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Update on the latest in business:

September 21, 2018


Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks rose today after Wall Street hit a new high and a survey showed Japanese manufacturing accelerating.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.4 percent and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 1 percent. Seoul’s Kospi added 0.4 percent and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent. India’s Sensex was 0.7 percent higher and benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asia also advanced.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 index set records as a wave of buying pushed prices higher. Technology stocks, banks and health care companies accounted for much of the rally. Energy companies declined along with crude oil prices.

The S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent to 2,930.75. The Dow gained 1 percent to 26,656.98. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1 percent to 8,028.23.


Envoy: US, Canada working 24/7 on revamped NAFTA deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and Canadian negotiators are working around the clock on a deal to keep Canada in a North American trade bloc ahead of a Sept. 30 U.S. deadline.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland spoke to reporters after meetings Thursday with her counterpart, U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.

Freeland is returning to Canada for a summit of women foreign ministers today but said she and Lighthizer remain in close contact by phone and email.

Canada was left out when the United States and Mexico reached an agreement last month to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. Freeland is trying to get the No. 2 U.S. trade partner reinstated.

The countries are under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the month, when Lighthizer must make public a copy of the full text of the agreement with Mexico. Until then, he has time to bring Canada back into the regional trading bloc.

Trump has said he wants to go ahead with a revamped NAFTA — with or without Canada. It is unclear, however, whether Trump has authority from Congress to pursue a revamped NAFTA with only Mexico, and some lawmakers say they won’t go along with a deal that leaves Canada out.


Buoyant stocks lift US household wealth, mainly for affluent

WASHINGTON (AP) — A rising stock market lifted U.S. household wealth to a record $106.9 trillion in the April-June quarter, the culmination of a decade of economic recovery but a gain that is concentrated largely among the most affluent.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that the value of Americans’ stock and mutual fund portfolios rose $800 billion last quarter, while home values increased $600 billion. Total household wealth is now 2.1 percent higher than in the first quarter, when it was $104.7 trillion.

Household net worth reflects the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks minus debts like mortgages and credit cards. The data aren’t adjusted for inflation or population growth.

They also don’t reflect the experiences of most U.S. households. Stock market wealth has been flowing disproportionately — and increasingly — to the most affluent households. The richest one-tenth of Americans own about 84 percent of the value of stocks. That’s up from 81 percent just before the Great Recession began in late 2007.


Will American Airlines bar customers from changing a ticket?

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines is threatening to prohibit customers from making changes to nonrefundable tickets if Congress makes good on a proposal to crack down on what critics call unreasonable airline fees.

American CEO Doug Parker says that his airline would be acting just like many other businesses when customers want to swap their ticket for a different flight or for another day.

“We — like the baseball team, like the opera — would say, ‘We’re sorry, it was nonrefundable,’” Parker said this week.

Parker made the comments as the airline industry’s main trade group mobilizes to defeat a proposal in Congress to limit airline fees.

Changing a domestic ticket on the largest airlines typically costs $200. Last year, U.S. carriers collected nearly $2.9 billion in change fees. American led the pack with $878 million.

The Senate has voted to tell the Transportation Department to make sure that various fees — including ticket-change and baggage charges — reflect the airline’s actual cost for providing the extra service. The House has not yet gone along, and the fate of the Senate provision, contained in a bill governing the Federal Aviation Administration, is unclear, especially with Congress rushing toward adjournment before the November midterm elections.


American joins Delta, United in raising checked-bag fees

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — It’s official: It will cost you more to check a bag on any of the three biggest U.S. airlines.

American Airlines said Thursday that it is raising fees for checking bags by $5 apiece each way, matching Delta and United.

The first bag is now $30 and the second is $40. Those are each way, so checking two bags on a round trip will cost $140. High-spending frequent flyers and customers who book with the airline’s credit card typically avoid the fees.

JetBlue, Air Canada and WestJet also have raised bag fees. Southwest lets customers check one or two bags free.

U.S. airlines get about a quarter of their revenue from fees. Last year, they took in $7.4 billion from fees on checked bags and ticket changes, led by American.


AT&T fires back in bid to preserve its deal with Time Warner

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fighting to defend its $81 billion takeover of Time Warner from a government challenge, AT&T is arguing the Trump Justice Department has failed to show that the merger will raise prices for pay-TV programming and for the consumers who watch it.

The AT&T-Time Warner marriage was completed this spring soon after a federal judge approved it. But government antitrust regulators filed to have the judge’s ruling overturned, setting the stage for a landmark competition case in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

In a filing Thursday, the phone and pay-TV giant asserted the merger will save it money on content from Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, enabling it to cut charges to its DirecTV customers by at least $78 million a year.

Dallas-based AT&T, the biggest pay-TV provider in the U.S., said in its filing that the government “failed for multiple reasons to (show) that net retail prices will likely be higher than otherwise.”

If the government were to prevail in its appeal, the complex merger might have to be unwound.


California makes people ask for straws, sodas with kid meals

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — If you want a straw with your drink or a soda with a kids’ meal at a California restaurant, you’ll need to ask for them starting next year.

A law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown makes California the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws. Another law he approved requires milk or water to be the default drink sold with kids’ meals at fast-food and full-service restaurants.

Neither law is an outright ban on straws or sugary drinks in kids’ meals. But some Republicans have called the measures government overreach by the heavily Democratic state.

California restaurants that don’t comply with the straw law will get two warnings before being fined. Lawmakers changed the legislation to add a $300 annual fine limit. It will apply only to restaurants where customers are waited on by restaurant staff, not fast-food establishments.


FanDuel to pay out disputed $82K football bet

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Upon further review, a New Jersey man will get his full $82,000 payout on a disputed $110 sports bet.

Fan Duel says several other gamblers who made similar bets at wildly inflated odds will also be paid in full.

The online sports betting company said it will pay Anthony Prince of Newark the full 750-1 payout he was promised when the company’s automated system mistakenly generated long odds on the final moments of the Denver Broncos-Oakland Raiders game on Sunday.

The company initially refused to pay the bet placed at its sports book at the Meadowlands Racetrack, saying it isn’t obligated to pay for obvious errors. But FanDuel reversed field after consulting with state gambling regulators.

Prince was handed his 750-1 ticket with about a minute left in the game, as the Broncos trailed by 2 points on their final drive. Denver kicked a field goal with 6 seconds left to win 20-19, capping a second half comeback that started with the Broncos down 12-0.

FanDuel says its system should have calculated his odds at 1-6, meaning a bettor would have to wager $600 in order to win $100. The company said a 36-yard field goal itself has an 85 percent chance of success.


Ford Motor told to pay Thai customers for transmission woes

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court has ordered Ford Motor Co. to pay 291 customers a total of about $720,000 in compensation for selling cars equipped with faulty transmissions.

The Bangkok South Civil Court’s decision was welcomed today as a victory in a country where consumers rarely win redress.

Most of the plaintiffs in the class action suit will get payments of $800 to $8,000 each depending on the number of times and length of time their cars took to be repaired. But 12 plaintiffs were denied compensation because their cars were modified before they were repaired.

Earlier, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s Australian subsidiary was fined 10 million Australian dollars ($7.6 million) for mishandling complaints about faulty transmissions in thousands of cars.

Faulty transmissions also have been targeted by consumer legal action in the U.S. and Canada.


Iran’s domestic car market stalls as nuclear deal falters

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Cars are growing more expensive in Iran as its currency suffers precipitous falls against the dollar and foreign manufacturers increasingly pull out as the United States re-imposes sanctions on Tehran.

That’s creating a problem for this Mideast country — one of the region’s biggest and home to 80 million people.

Iran’s faltering nuclear deal with world powers may be what causes the country’s domestic automotive market to stall out.

The auto industry suffered under U.S. and Western sanctions, which targeted Iran over fears about its nuclear program. The West worries Iran could use its technology to build atomic bombs. Iran long has said its program is for peaceful purposes.

Since President Donald Trump withdrew America from the nuclear accord this year, Western firms have been pulling back on investment plans.

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