FINANCIAL MARKETS

Word on more China tariffs sends Asian stocks lower

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares fell Friday following a report that the Trump administration could put tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods as early as next week.

Worries about the recent trans-Pacific trade fiction have hurt Asian markets. Bloomberg News said the U.S. government was getting ready to ramp up its trade dispute with China. It has been threatening to tax $200 billion in Chinese imports for several months, which would represent a major escalation in the trade fight. The report sent shares falling on Wall Street.

On Wall Street yesterday, the S&P 500 index lost 12.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,901.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 137.65 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,986.92. The Nasdaq composite slid 21.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 8,088.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 2.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,732.35.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil slipped but remained above $70 a barrel.

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

TRADE-US-CANADA

US-Canada trade talks to resume Friday morning

WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators for the United States and Canada will meet again Friday morning to resume their urgent talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met for less than five minutes late Thursday night with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. She tells reporters she "had a couple of things to say."

Freeland came into the USTR building a total of four times Thursday. She and Lighthizer held the longest negotiating sessions since she arrived in Washington Tuesday.

On Monday, the United States and Mexico reached a deal on a revamped regional pact that excludes Canada.

TRUMP-RETIREMENT

Trump to sign executive order on retirement security Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is signing an executive order Friday to make it easier for small businesses to group together to provide their workers with retirement plans.

The White House says Trump will direct the Labor and Treasury departments to issue regulations to help businesses join together to offer Association Retirement Plans. Administration officials say high costs discourage employers from offering plans like 401(k)s at a time when surveys show workers worrying about being able to live comfortably in retirement.

Trump is expected to deliver remarks and sign the directive at an event at the Harris Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trump will also headline a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidates Mark Harris and Rep. Ted Budd while he is in town.

TRUMP-FEDERAL WORKERS

Trump cancels pay raise due to federal workers in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is canceling pay raises due in January for most civilian federal employees, he informed Congress on Thursday, citing budget constraints. But the workers still could see a slightly smaller boost in their pay under a proposal lawmakers are considering.

Trump said he was nixing a 2.1 percent across-the-board raise for most workers as well as separate locality pay increases averaging 25.7 percent.

As workers across the country head into the Labor Day weekend, Trump cited the "significant" cost of the federal workforce, and called for their pay to be based on performance and designed to recruit, retain and reward "high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets."

At the same time, Trump planned during a Friday appearance in Charlotte, North Carolina, to direct the Labor and Treasury departments to issue regulations designed to make it easier for small businesses to pool resources so they can offer retirement savings plans to their workers, administration officials told reporters. Most small businesses say high costs discourage them from offering plans like 401(k)s, the officials said.

Democrats criticized Trump for moving to cancel the scheduled pay raise, citing tax cuts he signed into law last December. That law provided steep tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest reductions for middle- and low-income individuals and families.

Congress is currently debating a proposal for a slightly lower, 1.9 percent across-the-board raise to be included in a funding bill that would require Trump's signature to keep most government functions operating past September.

MICROSOFT-PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

Microsoft to contractors: Give new parents paid leave

UNDATED (AP) — Microsoft will begin requiring its contractors to offer their U.S. employees paid leave to care for a new child.

It's common for tech firms to offer generous family leave benefits for their own software engineers and other full-time staff, but paid leave advocates say it's still rare to require similar benefits for contracted workers such as janitors, landscapers, cafeteria crews and software consultants.

Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said, "Given its size and its reach, this is a unique and hopefully trailblazing offering."

The new policy affects businesses with at least 50 U.S.-based employees that do substantial work with Microsoft that involves access to its buildings or its computing network. It doesn't affect suppliers of goods. Contractors would have to offer at least 12 weeks of leave to those working with the Redmond, Washington-based software giant; the policy wouldn't affect the contractors' arrangements with other companies. Leave-takers would get 66 percent of regular pay, up to $1,000 weekly.

The policy announced Thursday rolls out over the next year as the company amends its contracts with those vendors. That may mean some of Microsoft's costs will rise to cover the new benefits.

Microsoft doesn't disclose how many contracted workers it uses, but it's in the thousands.

CALIFORNIA-NET NEUTRALITY

California net neutrality bill clears key hurdle

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Assembly voted Wednesday to enshrine net neutrality in state law, delivering a major victory to advocates looking to require an equal playing field on the internet.

In the latest effort by California lawmakers to drive national policy and rebuff President Donald Trump, lawmakers approved one of the nation's most aggressive efforts to revive regulations repealed last year by the Federal Communications Commission. The rules prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

The 58-17 vote Thursday was surprisingly lopsided after the Assembly was seen as a potential barrier to the bill's passage. It returns to the Senate, which passed an earlier version and is expected to sign off on changes from the Assembly before the Legislature adjourns on Friday.

The Assembly's vote followed months of intense lobbying from internet companies, which warned that it would lead to higher costs.

The measure, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is likely to face a legal challenge. The FCC has declared that states cannot pass their own net neutrality rules, though proponents of the California legislation say that only Congress can tie California's hands.

Net neutrality advocates worry that, absent rules prohibiting it, internet providers could create fast lanes and slow lanes that favor their own sites and apps or make it harder for consumers to see content from their competitors.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

China manufacturing improves in August but sales weaken

BEIJING (AP) — A survey shows China's manufacturing activity improved in August but sales weakened amid a worsening tariff war with Washington.

An industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, said Friday its monthly purchasing managers' index rose to 51.3 on a 100-point scale from July's 51.2.

Components for new orders and exports declined, suggesting demand is weakening.

Citigroup economists said in a report "the trade war's impact increasingly appeared in the data."

Washington and Beijing have imposed tariff hikes on $50 billion of each other's goods. President Donald Trump is poised to impose penalties on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports as early as next week. Beijing has said it will retaliate.

CATTLE EMISSIONS-SEAWEED

Researchers feed seaweed to dairy cows to reduce emissions

DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — University of California researchers are feeding seaweed to dairy cows in an attempt to make cattle more climate-friendly.

UC Davis is studying whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed can help reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's released when cattle burp, pass gas or make manure.

In a study this past spring, researchers found methane emissions were reduced by more than 30 percent in a dozen Holstein cows that ate the ocean algae, which was mixed into their feed and sweetened with molasses to disguise the salty taste.

More studies will be needed to determine its safety and efficacy, and seaweed growers would have to ramp up production to make it an economical option for farmers.

Dairy farms and other livestock operations are major sources of methane, a heat-trapping gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Researchers worldwide have searched for ways to reduce cattle emissions with various food additives such as garlic, oregano, cinnamon and even curry — with mixed results.

If successful, adding seaweed to cattle feed could help California dairy farms comply with a state law requiring livestock operators to cut emissions by 40 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

NARCAN ACQUISITION

Maryland pharma company buys overdose-reversing Narcan maker

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — A Maryland pharmaceutical company will acquire the maker of the opioid overdose reversal nasal spray Narcan.

The Baltimore Sun reports Emergent Solutions has agreed to pay $735 million in cash and stock to Ireland-based Adapt Pharma. CEO Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi said in a Wednesday statement the widely used drug aligns with Emergent's position "to protect and enhance life."

The federal government has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency that's claimed thousands of lives.

Narcan is the only approved nasal spray version of naxolone, costing $150 for two doses. While public health programs can negotiate lower prices, access and affordability remains an issue.

Emergent's Doug White says the company plans to invest in addiction and overdose drugs and work with federal officials to ensure grants to offset costs.

CITRUS-FLORIDA

Hurricane Irma, disease, lowers value of Florida citrus crop

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Losses from Hurricane Irma last year sent the value of the 2017-18 Florida citrus crop plummeting 41 percent.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that's a preliminary estimate of last season's crop value released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA set the total 2017-18 Florida citrus crop value at nearly $551.2 million, down from a revised estimate of $927 million for the state's 2016-17 citrus crop. A year ago, the agency estimated the 2016-17 crop at $780.7 million.

Florida citrus acreage has declined continuously since 2000, at first under pressure from real estate developers buying groves for commercial development. Since 2005, the pressure has come from the fatal bacterial disease citrus greening.

Florida citrus production has dropped more than 70 percent since greening's arrival.

COAL PLANT CLOSINGS

Utility to close coal power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio-based energy company is closing its last coal-fired power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy Solutions said Wednesday it plans to shut down its remaining four coal plants by 2022. The three Ohio plants are on the Ohio River in Stratton. Its last Pennsylvania coal plant is in Shippingport.

The company says it can't compete in the regional wholesale markets that are managed by PJM Interconnection.

FES Generation Companies and Chief Nuclear Officer Donald Moul said in a statement the decision was difficult. Moul added that coal and nuclear power plants are losing out to cheaper energy sources like electricity and natural gas.

FirstEnergy announced earlier this year it would shut down its three nuclear plants.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES-LAYOFFS

GlobalFoundries to abandon new chip, cut 455 New York jobs

MALTA, N.Y. (AP) — A computer chip factory in upstate New York says it's eliminating 455 jobs as it restructures operations and moves away from cutting-edge chip technology.

GlobalFoundries detailed the cuts in filings with the state Labor Department Thursday afternoon. It says the first layoffs are expected to happen on Nov. 28.

The company's Fab 8 facility in the Saratoga County town of Malta employed about 3,400 people before the restructuring.

GlobalFoundries announced in 2016 that it was investing more than $2 billion to produce next-generation 7 nanometer computer chips at Fab 8. On Monday, it said it was abandoning efforts to make the smaller, more powerful chips, and would focus exclusively on its current 14-nanometer chip line.

GlobalFoundries is owned by the government-backed Mubadala Development Company in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

DRUG PRICES-LAWSUIT

Judge tosses lawsuit against California drug price law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block a California law requiring pharmaceutical companies to give advance notice before big price increases.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., ruled Thursday in Sacramento that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America failed to show that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. He gave PhRMA 30 days to refile.

The law requires 60 days' notice to raise national wholesale prices above a certain threshold.

PhRMA says California's law illegally tries to dictate national health policy. The group also says the bill is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First Amendment by forcing drug companies to justify price increases.

A PhRMA spokeswoman said Thursday the organization still has concerns about the law's constitutionality.

ENRON-SKILLING

Ex-Enron CEO moved from federal prison to halfway house

HOUSTON (AP) — Former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been moved from a federal prison to a halfway house.

The Houston Chronicle reports federal officials won't say where the halfway house is situated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website, Skilling is scheduled for release in February.

The 64-year-old Skilling was initially sentenced in 2006 to 24 years in prison and fined $45 million for multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy and other crimes. In 2013, the sentence was reduced to 14 years.

Houston-based Enron collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001 after years of illicit business deals and accounting tricks that put more than 5,000 people out of work, eliminated over $2 billion in employee pensions and rendered worthless $60 billion in Enron stock.