Update on the latest in business:
Asian stock markets gain after Wall Street rally
BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks rose Monday after Wall Street rallied as investors looked ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman’s congressional testimony this week for insights into its economic outlook.
On Friday, Wall Street capped several days of choppy trading with a rally that gave the stock market a modest gain for the week. Technology companies, banks and health care stocks accounted for much of the market’s gains. Energy companies also rose along with crude oil prices. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 1.6 percent to 2,747.30. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 1.4 percent to 25,309.99. The Nasdaq composite gained 1.8 percent to 7,337.39.
Investors are watching Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony Tuesday for insight into the Fed’s outlook. Private sector analysts expect few significant changes in forecasts U.S. inflation will rise toward its 2 percent target and wage growth will stay moderate. Some traders are looking for the Fed to affirm a gradual pace of one interest rate hike per quarter this year.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose but remains just below $64 per barrel.
The dollar declined against the yen and the euro.
SUPREME COURT-UNION FEES
Justices take up critical challenge to public sector unions
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor.
All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch’s nomination by President Donald Trump.
Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations.
The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees.
The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can’t be compelled to contribute to unions’ political activities.
The American Civil Liberties Union is on the unions’ side against an individual’s free speech claims. ACLU Legal Director David Cole said fair share fees do not violate nonunion workers’ rights.
Labor leaders fear that not only would workers who don’t belong to a union stop paying fees, but that some union members might decide to stop paying dues if they could in essence get the union’s representation for free.
AP Review: Trump’s red tape cuts slice into safety rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — On a clear, dry June evening in 2015, cars and trucks rolled slowly in a herky-jerky backup ahead of an Interstate 75 construction zone in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Barreling toward them: an 18-ton tractor-trailer going about 80 mph.
Despite multiple signs warning of slow traffic, the driver, with little or no braking, bashed into eight vehicles before coming to a stop about 1½ football fields away. Six people died in the mangled wreck and four more were hurt. The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges last month.
In response to this and similar crashes, the government in 2016 proposed requiring that new heavy trucks have potentially life-saving software that would electronically limit speeds. But now, like many other safety rules in the works before President Donald Trump took office, it has been delayed indefinitely by the Transportation Department as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations that the president says slow the economy.
An Associated Press review of the department’s rulemaking activities in Trump’s first year in office shows at least a dozen safety rules that were under development or already adopted have been repealed, withdrawn, delayed or put on the back burner. In most cases, those rules are opposed by powerful industries. And the political appointees running the agencies that write the rules often come from the industries they regulate.
Meanwhile, there have been no significant new safety rules adopted over the same period.
BUSINESS ECONOMISTS SURVEY
Most in survey see US fiscal policy as too aggressive
WASHINGTON (AP) — A majority of business economists now view the government’s tax and spending policy as moving too aggressively to stimulate economic growth, setting up a potential increase in the deficit in the coming years, a new survey shows.
That view emerged from the latest economic policy survey by the National Association for Business Economics, polling 211 members at companies and industry groups. The survey by NABE, a professional association for business economists, academics and others who use economics in the workplace, was released Monday.
The 52 percent of economists who consider the government’s fiscal policy “too stimulative” compares with only 20 percent in August, in the previous economic policy survey. This time, 37 percent of respondents judged tax and spending policy as “about right,” down from 46 percent in August.
By contrast, the economists are more supportive of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy: more than 6 in 10 have pegged it as “about right.” That’s the highest percentage in eight years, according to NABE.
The NABE economists, reflecting the prevailing view of corporate America, continue to have a strong preference for more conservative fiscal policy in the long run.
ECONOMY-THE WEEK AHEAD
Business and economic reports scheduled for release this week:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Various reports related to housing are among the bulk of major economic data to be released this week.
The Commerce Department reports today on new home sales for January.
Tomorrow, Standard & Poor’s releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for December.
On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors releases its pending home sales index for January.
Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases the week’s average mortgage rates on Thursday.
Average price of US gas falls 6 cents, to $2.59 a gallon
CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline dropped about 6 cents nationally over the past two weeks, to $2.59.
Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that it’s the first decline since December. She says prices are expected to rise again as crude oil costs go up.
The current gas price is 26 cents above where it was a year ago.
Gas in San Francisco was the highest in the contiguous United States at an average of $3.38 a gallon. The lowest was in Jackson, Mississippi, at $2.23 a gallon.
TOYOTA HYUNDAI RECALLS
Toyota, Hyundai recall roughly 110,000 vehicles
NEW YORK (AP) — Toyota and Hyundai have recalled roughly a combined 110,000 trucks and sport utility vehicles, including the 2018 Toyota Tundra and Sequoia, and the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport.
In its recall announced Saturday, Hyundai says some of Santa Fe vehicles are at risk for the steering wheel breaking away from the steering column. Roughly 43,900 vehicles are included in Hyundai’s recall.
Toyota recalled roughly 64,900 Tundras and Sequoias, saying these vehicles are at risk for having their electronic stability control systems shutting down unexpectedly.
Both car makers will notify impacted owners of the recalled vehicles starting in March, and if necessary, will repair the vehicles at no cost.
For more information on the recalls, visit www.safercar.gov .
‘Black Panther’ stays strong with $108M in second weekend
NEW YORK (AP) — “Black Panther” has scored one of the best second weekends ever with an estimated $108 million in ticket sales.
Studio estimates Sunday say “Black Panther” is still performing as one of the top blockbusters of all time. This weekend’s result makes Ryan Coogler’s Marvel sensation only the fourth film to earn $100 million in its second weekend, along with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” ″Jurassic World” and “The Avengers.”
Of those, only “The Force Awakens” had a better second weekend.
In two weeks of release, “Black Panther” has grossed $400 million domestically and $704 million worldwide.
Of new releases, faring the best is the Warner Bros. comedy “Game Night,” starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. It debuted with $16.6 million.
The well-reviewed sci-fi thriller “Annihilation” opened with $11 million.
China will deal ‘seriously’ with N. Korea sanctions breaches
BEIJING (AP) — A foreign ministry official says China will “seriously” deal with any breaches of U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea should they be found.
However, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Saturday that Beijing “firmly opposes the U.S. imposing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ on Chinese entities or individuals.”
China previously said it was “highly concerned” about a reported ship-to-ship transfer that could violate sanctions and it was investigating. The incident reported by Japan in the past week was the third reported transfer in the past month.
China has agreed to impose increasingly tough sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and Geng has said Beijing recently issued a statement explicitly banning ship-to-ship transfers.
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 phones: Better camera, unchanged design
NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung unveiled new smartphones with largely unchanged designs and incremental improvements such as a better camera.
Though Samsung already has one of the best smartphone cameras, it is looking to produce even better low-light shots, while offering a video mode that appears to freeze fast-moving objects.
The Galaxy S9 phones were unveiled Sunday in Barcelona, Spain, and will be available March 16. Advance orders begin this Friday.
Analyst Carolina Milanesi warns that while the camera offers great improvements, it’s competing with already good cameras in earlier Samsung phones.
Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities
BOSTON (AP) — One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was a drop in the number of cars clogging city streets.
But recent studies in cities from Boston to New York to San Francisco suggest the opposite: that the companies are pulling riders off buses, subways and bicycles and putting them in cars instead.
A new wrinkle is a service by Uber called Express Pool that links riders in the same area who want to travel to similar destinations. Critics see it as directly competing with mass transit.
The companies have pushed back against the reports. They say ride-hailing is making it possible to reduce the number of personally owned cars on the roads.
A study of traffic woes in London instead placed blame for congestion on construction and delivery trucks.