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Update on the latest in business:

February 4, 2019


Asian stocks mixed on US-China fears at start of quiet week

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mixed Monday amid speculation over next steps in the dispute between the U.S. and China over technology development and trade following meetings in Washington last week.

Markets in mainland China and Taiwan are closed for the week for Lunar New Year celebrations. South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.

American and Chinese negotiators ended two days of talks in Washington last week without word of a deal, though those involved — including U.S. President Donald Trump — were optimistic about the road ahead.

Trump said he plans to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sort out contentious issues.

On Wall Street, a strong jobs report showing that U.S. employers added 304,000 jobs in January, far more than what analysts were expecting, lifted most major indexes on Friday. But Amazon’s disappointing revenue outlook caused some traders to steer on the side of caution. The broad S&P 500 index rose added 0.1 percent to 2,706.53 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent to 25,063.89. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 percent to 7,263.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was 0.2 percent higher at 1,502.05.

A private survey released on Sunday suggested that China’s services activity slowed in January. The Caixin services purchasing managers’ index fell to 53.6 for the month, down from 53.9 in December, likely due to domestic conditions. Numbers over 50 indicate expansion.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped but remains above $55 per barrel.

The dollar strengthened against the yen and weakened against the euro.


Relatives of woman killed in Uber crash file $10M claim

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Two relatives of a woman killed when she was struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle have filed a $10 million claim against the Phoenix suburb where the incident occurred in March.

The Arizona Republic reports the previously undisclosed claim filed last fall against Tempe seeks $5 million each for the husband and daughter of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. Such claim notices are a required precursor to possible lawsuits.

The claim says Tempe created a dangerous situation by installing a brick pathway across the median where people were not supposed to cross the road.

Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said the city does not comment on pending litigation but she confirmed that Tempe hasn’t responded to the claim and that it was made about the tme when Tempe replaced the walkway with landscaping.


GM plant closings will hit parts suppliers far and wide

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The sting from a major restructuring at General Motors and its planned closings of five North American factories in the coming months is putting thousands of jobs at auto parts suppliers at stake, as well.

While GM expects nearly all its U.S. blue-collar workers whose jobs are being eliminated to have an opportunity at relocating to factories that are adding jobs, that won’t be the case for many in the supply chain who make parts, drive trucks, work in warehouses and keep GM’s plants operating.

For most of them, there is no safety net.

GM’s labor agreements guarantee its workers transfer rights and relocation money, but that’s not true for the wide majority of suppliers, even where the workers are represented by unions.

The dominoes already are starting to fall. A plant that makes seats for the Chevy Cruze and another business that does logistics and warehousing work for GM in Ohio will close in March, too. Just three years ago, those two had a combined 800 workers.

Despite varying estimates, some economists project that for every auto plant job that is lost, three or four additional positions are eliminated. Research shows that auto plants, and manufacturing in general, create more spinoff jobs than other industries.


Business and economic reports scheduled for early this week:

UNDATED (AP) — Caterpillar Inc. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens today.

Tomorrow, Standard & Poor’s releases the S&P/Case-Shiller index of November home prices. And the Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for January.

Also, Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.

On the corporate earnings front, Pfizer reports quarterly financial results before the market opens and Apple reports earnings after the market closes.


Set against a shaky global picture, US economy looks sturdy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy, well into its 10th year of growth, still has a spring in its step. And it’s all the more visible when set against a tiring global picture.

A robust January jobs report on Friday showed that America’s companies are, for now, brushing off an array of economic perils and still hiring at a brisk pace. The risks that for months had induced hand-wringing among economists about a possible looming recession appear to have had little effect on employers.

Overseas growth is stumbling, led by weakness in China, the world’s second-largest economy. Europe is hamstrung by a recession in Italy and the potential for an unruly Brexit. A trade war between the U.S. and China and higher U.S. mortgage rates, partly engineered by the Federal Reserve, remain threats.


Nissan cancels plans to make X-Trail SUV in the UK

LONDON (AP) — Nissan has cancelled plans to make its X-Trail SUV in the UK — a sharp blow to Brexit supporters, who had fought to have the model built in northern England.

The move, first reported on Saturday by Sky News, was confirmed by the company in a letter to workers Sunday. The next generation X-Trail will instead be made in in Japan.

Nissan employs about 7,000 workers in the English city of Sunderland.

Nissan had previously announced plans to build the model at its plant in Sunderland after the British government sent a letter of undisclosed reassurances in 2016 after the Brexit vote about the company’s ability to compete in the future.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, but U.K. politicians are divided over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan.


GM disputes Canadian auto union’s Super Bowl ad

UNDATED (AP) — The Canadian subsidiary of General Motors was unable to stop an auto workers union from airing a critical TV commercial during the Super Bowl.

The 30-second ad calling the automaker greedy and “un-Canadian” broadcast on Canadian TV stations during Sunday’s game.

GM announced plans in November to close its car factory in Oshawa, Ontario, near Toronto, costing the jobs of about 2,600 blue-collar workers.

The commercial accuses GM of continuing to expand in Mexico while leaving Canadians “out in the cold” and makes claims about the costs of a 2009 auto bailout.

GM of Canada sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Unifor union giving it a Saturday deadline to stop using the ad, but the demand wasn’t heeded. GM says in a statement that the ad is misleading and inaccurate.


Bud Light irks corn industry with Super Bowl ads

NEW YORK (AP) — Anheuser-Busch InBev has touched a nerve with its corn syrup-themed attacks ads. Several Super Bowl spots boasted that Bud Light does not use corn syrup, while trolling rival brands that do.

The ads earned a rebuke from the National Corn Growers Association. The group tweeted that America’s corn farmers were “disappointed” in Bud Light. It also thanked Miller Lite and Coors Light for “supporting our industry.”

MillerCoors also hit back with a tweet clarifying none of its products use high-fructose corn syrup. It claimed that many Anheuser-Busch products do.


Microsoft highlights push for accessible tech

NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft is tugging at the heartstrings of Super Bowl viewers to highlight its efforts to make technology more accessible to people with disabilities.

A child in Microsoft’s Super Bowl commercial talks excitedly about the fun of using an adaptive Xbox controller designed for players with mobility limitations.

Microsoft last year introduced the $99 controller for gamers who struggle with the thumb-sticks and tiny buttons on conventional controllers. It can rest on a person’s lap or connect to a wheelchair and uses two large, disc-shaped buttons.

It’s unusual for tech companies to build gadgets for such a tiny market, but the company under CEO Satya Nadella has made designing accessible products a priority.

Microsoft also highlighted accessibility in a 2015 Super Bowl ad about a boy with prosthetic legs, narrated by rapper Common voicing Nadella speeches.


‘Glass’ stays at No. 1, while ‘Miss Bala’ opens in third

LOS ANGELES (AP) — M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is keeping a fragile hold on the No. 1 spot for the third time while “The Upside” stays in a close second on this sleepy weekend at the North American box office. Overall it’s the worst Super Bowl weekend at the box office in almost two decades.

Studios on Sunday estimate that “Glass” has earned an additional $9.5 million in ticket sales, bringing its total earnings to $88.7 million. STX’s “The Upside” added $8.9 million.

The weekend’s only big newcomer, “Miss Bala,” landed in third place with $6.7 million. Gina Rodriguez stars in the Catherine Hardwicke-directed actioner, which is a remake of a 2011 Mexican film.

“Aquaman” slid into fourth place with $4.8 million and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” clung to fifth with $4.4 million.


Union calls ground staff strike Monday at Hamburg Airport

BERLIN (AP) — A labor union in Germany has called on ground staff at Hamburg Airport to walk off the job on Monday over a pay dispute.

German news agency dpa reported that the ver.di union said the strike would begin at 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) and last all day. The international airport said delays and cancelations should be expected, but further details weren’t immediately available Sunday night.

The union is seeking a pay increase for nearly 1,000 ground staff at the airport, including workers who handle planes and luggage.

Employers criticized the strike and ver.di’s announcement of it on the eve of the walkout.


Tonga director can’t rule out sabotage in internet outage

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A director of the company which operates Tonga’s undersea internet cable says he can’t rule out sabotage as breaking the cable which plunged the Pacific nation into virtual darkness for almost two weeks.

Piveni Piukala, a director of Tonga Cable Ltd., said Monday that crews found two breaks along the fiber-optic cable that connects Tonga with the rest of the world. He says they found another two breaks and rope entangled on a separate domestic cable several kilometers (miles) away that connects the main island with some of Tonga’s outer islands.

About 90 percent of people in Tonga had full internet access restored by Saturday after crews finished repairing the international cable. Piukala says they hope to finish repairs to the domestic cable by Tuesday.

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