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Update on the latest in business:

September 19, 2018


Stocks move mostly higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Major U.S. stock indexes have been mostly higher as gains in financial companies outweighed losses elsewhere in the market.

Bond yields climbed to the highest level in four months, sending bank shares higher and weighing on utilities and other high-dividend payers. Energy stocks rose along with crude oil prices.

Homebuilders declined following a mixed batch of housing data. Technology companies lagged the most.

JPMorgan Chase rose 2.5 percent, and Halliburton rose 1.8 percent.


Home construction rebounds

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction rebounded in August at the fastest pace in seven months, a hopeful sign for a housing industry that has been struggling with rising lumber costs.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts increased 9.2 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.28 million units. Housing starts had declined 0.3 percent in July and 11.4 percent in June. The increase was the biggest since a 10.2 percent advance in January.

Builders have struggled this year to deal with rising costs for lumber, land and labor. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that lumber prices have shot up by about $7,000 per home since the start of 2017, largely due to tariffs the Trump administration has imposed on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.


CEO of AutoNation, biggest US dealership, is stepping down

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Mike Jackson is stepping down after almost two decades leading AutoNation, the nation’s largest dealership chain.

Jackson, 69, steered AutoNation through the economic crisis and shares have increased fourfold since he took over in 1999, though he will relinquish his role as CEO next year with auto sales waning across the industry.

Jackson has become an outspoken personality in regular appearances on the business channel, CNBC.

He earned a reputation as an innovator and last year, entered a multi-year partnership with Google to provide maintenance for its self-driving auto division, Waymo.

Jackson will continue as CEO while AutoNation seeks a successor, and will be the executive chairman of the company.

AutoNation Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said Wednesday that it is considering internal and external candidates.


World Bank: Global poverty rate drops to record low 10 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Global poverty has fallen to a record low.

The World Bank says 10 percent of the world’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2015, down from 11.2 percent in 2013. That means 735.9 million people lived below the poverty threshold in 2015, down from 804.2 million.

Poverty dropped everywhere but the Middle East and North Africa, where conflicts in Syria and Yemen pushed the poverty rate up to 5 percent in 2015 from 2.6 percent in 2013.

The poverty rate was 41.1 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12.4 percent in South Asia, 4.1 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2.3 percent in East Asia and the Pacific and 1.5 percent in Europe and Central Asia.


EU opens investigation into how Amazon uses data

BRUSSELS (AP) — European authorities say they have opened a preliminary antitrust investigation into Amazon over the e-commerce giant’s treatment of smaller merchants on its website.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday that she wants to examine how Amazon uses data it gathers through transactions, including those involving rival sellers, on its platform.

Vestager said “the question here is about the data.”

She added that EU regulators have started gathering information on the issue and have sent “quite a number of questionnaires” to merchants in order to understand the issue.

It’s the latest move by the European Union to subject big tech companies to increasing scrutiny, amid worries that they are becoming too dominant.


UK lawmakers: “Wild West” cryptocurrencies need regulation

LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers are urging regulation for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in a report that describes the current situation as the “Wild West.”

In a report Wednesday on digital currencies, Parliament’s Treasury Committee called for regulations to protect consumers and prevent money laundering.

The report said investors in so-called crypto-assets have little protection at the moment from risks including volatile prices and hacking vulnerabilities.

It also said financial authorities need more power to regulate misleading advertisements by crypto-asset exchanges and initial coin offerings.

ICOs raise money for the virtual tokens and crypto exchanges allow investors to trade them.

The lawmakers said the British government and regulators have an ambiguous position on cryptocurrencies that’s not sustainable.

But they said there’s still room for the U.K. to become a global center for crypto-assets.


EU: Luxembourg did not give selective tax deal to McDonald’s

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has ruled that Luxembourg did not give the U.S. fast food giant McDonald’s a special sweet tax deal and that the non-taxation of some of its profits did not amount to illegal state aid.

The EU Commission ended a probe that started in 2015 by saying on Wednesday that advantages granted to McDonald’s were the result of differences between Luxembourg and U.S. tax laws, and EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said “Luxembourg did not break EU state aid rules.”

The EU investigation had been seeking to establish whether McDonald’s deal with Luxembourg had breached the rules that seek to keep a level playing field for businesses across the 28-nation bloc.

The EU probe was trying to see whether McDonald got a tax advantage not available to other companies.


Former exec sues Spotify over boys-only events and pay

NEW YORK (AP) — A former sales executive is suing Spotify for gender discrimination and equal pay violations, saying executives organized “boys’ trips” that excluded women and that the company paid men more for the same work.

The executive, Hong Perez, sued the music streaming company and its head of U.S. sales, Brian Berner, in New York State Court on Tuesday. But her lawsuit states Berner was not the only executive who was dismissive of women, and cites men-only strip club visits as an example.

Spotify Inc. says in a prepared statement that it does not tolerate harassment or discrimination, but it would not comment on pending litigation.

Perez claims that after Berner was reprimanded by Spotify for accepting free concert tickets, he blamed her and she was then fired for violating company policy.


NJ probes FanDuel refusal to pay $82K on wrong football odds

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey gambling regulators are investigating whether FanDuel’s sports book at the Meadowlands Racetrack should pay out more than $82,000 to a man who was given exorbitant odds for the Denver Broncos to win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Anthony Prince of Newark made his bet and was handed a ticket at incredible 750-1 odds with about a minute left in the game. 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 malfunctioned and it is not obligated to pay out on an obvious error.

Prince told News12 New Jersey that FanDuel offered him $500 and some tickets to future New York Giants games, adding he should take the offer because they’re not obligated to give him anything.

David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, wants to know how it happened.

Update hourly