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Update on the latest in business:

March 20, 2019


Asian markets mixed as investors look ahead to Fed report

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia today ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy statement. Fresh news on China-U.S. trade talks raised spirits, helping Chinese benchmarks to trim early losses.

The Shanghai Composite was flat and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent while the S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was virtually unchanged. Shares were higher in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia but fell in Singapore.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1 percent to 25,887.38. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.1 percent to 7,723.95, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 0.6 percent, to 1,554.99.

More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Major indexes in Europe finished higher.


Fed is likely to stay ‘patient’ and project fewer rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is expected to end its latest policy meeting today by refining its new overarching message that it plans to be “patient” about any further interest rate hikes.

The Fed is set to keep its key short-term rate in a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, still low by historical standards. And most analysts think the policymakers will scale back their projection of rate hikes this year from two to one or perhaps even none.

The central bank’s theme of patience reflects its calming response since the start of the year to slow growth at home and abroad, a nervous stock market and persistently mild inflation. The Fed executed a pivot when it met in January by signaling that it no longer expected to raise rates soon.


Disney closes $71B deal for Fox entertainment assets

UNDATED (AP) — Disney has closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, putting “Cinderella,” ″The Simpsons,” ″Star Wars” and “Spider-Man” under one corporate roof.

The deal is likely to shake up the media landscape. Among other things, it paves the way for Disney to launch its streaming service, Disney Plus, due out later this year.

By buying the studios behind “The Simpsons” and X-Men, Disney aims to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention - and dollars.

Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, “Star Wars,” Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox’s productions also include “The Americans,” ″This Is Us” and “Modern Family.”


Nominee to lead FAA will face challenge on Boeing oversight

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has picked a former Delta Air Lines executive to lead the Federal Aviation Administration as the regulator deals with questions about its approval of a Boeing airliner involved in two deadly crashes within five months.

The White House said Tuesday that Trump will nominate Stephen Dickson to head the FAA. The agency has been led by an acting administrator since January 2018.

Separately, the Transportation Department confirmed that its watchdog agency will examine how the FAA certified the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the now-grounded plane involved in two fatal accidents within five months.

The FAA had stood by the safety of the plane up until last Wednesday, despite other countries grounding it.


NYC official: Kushner firm flouted rules, endangered tenants

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City councilman investigating the Kushner family real estate company says it is putting tenants in danger by allowing several of its building to avoid safety inspections.

New York Oversight Committee Chair Ritchie Torres said Tuesday that his probe shows the firm once run by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been renting apartments to hundreds of tenants in nine buildings with expired certificates of occupancy. The certificates are issued by city regulators to ensure there is no illegal construction or fire hazards.

The regulator, the Buildings Department, has called the findings “paperwork lapses” and blasted the findings as “pure grandstanding.”

The Kushner Cos. says it is working with regulators to correct “various issues” inherited from previous landlords.


APNewsBreak: Coal tax cut endangers federal black lung fund

COEBURN, Va. (AP) — A cut in the tax on coal is endangering a federal fund that helps coal miners being treated for black lung disease.

Funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut sharply Jan. 1 and never restored by Congress, potentially saving coal operators hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But with cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won’t be enough money to fully cover the fund’s benefit payments.

President Donald Trump, who vowed to save the coal industry during the 2016 campaign, has repeatedly praised miners. But Trump made no mention of restoring the 2018 tax rate in his proposed budget released in mid-March. The White House said Tuesday that the administration supports the mining industry “by prioritizing deregulation and less Washington interference.”


No timetable for end to fire at Texas chemical facility

HOUSTON (AP) — Officials say that they’re not sure when a fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals storage facility will burn itself out, but they are confident that the air quality is safe, despite the huge plume of smoke coming from the blaze.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a news conference that monitors show the levels of contaminants in the air are safe and that the plume coming from the site in Deer Park, southeast of Houston, is reaching at least 4,000 feet up and staying high enough so that the air quality at ground level is safe.

Hidalgo, the county’s top administrator, said it’s understandable why people would be scared. Vulnerable groups and pregnant women are urged to be cautious.

Officials say the fire that began Sunday at the Intercontinental Terminals Company and remained intense enough Tuesday to create its own micro weather system, causing shifting winds in the area.


San Francisco floats ban on e-cigarettes pending US review

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco is trying to crack down on electronic cigarettes that critics say aggressively target kids.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he, Chicago and New York sent a joint letter demanding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluate the effect of e-cigarettes on public health. Herrera said that the review should have been done before e-cigarettes entered the market but that the federal agency has given companies until August 2022 to submit applications for the evaluation.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and can harm adolescent brains that are still developing. In the U.S., youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes. Manufacturers were supposed to submit most products for review by August 2018, but FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in 2017 delayed the deadline until 2022.


Google to launch video-game streaming platform Stadia

NEW YORK (AP) — Google says it plans to launch a video-game streaming platform called Stadia, positioning itself to take on the traditional video-game business.

The platform lets gamers playing Stadia jump across devices operating on Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS, such as Pixel phones and Chromebooks. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., says playing video games will be as simple as pressing a “Play Now” button, without anything to download. There is a dedicated Stadia controller that is optional.

No launch date or pricing was announced but the company says Stadia will be available in 2019 in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and parts of Europe. Video game streaming typically requires a strong connection and more computing power than simply streaming video. Google says it is leveraging its data centers to power the system.