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Update on the latest in business:

January 29, 2019


Asian stocks slip on Huawei charges as trade talks loom

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were lower on Tuesday after the U.S. Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against China’s Huawei, its subsidiaries and a top executive ahead of trade talks.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks fell Monday on signs that slowing Chinese growth was affecting corporate America. Caterpillar, considered an economic bellwether, reported weaker-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter of 2018. The company said it expects the growth of construction equipment sales in China to be flat this year. Chipmaker Nvidia slashed its fourth-quarter revenue estimate, citing slowing demand in China among other reasons. The S&P 500 index lost 0.8 percent to 2,643.85. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.8 percent at 24,528.22 and the Nasdaq composite gave up 1.1 percent to 7,085.68. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks lost 0.6 percent to 1,473.54.

The U.S. criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei allege that it violated U.S. sanctions by using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran. The company is also accused of stealing trade secrets, including technology behind a robotic device that T-Mobile used to test smartphones. Several of Huawei’s subsidiaries and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou were to also face criminal charges.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed above $52 per barrel.

The dollar was down against the yen and the euro.


Study: Corruption levels linked to health of democracies

BERLIN (AP) — A closely watched annual survey released Tuesday finds that countries like Hungary and Turkey are growing more corrupt as they become more autocratic, and threats to the American system of checks and balances have knocked the United States out of the top 20 “cleanest” countries.

Watchdog group Transparency International said its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 showed more than two-thirds of countries scoring below 50, on its scale where 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.

With a score of 71, the U.S. lost four points over 2017 and dropped out of the top 20 nations for the first time since 2011.

The organization said “a four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

In a cross-analysis of its survey with global democracy data, Transparency said a link could be drawn between corruption and the health of a democracy.

Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the corruption index, flawed democracies averaged 49, and autocratic regimes averaged 30.


US charges against Huawei could inflame China trade talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration’s unveiling of criminal charges against the Chinese tech giant Huawei has complicated high-level talks set to begin Wednesday in Washington that are intended to defuse the trade war between the administration and Beijing.

The Justice Department charged Monday that Huawei had violated U.S. sanctions against sales to Iran and stolen trade secrets from T-Mobile, a U.S. partner. Those charges cut to the heart of some of the administration’s key complaints about China’s trade practices.

Analysts said the trade talks would likely proceed, but reaching any substantive agreement would probably be harder. And unless the two sides can forge some sort of accord by March 1, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports are set to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Representatives of U.S. business groups privately raised concerns that the administration’s actions could poison the atmosphere between the two sides. Any backlash in China against the indictment of Huawei, one of the country’s global powerhouses, could limit Beijing’s ability to agree to anything that might be seen as bowing too willingly to U.S. demands.

The Justice Department has also charged Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. The United States is seeking to extradite Meng, who has been held in Canada since Dec. 1.


Insurance claims from deadly California wildfires top $11.4B

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Insurance claims from California’s deadly November 2018 wildfires have topped $11.4 billion, making the series of fires some of the most expensive in state history.

The latest tally adds to growing concerns about the future availability of home insurance in wildfire-prone areas.

More than $8 billion of the November 2018 losses stem from the fire that leveled the town of Paradise, killing 86 people and destroying roughly 15,000 homes. The other $3 billion in losses are from two Southern California wildfires that ignited the same week.

State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said the numbers were expected to rise, though not dramatically. So far, total damage for 2018 wildfires is close to $12.4 billion.

California’s wildfires are increasingly destructive and the fire season is stretching longer due to climate change. A series of 2017 wildfires in Northern California’s wine country and in parts of Southern California became the state’s most expensive in history at $11.8 billion.

It has already become harder for people in fire-prone areas to get or keep insurance, although Lara said the state is not at a point where it’s impossible for homeowners to find it. A recent law requires insurers who do not renew policies to notify customers of other options, including a pooled insurance plan of last resort known as the “FAIR plan.”


US charges Chinese tech giant Huawei, top executive

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei (WAH’-way), a top company executive and several subsidiaries.

The government alleges the company stole trade secrets, misled banks about its business and violated U.S. sanctions.

The charges were announced just before a crucial two-day round of trade talks between the United States and China are scheduled to begin in Washington. Trade analysts say they could dim prospects for a breakthrough.

The sweeping indictments accuse the company of using extreme efforts to steal trade secrets from American businesses — including trying to take a piece of a robot from a T-Mobile lab.

.The executive charged is Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada last month. The U.S. is seeking to extradite her, alleging she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

Hauawei denies all of the allegations


Shutdown halted crash probes, could cost critical evidence

DETROIT (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says the partial government shutdown stopped it from sending investigators to 22 accidents involving 30 deaths.

The agency says it will now begin investigations, but evidence may have been lost that could prevent finding a cause. The NTSB determines the cause of transportation accidents and makes recommendations to prevent them. It had to furlough 367 of 397 employees during the 35-day shutdown.

The accidents included 15 involving aircraft that caused 21 deaths, two on railroads resulting in two deaths and two highway crashes, one of which killed seven people.

The agency said it couldn’t evaluate six other accidents to figure out if it should send investigators. The crash that killed seven people occurred Jan. 3 on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Florida.


Mexican union reaches pay deal with 17 of 48 border plants

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Striking workers in the Mexican border city of Matamoros have reached deals with 17 of 48 assembly plants, winning wage increases of 20 percent.

More than 25,000 workers in Matamoros, south of Brownsville, Texas, went on strike Friday at factories that make auto parts, medical equipment, plastics and other goods.

The Union of Maquiladora Industry Industrial Workers of Matamoros said Monday that 15 companies with a total of 17 plants agreed to raise wages and pay a one-time bonus of about $1,685.

Meanwhile, a two-week-old railway blockade by teachers demanding back pay in the western state of Michoacan continued Monday without any sign of a solution. The blockades have caused huge losses as freight trains and merchandise back up.


Nevada regulators to fine Wynn Resorts over sex allegations

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada gambling regulators say they will fine Wynn Resorts after an investigation found former executives failed on multiple occasions to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against former CEO and founder Steve Wynn.

A complaint and settlement released Monday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board detailed at least seven allegations of misconduct by Wynn dating to 2005 where the board says former executives and managers failed to act.

The control board’s settlement with Wynn Resorts does not revoke or limit its gambling license but requires the company to pay a fine. The amount will be set by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Wynn Resorts calls the settlement “an important remedial step” and says the company looks forward to finalizing the matter.

Wynn resigned in 2018 and has denied allegations of misconduct.


Luxor Capitol to own Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A New York hedge fund that lent money to Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino is assuming ownership of it.

Luxor Capitol Group will assume control once it receives interim authority to own a casino. The identity of the new owner was revealed in a press release Monday from the casino. The company will assume the ownership interest of Bruce Deifik (DIE’-fick) and his family. Deifik said earlier that he would retain a small, non-controlling interest in the casino, but he will have no ownership of it at all.

Ocean Resort, the former Revel casino, is changing hands just over a year after Deifik bought it from Florida developer Glenn Straub for $200 million.


Lyft rider arrested in killing of pregnant driver in Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Police in a Phoenix suburb say a Lyft rider stabbed his pregnant driver, killing the woman and her unborn child.

Police say she had been in her third trimester of pregnancy. Tempe police say 20-year-old Fabian Durazo attacked 39-year-old Kristina Howato when they arrived at the complex early Sunday. She died at a hospital.

At a news conference Monday, police said Durazo fled in the victim’s SUV but was arrested about 25 miles from the California line.

Durazo is being held at a La Paz County jail on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of kidnapping and armed robbery.

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