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Update on the latest in business:

February 19, 2019


Stocks edge higher in midday trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged higher in midday trading on Wall Street as gains for retailers and technology companies offset losses elsewhere in the market.

Walmart jumped 3.6 percent after reporting earnings that beat forecasts. Amazon rose 1.4 percent, and chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices climbed 3 percent.

Investors are keeping a close eye on talks between U.S. and Chinese negotiators in Washington that are aimed at ending a trade war between the world’s largest economies.


US, China resume trade talks in Washington ahead of deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and China resume talks today aimed at ending a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions ahead of a deadline for a massive U.S. tariff hike. The White House said that meetings between mid-level delegations will begin in Washington following talks in Beijing that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said “made headway” on key issues. On Thursday, Lighthizer will lead higher level talks, joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro. Both governments have expressed optimism, but they have given no details of their talks.


Honda to shut plant in Brexit-shaken Britain

LONDON (AP) — Japanese carmaker Honda plans to close its car factory in western England in 2021. It’s a fresh blow to the British economy as it struggles with the uncertainty associated with leaving the European Union next month.

The company announced the decision, which will imperil 3,500 jobs and possibly many more, at a news conference in Tokyo.

Honda’s president and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, said the decision was not related to Brexit, but was based on what made most sense for its global competitiveness in light of the need to accelerate its production of electric vehicles. Honda Motor Co. makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 70 miles west of London, with an output of 150,000 cars per year. Hachigo said Honda’s restructuring is aimed at adjusting its operations to reflect stronger demand in Asia and North America.


EU gets heavy-duty on pollution: 1st standards for trucks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has reached a tentative agreement on the first specific EU standards for trucks, seeking to get polluting CO2 levels down.

The agreement among negotiators from the European Parliament and member nations says such emissions for new trucks will have to be 30 percent lower by 2030 compared with today’s levels. Heavy trucks carry over two-thirds of freight across the 28-nation bloc.

EU Commissioner Arias Canete says the standards “will help tackle emissions, as well as bring fuel savings to transport operators and cleaner air for all Europeans.”

The rules will still need to be formally endorsed but are not expected to pose any political problems. The EU also has such standards for cars and light vans.

Under the tentative deal, emissions from new trucks will have to be 15 percent lower by 2025 moving to 30 percent five years later. Fines would apply to producers who failed to comply.


FAA probes Southwest calculations of baggage weight on jets

UNDATED (AP) — Federal officials have told Southwest Airlines to fix the way it calculates the weight of luggage loaded on flights after finding frequent mistakes.

Southwest says it made improvements in its methods for calculating weight and the balance of loads during 2018.

The airline says it voluntarily reported the issue to federal safety officials last year, and isn’t facing any enforcement action.

The investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper says internal FAA documents show widespread mistakes in calculations and luggage-loading practices that could cause errors when pilots compute their plane’s takeoff weight.


Twitter tightens up EU political ad rules ahead of election

LONDON (AP) — Twitter says it’s tightening up rules for European Union political ads ahead of bloc-wide elections set for the spring, following similar moves by fellow tech giants Facebook and Google.

The social media company says it’s extending restrictions already in place in the United States.

Under the new rules, which will also apply in Australia and India, political advertisers will need to be certified. Ads will be stored in a database showing how much was spent and the demographics of the people who saw it.

Facebook and Google have put in similar systems ahead of the EU vote in May, as the U.S. tech companies respond to criticism they didn’t do enough to prevent misuse of their platforms by groups trying to sway previous elections.


Nobel laureates, advocates advising G7 on women’s rights

PARIS (AP) — Human rights advocates are meeting in Paris to discuss the strategy of the G7 group of industrialized nations for ending violence and discrimination against women.

French President Emmanuel Macron named 35 advocates to make recommendations and the group had its first meeting today. France took over the G7′s presidency on Jan. 1, and Macron has said he wants gender equality to be a main focus.

Participants include three Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. Actress Emma Watson also is part of the group.

The advocates are addressing three main topics: combating violence against women, promoting girls’ education and women’s entrepreneurship.

France wants G7 leaders to adopt joint actions for women’s rights at an August summit based on the group’s recommendations.


Greece’s central banker protests, says minister is meddling

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s central bank chief has asked Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (TSEE’-prahs) to intervene after a cabinet minister phoned him to tell him how to do his job and then allegedly leaked the conversation to the press.

In a statement today, bank chief Yiannis Stournaras deplored the deputy minister’s “unheard-of” attempt to influence the central bank, and urged Tsipras to protect the central bank’s independence.

The Bank of Greece governor — a finance minister in Greece’s former conservative government — has a testy relationship with Tsipras’ left-wing administration, and is frequently targeted by pro-government media.

On Monday, Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis announced on social media that he phoned Stournaras over an investigation into a bank loan that Polakis had received. He said he urged Stournaras to also investigate loans allegedly taken out by opposition politicians.


Walmart flexes in the fourth quarter, beats all expectations

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart has beaten expectations on quarterly profit and revenue, and e-commerce sales surged during the critical holiday period.

Walmart posted strong sales across a wide range of products from toys to groceries and electronics.

That helped sales at stores open at least a year rise 4.2 percent at its U.S. namesake stores, following a 3.4 percent pace in the fiscal third quarter.

Since buying Jet.com more than two years ago, Walmart has been expanding online by acquiring brands and adding thousands of items.


Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld has died

PARIS (AP) — He was called a creative genius and a man ahead of his time. Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s iconic couturier, died today in Paris.

He had two birth certificates, one dated 1933 and the other 1938.

Lagerfeld had looked increasingly frail in recent seasons, and he did not come out to take a bow at the house’s couture show in Paris last month.

Chanel says Lagerfeld’s longtime head of studio, Virginie Viard, will create the house’s upcoming collections.


Supreme Court staying out of actor’s ‘Empire’ lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is staying out of a lawsuit involving the television show “Empire.”

Actor Clayton Prince Tanksley sued in 2016, claiming that “Empire” was substantially similar to a television show he had pitched at a competition in 2008.

The lawsuit said “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels was a judge at the competition and expressed an interest in the show Tanksley called “Cream,” which involved a black record executive.

A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the shows weren’t substantially similar. An appeals court agreed.


Danske Bank branch must close over alleged fraud

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia’s financial watchdog says the local branch of Danske Bank must close after the financial group admitted that massive sums of money from Russia and former Soviet states had been laundered through the subsidiary.

The Estonian Financial Supervisory Authority said Tuesday that Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest financial institution, must cease its activities in Estonia within eight months.

Kilvar Kessler, chairman of Estonia’s financial watchdog, said “the serious violations” had caused damage “to the credibility of the Estonian financial environment.”

Last year, 10 former employees at Danske Bank’s Estonia branch were detained in connection with the scandal. The Copenhagen-based bank admitted in September that some $226 billion had flown through accounts at its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015.