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Update on the latest in business:

May 15, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks shake off early slump

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks have shaken off an early slump and are higher in midday trading on Wall Street as hopes build that trade tensions may ease.

Major carmakers turned higher Wednesday following media reports that the U.S. is planning to delay new tariffs on car and auto part imports from Europe. Ford and Fiat Chrysler rose.

Banks were still lower following a steep drop in bond yields.

RETAIL SALES

US retail sales slipped 0.2% in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. retail sales slipped last month, as Americans cut back their spending on clothes, appliances, and building materials. The Commerce Department said that sales dropped 0.2% in April, after a big 1.7% jump in March. Sales also fell in February after rising in January.

The figures suggest that despite steady hiring and decent wage gains, Americans remain cautious in their spending. Car sales fell 1.1% in April. Sales at electronics and appliances stores declined 1.3% and dropped 0.2% at clothing stores.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION

US industrial production down 0.5% in April

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. industrial production fell in April, dragged by a big drop in factory output as production of autos and auto parts continued to slide. The Federal Reserve says industrial output which reflects total production at factories, utilities and mines _ dropped 0.5% in April after a 0.2% March gain.

Production at the nation’s utilities fell a sharp 3.5% while production at mines, a sector that also covers oil and gas drilling, rose 1.6%. Manufacturing has struggled over the past year, reflecting weakness in auto sales and the global economy and rising trade tensions.

Industry analysts blame the decline in auto sales in the first quarter on rising vehicle prices, competition from an abundant supply of late-model used vehicles and relatively high interest rates.

FORD RECALL

Ford adds 270,000 cars to recall for unintended rollaways

DETROIT (AP) _ Ford is adding 270,000 vehicles to a recall in North America to fix a gearshift problem that could cause them to roll away unexpectedly. The addition covers certain 2013 through 2016 Fusion midsize cars with 2.5-liter engines. The company is urging drivers to always use the parking brake until repairs are made.

Ford says a bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission can degrade, causing the cable to detach. If that happens, a driver could shift into park but the car could be in another gear.

Ford has one report of an injury and three property damage reports. Engineers are developing a fix.

Last year Ford recalled 550,000 Fusions from 2013 through 2016 and Escape small SUVs from 2013 and 2014 for the same problem with a different cause.

RESTAURANT BRANDS-GROWTH

Burger King parent plans to accelerate global growth

NEW YORK (AP) _ Restaurant Brands International plans to expand delivery in the U.S. and accelerate restaurant openings globally as part of its ambitious growth plan. The Toronto-based company _ which owns Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons _ says it plans to grow to 40,000 restaurants globally over the next eight to 10 years, up from 26,000 today.

The Company may also move more forcefully into plant-based meat substitutes.

Tim Hortons is now testing Beyond Meat sausage patties in Canada. Burger King may expand the sale of plant-based burgers in the U.S. after a successful test in St. Louis.

Restaurant Brands says it has significant growth opportunities in markets like India, where Burger King developed a lamb-based Whopper.

FCC-ROBOCALLS

Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. regulators are proposing new tools to counter the unrelenting waves of robocalls received each year in America. The rising volume of calls in the last few years has created pressure on Congress, regulators and phone companies to act. The FCC said it will vote in June on whether to allow carriers to block spam calls by default. Right now, customers can only request tools or download apps to help them weed out unwanted calls.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he anticipates that carriers won’t charge extra because it would cost less than the headache of dealing with robocalls and customer complaints about them.

He raised the threat of regulatory action if the carriers don’t take steps, saying that the agency will “stand ready to take action if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers.”

BREXIT

Minister: Defeating May’s bill will leave Brexit deal ‘dead’

LONDON (AP) _ Britain’s chief Brexit minister says Britain will be faced with a choice between a no-deal EU exit or remaining in the European Union if lawmakers reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship Brexit bill next month.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Wednesday that defeating the bill would leave May’s deal “dead” and force Parliament to decide “whether it will pursue ... a no-deal option or whether it will revoke” the decision to leave the EU.

Lawmakers are due to vote on May’s withdrawal agreement bill the week of June 3.

The bill is designed to implement the divorce deal struck between May and the bloc — a deal that has been rejected by Parliament three times.

Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, deal or no deal.

CHINA-TRADE-BRAVE FACE

China voices strength, pushes nationalism around trade war

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ruling Communist Party is taking a newly aggressive approach in how it portrays the worsening trade dispute with the United States — projecting stability and stirring up nationalistic sentiment in the process.

A toughly-worded monologue on the banner evening news program of state broadcaster CCTV followed days of muted official responses to President Donald Trump’s decision to hike tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

The harder line shows a new willingness to allow a shift in domestic public opinion where the trade war is concerned.

Trump startled financial markets with his May 5 announcement that U.S. tariffs would rise to 25% from 10% as of Friday.

TWA TERMINAL HOTEL

Historic JFK terminal gets new life as luxury hotel

NEW YORK (AP) — The famous winged TWA terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport has come out of its decades-long retirement with a new life as a luxury hotel.

The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (EHR’-oh SAHR’-ih-nehn) probably didn’t have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure when it opened back in 1962.

Those were the heady jet-age days of the first space flights and President John F. Kennedy’s promise of a moon landing.

Now developers hope the proximity to the airport will draw travelers who don’t want to fight nightmarish traffic to catch their flights.

MEXICO-MAIDS PAY

Mexican law gives benefits, better pay for domestic workers

MEXICO CITY (AP) — For the first time, Mexico’s Senate has approved a law requiring written contracts, paid vacation and annual bonuses for domestic workers. The bill has already been approved by the lower house. It opens the way for domestic workers to be registered in Mexico’s social security system, which also provides health care.

The new law will prohibit hiring domestic workers under 15 and requires defined rest periods of at least nine hours per day, at least 1 1/2 days off per week and an annual bonus.

The bill was passed on a unanimous vote of 117-0 Tuesday and goes to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (ahn-DRAYS’ mahn-WEHL’ LOH’-pez OH’-brah-dohr) to be signed into law.

It remains unclear how the law will be enforced. Middle class Mexican families hire maids, often from provincial towns, on verbal contracts.