FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares gain as investors await news on China-US trade

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares rose Friday in Asia after lackluster trading on Wall Street.

Chinese shares surged as the annual session of its ceremonial congress ended with Premier Li Keqiang pledging support for the slowing economy.

Li said the country would cut fees and taxes, delivering help worth almost 2 trillion yen (about $300 billion) to companies, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Investors spent Thursday in a wait-and-see mode, keeping a close watch on global trade issues and continuing to mostly brush off the chaos surrounding Britain's exit from the European Union, its key trading bloc.

U.S. stocks indexes barely budged Thursday as the market's three-day winning streak stalled.

The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index 0.1 percent to 2,808.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at 25,709.94. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.2 percent to 7,630.91, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 0.4 percent, to 1,549.63.

Facebook fell 1.8 percent after the New York Times reported that its data-sharing practices are now under criminal investigation.

Boeing fell 1 percent. The stock has slumped throughout the week as nations and airlines grounded its newest 737s over safety concerns.

The Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes slumped 6.9 percent in January, a possible sign that would-be buyers paused during the government shutdown even as mortgage rates continued to decline. The report also showed sales prices declined 3.8 percent. Homebuilder stocks were mostly trading lower following the report.

Investors are still waiting for some more news on U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The dollar edged higher against the yen and slipped against the euro.

The price of U.S. crude oil inched ahead to remain above $58.50 per barrel.

TOKYO-ROBOTS

Tokyo's Olympics may become known as the "Robot Games"

TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo's Olympics may become known as the "Robot Games."

Organizers on Friday showed off robots that will be used at the new National Stadium to provide assistance for fans using wheelchairs.

Tokyo Olympic official Masaaki Komiya pointed out that Japan is known for its robot technology, and the 2020 Summer Games are a good place to show off.

The robots are made by major Olympic sponsor Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota officials said 16 of the so-called "human support robots" will be used at the National Stadium with five other "delivery support robots" also being available.

Not to be outdone, Panasonic Corp.— also a major Olympic sponsor — showed off its "power assist suit." When worn, the suit offers support to the back and hip area and allows for heavy objects to be lifted with less effort. Panasonic said 20 of the suits will be used at the Olympics and could help guests with their luggage and with other lifting chores.

Battery life if about four hours, and the suit gives the wearer the ability to lift about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) more with the same energy expended.

Minoru Yamauchi of Toyota, the general manager for 2020 Robot Development, said the automaker is branching out and becoming a "mobility company."

Yoshifumi Uchida, general manager of Panasonic's Paralympic department, said its power assist suit technology was developed partly because of Japan's aging population. This could help get more women and the elderly into the working population.

SHIPWRECK BEER

Taste of history: Yeast from 1886 shipwreck makes new brew

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The most distinguishing feature of Jamie Adams' new ale isn't its hoppy bite but its compelling backstory — brewed from yeast in bottles of beer that went down on a doomed steamship and languished on the ocean floor for 131 years.

Some who lined up to sample a swig of the new Deep Ascent ale at a craft beer festival last weekend say it provided a refreshing taste of another era.

Adams, a former Wall Street trader who opened Saint James Brewery in Long Island nearly two decades ago, says his beer grew out of his love of scuba diving. It was brewed with yeast extracted from bottles he and fellow divers salvaged from the SS Oregon, a luxury liner from Liverpool to New York that collided with a schooner and sank off Fire Island in 1886.

It lies 135 feet deep in an underwater cemetery known to local divers as Wreck Valley.

He enlisted a team of divers in 2015 to search for bottles but didn't hit pay dirt until 2017, after storms shifted sands and made the first-class dining room accessible. They dug down 15 feet in the sea bed to gain access, and then another six feet inside the ship to find a half-dozen bottles upside-down, corks intact. Later dives found 20 more bottles.

Adams cultured the yeast in test tubes with the help of a microbiologist friend and then spent the next two years brewing test batches to get just the right taste.

Along with hops and malted barley, yeast is a key factor in producing a beer's flavor and character.

Adams said his new beer, which has a slightly fruity taste with a hoppy finish, is a "replication of what would have been served on that ship in 1886. We want people to have a small taste of what life was like as a passenger on this ship."

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Business and economic reports scheduled for release today

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve releases its report on industrial production for February today.

Also, the Labor Department issues its job openings and labor turnover survey for January.

And the Treasury Department reports international money flows data in December.

CHINA-TRADE TALKS

Trump aide: Xi 'afraid' Trump may walk away from trade deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser says China's president is "afraid" to sit down with Trump until their countries finalize a trade deal.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House's National Economic Council, says Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) wants everything agreed to before meeting with Trump because "he's afraid Trump might not like it and walk away." Kudlow says Xi wants a signing ceremony, not a negotiating session.

Kudlow addressed the trade talks during an appearance Thursday in Washington. He says more work is needed to reach a deal.

Trump on Wednesday dangled the prospect of walking away if the ultimate trade agreement isn't to his liking.

Last month, Trump cut short a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un after they failed to agree on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

CHINA-CONGRESS-ECONOMY

Premier: China needs 'strong measures' to support economy

BEIJING (AP) — China's top economic official says the country needs "strong measures" to counteract downward pressure on growth but Beijing plans to promote market-oriented reforms instead of relying on more lending and deficit government spending.

Premier Li Keqiang, speaking in a nationally televised news conference, said Friday the communist government will cut taxes and take other steps to "boost the vitality of the market."

Li said, "We certainly need to take strong measures to cope with rising uncertainties that we face this year." However, he added that boosting lending or government spending might "lead to future problems."

Li expressed confidence Beijing can achieve its annual growth target of 6 to 6.5 percent. Economic growth last year fell to a three-decade low of 6.6 percent.

Meanwhile, The 3,000-plus delegates to the ceremonial National People's Congress have endorsed a law meant to help end a costly tariff war with Washington by discouraging officials from pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology.

BREXIT

Brextension: UK lawmakers vote to seek delay of EU departure

LONDON (AP) — In a stalemate over Brexit, British politicians have chosen to delay it.

After weeks of political gridlock, Parliament voted Thursday to seek to postpone the country's departure from the European Union, a move that will likely avert a chaotic withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29.

With Brexit due in 15 days and no divorce deal yet approved, the House of Commons voted 413-202 to ask the bloc to put off Britain's exit until at least June 30. The official result was initially announced as 412-202, but was later amended to 413 in the official voting list.

The vote gives Prime Minister Theresa May some breathing space, but is still humbling for a leader who has spent two years telling Britons they were leaving the bloc on March 29.

Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the EU, which has signaled that it will only allow a delay if Britain either approves a divorce deal or makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. In a historic irony, almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, its future is now in the bloc's hands.

TOYOTA-US EXPANSION

Toyota investing $750M at 5 US plants, creating 600 jobs

BUFFALO, W.Va. (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. says it is investing an additional $750 million at five U.S. plants that will bring nearly 600 new jobs.

The Japanese automaker announced the latest expansion of its U.S. presence Thursday, bringing to nearly $13 billion the amount it will spend by 2021.

The new investments are at facilities in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. Those facilities were part of a 2017 announcement for a $374 million investment to support production of its first American-made hybrid powertrain.

The company's Georgetown, Kentucky, plant will produce hybrid versions of Lexus ES 300 sedans starting in May and the RAV4 SUV starting in January 2020. Both vehicles are now made in Canada and Japan

Toyota also is spending $62 million to boost production at its Troy, Missouri, facility.

TESLA-MODEL Y

Tesla unveiling Model Y SUV, expanding into popular segment

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — Tesla is unveiling its newest vehicle, the Model Y, an SUV that the automaker hopes will win over consumers looking for an all-electric alternative in the most popular segment of the auto market.

CEO Elon Musk was to introduce the Model Y Thursday night at a gathering of customers, employees and media.

The Model Y may be Tesla's most important product yet as it attempts to expand into the mainstream and generate enough cash to repay massive debts that threaten to topple the Palo Alto, California, company.

Tesla got a huge boost toward ensuring its survival with the 2017 debut of its Model 3 sedan, but a sports utility vehicle could have even more mass appeal, given how popular SUVs have become in the U.S., Europe and Canada.

SAGE GROUSE-ENERGY LEASES

US easing land restrictions across US West

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industrial activities that were imposed to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes still protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that policies adopted by former President Barack Obama were too restrictive.

A formal announcement is expected Friday.

Critics say the changes will mean more disturbances to the bird's habitat, which includes portions of 11 states. Brian Rutledge with the Audubon Society says that will undermine efforts to shore up grouse populations.

The ground-dwelling birds, known for an elaborate mating ritual, have seen steep declines due to energy development, disease and other factors.

TV-ONE DAY-CANCELED

Netflix cancels 'One Day at a Time' reboot after 3 seasons

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Netflix is canceling "One Day at a Time" after three seasons.

In a statement Thursday, the streaming service's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, called it "disappointing" that more viewers didn't discover the sitcom.

A tweet on a Netflix company account said not enough people watched to justify renewing it, and called the cancellation a difficult step.

Created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, it was among the few TV series with Latinos as the lead characters.

Justina Machado played a single Cuban-American mom and military veteran, with Rita Moreno as her mother.

It was a reboot of the original "One Day at a Time," which was co-created by Norman Lear and aired from 1975-84 with stars Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin.

Lear was among the Netflix series' executive producers.

FACEBOOK-EXECUTIVE DEPARTURES

2 top Facebook executives depart the company

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook says two of its top executives are leaving the company. Chief Product Officer Chris Cox and Chris Daniels, who heads messaging app WhatsApp, are departing. It isn't clear what future plans the executives have.

Cox was in charge of Facebook's apps including its flagship social media site, as well as Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. He joined 13 years ago and helped create Facebook's News Feed feature.

Facebook will not appoint a direct replacement for Cox. Longtime Facebook executive Will Cathcart will head up WhatsApp.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg reiterated that the company is organizing around a "privacy-focused" emphasis on private messaging, which he announced last week.

Founding executives of Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp have also recently left the company.

LAS VEGAS SANDS-LAWSUIT

Vegas Sands-Macau dealmaker settle 15-year case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A settlement has ended a long-running breach-of-contract battle between U.S. casino company Las Vegas Sands Corp. and a Hong Kong businessman who helped it open its first casino in Macau in 2004.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed Thursday by Richard Suen (SOO'-ehn), his lawyers or attorneys for Sands.

But Suen emerged from a Las Vegas courtroom saying it was worth a 15-year legal battle.

Sands attorney James Jimmerson and Suen lawyer John O'Malley called terms confidential.

A Nevada judge announced the settlement as he dismissed jurors ahead of a second day of videotaped testimony from ailing billionaire Sands chief Sheldon Adelson.

A spokesman for publicly traded Sands declined to comment, and it wasn't immediately clear if financial details would be reported to federal Securities and Exchange Commission regulators.

JAPAN-BITCOIN

Mt Gox head convicted of manipulating data, cleared of theft

TOKYO (AP) — Mark Karpeles, who headed the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which went bankrupt after it was hacked, has been found guilty of manipulating electronic data but cleared of embezzlement and breach of trust charges.

The sentence handed down Friday of two years and six months, suspended for four years, means Karpeles will not have to serve time in prison.

Karpeles, arrested in August 2015, was accused of taking money from his clients. He said he was innocent, arguing he did not pocket the money that was lost by his exchange.

Prosecutors had demanded 10 years in prison.

Karpeles, appearing in court in a suit, listened quietly to the verdict.

His case drew global attention, coming at a time when cryptocurrencies were still relatively new.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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