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Update on the latest in business:

December 17, 2018


Asian shares edge higher with Fed meeting in focus

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mostly higher Monday on hopes that the Federal Reserve would re-evaluate its hawkish stance at a meeting later this week, following signs of slower global growth.

On Wall Street Friday, weak economic data from China and Europe fueled worries about the global economy, dragging shares to eight-month lows. The S&P 500 index gave up 1.9 percent to 2,599.95, its lowest close since April 2. The Dow slipped 2 percent to 24,100.51 and the Nasdaq composite was 2.3 percent lower at 6,910.66. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 1.5 percent to 1,410.81. All major U.S. indexes have fallen more than 10 percent from their record highs.

The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to raise its short-term interest rate — a benchmark for many consumer and business loans — by a modest quarter-point to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent after a meeting on Wednesday.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil barely rose, remaining just above $51 a barrel.

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


Investors seeking tax breaks skip poverty-stricken areas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A real estate investment firm co-founded by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is betting big on the administration’s Opportunity Zone tax breaks but isn’t that interested in steering its investors to the poorest, most-downtrodden areas that the program seeks to revitalize.

New York-based Cadre, in which Kushner still holds at least a $25 million passive stake, made it clear to potential investors in recent marketing materials that it doesn’t plan to look for development deals in most of those zones because of their “unfavorable growth prospects.”

Instead, Cadre says it will target a “small subset” of zones in such cities as Los Angeles, Seattle and Miami where both populations and incomes are already set to rise faster than the national average.

Cadre is a high-profile example of how early investor interest in the program appears focused on the places that need it the least: zones that qualified for the tax breaks despite already drawing substantial investment or are undergoing obvious gentrification.

Among the examples of such zones is a swath of the Upper East Side of Manhattan that includes the top of Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, where three-bedroom apartments overlooking Central Park sell for $4 million. Another is Ledroit Park in the nation’s capital, which falls mostly in what real estate blog Curbed has anointed Washington’s “most gentrified” ZIP code.

Such is the major criticism of the Investing in Opportunity Act, which became law last December as part of the Republican-sponsored tax overhaul. Promoted by Trump in a White House event this past week, it offers developers potentially millions of dollars in capital gains tax breaks to invest in zones selected by states based on such factors as high poverty and low income.


Talks adopt ‘rulebook’ to put Paris climate deal into action

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Almost 200 nations, including the world’s top greenhouse gas producers, China and the United States, have adopted a set of rules meant to breathe life into the 2015 Paris climate accord by setting out how countries should report their emissions and efforts to reduce them.

But negotiators delayed other key decisions until next year — a move that frustrated environmentalists and countries that wanted more ambitious goals in light of scientists’ warnings that the world must shift sharply away from fossil fuels in the coming decade.

Officials at the talks, which ended late Saturday in the Polish city of Katowice, agreed upon universal rules on how nations can cut emissions. Poor countries secured assurances on financial support to help them reduce emissions, adapt to changes such as rising sea levels and pay for damage that has already happened.

Officials said that while each country would likely find some parts of the agreement it did not like, efforts were made to balance the interests of all parties.

The talks took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.


Amazon workers on strike in Germany a week before Christmas

BERLIN (AP) — Workers at two Amazon distribution centers in Germany have gone on strike as part of a push for improved work conditions, leading to fears that Christmas orders may not arrive in time.

The German news agency dpa reported that workers in Leipzig in eastern Germany and Werne in western Germany went on strike early Monday.

The ver.di union representing the workers says Amazon employees receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs in Germany.

Amazon has said in the past that its employees earn relatively high wages for the industry.

The company was not reachable for comment on Monday.


Business and economic reports scheduled today

WASHINGTON (AP) —The National Association of Home Builders releases its December housing market index this morning.

Also, this afternoon, the Treasury Department releases data on international money flows in October.


Security worries hobble ambitions of China tech giant Huawei

BEIJING (AP) — While a Huawei executive faces possible U.S. charges over trade with Iran, the Chinese tech giant’s ambition to be a leader in next-generation telecoms is colliding with security worries abroad.

Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei Technologies Ltd. as a supplier for fifth-generation networks. They joined the United States and Taiwan, which limit use of technology from the biggest global supplier of network switching gear. This week, Japan’s cybersecurity agency said Huawei and other vendors deemed risky will be off-limits for government purchases.

None has released evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei, which denies it is a risk and operates a laboratory with Britain’s government to conduct security examinations of its products. But the accusations threaten its ability to compete in 5G as carriers prepare to invest billions of dollars.


US Air Force set to launch 1st next-generation GPS satellite

DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Air Force is about to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, designed to be more accurate, secure and versatile.

The satellite is scheduled to lift off Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites, all being built by Lockheed Martin outside Denver. They’ll replace older satellites now in orbit.

The program is months behind schedule, and the Government Accountability Office says costs have increased.

GAO says some of the satellites’ most highly touted features won’t be fully available until 2022 or later because of problems in a companion program to develop a new ground control system for the satellites.

The Air Force estimates that 4 billion people worldwide use GPS for everything from navigation to time-stamping bank transactions.


Colin Kroll, co-founder of HQ Trivia, found dead

NEW YORK (AP) — Colin Kroll, a tech executive who co-founded the HQ Trivia app, has died. He was 34.

The New York Police Department says officers went to Kroll’s Manhattan apartment early Sunday after getting a call asking for a wellness check on him.

They found him unconscious and unresponsive on his bed.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.

“He had so much talent and had accomplished so much at such a young age,” his father, Alan Kroll, told The New York Times. “It truly is a waste,” his father said. “At 34, imagine the things he’d done and the skills he had.”

Kroll was the chief executive of the trivia app, which live-streams short trivia shows to users and became popular after its release in 2017.

The company released a statement Sunday saying their thoughts were with his “family, friends and loved ones.”

Kroll also was a founder of Vine, which was an app built around six-second videos, and worked for a period at Twitter.


UK ministers seek to downplay chance of second Brexit vote

LONDON (AP) — Supporters of British Prime Minister Theresa May dampened suggestions Sunday that the government is planning a second referendum on whether to leave the European Union, arguing that another Brexit vote would exacerbate divisions in the U.K., not heal them.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC that holding another vote on Britain’s EU membership would settle little in a country that backed leaving the EU in 2016 by 51.9 percent with the highest turnout for a U.K. vote since 1992.

The comments come as Britain struggles for a way forward after days of political drama because of unease with the terms of May’s deal to leave the 28-nation bloc. The British Parliament was supposed to vote on May’s Brexit plan last week, but she postponed it after it became clear that lawmakers would decisively reject it.

Lawmakers were outraged at not having a chance to have their say. May’s own Conservative Party triggered a confidence vote in her party leadership, which she won, but a third of her party’s lawmakers revolted against her.


‘Spider-Verse’ swings to the top; ‘Mortal Engines’ tanks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has swung to the top of the domestic box office in its first weekend in theaters. Sony Pictures on Sunday estimates that the film has earned $35.4 million from North American theaters.

Critics have praised the film focusing on Miles Morales, and audiences in exit surveys gave it a rare A+ CinemaScore, which is a first for a Spider-Man film.

The Clint Eastwood-directed drug smuggling drama “The Mule” debuted in second place with an estimated $17.2 million. It’s his first major role in a film since 2012.

Not all the new films were so lucky, however. The Peter Jackson-produced epic “Mortal Engines” bombed in North American theaters, taking in only $7.5 million in ticket sales against a reported $100 million production budget.

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