Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks tumble, oil prices surge

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are broadly lower in midday trading on Wall Street, though the major indexes have moved off their earlier lows.

Financial stocks fell the most as investors bought up U.S. government bonds, sending their yields lower. Technology stocks, airlines and other companies that rely on consumer spending also took heavy losses as the market pulled back from record highs.

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Energy stocks gained the most as the price of U.S. oil headed higher. Defense contractors also notched gains.

Crude oil prices saw the largest one-day spike since a September attack on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia after the U.S. killed Iran’s top general in a drone strike. The international benchmark for crude at one point jumped almost 4% per barrel in London.

Benchmark U.S. crude was up $1.28, or 2.1%, at midday to $62.46 per barrel. It had been up 3.6% earlier in the day.

If the rise in oil prices is sustained, it could push the cost of gasoline, heating fuel and electricity higher, potentially dragging on the global economy at a time when it is already slowing.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

US manufacturing activity falls to lowest level in decade

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing activity fell to the lowest level in more than a decade, as the sector was hurt by weakening demand and last year’s global economic slowdown.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, said Friday that its manufacturing index dropped to 47.2 in December, from 48.1 in November. Last month’s level was the lowest since June 2009, when the U.S. economy was at the tail end of the Great Recession.

Any reading below 50 signals contraction — and the index has been below that crucial level since August. The new orders, production and employment components of the index were all negative. But other components of the index — such as a jump in prices — suggest that the setback for manufacturing has bottomed out, said Tim Fiore, chair of ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

US construction spending up 0.6% in November, led by housing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose a solid 0.6% in November as gains in home building and government projects offset weakness in nonresidential construction.

It was the fifth consecutive monthly gain and a sharp improvement from a tiny 0.1% October advance, according to a Commerce Department report Friday. The acceleration was led by a 1.9% rise in home construction which was more than double the 0.7% October increase.

Spending on government projects rose 0.9% in November as both activity at the federal level and state and local levels increased.

Spending on private sector nonresidential projects fell 1.2%, the biggest drop since April, reflecting widespread weakness with hotel construction down 3.8% and manufacturing down 2.4%.

TESLA-DELIVERIES

Tesla 2019 sales hit goals, rise over 50% from previous year

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla’s global deliveries rose more than 50% last year, meaning the company surpassed the low end of its sales goals for 2019.

The announcement Friday pushed Tesla’s shares up more than 4% to a record high of $449.37. The stock hit a record last week in anticipation of strong sales numbers.

The electric car maker delivered a record of about 112,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter and about 367,500 for the full year.

Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, had earlier projected deliveries of between 360,000 and 400,000 units worldwide.

The lower-cost Model 3 accounted for 83% of the company’s fourth-quarter sales at 92,550. The higher priced Model S Sedan and Model X large SUV made up the rest.

TESLA CRASHES

3 crashes, 3 deaths raise questions about Tesla’s Autopilot

DETROIT (AP) — Three crashes involving Teslas that killed three people have increased scrutiny of the company’s Autopilot driving system just months before CEO Elon Musk has planned to put fully self-driving cars on the streets.

On Sunday, a Tesla Model S sedan left a freeway in Gardena, California, at a high speed, ran a red light and struck a Honda Civic, killing two people inside, police said. On the same day, a Tesla Model 3 hit a parked firetruck on an Indiana freeway, killing a passenger in the Tesla. And on Dec. 7, yet another Model 3 struck a police cruiser on a Connecticut highway, though no one was hurt.

The special crash investigation unit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the California crash. The agency hasn’t decided whether its special-crash unit will review the crash that occurred Sunday near Terre Haute, Indiana. In both cases, authorities have yet to determine whether Tesla’s Autopilot system was being used.

NHTSA also is investigating the Connecticut crash, in which the driver told police that the car was operating on Autopilot, a Tesla system designed to keep a car in its lane and a safe distance from other vehicles.

Tesla has said repeatedly that its Autopilot system is designed only to assist drivers, who must still pay attention and be ready to intervene at all times. The company contends that Teslas with Autopilot are safer than vehicles without it, but cautions that the system does not prevent all crashes.

CARLOS GHOSN

Turkish company says jets used illegally in Ghosn escape

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish airline company says its jets were used illegally in Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s (gohnz) escape from Japan. Istanbul-based MNG Jet said an employee falsified records and that Ghosn’s name did not appear on any documentation related to the flights.

Ghosn earlier this week jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than face trial on financial misconduct charges in a dramatic escape that has confounded and embarrassed authorities.

How he was able to flee Japan, avoiding the tight surveillance he was under while free on bail, is still a mystery, though Lebanese authorities have said he entered the country legally on a French passport.

Ghosn’s daring escape spanned three continents and involved private planes, multiple passports and international intrigue. Turkey detained seven people Thursday as part of an investigation into how he passed through the country, and they were appearing in court Friday. The private DHA news agency reported that those detained were four pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers.

MNG Jet said Friday it had filed a criminal complaint in Turkey concerning the illegal use of its jet charter services.

BRITAIN-ETHICAL VEGANS

Big win for ‘ethical vegans’ in UK work tribunal

LONDON (AP) — British workers who practice “ethical veganism” to protect animals secured a big win in an employment tribunal when a judge ruled Friday that they are entitled to legal protection from job discrimination.

The judge said that because ethical veganism is a philosophical belief, its adherents are covered by the U.K.’s anti-discrimination law, the 2010 Equality Act.

The ruling came in a claim brought by a man who said he was fired after raising questions about pension fund investments in companies that test products on animals.

The employee, Jordi Casamitjana, alleged that his dismissal from the League Against Cruel Sports, a British charity that works against animals being abused or killed for sport, resulted from his strong beliefs. The charity did not contest at the hearing whether ethical vegans deserved workplace protections.

Ethical vegans go beyond eating a plant-based diet to try to exclude any form of what they believe is animal exploitation, including not wearing wool or leather clothes.

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