Update on the latest business
Jul. 24, 2018
Asian stocks advance, backed by strong US corporate earnings
SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets rose on Tuesday, led by better-than-expected U.S. corporate earnings and a lack of bad news on trade tensions.
U.S. indexes were mixed on Monday as gains by banks and technology companies were offset by losses in other sectors. The S&P 500 index added 0.2 percent to 2,806.98. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged less than 0.1 percent lower to 25,044.29. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.3 percent to 7,841.87 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 0.1 percent to 1,698.41.
A private survey suggested that manufacturing is slowing. The flash Markit/Nikkei purchasing managers' index fell to 51.6 in July from a final 53.0 in June, a 20-month low. Readings above 50 indicate expansion on the index's 100-point scale. The downbeat numbers could alleviate pressure on Japan's central bank to roll back its massive monetary stimulus policy. The data suggest "that the threat of a global trade war may be weighing on business confidence," said Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics. While new export orders rose slightly, growth slowed in the last quarter, he noted in a commentary.
The dollar eased back against the yen and gained against the euro.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell but remained above $67.50 per barrel.
Samsung, workers agree to end standoff on workers' deaths
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics and a group representing ailing Samsung computer chip and display factory workers say they have agreed to end a years-long standoff over compensation for deaths and grave illnesses among Samsung workers.
Samsung and Banolim said Tuesday they will unconditionally accept terms of compensation and apologies to be drafted over the next two months by a mediator.
Banolim said it will stop its protests outside Samsung buildings, where its supporters camped out for nearly three years.
The agreement represents a breakthrough in more than a decade-old civic movement that raised awareness about the health risks from toiling in the lucrative semiconductor industry.
More than 100 Samsung workers reported grave illnesses such as leukemia but only a few won the government's recognition and compensation on industrial diseases.
Alphabet's Q2 profit triggers rally, despite $5.1B EU fine
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Google parent Alphabet on Monday reported second-quarter earnings that pleased Wall Street, even as it booked a $5.1 billion charge to cover a fine levied by European regulators.
The company reported a profit of $3.2 billion for the three months that ended June 30.
Google has said it will appeal the European fine but Alphabet accounted for it on its books nonetheless. Excluding that amount, the Mountain View, California, company's earnings came to $11.75 per share, which topped the $9.45 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.
Alphabet Inc.'s stock jumped 3.6 percent in after-market trading.
Europe's Competition Commission last week accused Google of unfairly forcing handset makers to take its Chrome, Search and Play Store apps when using its free Android mobile system. While Google has said it will appeal, it has until mid-October to adjust its behavior.
Some observers speculated the ruling might make it impossible for Google to continue to make Android available for free, which lowers the price of smartphones and enables Google to make more money from ads.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai dismissed those fears on a call with investors.
"I'm confident we can find a way to make sure Android is available at scale to users everywhere," he said.
Last week's European fine came about a year after Google was stung by a similar $2.7 billion fine that the EU said was for favoring its shopping listings in search results. The EU has one other case against Google regarding its AdSense advertising platform for publishers that is still ongoing.
"There is no end in sight, I feel like, for fines from the European Union for companies like Google and Facebook," said Forrester analyst Collin Colburn. "That's going to raise more and more questions about Google's business."
The internet search leader posted revenue of $32.66 billion in the period, up 26 percent, driven by ad revenue from mobile searches. After subtracting Alphabet's advertising commissions, revenue was $26.24 billion, also exceeding Street forecasts of $25.64 billion.
Through the close of regular-session trading Monday, Alphabet's stock had risen 15 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen 5 percent.
Judges crack down on illicit inmate cellphones
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Judges in California and South Carolina have ordered cellphone carriers to shut down nearly 200 contraband phones used by inmates in state prisons to coordinate drug deals, gang operations and even murders.
California's corrections chief tells The Associated Press on Monday that it's the first time prison officials obtained warrants requiring a mass shutdown of contraband phones.
It's a victory for correction officials who have been frustrated by their inability to stop the flow of smuggled phones. Even the late Charles Manson was able to obtain phones behind bars.
South Carolina officials blame a prison riot that killed seven inmates in April on a turf war between gangs over cellphones and contraband.
The wireless industry has long been able to remotely disable cellphones. But the industry has said it needs a court order before it can shut down the devices, even when they're being used in prisons.
Mystery: Who bought websites implying US senators 'for sale'
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dozens of web addresses implying U.S. senators were "for sale" have been quietly and mysteriously purchased online, amid heightened concerns on Capitol Hill that foreign agents — especially Russians — might be trying to meddle in upcoming midterm elections.
An Associated Press investigation found the responsible party: Democrats.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee acknowledged to the AP that it had quietly purchased the addresses, which use a new internet suffix "forsale," in March for at least 27 incumbent senators facing re-election this fall and in 2020, without telling the senators. The group masked its role in the purchase to ensure its identity as the buyer remained anonymous.
Buying politically-related web addresses to use them later online — or prevent rival campaigns from using them — has been a routine practice for decades. But the mysterious "forsale" purchases set off alarms amid investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
DOMESTIC WORKER RIGHTS-SEATTLE
Seattle approves new rights for nannies, domestic workers
SEATTLE (AP) — Nannies, house cleaners and other domestic workers in Seattle would gain new labor protections under legislation passed Monday by city leaders.
The City Council unanimously approved a so-called "bill of rights" that ensures domestic workers receive minimum wage, proper rest, meal breaks and other rights.
Eight states have passed similar legislation, including New York, Oregon and Illinois. Seattle is believed to be the first city to do so.
The ordinance would create a panel of employers and workers to come up with recommendations on wage standards, retirement and health care benefits, training and other issues. It would also prevent employers from keeping a worker's personal documents.
The new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, would apply to those working in private homes, such as a nanny, house cleaner, home care worker, gardener or cook. It applies to independent contractors, full-time, part-time and temporary workers and hourly or salaried employees.
IMF: Venezuela's inflation on track to top 1 million percent
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Economists say inflation in Venezuela could top 1 million percent by year's end as the country's historic crisis deepens.
The International Monetary Fund predicted the decline Monday.
The once wealthy oil-producing nation is in the grips of a five-year crisis that leaves many struggling to find food and medicine, while driving masses across the border.
Socialist President Nicolas Maduro often blames Venezuela's poor economy on an economic war that he says is being waged by the U.S. and Europe.
IMF economist Alejandro Werner says that if the prediction holds, Venezuela's economy will contract by 50 percent over five years.
Werner says it would be among the world's deepest economic falls in six decades.
The IMF estimates Venezuela's economy this year could contract 18 percent, worse than previously predicted.
Former Equifax manager pleads guilty to insider trading
ATLANTA (AP) — Prosecutors say a former manager at Equifax has pleaded guilty to insider trading.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta says Sudhakar Reddy Bonthu of Atlanta on Monday entered the plea to the federal charge of insider trading. Prosecutors say he traded stock options before Equifax publicly announced a massive data breach in the summer of 2017.
U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a statement that Bonthu used his inside knowledge of the breach to make more than $75,000 before the company announced it publicly.
The 44-year-old was a software development manager at the time for the Atlanta-based credit reporting agency.
Hackers last year were able to glean the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses of more than 145 million consumers.
Ex-union official pleads guilty in federal corruption probe
DETROIT (AP) — A union official who helped negotiate a contract with Fiat Chrysler and was charged with accepting luxuries worth tens of thousands of dollars has pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Nancy Johnson pleaded guilty Monday to violating the Labor Management Relations Act. Four counts of accepting prohibited money or valuables were dropped. She faces a maximum of 18 months in prison at her scheduled sentencing Nov. 19.
She was the sixth person charged in a scheme to strip millions from a Detroit worker training center financed by Fiat Chrysler.
Johnson worked for the United Auto Workers and served on the 2015 negotiating committee. The plea agreement says she used a training center credit card to buy items for herself and other union officials, but most purchases were directed by or benefited others.
Billionaire, former UNC System president dies at age 86
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Billionaire philanthropist C.D. Spangler Jr., who led North Carolina's university system for more than a decade, has died. He was 86.
Spangler became president of the University of North Carolina System in 1986 and led it for 11 years. The Charlotte native attended the University of North Carolina and later Harvard Business School.
He was one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina. According to Forbes magazine, Spangler was estimated to have a fortune of approximately $4 billion through family companies and his leadership of National Gypsum.
The university system said that Spangler sought to keep tuition low throughout the system and championed its role as an economic driver for the state.