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Update on the latest in business:

January 3, 2019


Asia shares mixed, Shanghai down after Apple sales warning

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mixed on Thursday after tumbling more than 1 percent on the first trading day of 2019. Apple downgraded its sales projections, citing slowing Chinese growth, hitting technology shares in South Korea and Taiwan. The Japanese yen, seen as a relatively safe asset, strengthened against the dollar, euro and several other Asian and European currencies.

A turbulent day on Wall Street saw stocks plunging before recovering and finishing slightly higher. Surveys by China’s government and a major business magazine that showed Chinese manufacturing had slowed in December weighed on sentiment. Still, the broad S&P 500 index added 0.1 percent to 2,510.03 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which lost 398 points in the first few minutes of trading, closed 0.1 percent higher at 23,346.24. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.5 percent to 6,665.94.

Oil prices, which have fallen about 40 percent since last October, settled after jumping at the start of the year. Benchmark U.S. crude oil shed nearly a dollar falling to just above $45.50 per barrel.

The dollar slipped against the yen and the euro.


After shutdown talks go nowhere, officials to try again

WASHINGTON (AP) — No one budged at President Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting with congressional leaders, so the partial government shutdown persisted over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. They’ll all try again Friday.

In public, Trump renewed his dire warnings of rapists and others at the border. But when pressed in private meeting Wednesday by Democrats asking why he wouldn’t end the shutdown, he responded at one point, “I would look foolish if I did that.” A White House official, one of two people who described that exchange only on condition of anonymity, said the president had been trying to explain that it would be foolish not to pay for border security.

In one big shift, the new Congress will convene Thursday with Democrats taking majority control of the House, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said they’d quickly pass legislation to re-open the government — without funds for the border wall.

But the White House has rejected the Democratic package, and Republicans who control the Senate are hesitant to take it up without Trump on board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “total nonstarter.” Trump said ahead of his White House session with the congressional leaders that the partial shutdown will last “as long as it takes” to get the funding he wants.


Why slowing economies could prod US and China to reach deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration and China are facing growing pressure to blink in their six-month stare-down over trade because of jittery markets and portents of economic weakness.

The import taxes the two sides have imposed on hundreds of billions of each other’s goods — and the threat of more to come — have heightened anxiety on each side of the Pacific. The longer their trade war lasts, the longer companies and consumers will feel the pain of higher-priced imports and exports.

Their conflict is occurring against the backdrop of a slowdown in China and an expected U.S. slump that a prolonged trade war could worsen — a fear that’s weighing on financial markets. Yet those very pressures, analysts say, give the two countries a stronger incentive to make peace.

The economic threats, agreed Wang Yong, an international relations specialist at Peking University, “might be conducive to negotiations” by nudging Beijing toward market-oriented changes long sought by the United States.

Still, it will hardly be easy to bridge the complex differences between the world’s top two economies. They range from President Donald Trump’s insistence that China buy more U.S. products to widespread assertions that Beijing steals trade secrets from foreign companies operating in China.


Could Tesla price cuts mean demand is slowing?

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla made about 9,300 more vehicles than it delivered last year, raising concerns among industry analysts that inventory is growing as demand for the company’s electric cars may be starting to wane.

If demand falls, they say, the company will enter a new phase of its business. Like other automakers, Tesla will have to either cut production or reduce prices to raise sales. A drop in demand could also curtail the company’s earnings and jeopardize CEO Elon Musk’s promise to post sustained quarterly profits.

On Wednesday, Tesla did cut prices, knocking $2,000 off each of its three models. The company said the cuts will help customers deal with the loss of a $7,500 federal tax credit, which was reduced to $3,750 this month for Tesla buyers and will gradually go to zero by the end of 2018.

Tesla reported that it produced 254,530 cars and SUVs last year and delivered 245,240.

The company’s deliveries for the full year matched Wall Street estimates, but its figures for the fourth quarter didn’t reach expectations. Tesla said it delivered 90,700 vehicles from October through December. Analysts polled by data provider FactSet expected 92,000.


3rd firm confirms bid on New Jersey wind energy project

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A third firm has confirmed that it’s interested in building a wind energy project off the New Jersey coast.

Norway-based Equinor says it submitted a bid Friday to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to build an offshore wind project.

The company joins Orsted, a Danish wind company, and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Shell and EDF Renewables North America in submitting bids to the board by last week’s deadline.

“Equinor has placed a strong bid we hope will help New Jersey meet its clean energy goals: protecting the planet from climate change while building a new industry with good jobs,” company spokeswoman Elin Isaksen said.

Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, has said it is developing an offshore wind project in New Jersey that it calls “Boardwalk Wind.”

The state is seeking companies to build projects that would generate at least 1,100 megawatts of electricity. Orsted estimates that amount could power more than a half-million homes.

Gov. Phil Murphy has made wind energy a priority and hopes to have 3,500 megawatts in place off the state’s coastline within the next 11 years.


Expect 2019 to be quiet in Congress — for small business

NEW YORK (AP) — Small business issues often win bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, but given the divisions in the incoming 116th Congress, advocates for companies have low expectations.

Even after lawmakers deal with the partial government shutdown, a Democratic House, a Republican Senate and ongoing investigations of the Trump White House and campaign are expected to be obstacles to much small business-related work getting done.

Company owners may see more movement in their states, said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, who called governors “more aggressive than anyone” on helping small business.

Issues that small business advocates expect to be on government agendas in 2019 include health care, taxes, employment issues, infrastructure, internet privacy and paid leave.


Study finds that Vermont is top state for inbound moves

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Vermont’s population is among the smallest in the U.S., but a study from United Van Lines indicate people are moving to the New England state.

The suburban St. Louis-based moving company on Wednesday released its 42nd annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns.

Vermont has the second-smallest population among states, exceeding only Wyoming. Yet Vermont saw the highest percentage of inbound moves in 2018.

Four Western states filled out the top 5: Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona.

New Jersey had highest percentage of outbound moves, followed by Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Kansas.

The study showed that Americans continue to move west and south. The Mountain West and South regions saw high percentages of inbound moves. The Northeast and Midwest had high percentages of outbound moves.


Business and economic reports scheduled for release today

WASHINGTON — Payroll processor ADP reports on how many jobs private employers added in December and Freddie Mac reveals this week’s average mortgage rates today.

Also, the Institute for Supply Management releases its index of manufacturing activity for December and the Commerce Department reports on construction spending in November.

Automakers release last month’s vehicle sales numbers as well.


Apple sees further weakness in iPhone sales

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple warns that disappointing iPhone sales will cause a significant drop in its revenue over the crucial holiday season compared to earlier projections.

CEO Tim Cook made the announcement after the market closed Wednesday. It embodies some of the worst fears of investors, who have been dumping Apple shares amid signs that the latest iPhone models weren’t living up to expectations.

Cook cited China as Apple’s biggest weak spot, but also said that consumers weren’t upgrading to the latest iPhones models as eagerly as anticipated.

As a result, Apple now expects revenue of $84 billion for the fiscal quarter running from October through December. Management had previously predicted revenue ranging from $89 billion to $93 billion.


US average for gasoline seen peaking at $3 a gallon in May

UNDATED (AP) — A price-tracking service says the national average for gasoline will surge to about $3 a gallon by May before easing the rest of 2019.

GasBuddy predicted Wednesday that the full-year average price will settle at $2.70 a gallon, about 3 cents lower than 2018.

The U.S. average is about $2.22 a gallon now, down 70 cents from three months ago due to lower oil prices.

GasBuddy predicts prices will rise this spring as OPEC cuts oil production and the U.S. economy remains strong, generating demand for gasoline.

Oil prices climbed Wednesday. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 2.5 percent to $46.56 a barrel in afternoon trading in New York. International Brent crude was up 2.2 percent to $55 a barrel in London.


Box office records break as Broadway says goodbye to 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — Broadway producers had plenty of reasons to pop the bubbly as 2018 wound down: Many shows recording their most profitable weeks despite some eye-popping ticket prices.

Eight shows last week earned more than $2 million for the week ending Dec. 30, led by “Hamilton,” ″The Lion King” and “Wicked,” according to the Broadway League, a national trade association for the industry.

“Hamilton” crossed the $4 million mark for the week, with an average ticket costing $375.39. The two-part “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” set a new Broadway record for weekly ticket sales for a play, reporting a gross of over $2.5 million for eight shows.


Netflix raises movie-viewership curtain with ‘Bird Box’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix has provided the movie industry with an unprecedented peek at how a newly released film is faring as competition for Hollywood’s biggest names intensifies.

The company disclosed in a recent tweet that 45 million subscriber accounts worldwide had watched the Sandra Bullock thriller “Bird Box” during its first seven days on the service. That’s the biggest first-week success of any movie made so far for Netflix’s 12-year-old streaming service.

The revelation created a stir in Hollywood and on Wall Street.

While getting that many people to theaters would be impressive, one analyst says the better yardstick is viewership on TV, given that subscribers didn’t have to leave their homes or pay extra for this movie. By that yardstick, viewership spread over a week isn’t as impressive.


Lord & Taylor flagship store locks its doors forever

NEW YORK (AP) — After 104 years, Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue locked its doors forever.

The venerable department store famed for its animated holiday windows closed down Wednesday afternoon, ending a blowout sale that left whole floors empty. By the end, clothes that once sold for as much as $100 were going for $5.99.

The 11-story building has been sold to the WeWork space-leasing company for more than $850 million.

Forty-five other, smaller Lord & Taylor stores remain open, mostly on the East Coast. In addition, Lord & Taylor-branded merchandise is being sold online through the Walmart website.

The brand is owned by Canadian corporate giant Hudson’s Bay Co.


Department store executive Blake Nordstrom dies at 58

NEW YORK (AP) — Blake Nordstrom, who led the upscale department store chain Nordstrom as co-president with his brothers Erik and Peter, has died. He was 58.

The Seattle-based company did not disclose the cause of death, saying Nordstrom passed away early Wednesday unexpectedly. Last month, Nordstrom said that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, but that his cancer was treatable.

Nordstrom Inc. said in a statement that its executive leadership will continue under Erik and Peter Nordstrom.

Blake Nordstrom had worked at the chain for more than 40 years. He was the great-grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant.

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