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Update on the latest in business:

February 14, 2019


Asian shares waver as China, US begin trade negotiations

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian stocks are mixed in narrow trading today as China and the U.S. kick off two days of trade negotiations in Beijing. Regional indexes have advanced for three straight days on hopes that both sides will make headway on big issues like Beijing’s technology policy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.2 percent lower. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent while the Kospi in South Korea rebounded 1.1 percent. The Shanghai Composite index inched 0.1 percent higher. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 finished almost flat.

Yesterday on Wall Street, stocks edged higher on hopes that negotiators would come close to a deal after trade talks. Energy companies, retailers and industrial stocks climbed. The S&P 500 added 0.3 percent to 2,753.03 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.5 percent to 25,543.27. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 percent to 7,420.38. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained 0.3 percent to 1,542.94.


Major business and economic reports scheduled for release today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department releases January’s Producer Price Index today.

Also, Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates.


China, US start trade talks ahead of tariff deadline

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. and Chinese negotiators have begun trade talks President Donald Trump says will help decide whether he postpones a planned tariff increase on $200 billion of imports from China.

Businesspeople and economists say the two days of talks that started today are unlikely to resolve a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions. They say Chinese negotiators are trying to persuade Trump they are making enough progress to postpone the March 2 duty increase.

The chief U.S. envoy, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, shook hands at the start of the meeting at a government guesthouse but said nothing to reporters.

Trump agreed in December to postpone further punitive duties on Chinese goods while the two sides negotiate. That suspension expires March 1.


Emirates announces $21.4 billion-valued deal with Airbus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The long-haul carrier Emirates says it has struck a deal valued at $21.4 billion with Airbus, while saying it is sad to see the end of production of the double-decker A380 jetliner.

Emirates made the announcement today at the same time that Airbus in Toulouse, France announced the end of the iconic airliner’s production.

The Dubai government-owned airline, based out of the world’s busiest airport for international travel, had the A380 as the backbone of its fleet.

Emirates says it will receive 14 more A380s until the end of 2021, taking its total A380 orders to 123. The airline will purchase 40 A330-900 aircraft and 30 A350-900s.


Airbus to stop making struggling A380 superjumbo in 2021

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — European aviation giant Airbus says it will stop making its superjumbo A380 in 2021 after struggling to sell the world’s biggest passenger jet.

Airbus said in a statement Thursday that Emirates is cutting back its orders for the plane and as a result “we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.”

The decision is a boon for rival Boeing and a blow for Airbus. Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionize air travel as more people take to the skies.

Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008 and seat more than 500 passengers.


Japan’s economy rebounded in final quarter of 2018

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economic growth for the last three months of 2018 rebounded from a slump the previous quarter, growing at an annual rate of 1.4 percent.

The preliminary data the Cabinet Office released today show recovery in various categories, including exports, consumer demand, investments and government spending.

Gross domestic product, or the total value of a nation’s goods and services, had contracted during the July-September quarter.

The data show growth remains weaker than the pace of the shrinking in July-September, which was at an annual rate of 2.6 percent.

Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said risks remain for the economy, such as trade friction with the U.S. in the auto sector, as well as a planned tax raise for this year.


Google to invest $13 billion in new US offices, data centers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google says it will invest more than $13 billion in building data centers and offices across the U.S in 2019.

The Mountain View, California-based company emphasized its new locations in the Midwest and South in a blog post announcing the investment. Analyst Scott Kessler of CFRA Research says an increased presence in non-coastal parts of the country might help the company curry favor with federal legislators and officials.

Congress has paid more attention to Google and other big tech companies in the past year; several lawmakers have introduced privacy bills that would regulate the companies.

Google is also expanding along the coasts, including in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.

The company will have a physical presence in 24 states by the end of the year.


California governor wants users to profit from online data

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state’s consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make off the personal data they collect.

The new governor provided no details about the so-called data dividend that he mentioned in his State of the State address Tuesday. The Democrat only said he’s asked aides to develop a proposal.

Newsom’s office could provide no other information, including whether he’s suggesting a tax on tech companies or an individual refund to their customers.

Common Sense Media helped pass California’s nation-leading digital privacy law last year and plans to propose legislation in coming weeks that would reflect Newsom’s proposal.

California-based Facebook and Google aren’t commenting on the idea.


Ex-Apple lawyer accused of profiting from confidential info

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — U.S. authorities are accusing a former Apple attorney of brazenly breaking insider trading rules that he helped draft, while profiting from stock sales and investments that he made after receiving confidential information about the company’s finances.

The allegations against Gene Levoff emerged in criminal and civil complaints filed Wednesday in a New Jersey federal court.

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission estimated Levoff realized gains and avoided losses totaling more than $600,000 in illegal trades periodically made from 2011 to 2016. Levoff was a top attorney in Apple’s corporate law department from 2008 until the company fired him last September.

Levoff’s lawyer says his client plans to fight the allegations.

Apple says it conducted its own investigation after being alerted by authorities last summer.


Tech mogul, Marsy’s Law advocate faces drug charges in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP )— A billionaire California tech mogul who funds “Marsy’s Law” crime victim rights campaigns nationwide was hit Wednesday with felony drug charges following his arrest last summer in a Las Vegas hotel suite with what police said were briefcases full of drugs.

Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III and a woman who was with him, Ashley Fargo, face five drug trafficking and two drug possession charges in a criminal complaint filed in state court in Las Vegas.

Nichols stepped down as president and CEO of the company in 2003.


Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.

At a hearing by a House committee on Wednesday, the two executives defended the deal, which would combine the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and create a behemoth about the size of industry giants Verizon and AT&T.

Committee members from both parties fretted about the potential impact of a T-Mobile-Sprint merger on rural customers and carriers in rural areas that strike deals with major wireless companies.

Congress doesn’t have authority to rule on the merger, but lawmakers can ask pointed questions and raise concerns to regulators who are reviewing it.

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere and Marcelo Claure, Sprint Corp.’s executive chairman, defended the merger and said American consumers would get more and pay less.


Honda says it is recalling 437K vehicles for fuel-pump issue

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — Honda says it is recalling 437,000 vehicles in the U.S. to fix a fuel-pump issue.

The recall covers model-year 2016-2018 Acura MDXs, 2015-2019 Acura TLX V6s and 2015-2017 Honda Accord V6s.

The automaker says the vehicles’ software needs to be updated, and in some cases, have their fuel pumps replaced.

That’s because sodium particulates in some U.S. gasoline can stick to internal components in the fuel pumps, reducing the pumps’ performance. In hot weather, this could limit the vehicle’s acceleration or cause its engine to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

Honda says it has received no reports of crashes or injuries because of the issue.

Owners will be notified by letter in late March, after which they are advised to take the vehicles to authorized dealers.


Panera to close last of its pay-what-you-can cafes

BOSTON (AP) — Panera Bread is closing the last of its experimental cafes that let customers pay what they wished.

The company says its Panera Cares location in Boston will close Friday after six years. Panera says it’s helping employees find jobs at other locations.

Panera opened its first Panera Cares restaurant in Clayton, Missouri, in 2010. It later opened similar stores in Chicago; Dearborn, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; and Boston. All eventually closed.

In a statement, Panera said the stores were no longer viable.

The locations weren’t as profitable as regular Panera cafes. In 2013, the company said Panera Cares stores made 70 to 80 percent of the revenue that traditional stores did.

A Luxembourg-based investment firm, JAB Holding Co., bought Panera in 2017.


EPA sets toxins response plan amid criticism from lawmakers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says it is moving forward with a response to a class of long-lasting chemical contaminants amid criticism from members of Congress and environmentalists that it has not moved aggressively enough to regulate them.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is announcing the plan Thursday in Philadelphia.

Wheeler tells ABC News Live the chemicals, commonly called PFAS, are “a very important threat.”

Wheeler says EPA is still on a track that could lead to new safety thresholds, but in the interview, he did not commit to setting standards.

The chemicals are found in a range of consumer products and have seeped into water supplies around the country.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers pressed Wheeler on PFAS during confirmation hearings.

Environmentalists are calling the EPA action a “plan to plan.”


Source of fall romaine outbreak a mystery, US regulators say

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. food regulators say they weren’t able to identify a contamination source for a food poisoning outbreak that prompted them to warn people to avoid romaine lettuce this fall.

The Food and Drug Administration says it wasn’t able to determine how a water reservoir on a Santa Barbara County, California, farm became contaminated with E. coli. It also says the water reservoir doesn’t explain how lettuce from other farms may have been contaminated.

The FDA says leafy greens’ short shelf-life makes it difficult to investigate such outbreaks. It notes food safety has been a longstanding issue with leafy greens, and that the industry should review operations to minimize risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is always risk of foodborne illness when eating raw produce.

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