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Update on the latest in business:

March 22, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks slide, erasing week’s gain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are sliding in midday trading on Wall Street, erasing the market’s gains for the week. Banks are taking some of the biggest losses as long-term interest rates continue to fall. Technology stocks are also lower. Boeing fell after Indonesia’s flag carrier said it would seek to cancel an order of 49 of the company’s 737 Max 8 jets following two fatal crashes involving that model.

HOME SALES SOAR

Existing home sales rise 11.8 percent in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home sales soared 11.8 percent in February, aided by accelerating wages and falling mortgage rates that are improving affordability.

The National Association of Realtors says that existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million last month, a decisively sharp rebound from a pace of 4.94 million in January.

The real estate market is still recovering from a spike in rates for home loans last year, which caused sales to slow as the size of monthly mortgage payments jumped. As a result, existing home sales are down 1.8 percent from a year ago.

But rates have since tumbled after peaking in early November, helping sales to recover.

The median sales price in January was $247,500, a slight increase of 2.8 percent from last year.

GENERAL MOTORS-JOBS

GM announces jobs, electric vehicle after Trump criticism

ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Less than a week after a series of critical tweets from President Donald Trump over an Ohio plant closure, General Motors is announcing plans to add 400 jobs and build a new electric vehicle at a Michigan factory.

The company announced it will spend $300 million in Orion Township to build a Chevrolet vehicle based on the battery-powered Bolt.

GM also announced plans to spend another $1.4 billion at U.S. factories with 300 more jobs.

GM said the investment has been in the works for weeks. The company has promised to introduce 20 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2023.

In November, GM announced plans to shut the four U.S. factories and one in Canada. About 3,300 workers in the U.S. would lose their jobs, as well as 2,600 in Canada. Another 8,000 white-collar workers were targeted for layoff. The company said the moves are necessary to stay financially healthy as GM faces large capital expenditures to shift to electric and autonomous vehicles.

TREASURY-TAXPAYER RELIEF

Treasury expands relief program for those with too little withheld from paychecks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department is expanding again the relief it grants taxpayers who had too little in income taxes withheld from their paychecks in the first year of a sweeping tax overhaul.

Treasury says that taxpayers will be able to avoid penalties for paying too little in taxes as long as they paid at least 80 percent of what they owed the government.

That represents a reduction from the regular threshold to avoid penalties of paying 90 percent of what is owed. Treasury had earlier this year reduced the normal 90 percent threshold to 85 percent.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says his department was making the move “to help those who attempted in good faith to meet their withholding obligations.”

TRUMP NOMINATES MOORE FOR FED

President Trump nominates Stephen Moore for Fed vacancy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he will nominate Stephen Moore, a prominent conservative economist, to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve’s seven-member board.

Moore served as an economic adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, helping to draft Trump’s tax cut plan. There are currently two vacancies on the Fed board.

The president was harshly critical of the Fed’s rate hikes last year and has continued to criticize actions by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell even after the central bank this week announced it expected no rate hikes this year.

YIELD CURVE WOES

The “yield curve” inverted

NEW YORK (AP) — One of the most closely watched predictors for recession just yelped even louder.

The signal lies within the bond market, where investors show how confident they are about the economy by how much interest they’re demanding from U.S. government bonds.

It’s called the “yield curve,” and a significant part of it flipped Friday for the first time since before the Great Recession.

A Treasury bill maturing in three months yields 2.45 percent, 0.03 percentage points more than a Treasury maturing in 10 years. Economists call this an “inverted” yield curve because short-term debt usually yields less than long-term debt.

The rule of thumb is that an inverted curve can signal a recession in about a year, and has preceded each of the last seven recessions, according to the Cleveland Fed.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL JOINS PAPA JOHN’S

Papa John’s has hired Shaquille O’Neal as their new pitchman

NEW YORK (AP) — Papa John’s has a new pitchman: Shaquille O’Neal.

The chain says the basketball Hall of Famer will appear on TV commercials and other advertisements.

He will also join the company’s board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants.

Papa John’s is trying to revive its image after the company’s founder and namesake, John Schnatter (SHNAH’-tur), was reported to have used a racial slur during a media training session. Schnatter, who was the face of the company, has apologized for the slur, and the company scrubbed his face from the company’s logo and advertisements last year.

Schnatter is still the Louisville, Kentucky-based company’s biggest shareholder.

Papa John’s International Inc. said it will pay O’Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for a three-year endorsement deal.

NUCLEAR POWER-GEORGIA

Trump adds $3.7B in support to finish 2 new nuclear reactors

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The Trump administration has approved $3.7 billion in new loan guarantees to support completion of the first new U.S. nuclear reactors in a generation.

The expansion at Plant Vogtle (VOH’-gohl) in eastern Georgia is years behind schedule, and its estimated cost of more than $27 billion has nearly doubled since construction was approved in 2012.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the new financial support at the plant Friday, telling the crowd, “America is back in the nuclear energy industry, folks”.

President Donald Trump has singled out both the country’s nuclear and coal industries for support from his administration.

The Green New Deal pushed by some Democrats has served to boost interest in nuclear power, which doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. But Democrats are divided over whether nuclear energy is a valid replacement for fossil fuels.

The new financial support brings to $12 billion the government’s total loan guarantees for Plant Vogtle, with the initial assistance approved under President Barack Obama.

CHICKEN STRIPS-RECALL

Tyson recalls chicken strips due to metal fears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arkansas-based Tyson Foods is recalling more than 69,000 pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strips because they may be contaminated with pieces of metal.

The USDA says the products were produced on Nov. 30, 2018, and have a best if used by date of Nov. 30, 2019. The products have the establishment number “P-7221” on the back of the packages.

The USDA says it received two complaints about the metal, but there are no confirmed reports of anyone being injured.

The USDA is concerned the products could still be in freezers. Consumers should throw out the packages or return them to the place of purchase.

The recall comes after Tyson in January recalled some chicken nuggets because customers said they found pieces of “soft, blue rubber” inside.

BREXIT

Brexit delay gives UK more time to solve crisis

BRUSSELS (AP) — Extra time has been added to the Brexit countdown clock. The European Union has granted Britain a few more weeks to overcome its political deadlock and chart a smooth road out of the bloc — or change its mind and seek a much longer delay.

European Union leaders gathered again after deciding that the political crisis in Britain over Brexit poses too great a threat to the world’s biggest trading bloc.

In a move that underlined their loss of confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May, the leaders set two deadlines.

They’re giving her until May 22 to persuade Britain’s Parliament to endorse the Brexit deal. Failing that, May would have until April 12 to choose a new path.

CHINA-NORTH KOREA

China to investigate firms sanctioned by US over North Korea

BEIJING (AP) — China says it will look into charges against two Chinese firms, sanctioned by the U.S. for suspected violations of sanctions against North Korea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China upholds all United Nations Security Council sanctions against the North over its nuclear and missile programs.

However, he said Beijing opposes unilateral sanctions on Chinese firms such as those imposed by the U.S. separate from those of the U.N.

The Trump administration on Thursday sanctioned Dalian Haibo International Freight Co. Ltd. and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co. Ltd. for using deceptive methods to circumvent international and U.S. sanctions and the U.S. commitment to implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions.

INDONESIA-BOEING CANCELLATION

Garuda Indonesia seeks to cancel order for 49 Boeing Max 8s

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) —Indonesia’s flag carrier is seeking the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, citing a loss of confidence in the model following two crashes in the space of a few months.

PT Garuda Indonesia’s spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said that the airline, which had ordered 50 Max 8 jets in 2014 and received just one, has written to Boeing requesting to cancel the order worth $4.9 billion.

He said the carrier made the decision out of fear its business would be damaged due to customer alarm over the crashes.

Rosan said Garuda plans to meet with Boeing representatives next week in Jakarta.