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Update on the latest business

November 30, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks little changed

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are wobbling between slight gains and losses in midday trading on Wall Street, ahead of a highly anticipated trade meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng). Investors have long hoped the two will use their meeting at the Group of 20 summit to start resolving the trade dispute between the two countries.

The price of oil briefly dropped under $50 a barrel but later recovered and was up slightly.

GameStop plunged 6.5 percent after issuing a weak forecast, and Marriott dropped 5.4 percent after disclosing a massive data breach.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.02 percent.

MARRIOTT-DATA BREACH

Massive data breach at Marriott’s Starwood hotels

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — A security breach inside Marriott’s worldwide hotel empire has compromised the information of as many as 500 million guests, exposing in some cases credit card numbers, passport numbers and birthdates. Marriott says unauthorized access to data at the hotels, once run by Starwood, has been taking place since 2014.

The affected hotel brands operated by Starwood before it was acquired by Marriott in 2016 include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Element, Aloft, The Luxury Collection, Le Méridien and Four Points. Starwood branded timeshare properties are also included.

None of the Marriott-branded chains are threatened.

Credit card numbers and expiration dates of some guests may have been taken, according to the company. For as many as two-thirds of those affected, data exposed could include mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date and communication preferences.

It may be among the largest data breaches on record. Last year’s startling Equifax hack affected more than 145 million people.

The New York state attorney general has opened an investigation.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, co-founder of the Senate cybersecurity caucus and the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said that the U.S. needs laws that will limit the data companies can collect on its customers.

G20-TRUMP

US, Canada, Mexico leaders sign trade pact

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — President Donald Trump teamed up with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Friday to sign a revised North American trade pact, a deal that fulfills a key political pledge by the American president but faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Congress. The celebratory moment was dimmed by ongoing differences over Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as plans for massive layoffs in the U.S. and Canada by General Motors.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is meant to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long denigrated as a “disaster.”

Trump appeared with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the Group of 20 nations summit in Buenos Aires for the formal signing ceremony. Each country’s legislature must also approve the agreement.

TRUMP-OFFSHORE DRILLING

Trump admin approves seismic surveys for Atlantic drilling

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is authorizing use of seismic air guns to find oil and gas formations deep underneath the Atlantic Ocean floor, prompting outrage from critics who say the practice can disturb or injure whales, sea turtles and other marine life.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it has authorized permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five companies to use air guns for seismic surveys in the mid-Atlantic, from Delaware to central Florida.

The surveys are part of President Donald Trump’s bid to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The plan has drawn opposition from East Coast lawmakers and governors, who say it could hurt commercial fishing and tourism.

Seismic surveys have not been conducted in the region for at least 30 years.

CLIMATE-POLAND-COAL

Climate conference host Poland plans to open new coal mine

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — U.N. climate conference host Poland is planning to open a new coal mine next year as demand for energy grows.

Poland’s deputy energy minister (Grzegorz Tobiszowski) told a news conference this week that a decision will probably be made next year to build a new coal mine. He gave no details.

A crucial U.N. climate summit opens Sunday in Poland’s mining city of Katowice that should agree on a rule book for curbing global warming, which is partly due to the use of coal.

FRANCE-GAS PRICE PROTESTS

Planned talks between protesters and prime minister collapse

PARIS (AP) — A planned meeting between France’s prime minister and a team of representatives of a nationwide protest movement collapsed Friday amid threats from some demonstrators and after a request to broadcast the talks live was rejected.

The fiasco came on the eve of protests planned Saturday across France. Shopkeepers are barricading their boutiques after a demonstration last weekend in Paris turned violent.

The “yellow jackets” movement, heading into its third week, was triggered by rising fuel taxes but has grown to include an array of demands, becoming a major challenge to President Emmanuel Macron. So far, he has not backed down on scheduled fuel tax increases meant to wean France off fossil fuels.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

Eurozone inflation eases after fall in oil prices

BRUSSELS (AP) — Official figures show that the recent fall in oil prices has pushed down inflation across the 19-country eurozone.

Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, says consumer prices rose 2 percent in the year to November, down from 2.2 percent the previous month.

The main reason behind the fall appears to be a waning boost from energy prices. On an annual basis, they were up by 9.1 percent against 10.7 percent.

In spite of the fall, headline inflation remains more or less where the European Central Bank would like it — its policy aim is just below 2 percent.

But stripping out volatile items like energy, inflation remains weak. The so-called core rate fell to 1 percent from 1.1 percent.

BREXIT

UK leader focused on passing Brexit deal despite uncertainty

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May is urging lawmakers to consider the interests of their constituents when they vote on Brexit, saying that meetings with people outside London have shown her they want Parliament to back the deal she negotiated with the European Union.

May told reporters on her flight to Argentina for the Group of 20 summit on Friday that failure to pass the deal would mean “division and uncertainty.”

She warned that “a divided country is not a country that prospers.”

Her comments came as prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government was trying to frighten people into accepting the deal with dire forecasts about the impact of leaving the EU without an agreement.

Rees-Mogg warned in a Daily Telegraph piece about a “crisis in trust” in British institutions.

JAPAN-NISSAN-GHOSN

Report: Japan court OKs extending custody of ex-Nissan chair

TOKYO (AP) — Kyodo News agency says a Japanese court has approved extending the detention of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn for 10 more days.

The Japanese news agency said Friday that the Tokyo District Court has approved prosecutors’ request to keep Ghosn until Dec. 10.

Ghosn was arrested on Nov. 19 by Tokyo prosecutors on suspicion he falsified his financial reports. His first 10 days in custody expires at the end of Friday.

Kyodo said the court also approved a 10-day detention extension for another former Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, also arrested on suspicion of collaborating in the alleged underreporting of Ghosn’s renumerations.

Brazilian-born Ghosn, sent in by alliance partner Renault SA of France, has led a dramatic turnaround at Nissan over the last two decades, rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy.

HONEYWELL HEADQUARTERS

Honeywell moving headquarters, 750 jobs to North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. is moving its headquarters and 750 jobs from New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk announced the decision Friday in Charlotte a day after North Carolina expanded tax breaks for high-paying jobs. Lawmakers hurried through legislation this week that more than doubles the per-job annual cap on tax breaks to $16,000 to attract corporations that move high-paying jobs to North Carolina.

Honeywell’s decision comes three years after it considered moving its Morris Plains, New Jersey, base but received a $40 million tax credit to stay.

Honeywell said it employed 131,000 people worldwide at the end of last year, about 35 percent of those in the United States. The company makes aerospace, energy efficiency, specialty chemicals, electronic and security products.

AMAZON HQ-NASHVILLE

Nashville police union: Amazon getting ‘corporate welfare’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s police union is blasting the city’s plans to award up to $15 million in incentives for Amazon’s new facility, calling it “corporate welfare.”

A Nashville Fraternal Order of Police news release this week called for support of a resolution to block Amazon’s incentives until city employees receive cost-of-living adjustments.

Nashville has proposed up to a $15 million cash grant based on each job Amazon creates within the next seven years.

Amazon has said its total incentive package in Nashville includes up to $102 million in performance-based incentives based on creating 5,000 jobs over the seven-year timeframe, with an average wage exceeding $150,000.

Mayor David Briley and Gov. Bill Haslam contend that Nashville and the state are getting great deals that will quickly pay themselves off.

FACEBOOK-GEORGE SOROS

Facebook: Sandberg asked staff to research Soros finances

NEW YORK (AP) — After acknowledging that it did opposition research on George Soros, Facebook says No. 2 executive Sheryl Sandberg had asked staff if the billionaire philanthropist had financial motivations against the company.

Friday’s statement is in response a New York Times article that describes Sandberg asking Facebook staff to look into Soros’ financial interests in speaking out against the company in January. Facebook said the company was already researching Soros when Sandberg sent an email asking if Soros had shorted Facebook stock. Shorting a stock is essentially taking a bet it will decline.

Soros’s Open Society Foundations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In a Thanksgiving eve post, outgoing executive Elliot Schrage took the blame for hiring the public relations firm doing opposition research on critics.

INSTAGRAM-CLOSE FRIENDS

To encourage more use, Instagram to allow sharing with fewer

NEW YORK (AP) — A new Instagram feature aims to make it easier to share photos and videos with fewer folks.

The Close Friends feature lets users share Stories — photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours — with people on a special list. The idea is people may feel more comfortable sharing some things with just close friends, rather than all followers.

Regular posts would still appear to everyone, though users have the option of pre-approving followers.

Facebook already lets people narrow audiences for individual posts, but the Facebook-owned Instagram hasn’t.

Social-media companies are learning that bigger audiences can make users reluctant to share more personal stuff. So, they are adding ways to communicate with smaller groups. This’s why Facebook is beefing up its Groups feature, and why messaging apps are popular.

PAYLESS PRANK

Payless pranks VIPs, sells discount shoes at luxury prices

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Payless taught fashion influencers a lesson about shoes by opening a fake store that sold Main Street shoes at Madison Avenue prices.

Payless ShoeSource held a launch party in Los Angeles for the bogus label Palessi and invited the fashionistas to sample the merchandise. Payless posted a video of what happened on Facebook.

The VIP shoppers paid as much as $645 for shoes that sell from $19.99 to $39.99 at Payless. The store rang up $3,000 before Payless came clean with the reveal.

One shopper exclaimed, “Shut up! Are you serious?”

The pranked shoppers got their money back and were allowed to keep the shoes.

Their reactions will be featured in a series of commercials.

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