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Update on the latest in business:

May 16, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NKorea moves, weak Japan GDP data pull Asian shares lower

UNDATE (AP) — Share prices fell in Asia today after losses in technology and health care companies snapped an eight-day winning streak for the Dow Jones industrial average. North Korea’s cancellation of talks with South Korea and weaker than expected Japanese economic growth weighed on sentiment.

Today, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index has lost 0.2 percent, the Kospi in South Korea has lost less than 0.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has slipped 0.1 percent, but the S&P ASX 200 has added 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite index has dropped 0.3 percent and shares in Southeast Asia have been lower while Taiwan has advanced.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 index fell 0.7 percent to 2,711. The Dow lost 0.8 percent to 24,706. And the Nasdaq composite dropped 0.8 percent to 7,352. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks finished flat at 1,600.

THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic events scheduled for Wednesday:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department will release housing starts for April.

The Federal Reserve will release industrial production for April.

Macy’s Inc. will report quarterly financial results before the market open.

TRADE-US-CHINA CONFLICT

US firms seek tariff relief as US and China try to mend rift

WASHINGTON (AP) — Corporate America is seeking relief from President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs on at least $50 billion in Chinese goods as U.S. and Chinese negotiators seek to prevent a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

Best Buy wants televisions to be spared from the tariffs. Sanden International (USA) of Wylie, Texas, warns it will have to lay off 39 of its 431 workers if 25 percent tariffs take effect on the components it uses to make car air-conditioning compressors. SABIC, a petrochemical manufacturer, wants some building materials struck from the tariff list.

As the U.S. government began three days of hearings on the tariffs Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He traveled to Washington to seek a resolution to the trade dispute.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

Japan’s economy shrinks in January-March quarter

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized rate of 0.6 percent in the quarter through March, as private investment and public spending declined.

The Cabinet Office says Japan’s gross domestic product dipped on-quarter 0.2 percent. The annualized rate, which is also seasonally adjusted, is what that decline would have been if it had continued the whole year.

Analysts had expected a decline. They say it is not likely to show a serious ongoing slowdown.

TRUMP-TECHNOLOGY

Trump to sign order to reform US infrastructure technology

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is signing an executive order to try to reform the federal government’s confounding information technology structure.

The White House says Trump will order agencies to strengthen the roles of their chief information officers, requiring that they report directly to the agency heads.

The order was developed by the Office of American Innovation, which is led by Jared Kushner. It is being cast by the White House as an effort to bring private-sector management principles to government. The White House says it is hoping to attract private-sector talent to the empowered roles and to give technical experts oversight of technical decisions.

FEDERAL RESERVE-VICE CHAIR HEARING

Trump pick for vice chair pledges support for key Fed goals

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s nominee for the No. 2 post at the Federal Reserve, is pledging support for the Fed’s twin goals of stabilizing inflation and maximizing employment while also declaring the importance of the central bank’s independence.

Richard Clarida is an economics professor at Columbia University who is among the nation’s leading experts on monetary policy. He’s the latest of several Trump selections to the Fed’s board.

Along with Michelle Bowman, another Trump nominee to the seven-member board, Clarida received generally favorable reviews during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. Both are expected to win approval, although some committee Democrats questioned their commitment to tough oversight of the nation’s banks.

SPORTS BETTING

Who will referee billion-dollar sports betting industry?

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, the race is on to see who will referee the multibillion-dollar business of gambling on pro and college sports.

The NFL, NBA and others want Congress to set uniform, nationwide rules on sports gambling for all states, saying the integrity of athletics is at stake. And an influential Republican on Capitol Hill, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, quickly announced plans to push for such legislation.

But states are already moving quickly to enact their own laws, with some legislators wanting fans to be able to place wagers by the time football season starts in the fall. And there are serious doubts Congress even wants to get involved.

AMAZON-WHOLE FOODS-PRIME

Amazon to give Prime members extra discounts at Whole Foods

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s Prime time at Whole Foods: Amazon is rolling out discounts for Prime members at the organic grocer.

The benefits start Wednesday at stores in Florida and will expand nationwide this summer. Prime members will get an additional 10 percent off sale items and exclusive deals on certain groceries.

This week in Florida, for example, Prime members can get $2 off a pound of organic strawberries or save $10 a pound on wild halibut steaks. Amazon wouldn’t say if it plans to add the benefits to Whole Foods stores in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Since it bought Whole Foods last year, Amazon.com Inc. has cut prices on some groceries, begun offering same-day delivery to Prime members in several cities and extended its 5 percent cash back Amazon rewards credit card to Whole Foods purchases. But turning its Prime membership into the Whole Foods loyalty program could drive more people to its stores.

WALMART-LORD & TAYLOR

Walmart unveils Lord & Taylor site as it tries to go upscale

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart, known for its “everyday low prices” mantra, wants shoppers to think of it as a source for style and upscale fashion as it tries to reach more affluent customers.

The company is launching the Lord & Taylor store on its website in the coming weeks with more than 125 brands like Lucky Brand, Vince Camuto and Tommy Bahama. That reflects its effort to broaden its customer base, drive growth and compete with Amazon.

It’s imperative for Walmart to expand beyond its low-income shoppers who are limited in how much they can spend. But the company must court higher-income shoppers without abandoning its core strategy.

Lord & Taylor has called the partnership “pivotal” for the company, which has struggled to keep customers as people shop less at department stores.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INVESTMENTS

Buffett’s company doubles investment in drugmaker Teva

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Investor Warren Buffett’s company more than doubled its stake in Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals in the first quarter.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. says it held 40.5 million Teva shares at the end of March. That’s up from the 18.9 million shares of the world’s largest generic drugmaker that Berkshire held at the end 2017.

Berkshire also slashed its holdings in insurance data provider Verisk Analytics to 284,778 shares from 1.56 million shares at the start of the year.

EARNS-HOME DEPOT

Cold spring hurts Home Depot’s 1Q same-store sales growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Home Depot reported slower-than-expected sales growth for the first quarter, as spring weather that was colder than usual hurt sales of fertilizer, live plants and other gardening-related items.

Sales rose 4.2 percent at all established Home Depot stores during the first three months of the year. It was the lowest quarterly rate of growth since the second quarter in 2015. The figure was also below the 5.5 percent increase analysts expected, according to FactSet.

However, the company kept its earnings and revenue guidance unchanged for the year, saying that despite the slow start to the spring selling season, it’s been building momentum during May.

ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE

Court vacates key Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A federal court has vacated a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t provided specific limits for the allowable impact on threatened and endangered species.

The Southern Environmental Law Center says Tuesday’s order from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requires an immediate halt to “all construction and any activity” associated with the pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia through North Carolina.

A spokeswoman for the pipeline couldn’t immediately be reached.

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