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Update on the latest in business:

November 20, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks plunge; markets back in the red for 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are skidding as weak results from retailers and mounting losses for big technology companies push the market back into the red for the year. The Dow had been more than 500 points lower in morning trading.

Energy companies are also slumping because of a 5 percent drop in the price of oil.

Apple sank 2.8 percent and Microsoft lost 2.2 percent. Target plunged 10 percent after missing Wall Street’s earnings estimates.

European tech stocks also fell. Nokia, a big supplier of telecom networks, fell 3 percent.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

US home construction rose 1.5 percent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction improved a slight 1.5 percent in October, but in a troubling sign, ground breakings for single-family houses fell.

The Commerce Department says housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.23 million, up from 1.21 million in September. The gains came entirely from apartments as starts for single-family houses slipped 1.8 percent last month.

A sharp increase in mortgage rates has led to a marked decline in home construction since May, such that ground breakings have fallen 2.6 percent over the past 12 months.

The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage has shot up a full percentage point in the past year to 4.94 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

Permits, an indicator of future activity, declined 0.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.26 million.

GLOBAL ECONOMY-SLOWDOWN

Darkening clouds start to overhang global economic expansion

WASHINGTON (AP) — After galloping along for the past two years, the global economy is showing signs of weakening, with the United States, China and Europe all facing the rising threat of a slowdown.

Few economists foresee an outright global recession within the next year. But the synchronized growth that powered most major economies since 2017 appears to be fading. The risks have been magnified by the trade war raging between the United States and China, the strife dividing Britain over an exit from the European Union and the Federal Reserve’s continuing interest rate hikes.

It’s all been enough to contribute to a broad retreat in global stock markets. Counting Tuesday’s deep losses, U.S. stock indexes, once up around 10 percent for the year, have surrendered all their 2018 gains.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL

Thanksgiving holiday travel rush gets off to a good start

Favorable weather is helping get the Thanksgiving travel rush off to a smooth start.

By midday Tuesday, just a few dozen flights had been canceled around the U.S. That’s fewer cancelations than many regular travel days.

The AAA auto club predicts that 54.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and Sunday, the highest number since 2005 and about a 5 percent increase over last year. AA says 48 million will drive and 4.7 million will fly.

Looking at a longer, 12-day period, the airline industry trade group Airlines for America predicts that a record 30.6 million people will fly on U.S. carriers, up from 29 million last year. That’s more than 2.5 million per day.

JAPAN-NISSAN-GHOSN

France, Japan support Renault-Nissan alliance

TOKYO (AP) — The governments of France and Japan are offering their support for the Renault-Nissan alliance even as its longtime leader Carlos Ghosn faces possible charges in Japan for hiding millions of dollars in income.

Ghosn’s arrest this week has thrown the future of the alliance, a leading world carmaker, into question.

A joint statement by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Japanese Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko said they spoke by phone Tuesday and praised the alliance as “one of the greatest symbols of Franco-Japanese industrial cooperation.”

The expressed “their shared wish to maintain this winning cooperation.”

Ghosn has led Renault, Nissan and their alliance. Nissan Motor Corp. announced Monday that Ghosn would be dismissed.

Renault’s board is meeting later Tuesday. The French government, which owns 15 percent of Renault, wants him replaced.

BOEING-NEW PLANE

Boeing cancels call to discuss issues with its newest plane

Analysts say Boeing Co. is canceling a conference call that it scheduled to discuss issues around its newest plane, which has come under close scrutiny after a deadly crash in Indonesia.

The company didn’t immediately give an explanation on Tuesday.

CFRA Research analyst Jim Corridore says canceling the call is “a bad look for the company” when it’s facing questions about potential problems with sensors on the 737 MAX.

U.S. airline pilots say they weren’t told about a new feature that could pitch the nose down automatically if sensors indicate the plane is about to stall.

On Oct. 29, a Lion Air MAX 8 plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.

Boeing shares are down about 13 percent since Nov. 9.

TOYS R US-HARDSHIP FUND

Former Toys R Us workers to get $20M in hardship fund

NEW YORK (AP) — Two private equity owners of the iconic Toys R Us toy chain will be handing over a $20 million hardship fund to the thousands of former workers left jobless and without severance after the chain was liquidated in June.

The move by KKR and Bain Capital is aimed at helping the 30,000 workers affected by the store closures and comes following efforts by worker-backed groups.

Workers are pushing to get an additional $55 million they believe they’re owed and are looking to other firms that had a stake in Toys R Us and that they believed played a role in the chain’s demise.

FRANCE-GAS PRICE PROTESTS

Macron urges dialogue amid protests, defends gas tax hikes

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is sticking to fuel tax hikes that have prompted nationwide protests but calling for “dialogue” to calm tensions.

In his first comments about the protests since more than a quarter million French drivers blocked roads Saturday, Macron acknowledged Tuesday that it’s “normal” that people are expressing frustration.

He said he’s trying to “change habits” by weaning the French off fossil fuels, “which is never simple.” He reiterated promises of subsidies for low-income households to buy cleaner cars or switch to cleaner home heating methods.

Speaking to students during a visit to Belgium, he didn’t comment on protest violence.

Scattered protests continued Tuesday on roads across France by drivers who dub themselves the “yellow jackets” for the neon vests they don during roadside emergencies.

MARTHA STEWART-FIRST UBER RIDE

Martha Stewart’s first Uber ride was ‘a mess inside and out’

NEW YORK (AP) — Martha Stewart’s first Uber ride was not a good thing.

Stewart ordered the “most expensive version” Monday outside Tiffany’s flagship store in New York City. As Stewart explained on Instagram , she wanted to be picked up on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Stewart wrote the first car did not show up and the second parked “halfway down” the street where she “could not see the license plate.” That car was pointed in the wrong direction, delaying her journey as the car snaked through midtown Manhattan traffic.

But the worst part was the car “was a mess inside and out!!!!!!!!” She posted a picture that showed debris on the floor and two water bottles.

Uber says it was disappointed to hear about Stewart’s first experience and has reached out to her and her team.

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