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Update on the latest in business:

May 8, 2018

WALL STREET

Stocks lower ahead of Trump announcement on Iran deal

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fell in midday trading as losses in health care, utilities and other sectors outweighed gains in banks and industrial companies.

Energy stocks also declined as crude oil prices slumped more than 2 percent ahead of an afternoon announcement by the White House on whether the U.S. will pull out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

Several companies, including Airbus, Boeing and Total, have struck business deals in Iran and could be looking for exemptions if U.S. sanctions are imposed again.

JOB OPENINGS

US employers post record-high 6.6 million open jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers advertised 6.6 million open jobs in March, the most on records dating back to December 2000, suggesting businesses want to staff up to meet strong demand.

The Labor Department says that job openings rose 7.8 percent in March from 6.1 million in February. Yet overall hiring slipped, while quits increased.

The number of open jobs in March matched the number of unemployed. That’s historically unusual: Typically there are more unemployed than openings. Employers are struggling to fill jobs from a dwindling supply of those out of work. That should be pushing up wages, yet paychecks are growing at only a modest pace.

The number of people quitting rose 4.2 percent to 3.3 million, barely ahead of December’s total and the highest since January 2001.

IRELAND-FACEBOOK-ABORTION

Facebook bans foreign ads in Ireland abortion referendum

LONDON (AP) — Facebook says it’s banning foreign advertisements related to Ireland’s abortion referendum amid concerns that North American groups are trying to influence the campaign.

Irish voters will decide May 25 whether to repeal a constitutional ban on abortion — a referendum that has drawn international attention.

Ireland bars political donations from abroad, but the law does not apply to social media advertising. U.S.-based anti-abortion groups are among those who have bought online ads in Ireland during the campaign.

Facebook says starting Tuesday it will “begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland.”

Facebook has tried to improve its transparency after revelations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested users’ data to micro-target political ads to select groups during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

WALMART-OPIOIDS

Walmart to add policy aimed at curbing opioid abuse

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Walmart is taking steps aimed at curbing opioid abuse and misuse.

The retail giant announced on Monday that Walmart and Sam’s Club will restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply within the next 60 days. It also will follow laws in states that require acute opioid prescriptions for less than seven days.

Walmart says the policy aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for opioid use.

Walmart and Sam’s Club also will require e-prescriptions for controlled substances beginning Jan 1, 2020. The company says e-prescriptions can’t be altered or copied and are less prone to errors.

Federal figures show nearly 12 million people misused opioids in 2016.

VALEANT-NAME CHANGE

Valeant, a new business model -- and now, a new name

NEW YORK (AP) — Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which came under heavy scrutiny for acquiring the rights to drugs and then drastically raising their prices, is changing its name.

The Canadian company said Tuesday that it will now be called Bausch Health Companies.

CEO Joseph Papa said in a prepared statement that the name change is “a major step forward” in the company’s transformation.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. fell into the crosshairs of Washington after an extended acquisition spree of other companies, followed by triple-digit price hikes on critical heart drugs and other medicines.

Its spate of acquisitions and soaring revenue propelled its stock through the roof, but it ran up a staggering $30 billion in debt — roughly three times its annual revenue.

Former CEO Michael Pearson, who formulated the strategy, was ousted in 2016.

GERMANY-AUDI-DIESEL

VW’s Audi unit reports new diesel software irregularities

BERLIN (AP) — Volkswagen’s Audi unit says it has discovered new engine software irregularities in some of its diesel models and has halted deliveries of those cars to dealers.

Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority said Tuesday that it will question the automaker about the issue. Audi said it was discovered “in the context of internal investigations of the diesel issue,” the scandal over diesel emissions-cheating that erupted at Volkswagen in 2015.

The company says the V6 engines involved are used in Audi’s A6 and A7 models of the C7 generation, which are currently being phased out. It says deliveries of the affected cars were stopped immediately and customers who have ordered one were notified.

Audi says some 60,000 cars worldwide are likely to be affected, none of them in the United States.

AMAZON-SEATTLE TAX

Stakes high as Seattle considers business tax for homeless

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s latest tax proposal to combat homelessness takes aim at large businesses such as Amazon that have helped drive Seattle’s economic boom.

The measure has sparked intense debate over who should pay to solve the housing crisis exacerbated by that growth.

The City Council is proposing a tax on employee-hours to raise about $75 million a year for affordable housing and homelessness services.

Nearly 600 large employers making at least $20 million in gross revenue would pay about $500 a year per worker.

Supporters insist Amazon and others that have benefited from Seattle’s prosperity and contributed to growing income inequality should pay.

Businesses and others say it will have ripple effects and say the city should prioritize its spending.

Amazon raised the stakes last week when it halted construction planning on a 17-story tower as it awaits a tax vote.

NASCAR’S FUTURE

AP source: NASCAR memo says France family is ‘dedicated’ to the sport

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR President Brent Dewar has told employees the France family “remains dedicated to the long term growth of our sport.”

The memo was sent to employees on Tuesday, one day after a media report said the France family was exploring the sale of its stake in the nation’s top auto racing series. The Associated Press received a copy of the memo from a person who shared it on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

Dewar wrote in the memo that NASCAR does not comment on “industry rumors” but did not specifically address a possible deal by the France family, which holds the majority of NASCAR stock.

NASCAR has struggled with recent ratings and attendance declines and several big-name sponsors have scaled back or pulled out.

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