in the April-June quarter, up from 207.3 billion yen last year. Sales rose 8.4 percent to 4.0 trillion yen.

Honda sold 518,000 vehicles in North America, an increase of 7.7 percent. Growth in Indonesia, India and Vietnam drove up total motorcycle sales 13.9 percent to 5.35 million units.

Profits rose despite the negative impact of flooding that has forced suspension of production at a factory in Mexico.

JAPAN-PLUTONIUM

Japan pledges to reduce plutonium stockpile, doesn’t say how

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s nuclear policy-setting panel has approved a revised guideline on plutonium use, putting a cap on its stockpile and pledging to eventually reduce it to address international concern.

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission guideline adopted Tuesday calls for some government oversight to minimize plutonium separation and for utilities to cooperate. It doesn’t give timeline or targets or say how reduction is possible until a reprocessing plant starts operations in three years.

Japan has 47 tons of plutonium — enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs. The stockpile largely comes from the failed Monju plutonium reactor, forcing Japan to resort to burning plutonium less efficiently in conventional reactors.

Despite security concerns and Washington’s pressure, the stockpile isn’t decreasing as reactor resume work slowly amid setbacks from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

CALIFORNIA LAWMAKER-TWITTER LAWSUIT

California lawmaker sued for blocking critics’ Twitter feeds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two California residents are suing a state senator for blocking them from a social media account in a case similar to a successful lawsuit that barred President Trump from blocking critics on his Twitter account.

Suzanne Rummel and Marlene Burkitt sued Democratic Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento alleging that barring them from his Twitter account violates their First Amendment free speech rights.

Pan is a physician and both women’s accounts show they oppose his efforts to promote universal vaccinations of children.

Burkitt says in the lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Sacramento that she was blocked after using Pan’s Twitter site to discuss his efforts “to reduce medical freedom, parental decision-making rights, and other issues.”

Pan’s spokeswoman, Shannan Velayas, said she couldn’t comment.

Pan personally uses his Twitter account several times a day, according to the lawsuit.

It is unconstitutional for Pan to block dissenting viewpoints, says the lawsuit, which asks for the women to be restored and for unspecified damages, fees and costs.

PUERTO RICO-POWER COMPANY

Puerto Rico reaches deal to restructure $3B of power debt

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s government reached a deal Monday night with a bondholder group to restructure more than a third of the debt owed by its troubled power company as the utility moves toward privatization.

A federal control board overseeing the U.S. territory’s finances called it an “important milestone” and promised the deal would not hit Puerto Ricans with rate increases to cover debt service if there was a drop in power usage.

Officials said bondholders that hold more than $3 billion in debt from Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority would exchange it for two new bonds. One would be exchanged at 67.5 cents on the dollar, while the other would be exchanged at 10 cents on the dollar and would be linked to Puerto Rico’s economic recovery.

The deal marks the first time Puerto Rico will not pay a revenue bond in full, and it could have consequences beyond the U.S. territory, including higher interest rates on those types of bonds.

Puerto Rico legislators are expected to soon approve several measures that will allow the Puerto Rico’s government to privatize the generation of power and award concessions for transmission and distribution.

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