Update on the latest in business:

^FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian markets follow Wall Street higher after Fed rate cut

BEIJING (AP) — Most Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher today after the Federal Reserve cut a key U.S. interest rate.

Today, Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 0.4% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1%. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4%.

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Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.4%, while India’s Sensex rose 0.6%. Singapore advanced, while Taiwan and New Zealand retreated.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the benchmark S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,046.77, hitting a record for the second time this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4% to 27,186.69. The Nasdaq composite added 0.3% to 8,303.98.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-BLACKOUT

Anger grows as utility struggles to get its blackouts right

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric is under fire for not communicating with California officials when it deliberately shut off power to homes and businesses to prevent wildfires. PG&E has also given conflicting accounts about when the lights would go out and advised people to get information “the old-fashioned way, through calling on a landline.”

The behemoth power company is still struggling to get it right, weeks after it first started plunging millions of people into darkness to prevent strong winds from toppling its power lines and igniting fires.

Caught in the middle are millions of customers forced to endure without the needs of modern life. More than 500,000 people remained in the dark Wednesday, some since Saturday.

Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat who represents vast swaths of areas still in the dark, says, “Northern California residents are exhausted. They’re fried. And this is completely unacceptable.”

^FORD-UNION CONTRACT

Ford, auto workers union reach tentative contract agreement

DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers union says it has reached a tentative contract agreement with Ford after three days of intense bargaining.

The union says the deal was reached Wednesday night but didn’t give details.

It says the deal has to be approved by committees of national union leaders and local officials who will meet in Detroit Friday. Then it will be sent to Ford’s 55,000 union workers for a ratification vote.

The agreement likely will mirror the pact approved by General Motors workers after a 40-day strike.

The GM contract has a mix of pay raises and lump-sum checks, a quicker path to full wages for new hires and assurances that temporary workers can become full-time. It also includes $7.7 billion in investments at U.S. factories.

^ITALY-FIAT CHRYSLER-PEUGEOT

Fiat Chrysler, PSA Peugeot boards approve merger

MILAN (AP) — The boards of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot have approved merging the two companies to create the world’s fourth-largest automaker with a value of about $50 billion.

The formal announcement that the companies have agreed “to work towards a full combination of their respective entities by way of a 50/50 merger” came early today.

The combined companies will be able to share in the cost of developing electric and autonomous vehicles. They’ll also share vehicle technology and save money with greater purchasing power.

The merger decision comes about five months after a similar deal with French automaker Renault fell apart.

^ELECTION 2020-TWITTER-POLITICAL ADS BAN

‘A bold step’: Democrats pleased by Twitter political ad ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates are largely praising Twitter’s decision to ban all political advertising, while President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is decrying the move as attempting to muzzle conservatives on social media.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday that they believe that a political message’s reach should be “earned, not bought.” It came after Facebook was panned for saying it would not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns, allowing them to lie freely.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (BOO’-tuh-juhj) called it a “bold step” that reflects a “sense of responsibility” on Twitter’s part. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock suggested that Facebook should follow Twitter’s lead, tweeting simply: “Good. Your turn, Facebook.”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale panned Twitter for walking “away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue saying it was a very dumb decision for their stockholders.

^UBER-HACKING CASE

Hackers plead guilty in data breach that Uber covered up

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Two computer hackers have pleaded guilty to concocting an extortion scheme that entangled Uber in a yearlong cover-up of a data breach that stole sensitive information about 57 million of the ride-hailing service’s passengers and drivers.

The pleas entered Wednesday in a San Jose, California, federal court by Brandon Charles Glover and Vasile Mereacre resurrects another unseemly episode in Uber’s checkered history.

The two men acknowledged stealing personal information that companies stored on Amazon Web Services from October 2016 to January 2017 and then demanding to be paid to destroy the data.

Uber met the hackers demand with a $100,000 payment, but waited until November 2017 to reveal that the personal information of both its riders and drivers around the world had fallen into the hands of criminals.

^CHACO CANYON-DRILLING

US House approves protections near Chaco park

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The House has approved legislation that would prohibit oil and gas development on federal land surrounding a national park in New Mexico held sacred by numerous Native American tribes. The vote came Wednesday to make permanent a buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (loo-HAHN’) of New Mexico says there are some areas where drilling should not take place and that the area around Chaco is one of them.

Aside from prohibiting new permits and canceling any existing non-producing leases, the measure suggests additional studies and protective measures should be taken to address health, safety and environmental effects on nearby communities and tribal interests.

The area includes land belonging to the Navajo Nation and individual tribal members. This legislation does not affect those parcels.

^TV-APPLE-TV

Apple TV Plus joins streaming wars with Oprah but no library

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Apple TV Plus is jumping into the streaming wars with big names including Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

The service will compete with other newcomers that include Disney Plus and HBO Max, as well as existing heavyweights such as Netflix.

The executives who are steering Apple TV Plus say it offers a high level of quality and technical advantages that will entice consumers.

Observers note the streaming service that debuts Friday will offer a scant number of original programs. Among them: “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Apple TV Plus also lacks a library of TV shows and movies, the kind of resources that Disney Plus and HBO Max can draw on.

But the Apple service will benefit from the tech giant’s vast consumer base and a low subscription price: Apple TV Plus is $4.99 a month.

^SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG

Samsung Electronics says third quarter profit fell 56%

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics says it operating profit for the last quarter fell by nearly 56%, with its robust smartphone and TV sales offset by a continuously weak market for computer chips.

The South Korean technology giant reports an operating profit of 6.7 billion for the July-September quarter, which represented a 55.7% drop from the same period last year.

Samsung says third-quarter revenue fell 5.3% to 53.4 billion.

Samsung is the world’s biggest maker of semiconductors and smartphones, but it has struggled with falling prices for DRAM and NAND memory chips since late last year.

^AUSTRALIA-QANTAS-737s

Qantas rejects calls to ground Boeing 737s on crack reports

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian airline Qantas has rejected calls to ground its Boeing 737s after claims a second aircraft in its fleet was found with a crack in its wing structure.

Qantas on Wednesday said it had found cracking in one 737, following calls from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for all airlines to check their aircraft.

Today, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, which represents ground crews, said another 737 was found with “a cracked primary wing structure,” and urged Qantas to ground its fleet of the planes.

But Qantas’ head of engineering, Chris Snook, said the call was “completely irresponsible, saying the airline would never operate a plan unless it was safe.

Snook added: “Even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft.”

^CHINA-MANUFACTURING

China’s factory activity falls amid weak demand, trade war

BEIJING (AP) — China’s factory activity shrank more sharply than expected in October amid weak consumer demand and a tariff war with Washington.

A survey by the industry group China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing shows the monthly purchasing managers’ index declined to 49.3 from September’s 49.8 on a 100-point scale. Numbers below 50 show activity contracting.

Chinese growth has been hurt by weakening consumer demand as shoppers, jittery over the trade war and possible job losses, put off purchases of cars and other big-ticket goods.

Exporters have been hurt by President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports in a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus bu the impact on the overall economy has been limited.

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