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Update on the latest in business:

June 13, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares drop as eyes turn to central bank meetings.

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks mostly fell today after a muted market response to the Trump-Kim summit. Investors have now turned their eyes to the trio of this week’s central bank meetings.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished up 0.4 percent today. South Korea’s Kospi was down by less than 0.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite index both dropped 1.0 percent.

On Wall Street Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 4.85 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,786.85, closing at its highest level since February 1. The Nasdaq composite added 43.87 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,703.79 and the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.58 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 25,320.73. The Russell 2000, an index that makes up mostly small companies, rose 7.62 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,682.30.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Anticipation surrounds Fed’s rate forecasts after next hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is expected today to modestly raise its key short-term interest rate for the second time this year. But attention will be focused mainly on any hints that the Fed might accelerate its rate hikes in the coming months.

Some economists think the Fed will signal that it expects to raise rates four times this year, up from its current projection of three hikes. Others believe the central bank will stick with its projection of three rate increases, partly out of concern that rising trade tensions triggered by President Donald Trump’s aggressive policies might slow global growth.

The policymakers will reveal their action in a policy statement and in updated economic forecasts, followed by a news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell.

AT&T-TIME WARNER

AT&T happy with ruling, government weighs appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — AT&T says it will complete its purchase of Time Warner by June 20 now that a federal judge has cleared the deal.

AT&T general counsel David McAtee says the company is “pleased” with the verdict after a “full and fair trial on merits.”

A statement from the government’s top attorney says the Department of Justice is “disappointed” with the decision. It warns that the pay-TV industry will be “less competitive and less innovative” as a result of merger. The government could appeal.

In Tuesday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon rejected the government’s argument that the AT&T-Time Warner combination would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies.

In after-market trading following the ruling, shares of Time Warner rose nearly 5 percent and AT&T shares fell 1.6 percent. Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox rose more than 4 percent, while Disney’s stock dropped slightly more than 1 percent. Disney has a deal to buy the bulk of Fox, but Comcast is now expected to make a counterbid.

AT&T-TIME WARNER-FUTURE MEDIA

Comcast offer for Fox expected after favorable AT&T ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — Now that a federal judge has cleared AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, other companies are likely to rush to consolidate.

Tuesday’s ruling signaled that federal regulators will have a hard time stopping companies from getting bigger by gobbling up rivals and the content they own. Even if a company doesn’t need to get bigger right away, it might need to do so to prevent a competitor from doing so.

For starters, expect Comcast to make a bid for Fox’s entertainment business as early as today.

AMAZON-SEATTLE TAX

Seattle repeals tax on companies after Amazon fights back

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle leaders on Tuesday repealed a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after a backlash from businesses. The reversal came month after the City Council unanimously approved the effort to combat a growing homelessness crisis.

A divided crowd chanted, jeered and booed at the council meeting, drowning out the leaders as they cast their 7-2 vote. Many shouted, “Stop the repeal,” as others unfurled a large red banner that read, “Tax Amazon.” An opposing group held “No tax on jobs” signs.

The vote showed Amazon’s ability to aggressively push back on government taxes, especially in its affluent hometown where it’s the largest employer with more than 45,000 workers. But Amazon has also been criticized by some for helping cultivate a widening income gap that is pricing lower-income workers out of housing.

Seattle has one of the nation’s highest homelessness numbers, a problem that hasn’t eased even as city spending on the issue grew.

JAPAN-TOYOTA-GRAB

Toyota investing $1 billion in ride-hailing company Grab

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s top automaker Toyota Motor Corp. is investing $1 billion in Grab, the leading ride-hailing company in Southeast Asia.

Toyota says it reached a deal with Grab Holdings to strengthen a partnership they already have to grow in mobility services in that region.

Toyota says one of its executives will be appointed to Grab’s board and another Toyota person is being tapped to be an executive officer at Grab.

Grab, which is similar in its services to Uber in the U.S., is in eight nations in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

PAYDAY LENDING SCHEME

Businessman gets 10 years in prison for payday loan scam

NEW YORK (AP) — A businessman who ran a $220 million predatory payday lending operation that cheated more than a half million people nationwide while he lived lavishly was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a judge who said he couldn’t understand how a once honorable man could go so crooked.

Federal Judge Edgardo Ramos told Richard Moseley Sr. that he also must forfeit $49 million to make amends for running loan companies that exploited 620,000 of the most financially vulnerable people in the country.

His companies had been charging interest rates as high as 700 percent or more using deceptive practices, including charging some people for loans they never requested, while he lived the high life, including a vacation home in Mexico, luxury cars and country club memberships. Moseley, who is 73, was convicted last November of racketeering, fraud and identity theft for crimes committed while he ran the company between 2004 and 2014.

GHOST GUNS

New Jersey attorney general asks makers of ghost guns to stop selling

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s attorney general has demanded that firearms companies stop marketing and selling untraceable weapons, or ghost guns.

The weapons are illegal in New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a letter to the unidentified companies, and the state will sue the gun-makers if they persist. Grewal demanded the companies stop selling and advertising to New Jersey residents assault weapons that are unregistered and lack serial numbers. The companies have 15 days to respond.

The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, a National Rifle Association affiliate, has opposed the measures and said they won’t “make anyone safer.”

HOG SMELLS-LAWSUITS

No. 2 hog state moves to greatly help agribusiness in suits

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) —A North Carolina House committee on Tuesday approved legislation sharply limiting the ability of residents who live near industrial hog operations to punish the operations for causing severe nuisances. The proposed law would all but block other neighbors from suing industrial-scale livestock operations in the future.

Meanwhile, federal juries are just beginning to hear the first of more than 500 eastern North Carolina neighbors of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods. Smithfield Foods is owned by Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group, which generated $22 billion in revenues last year.

Elvis Williams, who has lived on his land for 30 years, testified that he had to build a screen around his front porch because of blankets of flies spawned by a nearby industrial hog farm’s uncovered cesspools.

Williams and others say Smithfield can afford to eliminate nuisances including horrible stenches, flies and noise.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT-GUESS INC.

Guess co-founder resigns after sex misconduct investigation

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Guess Inc. says its co-founder Paul Marciano is stepping down after the completion of a company-commissioned investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

The Los Angeles-based fashion company announced in a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Marciano is resigning immediately as executive chairman of the Guess board, and his brother and co-founder Maurice Marciano will take over.

Paul Marciano, who has denied the allegations, will remain a board member and stay on as chief creative officer through January.

The filing says allegations against Paul Marciano included inappropriate comments and texts, and unwanted kissing and groping. It said many of the allegations could not be corroborated, but others were credible. The company says that it has settled lawsuits with five of Paul Marciano’s accusers for a total of $500,000.

CONVERSION THERAPY BAN-CALIFORNIA

Group fights bill to declare gay conversion therapy a fraud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California bill that would declare gay conversion therapy a fraudulent practice is being fought by hundreds of people who contend that the legislation could infringe on their religious freedom.

The bill aims to ban selling or advertising sexual orientation change therapy. Supporters of the bill authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat, say it’s an ineffective and harmful practice. The bill has already passed the Assembly.

Opponents gathered for a rally outside the Capitol ahead of the hearing. A pastor, Jim Doman, said the therapy helped him to marry his wife and have children. He spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, along with more than 350 people opposing the legislation.

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