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Update on the latest business

August 21, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

S&P 500 trades above previous high

NEW YORK (AP) — The S&P 500 index is on track for another all-time high.

The benchmark index of large U.S. companies is trading just above the latest closing high of 2,872 it set seven months ago, on Jan. 26.

The market took a steep plunge immediately after that, in early February, and has been clawing higher since then thanks to a still-recovering economy and a boom in corporate profits.

The market has been buffeted by concerns about mounting trade tensions this spring and summer, particularly with China. Signs of potential progress have helped stocks rally in recent weeks.

S&P Dow Jones Indices, which compiles the S&P 500, says that on Wednesday, the current bull market will tie the 1990s one for the longest in history.

THE LONGEST BULL MARKET-DEBATE

Debate over longest bull market centers on rounding

NEW YORK (AP) — It could become the longest bull market ever ... perhaps with an asterisk.

S&P Dow Jones Indices, which compiles the benchmark S&P 500 index, and other research firms say the current bull market that began on March 9, 2009, is on track to become the longest in history on Wednesday, at 3,453 days.

Other market analysts say not so fast. They say this bull market would have to run until June 2021 to set the record, claiming the longest bull market ran 4,494 days between 1987 and 2000.

The debate centers around whether a downturn in 1990 should be considered a bear market — generally accepted by stock market geeks to be a 20 percent decline from a previous high. It also involves the familiar mathematical concept of rounding.

TRUMP-CLIMATE PLAN

EPA proposes relaxing coal plant emissions rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has proposed a major rollback in Obama-era restrictions on climate-changing emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The plan announced Tuesday gives the states more discretion in choosing how to regulate pollution from the plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the move “promotes energy independence.” Environmental groups say it will harm the fight against global warming.

The move targets a major climate change effort of the Obama administration, which sought to reduce release of climate-changing emissions and other pollutants from the coal-fired power plants.

An EPA statement calls the Obama plan “burdensome.”

MICROSOFT-RUSSIAN HACKING

Kremlin dismisses reports of new hacking attacks

UNDATED (AP) — The Kremlin is dismissing new reports that Russia is targeting U.S. political groups through cyberattacks ahead of midterm elections.

Microsoft said Tuesday that it’s uncovered new intrusions by Russian government-linked hackers on U.S. political groups. It said one group created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov is denying the allegations and says that Microsoft’s statement lacks detail and it wasn’t clear “who the hackers in question are” and how they could distort the U.S. electoral system.

Microsoft says there is no evidence that the hackers were successful.

RUSSIA SANCTIONS

US sanctions more Russians

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department is going after two companies and two Russians suspected of trying to circumvent U.S. sanctions imposed in June in response to cyberattacks and other malicious activities run by Moscow’s military and spy services.

The June sanctions were a response to cyberattacks, including last year’s NotPetya attack, as well as intrusions into the U.S. energy grid and global network infrastructure. Treasury officials said then that Russia also had been tracking undersea cables that carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data.

Tuesday’s action freezes any assets held in the U.S. by Marina Igorevna Tsareva and Anton Aleksandrovich Nagibin, as well as by the companies Vela-Marine and Lacno S.R.O., which is based in Slovakia.

Those companies and people are suspected of trying to get around sanctions against Divetechnoservices of St. Petersburg. That company was sanctioned in June for procuring underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies.

As well, the U.S. is sanctioning two Russian shipping companies suspected of transferring petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

BREXIT

Britain agree to fast-track Brexit talks

LONDON (AP) — The European Union and Britain say they will accelerate Brexit negotiations and hold regular talks to try to bridge important differences in an effort to seal an agreement before the end of the year.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday that both sides “have agreed that the EU and the U.K. will negotiate continuously from now on.”

He says work will focus on how to keep goods, services and people flowing over the border between Northern Ireland in the U.K. and EU member Ireland, and a political declaration on future EU-U.K. ties.

While conceding that “there are still gaps,” Barnier’s British counterpart Dominic Raab said that if both sides are pragmatic “I am confident we can reach the agreement in October.”

Britain leaves the EU on March 29 but a deal must be clinched soon to leave parliaments time to ratify it.

ITALY-BRIDGE COLLAPSE

Italy’s Autostrade says new bridge can be built in 8 months

MILAN (AP) — The board of Autostrade per l’Italia says it can build a new, steel bridge to replace the reinforced concrete structure that collapsed last week in about eight months.

The board of the private company that controls the Morandi Bridge said after an extraordinary meeting Tuesday, one week after the deadly collapse that killed 43, that the new bridge would be built “in steel according to the most modern technologies.”

The rebuilding of the bridge would be part of 500 million euros ($576 million) in spending by the company that includes rebuilding the bridge, paying for new roadways to handle traffic in the meantime, and initiatives to help the families of the victims and also those who have been displaced because of concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.

PRATT & WHITNEY-WHISTLEBLOWER

Ex-employee sues Pratt & Whitney over jet engines

(Information in the following story is from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former engineer for jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney has filed a federal false claims lawsuit alleging the company knowingly sold “flawed” engines to the U.S. Air Force, which resulted in the likelihood of premature wear or even “catastrophic failure.”

The Journal Inquirer reports that Peter Bonzani Jr., of Bolton, filed the suit in 2016, but unsealed last week.

The suit also alleges Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp., fired Bonzani after he brought his concerns to company officials.

The engine in question was used in the F-22 Raptor fighter.

The suit seeks triple damages for the Defense Department and back pay and unspecified damages for Bonzani.

Pratt & Whitey in a statement said “There is absolutely no merit to these claims.”

Franklin C. Turner, a lawyer who specializes in complex government contract cases, tells The Hartford Courant that the government has not intervened in the lawsuit, which is “a pretty strong indication that there is some sort of fatal deficiency in the case.”

HERBALIFE-CIRCLE OF SUCCESS

Herbalife distributors claim in $1B suit events were a sham

MIAMI (AP) — Some distributors who claim they were duped by Herbalife’s promises they’d get rich selling health and personal care products are suing the company for as much as $1 billion in damages.

The distributors contend in a federal lawsuit in Miami they were coerced into attending dozens of Herbalife’s “Circle of Success” events around the country that cost them thousands of dollars. And they say none of the events lived up to their billing as the secret to wealth.

Los Angeles-based Herbalife has been sued before, and in 2016 settled a Federal Trade Commission action over its business practices for $200 million. A company spokeswoman declines comment on this latest lawsuit, although company lawyers are trying to get it dismissed.

On its website, Herbalife says it has about 2.3 million distributors.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ hoopla elicits mixed feelings in Asia

SINGAPORE (AP) — The craze for “Crazy Rich Asians” is hitting Asia, with a premiere in Singapore followed by openings in several neighboring countries later this week.

Much of the movie was set in this wealthy city state. The red carpet premiere Tuesday night for the over-the-top romantic comedy was expected to draw an enthusiastic crowd after its box-office bonanza in the U.S.

The film directed by John M. Chu was adapted from Singaporean author Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel of the same name. It follows Chinese-American Rachel Chu as she travels with her boyfriend Nick Young to Singapore to meet his family and discovers they are ultra-wealthy.

But critics say its satirical portrayal of an uber rich family in the wealthy city state misses a chance to showcase the city’s ethnic diversity.

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