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Update on the latest in business:

October 24, 2017

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stock markets slightly higher after Wall Street loss

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets edged up Tuesday after Wall Street slid overnight as investors looked for new drivers for trading activity.

Industrial and technology companies and retailers all stumbled. General Electric suffered its worst one-day loss in six years following downgrades from analysts. Analysts said markets showed an unusual combination of near-record prices and investor calm. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.4 percent to 2,564.98. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to 23,273.96. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.6 percent to 6,586.83.

A survey of manufacturers showed activity weakened this month but still grew relatively strongly. The preliminary version of the purchasing managers’ index declined to 52.5 from 52.9 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity accelerating. The output component of the survey declined to 52.6 from 53.2 but still showed activity growing. Other components showed export volume rising.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to just under $52 per barrel.

The dollar declined against the yen and the euro.

SWITZERLAND-EARNS-NOVARTIS

Swiss drugs maker Novartis reports 7 percent rise in 3Q net

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis is reporting net income rose 7 percent in the third quarter behind growth for its psoriasis treatment Cosentyx, its eye care business and several cancer drugs.

The Basel-based company says net earnings rose to $2.08 billion in the quarter, from $1.95 billion a year earlier. Net income increased 10 percent in constant currency terms.

Sales rose 2 percent to $12.41 billion, and Novartis predicts sales growth for the whole year will be broadly in line with that of 2016 in constant currency terms.

Novartis says net sales of Cosentyx nearly doubled to $1.46 billion. Aside from chronic myeloid leukemia treatment Gleevec, which has faced competition from generics, the oncology business grew 11 percent in constant currency terms.

Eye care business Alcon reported 7 percent growth.

METROCARD-REPLACEMENT

New York City’s transit agency to phase out MetroCards

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s transit agency is changing how bus and subway passengers pay their fares.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is phasing out its MetroCard in favor of something more modern.

An MTA committee on Monday approved a $573 million contract for a new payment system. Instead of riders swiping their MetroCards, the new system will allow them to use their cellphones or certain types of debit or credit cards to pay their fares directly at turnstiles.

The full MTA board will vote to approve the bid on Wednesday.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota says the changes will bring the way passengers pay into the 21st century.

Officials say the plan is to fully retire the MetroCard by 2023. Until then, riders will still be able to use it.

CONGRESS-TAXES

Trump shoots down retirement limit to pay for GOP tax cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump shot down a possible approach for raising revenue to finance tax cuts in politically must-do legislation for the Republicans, promising that the popular 401(k) retirement savings program will be untouched.

Still, the head of the House’s tax-writing committee indicated that changes to the 401(k) structure may still be on the table as Republicans push an ambitious timetable to get tax legislation written. Asked about the issue, Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Brady said: “I don’t want to get ahead of the committee. That will all be part of the tax reform bill.”

And in response to whether Trump’s tweet changes in any way what the panel was planning to do, Brady replied only, “no.”

AMAZON-HQ2

Choices: Amazon says it got 238 entries for 2nd headquarters

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon will be sorting through 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico that are hoping to land the company’s second headquarters and the investment it’ll bring.

The online retailer kicked off its hunt for a second home base in September, promising 50,000 new jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Proposals were due last week, and Amazon made clear that tax breaks and grants would be a big factor in deciding what entry prevails.

Amazon.com Inc. did not specify which cities or metro areas applied, but many of the location have made their interest public. The company said Monday the proposals came from 43 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, as well as three Mexican states and six Canadian provinces.

GAS PRICES

Average US gas price falls a nickel to $2.51 for regular

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline fell a nickel nationally over the past two weeks to $2.51.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey says the drop comes as distribution systems continue to get back to normal following disruptions from late-summer hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

Gas in San Francisco was the highest in the contiguous United States at an average of $3.07 a gallon. The lowest was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at $2.14 a gallon.

The U.S. average diesel price is $2.76, down about a penny from two weeks ago.

TREASURY-BANKS

Treasury opposes arbitration rules for consumers suing banks

NEW YORK (AP) — The Trump administration has come out against a set of new regulations that would allow consumers to band together to sue their bank or credit card company.

A Treasury Department report released Monday takes aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s so-called forced arbitration rules, which the agency finalized this summer. In the report, the department questions whether the rules are in consumers’ interests and says the agency failed to consider alternatives.

The report comes as Congressional Republicans are trying to rally support to pass a bill to override the CFPB’s new regulations. But the November deadline for passing an override under what’s known as the Congressional Review Act is approaching.

VEGETABLE RECALL

California company recalls vegetables over listeria fears

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) — A California company has voluntarily recalled packaged vegetables distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada because of possible bacterial contamination.

Mann Packing of Salinas says there have been no reported illnesses associated with the products. The recall was ordered last week after random testing in Canada turned up a single positive result for listeria.

The vegetables have “best if used by” dates from Oct. 11 through Oct. 20.

The recalled brands are: Signature Farms products sold at Albertsons; Archer Farms products sold at Target; kohlrabi salad blends sold at Trader Joe’s; several varieties of broccoli and cauliflower sold at Walmart; and at least 30 Mann branded bags of veggies.

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

MITSUBISHI-RECALL

Mitsubishi recalls 161,167 vehicles in US, Canada

DETROIT (AP) — Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is recalling 161,167 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because electric relays can cause the engine to stall or overheat.

The recall affects the 2015-2017 Outlander SUV, the 2015-2017 Lancer sedan and Outlander Sport, and the 2015 Lancer Evolution sport sedan. Most are in the U.S. but 28,615 are in Canada.

Mitsubishi says it has no reports of accidents or injuries related to the defect, which can also reduce power to the engine.

Mitsubishi will notify owners about the recall this month. Dealers will replace defective relays for free.

VOLKSWAGEN-DIESELS

US, California approve fix for 38,000 Volkswagen diesels

DETROIT (AP) — Federal and state officials say they’ve approved a fix for 38,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche sport utility vehicles with diesel engines that were cheating on emissions tests.

The approval brings German automaker Volkswagen AG closer to resolving a costly and embarrassing scandal that began two years ago, when the company admitted that more than 550,000 vehicles in the U.S. — and 11 million worldwide — were designed to cheat on emissions tests. The vehicles have software that turns on emissions controls during testing but turns them off in everyday driving.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board had to approve the fix under a $1.2 billion settlement approved by a federal judge this spring.

KIA-RECALL

Kia recalls Souls in US for second time

DETROIT (AP) — Kia Motors Corp. is recalling 342,381 vehicles in the U.S. for a second time because the first repair may not have solved a steering defect.

The recall affects the Soul and Soul EV from the 2014-2016 model years.

Kia says a pinion plug may not be properly secured, which could allow the pinion gear to separate from the steering assembly. If that happens, steering function can be lost, increasing the risk of a crash.

The company says some vehicles may not have been properly repaired in previous recalls. It couldn’t say how many vehicles are affected outside the U.S.

Kia will notify owners starting next month. Dealers will repair the vehicles for free.

TRUMP-ELECTRIC GRID

Ex-energy regulators denounce Trump bid to boost coal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight former federal energy regulators — including five former commission chairs — oppose a Trump administration plan to bolster nuclear and coal-fired power plants, arguing it would raise prices and disrupt electricity markets.

The former officials, who served under presidents from both parties, call the plan “a significant step backward.”

The plan by Energy Secretary Rick Perry would reward nuclear and coal-fired power plants for adding reliability to the nation’s power grid. Perry says the plan is needed to help prevent widespread outages such as those caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

BIOFUEL REFINERY

Biofuel company announces plans for Mississippi refinery

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A British company aims to build a $300 million refinery in southwest Mississippi to turn wood into the equivalent of diesel or jet fuel.

Velocys has announced that it signed an option for a 100-acre (40-hectare) site in Natchez.

Chandler Russ of economic development agency Natchez Inc. says Velocys plans 40 refinery jobs averaging $100,000 yearly in pay and benefits, and could indirectly support 100-plus forestry jobs paying $40,000 on average.

Russ says Adams County will pay for levee upgrades and donate land — a package worth $4 million — if Velocys obtains $300 million in financing.

MINING PERMITS

Silver mine opponents ask Montana to suspend permits

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Environmentalists have asked Montana regulators to suspend permits for two silver mines, citing concerns over the track record of the president of the company behind the proposals.

Attorneys for Earthworks, the Clark Fork Coalition and three other groups on Monday pressed officials to enforce a state law that blocks individuals who fail to reclaim old mines from starting new ones.

Hecla Mining Company of Idaho is proposing the Rock Creek and Montanore mines in northwest Montana.

Its president, Phillips Baker, was formerly an executive with Pegasus Gold Inc., which operated three mines that environmentalists say left surrounding waterways polluted.

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