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Update on the latest in business:

January 15, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks at highest levels in a month

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes in the U.S. are rising to their highest levels in a month as Netflix leads a rally in internet and technology companies after saying it will raise prices for its subscription plans in the United States.

China’s government said it plans to cut taxes, a step that could generate more business for tech companies.

Health care companies and banks rose as major companies including UnitedHealth and JPMorgan Chase announced their fourth-quarter results.

The British pound is weakening as U.K. legislators prepare to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan detailing the country’s departure from the European Union. The proposal appears likely to be rejected.

PRODUCER PRICES

US wholesale prices fell 0.2 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale prices fell last month, dragged down by a steep drop in gas costs, suggesting that inflation will remain tame in the coming months.

The Labor Department says the producer price index — which tracks cost changes before they reach the consumer — fell 0.2 percent in December from the previous month. The drop follows a small 0.1 percent increase in November.

Wholesale prices rose 2.5 percent in December from a year earlier, the same 12-month increase as in November. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 2.7 percent.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said that recent muted inflation data have helped the Fed to be “patient” when it comes to raising short-term interest rates.

NETFLIX-PRICE INCREASE

Netflix raising prices for 58M US subscribers as costs rise

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix is raising its U.S. prices by 13 percent to 18 percent, its biggest increase since the company launched its streaming service 12 years ago.

Its most popular plan will see the largest hike, to $13 per month from $11. That option offers high-definition streaming on up to two different internet-connected devices simultaneously. Even at the higher price, that plan is still a few dollars cheaper than HBO, whose streaming service charges $15 per month.

The extra cash will help to pay for Netflix’s huge investment in original shows and films and finance the heavy debt it has assumed to ward off rivals such as Amazon, Disney and AT&T.

This marks the fourth time that Netflix has raised its U.S. prices; the last hike came in late 2017. But this is the first time that higher prices will hit all 58 million U.S. subscribers, the number Netflix reported at the end of September.

VOLKSWAGEN-FORD

VW, Ford team up on pickups, explore deal on electrics

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen and Ford say they’re forming a global alliance in which they will together develop commercial vans and medium-sized pickups while exploring broader cooperation on battery-powered and autonomous vehicles.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett say the first jointly developed vehicles could hit the market as early as 2022 and that the linkup would offer efficiencies that would mean stronger profits starting 2023.

Ford would make the medium-sized pickups, one of its business strengths, as well as larger vans. Volkswagen would develop and build a city van.

The two companies also signed a memorandum of understanding to look into cooperation on electric and autonomous cars and were willing to consider additional projects, but without taking stakes in each other.

BREXIT

Deal or no deal? UK Parliament nears historic vote on Brexit

LONDON (AP) — Parliament is set for a historic vote today as British Prime Minister Theresa May lobbied for support but braced for defeat of the U.K.’s divorce deal with the European Union.

Lawmakers finally get their chance to say yes or no to May’s deal after more than two years of political upheaval. All signs indicate a resounding rejection, despite pleas from May and her allies on the final day of debate.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told lawmakers in the House of Commons it would be “height of irresponsibility” to reject the agreement and plunge the country into uncertainty.

“You are not children in the playground — you are legislators,” he said. “We are playing with people’s lives.”

A “no” vote would mean further turmoil for British politics only 10 weeks before the country is due to leave the EU on March 29. It is not clear if it would push the government toward an abrupt “no-deal” break with the EU, nudge it toward a softer departure, trigger a new election or pave the way for a second referendum that could reverse Britain’s decision to leave.

EUROPE TAX

EU executive wants to remove member states veto power on tax

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The European Union’s executive is proposing to get rid of the veto power that member states can wield on EU taxation issues. The idea is to make it easier to react more quickly to tax scandals, such as sweet deals that some states have allegedly given to big companies.

The European Commission proposed today to move to a system of weighted majority among the 28 member states.

The proposals will still need to be vetted by the EU parliament and the member states, where they are expected to run into opposition.

The EU has been criticized for reacting too slowly to tax scandals. Some states, for example, have allegedly given multinationals unusually advantageous tax terms to have them base their EU headquarters. The practice deprives other states of tax revenue.

SWITZERLAND-DAVOS

German, Japanese leaders to attend Davos as Trump sits out

GENEVA (AP) — World Economic Forum executives say government leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Shinzo Abe of Japan will be among those attending its annual Davos event.

Forum executives offered a preview Tuesday of the Jan. 22-26 gathering of political, business, cultural, academic and other elites, with founder Klaus Schwab saying a “re-moralization” of globalization is needed.

He said globalization produced many “winners” over the last generation or so. “But now we have to look after the losers, after those who have been left behind.”

WEF President Borge Brende said 37 heads of states and government from Europe and Eurasia will attend, joining over 3,000 people on hand.

President Donald Trump had planned to attend but withdrew amid the U.S. government shutdown. Other top U.S. officials are expected.

TRUMP-DAVOS

White House names scaled-back delegation for Swiss forum

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House has named the members of a scaled-back delegation that will represent the Trump administration next week at an annual economic conference in Switzerland.

President Donald Trump had planned to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, but canceled his trip because of the partial government shutdown.

The White House says a smaller delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) will still attend. Joining Mnuchin will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Dropped from the delegation are the labor, transportation and homeland security secretaries, and the small business administrator.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner — both senior White House advisers — also are no longer attending the forum.

HACKING-SECURITIES FRAUD

2 charged with hacking SEC computers in trading scheme

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two Ukrainian men have been charged with hacking into computers of the Securities and Exchange Commission to steal quarterly and annual reports of publicly traded companies before their public release.

An indictment released Tuesday alleges Artem Radchenko and Oleksandr Ieremenko sold the information and used it to make stock trades in 2016 and 2017.

Both men are fugitives.

The SEC also filed civil charges Tuesday against Ieremenko and five others from the U.S., Ukraine and Russia.

Officials cited one example in which the group allegedly made more than $300,000 in about 30 minutes of trading. They allegedly made about $4 million in all.

The defendants allegedly sent bogus emails to SEC employees to try and get inside the federal agency’s network, and eventually created an automated program to extract documents.

EARNS-DELTA AIRLINES

Delta sees losing $25M in revenue in January during shutdown

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines says it’s on pace to lose $25 million in revenue this month as federal employees and contractors remain grounded by the partial government shutdown.

CEO Ed Bastian says the shutdown will also delay the airline’s ability to start using new Airbus jets that must be certified by safety regulators who have been furloughed since Dec. 22.

Bastian says customers are bearing the brunt of the shutdown, with longer lines at airport security checkpoints. An unusually high number of airport screeners have been missing work after they did not get paychecks last week.

Delta’s biggest hub is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where many passengers waited more than an hour in checkpoint lines during peak hours on Monday. Bastian says such delays are limited to a few airports.

EARNS-JPMORGAN CHASE

JPMorgan misses estimates, caused by trading troubles

NEW YORK (AP) — JPMorgan Chase & Co.‘s fourth-quarter profits badly missed analysts’ forecasts on Tuesday, caused by weakness in the bank’s bond-trading business.

The nation’s largest bank said it earned $7.07 billion in the last three months of the year, or $1.98 per share, up from $4.23 billion, or $1.07 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Last year’s results were impacted by the passage of the Republicans’ tax law, which caused many big banks to make accounting adjustments and write off billions of dollars in what are known as tax-deferred assets.

So while JPMorgan’s profits were up 67 percent from a year earlier, they still missed Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were looking for JPMorgan to earn $2.20 a share.

The turmoil that whipsawed the markets in December weighed heavily on JPMorgan’s results. While banks do like some volatility because it allows their traders to look for opportunities in markets, the movements in recent months were too nauseating even for Wall Street traders.

WALGREENS-MICROSOFT PARTNERSHIP

Walgreens brings in Microsoft to help improve care

UNDATED (AP) — The drugstore chain Walgreens is working with Microsoft to improve care, as more companies seek ways to manage patient health, cut costs and improve quality.

The companies said Tuesday that they will work to improve care in part by using patient information and the Walgreens store network. The companies will aim to boost prescription adherence, cut down on emergency room visits and decrease hospital admissions.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Microsft Corp. didn’t detail financial terms of their collaboration or how much they will spend on research.

Insurers and care providers are shifting their focus more toward managing care and keeping patients healthy instead of waiting to treat them when they become sick. Walgreens rival CVS Health Corp. and the insurer Cigna are using multi-billion-dollar acquisitions to fuel this shift.

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