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Update on the latest business

December 20, 2018

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks tumble again

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are dropping again on Wall Street, a day after another big plunge rocked markets around the world.

Major indexes fell more than 1 percent in midday trading Thursday, bringing their losses over the previous six days to about 6 percent. The benchmark S&P 500 index is now almost 16 percent below the peak it reached in late September.

After steady gains through the spring and summer, stocks have slumped in the fall as investors worry that global economic growth is cooling off.

Microsoft and Amazon each fell 3.4 percent.

MNUCHIN-FEDERAL RESERVE

Mnuchin says market’s negative reaction to Fed ‘overblown’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says that the negative market reaction following the Federal Reserve’s rate hike this week was “completely overblown.”

Mnuchin says the market overreacted, with computerized program trading taking over and driving stock prices down further. In a Fox Business interview Thursday, Mnuchin says that he believed markets were disappointed in Powell’s comments at a news conference following the meeting.

The Fed boosted its key policy rate for a fourth time this year but lowered its projections for further rate hikes from three to just two. However, this failed to calm investors’ concerns that the central bank is not taking into account warning signs that the economy is slowing.

ADOBE-ONLINE SALES

In run-up to Christmas, online sales continue to be strong

NEW YORK (AP) — In the run-up to Christmas, online shopping continues to be strong.

Online sales are up nearly 18 percent to $110.6 billion from Nov. 1 through Wednesday, compared to the year-ago period, says Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending.

Adobe expects the service allowing online shoppers to pick up at physical stores to be robust on Saturday as shoppers look for other alternatives to avoid long lines. The Saturday before Christmas is considered the second busiest day for store traffic after Black Friday, according to ShopperTrak, a technology firm. For the season to date, the buy online-pick up service is up 47 percent compared to the year ago-period, Adobe says.

Adobe predicts online sales for the two-month period will reach at least $126 billion, surpassing its original forecast of $124.1 billion.

CHINA-ESPIONAGE

Justice Department levies charges against 2 Chinese hackers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is charging two Chinese citizens with carrying out an extensive hacking campaign to steal data from U.S. companies.

An indictment was unsealed Thursday against Zhu Hua and Zhang Shillong. Prosecutors say they were acting on behalf of China’s main intelligence agency.

Court papers filed in Manhattan federal court allege the hackers were able to breach the computers of more than 45 entities in 12 states. The victims were in a variety of industries from aviation and space to pharmaceutical technology.

Prosecutors charge that the hackers were able to steal “hundreds of gigabytes” of data. Court papers say they hacked computer service providers to gain access to the networks of businesses and governments in order to steal intellectual property and business data.

The British government is also accusing China of conducting a “widespread and significant” campaign of cyberespionage against the U.K. and its allies.

The Foreign Office says a group known as APT 10, acting on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, carried out “a malicious cyber campaign targeting intellectual property and sensitive commercial data in Europe, Asia and the U.S.”

It says the group “almost certainly continues to target a range of global companies, seeking to gain access to commercial secrets.”

GERMANY-APPLE-QUALCOMM

Court ruling could see iPhones sales halted in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — A court in Germany has sided with chipmaker Qualcomm in a patent dispute with Apple that could see sales of older iPhone models halted.

The Munich regional court ruled Thursday that Apple and its subsidiaries had breached a European patent held by San Diego-based Qualcomm.

The court said in a statement that this effectively means Apple is “banned from offering or distributing unlicensed” devices including the iPhone 7, iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The ‘plus’ variants of the iPhones 7 and 8 are also affected.

The ruling can be appealed, but judges said that if Qualcomm wants the verdict enforced in the meantime, it needs to deposit a security of about 1.34 billion euros ($1.53 billion).

The disputed patent regulates the amount of energy provided to the phones’ telecom chips.

BRITAIN-GATWICK AIRPORT-DRONES

Troops may be sent to hunt Gatwick drones

LONDON (AP) — British troops may be sent in to help hunt drones that have shut down Gatwick Airport.

Police have been searching the area around the airport for operators of drones spotted over the airport on Wednesday evening.

Britain’s second-busiest airport remains shut more than 18 hours later, and more than 100,000 travelers have been disrupted. European air-navigation agency Eurocontrol says the airport is not due to reopen until at least 8 p.m. (3 p.m. EST) on Thursday.

The Ministry of Defense says “there are ongoing discussions with the police about any military capability that could be provided to assist with their operation.”

A body that represents British air traffic controllers says regulators have repeatedly ignored its calls for tougher measures against drones near aircraft.

The Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers says it has urged geofencing — the use of software to stop drones flying into restricted airspace — and other counter-drone measures, but its calls “have been repeatedly dismissed by regulatory bodies.”

BREXIT

Automakers group warns of no-deal Brexit danger

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s main lobby group for the automotive industry has warned of a “catastrophe” if the country crashes out of the European Union without a deal.

In a statement, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said a “no-deal” Brexit “must be taken off the table or risk destroying the automotive industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports.”

Parliament breaks up Thursday for a 17-day Christmas recess, with no decision on whether to approve the government’s divorce deal with the European Union.

Both Britain and the EU ramped up their “no-deal” preparations this week amid a political impasse in the British Parliament. Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed a vote on her Brexit deal with the EU until mid-January because she knew she didn’t command a majority of lawmakers.

Should Britain crash out of the EU on March 29 without a deal, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes says the industry “would face immediate delivery shortages, additional costs and uncertainty, which will seriously damage our sector.”

RAM PICKUP INVESTIGATION

US probes steering failure complaints in some Ram pickups

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating complaints that the steering can fail on some Ram pickup trucks.

The investigation covers about 200,000 Ram 2500s from the 2015 and 2016 model years.

The government agency said Thursday that it has two complaints that the linkage between the steering box to the front wheels can come apart.

One owner complained that the problem happened while rounding a curve at 65 to 70 mph. The driver lost steering and the truck went off the right side of the road, hitting ditches before stopping on the shoulder. One injury was reported.

In both cases the problem was traced to a mechanism used to align the steering system.

Investigators will determine how often the problem happens and whether a recall is needed.

UBER-AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

Uber resumes autonomous vehicle tests in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Uber is resuming autonomous vehicle tests in an area near downtown Pittsburgh.

The restart Thursday comes just over nine months after one of its autonomous cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Testing has been suspended since the accident in March.

The ride-hailing company received permission to resume testing from the Pennsylvania Transportation Department on Monday. It plans to start with a few cars in an area near its offices.

Uber has pledged to have two human backup drivers and take other safety precautions in each Volvo SUV. It also will stay in an area where speed limits on most roads are 25 mph.

Uber also plans to resume human-controlled tests in Toronto and San Francisco. It has no immediate plan to resume tests in Arizona.

ALTRIA-JUUL

Altria spending $12.8B for a stake in e-vapor company JUUL

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Altria is spending $12.8 billion for a stake in e-vapor company JUUL as one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies tries to offset declining cigarette use.

Altria Group Inc. said Thursday that its investment puts the value of JUUL Labs Inc. at $38 billion.

JUUL will remain a fully independent company and have access to Altria’s infrastructure and services.

TWITTER-ABUSE

Human rights group report gains traction, Twitter hammered

NEW YORK (AP) — A report on Twitter by the human rights group Amnesty International is gaining traction and its shares are getting punished.

The report, released earlier this week, said the social media platform has permitted a toxic online culture that allows pervasive abuse of women.

While reports from Amnesty International are not regular reading on Wall Street, the Citron Research newsletter is. On Thursday, Citron cited the report and called Twitter the “Harvey Weinstein” of social media.

Amnesty and data firm Element AI scoured through 288,000 tweets sent to almost 800 women politicians and journalists in 2017. Element calculated that 1.1 million abusive or problematic tweets were sent to those women last year, or, Amnesty says, about one every 30 seconds.

Twitter shares were down 13 percent in midday trading.

FACEBOOK-PROTECTING YOUR DATA

What can you do to protect your data on Facebook?

ATLANTA (AP) — Facebook is under fire again, accused of sharing private messages and other user information with other companies.

The latest report from The New York Times is alarming even in light of previous disclosures about the social network’s practices.

Is there anything users can do to protect their data without walking away from Facebook altogether?

Experts say there is not much you can do about information that is already in Facebook’s hands. But you can at least find out what the company has on you, and you can take steps to limit how much more it can gather from here on in. Reviewing the terms of service and limiting your presence on the social media site are two ways to help protect yourself.