Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks pare losses

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes have bounced off their lows of the day but remain mostly in negative territory. The Nasdaq composite turned slightly higher at midday.

Indexes started the day sharply lower following big declines in Asia and Europe. Investors remain concerned that President Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum will lead to retaliation from other countries.

Blue-chip companies, which do more sales overseas than smaller ones, are faring worse than the rest of the market. Boeing, Caterpillar and 3M pulled the Dow Jones industrials lower.

TRUMP-TARIFFS-EU

EU vows retaliation against US tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The president of the European Union’s executive body says the bloc will retaliate against planned U.S. tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum by taking aim at American exports such as blue jeans.

Jean-Claude Juncker (zhahn-KLOHD’ YUN’-kur) says the 28-nation bloc will respond to U.S. import taxes by treating “American products the same way,” while abiding by World Trade Organization rules. Juncker told German media Friday that “Europeans will take WTO-conform measures: Harley Davidson, Bourbon, blue jeans.”

He dismissed Trump’s claim the U.S. can slap tariffs on steel and aluminum for national security reasons. Juncker said that “none of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that’s very unevenly distributed in the world.”

Asked if a trade war is brewing, he said: “I can’t see how this isn’t part of war-like behavior.”

TRUMP-TARIFFS-WTO

AP Newsbreak: WTO concerned about US steel, aluminum tariffs

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Trade Organization says his agency is “clearly concerned” about President Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and is warning of the potential for escalation.

Roberto Azevedo says a “trade war is in no one’s interests.”

A WTO spokesman relayed Azevedo comments to The Associated Press in an email just hours after President Donald Trump tweeted: “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

Azevedo warned: “The potential for escalation is real, as we have seen from the initial responses of others.” He said the WTO “will be watching the situation very closely.”

TRUMP-TARIFFS-SASSE

GOP senator lashes out at Trump over tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Ben Sasse (sas) is attacking President Donald Trump over his comments that trade wars are “easy to win.”

The Nebraska Republican lashed out at Trump’s defense of placing new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. In a statement, Sasse says: “Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides.”

Sasse continues: “Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries. Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing.”

Trump declared Thursday that the U.S. will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The announcement escalated tensions with trading partners and stocks closed sharply lower on Wall Street.

BUDGET DEFICIT

New analysis shows return of trillion-dollar budget deficits

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new Washington report warns that trillion-dollar budget deficits are returning next year and that $2 trillion-plus deficits are not far off in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and last month’s big budget deal.

The analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget warns that the separate tax and spending measures, along with increased borrowing costs, promise to add $6 trillion to the nation’s already rapidly rising debt in the coming decade.

It assumes that Washington continues to fail to take steps to rein in spending and that the tax cuts and budget-busting spending deal are made permanent.

The group, which advocates for smaller deficits and curbing federal benefit programs such as Medicare, warns that “these projections show a fiscal situation that is clearly unsustainable.”

DELTA-NRA

Delta CEO says ‘we are not taking sides’ on guns

ATLANTA (AP) — The CEO of Delta Air Lines says “we are not taking sides” in the national debate over guns despite the company’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association following the school massacre in Florida.

Delta released an internal memo Friday that CEO Ed Bastian sent employees after Georgia lawmakers voted to deny the Atlanta-based airline a tax break as punishment for crossing the NRA.

Bastian says: “Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate.”

The move backfired. The Republican-led Georgia legislature moved swiftly to eliminate a proposed tax exemption on jet fuel from a broader tax bill that passed Thursday.

State Sen. Michael Williams, a GOP candidate for governor, told “Fox & Friends” on Friday: “We had to send a message.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who led the effort, called Delta a “beloved bedrock” of Georgia’s economy in an opinion piece published Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But he said Delta’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association sent a clear message to conservatives that “we find your views deplorable.”

EARNS-JC PENNEY

JC Penney’s strong 4Q profit doesn’t impress

PLANO, Texas (AP) — Surprisingly strong earnings during J.C. Penney Co. are being overshadowed by revenue and comparable-store sales that came in a little light during the critical holiday season.

The retailer posted fourth-quarter earnings of $254 million, or 81 cents per share. Per-share earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 57 cents, which is 12 cents better than Wall Street had expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue from the Plano, Texas, company was $4.03 billion, in line with expectations.

J.C. Penney Co. expects full-year earnings in the range of 5 to 25 cents per share.

MCDONALD’S-VALUE MENU

Lack of appetite for value menu sinks McDonald’s shares

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is losing its appetite for McDonald’s, believing there aren’t many fans of its new Dollar Menu.

Shares of McDonald’s Corp. are down 5 percent and hitting a new low for the year.

Value menus have become the tool of choice at fast food companies to generate traffic. In January, McDonald’s replaced revived its popular Dollar Menu, with items priced at 1, $2 or $3.

But competition for mouths has never been more fierce. Rivals Taco Bell and Wendy’s responded with their own value meals and they’ve won some converts.

On Friday, David Palmer of RBC Capital Markets lowered his expectations for the company because of the lack of excitement over the Dollar Menu, and a worsening picture for the entire industry.

POULTRY PLANT-ENVIRONMENTAL FINE

Perdue Foods fined for pollution violations in Delaware

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware environmental officials have fined Perdue Foods for multiple wastewater violations at a poultry processing plant.

Officials said Friday that Perdue faces an administrative penalty of $77,300 and a $7,601 assessment for expenses associated with the investigation into the pollution at the company’s Georgetown plant.

Officials say that from May to July of 2015, Perdue repeatedly exceeded the effluent limits in its pollutant discharge permit, including restrictions on the concentrations and loads of ammonia, total nitrogen and enterococcus bacteria, resulting in excess volumes of pollutants in surface waters.

To offset a portion of the penalty, Perdue has agreed work with The Nature Conservancy to convert 39 acres of farmland into forest, which will significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus going into the Broadkill River.

MAINE LOBSTER

Maine lobster catch dips to lowest level in 6 years in ’17

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Regulators in the state that dominates the U.S. lobster haul say the catch of the crustaceans fell to its lowest level since 2011 last year, but the industry remains strong.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources says fishermen in the state caught a little more than 110.8 million pounds (50.3 million kilograms) of lobster last year. The state had topped 120 million pounds (54 million kilograms) in five consecutive years.

Maine fishermen also made slightly less money on lobster last year. They were paid $3.91 per pound at the docks for lobsters last year, down from about $4.08 per pound in 2016. Prices remained steady to consumers, who usually pay $8 to $10 per pound for lobsters.

The 2017 catch numbers were the sixth highest on record according to state data that go back to 1880.

COASTAL STORM

More than 700,000 without power across Northeast

BOSTON (AP) — More than 700,000 electric customers across the Northeast are without power as a late-winter nor’easter pummels the region with high winds and driving rain.

The poweroutage.us website, which tracks utilities across the nation, reported early Friday afternoon that New York was the hardest hit state with more than 208,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

About 180,000 Pennsylvania customers and 140,000 Virginia customers were without power. The New England area was not hit as hard, with Massachusetts experiencing nearly 27,000 outages.

High winds and driving rain are also causing thousands of flight cancellations at East Coast airports. Flightaware.com was reporting more than 2,000 cancellations late Friday morning.

An American Airlines spokesman says the company has canceled about 18 percent of its flights in the Northeast, with Boston’s Logan Airport and Reagan Washington National Airport the hardest hit.

Rail travel is also being affected. Amtrak announced Friday that all services along the Northeast Corridor “are temporarily suspended due to multiple weather related issues.” Service between New York City and Boston was suspended earlier due to flooding and multiple downed trees.

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