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Update on the latest in business:

March 1, 2019


Asian markets rise on China-US trade prospects

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher on Friday after a report suggested that the leaders of China and the U.S. could be endorsing a trade deal in weeks.

Traders hope that a tariffs battle waged by the world’s two largest economies would soon be called off if a deal is reached.

Buying in Asia was supported by an announcement by MSCI, a leading provider of indexes and analytics. MSCI said it will quadruple the weight of Chinese A shares in its global indexes by November. It will also add more Chinese stocks to its Emerging Markets Index, giving the country’s foreign inflows a much-needed boost.

A private survey also added to Chinese growth hopes. The Caixin manufacturing purchasing manager’s index, which measures growth in the sector, jumped to 49.9 in February, from 48.3 in the previous month. The index is on a 100-point scale, with 50 separating contraction from growth.

U.S. stocks slid Thursday on news that the U.S. economy slowed at the end of last year, although the performance still beat analysts’ expectations. The country’s gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December period, down from 3.4 percent in the third quarter. The S&P 500 index lost 0.3 percent to 2,784.49 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3 percent to 25,916.00. The Nasdaq composite shed 0.3 percent to 7,532.53, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks also dropped 0.3 percent to 1,575.55.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to just under $57.50 per barrel.

The dollar strengthened against the yen and the euro.


Bourbon makers want equal treatment on wine bill in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s bourbon industry has a bracing message for its home state lawmakers as they consider whether to relax restrictions on wine sales: What’s good for California vineyards should also apply to the bluegrass state’s signature spirit.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association is pushing to have the spirits industry included in a bill that, in its current form, would allow direct out-of-state shipments of wine to Kentucky consumers.

The group, also known as KDA, is asking lawmakers to add language to the bill so bourbon drinkers in some other states can place online or phone orders with their favorite Kentucky distillers. Such long-distance transactions could only occur if other states allow spirits to be shipped directly to consumers. For now, that list of states is limited, but the spirits industry expects it to grow.

Whiskey makers see online sales as a potentially lucrative market, especially for smaller producers looking to build market share.


Staunchly liberal Hawaii in no rush to legalize marijuana

HONOLULU (AP) — On the political spectrum, Hawaii is among the bluest of states. Democrats control all the levers of power at the state and federal levels, and voters back Democratic presidential candidates over Republicans by some of the widest margins in the nation.

The state has committed to the Paris climate agreement that President Donald Trump rejected and was the first state to require people be 21 to buy cigarettes. The tourist haven even banned certain kinds of sunscreen because they can harm coral reefs.

But when it comes to legalizing marijuana for adult use, the islands are out of step with liberal stalwarts such as California and Vermont that already have recreational marijuana laws, and other left-leaning states such as New York and New Jersey that are racing toward joining them.

It’s not for lack of trying. Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English has introduced marijuana legalization bills for the past 15 years.

However, Hawaii has a track record of moving slowly on social issues. For example, other states moved far more quickly to sanction gay marriage and medically assisted suicide.

Half the Democrats in the Senate co-sponsored English’s measure, helping spur speculation this would be the year legalization becomes reality. But the effort is facing significant obstacles from leaders worried about contradicting federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and jeopardizing Hawaii’s existing medical marijuana program.


Singapore says it will buy 4 F-35 jets in fleet upgrade

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore plans to buy four F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. with the option of purchasing eight more to replace its fleet of F-16s.

Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said Friday that the city-state will put in a request for the Lockheed Martin jets, which would be subject to U.S. congressional approval. He says the price has not been determined.

Ng notes the cost of the jet has been steadily falling due to healthy orders from the U.S. and other countries, with the current unit price ranging from $90 million to $115 million.

Singapore plans to retire its older F-16 fleet soon after 2030.

The F-35 completed its first flight in 2006. Its buyers include Britain, South Korea, Israel, Italy, Australia, Canada, Turkey and Japan.


Business and economic reports scheduled for today

WASHINGTON (AP) —Because of the impact from the government shutdown, the Commerce Department will release January’s personal income data today as well as both personal spending and income data for January. But Commerce is postponing the release of January’s construction spending data.

Also today, the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for February and automakers report their vehicle sales for February.


Fed’s Powell says US economy in a ‘good place’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the economy is in a “good place” with low inflation and maximum employment. But he says not every American has enjoyed the benefits of the long expansion.

In remarks Thursday to the Citizens Budget Council in New York City, he said policymakers must do more to address problems that are holding back long-term growth.

Powell repeated the view he gave Congress this week that the Fed can afford to be “patient” in deciding when to boost interest rates again. He says that gives the central bank time to assess how “cross currents,” such as a global slowdown, will impact the economy.

He said that policymakers need to boost efforts to address long-term problems, such as low workforce participation and weak productivity growth.


Group urges Amazon CEO Bezos to continue with NYC HQ plan

NEW YORK (AP) — A group made up of business leaders, elected officials and others is sending an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to reconsider the decision to abandon plans for a headquarters in New York City.

The letter is expected to appear in The New York Times on Friday.

In the letter, the group acknowledged the loud opposition to the project.

The signatories said, “Opinions are strong in New York — sometimes strident. We consider it part of the New York charm! But when we commit to a project as important as this, we figure out how to get it done in a way that works for everyone.”

Amazon would have redeveloped a Long Island City site in exchange for $3 billion in state and New York City incentives.


Tesla to close stores, take orders for a $35,000 Model 3

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tesla says it is now taking orders for the long-awaited $35,000 Model 3, a car for the masses that is essential for the company to survive.

The company says to reach the lower price, it’s shifting all sales worldwide from stores to online only. Some high-traffic stores, however, will remain open.

The company will offer the standard base model, which can go 220 miles (350 kilometers) per charge. It also will offer a $37,000 version with a premium interior that accelerates faster and can go 240 miles (385 kilometers) per charge.

Tesla started taking orders for the Model 3 in March of 2016, but until now hasn’t been able to cut costs enough to sell them for $35,000 and make a profit.

The cheapest one that could be ordered until Thursday started at $42,900.


Detroit sees training opportunity before expected job boom

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit says it is positioning itself to be ready to provide skilled workers for Fiat Chrysler, which announced a $4.5 billion investment in manufacturing in the Motor City and surrounding suburbs this week.

The auto giant said Tuesday it will add about 6,500 jobs, with more than half of those at a new assembly plant in Detroit.

Although that plant won’t open for two years, city officials are already filling the training pipeline.

Not long ago, Detroit suffered among the worst unemployment rates in the U.S., but it overhauled its training programs in recent years to get people ready for specific jobs. The city works with schools, a nonprofit, companies and unions to tailor training programs to companies’ needs in manufacturing, construction, information technology and health care.


British Airways makes big order for Boeing jets

MADRID (AP) — The parent company of British Airways is buying up to 42 Boeing 777 long-haul passenger jets in a multi-billion dollar deal.

Thursday’s announcement by the International Airlines Group consortium comes days after Boeing’s European rival, Airbus, announced it would stop making its A380 superjumbo from 2021 due to a lack of customers.

IAG, which also owns Iberia, says it has confirmed the order of 18 planes for British Airways and placed an optional order for 24 additional jets that will replace some other Boeing jets in British Airways’ existing fleet. The first 18 will be delivered between 2022 and 2025.

The company has not disclosed the exact cost of the purchase, but noted in the statement that it had negotiated a “substantial discount” over the $18.5 billion dollar-listed price tag.


Longtime HBO CEO exits in wake of AT&T acquisition

LOS ANGELES (AP) — HBO’s longtime chief executive is leaving the cable channel, less than a year after AT&T acquired HBO’s parent company.

In a memo to HBO staffers Thursday, Richard Plepler said it was the right time for him to leave. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press.

During Plepler’s tenure with HBO, the premium channel fielded popular and award-winning series including “The Sopranos,” ″Game of Thrones,” ″Girls” and “Big Little Lies” and launched streaming platforms.

Last June, a federal judge approved AT&Ts merger with Time Warner, a deal worth more than $80 billion.

In his memo, Plepler said his decision came at an “inflection point” in the life of HBO. He said he expected the company to continue to thrive.

HBO declined comment on Plepler’s departure or his successor.


Casino mogul, GOP donor Adelson getting treatment for cancer

LAS VEGAS (AP) —Casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson has cancer.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. on Thursday told The Associated Press that Adelson has been receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Adelson’s poor health was revealed Monday by one of his company’s attorneys during a court hearing in a years-old case brought by a Hong Kong businessman.

Attorney James Jimmerson told the court the 85-year-old billionaire is in dire condition.

The company says he has continued to fulfill his duties as CEO.