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Update on the latest in business:

May 9, 2019

^FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mostly lower amid jitters ahead of trade talks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower Thursday amid investor jitters ahead of the latest round of trade talks between the U.S. and China.

On Wall Street, a late-afternoon reversal added to the market’s losses following a steep sell-off a day earlier as investors worry that the costly trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies will escalate.

Financial markets turned volatile this week after President Donald Trump threatened to impose more tariffs on Chinese goods, a threat that is set to become reality early Friday. Negotiations between the U.S. and China are scheduled to continue in Washington on Thursday, and will include China’s top trade official.

The S&P 500 index fell 4.63 points, or 0.2%, to 2,879.42. The benchmark index had been up 0.5%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 2.24 points, or less than 0.1%, to 25,967.33. The Nasdaq composite dropped 20.44 points, or 0.3%, to 7,943.32. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks slid 7.34 points, or 0.5% to 1,574.97.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $61.50 a barrel.

The dollar slipped against the yen and gained against the euro.

^UNITED STATES-CHINA TRADE TALKS

US, Chinese negotiators to resume talks as US tariffs loom

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and Chinese negotiators are to resume trade talks just hours before the United States is set to raise tariffs on Chinese imports in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

In Beijing, Chinese officials said Thursday they will retaliate if President Donald Trump goes ahead with more tariff hikes but offered no specific penalties.

The talks starting up again Thursday were thrown into disarray this week after top U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused the Chinese of reneging on commitments they’d made earlier. In response to the alleged backsliding, the United States is raising tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports from 10% to 25% at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time Friday.

The two countries are sparring over U.S. allegations that China steals technology and pressures American companies into handing over trade secrets, part of an aggressive campaign to turn Chinese companies into world leaders in robotics, electric cars and other advanced industries.

The setback was unexpected. Through late last week, Trump administration officials were suggesting that negotiators were making steady progress.

^SAVING MORE FOR RETIREMENT

What market tumble? Workers up 401(k) savings to record

NEW YORK (AP) — Last year’s tumble for the stock market wasn’t enough to scare workers off of saving for retirement. Instead, many ended up saving more.

Even after a nearly 20% plunge for the S&P 500 rattled nerves at the close of 2018, workers upped their contributions into 401(k) accounts in the ensuing months. The average worker set aside a record $2,370 during the first quarter, up 15% from a year earlier, according to Fidelity Investments. Not only that, employers increased their own contributions to a record average of $1,780.

Altogether, workers saved an average of 13.5% of their pay during the first three months of 2019. That’s the closest they’ve ever come to Fidelity’s recommendation of setting aside 15% for retirement, including any employer match.

Many factors were likely behind the increase, Taylor said. Some workers may have reassessed their savings after filing their tax returns. Others may have unwittingly raised their contributions, because employers sometimes set plans to automatically increase savings rates unless workers opt out of it.

It didn’t hurt that stock prices were storming higher early this year, as worries about a possible recession receded, and the S&P 500 had its best first quarter since “Titanic” was pulling in moviegoers in 1998.

Those gains, plus workers’ additional contributions, meant the average 401(k) account balance stood at $103,700 at the end of March, according to Fidelity. That’s up from $95,600 at the start of the year and $102,900 a year ago.

^ALEXA-KIDS-PRIVACY

FTC urged by child advocates to investigate Amazon’s Alexa

UNDATED (AP) _ Amazon met with skepticism from some privacy advocates and members of Congress last year when it introduced its first kid-oriented voice assistant , along with brightly colored models of its Echo Dot speaker designed for children.

Now those advocates say the kids’ version of Amazon’s Alexa won’t forget what children tell it, even after parents try to delete the conversations. For that and other alleged privacy flaws they found while testing the service, they’re now asking the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday to investigate whether it violates children’s privacy laws.

A coalition of groups led by Golin’s organization and Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation is filing a formal complaint with the FTC alleging that Amazon is violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, by holding onto a child’s personal information longer than is reasonably necessary.

Amazon said in a statement that its Echo Dot Kids Edition is compliant with COPPA.

In one example the advocates captured on video, a child asks the device to remember some personal information, including her walnut allergy.

An adult later tries to delete all that information, which includes the voice recordings and written transcripts associated with them. But then, when the child asks what Alexa remembers, it still recalls that she’s allergic to walnuts.

It’s unclear whether the FTC will take up the complaint, since its investigations are rarely public. But the agency has been enforcing children’s privacy rules more seriously in the past year, said Allison Fitzpatrick, a lawyer who helps companies comply with COPPA requirements and was not involved in the complaint.

^INDIANA GAMBLING

Indiana joins list of states legalizing sports betting

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Sports betting will become legal in Indiana and construction of two new casinos will be allowed in the state under a bill signed by the governor on Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb endorsed the bill on his final day to act on the measure approved by lawmakers after they reached a deal in the final hours of this year’s state legislative session.

So far this year, Indiana joins Montana and Tennessee in moving to legalize sports wagering after six other states moved quickly following a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing it nationwide last year. An Iowa sports betting bill is awaiting a decision by that state’s governor and several other states are considering legalization measures.

Indiana sports wagering could start in September. Bets could be placed by anyone 21 or older at a casino or by mobile devices after a bettor has registered with an Indiana casino.

Holcomb said Indiana’s casino industry faced greater competition as neighboring states have legalized more forms of gambling.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Business and economic reports scheduled for release today:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ There are two March reports from the Commerce Department scheduled for release today.

One report covers international trade data; the other looks at wholesale trade inventories.

Also today, the Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for April and Freddie Mac reports om this week’s average mortgage rates.

JAPAN-TOYOTA-PANASONIC

Toyota, Panasonic form joint venture in housing for Japan

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automaker Toyota and electronics maker Panasonic are forming a joint venture combining their housing businesses in Japan.

Toyota Motor Corp., which offers housing as well as vehicles in Japan, said the new company will offer homes showcasing technology such as connected cars and the internet of things.

Panasonic Corp. said its housing subsidiary will become part of the joint venture. The companies said Thursday the deal will be concluded by January 2020.

Both sides said communities will increasingly want connected cars, autonomous driving, car-sharing and ecological vehicles.

Earlier this year, Toyota and Panasonic announced a joint venture to research, manufacture and sell batteries for ecological autos, an increasingly lucrative sector amid concerns about global warming.

The companies have been studying working together on batteries since 2017.

BEVERLY HILLS-TOBACCO BAN

Beverly Hills poised to end most tobacco sales

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ The smoke hasn’t cleared yet, but Beverly Hills is poised to become the first U.S. city to end most tobacco sales.

The City Council in the world-renowned enclave of the rich and famous unanimously indicated Tuesday that it’s ready to snuff out most sales when it meets again on May 21.

The proposal currently contains a loophole allowing cigarette-loving tourists to obtain smokes at hotels. Three plush cigar lounges would also be exempt from the ordinance.

MAGIC MUSHROOMS-DENVER VOTE

Denver is 1st US city to decriminalize ‘magic mushrooms’

DENVER (AP) — Voters have made Denver the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”

Preliminary results show that the citizen-led initiative narrowly passed Tuesday. It makes the use or possession of psilocybin by people 21 and older the lowest enforcement priority for police and prosecutors.

Psilocybin has been federally outlawed since the 1960s, when it was widely known as a recreational drug. The ban stymied medical research, but small studies in recent years have found the substance had positive effects on anxiety and depression for cancer patients.

Supporters say it’s wrong to jail an adult for using a substance they believe helps with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other conditions.

Denver’s mayor and top prosecutor opposed the initiative, but there was no organized campaign against decriminalization.