Update on the latest in business:

By The Associated Press | Posted - Sep 18th, 2019 @ 1:54am



^FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks rise after oil falls, Wall Street advances

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock prices rose today after oil prices fell back and Wall Street advanced.

Markets steadied following a decline Tuesday in crude prices that spiked after a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility. The Saudi oil minister said half of production that was cut already had been restored.

In trading today, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.4% and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 11 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 7 points. Seoul's Kospi rose 0.5% and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.2%.

Taiwan advanced while New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets retreated.

Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,005.70. It is back to within 0.7% of its record set in late July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1% to 27,110.80. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.4% to 8,186.02.

^FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed likely to cut rates a 2nd time as economic threats loom

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is expected to cut interest rates for a second time to help extend the economic expansion in the face of global weakness, President Donald Trump's trade war with China and geopolitical risks such as the attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities.

The modest rate cut the Fed announced in July — its first in more than a decade — left its benchmark rate in a range of 2% to 2.25%. It also raised expectations that it would follow with up to three additional quarter-point rate cuts this year.

Most economists have since scaled back their forecasts for further rate cuts this year to one or two beginning today. A resumption of trade talks and a less antagonistic tone between Washington and Beijing have supported that view.

^TRUMP-FUEL ECONOMY

Federal plan to end state mileage standards draws criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is prepared to revoke California's authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for this afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group is among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.

^OPIOID CRISIS-PURDUE BANKRUPTCY

Purdue Pharma to stay in business as bankruptcy unfolds

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A judge has cleared the way for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to stay in business while it pursues bankruptcy protection and settlement of more than 2,600 lawsuits filed over the opioid crisis.

Purdue lawyers secured permission Tuesday for the company to maintain business as usual. That includes paying employees and vendors, supplying pills to distributors, and keeping current on taxes and insurance.

Purdue Pharma declared bankruptcy late Sunday. Its continued viability is key to the company's settlement offer.

Under the proposal, the family that owns Purdue would turn the company over to a trust controlled by the very entities that are suing it.

About half the states support the offer. It could be worth up to $12 billion over time.

^UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-FOSSIL FUELS

University of California to dump fossil fuel investments

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The University of California is dumping fossil fuel investments from its nearly $84 billion pension and endowment funds, calling them a financial risk.

An opinion article in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times says UC will make its endowment fund "fossil free" by month's end and its pension fund will soon follow. The pension fund covers 320,000 people.

The article was written by the university's treasurer and the chair of its Board of Regents Investment Committee.

A global campaign for universities and other organizations to disinvest has been waged by climate activists for nearly a decade but the article says the decision was made for financial rather than political reasons.

The article says UC is placing bets "that clean energy will fuel the world's future."

^GENERAL MOTORS-UAW STRIKE

Progress reported in contract talks between GM, union

DETROIT (AP) — Faced with weakening sales, a deteriorating global economy and an unpredictable trade war, General Motors and striking auto workers appeared to be making progress Tuesday toward a four-year labor contract.

The two-day walkout by 49,000 workers brought to a standstill more than 50 factories and parts warehouses in the union's first strike against the No. 1 U.S. automaker in over a decade. Workers left factories and formed picket lines shortly after midnight Monday.

A spokesman for the United Auto Workers union says talks have produced progress.

^SOUTH KOREA-JAPAN

South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has gone through with plans to drop Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade in a tit-for-tat reaction to a similar move by Tokyo to downgrade Seoul's trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.

South Korea' trade ministry says Japan's removal from a 29-member "white list" of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect today.

The move comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.

^JAPAN-TRADE

Japan exports sink on weaker trade with China, US

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's exports fell 12% in August from a year earlier as it logged a second straight month of deficits as the toll from trade tensions between its two largest markets deepened.

Exports of machinery, vehicles and chemicals all declined.

Imports also weakened, at the fastest rate in almost three years, suggesting slack demand inside Japan. Shipments to the U.S. slipped 4%, while those to China sank 12%.

Overall, export volumes fell nearly 6% and import volumes also fell by 6% as trade tensions between the U.S. and China and between Japan and South Korea are reverberated across supply chains

A government survey of businesses released today showed sentiment at its worst since the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which devastated a swathe of Japan's northeastern coast.

^BOEING-CONGRESS

House panel asks Boeing CEO to testify about grounded plane

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional committee investigating the grounded 737 Max is asking Boeing Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg to testify at a hearing next month.

The House Transportation Committee said Tuesday that Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., "formally invited" Muilenburg to a hearing on Oct. 30.

The committee also wants to hear from John Hamilton, the chief engineer of Boeing's commercial airplanes division.

Boeing did not immediately say whether Muilenburg or Hamilton would testify.

Last week, DeFazio and another lawmaker asked Muilenburg to let committee staffers interview several Boeing employees.

DeFazio's committee has held three hearings since May focusing on the Max, but no one from Boeing has testified.

The plane has been grounded since shortly after the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people.

^AIRLINE AGENTS-ABUSE

Airline customer-service agents report abusive customers

DALLAS (AP) — Airline customer-service agents say they often get verbal threats from passengers, and sometimes they turn into physical confrontations.

The agents say alcohol, airline fees and long lines can anger passengers.

The Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday that more than half the 104 agents it surveyed reported threats or other harmful action by customers in the past year. About 10% say they were physically assaulted.

Airlines, airports and law enforcement say current laws are adequate to deter confrontations, and most say they have resources to deal with the problem. A 2018 law required airlines to train agents in de-escalating conflicts.

^PORK SLAUGHTER CHANGES

Pork slaughter rules give companies more food safety tasks

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The federal government finalized a new rule for most U.S. pork processing plants Tuesday that allows meatpackers to remove limits on the speed of production lines and place more animal inspection and food safety tasks with company employees. The rule establishes new inspection requirements for market hog slaughterhouses, which process about 97 percent of the U.S. pork sold.

The pork industry says the first significant processing rule changes in 50 years were long overdue.

Advocacy groups for workers, animals, consumers and the environment say the changes will endanger workers, increase the suffering of pigs and threaten the food supply.

^FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT PANEL

Facebook to name first oversight panel members by year-end

BOSTON (AP) — Facebook says it expects to name the first members of a quasi-independent oversight board by year-end. The board will rule on thorny content issues, such as when a Facebook or Instagram post constitutes hate speech.

The panel will be able to make binding rulings on whether posts or ads violate the company's standards.

Critics call the oversight board a bid by Facebook to forestall regulation or even an eventual breakup. The company faces antitrust investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, Congress and a group of state attorneys general.

Company officials say the board will eventually comprise 40 members, who will decide a few dozen cases a year. It will at first hear only cases initiated by Facebook. Next year, they say, it will begin hearing appeals initiated by users.

^FREEZER ASSAULTS

California store paying $1.2M to settle sex-assault claims

REDDING, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California store as agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle claims that a supervisor sexually assaulted employees in a walk-in freezer.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing announced a settlement Tuesday with 99 Cents Only Stores.

The agency began investigating after two former employees said they were assaulted and harassed by an assistant manager at a store in Redding.

The employees also alleged that they had their hours reduced in retaliation after reporting the harassment.

That led the agency to file claims against the store chain. In addition to paying the employees and the agency, the store chain agreed to provide managers with extra training and hire an independent monitor to track compliance with the settlement agreement for three years.

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