Update on the latest in business:


Asian stocks skid after weak China factory readings

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets tumbled Wednesday as 2019 trading began, after surveys showed Chinese manufacturing weakening.

Surveys by China’s government and a major business magazine showed activity weakened in December as global and domestic demand cooled. Forecasters said that could send shockwaves through Asian economies that supply Chinese factories with raw materials and components. Chinese export growth has held up as producers rushed to fill orders before possible new U.S. tariff hikes in Washington’s trade battle with Beijing, but forecasters said that effect may be fading.


The dollar edged down against the yen and advanced against the euro.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to $45.00 per barrel.


Trump to meet with congressional leaders about shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday invited congressional leaders to a White House briefing on border security as the partial government shutdown dragged on over funding for a border wall, with Trump tweeting, “Let’s make a deal?”

The briefing will happen at 3 p.m. EST Wednesday, the day before the Democrats take control of the House, but the exact agenda wasn’t immediately clear, according to a person with knowledge of the briefing who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Republican leaders will be attending. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the top incoming House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, are planning to be at the briefing, according to aides. Retiring Speaker Paul Ryan will not.

Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to take over as House speaker, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer will also be in attendance.


Dakota Access pipeline developer slow to replace some trees

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline missed a year-end deadline to plant thousands of trees along the pipeline corridor in North Dakota, but the company said it was still complying with a settlement of allegations it violated state rules during construction.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which built the $3.8 billion pipeline that’s now moving North Dakota oil to Illinois, is falling back on a provision of the September 2017 agreement. The provision provides more time should the company run into problems providing 20,000 trees to county soil conservation districts along the pipeline’s 359-mile (578-kilometer) route across North Dakota.


Washington bans anyone under 21 from buying assault rifles

SEATTLE (AP) — Firearms dealers in Spokane, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, are among those fighting a new law in Washington state that bans anyone under 21 from buying a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Gun-rights advocates are also part of the court challenge of a sweeping firearms measure passed by voters in November.

The ballot initiative seeks to curb gun violence by toughening background checks for people buying assault rifles, increasing the age limit to buy those firearms and requiring the safe storage of all guns. Only the age-limit portion of the measure went into effect Tuesday. the rest becomes law on July 1.

The federal lawsuit says the measure violates the Second and 14th amendments of the Constitution as well as gun sellers’ rights under the Commerce Clause.


Cash-loving Germans face strike by security van drivers

BERLIN (AP) — Germans hoping to do some New Year’s shopping may find themselves without the cash to do so amid a strike by security van drivers.

The ver.di union said Tuesday it’s urging 12,000 employees of firms that distribute cash to banks and stores to walk out on Jan. 2, the first regular day of business in Germany in 2019.

Cash remains the preferred method to buy many items in Germany and cards are often rejected in smaller stores and restaurants.

The union wants hourly pay to rise 1.50 euros ($1.72) or 250 euros ($289) a month, and the pay gap between workers in eastern Germany and western Germany closed by 2021.


Plunge in oil prices threatens Iraq’s postwar recovery

BAGHDAD (AP) — The latest plunge in oil prices has dealt a heavy blow to Iraq’s stagnating economy, threatening the new government’s ability to rebuild after the war with the Islamic State group and provide basic services to areas roiled by recent protests.

Brent crude oil, used to price international purchases, briefly rose above $85 a barrel in October but has since plummeted to less than $55 — a nightmare for a country like Iraq that derives 95 percent of its revenue from oil exports.

A $111.9 billion draft budget sent to parliament in October projects crude exports of 3.8 million barrels per day to be sold at $56 per barrel. The bill, which includes a 23 percent increase in spending, would leave a deficit of $22.8 billion.

But that won’t even begin to address the colossal challenge of reconstruction after years of war. Some 1.8 million people have yet to return to their homes, according to the United Nations. Mosul, the country’s second largest city, lies partly in ruins, as do many other cities, towns and villages once held by IS militants.

Iraq’s Planning Ministry estimates the country needs approximately $88 billion for reconstruction. In February, donors at a Kuwait summit pledged $30 billion in loans and investments to finance a portion of the bill, but little progress has been made to fulfill the pledges.

In Iraq’s oil-rich south, meanwhile, which was spared from the war’s devastation, protests have erupted in recent months over unemployment and poor public services. Rolling power outages have been a nationwide problem going back to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and in the south the tap water is undrinkable.


Prosecutors: Fires may mean PG&E violated criminal sentence

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California utility’s role in igniting wildfires last year could allow a judge to find that it violated terms of its criminal sentence in a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people.

In a court filing, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco said state investigations blamed Pacific Gas & Electric power lines for some fires in October 2017. Investigators also found evidence that state law was violated.

A U.S. judge in 2017 put PG&E on five years of probation following its conviction on pipeline safety charges stemming from an explosion of one of its pipelines in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The filing by prosecutors came after a judge overseeing the pipeline case asked PG&E to explain any role it may have played in a massive wildfire last month that leveled the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people.


Ivanka Trump plans global women’s economic development push

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ivanka Trump is set to launch a White House effort aimed at women’s global economic empowerment in early 2019.

A formal launch for the initiative was planned for next week but the White House said it has been postponed amid uncertainty about the government shutdown. The original plan for the event included remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, as well as from officials from a host of government agencies, financial organizations and private businesses, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Walmart and Bank of America.

The initiative, which is backed by the State Department and the National Security Council, seeks to align government agencies behind the mission of supporting women’s economic development around the world. It will also include private-sector investment. First daughter Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser who has made supporting women in business part of her portfolio, led the policy process over the past year and a half.

Bolton said in a statement that the initiative “directly supports President Trump’s National Security Strategy.”

Ivanka Trump previously led an effort to launch a World Bank fund to help drive women’s entrepreneurship. She recently advocated for the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which has passed Congress. That legislation bolsters efforts focused on women by the United States Agency for International Development.

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