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Update on the latest in business:

January 8, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks gain, though down from earlier highs

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are holding on to modest gains after an early rally lost momentum.

Internet companies and consumer products makers were doing well Tuesday. Facebook rose 3.1 percent and Coca-Cola climbed 1 percent.

Energy companies were climbing as the price of crude oil headed for its seventh straight daily gain. Cabot Oil & Gas rose 2.7 percent.

AutoNation slumped 3.1 percent after predicting a tough year for auto sales and announcing a restructuring.

PG&E-CREDIT SLASHED

S&P slashes PG&E rating to junk status

NEW YORK (AP) — S&P slashed PG&E’s credit rating to junk status as the utility grapples with the political and financial fallout from costly and deadly wildfires in California.

The ratings agency cut the company’s key rate five notches to “B″ from “BBB-.” Shares have been weighed down since November and took a sharp dive Monday on bankruptcy speculation.

The utility, California’s largest, is contending with potentially crippling liability costs related to California’s Camp Fire. No cause has been determined, but investigators are looking into the potential it was sparked by a malfunctioned line.

S&P says it could lower the rating “one or more notches over the next few months” if the company continues to face regulatory or financial turmoil.

SAMSUNG-OUTLOOK

Samsung, like Apple, feels sting of slowing global growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung expects its quarterly operating profit will be nearly 29 percent lower than last year, potentially unsettling a tech sector already skittish about slowing global economic growth.

The announcement from the South Korean computer chip and smartphone giant comes less than a week after Apple Inc. jolted markets with its weak expectations for revenue to end the year, citing flagging sales in China.

Samsung said late Monday that it anticipates a quarterly operating profit of about 10.8 trillion won ($9.6 billion).

Fourth-quarter sales are expected to be approximately 59 trillion won ($52.4 billion), down 10.6 percent from the prior-year period.

Samsung says there’s weak global demand for chips amid a worldwide economic slowdown, while its smartphones are facing stronger competition.

JOB OPENINGS

US job openings fell in November to still-strong 6.9 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. job openings fell in November from the previous month, but the number of available positions remained healthy.

The Labor Department says job openings slipped 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted 6.9 million. That is the fewest openings in five months, but still 16 percent higher than a year ago.

The job market remains strong despite sharp stock market declines last month, interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve, and a slowing global economy that is also bedeviled by trade fights. Last week’s blockbuster jobs report helped assuage concerns about the economy, as it showed that hiring reached a 10-month high in December.

The number of people quitting fell in November, the report showed, but the total also stayed at a solid level.

BREXIT

UK minister rules out Brexit process extension

BRUSSELS (AP) — A British government minister working on the process of taking the country out of the European Union says the government will not seek to extend the two-year period in which its departure must happen.

Britain leaves the EU on March 29, when the EU treaty’s Article 50 governing the procedure times out, but the U.K. parliament still has not endorsed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

May can request an extension, but all 27 other EU countries must agree, and the bloc’s leaders said last month that they would want good reasons to prolong it.

Britain’s minister of state for exiting the EU, Martin Callanan, said in Brussels Tuesday that “Article 50 will not be extended. We are leaving the EU on the 29th of March this year.”

VENEZUELA-US SANCTIONS

US sanctions Venezuela TV magnate for alleged currency deals

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The Trump administration is imposing sanctions on a Venezuelan media magnate close to President Nicolas Maduro’s government for allegedly running a network that stole $2.4 billion from state coffers through corrupt currency deals.

The action by the U.S Treasury Department gives Raul Gorrin one year to divest his shares in Globovision, Venezuela’s largest private broadcaster. Globovision is among 24 Gorrin-owned properties and entities in the U.S. and Venezuela also sanctioned by Treasury’s actions on Tuesday.

Prosecutors in Miami indicted Gorrin last year on charges of bribing officials in Venezuela’s treasury for contracts to buy dollars at the highly distorted official exchange rate. He then would allegedly resell the hard currency on the black market for huge gains.

MEXICO-FUEL THEFT

Tapped-out pipelines cause gas shortage in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Motorists are lined up for a fourth straight day at gas stations in western Mexico as the government continues to restrict pipeline deliveries to combat illegal fuel taps.

Authorities say attempts to re-open a key pipeline were abandoned after the duct was found to leaking fuel at numerous points from illegal taps.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that fuel theft gangs have grown so bold — and have so many connections inside refineries — that they’ve been stealing gasoline and diesel directly from plants.

Lopez Obrador said soldiers dispatched to guard depots and refineries found a 2-mile (3 kilometer) long hose leading from a refinery to a tank outside.

Patience in running thin in some cities where gasoline arrives only by tanker truck and many stations have closed.

VEGETATIVE STATE-BIRTH

Facility’s CEO resigns after vegetative patient gives birth

PHOENIX (AP) — The CEO of a private health care facility in Phoenix has resigned following reports that a patient gave birth despite being in a vegetative state for more than a decade.

A spokesman for Hacienda Healthcare says Bill Timmons announced his resignation Monday and it was unanimously accepted by the facility’s board of directors.

A female patient living at a Hacienda HealthCare facility reportedly gave birth Dec. 29 although the staff was unaware the woman was pregnant.

The birth triggered a police investigation and reviews by state agencies. Gov. Doug Ducey’s office has called the situation “deeply troubling.”

Phoenix police say the matter is under investigation and decline further comment.

A Hacienda board member says the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation.”

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