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Update on the latest in business:

October 4, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares turn lower after strong day on Wall Street

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares fell in Asia today despite a strong day on Wall Street that was spurred by encouraging signs on U.S. hiring and growth in the service sector.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index sank 1.8 percent and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.6 percent. The Kospi in South Korea sank 1.5 percent. In Australia, the S&P ASX 200 jumped 0.5 percent. India’s Sensex lost 1.8 percent. Shares also fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. Markets in mainland China are closed for a weeklong holiday.

On Wall Street Wednesday, encouraging reports on hiring and growth in the service sector sent small companies and banks higher Wednesday and knocked bond prices into a tailspin. Both reports were stronger than analysts expected and suggest the economy is in good shape in spite of rising interest rates and oil prices, and the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note spiked to its highest level in more than seven years. The S&P 500 index added 0.1 percent to 2,925.51. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2 percent to 26,828.39, another all-time high. The Nasdaq composite picked up 0.3 percent, to 8,025.09. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks climbed 0.9 percent to 1,671.29. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.18 percent, its highest since July 2011 and up from 3.05 percent a day earlier.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic reports scheduled for today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department releases its August report on factory orders today.

Also, Freddie Mac reports on this week’s average mortgage rates.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL

Fed chairman defends gradual pace of rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says he believes the central bank’s current pace of gradually hiking interest rates is the right policy and criticism from President Donald Trump has not altered its approach.

Powell says that even with the Fed’s third hike this year, rates are at a low level that is still boosting growth. He says the Fed was prepared to go past neutral to a level that is restraining growth if necessary.

But he notes at the moment rates are a “long way from neutral.”

Powell says he has not spoken to Trump about his criticism of the rate hikes and says he remains focused on elements of the economy that the Fed can influence.

He spoke Tuesday at a conference in Washington sponsored by The Atlantic magazine.

AMAZON-WAGES

Amazon to cut bonuses, stock benefits as it raises wages

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon made a big splash this week with its $15 an hour minimum wage announcement, but lost in the fine print: Existing warehouse workers will no longer receive stock in the company or collect bonuses.

The online giant says next month it will end bonuses, which paid workers extra based on their attendance and warehouse productivity, as it boosts its minimum wage.

Amazon will also phase out its restricted stock unit program, which gave shares to workers if they stayed at Amazon for a certain amount of years. Amazon says it will replace it with a program next year that will allow workers to buy stock, but didn’t provide details.

Amazon.com Inc. says “compensation will be more immediate and predictable” with the changes.

BARNES & NOBLE-POTENTIAL SALE

Barnes & Noble reviewing offers to sell company

NEW YORK (AP) — The board of Barnes and Noble says it is reviewing the company’s future after several parties expressed interest in buying it.

The company said Wednesday that its board appointed a special committee to review the offers.

One of the interested parties is its founder and chairman, Leonard Riggio, who is credited with turning Barnes & Noble into a superstore.

The bookseller has long been struggling with increasing competition from Amazon and has been reducing staff over the last year.

According to FactSet, Riggio owns 19 percent of the company and is its largest shareholder. He says he will vote in favor of any transaction recommended by the committee.

The New York-based company also says it’s adopting a shareholder rights plan after noticing an unidentified party rapidly accumulating its stock.

HAM RECALL-LISTERIA

Recall issued for hams from North Carolina company

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials have ordered a recall of ham products from a North Carolina company after investigators found listeria contamination which led to one death.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Wednesday the ready-to-eat hams were produced by Johnston County Hams of Smithfield between April 3, 2017 and Oct. 2, 2018 and shipped to distributors in Maryland, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina and Virginia.

The hams weigh between 7 and 8 pounds (3.1 kg and 3.6 kg) and carry establishment number “EST. M2646” inside the USDA inspection mark.

Department officials were notified last month that a person got sick after eating a Johnston County Hams product. An investigation confirmed four listeriosis cases, including one death, between July 8, 2017 and Aug. 11, 2018.

JAPAN-TSUKIJI

Famed Tsukiji fish market uneasy over move to new site

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s famed Tsukiji fish market is closing down after eight decades, with shop owners and workers still doubting the safety of its replacement site.

The market is closing Saturday and will reopen Oct. 11 at Toyosu, a new, $5 billion site on the site of a former gas plant in Tokyo Bay.

The move was delayed by years due to concerns over the new location’s safety. Its opening follows extra measures to ensure it is not contaminated.

Tsukiji now has more than 500 wholesalers employing several thousand people. About 40,000 people visit each day. Much of the angst over the move has to do with closing down a beloved local institution.

The riverside Tsukiji market will become a parking lot for the 2020 Olympics. What comes later is uncertain.

AETNA MOVE

CVS pledges Aetna will remain in Hartford for least 10 years

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut officials have received official assurances that CVS Health Corp. will keep Aetna Inc. in Hartford for at least the next decade.

The pledge is included in a commitment letter CVS delivered Wednesday to the Connecticut Insurance Department.

CVS had said in January that it had no plans to move Aetna, reversing last year’s announcement by the insurance giant that it would move its headquarters to another state. Hartford has been Aetna’s home since 1853.

CVS announced last December that it was buying Aetna.

Wednesday’s commitment letter also promises employee levels at Aetna will remain at approximately 5,291 for at least the next four years. CVS also will continue to honor civic contributions of the Aetna Foundation and a promised $50 million payment to the city of Hartford over five years.

OIL PIPELINE

Judge’s decision on Dakota Access study likely months away

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge’s decision on whether a year’s worth of additional study of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline adequately addresses American Indian concerns appears weeks if not months away.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently completed additional court-ordered study and said the work substantiated its earlier determination that the pipeline won’t adversely impact tribes.

But the Corps didn’t immediately release its lengthy analysis so it could be reviewed by federal regulators for sensitive information. That’s been done, and suing tribes and pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners now have it.

Judge James Boasberg has given the parties until Nov. 1 to submit proposals for how to proceed.

One tribal attorney expects Boasberg to give the tribes an opportunity to challenge the Corps analysis before he makes a final decision.

BIG DONOR-NORTH CAROLINA

New big donor in North Carolina politics subject of subpoena

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal investigation seeks documents from a North Carolina government agency about business operations connected to a man who seemingly overnight became the largest individual donor in state politics.

The state Department of Insurance on Wednesday provided a copy of a grand jury subpoena demanding documents about Greg Lindberg, Durham-based Eli Global that he founded and several related companies.

The FBI and the federal prosecutor’s office in Charlotte declined to comment on the subpoena and investigation. WRAL-TV first reported their existence. Lindberg hasn’t addressed the subpoena publicly, either.

Campaign finance documents show Lindberg has given more than $5 million to North Carolina political committees since 2016.

Bob Phillips with Common Cause North Carolina says the probe reinforces questions about why Lindberg is donating. Lindberg has said little about why he’s giving.

JAPAN-TOYOTA-SOFTBANK

Toyota, SoftBank setting up mobility services joint venture

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s No. 1 automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology giant SoftBank Group Corp. say they are setting up a joint venture to create mobility services.

The companies said the venture, Monet Technologies Corp., will be running by the end of March. It will work on on-demand vehicle services, food deliveries and hospital shuttles with onboard medical exams.

Automakers around the world are racing to develop the next-generation of transportation, such as self-driving cars, and tie-ups are growing.

Earlier this week, Toyota’s Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. said it was investing $2.75 billion in GM Cruise, an autonomous-vehicle unit run by General Motors Co. of the U.S.

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