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Update on the latest in business:

December 28, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

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BEIJING (AP) — Most Asian stock markets gained today while Japan edged down following Wall Street’s rally at the end of a turbulent week.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4 percent while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.4 percent and Seoul’s Kospi added 0.8 percent. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 1 percent and benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asia also rose.

U.S. stocks staged a last-minute turnaround that put the market on track to end the volatile week with a gain. That followed the market’s best day in 10 years. Health care and technology companies, banks and industrial stocks accounted for much of the gains.

The S&P 500 rose 0.9 percent to 2,488.83 after being down 2.8 percent at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.1 percent to 23,138.82. The Nasdaq composite added 0.4 percent to 6,579.49.

The downturn that began in October has intensified this month, erasing all of the market’s 2018 gains and nudging the S&P 500 closer to its worst year since 2008. Stocks are on track for their worst December since 1931.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Business and economic reports scheduled for today

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Association of Realtors releases its pending home sales index for November today.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Shutdown solution seems unlikely before Dems take House

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s looking increasingly like the partial government shutdown will be handed off to a divided government to solve in the new year — the first big confrontation between President Donald Trump and Democrats — as agreement eludes Washington in the waning days of the Republican monopoly on power.

Now nearly a week old, the impasse is idling hundreds of thousands of federal workers and beginning to pinch citizens who count on varied public services. Gates are closed at some national parks, the government won’t issue new federal flood insurance policies and in New York, the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts suspended work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers, including several civil lawsuits in which Trump himself is a defendant.

Congress is closing out the week without a resolution in sight over the issue holding up an agreement — Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico and Democrats’ refusal to give him what he wants.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

US consumer confidence tumbles in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence tumbled this month as Americans began to worry that economic growth will moderate next year. But consumer spirits are still high by historic standards.

The Conference Board, a business research group, says its consumer confidence index fell to 128.1 in December, down from 136.4 in November and lowest since July.

The index measures consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months. Both fell in December. Consumers’ expectations for the future dropped to the lowest level in more than two years.

The U.S. economy is healthy. Unemployment is the lowest in nearly five decades. But the Federal Reserve has gradually been raising interest rates, financial markets have been volatile and global growth is slowing.

MORTGAGE RATES

US long-term mortgage rates dropped to 4.55 pct. Average

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, offering a slight degree of relief to would-be homebuyers after the stock market has tumbled.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.55 percent from to 4.62 percent last week. Rates averaged 3.99 percent a year ago.

The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate loans dropped to 4.01 percent from 4.07 percent. Still, that average is above its 3.44 percent level a year ago.

Mortgage rates began to spike after President Donald Trump signed deficit-financed tax cuts into law last year, but rates have eased in recent weeks as stocks have sold-off and the interest charged on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has tumbled.

INTERNET OUTAGE

Nationwide internet outage affects CenturyLink

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Some CenturyLink customers across the country were without the internet as outages stretched from New York to California.

The company said on Twitter Thursday that its network was “experiencing a disruption” and that it was working to quickly restore services.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, says her agency needs to investigate.

It appears most of the trouble was in the West.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the internet problems led to the temporary shutdown of phone services at the Idaho Department of Correction and the state’s Department of Education.

There were reports of ATM machines not working in Idaho and Montana.

LIGHTER LAUNDRY DETERGENT

Lighter load: Laundry detergents shrink for Amazon

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s rise is forcing laundry detergents to shrink.

Soap makers Tide and Seventh Generation have introduced redesigned laundry detergents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas. They’re making the changes to please Amazon and other online stores: Lighter packaging means retailers will pay less to ship the detergent to shopper’s doorsteps, making each sale more profitable.

For consumers, the new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking. The challenge, however, is getting online shoppers to buy detergent that looks nothing like the heavy bottles they are used to.

NKOREA-THE SINGAPORE CONNECTION

North Korea ‘Singapore shops’ reveal familiar sanction gaps

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Business is booming in the “Singapore shops” that sell to North Korea’s elite and foreign visitors everything from Ukrainian vodka to brand-name knock-offs from China.

The stores stock many of the very things U.N. sanctions banning trade in luxury goods are intended to block.

And it’s a nagging reminder that not everyone conforms to the U.S. policy of imposing maximum pressure on North Korea. Especially when there’s millions to be made.

The well-stocked shelves belie the hit its supplies must have taken with the arrest of its former Singaporean supplier.

Ng Kheng Wah was charged on July 18 and granted bail. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 17. For each offense under the U.N. sanctions act, Ng faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail plus fines.

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