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Update on the latest in business:

January 8, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mixed amid silence on China-US trade talks

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Tuesday as officials kept silent on talks in Beijing aimed at resolving trade tensions with the U.S.

On Wall Street, stocks extended gains Monday, lifted by buying of retailers and smaller companies after a report showed strong orders last month for service-sector companies, where most Americans work. That helped stocks build on the huge gains they made Friday. The U.S. economy has been a top concern for investors over the last three months, and the strong report on service companies showed that banks, health care and construction companies were holding up well. The S&P 500 added 0.7 percent to 2,549.69. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.4 percent to 23,531.35 and the Nasdaq gained 1.3 percent, to 6,823.47. The Russell 2000 jumped 24.62 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,405.37.

Investors were encouraged by the resumption of talks between Beijing and Washington on a dispute over technology that has resulted in both sides imposing penalty tariffs on billions of dollars’ of each other’s exports. Those duties are likely to rise in March if no progress is made.

Oil prices continued their recent rally. Benchmark U.S. crude rose slightly and was above $48.50 per barrel.

The dollar rose against the yen and the euro.

US-CHINA-TRADE

Chinese newspaper warns US not to push too hard on trade

BEIJING (AP) — An official Chinese newspaper has warned Washington not to demand too much from Beijing as talks on ending their tariff war entered a second day with no word on possible progress.

The Global Times said Tuesday the Trump administration is dealing with an increasingly strong China that has pressing needs. The newspaper said Washington “cannot push China too far” and must avoid a situation that “spins out of control.”

Negotiators began talks Monday on their fight over Beijing’s technology development tactics but there was no sign either side changed its stance. They agreed Dec. 1 to suspend additional tariff hikes on each other’s goods for 90 days while they negotiate, but economists said that probably is too little time to reach a final agreement.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Trump heads to TV, border as fed workers face paycheck sting

WASHINGTON (AP) — With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks Friday as the shutdown drags through a third week.

Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”

The administration is also at least talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea. Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now.

AMAZON ECLIPSES MICROSOFT

Amazon emerges as most valuable US firm amid market turmoil

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Amazon has eclipsed Microsoft as the most valuable publicly traded company in the U.S. as a see-sawing stock market continues to reshuffle corporate America’s pecking order.

The shift occurred Monday after Amazon’s shares rose 3 percent to close at $1,629.51 and lifted the e-commerce leader’s market value to $797 billion. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s stock edged up by less than 1 percent to finish at $102.06, leaving the computer software maker’s value at $784 billion.

It marks the first time Amazon has held the top spot and ends Microsoft’s brief return to the pinnacle after it surpassed Apple in late November .

The repositioning has been triggered by mounting concerns that the Trump administration’s trade war with China and rising interest rates will bog down the worldwide economy. If that were to happen, it’s likely to slow the growth of companies in technology and other industries that generate a substantial chunk of their revenue outside the U.S.

That’s one reason most technology stocks are well off their peaks. Amazon, for instance, remains 21 percent below its high reached in September when the company’s stock value stood above $1 trillion. Apple was worth even more back then, but its stock has plunged by 37 percent since early October to erase about $400 billion of its market value.

Apple confirmed some of investors’ worst fears last week when it warned that disappointing demand for iPhones, especially in China, caused its revenue for its most recent quarter to fall well below the projections of its management and industry analysts.

GADGET SHOW-REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

CES 2019: TV set maker LG makes its sets disappear

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In this age of smartphone streaming, big television sets are no longer the centerpiece of many living rooms. Now South Korean electronics company LG is doing its part to make TVs disappear altogether.

LG has unveiled a “rollable” TV — a 65-inch screen that can roll down and disappear into its base with the press of a button. LG and other companies are offering previews ahead of Tuesday’s official opening of the CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, LG, Samsung and others unveiled “8K” sets, with four times the resolution of today’s high-definition sets and twice that of 4K sets such as LG’s rollable one. 8K represents the next generation of television viewing, but one that most people won’t see for themselves for some time.

So far, 8K has only been deployed for the occasional experimental broadcast, such as during the Olympics. Even 4K shows and movies are just starting to catch on.

JAPAN-NISSAN-GHOSN

Nissan’s ex-chair Ghosn appears in court, asserts innocence

TOKYO (AP) — Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn told a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he was innocent of any crimes in his first public appearance since he was arrested on Nov. 19 and charged with false financial reporting.

Ghosn, speaking firmly and calmly as he read from a statement said, “I am wrongfully accused.”

Prosecutors have charged Ghosn, who led a dramatic turnaround at the Japanese automaker over the past two decades, with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his income by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) over five years through 2015.

They also say he is suspected of having Nissan take on his investment losses from the financial crisis.

Wearing a dark suit without a tie and plastic slippers, Ghosn rebutted the allegations point-by-point and said he had the option to leave Nissan but had decided to stay on.

The veteran auto executive, a familiar face at the World Economic Forum and other elite gatherings, was handcuffed and led into the courtroom with a rope around his waist as the hearing began. Officers uncuffed him and seated him on a bench.

In Japan, suspects are routinely held without bail, often due to fears about evidence tampering.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Go Kondo, one of Ghosn’s lawyers, argued he was not a flight risk.

CHINA-ELECTRIC TAXIS

Giving up gas: China’s Shenzhen switches to electric taxis

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — One of China’s major cities has reached an environmental milestone: an almost entirely electric-powered taxi fleet.

The high-tech hub of Shenzhen in southern China announced at the start of this year that 99 percent of the 21,689 taxis operating in the city were electric. Last year, it still had 7,500 gasoline-powered taxis on the roads. A few can still be found, but electric ones far outnumber them.

The metropolis of 12.5 million is the second to achieve this feat in China and the largest. The northern China city of Taiyuan, with a population of 4.3 million, has had only electric taxis since 2016.

Shenzhen’s bus fleet has been all-electric since 2017. It’s one of 13 pilot cities promoting alternative-energy public transport to cut smog and develop the alternative energy industry, the Shenzhen Municipality Transport Committee said.

Beijing and other Chinese cities are served by legions of electric scooters, bicycles and three-wheeled delivery vehicles that help reduce emissions — and sometimes startle pedestrians with their near-silent operation.

PG&E-STOCK SLIDE

PG&E shares are hammered as potential liabilities mount

NEW YORK (AP) — California’s largest power company was battered on Wall Street Monday following reports that it’s considering filing for bankruptcy protection in the face of potentially crippling liability damages from a spate of wildfires.

Officials are investigating whether PG&E’s equipment started the Camp wildfire in northern California that leveled the town of Paradise, killed at least 86 people and destroyed close to 15,000 homes.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reported that the company has considered seeking financial shelter in bankruptcy court with potential liabilities reaching into the tens of billions.

PG&E Corp. declined comment.

Shares of San Francisco-based PG&E lost $5.45, or 22.3 percent, to close Monday at $18.95, the latest severe sell-off for the company since November and the outbreak of the state’s deadliest recorded wildfires.

The company’s stock has lost 60 percent of its value in the past three months.

SEAPORTS-GIANT CRANES

Port: Largest shipping cranes to operate in US have arrived

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — What are said to be the largest cranes to operate at a U.S. commercial port arrived Monday in Virginia, marking the latest effort to accommodate the increasingly mammoth container ships that underpin international trade.

Standing 170 feet (52 meters) tall, the Chinese-made gantry cranes towered over the ship that carried them through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Officials from the Virginia Port Authority said they will be the nation’s largest.

Shipping companies are using fewer but larger container ships to save on costs. And the recent expansion of the Panama Canal has increased ship traffic between Asia and the U.S. East Coast.

Robert McNab, an economics professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk said an “arms race” is underway as ports try to make room for the larger ships.

Projects include dredging deeper channels in Georgia and South Carolina. Part of a bridge was elevated to allow bigger ships to reach New York City-area ports.

The new cranes in Virginia should be up and running in about two months in Portsmouth, a city near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

The cranes are part of an ongoing expansion-and-dredging project at the Port of Virginia, which also has terminals in the nearby city of Norfolk.

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