Update on the latest in business:
Asian shares fall after US Fed chief says he’s optimistic
TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares slid in subdued trading Wednesday after the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve said that he’s feeling more optimistic about the economy.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.7 percent while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.4 percent while the Shanghai Composite index fell nearly 1.0 percent.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 35.32 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,744.28. It had been bouncing between modest gains and losses, but the losses accelerated after new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell began answering questions on Capitol Hill, rattling investors with his growing optimism about the economy. Treasury yields climbed and stocks fell amid fresh speculation that the Fed would accelerate the pace of hikes in its benchmark policy rate this year. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 299.24, or 1.2 percent, to 25,410.03, and the Nasdaq composite fell 91.11, or 1.2 percent, to 7,330.35.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic events scheduled for Wednesday
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department will release the second of three estimates of how the U.S. economy performed in the October-December quarter.
The National Association of Realtors releases its January report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases.
Delta tax break at stake in spat with Georgia GOP over NRA
ATLANTA (AP) — One of Georgia’s largest employers is taking heat from Republican officials for a business decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.
Threats from GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republicans running to become Georgia’s next governor are jeopardizing an exemption from sales taxes on jet fuel sought by Delta Air Lines.
Republican state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler said Tuesday that officials were working behind the scenes to resolve the dispute that erupted when Delta announced it would no longer offer discounted rates to NRA members.
GOP Gov. Nathan Deal is serving his last year in office. He refrained from commenting publicly on the rift Tuesday. Deal in the past has opposed social conservatives in his own party on issues the governor felt could threaten Georgia’s business-friendly reputation.
Trump campaign chief lends name to penny stock tied to felon
WASHINGTON (AP) — The political strategist and online guru who has been named President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager has a close financial relationship with a penny-stock firm with a questionable history that includes longstanding ties to a convicted fraudster. That’s according to an Associated Press investigation.
Brad Parscale, who played a key role in Trump’s 2016 election victory, signed a $10 million deal in August to sell his digital marketing company to CloudCommerce Inc. As part of the deal, Parscale currently serves as a member of California-based company’s management team.
The company touts itself as “a global provider of cloud-driven e-commerce and mobile commerce solutions.” But records reviewed by the AP indictate Cloud Commerce’s operations have not turned a profit in nearly a decade.
Parscale is on the payroll of five campaign and political advocacy organizations tied to Trump, lucrative work that made him central to Trump’s campaign even before his appointment as campaign manager. In addition, Parscale, considered an ally of Jared Kushner, has hired Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, a move that reflects his close relationship to the family and shields how much she is being paid from public disclosure because she works for a private company.
US rules Chinese firms sold aluminum foil unfairly cheap
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say Chinese aluminum foil suppliers have been selling their products at unfairly low prices, so duties will be imposed on the imports.
The U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday that a number of Chinese companies have been selling aluminum foil in the United States at less the fair value.
The ruling was praised by the Aluminum Association trade group that pressed the case. The trade group has said that the cheap imports were threatening thousands of jobs. The Commerce Department says China is providing unfair subsidies to aluminum foil producers.
In the past, China has denied giving its aluminum producers an unfair advantage.
The Commerce Department says U.S. imports of Chinese aluminum foil were valued at $389 million in 2016.
China factory index at 19-month low as holiday slows work
HONG KONG (AP) — China’s manufacturing activity has weakened to its lowest level in 19 months as the extended Lunar New Year holiday left the month with fewer work days.
The official purchasing managers’ index released Wednesday slipped to 50.3 for February from 51.3 in the previous month.
The index has now fallen for the third straight month though it remains just above the 50-point mark signifying expansion on the index’s 100-point scale.
The Federation of Logistics & Purchasing’s PMI is a widely watched early indicator of health in a vital component of China’s economy, the world’s second biggest. But economists caution that the Lunar New Year tends to distort readings because the holiday falls at different times in the first two months of the year.
DOJ to support lawsuits against companies selling opioids
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says it will support local officials in hundreds of lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that are fueling the nation’s drug abuse crisis.
The move is part of a broader effort to more aggressively target prescription drugmakers for their role in the epidemic. The Justice Department will file a statement of interest in the multidistrict lawsuit, arguing the federal government has borne substantial costs as a result of the crisis that claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016.
Targets of the lawsuits include drugmakers such as Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Purdue Pharma, and the three large drug distribution companies, Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Drug distributors and manufacturers named in these and other lawsuits have said they don’t believe litigation is the answer but have pledged to help solve the crisis.
Police called after brawl in dispute over Trump Panama hotel
PANAMA CITY (AP) — Rival teams of security guards grappled in a stairwell as a business dispute for control over the Trump luxury hotel in Panama mounts.
Cellphone video of the confrontation obtained by The Associated Press shows one of the Trump security officials screaming “Out!” in Spanish as condo owners try to enter a room filled with computer equipment.
Panama City police say they responded to calls about the scuffle. The minor brawl marks at least the fourth time the police have been called to the property in the last week as part of a bitter fight between the hotel’s owners and Trump Hotels. The owners have sought to fire Trump’s management company, but the Trump Organization has called the termination illegal.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT-STEVE WYNN
APNewsBreak: Woman tells police Steve Wynn raped her in ’70s
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A woman has told police she had a child with casino mogul Steve Wynn after he raped her, while another has reported she was forced to resign from a Las Vegas job after she refused to have sex with him.
The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained copies of the police reports recently filed by the two women over allegations dating to the 1970s.
One report shows a woman told police she gave birth to a girl after Wynn raped her at her Chicago apartment around 1973 and 1974. The other says she had consensual sex with Wynn while she worked as a casino dealer at the Golden Nugget but was fired when she told him no in summer 1976.
The allegations are the latest leveled against Wynn by women. He resigned as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts on Feb. 6, less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said he harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.
Papa John’s will no longer be an official sponsor of the NFL
NEW YORK (AP) — Papa John’s is ending its recently stormy role as an official sponsor of the NFL.
Officials at the pizza chain said Tuesday that the two sides agreed to end the relationship, which became strained last year when its founder John Schnatter criticized NFL leadership over national anthem protests by players.
But the company based in Louisville, Kentucky, is not divorcing itself from the league altogether. It says instead it will focus its football marketing efforts on 22 of the league’s 32 teams and its star players.
Schnatter blamed slowing sales growth at Papa John’s on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. The company later apologized for the remarks and Schnatter stepped down as CEO at the end of last year.
Amazon to buy Ring, make of Wi-Fi-connected doorbells
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is expanding its home-security business by buying Ring, the maker of Wi-Fi-connected doorbells.
The deal comes months after the online retailer started selling its own Wi-Fi-connected indoor security cameras, which work with its voice-assistant Alexa.
Besides video doorbells, Ring makes indoor and outdoor cameras and its video can be streamed on smartphones and other devices. The acquisition puts Amazon in direct competition with Google’s Nest, which also makes cameras.
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. declined to say how much it is paying for Ring.