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Update on the latest in business:

January 31, 2018


Stocks rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher in midday trading after several big U.S. companies reported strong quarterly results.

Boeing jumped 6 percent. The aerospace giant has been the biggest gainer in the Dow Jones industrial average over the past year.

Technology companies accounted for much of the gain, outweighing losses in health care and other sectors. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose 5 percent and Electronic Arts rose nearly 8 percent.

The market is coming off a two-day losing streak and its biggest drop since August.


Survey: US companies added healthy 234,000 jobs in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses continued to hire at a healthy pace in January, a sign the economy is off to a solid start for the year.

Payroll processor ADP says that companies added 234,000 jobs, led by big gains at service organizations such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, schools and health care operators.

Job gains at that pace are easily enough to drive down an already-low unemployment rate over time. The rate has remained at 4.1 percent for the past three months. Businesses are optimistic about the economy, especially after the President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul was approved last month.


Wages rise at 2.6 percent in 2017 despite Q4 slowdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. workers’ wages and benefits grew 2.6 percent last year, the fastest 12-month pace since the spring of 2015.

The Labor Department says the 12-month gain in wages and benefits came despite a slight slowdown at the end of last year with wages and benefits rising 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, a tiny dip from a 0.7 percent gain in the third quarter. Still, the 12-month gain was an improvement from a 2.2 percent gain for the 12 months ending in December 2016.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump touted the rise in wages as an accomplishment of his economic program. But private economists contend that wages should be rising at a faster pace given that unemployment is now at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.


US pending home sales rose 0.5 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pace of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose for a third straight month in December, raising an index of pending home sales by 0.5 percent.

The National Association of Realtors says its index of pending sales reached 110.1, up from a revised 109.6 in November. The index is now at its highest level since registering 111.3 in March.

More Americans are looking for homes as the economy has improved, though a shrinking supply of properties on the market has made the hunt difficult and driven up prices.

The number of signed contracts rose in the South and West in December but declined in the Northeast and Midwest.

Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. Sales typically follow a month or two after a signed contract.


On a better savings course: US retirement score rises

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans’ retirement savings are in the best shape they’ve been in more than a decade.

So says a survey by Fidelity Investments, which looked at more than 3,000 working households that have started saving for retirement.

After tallying up how much they’re saving in their 401(k) accounts, their expected Social Security benefits and other assets, Fidelity said that the typical saver is on track to have 80 percent of the income they’ll need to cover retirement costs. That’s the highest score since Fidelity’s surveys began in 2005, when it was at 62 percent.

Much of the improvement is due to workers saving more of their pay each year. The typical savings rate is now 8.8 percent, more than double the 3.6 percent rate in 2006. That, though, is still less than the 15 percent of pay that Fidelity and other advisers suggest, including whatever contributions employers make through matching programs.


Trump to discuss recent tax cuts during session with workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is following up on his State of the Union address by hosting a tax discussion with American workers.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters say Trump will discuss the new tax cuts during an Oval Office meeting on Wednesday afternoon with workers at companies such as Jergens and Aflac. The companies are in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio.

Walters says more than 275 companies have announced worker bonuses, expanded benefits or new jobs as a result of the tax overhaul that Trump signed into law before Christmas.

The law significantly cut taxes for corporations while providing more modest tax breaks for middle-class families.

Trump cited the tax cuts in Tuesday night’s speech.


Treasury boosts size of securities offerings

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department, faced with rising budget deficits, is increasing the size of various securities offerings.

Treasury officials said Wednesday they will boost the size of the two-year and three-year note auctions by $2 billion per month over the next quarter and also increase the size of the upcoming five-year, seven-year and 10-year notes and the next 30-year bond.

Officials said this week that Treasury will have to borrow $441 billion in the current January-March quarter, the largest amount in eight years, as budget deficits surge under the impact of higher spending and the Trump administration tax cuts.

Treasury is employing bookkeeping measures to keep from exceeding the current borrowing limit but will run out of maneuvering room at the end of February unless Congress raises the debt limit.


CDC director resigns over financial conflicts

NEW YORK (AP) — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resigned because of financial conflicts of interest

A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, says Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s complex financial investments presented conflicts that made it difficult to do her job.

Fitzgerald’s resignation follows a news report Tuesday that her financial manager bought tobacco and drug stocks after she took the job in July, while selling other stocks that posed a conflict of interest.

Fitzgerald had owned a range of stocks, including holdings in beer and soda companies, the tobacco company Philip Morris International, and a number of health care companies.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that a month after becoming CDC director, Fitzgerald’s financial manager bought shares in Japan Tobacco and the drug companies Bayer and Merck & Co. Those stocks were later sold, according to Politico.


Pharmacist in meningitis outbreak gets prison

BOSTON (AP) — A pharmacist at a Massachusetts facility responsible for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds of others has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Glenn Chin apologized to the victims before he was sentenced in Boston’s federal courthouse on Wednesday.

Chin was cleared in October of second-degree murder charges, but convicted of racketeering and mail fraud. Chin ran the now-closed New England Compounding Center’s clean rooms, where the drugs were made.

Prosecutors had sought 35 years in prison. Chin’s attorneys asked for about three.

Pharmacy Co-Founder Barry Cadden was also acquitted of murder, but was convicted of conspiracy and fraud. He’s serving a nine-year prison term.


Gambling regulators in 2 states reviewing Wynn allegations

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gambling regulators are holding a special meeting today to discuss sexual misconduct allegations against casino magnate Steve Wynn, whose company is building a $2.4 billion casino outside Boston.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is receiving an update on an investigation, a day after Nevada’s Gaming Control Board said that it had opened an investigation into Wynn.

Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said if the allegations are true, Wynn would “fail to meet the suitability standard under the state gaming law.”


Lawmaker files ‘Jared Kushner Act’ to limit tenant arrests

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker has introduced the “Jared Kushner Act,” a bill that would prevent state judges from issuing arrest warrants for tenants who are being sued for less than $5,000 in unpaid rent.

The bill filed by Del. Bilal Ali, a Baltimore Democrat, follows The Baltimore Sun’s report that Kushner’s apartment management company was the state’s most aggressive landlord in obtaining civil arrest warrants called “body attachments” against tenants.

Jared Kushner was the company’s CEO before becoming an adviser last year to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

Kushner Cos. officials have said the New York-based firm follows industry standards and state law, and seeks arrest warrants as a last resort.


Germany probes Bosch workers in US over diesel emissions

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Prosecutors in the German city of Stuttgart are investigating two employees of auto components and technology firm Robert Bosch LLC in the U.S. on suspicion of being accessories to fraud in connection with manipulated diesel emissions in Fiat Chrysler vehicles.

Prosecutors say the case involves Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 models produced since 2014 with 3.0 liter diesel engines. Prosecutors say the vehicles had been found to have emission controls that turned off without any technical justification when the vehicles were not being tested.

Robert Bosch LLC is the U.S. division of Robert Bosch GmbH, based in Gerlingen, near Stuttgart. Prosecutors say the relevant acts contributing to fraud took place in the Stuttgart prosecutor’s area of responsibility.


Japan’s Fujifilm to take over partner Xerox to slash costs

TOKYO (AP) — Fujifilm Holdings and copier company Xerox Corp. say the Japanese company will take over Xerox in a restructuring intended to slash costs.

The companies say that Fuji Xerox, their 56-year-old joint venture, will combine with Xerox, with Fujifilm Holdings taking a 50.1 percent stake in the newly formed company, New Fuji Xerox.

Through restructuring and other reforms, the companies expect to save $1.7 billion a year by 2022.

The deal calls for Xerox shareholders to receive a $2.5 billion special cash dividend, or approximately $9.801 per share. Norwalk, Connecticut-based Xerox will own 49.9 of the combined company.

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