TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets got a slight boost today from positive U.S. economic figures that reinforced expectations of eventual Fed rate hikes and a stronger dollar. Signs that inflation is under control in the U.S., as well as fairly positive earnings reports and other indicators of a healthy economy, are helping Asian shares. […]
Update on the Latest in Business
TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets got a slight boost today from positive U.S. economic figures that reinforced expectations of eventual Fed rate hikes and a stronger dollar.
Signs that inflation is under control in the U.S., as well as fairly positive earnings reports and other indicators of a healthy economy, are helping Asian shares. Recent data on housing has reassured regional markets that the U.S. growth is on a relatively solid track.
It’s unclear when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates but many analysts predict sometime in 2015. Eyes are on a speech later in the day by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
On Wall Street yesterday, The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 0.5 percent to 1,981.60. The index is up 1.4 percent for the week. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to 16,919.59. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.4 percent to 4,527.51.
The dollar gained against the euro and the yen. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose to near $95 a barrel.
Japan trade deficit widens, exports up slightly
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s trade deficit rose in July from the month before to a wider than expected 964 billion yen ($9.4 billion), though exports were higher for the first time in three months.
It was the 25th straight monthly trade deficit for the world’s third-largest economy, due mainly to an increase in imports of oil and gas to compensate for idled nuclear reactors following meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
Exports rose 3.9 percent from a year earlier to 6.19 trillion yen ($60.2 billion), slightly outpacing a 2.3 percent increase in imports, to 7.15 trillion yen ($69.5 billion). Japan recorded an 822 billion yen deficit in June.
Japan’s demand for imports has moderated in recent months as business slowed following an increase in the national sales tax. But a recovery in overseas demand, especially for machinery, buses and trucks, is a welcome relief.
China fines 12 Japanese firms in auto price probe
BEIJING (AP) — China announced today it will fine 12 Japanese auto parts suppliers a total of $202 million for colluding to raise prices in an unfolding anti-monopoly probe of the country’s auto industry.
Beijing has launched a series of investigations of global automakers and technology suppliers under its 6-year-old anti-monopoly law in an apparent effort to force down prices. Officials said earlier that Mercedes Benz, Audi and Chrysler also violated the law.
The Japanese suppliers were found to have colluded improperly, some for up to 10 years, to raise prices of ball bearings and other parts, according to China’s main planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.
Regulators have given few details of their probe but industry analysts say they might have been motivated by complaints about the high price of imported luxury vehicles and replacement parts.
Business groups say China’s anti-monopoly law is enforced more actively against foreign companies than against local rivals.
Macy’s to pay $650,000 in shopper-profiling probe
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The retailer Macy’s has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle allegations of racial profiling at its flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square.
Under the agreement signed with New York’s attorney general, the company will adopt new policies on police access to its security camera monitors and against profiling, further train employees, investigate customer complaints, keep better records of detentions and report for three years on its compliance.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the settlement should help ensure customers are treated equally regardless of race or ethnicity at the retail giant’s 42 department stores statewide.
The attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau said it opened an investigation into Macy’s in February 2013 when it received several complaints from minority customers. Since then, the office recorded complaints from 18 African-American, Latino and other ethnic minority customers who claimed they’d been apprehended and detained at Macy’s stores between 2007 and 2013, despite not having stolen or attempted to steal any merchandise.
Bloomberg offers grants to help cities innovate
NEW YORK (AP) — American cities looking to be more innovative in how they address local issues can now get a helping hand from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charitable foundation.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is announcing today that it’s putting $45 million into Innovation Delivery grants. The grants are to help cities create teams that use data and other tools to come up with ideas for how to tackle problems.
The team approach that the foundation is championing “is one way mayors can increase the likelihood of generating more powerful ideas more often and reducing the risk of failure,” he said.
The foundation initially rolled out the Innovation Delivery model in five cities — Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; and New Orleans — which used the process to come up with ideas on a range of issues, from economic redevelopment to reducing violent deaths.
THE DAY AHEAD
Business Events Scheduled for Today
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its July interest rate meeting today. Lowe’s reports quarterly financial results before the market opens. Target Corp. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens.
TransUnion: Late-payment rate on US home loans falls to 6-year low in 2Q
UNDATED (AP) — Fewer U.S. homeowners are falling behind on their mortgage payments, a trend that’s brought down the late-payment rate on home loans to the lowest level in six years.
Credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday that the percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell to 3.46 percent in the second quarter.
That’s down from 4.32 percent in the April-June period last year.
All told, the nation’s late-payment rate on home loans is down nearly 20 percent from a year ago.
The last time the rate was lower was in the first quarter of 2008, when it stood at 3.39 percent.
The mortgage delinquency rate has been steadily easing over the past two years as U.S. home sales and prices have rebounded and foreclosures have declined.
PRIVATE PRISON-BACK WAGES
Prison company pays $8 million in back wages
CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (AP) — The nation’s largest private prison company has paid more than $8 million in back wages and benefits to current and former employees at its federal prison facility in California City.
The U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday that Corrections Corp. of America paid the money to staff at the California City Correctional Center after an investigation found it wasn’t paying the rates required of federal contractors.
A department official says in some cases employees were paid 40 percent less than required by pay rate regulations established for contractors. The company also wasn’t making required contributions to retirement accounts and health and life insurance.
Many workers will receive more than $30,000.
Messages left with the Nashville, Tennessee-based company spokesmen weren’t immediately returned.
AP Exclusive: US changing no-fly list rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is promising to change the way travelers can ask to be removed from its no-fly list of suspected terrorists banned from air travel.
The decision comes after a federal judge’s ruling that there was no meaningful way to challenge the designation, a situation deemed unconstitutional. In response, the Justice Department said the U.S. will change the process during the next six months. As of late last summer, about 48,000 people were on the no-fly list.
The government’s policy is never to confirm or deny that a person actually is on the no-fly list, citing national security concerns. In most instances, travelers assume they are on the list because they are instructed to go through additional screening at airports or because they are told they can’t board their flights to, from or within the United States.
The no-fly list is one of the government’s most controversial post-9/11 counterterrorism programs because of its lack of due process, long criticized because people cannot know why they were placed on the list and lack an effective way to fight the decision. Changing how people can challenge their designation could amount to one of the government’s most significant adjustments to how it manages the list.
PetSmart to consider selling itself
UNDATED (AP) — PetSmart says it is considering putting itself up for sale after receiving pressure from investors.
The pet supply chain said Tuesday that it will weigh “strategic alternatives” after a board review that included conversations with shareholders.
Investment firm Longview Asset Management and hedge fund Jana Partners have both pushed PetSmart to think about a sale.
The company also says it plans to cut costs and is focusing on pet food, exclusive brands and services, online shoppers and a loyalty program.
The Phoenix-based company in May cut its earnings outlook for the year, citing a challenging consumer environment and competition.
PetSmart said Tuesday that its second-quarter earnings rose 5.1 percent to $98.1 million, or 98 cents per share, while revenue rose 1.4 percent to $1.73 billion. It left its guidance unchanged.
Uber hires former Obama adviser Plouffe
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager and White House senior adviser David Plouffe (pluhf) is joining car service startup Uber as it seeks to expand in cities worldwide.
Plouffe will serve as Uber’s senior vice president of policy and strategy.
Uber uses a mobile application to connect riders with vehicles for hire. The San Francisco-based company has faced resistance in some U.S. cities from the taxi industry and regulators who have accused it of lowering prices to knock out competition.
Plouffe was the architect of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and a top White House adviser as the president sought re-election.
Announcing Plouffe’s hiring, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says the company “has been in a campaign but hasn’t been running one. That is changing now.”
NUT BUTTER RECALL
Peanut, almond butter recalled for salmonella risk
NEW YORK (AP) — Peanut and almond butters sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other grocers are being recalled because of possible salmonella contamination.
A unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. says there have been reports of four illnesses that may be related to the nut butters. They were sold under the brand names Arrowhead Mills Peanut Butters, MaraNatha Almond Butters and Peanut Butters, and private label brands for Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Safeway.
They were sold in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates as well as the U.S.
The company says it learned of the contamination risk after routine FDA testing.
The Food and Drug Administration says it does not know how many jars of nut butters were recalled. The company would not comment.
New Mexico Chile gets certified-product safeguards
BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is looking to a new certification program to protect the reputation of one of its signature crops: chile.
Gov. Susana Martinez and other officials unveiled the program before a packed room of chile aficionados gathered Tuesday at The Range in Bernalillo. The Range is the first restaurant to sign up.
New Mexico Certified Chile joins other well-known trademarked products such as Vidalia Onions and Idaho Potatoes.
Martinez says chile is a way of life in New Mexico and contributes more than $400 million every year to the state’s economy. She says people shouldn’t have to ask whether it’s really New Mexico-grown chile.
The program builds upon on existing law that makes it illegal to advertise any product as New Mexico chile unless it’s actually grown in the state.
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