Update on the latest in business:
Asian markets settle after rallying on US-China trade hopes
UNDATED (AP) — Asian markets were mixed today after U.S. and Chinese officials wrapped up three days of trade talks in Beijing without significant breakthroughs.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 1.3 percent. The Kospi in South Korea was 0.1 percent lower. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng recovered to edge 0.1 percent higher, while the Shanghai Composite index was flat. Shares fell in Taiwan but rose in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
On Wall Street Wednesday, stocks rose for the fourth consecutive session after American and Chinese negotiators extended their talks to a third day. Traders took this as a positive sign, but a standoff over a partial U.S. government shutdown that appears far from being resolved limited gains.
The S&P 500 index added 0.4 percent to 2,584.96. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.4 percent to 23,879.12 and the Nasdaq composite was 0.9 percent higher at 6,957.08. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rose 0.9 percent to 1,438.81.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic reports scheduled for today
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department releases its November report on wholesale trade inventories today,
Also, Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases the weekly mortgage rates.
US-China trade talks wrap up, with outcome unclear
BEIJING (AP) — The United States says talks in Beijing on ending a bruising trade war focused on Chinese promises to buy more American goods. But it gave no indication of progress on resolving disputes over Beijing’s technology ambitions and other thorny issues.
China’s Ministry of Commerce says the two sides would “maintain close contact.” But neither side gave any indication of the next step during their 90-day cease-fire in a tariff fight that threatens to chill global economic growth.
That uncertainty left Asian stock markets mixed today. Share prices had risen Wednesday after President Donald Trump fueled optimism about possible progress by saying on Twitter talks were “going well!”
The U.S. Trade Representative, which leads the American side of the talks, said negotiators focused on China’s pledge to buy a “substantial amount” of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods and other products and services.
US apparel firm cuts off Chinese factory in internment camp
UNDATED (AP) — A U.S. company that stocks college bookstores with t-shirts and other team apparel has cut its ties with a Chinese company that drew workers from an internment camp holding targeted members of ethnic minority groups.
In recent years, authorities in the far west Chinese region of Xinjiang (shihn-jahng) have detained an estimated 1 million Uighurs (WEE’-gurz) and Kazakhs in heavily-secured facilities where detainees say they are ordered to renounce their language and religion while pledging loyalty to the China’s ruling Communist Party.
Last month an Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government had also started forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. The investigation tracked recent shipments from one such factory, the privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel located inside an internment camp, to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina.
Dutch PM wants to help May win Brexit backing
LONDON (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is working with France, Germany and other nations to help his British counterpart Theresa May win Parliament’s approval for her divorce deal with the European Union.
Speaking Wednesday night after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, Rutte said he and his European allies are striving “to help my British colleague to bring the vote next week to a successful outcome.”
Rutte did not elaborate on what he and other leaders are doing to help win support for May’s Brexit deal in the deeply divided British House of Commons.
However Rutte stressed that “the present deal on the table is, I think, the best deal.”
German airport security staff strike disrupts flights
BERLIN (AP) — Security staff at three German airports is staging a strike that is causing severe disruption to flights.
The ver.di union called on staff at airports in Duesseldorf, Koeln-Bonn and Stuttgart to walk off the job all day today.
German news agency dpa reports that hundreds of flights were canceled at the three airports and up to 110,000 passengers may be affected.
Other airports were also affected by the strike including Berlin where 90 flights had to be canceled at the capital’s Tegel airport and another four at Schoenefeld airport.
Ver.di has said employers “provoked” the strike by offering a pay increase of 2 percent over two years.
The union wants hourly pay for all workers conducting security checks to rise to 20 euros ($22.81).
Routine food inspections halted by US government shutdown
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government isn’t doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week.
The Food and Drug Administration says it’s working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect riskier foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can’t make the case that “a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility” is necessary during the shutdown, however.
The FDA conducts about 8,400 inspections a year, or an average of 160 a week. Gottlieb said riskier foods account for about a third of the food covered by the agency’s domestic inspections.
Ford revamps Explorer SUV for 1st time since 2011 model year
DETROIT (AP) — Ford’s aging Explorer SUV is getting a major revamp as it faces growing competition in the market for family haulers with three rows of seats.
The company unveiled the new version Wednesday night at Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. It comes just before next week’s press days at the Detroit auto show, where the SUV will be on display.
The Explorer gets a top-to-bottom update that includes a switch from front- to rear-wheel-drive, as well as upgraded engines and transmissions, some nice standard safety features and even high-performance and gas-electric hybrid versions. The switch to rear drive will boost towing capacity and off-road performance, Ford says.
The Explorer hasn’t been updated since the 2011 model year. Sales dropped 3.5 percent last year to just under 262,000.
FIAT CHRYSLER-DIESEL SETTLEMENT
Fiat Chrysler to pay around $650M in emissions cheating case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fiat Chrysler will pay more than $650 million to settle allegations of cheating on emissions tests.
That’s according to a person with knowledge of the settlement but unauthorized to discuss it publicly who spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The person said the Italian-American automaker will be required to pay around $311 million in fines to the federal government and California. The company will also need to pay about $280 million to compensate owners. Another $72 million will be paid to settle claims made by other states.
Authorities say the vehicles were equipped with diesel engines programmed to run pollution controls during lab tests that would turn off under certain conditions on the road.
Fiat Chrysler won’t admit wrongdoing in the settlement.
Nielsen says 35 million people watched Trump speech
NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 35.3 million people saw President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders speak to the nation on border security and the partial government shutdown.
That’s about 10 million fewer viewers than Trump had for his 2018 State of the Union address. The Nielsen company said Wednesday it was similar to President Barack Obama’s 2014 presidential address on fighting the Islamic state, which was seen by 34 million people.
There was some internal debate at networks about whether to grant Trump the TV time for Tuesday’s speech, but 11 separate networks aired it.
Fox News Channel with 8.044 million viewers and CBS with 8.043 million were in a virtual dead heat as the top destination. NBC was third with 7 million, followed by ABC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox broadcasting.
Arkansas moves closer toward launching medical pot program
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas panel has named 32 companies it intends to license to sell medical marijuana, two years after voters approved its legalization and following a series of delays that have frustrated patients and advocates.
The Medical Marijuana Commission on Wednesday approved the scores from an outside consultant it had hired to evaluate about 200 applications for dispensaries. The companies must pay a $15,000 licensing fee and post a $100,000 performance bond before the licenses to sell the drug are formally issued. The commission last year awarded five cultivation licenses to grow medical marijuana.
Arkansas voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, but the program’s rollout has faced legal and bureaucratic delays. Even with Wednesday’s vote, patients are still likely months away from being able to buy marijuana.
Judge proposes ordering PG&E to shut off power for wildfires
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. judge in San Francisco is considering ordering Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to re-inspect its entire electric grid and cut off power during certain wind conditions to prevent wildfires.
Judge William Alsup proposed the requirements in a court order late Wednesday. He said his goal was to prevent the utility from causing any wildfires in the 2019 fire season.
PG&E said it was reviewing Alsup’s order.
Alsup is overseeing a criminal sentence against PG&E stemming from a deadly explosion of one of the utility’s gas lines in 2010. He has asked PG&E whether any requirements of the sentence might be implicated if its equipment ignited a wildfire.
He also asked the utility to explain any role it may have played in a massive wildfire in November.