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Update on the latest in business:

June 8, 2018


Asian shares fall

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were lower Friday, as investors awaited the Group of Seven leaders’ meeting, continuing into the weekend, and for European Central Bank and Federal Reserve meetings next week.

On Wall Street yesterday, the S&P 500 index lost 1.98 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,770.37. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 95.02 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,241.41, helped by big gains for McDonald’s and Chevron. The Nasdaq composite slumped 54.17 points, or 0.7 percent, to 7,635.07. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks slid 8.17 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,667.77. Both of those indexes set all-time highs the last few days.

Leaders from the Group of Seven wealthy industrialized nations are meeting in Canada, where President Donald Trump’s new tariffs are expected to be a major focus. The White House is expecting a chilly reception from Canada and western European countries.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates. That would be the second increase in rates this year, and the Fed has said it expects to raise rates three times in 2018.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil slid to just above $65.50 a barrel.

The dollar fell against the yen and gained against the euro.


Major business and economic reports scheduled for release today

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department releases its report on April’s wholesale trade inventories.


Report: Cities generated nearly all of US job growth in 2017

BOSTON (AP) — American cities accounted for about 96 percent of the country’s job growth in 2017 as they added nearly 2 million new jobs, according to the latest annual report from a bipartisan coalition of mayors.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is gathering in Boston starting on Friday, says in its latest “Metro Economies” report that 10 metropolitan areas alone generated $6.8 trillion in economic value in 2017, surpassing the output of most states. Those metro regions included New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta.

The mayors’ conference report also found that 86 percent of Americans live in metro areas and 88 percent of jobs are located in them.

More than 250 mayors are gathering in downtown Boston through Monday to focus on infrastructure, cybersecurity, school safety, immigration, automation and other issues impacting cities.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is among those expected to address the conference. She will join Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Friday for a discussion on how communities leverage technology.

The “Metro Economies” report, which was prepared for the mayor’s conference by Britain-based IHS Markit, also projected that economic growth will continue to be strongest in the American South and West in the coming years, since population and labor force growth is fastest in those regions.


On your mark, get set, waiting for the ‘go’ on sports bets

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The first full day after New Jersey legislators approved a bill to legalize sports betting began with no one actually offering it yet.

But that could change by the end of the day on Friday, depending on whether casinos and racetracks are willing to move on their own and ignore the state’s Democratic governor, who has given no indication of when he might act on the bill.

All eyes are on Gov. Phil Murphy now that the state Assembly and Senate unanimously passed a bill on Thursday to allow sports betting three weeks after winning a U.S. Supreme Court case that cleared the way for them and all other states to do so.

Casinos and racetracks itched to begin taking bets on baseball, basketball, soccer and other sports. Monmouth Park in Oceanport, near the Jersey shore, has been particularly vocal about wanting to start taking sports bets on Friday, hoping to capitalize on a big weekend of horse racing that is likely to flood the struggling track with cash-laden gamblers, a spokesman for the track, John Heims, said, adding it “should know soon when we are starting.”

Other first-day movers would likely include Atlantic City’s Borgata casino. It indicated late Thursday it would wait for Murphy to act, noting “the governor must still sign the bill” and that it is “eager to review regulations as soon as they are issued.”

Murphy, who has been feuding with legislators over priorities in the state’s budget, would not signal whether he would sign the bill — or even when he might decide.


As trade fears grow, US states reach out to companies

HACHIOJI, Japan (AP) — President Donald Trump’s trade relations with Tokyo are testy, but Idaho gave Takashi Suzuki a warm welcome.

Suzuki, president of Sakae Casting Co., which manufactures aluminum parts used for cooling batteries and semiconductors, first went to Silicon Valley looking for opportunities. But that was where everyone went, making for tough competition.

In Idaho, he was welcomed by politicians, officials and the University of Idaho. Suzuki hopes to work with them on developing a way to cool nuclear fuel without creating polluted water — a problem that has intrigued Suzuki since Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster.

New cooling technology could reduce the need for tanks packed with 1 million tons of radioactive water at the Fukushima power plant. Idaho, which has a nuclear laboratory as well as reactors, would also benefit from such a breakthrough.

While Trump’s squabbles with Japan, Canada and Europe about steel tariffs grab headlines, companies such as Suzuki’s are forging their own deals with American states that go their own way in pursuing investment and commercial opportunities.


Report: ZTE chairman promises no more violations, apologizes

BEIJING (AP) — A news report says Chinese tech giant ZTE Corp.’s chairman has promised no further compliance violations and apologized to its 80,000 employees in a letter.

The South China Morning Post said Friday that chairman Yin Yimin also apologized to customers and business partners for the disruption caused by ZTE’s violation of U.S. export restrictions.

A ZTE spokesman confirmed Yin sent a letter to employees but said he could not release its contents.

The Post quoted Yin as saying there were “problems in our compliance culture” and ZTE should “hold the relevant people accountable and avoid similar issues in future.”

The company spokesman said he could not confirm what changes ZTE might make in response to U.S. demands to replace its chairman and other top executives.


E-cigarette sellers turn to scholarships to promote brands

UNDATED (AP) — A growing number of e-cigarette and vaporizer sellers have started offering college scholarships as a way to get their brands listed on university websites and to get students to write essays about the potential benefits of vaping.

The tactic is taken from a method that was once believed to improve a site’s ranking in search results, and it has successfully landed vaping brands on the sites of some of the nation’s best-known universities, including Harvard. It also has drawn criticism that the scholarships are a thinly disguised ploy to attract young customers.

The scholarships, ranging from $250 to $5,000, mostly involve essay contests that ask students to write about the dangers of tobacco or whether vaping could be a safer alternative. At least one company asks applicants to write about different types of e-cigarettes and which one they recommend. Some seek papers in support of medical marijuana.

Over the last two years, the grants have been posted online by e-cigarette retailers and review websites such as Slick Vapes, SmokeTastic and DaVinci Vaporizer.

Robert Pagano, owner of the Las Vegas-based review site Vapor Vanity, said he was offering new scholarships of up to $1,500 this year. He acknowledged it’s partly a marketing tool, but he also says many in the industry are former smokers and want to help teens avoid tobacco.


Trump administration: Heart of health law unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration says in a new court filing that it will no longer defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the requirement that people have health insurance and provisions that guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions.

Thursday’s decision is a rare departure from the Justice Department’s practice of defending federal laws in court. Texas and other states are suing to strike down the entire law because Congress recently repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine.

The administration says it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine. It also says the provisions shielding people with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums also fall.


Trump plan to cut $15B in spending squeaks through House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday only narrowly passed a White House plan to cut almost $15 billion in unused government money, a closer-than-expected tally on legislation that’s designed to demonstrate fiscal discipline in Washington even though it wouldn’t have much of an impact on spiraling deficits.

The measure, which passed 210-206, would take a mostly symbolic whack at government spending because it would basically eliminate leftover funding that wouldn’t have been spent anyway. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces long odds.

The deficit is on track to exceed $800 billion this year despite a strong economy. Republicans controlling Congress are not attempting to pass a budget this year.

The package of so-called rescissions has been embraced by GOP conservatives upset by passage in March of a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill that they say was too bloated. More pragmatic Republicans on Capitol Hill’s powerful Appropriations panels aren’t keen on the measure since it would eliminate accounting moves they routinely use to pay for spending elsewhere.


Under fire over tariffs, Trump heads to G-7 summit in Canada

QUEBEC CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump is set to descend on the annual Group of Seven meeting of industrialized nations, expecting tough trade talks as his go-it-alone policies leave him increasingly isolated.

On the eve of Friday’s gathering at a Quebec resort, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previewed what will likely be a tense two days. They stressed the need for respectful dialogue but say they will push back against new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as they have on other issues.

Trump is showing no signs of backing away from what he sees as key campaign promises. He tweeted Thursday: “Getting ready to go to the G-7 in Canada to fight for our country on Trade (we have the worst trade deals ever made).”


Japan’s economy shrank in first quarter on weak spending

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government says the economy declined in the first quarter, sticking to its preliminary data that reflected weak consumer spending.

The Cabinet Office said Friday the gross domestic product or GDP — the total value of a nation’s goods and services — shrank at an annualized rate of 0.6 percent in the January-March period.

That revision is unchanged from the preliminary reading released in May.

Domestic demand declined in the quarter, including consumer spending and residential investment, according to the data.

The January-March quarter ended the longest straight period of expansion for Japan since the late 1980s, lasting about two years.

The economy had been relatively healthy in recent quarters, boosted by free lending and a government program designed to fight deflation, a continual decrease of prices.


Summit shows China’s expansive ambitions in Central Asia

KHORGOS, Kazakhstan (AP) — China will seek to further promote its economic links with Central Asia during this weekend’s summit of the China and Russia-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The Beijing-based group was originally conceived as a platform for resolving border issues, fighting terrorism and — more implicitly — to counter American influence. In recent years, its economic component has grown more prominent with China’s trillion-dollar infrastructure drive known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

As host, China is eager for outcomes that refer to President Xi Jinping’s infrastructure initiative. But according to Jonathan Hillman, an expert on Asia, India’s skepticism means such a resolution would not be unanimously supported. The group operates on the basis on consensus, making it difficult to adopt new initiatives.


IMF agrees to $50 billion deal to help Argentina’s economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Argentina and the International Monetary Fund have agreed on a $50 billion stand-by deal aimed at strengthening the South American country’s economy.

The IMF announced Thursday that the staff-level agreement will be subject to approval by its executive board, which will consider Argentina’s economic plan in the coming days.

President Mauricio Macri announced in May that Argentina would seek a financing deal with the IMF following a sharp devaluation of it currency and amid a tough global outlook.

The deal brought back bad memories for Argentines who blame the IMF’s policies for the country’s worst economic crisis in 2001. But Macri said Thursday’s deal was needed to avoid another economic implosion.

The IMF deal “is very important starting point,” Macri told reporters several hours before the loan was announced.


Facebook made some private posts public for as many as 14M

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says a software bug made some private posts public for as many as 14 million users over several days in May.

The problem, which Facebook says it has fixed, is the latest privacy scandal for the world’s largest social media company. The company said on Thursday the bug automatically suggested that users make new posts public, even if they had previously restricted to “friends only” or another private setting.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, says the bug did not affect past posts. She added that Facebook is notifying users who posted publicly during the time the bug was active to review their posts.

The news follows a recent furor over Facebook’s sharing of user data with device makers, including China’s Huawei.


Amazon unveils nearly hands-free streaming TV device

NEW YORK (AP) — Alexa for couch potatoes is coming: Amazon’s new Fire TV streaming device will let users shout out when they want to turn on the TV, flip channels or search for sitcoms -- all without pushing any buttons.

The Fire TV Cube is not entirely hands-free yet, however. Some apps or streaming services may require viewers to pick up the included remote to rewind or stop a show.

Amazon already sells other voice-controlled Fire TV devices, but those require a push of the remote’s mic button or a separate Echo device with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

The Cube will be available later this month for $120.

Nvidia’s Shield also offers hands-free streaming using Google’s digital assistant. Other devices, including Apple TV, require activation with the remote’s mic.


Google pledges not to use AI for weapons or surveillance

UNDATED (AP) — Google pledges that it will not use artificial intelligence in applications related to weapons or surveillance, part of a new set of principles designed to govern how it uses AI.

Those principles, released by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, commit Google to building AI applications that are “socially beneficial,” that avoid creating or reinforcing bias and that are accountable to people.

The announcement follows Google’s reported decision not to renew a Pentagon contract in which its AI technology helped analyze drone footage.

Google recently announced Duplex, a human-sounding digital concierge that booked appointments with human receptionists in a May demonstration.

Some ethicists were concerned that call recipients could be duped into thinking the robot was human. Google has said Duplex will identify itself so that wouldn’t happen.

Update hourly