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Update on the latest in business:

June 23, 2017


Asian shares flat as weak oil prices weigh on investors

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian shares are ending the week on a subdued note with most indexes little changed today as the price of oil halted its decline, while still hovering near its lowest level in almost a year.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to just under $43 a barrel.

U.S. health care stocks rallied after the Senate unveiled its proposal to revamp how Americans get medical care. Investors were betting that overseas companies could also benefit from the bill. Major U.S. benchmarks were little changed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged down less than 0.1 percent to close at 2,434.50. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.1 percent to 21,397.29, and the Nasdaq composite index rose less than 0.1 percent to 6,236.69.

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


EPA sets rules to regulate toxic chemicals under 2016 law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules and other documents Thursday outlining how it will regulate toxic chemicals under a landmark law passed by Congress last year.

The rules, issued on the one-year anniversary of the law’s signature by President Barack Obama, set standards for how the EPA will identify and evaluate high-priority chemicals and impose reporting requirements for industry.

The new law regulates tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture. The EPA said last year it will review such common chemicals as asbestos and trichloroethylene that for decades have been known to cause cancer, yet have been largely unregulated under federal law.

Congress approved the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act last year in a bipartisan bid to clear up a hodgepodge of state rules governing chemicals and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had remained unchanged for 40 years.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the rules issued Thursday demonstrate the Trump administration’s commitment to providing “regulatory certainty to American businesses, while protecting human health and the environment.”


Britax recalls over 207K infant seats due to choking hazard

DETROIT (AP) — Britax Child Safety is recalling over 207,000 rear-facing infant car seats because part of a clip can break and cause a choking hazard.

The recall affects B-Safe 35, B-Safe 35 Elite and BOB B-Safe 35 seats made from Nov. 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017.

Britax says in government documents that parts were found in the mouths of three children but no choking injuries were reported. The company traced the cause to customers putting pressure on the clips, which help to properly position the harness straps. Britax says customers can safely keep using the seats if they remove the chest clip or watch a center tab for signs of breakage.

Britax will notify owners and provide a new chest clip. The recall started Wednesday. Britax has set up a website for owners to find out whether their seats are being recalled and other information. Owners can contact Britax at (833) 474-7016.


Today’s business news

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department will release new home sales for May. Last month, Commerce reported that U.S. sales of new homes in April registered the biggest drop in more than two years.

Today’s report is due out at 10 a.m. Eastern time.


Senate GOP health bill: Tax cuts for rich

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans’ new health bill cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America.

It uses a budget gimmick to comply with Senate rules against adding to the federal government’s long-term debt.

The bill would delay a new “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health insurance plans until 2026. Congress has already delayed the unpopular tax until 2020, making it unlikely lawmakers will ever let it take effect.

Senate Republican leaders unveiled a draft of their bill to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law on Thursday.

They argue it would eliminate job-killing taxes enacted under Obama’s law. Democrats say the bill is a giveaway to the rich at the expense of others who will lose health insurance.


Uber knew fired exec had info at center of Google theft case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber has acknowledged hiring a former Google engineer — now accused of stealing self-driving car technology — despite having received warnings that he was still carrying around some of his former employer’s property.

The admission was contained in a Thursday court filing. It’s the latest twist in a high-profile legal fight between the ride-hailing company and a Google spin-off, Waymo. Both companies are battling to build self-driving cars that could reshape the way people travel.

Waymo alleges that Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer at the crux of the case, ripped off its trade secrets before departing in January 2016 to found a robotic vehicle startup that Uber acquired seven months later.

Levandowski’s lawyers didn’t respond to requests to comment. Uber recently fired Levandowski.


Government ends oversight of GM related to defective part

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Co. is no longer under government supervision stemming from its defective ignition switches.

GM agreed to a three-year consent order in 2014 that required regular discussions with government regulators about recalls and other safety issues.

The order was prompted by GM’s recall of 2.6 million small cars with defective ignition switches that have been linked to more than 120 deaths. The government found that GM had stalled for at least a decade before recalling the cars.

GM said it has proposed continuing monthly meetings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to discuss safety issues.


Fed: Biggest US banks strong enough to withstand recession

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says all of the 34 largest U.S. banks are fortified enough to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and continue lending.

The first round of the central bank’s annual “stress tests” shows that as a group, the 34 big banks have gained strength thanks to a steadily recovering economy.

The banks were tested to determine if they have large enough capital buffers to keep lending, even if hit with billions of dollars in losses brought on by a financial crisis and severe economic downturn.

The tests’ hypothetical “severely adverse” scenario showed $100 billion in projected losses from credit card loans for the banks. The Fed says it was the first time that the tests showed credit card lending as the biggest loss category.


FDA approves quicker-to-administer drug for blood cancers

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. regulators have approved a more convenient version of a blockbuster drug for treating three common blood cancers.

The Roche Group’s Rituxan, on the market for 20 years, is administered in a hospital or clinic through an intravenous drip that can take several hours.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Swiss drugmaker’s new version, Rituxan Hycela (RIH’-tux-ehn HY’-sehl-uh). It’s injected in about six minutes, shortening clinic visits.

It’s given every three weeks for six months to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, for a total cost of about $48,600 without insurance — the same as for Rituxan.

Rituxan Hycela also was approved for treating follicular lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rituxan, which will still be available, is Roche’s top seller. It had 2016 sales of $7.5 billion.


Mexico raises key interest rate to 7 pct to combat inflation

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter-point to 7 percent in an effort to limit inflation.

The country’s medium-term inflation target is 3 percent, but prices have been rising recently at an annual rate of 6 percent.

Treasury Secretary Jose Antonio Meade says two further increases are possible as the Bank of Mexico seeks to slow inflation below 4 percent by 2018.

The central bank’s Thursday statement cites external risks to Mexico’s economy such as uncertain U.S. policies, geopolitical tensions and weak oil prices. Nevertheless, it expresses confidence in the strength of the global economy for the rest of 2017 and 2018.

The hike comes just eight days after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate from 1 percent to 1.25 percent.


In major blow to Brazil, US suspends meat product imports

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The United States says it is halting all imports of Brazilian beef because of safety concerns.

The decision by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue represents a major blow to Brazil, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of meat products.

In a Thursday statement, Perdue says that since March, U.S. inspectors have refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products, about 1.9 million pounds.

Perdue says the rejection rate is much higher than the 1 percent for rejected products arriving from other countries. He says the suspension will remain in place until Brazil’s agricultural ministry takes corrective action.

Brazilian officials have not commented.

The decision comes just months after Brazil announced an investigation into inspectors who allegedly accepted bribes to allow expired meats stay on sale.


Airbnb to collect room tax in Puerto Rico for government

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico has signed a deal with Airbnb under which the company will collect a room tax from hosts on the island and turn the revenue over to the U.S. territory’s government, which is mired in a financial crisis.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Thursday collection will start in August and will ensure compliance from hosts as well as ease the government’s administrative burden. Officials said the deal will ensure the collection of more than $2 million in taxes.

The San Francisco-based company has over 4,300 hosts and 7,100 listings in Puerto Rico.

More than 250,000 Airbnb guests were reported in Puerto Rico in the past year, an increase of 83 percent from the previous year. That activity generated more than $28 million, with the typical host earning $5,700 a year.

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