FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares track US tech slump, focus on Fed meeting

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares skidded Tuesday following an overnight decline on Wall Street after Facebook reported its worst loss in four years. Investors are awaiting the first Federal Reserve meeting under the new chairman, Jerome Powell, and anticipating the first rate increase of the year.

The technology rout on Wall Street on Monday was set off by Facebook's worst loss in four years. The social media giant's plunge followed reports that Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm working for President Donald Trump's campaign, improperly obtained data on 50 million Facebook users without their permission. Legislators in the U.S. and Europe criticized Facebook, and investors are wondering if companies like Facebook and Alphabet will face tighter regulation.

The S&P 500 index sank 1.4 percent to 2,712.92. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.3 percent to 24,610.91. The Nasdaq composite gave up 1.8 percent to 7,344.24 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks declined 1 percent to 1,570.56.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's first meeting under Jerome Powell's leadership ends later this week, likely with an announcement that the Fed will resume modest interest rate hikes. A healthy U.S. job market and a relatively steady economy have given the Fed the confidence to think the economy can withstand further increases.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose but remains under $62.50 a barrel.

The dollar rose against the yen and fell against the euro.

CHINA-ECONOMY

China's premier urges US to 'act rationally' over trade

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (lee kuh-TYAHNG') appealed to Washington on Tuesday to "act rationally" and avoid disrupting trade over steel, technology and other disputes, promising that Beijing will "open even wider" to imports and investment.

He said, "No one will emerge a winner from a trade war."

Li made no mention of a possible Chinese response in the event U.S. President Donald Trump raises import barriers over trade complaints against Beijing, but other officials say President Xi Jinping's government is ready to act.

Trump's government has raised import duties on Chinese-made washing machines and other goods and is investigating whether Beijing pressures foreign companies to hand over technology, which might lead to trade penalties. That could invite Chinese retaliation.

Li also promised his country "will open even wider" to imports and investment and will fully open manufacturing industries to foreign competitors.

MELANIA TRUMP

First lady to hold first public event on cyberbullying

WASHINGTON (AP) — Melania Trump is hosting executives from major online and social media companies to discuss cyberbullying and internet safety, more than a year after saying that would be her issue as first lady.

The meeting Tuesday marks her first public event on the topic, a choice some observers have questioned given that her husband often berates people on Twitter.

Amazon, Snap, Facebook, Google and Twitter are among the companies that are expected to attend the meeting. The Internet Association said it will also be represented.

All the major technology companies have strict policies prohibiting harassment and other bullying behavior on their services, but primarily rely on users to report abuses and weed them out. They try to clearly spell out the kinds of remarks and other posts that won't be tolerated in special sections such as one Facebook, the largest online social network, has set up. Instagram, a popular service among kids and young adults for sharing photos and videos, provides links to the U.S. government's anti-bullying site and tips from a cyberbullying research center on one of its help pages.

But the efforts so far have fallen short, leading to rampant abuses that even some of the companies acknowledge have driven away or tormented portions of their audience.

MCDONALD'S-JOINT-EMPLOYER

McDonald's reaches settlement in 'joint-employer' lawsuit

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's says it has reached a settlement with a U.S. labor agency over a lawsuit that could have decided if the fast-food company should be liable for hiring, pay and other decisions made at its franchised restaurants.

The lawsuit, filed in 2016 by the National Labor Relations Board, contended that McDonald's should be considered a "joint employer" with its franchises. But the settlement, if approved by a judge, would squash that.

NLRB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McDonald's Corp., based in Oak Brook, Illinois, says the settlement is the first step toward ending "wasteful multi-year litigation."

FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed set to raise rates as Powell gives 1st news conference

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve's first meeting under Jerome Powell's leadership begins today (Tuesday). It will likely end Wednesday with an announcement that the Fed will resume its modest interest rate hikes.

But investors will be most attuned to what Powell signals at his first news conference about whether and how he might steer the Fed's policymaking differently from his predecessor, Janet Yellen. Will he, for example, be inclined to step up the pace of Fed rate hikes?

Powell hasn't yet tipped his hand. Speaking to Congress last month, the new chairman said his "personal outlook" on the economy had strengthened since December, when the Fed's policymakers collectively forecast three rate hikes for 2018, the same as in 2017. That comment helped send stocks tumbling.

Yet when he testified to Congress again two days later, Powell tempered his view: He stressed that the Fed still thinks it has room to maintain a moderate pace of rate hikes.

WEINSTEIN-BANKRUPTCY

Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (AP) — The Weinstein Co. has filed for bankruptcy protection with a buyout offer in hand from a private equity firm.

It's the latest twist in its efforts to survive the sexual abuse scandal that brought down co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

The film and TV studio also announced that it was releasing any victims of, or witnesses to, Weinstein's alleged misconduct from any non-disclosure agreement that would prevent them from speaking out.

The Weinstein Co. says it has entered into sale agreement with Lantern Capital Partners, subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

FACEBOOK-CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICS

Trump-linked execs caught on sting video

NEW YORK (AP) — Britain's Channel 4 has published an undercover sting video in which Cambridge Analytics executives boast of swaying elections in Africa and Europe through tactics including fake bribes and seduction.

CEO Alexander Nix is seen in the video saying the company has secretly recorded agents offering corrupt campaign financing deals to politicians and has sent "girls around to the candidate's house" to create damaging videos.

Channel 4 says its reporter posed as a wealthy Sri Lankan looking to hire the company.

The firm was suspended from Facebook on Friday after reportedly scraping some 50 million user profiles in a pro-Trump manipulation campaign.

Cambridge says its executives merely humored the questions before leaving with grave concerns.

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE-FATALITY

Uber cancels media event following fatal crash

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Uber has postponed a show-and-tell of its self-driving vehicles after one was involved in a deadly crash in Arizona.

Uber had planned a media event Thursday at its Tempe facility to show off its fleet, offer rides, and have engineers talk about the push to have vehicles operate on their own.

Uber has been testing the self-driving vehicles in Arizona for months.

Police say one of them hit and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg late Sunday as she stepped on to the street. Police say neither she nor the vehicle's backup driver showed signs of impairment.

An Uber spokeswoman says the media event will be held at a later date.

KUSHNER COS-FALSE DOCUMENTS

NYC mayor says Kushner Cos. may have a problem

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the Kushner Cos. may have a "problem on their hands" if it proves true it lied to the city about rent-regulated tenants in their buildings.

The mayor's comment came after The Associated Press reported that tenant rights watchdog Housing Rights Initiative found that the Kushner Cos. had filed more than 80 documents stating that it had no rent-regulated units in its buildings when it, in fact, had hundreds.

The mayor says it is "not acceptable to lie when you're filling out a form for the city government." He also said the city should do a better job cross checking building documents with tax documents held at different city agencies to make sure developers are telling the truth.

SENATE-UTAH-ROMNEY-MARRIOTT

Romney seeks Marriott post he can't hold as a US Senator

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney is running for re-election to Marriott International's board of directors. But his campaign says he'll resign from that post if elected in November to the U.S. Senate, which bars senators from serving as an officer or board member of any publicly-held company.

The Utah Senate candidate and former Republican presidential candidate is one of 14 members of Marriott's board running for another yearlong term, according to the hotel chain's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

The board members will be up for re-election at the corporation's annual stockholder meeting on May 4.

The Republican, who is well-known and popular in Utah, is expected to win the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.

FOR PROFIT COLLEGES-STUDENT LOANS

Court filing claims Education Dept illegally got SSN data

WASHINGTON (AP) — Students who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges are claiming in court that the Education Department has illegally obtained and used their earnings data in order to limit their student loan relief.

A group of former Corinthian students are making the claim in a motion filed over the weekend in federal court in California.

The Education Department announced in December that it will use earnings data in order to determine how much of federal loans to forgive for students of the now defunct for-profit school.

The motion claims that the agency "secretly and illegally co-opted Social Security data." Attorneys with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University say the agency should have notified students that it would use their data.

The Education Department declined to comment on pending litigation.

PENSIONS-GUN DIVESTMENT

Pension fund not divesting from gun retailers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The nation's largest public pension fund won't immediately divest from companies that sell assault-style weapons.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System Board says it will do an in-depth review next year of its investment policies regarding gun makers and sellers. The fund has already stopped investing in assault weapon manufacturers.

State Treasurer John Chiang was pushing the board to take up a divestment vote next month. But some board members say remaining an investor gives the board influence over company policy.

Four of the five gun retailers the pension fund says it invests in have already decided to stop selling assault weapons.

SAMSUNG-SOUTH CAROLINA

Samsung launches 2nd appliance line at S. Carolina facility

NEWBERRY, S.C. (AP) — South Korean-based appliance manufacturer Samsung has announced the expansion of its production footprint in South Carolina, making progress on a plan to create nearly 1,000 jobs in the state by 2020.

The company officially launched a new line of top-loading washing machines at its facility in Newberry. That's in addition to a line of front-loading washing machines that Sanmsung began making at the plant earlier this year.

The expansion comes less than a year after Samsung's June announcement that it would invest $380 million in South Carolina to manufacture home appliances, creating an estimated 950 jobs by 2020. So far, company officials say that they've hired about 650 employees who are now working on the two washing machine lines at a 450,000-square-foot plant.

CUBA-WHOLESALE MARKET

Cuba opens first wholesale market, though access limited

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has opened its first wholesale market, lending a hand to some non-state businesses in an economy dominated by government-run enterprises.

State-run newspaper Granma says the market is part of an ongoing effort to "reorganize" commerce on the communist island. The market will sell beans, beer, sugar, cigars and other goods for 20 to 30 percent less than the products cost at state-owned retail stores throughout the country.

Since 2010, the government has authorized about 500,000 people to operate private businesses. Many of them have long sought access to a legal wholesale marketplace where they can pay below retail for the materials they use for their own products or resell to the public.

For most, their wait is not over. The government says the single market known as the Mercabal is only open to 35 worker-owned cooperatives in Havana, at least for now.

AIRPLANES-DISEASE SPREAD

Want to avoid the flu while flying? Try a window seat

NEW YORK (AP) — Worried about catching a cold or the flu on an airplane? Get a window seat, and don't leave it until the flight is over.

That's what some experts have been saying for years, and it's perhaps the best advice coming out of a new attempt to determine the risks of catching germs on an airplane.

The new study sent squads of researchers onto commercial flights to look for viruses and observe how and when people came into close contact.

They concluded that people on the aisles get up the most and tend to be most likely to be near a person spewing infectious droplets of flu or cold virus. The study was funded by Boeing, the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer. It was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.