FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares rise on optimism on growth, Wall Street gains

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were higher Wednesday on optimism about global economic growth following gains on Wall Street.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.9 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 percent. South Korea's Kospi gained 1.3 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.2 percent. U.S. shares are getting a boost from stronger-than-expected corporate profits. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.1 percent to 2,575.26, the latest tick higher in what's been a remarkably smooth ride this year. The index closed out October with its seventh straight month of gains, the longest such streak in more than four years. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 0.1 percent to 23,377.24, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.4 percent to 6,727.67, a record.

THE DAY AHEAD

Business events scheduled for Wednesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — In today's economic reports, the Institute for Supply Management will release its manufacturing index for October, 10 a.m.

The Commerce Department will release construction spending for September.

Federal Reserve policymakers will issue a statement on interest rates.

Automakers will release vehicle sales for October.

Facebook Inc. and Tesla Inc. will report quarterly financial results after the market close.

JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA

Honda profit slips on air-bag woes despite sales growth

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co.'s fiscal second quarter profit has slipped compared to a year ago as costs related to a massive air-bag recall erased the perks of strong sales.

Honda reported Wednesday that its July-September profit totaled 174 billion yen ($1.5 billion), down 1.7 percent from 177 billion yen a year earlier.

Quarterly sales jumped nearly 16 percent on-year to 3.78 trillion yen ($33 billion), according to the Tokyo-based maker of the Accord compact, Odyssey minivan and Asimo robot.

In September, Honda and some people suing the automaker over faulty Takata Corp. air-bag inflators agreed to a $605 million settlement in the U.S.

Honda was among Takata's biggest customers. The defective inflators are linked to 19 deaths and dozens of injuries. Some 100 million air-bag inflators were recalled worldwide.

WALMART-HOLIDAY

Walmart hopes to make stores livelier for the holidays

NEW YORK (AP) — As more shoppers shift online, Walmart hopes to make its stores more fun this holiday season.

The chain will have parties for customers at its stores for the first time, increase the number of product demonstrations and expand the role of employees who last year helped find customers the shortest register lines. This year, they'll help customers in the toys and electronics areas every weekend and be at the online orders pickup stations as Christmas approaches.

Many retailers are trying to make stores more inviting even as they improve online services. Rival Target now has dedicated staff in areas like clothing, beauty and consumer electronics.

Walmart also says it has tripled the number of products online from last year's holiday season and is offering more exclusive merchandise.

TAX OVERHAUL

House GOP delays tax overhaul plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are delaying their rollout of a tax plan until Thursday amid a struggle to finalize details.

That's the word from a senior GOP aide late Tuesday night. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the individual was not allowed to publicly discuss the schedule.

The tax-writing Ways and Means Committee was working throughout the day and evening to produce a sweeping plan, the first overhaul of the nation's tax code in three decades.

Although they have settled on some details — such as a cut in the corporate tax rate and maintaining the top personal income tax rate for the wealthy — other elements still have to be resolved.

President Donald Trump has intensified his lobbying for the tax overhaul plan.

TRUMP-RUSSIA-PROBE-SOCIAL MEDIA

Senators slam tech companies over Russia links

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators are harshly criticizing representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google for not doing more to prevent Russian agents interfering with the American political process.

During a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Al Franken shook his head after he couldn't get all the companies to commit to not accepting political ads bought with North Korean currency.

After Franken pointed out foreign spending on U.S. political campaigns is illegal, Google executive Richard Salgado replied only that the search giant would refuse political ads paid with foreign currency "if it's a good enough signal on illegality."

The companies all pledged to do more and politely said they understood the seriousness of the Russian meddling.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-NAACP

American Airlines CEO meets with NAACP over bias complaints

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines says its CEO had a positive meeting with leaders of the NAACP and a Women's March activist who accused the airline of racial discrimination in kicking her off a flight.

The airline said Tuesday that CEO Doug Parker and a senior vice president met with NAACP President Derrick Johnson, activist Tamika Mallory and others in Washington.

American says it hopes to keep the dialogue going.

The NAACP and a spokeswoman for Mallory did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The civil-rights group issued what it called a travel advisory this month to warn African-Americans that they could face discriminatory treatment while traveling on American. It cited four examples, including Mallory, who was booted from an Oct. 15 flight in Miami after a dispute over her seat.

CALIFORNIA TAX CREDITS

Report urges end to tax credit program for businesses

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state report says that California lawmakers should end a $780 million business tax credit program because it creates an "uneven playing field" and its overall economic benefits are hard to determine.

A report released Tuesday by the Legislative Analyst's Office examines the California Competes tax credit program launched in 2013. It provides income tax credits to companies that promise to add jobs in the state, companies such as General Motors and Snapchat.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says, "We are struck by how awarding benefits to a select group of businesses harms their competitors in California."

COAL MINE-EXPANSION BLOCKED

Judge gives reprieve to Montana coal mine, averting layoffs

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has given a reprieve to the owners of a Montana coal mine who had warned layoffs were imminent after the mine's expansion plans were blocked.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says that preparatory work in the expansion area can proceed while the mine's climate change impacts are further studied.

Signal Peak Energy had said 30 workers would be laid off by the end of October and up to 150 more in coming months under a prior order from the judge.

The order allows the company to remove up to 170,000 tons of coal from federal leases adjacent to its Bull Mountain Mine north of Billings.

The company is barred from selling or shipping the fuel until the federal government completes a new environmental analysis.

BRAZIL-RIDE-SHARING

Brazil Senate softens bill proposing new rules for Uber

SAO PAULO (AP) — Thousands of drivers from Uber and cabbies faced off in Brazil's capital Tuesday as the Senate voted to soften proposed new regulations that the ride-sharing app said would sink its business in its second-largest market worldwide.

In the latest threat to Uber's global business, senators debated a bill passed in April by Congress' lower house that called for municipal governments to regulate ride-sharing apps, including requiring insurance for carrying passengers and pension benefits for drivers. It also had requirements for increased oversight of drivers and their cars.

Hundreds of cabbies as well as drivers for Uber and other ride-sharing apps followed the session from the hallway, cheering those who spoke in favor of their positions. Some drivers called out the names of senators who disagreed with them and booed. Outside, police used pepper spray and formed a human cordon to separate thousands more drivers from both sides who had been shouting at one another.