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September 24, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares fall on reports China-US trade talks put off

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares have fallen in Asia after China reportedly rebuffed a plan for talks with the U.S. on resolving their dispute over trade and technology. The slow start to the week follows a mixed close Friday on Wall Street, where an afternoon sell-off erased modest gains for the S&P 500 that had the benchmark index on track to eke out its own record high for much of the day.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.5 percent today, and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower. India’s Sensex gave up 0.8 percent. Shares rose in Singapore but fell in Thailand and Indonesia. Markets in Japan, South Korea, Shanghai and elsewhere in the region were closed for national holidays.

On Friday, Wall Street capped a milestone-setting week with a mixed finish for the major U.S. stock indexes and the second all-time high in two days for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The S&P 500 index dropped 1.08 points to 2,929.67, just under its latest all-time high set a day earlier. The Dow gained 0.3 percent to 26,743.50, thanks largely to gains in Boeing and McDonald’s. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.5 percent, to 7,986.96. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.5 percent to 1,712.32.

BUDGET BATTLE

Congress set to fund government, but not Trump’s wall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is set to pass a crucial spending bill that averts a government shutdown, but there’s one potential obstacle: President Donald Trump.

Neither party wants the government to close ahead of the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress. But Trump has made clear his frustration at the lack of money for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He says it’s “ridiculous” the wall has yet to be fully funded.

With less than a week before a Sept. 30 deadline for a partial shutdown, Republican leaders hope they can get Trump to set aside his frustration about the wall and sign legislation that funds the military and a host of civilian agencies. It also provides a short-term fix to keep the government running through Dec. 7.

CHINA-US-RUSSIA

China summons US envoys over sanctions linked to Russia deal

BEIJING (AP) — China has summoned the American ambassador and the defense attache and recalled its navy commander from a U.S. trip to deliver a strong protest against economic sanctions Washington lodged over the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment.

The Defense Ministry says the U.S. has no right to interfere in Chinese military cooperation with Russia.

Washington says China’s purchase of the weapons from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter, violated a 2017 law intended to punish the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in U.S. elections and other activities.

ALGERIA-OPEC MEETING

OPEC, allies agree not to further increase oil production

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — A meeting of OPEC and its allies ended without any decision to further increase oil output despite President Donald Trump’s call for lower prices.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries met on Sunday in Algiers with non-members including Russia.

Trump has been calling publicly for OPEC to help lower prices by producing more.

The price rise is notably caused by a recent drop in Iran’s supply because of U.S. sanctions.

OPEC and Russia have capped production since January 2017 to bolster prices. Output fell below those targets this year, and in June the same countries agreed to boost the oil supply.

GAS PRICES

Average US price of gas drops a penny per gallon to $2.90

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline has dropped a penny per gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.90.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey says that’s 28 cents higher than at this time last year.

Lundberg said Sunday it’s likely that gas prices will continue to drop slightly.

The highest average price in the contiguous 48 states is $3.69 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The lowest average is $2.50 in Jackson, Mississippi.

The average diesel fuel price is $3.24, up a penny per gallon from two weeks ago.

EU-BRITAIN-SKY

Comcast beats Fox in Sky auction with $39B bid

LONDON (AP) — Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators.

After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of 17.28 pounds ($22.58) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly 30 billion pounds ($39 billion). Rival 21st Century Fox offered 15.67 ($20.47) per share.

In a statement, Sky recommended that shareholders accept Comcast’s offer and sell their shares immediately. Comcast said it hoped to complete the takeover by the end of October.

Philadelphia-based Comcast is one of the largest cable television providers in the U.S. Around 29 million customers get cable television, internet access and other services from Comcast.

NATURAL GAS EXPLOSIONS-TEXAS

Report finds dozens of Texas gas leak explosions since 2006

DALLAS (AP) — More than two dozen homes in north and central Texas have blown up since 2006 along a network of pipelines operated by one of the largest natural gas companies in the U.S, leading to nine deaths and badly injuring at least 22 other people, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Atmos Energy Corp. has some of the nation’s oldest pipes in the country and that the company’s largest division, Atmos Mid-Tex, has received five times as many state safety violations as Houston’s CenterPoint, the other large gas distribution company in Texas.

Atmos Energy has reported $3.3 billion in profits since 2005. The newspaper reports that the company would not discuss individual accidents but says it was not at fault.

Atmos Energy says safety violations are only alleged and that any problems cited by state regulators are fixed. It says the number of citations peaked in 2013 and has markedly declined since then, which the company says reflects its emphasis on safety.

BOGUS RESERVATIONS-CHARGES

Ex-OpenTable worker charged in bogus reservations scheme

CHICAGO (AP) — A former OpenTable employee has been charged with wire fraud for allegedly making hundreds of bogus reservations at Chicago restaurants to undermine a rival booking service.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that prosecutors allege in charging documents that 30-year-old Steven Addison booked more than 300 reservations at at least 45 Chicago restaurants using Reserve, aiming to hurt the company’s reputation.

They say Addison, of Chicago, allegedly booked some 1,200 seats in all, often during peak hours, making the no-shows especially costly.

Court filings don’t name Addison’s lawyer. His arraignment is Tuesday.

Christa Quarles, the CEO of San Francisco-based OpenTable, said in March that one “rogue employee” was involved in the “unsanctioned” actions and had been fired. The company apologized and said it would reimburse restaurants for lost revenue.

FARM AID

As aid checks go out, farmers worry bailout won’t be enough

WASHINGTON (AP) — Farmers across the United States will soon begin receiving government checks as part of a billion-dollar bailout to buoy growers experiencing financial strain from President Donald Trump’s trade disputes with China.

Corn farmers get the smallest slice of the aid pie. Corn groups estimate a loss of 44 cents per bushel, but they’re poised to receive just a single penny per bushel.

Farmers are already feeling the impact of Trump’s trade tiffs with China and other countries. China has hit back hard, responding with its own set of tariffs on U.S. agricultural products and other goods.

The Trump administration is providing up to $12 billion in emergency relief funds for American farmers, with roughly $6 billion in an initial round. The three-pronged plan includes $4.7 billion in payments to corn, cotton, soybean, dairy, pork and sorghum farmers. The rest is for developing new foreign markets for American-grown commodities and purchasing more than two dozen select products, including certain fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat and dairy.

3D GUN-LAWSUIT

3D gun advocate accused of sex with minor is jailed in US

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The owner of a Texas company that sells plans to make untraceable 3-D printed guns was back in the U.S. Sunday after being arrested in Taiwan, where police say he flew after learning he was being investigated for allegedly having sex with an underage girl.

The U.S. Marshals Service says 30-year-old Cody Wilson was booked into Harris County Jail in Houston early Sunday and was being held on $150,000 bond.

The U.S. Marshals service says he was arrested Friday at a hotel in Taiwan by local police and is facing sexual assault charges in Austin.

Authorities say Wilson met the girl through the website SugardDaddyMeet.com. According to an affidavit, the girl said they met in the parking lot of an Austin coffee shop in August and then drove to a hotel. The girl told investigators that Wilson paid her $500 after they had sex and then dropped her off at a Whataburger restaurant.

GERMANY-DIESEL

Germany’s Porsche says it won’t produce new diesel models

BERLIN (AP) — Porsche’s chief executive says the sports car maker won’t produce any new diesel models in the wake of parent company Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal.

CEO Oliver Blume told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that, although Porsche itself never developed and produced diesel engines, its image has suffered from the scandal that erupted in 2015. He was quoted as saying the company wants to concentrate on “what we can do particularly well,” citing high-performance gasoline models, hybrids and starting next year electric cars.

Blume added: “That also means that there will be no more diesels from Porsche in the future.”

He said Porsche hasn’t had any diesels in its range since February and the “test phase” has shown that many diesel drivers are prepared to switch to gasoline or hybrid cars.

CONGRESS-FAA

Congress takes aim at shrinking seats, legroom on airplanes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration would be required to set new minimum requirements for seats on airplanes under legislation to be considered in the House this week, possibly giving passengers a break from ever-shrinking legroom and cramped quarters.

The regulation of seat width and legroom is part of a five-year extension of federal aviation programs announced early Saturday by Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate committees that oversee the nation’s air travel.

Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to keep FAA programs running. The Senate will also need to take up the bill this week or both chambers will need to pass a short-term extension.

The bill would prohibit the involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded a plane. But in a nod to the power of the commercial airliners, lawmakers declined to include language that would have prohibited airlines from imposing fees deemed “not reasonable and proportional.”

The bill would also mandate that flight attendants get a minimum of 10 hours of rest between their work shifts and require airlines to communicate better with customers during mass flight cancellations and groundings.

FILM-BOX OFFICE

‘House With a Clock in Its Walls’ ticks to No. 1 in theaters

NEW YORK (AP) — The gothic family fantasy “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” exceeded expectations to debut with an estimated $26.9 million in ticket sales at the weekend box office, while audiences showed considerably less interest in Michael Moore’s Donald Trump-themed documentary, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” than his George W. Bush-era one.

“The House With a Clock in Its Walls” was easily the biggest draw on a quiet weekend at North American movie theaters, where the other three new wide releases all disappointed or downright flopped.

Rounding out the top five were: “A Simple Favor,” $10.4 million ($5.2 million international); “The Nun,” $10.3 million ($35.4 million international); “The Predator,” $8.7 million ($15.2 million international) and “Crazy Rich Asians,” $6.5 million ($5.1 million international).

“Fahrenheit 11/9” opened with $3.1 million in 1,719 cinemas — a huge debut for most documentaries but a fraction of the $23.9 million opening generated in 2004 by Moore’s record-breaking “Fahrenheit 9/11.” That film went on to make $222.4 million worldwide, a record for documentaries.

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