Update on the latest business


Stocks turn higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks indexes have been moving between modest gains and losses as banks, household goods makers and health care companies fall while technology companies rise. The major indexes edged higher in early afternoon trading.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.86 percent from 2.88 percent. That affected banks, as lower interest rates mean they can’t make as much money from lending.

Investors continue to look for hints about how the Trump administration’s recently-announced tariffs will affect international trade.

Asian stock indexes jumped after the North Korean government said it was open to talks with the U.S. about ending its nuclear program.


Aluminum trade group warns of global tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major aluminum trade group is telling President Donald Trump that it’s “deeply concerned” about the effects of global tariffs on aluminum production.

The Aluminum Association says it represents 114 member companies and more than 700,000 U.S. jobs. The group says in a letter to Trump that the administration should address a glut of Chinese aluminum and target China and other countries that have a history of circumventing trade rules. The trade group also wants the Trump administration to exempt vital trading partners such as Canada and the European Union.

The administration is planning to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. But Trump is facing pressure from Congress and manufacturers who say it would hurt the overall economy and lead to retaliation from foreign countries.

Also Tuesday, Mexico’s economy secretary said his country might impose retaliatory tariffs on “politically sensitive” U.S. products if the United States doesn’t exempt Mexico from the duties on steel and aluminum.

Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t spare Canada or Mexico from the tariffs, but he held out the possibility of later exempting the countries if they agree to better terms for the U.S. in the NAFTA renegotiation.


Senate banking bill clears procedural hurdle

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate effort to relax certain banking regulations has cleared an early procedural hurdle with enough support from Democrats to show the bill has a good chance of passage.

The vote of 67-32 allows the Senate to begin debating a bill that would scale back certain provisions of the 2010 law known as Dodd-Frank.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the regulatory burden of Dodd-Frank has forced small banks to hire additional workers to deal with compliance costs.

He says the regulatory burden “crowds out the capital that is available to American families and small business, especially in rural communities.”

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio disagrees. Brown says the banking system is safer now as a result of Dodd-Frank and “this is going to make it less safe.”


Target raises starting pay for 2nd time in less than a year

NEW YORK (AP) — Target is raising its minimum starting pay for workers for the second time in less than a year after seeing a bigger and better pool of candidates.

Target, which hiked starting pay to $11 an hour last fall, said all workers this spring will receive a minimum of $12 per hour.

CEO Brian Cornell said Tuesday that Target will offer workers $15 an hour by 2020. He says Target Corp. recorded a significant spike in applicants when it boosted pay, and a better quality of worker, too.


UnitedHealthcare to pass drug rebates on to some customers

UNDATED (AP) — The nation’s largest health insurer plans to give some customers a break at the pharmacy counter starting next year.

UnitedHelathcare said Tuesday that it will pass along rebates from drug manufacturers to customers when they fill a prescription. Those rebates could amount to a few bucks or several hundred dollars, depending on the drug.

The policy will apply to about 7 million people who have fully insured coverage through an employer. That insurance generally involves smaller businesses.

Drugmakers frequently give rebates for prescription drugs, but those discounts rarely flow directly to people filling the prescriptions.

The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute says insurers and employers most often use the money to reduce overall plan costs.

President Donald Trump also has proposed giving rebates directly to Medicare prescription drug customers.


Dems: Did EPA security staffer steer contract to associate?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are pressing Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on whether a key member of his security team improperly steered a government contract to a personal business associate.

The Associated Press reported in December that EPA paid $3,000 to have Pruitt’s office swept for hidden listening devices by Edwin Steinmetz, an ex-police officer who is a long-time government contractor. But in addition to operating his own business, Steinmetz also works as a vice president for a larger company called Sequoia Security Group.

Sequoia’s chief executive is Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who has worked on the EPA administrator’s around-the-clock security detail.

Sens. Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse asked Pruitt in a letter sent Tuesday whether Perrotta used his position at EPA to give Steinmetz the contract.


Kobe Steel chief steps down over massive fake data scandal

TOKYO (AP) — The chief executive of major Japanese steelmaker Kobe Steel is stepping down over a scandal that surfaced last year involving massive falsification of inspections data of the company’s products.

Hiroya Kawasaki, who is also chairman and president, said Tuesday he is stepping down from all three positions. He stays on as a director but only until the annual shareholders’ meeting in June.

His successor has not yet been named.

Kobe Steel has pointed to a zealous pursuit of profit, unrealistic targets and an insular corporate culture as behind the scandal.

There have been no accidents or injuries related to the fake data.

But the systematic misconduct spanned years, affecting products sent to more than 680 companies, including aluminum castings and copper tubes for autos, aircraft, appliances and trains.


China’s chief economic planner says growth target can be met

BEIJING (AP) — China’s chief economic planner has expressed confidence that stronger consumer spending will help it meet a 6.5 percent growth target that is little changed from last year despite efforts to promote more sustainable, efficient activity.

The chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, He Lifeng, said Tuesday the share of growth accounted for by domestic consumption could rise above 60 percent. That would be up from last year’s 58.8 percent.

He said the target announced Monday “can be realized through hard work.”

Private sector analysts say the decision to set a target again this year suggests Chinese leaders still are concerned with the total growth figure. They said hitting the target might require Beijing to ease bank lending, which would set back reform efforts.


SpaceX racks up 50th launch of Falcon 9 rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX is marking the 50th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, its satellite-delivery workhorse.

The latest Falcon took flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Tuesday, successfully hoisting a massive communications satellite for Spain’s Hispasat corporation. The orbiting satellite is almost as big as a city bus.

No attempt was made to recover the first-stage booster. Waves offshore were too rough for a barge landing.

SpaceX has been flying the Falcon 9 since mid-2010. Fifty launches in less than eight years is a pretty good clip, by rocket standards.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says via Twitter that he can’t believe it’s already been 50 launches and that just 10 years ago, the company couldn’t even reach orbit with the little, original Falcon 1.


Rush on to restore power as another winter storm looms

BOSTON (AP) — Utilities are racing to restore power to tens of thousands of customers in the Northeast still without electricity after last week’s storm as another nor’easter threatens the hard-hit area with heavy, wet snow, high winds — and more outages.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning that stretches from eastern Pennsylvania, across most of New England, from late Tuesday night into Thursday morning.

More than a foot of snow is forecast for some interior areas.

Meanwhile, about 250,000 homes and business across the Northeast remain without power, down from about 2 million at the last storm’s peak.

Con Edison says it still had 28,000 Westchester County, New York, customers without power on Tuesday morning, but expects to have the “vast majority” restored by 11 p.m.

National Grid says it hope to restore electricity to its Massachusetts and Rhode Island customers by midnight.


Danny Glover shouted down at Airbnb rally by labor activists

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Protesters associated with a hotel workers’ union have shouted down actor Danny Glover at a rally of Airbnb hosts calling for new regulations for home rental listings in New York state.

Glover had just begun speaking at Tuesday’s gathering in the New York Capitol when protesters started yelling over him. The 71-year-old star of the “Lethal Weapon” series attempted to continue but then left the rally as the shouting continued.

The protesters accused the longtime liberal activist of betraying minorities by working as a paid adviser to Airbnb. Opponents say it drives up housing prices and hurts traditional hotels.

One protester said she was working on behalf of the Hotel Trades Council. The union is a leading Airbnb opponent.

Tuesday’s event was held to support legislation easing regulations on Airbnb listings.


Some driverless car damage appears to be from angry people

(Information in the following story is from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One problem with self-driving cars is people.

The Los Angeles Times reports that of six crash reports filed in California so far this year, two involved a person attacking a robot car.

Both incidents happened in San Francisco, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records.

On Jan. 2, a vehicle operated by General Motors’ Cruise driverless car division was waiting at a green light for pedestrians to cross when a shouting man ran across the street against the do-not-walk signal and struck its bumper and hatch, damaging a taillight.

The car was in autonomous mode but a driver was behind the wheel.

On Jan. 28, another GM autonomous vehicle with a human driving had stopped behind a taxi when the taxi driver got out and slapped the front passenger-side window.

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