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Update on the latest in business:

February 26, 2019


Asian shares lower as tariffs delay rally fades

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Tuesday, backtracking from Monday’s rally spurred by news that President Donald Trump had pushed back a deadline for raising tariffs on imports from China to allow time for more negotiations.

Mainland China indexes rose, however, after a report in the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported that a deputy chairman of the Banking Regulatory Commission, Wang Zhaoxing, had said risks from soaring debt had been contained.

Stocks closed modestly higher on Wall Street Monday after shedding most of their gains from an early rally spurred by the Trump administration’s decision to hold off on a March 2 increase in punitive duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. The S&P 500 index added 0.1 percent to 2,796.11. The Dow Jones Industrial average gained 0.2 percent to 26,091.95, while the Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent, to 7,554.46. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies dropped 0.1 percent to 1,588.81.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to just above $55 per barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and the euro.


Survey: American companies worry US-Chinese ties will worsen

BEIJING (AP) — A business group reports American companies in China increasingly worry U.S.-Chinese relations will deteriorate and are “hedging their bets” by delaying investments or moving operations.

The report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China sounded a note of caution amid optimistic official statements about possible progress toward settling a U.S.-Chinese tariff war.

The chamber said companies ranked “bilateral tensions” as a top challenge alongside chronic frustrations with rising costs and vague laws and enforcement in the state-dominated economy.

Some 37 percent of 314 companies that responded to a survey in November and December expect relations to deteriorate, more than double 2017′s level of 16 percent. Another 37 percent expect relations to stay at their current fraught level.

The report added to signs of the growing long-term impact of the battle over Beijing’s technology ambitions.

President Donald Trump announced he would postpone a March 1 deadline for another tariff hike on Chinese imports after the two governments reported “substantial progress” in weekend talks. Both Trump acknowledged many of their disputes were too complex to be resolved soon.

In a report written ahead of Sunday’s announcement, the chamber cautioned tensions are “increasingly driven by fundamental differences” between the two economic systems.


California district stalls West drought plan over lake money

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to Colorado River water is using its power to demand federal funds to restore the state’s largest lake, hoping to capitalize on one of its best opportunities to tackle a long-standing environmental and human health hazard.

The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The money would help create habitat for migratory birds and suppress dust in communities with high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

The district says that if the federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the money, it won’t sign off on a multistate plan to preserve the river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.

A nearly two-decade-long drought has drained Lake Mead and Lake Powell to alarmingly low levels. The seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River have been working on a plan to keep the lakes from being unable to deliver water at all.

In the lower basin, the drought plan would mean voluntary and more widespread cuts for Nevada, California and Arizona.


Trump Org slams probe; Trump Jr. calls feds ‘Stalinist’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump Organization fired back at investigations into its business Monday, demanding a House panel end its probe because of ethical conflicts.

Separately, President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., accused federal prosecutors in a “Fox & Friends” interview of resorting to “Stalinist” tactics as they investigate the president’s inaugural committee and company.

The Trump Organization said in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee that a lawyer assisting its investigation, Barry Berke, has tainted the panel’s work because he is partner at a law firm that has represented the family company for more than a quarter of a century.

In his letter to the House panel, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas said hiring Berke, a partner at Kramer Levin in New York, violates “basic ethical precepts that govern the legal profession” and his help “irreparably taints the Committee’s work.”

The letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York demands the panel cease its investigation and hand over all his emails, text messages and other communication with the committee.

Kramer Levin said in an emailed statement that Berke’s assistance to the committee violates no ethical rules and that the firm has worked with the Trump Organization on mostly minor tasks, such preparing amendments to offering plans for condominium sales. It said the letter “grossly misstated the facts of our prior representations.”


Yellen critical of Trump’s grasp of economic policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says she doubts that President Donald Trump has a good grasp of economic policy or even knows the Federal Reserve’s mandates.

She said Trump has made various inaccurate remarks about the Fed such as that the central bank has an objective for the exchange rate for the dollar that is aimed at supporting the president’s trade policies.

She said comments like that show a “lack of understanding of the impact of the Fed on the economy and appropriate policy goals.”

Asked in the interview released Monday if she felt Trump had a grasp of macroeconomic policy, Yellen said, “No I do not.”

The comments marked Yellen’s most pointed criticism of Trump since he decided not to nominate her for a second term as Fed leader. She left the Fed a year ago and was succeeded as chairman by Powell.

Yellen is now a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution in Washington.


The Latest: UK lawmakers pursue strategies to delay Brexit

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has thrown its weight behind efforts to hold a new referendum on the country’s European Union membership.

The party has previously said it would support a referendum as a last resort if it could not secure a new election or make changes to Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal.

In a change of emphasis, the party says leader Jeremy Corbyn told Labour lawmakers on Monday that the party is committed to “putting forward or supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but Parliament has so far rejected the deal struck between May’s government and the bloc. Parliament is due to hold a series of votes Wednesday on next steps in the Brexit process.

May remains convinced March 29 remains a realistic Brexit date, despite the EU urging Britain to delay its departure from the bloc to avoid a chaotic rupture.

May said after meeting with several EU leaders at a summit in Egypt that “it is within our grasp to leave with a deal on 29th of March and I think that that is where all of our energies should be focused.”


SEC seeks contempt charges against Tesla CEO Elon Musk

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stock market regulators are asking a federal court to hold Tesla CEO Elon Musk in contempt for violating an agreement requiring him to have his tweets about key company information reviewed for potentially misleading claims.

The request made Monday in New York resurrects a dispute between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Musk that was supposed to have been resolved with a settlement reached five months ago.

The SEC had sued Musk for using his Twitter account to announce he had secured financing for a potential buyout of Tesla, something regulators alleged wasn’t true.

Musk agreed to having future tweets that could affect Tesla’s stock be pre-approved. But the SEC contends Musk didn’t do that in a Feb. 19 tweet projecting the number of cars Tesla will make this year.


Buffett says Berkshire Hathaway may sell an insurance unit

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire Warren Buffett says his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate may take the unusual step of selling one of its insurance companies.

Buffett told CNBC Monday that Berkshire has reached an agreement to sell Applied Underwriters, which sells workers’ compensation insurance. But Buffett said state regulators will have to sign off on the deal before it can go forward.

Buffett said Applied Underwriters is a smaller firm that has to compete against two larger insurance companies Berkshire owns that also sell workers’ compensation coverage.

It’s usual for Berkshire to sell or close any of its companies. Buffett says his preferred holding period for an acquisition is forever.


China county suspends fracking after earthquakes kill 2

BEIJING (AP) — A county in western China has suspended drilling for shale gas after a protest by residents who suspected fracking work was the cause of a series of earthquakes that led to two deaths.

The first quake hit in Sichuan province on Sunday, followed by two more, including a magnitude 4.9 temblor on Monday afternoon that caused the two fatalities. Twelve people were injured.

The county government said in a message on its microblog that mining activities and handling of dangerous chemicals were also suspended but would be gradually restored. The region is often rocked by earthquakes. Nearly 90,000 people were killed in a 2008 quake.


Amazon adds former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi to board

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon has named former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi to its board, the second woman of color to be added to the online retailer’s board of directors in a month.

Amazon and other big companies have been under pressure to diversify their boards. Earlier this month, Starbucks executive Rosalind Brewer joined Amazon’s board, the second black woman to ever sit on its board of directors.

With Nooyi’s addition, Seattle-based Amazon’s 11-person board now has five women members.

Nooyi stepped down as CEO of soda and snack company PepsiCo in October.


Caesars, DraftKings ink multi-state online betting deal

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings have reached a deal to grant DraftKings access to Caesars’ markets in several states.

The deal lets DraftKings offer its online gambling products in “certain states” in which Caesars operates, but the companies did not specify which ones.

DraftKings will promote Caesars Entertainment as its official casino-resort partner in the states where the companies collaborate, and Caesars Entertainment will receive equity in DraftKings.

Caesars can also continue to offer their own branded sports betting and online casino apps in each of these jurisdictions.

Mark Frissora, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment, said in a statement that the deal should create new revenue with sports-themed guest experiences at the casino giant’s resorts across the country.