Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks fall

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have turned broadly lower in midday trading on Wall Street, erasing the market’s gains from the day before.

Technology and health care companies fell the most. Microsoft and UnitedHealth Group each lost 1.9 percent.

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Centene sank 9.1 percent after agreeing buy WellCare Health Plans for more than $15 billion. WellCare jumped 8 percent.

Banks fell as bond yields continued to drop. Bank of New York Mellon gave up 1.8 percent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to 2.36 percent.

TRADE GAP

US trade gap falls 15 percent to $51.1 billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit tumbled nearly 15 percent in January as imports fell and exports rose. Shipments of American goods to China skidded to the lowest level in more than eight years as the world’s two biggest economies remained locked in a trade war.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the gap between what the United States sells and what it buys from other countries dropped by 14.6 percent, to $51.1 billion in January, from $59.9 billion in December. Exports rose 0.9 percent to $207.3 billion, and imports dropped 2.6 percent to $258.5 billion.

The deficit with China narrowed by 6.4 percent to $34.5 billion. Goods exports to China dropped 22.3 percent to $7.1 billion, lowest since September 2010; Chinese imports dropped 9.6 percent to $41.6 billion.

US-CHINA TRADE TALKS

Trump team and China seek elusive deal as latest talks near

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration and Chinese officials are about to hold their eighth round of trade talks in Beijing with several tough issues unresolved, including a timetable for lifting tariffs and a way to enforce any agreement.

Many analysts say they expect some limited agreement to be reached in the coming weeks or months. Yet it’s unclear how far any accord would go to address the long-standing Chinese trade practices at the heart of the conflict — from the forced handover of foreign technology secrets to outright cyber-theft — that the administration insists must end.

The backdrop to the talks is a trade war that has exacted a toll on both economies and intensified pressure to reach an accord. Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods have raised costs for many U.S. manufacturers .

FAA-SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Southwest lays out cost of Boeing groundings

NEW YORK (AP) — Southwest Airlines says the government’s grounding of all Boeing Max 8 jets will contribute to a $150 million revenue loss in the first quarter.

The airline says it had to cancel about 2,800 flights due to the groundings. According to numbers from Boeing, Southwest operates the largest fleet of the troubled planes.

The U.S. government followed nearly every other country in the world this month by ordering all Max 8 planes grounded after 157 people died in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8. Another Max 8 crashed four months earlier in Indonesia, killing 189.

Southwest said in a filing Wednesday that it had to cancel an additional 6,600 flights from mid-February through the end of March due to weather and unscheduled maintenance.

The Senate is holding hearings Wednesday to look into the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of Boeing.

The Transportation Department’s inspector general, Calvin Scovel, is scheduled to testify and is expected to reveal plans to significantly revamp the FAA’s oversight of airplane construction.

PETROCHEMICAL FIRE-TEXAS

Houston Ship Channel to reopen for daytime traffic

DALLAS (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard says the Houston Ship Channel has reopened for daytime traffic after flammable chemicals seeped into the waterway from a nearby petrochemical storage facility that caught fire.

Capt. Richard Howes said Wednesday that the previously closed portion of the commercial waterway is now operating during the day but will close at night. Passing ships will continue to be inspected for chemicals on their hulls.

The channel is one of America’s busiest shipping lanes. Part of it was closed after a fire erupted on March 17 at the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park. The fire burned for days and triggered air quality warnings.

A dike adjacent to the facility failed, allowing chemicals to seep into nearby bayous and then the ship channel.

Howes says it’s unclear when the channel will fully reopen.

NORWAY-CRUISE SHIP-MAYDAY

Official: Norway cruise ship engines failed from lack of oil

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A maritime official says the engines of a cruise ship failed off Norway’s coast during a storm because they didn’t have enough lubricating oil.

Lars Alvestad, the head of Norway’s Maritime Authority, said Wednesday that low oil levels were the “direct cause” of the engine failure that stranded the Viking Sky on Saturday.

Alvestad says safety systems detected the problem and automatically stopped the engines to prevent a breakdown.

Viking Sky’s crew sent a mayday call and anchored in heavy seas to keep the ship from being dashed on rocks in an area known for shipwrecks. Five helicopters lifted 479 passengers off with winches.

The rescue operation ended Sunday when the engines restarted. The ship traveled under its own power to a Norwegian port with nearly 900 passengers and crew members onboard.

BREXIT

Parliament to vote on 8 options for Brexit

LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers will get to vote on eight widely differing options for the U.K.’s departure from the European Union.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow selected the motions on Wednesday from 16 proposals submitted by lawmakers.

The ones to be considered include calls to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal, to stay in the EU’s customs union and single market, to put any EU divorce deal to a public referendum, and to cancel Brexit if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit gets close.

The “indicative votes” are intended to reveal if any kind of Brexit plan can command a majority in Parliament. Lawmakers have twice rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the bloc.

The government has promised to consider the outcome of the votes, but not to be bound by them.

GREECE-SOURED LOANS

Greece limits foreclosure protection after financial crisis

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Lawmakers in Greece have begun debating tougher regulations to deal with household insolvency after the financial crisis left nearly half of mortgages and commercial loans non-performing or in distress.

The debate started Wednesday at a parliamentary committee despite failure by the government so far to finalize an agreement with bailout creditors on details of the new regulations.

Roughly 47 percent of Greek loans had soured by late last year after unemployment and poverty soared during eight years of crisis and international bailouts. Banks have promised to reduce that level to below 20 percent by the end of 2021.

During the crisis, distressed mortgage holders were protected from foreclosure of primary family residences, but the new rules would limit the safeguards to low-income families.

SUPREME COURT-SECURITIES FRAUD

Justices reject new colleague’s arguments in fraud case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is rejecting arguments made by Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was an appeals court judge in a case involving securities fraud.

The court’s 6-2 ruling Wednesday affirms an appeals court decision against investment banker Francis Lorenzo over false and misleading statements Lorenzo sent in emails to potential investors in a company. The emails described the company as having assets of $10 million when Lorenzo knew the real figure was $400,000.

Kavanaugh had dissented from the appellate ruling. He took no part in the high court case.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion rejected Lorenzo’s argument that he did not violate Securities and Exchange Commission anti-fraud regulations because he merely sent the emails at the direction of his boss, who supplied the messages’ contents.

JAPAN-NISSAN-GHOSN

Nissan’s governance committee says Ghosn had too much power

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — A Nissan committee set up to strengthen corporate governance after the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn says it found he had too much power and recommended that the scandal-hit Japanese automaker add more independent outside directors to its board and better oversee compensation and auditing.

The proposed changes were announced Wednesday in Yokohama, where Nissan Motor Co. is headquartered.

The governance committee said it concluded that the “root cause of the misconduct was the concentration of all authority in Mr. Ghosn.”

The committee’s findings underline Nissan’s efforts to distance itself from Ghosn’s upcoming criminal trial.

Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades and rescued it from near-bankruptcy, says he is innocent. He has been charged with falsifying financial reports and breach of trust.

RUSSIA-FORD CLOSURES

Ford closes 3 factories in Russia in broad overhaul

MOSCOW (AP) — Ford is closing three factories in Russia as it pulls out of passenger vehicle manufacturing in the country, causing heavy job losses.

Ford says it will stop making passenger cars in Russia by the end of June, closing vehicle assembly plants in St. Petersburg and Naberezhnye Chelny, as well as an engine plant in Yelabuga.

Ford says “significant employee separations are required.”

The U.S. carmaker blames a slow recovery in the Russian car market after an economic slowdown in recent years, and moves toward cheaper cars.

Ford will now focus solely on commercial Transit vans in Russia through its Ford Sollers joint venture.

Ford has repeatedly paused or scaled back production at the St. Petersburg plant in recent years, citing low customer demand.

VOLKSWAGEN-AMAZON-CLOUD COMPUTING

Volkswagen to network factories in the cloud with Amazon

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen says it is partnering with Amazon to develop cloud computing capacity aimed at improving efficiency and coordination across the automaker’s global factory network.

Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker by unit sales with 10.83 million vehicles sold last year, says that combining data from its 122 factories will allow it to standardize production planning and management of inventory. That should raise efficiency and lower costs.

Based in Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen said Wednesday that its industrial cloud to be developed with Amazon Web Services would be an open platform that other companies such as suppliers could join.

Cloud computing means using a network of remote servers connected over the internet instead of installing a local server, enabling flexible access to large amounts of computing power.

EUROPE-AUTO SPEED LIMITS

EU officials approve speed limit technology for autos

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — European Union officials have struck a provisional political deal to require new safety features on autos that would include technology to keep cars within legal speed limits.

So-called intelligent speed assistance recognizes prevailing speed laws using mapping systems and limits engine power to help the driver avoid speeding. The technology can be overridden by pushing harder on the gas pedal.

European Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for internal market and industry, said that “every year 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. We can and must act to change this.”

The features, to be required from 2022, also include systems that would warn about driver drowsiness and distractions such as smartphone use.

The measures are subject to formal approval by the European parliament and EU leaders.

FACEBOOK-WHITE EXTREMISM

Facebook extends ban on hate speech to ‘white nationalists’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook is extending its ban on hate speech to prohibit the promotion and support of white nationalism and white separatism.

The company previously allowed such material even though it has long banned “white supremacists.” The social network says it hadn’t applied its ban to expressions of white nationalism because it previously linked such expressions with broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — such as American pride or Basque separatism, both of which are still allowed.

But civil rights groups and academics called this view “misguided” and have long pressured the company to change its stance. Facebook says it concluded after months of “conversations” with them that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.

TECH-LIMITS TO GROWTH

Apple’s foray into video shows limits to tech growth

UNDATED (AP) — Apple’s latest move into streaming video illustrates an escalating trend: Tech’s biggest companies, faced with limits to their growth, are encroaching on each other’s turf.

Apple is launching a video-games service and introducing its own credit card. In doing so, it may be veering the most outside its comfort zone.

Even as Apple is taking on Netflix and others, Facebook is edging into Amazon’s sphere with its e-commerce plans. Google, which has already challenged Amazon and Microsoft in cloud computing, is launching an online game service that could undercut the lucrative game-console business at Microsoft and Sony.

Tech industry analysts see new urgency in the latest push into subscription services and other businesses that bring in continuous flows of money.

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