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Update on the latest in business:

November 30, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia shares mixed ahead of Trump-Xi meeting at G-20 summit

BANGKOK (AP) — Share prices were mixed Friday in Asia ahead of the planned meeting by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 major economies summit this weekend.

The working dinner meeting between Trump and Xi could bring a breakthrough in a bruising trade war that has the U.S. and China imposing punitive tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of each other’s exports. Or not. Analysts are not optimistic about prospects for improvement a month before U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are due to ramp up.

A measure of China’s factory activity slipped to its lowest level in more than two years in November, adding to pressure on Beijing amid the tariff battle with Trump.

South Korea’s central bank lifted its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percent to 1.75%, in line with expectations. The first increase by the Bank of Korea in a year, it reflects concern over rising household debt and property prices.

U.S. stocks finished lower Thursday after an afternoon rally faded. The S&P 500 index shed 0.2 percent to 2,737.76. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.1 percent lower at 25,338.84. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.3 percent to 7,273.08 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 0.3 percent to 1,525.39.

Benchmark U.S. crude inched ahead but remained below $51.50 per barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and was flat against the euro.

KOREAS-DIPLOMACY

Koreas survey North’s railways in hopes of joining networks

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean train rolled into North Korea for the first time in a decade on Friday as the countries began joint surveys on northern railway sections they hope someday to connect with the South.

The weekslong inspections represent one of the most significant goodwill gestures between the Koreas in past months as they push ahead with engagement amid a stalemate in larger negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang to resolve the nuclear standoff.

Also on Friday, an official from Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the North and South Korean militaries completed removing 20 front-line guard posts and land mines from a border area where they plan to start their first-ever joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.

The Koreas plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony by the end of the year on an ambitious project to connect their railways and roads as agreed by their leaders. But beyond surveys and tape-cuttings, the Koreas cannot move much further along without the removal of U.S.-led sanctions against the North, which isn’t likely before it takes firmer steps toward relinquishing its nuclear weapons and missiles.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

China factory gauge lower, adding to economic gloom

BEIJING (AP) — A measure of China’s factory activity slipped to its lowest level in more than two years in November, adding to pressure on Beijing amid a tariff battle with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing said Friday its monthly purchasing managers’ index declined to 50 from October’s 50.2 on a 100-point scale. Numbers above 50 indicate activity is increasing.

The industry group said that indicated Chinese economic activity is “still on a downward trend.” It blamed weak domestic demand for the latest decline.

Washington and Beijing have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods in a fight over technology policy. That has yet to have much impact on China’s economy, but forecasters say exports are likely to weaken early next year.

CONGRESS-FARM BILL

Senate, House reach deal on long-awaited farm bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate negotiators have reached a deal on the multibillion-dollar farm bill after months of contentious talks.

The tentative deal scraps a plan backed by House Republicans and President Donald Trump that would have added new work requirements for some food stamp recipients. Lawmakers expect to vote on the bill next week.

Democrats and many Senate Republicans opposed the work requirements, the biggest stumbling block holding up an agreement. The impasse threatened to scuttle a bipartisan bill that sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years and provides more than $400 billion in farm subsidies, conservation programs and food aid for the poor.

In a statement Thursday, House and Senate agriculture committee leaders say they have reached agreement but are working to finalize the bill’s language and costs.

PRESIDENT TRUMP-TECH ROUNDTABLE

Trump to meet with several tech CEOs amid rising tensions

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will meet with top executives from Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Qualcomm next week during a White House roundtable that could touch upon some the sticking points in the increasingly prickly relationship between his administration and the technology industry.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz and Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf all plan to attend the Dec. 6 meeting. The White House had said in late September that Pichai had been invited to a tech roundtable without specifying when it would be held or who else would be asked to come.

The meeting is being held the day after Pichai is scheduled to testify before a House committee.

Some of Trump’s policies on trade and immigration have antagonized the tech industry.

PAKISTAN-ECONOMY

Pakistan’s currency plunges again as country seeks IMF loan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s currency has plunged further as the country is mired in a financial crisis and seeking an $8 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.

The Pakistani rupee was trading at 142 to the dollar on Friday, a decline from 133.90 rupees to $1 at close of business the previous day.

Analyst Mohammad Suhail says it’s a clear indication the government has no option but to accept IMF conditions for the bailout — the “bitter pill” required to tackle significant economic challenges such as high fiscal and current account deficits, low growth and foreign exchange reserves.

He says the rupee has plunged 15 percent since parliamentary elections in July and 36 percent over the past year.

IMF and Pakistan held a week of negotiations in Islamabad earlier this month.

BOEING PLANE-PILOTS

US pilots want more training on new Boeing jet after crash

DALLAS (AP) — Pilots at American Airlines are asking for more training with the automated anti-stall system on certain new Boeing jets. The system is under scrutiny after a deadly crash in Indonesia.

Pilots union spokesman Dennis Tajer said Thursday that the request followed a meeting between several American Airlines pilots and Boeing representatives. Boeing also met with Southwest Airlines pilots.

Indonesian investigators are probing whether pilots on an Oct. 29 Lion Air flight were overwhelmed when faulty sensor readings activated the anti-stall system and automatically pushed the nose of their plane down. The Boeing 737 MAX plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.

The anti-stall system differs from those in previous Boeing 737 models.

Boeing says the MAX is safe and there is a procedure for stopping the nose-down command.

MOON DELIVERIES

Next US moon landing will be by private companies, not NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — America’s next moon landing will be made by private companies — not NASA.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday that nine U.S. companies will compete in delivering experiments to the lunar surface. Bridenstine says NASA will buy the service and let private industry work out the details on getting there.

The goal is to get science and technology experiments to the surface of the moon as soon as possible. The first flight could be next year. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

The announcement comes just three days after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars. NASA wants to see how it goes at the moon before committing to commercial delivery services at Mars.

HONEYWELL HEADQUARTERS

Honeywell expected to announce HQ move to North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. is expected to announce that it is moving its headquarters from New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina.

An economic development official familiar with discussions between state officials and the company told The Associated Press Thursday that the move is expected to result in 700 to 800 jobs.

A second person present during discussions over the incentives needed to lure Honeywell to North Carolina said expanded tax breaks approved by the state legislature Thursday were designed to attract the company.

They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the confidentiality of business recruitment.

Honeywell spokeswoman Victoria Ann Streitfeld declined to comment.

Morris Plains, New Jersey-based Honeywell produces core systems for military aircraft, space satellites and automated office buildings as well as fishing line and chemicals.

CREDIT UNION-ALASKA MARIJUANA

Alaska credit union to serve marijuana businesses

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A credit union is launching a pilot program to begin serving marijuana businesses in Alaska, giving the cash-reliant industry a financial option after banks shunned the industry.

Credit Union 1 announced Thursday its move comes with no political or moral position.

CEO James Wileman says safety concerns were a significant factor, and would keep large amounts of cash off the streets.

Because of the federal prohibition on marijuana, most banks and credit card processors won’t service marijuana businesses.

Kelly Mazzei with the state’s tax division says the agency supports the move as a time-saver.

Anchorage attorney Jana Weltzin says many of her Alaska marijuana business clients are excited about an opportunity to participate because it would free them from having to keep so much cash in their homes or vehicles.

PLANET FITNESS-LAWSUIT

Former Planet Fitness manager alleges rape, harassment

BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — A former manager at New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness has sued the company, saying she was subjected to a male-dominated, “debaucherous” environment that included sexual harassment and rape.

Casey Willard said senior management at the Hampton headquarters organized “Fireball Friday” and other drinking activities, making staff drink at work.

Willard also claims in her lawsuit filed in September that she was drugged and raped on a business trip by another employee and his friends. She reported it to police. She also said a manager initiated a sexual relationship with her in violation of an anti-fraternization policy.

A spokeswoman for Planet Fitness said Thursday that the company investigated her claims and terminated two employees. The company disputed her other “baseless allegations.”

The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Willard has done.

WINE WAR

California winery and Oregon meet to defuse labeling dispute

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon regulators and a California winery accused of misrepresenting the Oregon origins of its bestselling pinot noir say they’re working to resolve the dispute.

The owner and a vice president of Napa Valley’s Copper Cane winery flew to Portland to meet Wednesday with the executive director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The commission said last week Copper Cane has committed seven violations with labeling misrepresentations and is seeking to revoke the company’s ability to sell in Oregon.

Jim Blumling, Copper Cane’s vice president of operations, said Thursday that he and owner Joe Wagner had a “collaborative” meeting with liquor commission executive director Steven Marks.

A spokesman for Marks said it was a good preliminary meeting.

Copper Cane’s pinot noir is made from Oregon grapes trucked to California.

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