Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL-MARKETS

Stocks flat

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are little changed in midday trading on Wall Street as investors react to a mixed batch of company earnings.

Anadarko Petroleum was down 5.5 percent and video-game maker Take-Two Interactive sank 11.1 percent. Both companies reported earnings that fell far short of what analysts were looking for.

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General Motors climbed 1.1 percent after reporting a solid quarter, and Capri Holdings, the parent company of Michael Kors, jumped 12.3 percent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.68 percent.

TRADE GAP

US trade deficit narrows in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in November as imports fell faster than exports.

The Commerce Department says the gap between what the United States sells and what it buys from other countries dropped to $49.3 billion from a revised $55.7 billion in October.

America ran a $71.6 billion deficit in the trade of goods such as cars and cellphones, down from $78.3 in October. But it ran a surplus of $22.3 billion in trade of services such as banking and tourism, down from $22.6 billion in October.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to slash America’s trade deficit with the rest of the world and has imposed import taxes on foreign steel, aluminum and Chinese products. But the January-November 2018 deficit was still up 9 percent from a year earlier.

UNITED STATES-CHINA-TRADE TALKS

Mnuchin: No plans yet for US, China leaders to meet on trade

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says there are no plans yet for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) to meet to finalize a trade deal.

Trump has said no agreement will be final until he meets with his Chinese counterpart.

Trump announced in his State of the Union address that he’ll travel to Vietnam, which borders China, at the end of February to meet with North Korea’s leader on nuclear issues. The trip will put Trump in the region just before a March deadline for the U.S. to boost tariffs on Chinese goods.

Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer (LYT’-hy-zur) are leading a team to Beijing next week to continue the negotiations.

Mnuchin said Wednesday “there’s nothing planned at this time” for the presidents to meet.

TRUMP-POWELL

Mnuchin says Powell and Trump had ‘productive’ meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that President Donald Trump had a “quite productive” dinner with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He says they discussed a wide range of subjects, from the state of the economy to the Super Bowl and Tiger Woods’ golf game.

Talking to reporters at the White House, Mnuchin said that Trump was very engaged during the casual dinner Monday night. It took place in the White House residence and marked the first time Powell and Trump have met since Powell took office as Fed chairman a year ago.

Mnuchin said that Powell’s comments were consistent with what he has been saying publicly about the economy. The Fed said in a statement that Powell did not discuss the future course of interest rates.

PAYDAY LENDING-LESS REGULATION

Financial watchdog proposes rollback of payday lending rules

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s federal financial watchdog has announced its plans to roll back most of its consumer protections governing the payday lending industry.

It’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s first rollback of regulations under its new Director, Kathy Kraninger, who took over the bureau late last year.

The cornerstone of the regulations focused on making sure borrowers could afford to repay a payday loan without being stuck in a cycle of debt. The industry was against the new regulations, arguing they were too complex and could kill business. This standard would be repealed under the new rules.

The CFPB proposed keeping in place consumer protections that would ban the industry from making multiple debits on a borrowers’ bank accounts, which consumer advocates argued caused borrowers hardship through overdraft fees.

IMMIGRANTS-RETALIATION

New York bill targets workplace immigration discrimination

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s attorney general wants to change state law to make clear that it’s illegal for employers to retaliate against workers by threatening to report them to immigration authorities.

State law currently bars employers from firing, threatening, penalizing or otherwise discriminating against workers who report or blow the whistle on wage violations.

Attorney General Letitia James’ legislation would expand the law’s definition of retaliatory conduct to include threats regarding a person’s immigration status.

Employers could face up to three months in jail and a $20,000 fine.

The Democrat’s proposal comes after a maid at President Donald Trump’s New Jersey golf club said a supervisor threatened her with deportation if she complained about working conditions.

The Trump Organization says it thoroughly investigated the woman’s allegations and that they are “absolutely false.”

SPOTIFY-PODCASTING

Spotify buys Gimlet, Anchor to ramp up its podcast game

NEW YORK (AP) — Music streaming service Spotify is buying podcast companies Gimlet and Anchor as it looks to take on Apple’s popular iTunes’ podcasts.

Gimlet Media has a podcast studio with dedicated IP development, production and advertising capabilities. Anchor has a platform of tools for podcast creators as well as an established and rapidly growing creator base.

Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek said in a blog post that Spotify has become the second-biggest podcasting platform in a little less than two years.

“The format is really evolving and while podcasting is still a relatively small business today, I see incredible growth potential for the space and for Spotify in particular,” he wrote.

Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed. The deals are targeted to be completed in the first quarter.

JC PENNEY-APPLIANCES

J.C. Penney to drop major appliances after a three-year run

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney will no longer be selling major appliances, ending its three-year run.

The Plano, Texas-based department store chain also says on its company blog that furniture will only be available on its website and in Puerto Rico stores.

The move marks the first major initiative by the company’s new CEO Jill Soltau to try to turn around J.C. Penney’s business.

Sales of appliances will be discontinued as of Feb. 28. The company says it wants to go back to focusing on its heritage of fashion and home furnishings, which carry higher profit margins.

Under its former CEO Marvin Ellison, J.C. Penney returned to selling major appliances after 33 years to decrease its reliance on fashion and respond to shifting consumer habits.

RESULTS-GENERAL MOTORS

GM posts $8.1 billion 2018 profit on strong vehicle pricing

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is posting an $8.1 billion net profit for 2018 as it got better prices for vehicles sold in the U.S., its most lucrative market.

The performance was far better than the previous year, when the company lost $3.9 billion after a giant tax accounting charge.

GM made $10.8 billion before taxes in North America, meaning big profit-sharing checks for about 46,500 union workers in the U.S. They’ll get $10,750 each, down from last year’s $11,500.

The company said Wednesday that it made $5.58 per share for the year. Without special items for restructuring, the profit was $6.54, beating Wall Street expectations of $6.29.

GM made $1.40 per share in the fourth quarter. Excluding restructuring charges, the company made $1.43, beating Wall Street estimates of $1.24.

TESLA-PRICE CUT

Tesla knocks $1,100 off price of the Model 3

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is cutting $1,100 from the base price of its car designed for the mass market, the Model 3.

The electric car company now says on its website that the car starts at $42,900, still a ways from its goal of lowering the base price to $35,000.

Tesla cut 7 percent of its workforce last month to trim costs and reduce the price of the car. CEO Elon Musk says the Model 3 must be competitive with gasoline-fueled cars for the company to succeed.

For $42,900 buyers will get a rear-wheel-drive Model 3 in black with Tesla’s lower-range battery that goes 264 miles per charge.

The price doesn’t include federal and state tax credits. The federal credit is now $3,750, but that expires at the end of the year.

LYFT-ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Lyft offers electric vehicle options for riders, drivers

NEW YORK (AP) — Lyft passengers will soon be able to request a ride in an electric or hybrid vehicle when they’re planning a trip.

The ride-hailing company is launching the feature first in Seattle and then in other cities. The option will show up when passengers are choosing between available Lyft vehicles and it will not be more expensive than taking a ride in a traditional vehicle.

Lyft Chief Operating Officer Jon McNeill says customers and drivers in the Pacific Northwest have been asking for greener vehicles.

Lyft is also rolling out electric vehicles in Seattle and Atlanta in its fleet of cars it rents to Lyft drivers who don’t own their own vehicles.

Uber launched a feature in June that notifies passengers if they’re in an electric vehicle.

SWEDEN-VOLVO RECALL

Volvo recalls 167,000 cars worldwide to fix trunk lid

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish automaker Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely holding company, says it is recalling 167,000 cars worldwide because the hatch lid lift system on electric trunks can loosen, stop working in cold weather, and possibly cause damage.

Group spokeswoman Annika Bjerstaf says the recall is “a preventive safety measure,” adding Volvo Cars “has not received any reports of serious incidents surrounding this.”

Bjerstaf said Wednesday the recall covers the Volvo XC 60 built in 2018 and 2019. The carmaker is offering to replace it at no cost to owners, who will be notified of the recall.

Last month, the Goteborg-based company recalled 200,000 diesel cars worldwide because the fuel line may crack.

RECALL-FISHER-PRICE

Fisher-Price recalls Power Wheels Barbie Campers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fisher-Price is voluntarily recalling about 44,000 Children’s Power Wheels Barbie Dream Campers because they can keep running after the foot pedal is released.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says Fisher-Price has received 17 complaints. No injuries have been reported.

The model FRC29 battery-operated vehicles are hot pink with blue accents and have the Barbie logo printed on the back. They include a play kitchen, a fold out grill and pretend campfire. They were sold exclusively by Walmart for about $400 from July 2018 through January.

Customers should take the model away from children and contact Fisher-Price for a free repair.

Fisher-Price can be reached at 800-348-0751 or at www.fisher-price.com .

ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE-DELAY

Atlantic Coast Pipeline delayed until 2021, cost up by $3B

(Information in the following story is from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com )

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The completion of a natural gas pipeline running through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina has been delayed and its costs are increasing by up to $3 billion.

The Fayetteville Observer reports Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC announced Friday that the 600-mile pipeline is not expected to be in full service until 2021. It was initially expected to be in service this year.

The project was projected to cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion when first announced. Now the company projects a total cost of $7 billion to $7.5 billion.

A spokesman for pipeline partner Dominion Energy, Karl Neddenien, blames delays for the cost increases. Some work was suspended last year over questions related to a national permit, while residents and environmental groups have sued to stop the project.

OIL PIPELINE-DAKOTA ACCESS

Dakota Access criminal cases wrapping up in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — More than 800 state-level criminal cases stemming from the prolonged protest in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline are mostly wrapped up, and the last scheduled trial has concluded.

Katrina Silk, of Mitchell, South Dakota, was convicted Tuesday of obstructing a government function but acquitted of other misdemeanors including rioting. She was given two months of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $325 in fees.

Thousands of pipeline opponents came to North Dakota in 2016 and 2017 to protest the $3.8 billion pipeline, resulting in 761 arrests .

An organization of volunteer attorneys that formed to represent protesters says it has concluded its work. And the Water Protector Legal Collective is shifting focus to other potential battles including the Keystone XL pipeline and President Donald Trump’s southern border wall.

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