Update on the latest in business:
Stocks gain, boosted by banks
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are rising for the fourth day in a row as banks rise in tandem with interest rates.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.97 percent from 2.93 percent. Higher yields can signal higher rates on mortgages and other consumer loans. JPMorgan climbed 2.1 percent to $110.10 and Bank of America gained 2.4 percent to $29.81.
Electric car maker Tesla rose 6 percent after saying it could soon meet production targets for the Model 3 sedan.
US productivity grew at weak 0.4 percent rate in Q1
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. productivity grew at an annual rate of just 0.4 percent in the first quarter, even weaker than initially estimated, while labor costs rose at a bit faster pace.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that the January-March productivity increase was revised down from the 0.7 percent gain initially estimated a month ago. Labor costs rose 2.9 percent, up from an initial estimate of a 2.7 percent gain in the first quarter. The rise in productivity was only marginally better than the 0.3 percent increase in the fourth quarter but below the 2.6 percent third quarter increase.
Productivity, a key factor determining how fast the economy can grow and how much living standards can increase, has been anemic throughout the economic recovery. It increased just 1.3 percent for all of 2017.
US trade deficit falls for second straight month in April
WASHINGTON (AP) — Record exports shaved the U.S. trade deficit in April for the second straight month. But so far this year, the deficit is up 11.5 percent from a year ago despite President Donald Trump’s vow to reduce the gap through new tariffs on imports and renegotiated trade deals.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit dropped to $46.2 billion in April, down from $47.2 billion in March and lowest since September. Exports rose to a record $211.2 billion; imports dipped to $257.4 billion.
The trade deficit in goods with China widened 8.1 percent in April; the gap with Mexico narrowed 29.8 percent.
Trump campaigned on a promise to bring down the U.S. trade deficit — the difference between what America sells foreign countries and what it buys from them.
EU to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports from July
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union says it will start imposing duties from July on a list of U.S. products in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said Wednesday that formalities in finalizing the list should be completed this month and that “the new duties start applying from July.”
The EU says it will introduce “rebalancing” tariffs on about 2.8 billion euros’ ($3.4 billion) worth of U.S. steel, agricultural and other products, including bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.
The European Union exported some 5.5 million tons of steel to the U.S. last year. European steel producers are concerned about a loss of market access but also that steel from elsewhere will flood in.
France, Germany and UK seek exemption from US Iran sanctions
LONDON (AP) — France, Germany and Britain are asking the United States to exempt European companies from sanctions on Iran.
The three nations’ foreign and finance ministers have sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The European ministers say they “strongly regret” the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from an international nuclear agreement with Iran.
They ask the U.S. administration to “grant exemptions from U.S. sanctions for EU companies” that have been doing business with Iran since the deal came into force in 2016. They also say Iran should not be cut out of the SWIFT system for international money transfers.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, one of the signatories, tweeted Wednesday that EU “businesses must be able to pursue their activities.”
Top ECB official: Time to discuss stimulus withdrawal
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A top European Central Bank official says bank officials will begin discussions next week on withdrawing their bond-purchase stimulus — suggesting the ECB isn’t overly worried by the recent political upheaval in Italy.
Executive board member Peter Praet said in a speech Wednesday that “next week, the governing council will have to assess whether progress so far has been sufficient to warrant an unwinding of our net asset purchases.”
Currently the bank says it will keep buying 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in bonds at least through September. Analysts think the bank will phase them out around the end of this year.
The governing council meets June 14 in Riga, Latvia.
Italy’s new populist government has proposed extra spending that briefly raised market fears of a renewed eurozone debt crisis.
AP sources: Mulvaney disbands consumer advisory board
NEW YORK (AP) — Members of a group of outside experts required by law to meet twice a year with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau say the group has been dissolved by CFPB head Mick Mulvaney.
It’s the latest pro-industry action by the Trump administration since it took over the bureau seven months ago.
Mulvaney, acting director of the CFPB, told the 25 members of the Consumer Advisory Board on Wednesday morning that they will be replaced and the board will be reconstituted, according to two of the members. These people requested anonymity since the announcement was not official yet.
Under the law that created the CFPB, the CAB is required to meet twice a year, but meetings were repeatedly cancelled since Mulvaney came to CFPB.
Facebook to fund original news shows from ABC, CNN, others
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says it will fund original news shows created by such news organizations as ABC, CNN and Mic.
The move comes as Facebook plans to kill off its “trending” news section to make way for what it considers “trustworthy” and “informative” news. Despite efforts to clamp down, the company continues to grapple with fake news and misinformation, not to mention plain old “click bait” on its users’ news feeds.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, says the shows will be original and exclusive to Facebook, rather than adapting TV programs from elsewhere for a Facebook audience. The shows will appear in Facebook’s Watch video section.
Brown declined to say how much Facebook is paying for the shows. They will be available in the U.S. this summer.