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Update on the latest in business:

February 12, 2019

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks gain

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are gaining after U.S. lawmakers reached a tentative deal to avoid another costly government shutdown.

The deal could alleviate pressure on the market as the U.S. and China begin talks on their trade dispute.

Major companies continue to report fourth-quarter earnings. Molson Coors fell 9.4 percent as weak volume dragged down profit and revenue. Elsewhere, Coty soared after investment firm JAB Holdings offered to acquire a controlling stake in the owner of CoverGirl.

JOB OPENINGS

US job openings jump to record high of 7.3 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted the most open jobs in December in the nearly two decades that records have been kept, evidence that the job market is strong despite several challenges facing the economy.

The Labor Department says job openings jumped 2.4 percent in December to 7.3 million. That is the most since records began in December 2000. It is also far greater than the number of unemployed, which stood at 6.3 million that month.

Businesses have shrugged off a variety of potential troubles for the economy and kept on hiring. The 35-day partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, and growth in China, Europe and Japan has weakened, threatening U.S. exports. Still, employers added 304,000 jobs in December, the government said earlier this month, the most in nearly a year.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL

Powell doesn’t see ‘elevated’ chance of recession

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell does not feel the probability of a recession “is at all elevated,” and that the country is continuing to see solid economic growth.

But in a visit to a historically black university in the Mississippi Delta, Powell says that many rural areas have not benefited from the national prosperity. He says those areas need special support, such as access to affordable credit to start small businesses and high-quality education to train workers.

Powell says in a discussion with students at Mississippi Valley State University that he doesn’t see signs of an economic downturn. He says unemployment remains near a half-century low and describes economic output as continuing at a “solid pace.”

OIL PRODUCTION-PRICES

Domestic oil production expected to reach new heights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. says domestic oil production levels will reach new heights this year and next, and that prices will be lower than they were in 2018.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Tuesday that it expects the United States to pump 12.4 million barrels of crude a day in 2019 and 13.2 million barrels a day in 2020. The January average was 12 million barrels a day, up 90,000 from December.

Most of the increase is expected to come from Texas and New Mexico.

The energy agency expects U.S. benchmark crude to cost less than $55 a barrel this year and $58 next year, down from $65 in 2018. It expects internationally traded oil to be $61 this

KATY PERRY SHOES

Shoes pulled from Katy Perry line after blackface criticism

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katy Perry’s fashion line has pulled two types of shoes after some people compared them to blackface.

The Ora Face Block Heel and Rue Face Slip-On Loafers were released last summer in nine different colors, including black. They include protruding eyes, a triangular-shaped nose and red lips.

In a statement released by Perry and company, they say the shoes were “envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism.” Perry says she was saddened when she learned they were being compared to blackface and were “immediately removed” from the company’s website.

Perry’s is the latest company to withdraw products after they were compared to blackface. Gucci took a sweater off the market last week and Prada removed a series of accessories that resembled black monkeys with red lips in December.

WHISKY EXPORTS

Tariffs take toll on whiskey exports in last half of 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A spirits industry group says retaliatory tariffs caused a sharp downturn in American whiskey exports in the last half of 2018 as distillers started feeling the pain from global trade disputes.

Exports gyrated last year as the industry braced for tariffs in some key overseas markets.

The Distilled Spirits Council says that American whiskey exports to the European Union — the industry’s biggest export market — fell by 8.7 percent from July through November of last year, compared to the same period in 2017.

In the first half of 2018, whiskey exports to the EU surged by 33 percent.

Larger distillers stockpiled supplies for a short-term cushion against tariffs that amount to a tax.

Global American whiskey exports grew by 28 percent in the first half of 2018, then fell by 8.2 percent from July to November.

IRS WATCHDOG-IMPACT OF SHUTDOWN

IRS watchdog: Shutdown caused ‘shocking’ drop in phone help

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS watchdog agency says disruptions from last month’s partial government shutdown caused a “shocking” deterioration in the IRS’ telephone help for taxpayers in the first week of the filing season.

The report from the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate says in the week of Jan. 28, the official start of the tax season, the Internal Revenue Service staff answered only 48 percent of calls seeking help in filing returns, with an average wait time of 17 minutes. That compares with 86 percent of calls answered, and an average wait of 4 minutes, at the same time last year.

At the same time, 93 percent of taxpayers who called that week to arrange installment tax payments were unable to speak with an assistant.

BREXIT

May delay: UK PM asks lawmakers for more time on Brexit

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May urged restive lawmakers today to hold their nerve and give her more time to rework a divorce agreement with the European Union, heightening concerns that Brexit uncertainty will continue right up to the edge of the U.K.’s departure on March 29.

With Britain’s EU exit just 45 days away, May tried to avert a rebellion when Parliament votes again Thursday on Brexit by promising another series of votes two weeks later.

Some lawmakers want to use Thursday’s votes to impose conditions on May’s Conservative government in an attempt to rule out a cliff-edge “no deal” Brexit that would see Britain crash out of the EU without a framework for smooth future relations.

May sought to buy time, telling lawmakers they would get another chance to alter her course on Feb. 27 if she had not secured changes to the Brexit deal by then.

NEW YORK BUDGET-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Cuomo administration defends Amazon deal

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Cuomo administration’s top economic development official is defending the deal to bring one of Amazon’s second headquarters to New York City.

Howard Zemsky, head of the main economic development agency, tells lawmakers at a state budget hearing in Albany Tuesday that the 25,000 to 40,000 jobs Amazon is promising for Queen’s Long Island City neighborhood is an “unprecedented number” for New York state.

The deal New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered with Seattle-based Amazon calls for the company to receive about $3 billion in city and state subsidies.

Business and neighborhood leaders from Queens joined two Amazon officials in Albany Tuesday to voice support for the project, which is being opposed by some members of the state Senate and New York City Council.

JAB-COTY-ACQUISITION

JAB seeks takeover of CoverGirl maker Coty

NEW YORK (AP) — German conglomerate JAB Holdings is seeking a majority stake in Coty Inc., which makes CoverGirl, Max Factor and Hugo Boss brand cosmetics and fragrances.

JAB is offering to buy up existing stock from shareholders at $11.65 per share, marking a 20 percent premium from its closing on Monday. Specifically, it’s hoping to buy up to 150 million shares which would boost its stake from 40 percent to 60 percent.

Coty’s board of directors has to consider the proposal.

Coty’s CEO, Camillo Pane, recently resigned from the New York company, which is facing supply chain and revenue issues. Pierre Laubies, who last ran JDE, a beverage company, took over in November. He also has a seat on the board.

In morning trading, Coty shares rallied 14 percent to $11.02.

UN-AUTOMOTIVE SAFETY

40 countries agree cars must have automatic braking

GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. agency says 40 countries led by Japan and the European Union — but not the U.S. or China — have agreed to require new cars and light commercial vehicles to be equipped with automated braking systems starting next year.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe says a draft agreement reached Feb. 1 is set to be formally adopted in June.

The regulation will require all vehicles sold to come equipped with the technology by which sensors monitor how close a pedestrian or object might be. It can trigger the brakes automatically if a collision is deemed imminent and if the driver doesn’t appear set to respond in time.

The measure will apply to vehicles at “low speeds”: 60 kilometers per hour (42 mph) or less.

REDDIT-INVESTORS

Reddit raises $300M in finance round led by China’s Tencent

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Social media service Reddit Inc. says it has raised $300 million in a financing round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent.

Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, told CNBC on Monday that values the privately held company at $3 billion.

Half the new money came from Tencent, Asia’s most valuable tech company. Other investors included Sequoia, Fidelity, Andreessen Horowitz, Quiet Capital, VY and Snoop Dogg.

The announcement prompted criticism of Reddit for linking itself with a company from China, where the ruling Communist Party enforces extensive online censorship. Access to Reddit is blocked in China.

Tencent operates online games and popular WeChat social media service. It owns 40 percent of “Fortnite” creator Epic Games and 15 percent of photo service Snap.

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