Update on the latest in business:


Asian markets mixed following Wall Street gains

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Monday following Wall Street’s gain and China’s appointment of a new central bank governor and other top economic officials.

On Wall Street Friday, energy companies, industrial firms and smaller companies gained, helping the market break a losing streak. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.2 percent to 2,752.01. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.3 percent to 24,946.51. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.25 points to 7,481.99.

A U.S.-trained economist was named to succeed longtime Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan as part of a slate of new economic officials. The appointments come as Beijing is trying to rein in surging debt and reduce financial risk. The new governor of the People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, is a veteran deputy central banker who is known to foreign investors and regulators as head of China’s foreign exchange regulator.

Investors are closely watching this week’s first meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee under newly appointed Fed chairman Jerome Powell. Tai Hui of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said in a report that the potential for insight into how the new Fed leadership will operate makes this “arguably one of the most important policy setting meetings in recent years.”

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $62 per barrel.

The dollar edged down against the yen and strengthened against the euro.


Robots break new ground in construction industry

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robots are coming to a construction site near you.

Tech startups are developing self-driving bulldozers, survey drones and bricklaying robots to help the construction industry boost productivity, speed and safety as it struggles to find enough skilled workers.

A wave of automation is transforming the construction industry, which has lagged behind other sectors in technological innovation.

Backed by venture capital, tech startups are developing robots, drones, software and other technologies to help the construction industry to boost speed, safety and productivity.

Autonomous machines are changing the nature of construction work in an industry that’s facing a backlog of building projects.

Workers at Berich Masonry in Englewood, Colorado, recently spent several weeks learning how to operate a bricklaying robot known as SAM. That’s short for Semi-Automated Mason, a $400,000 machine which is made by Victor, New York-based Construction Robotics. The machine can lay about 3,000 bricks in an eight-hour shift – several times more than a mason working by hand.


Lawmakers say UK should consider postponing Brexit

LONDON (AP) — A key committee of British lawmakers says the U.K. should consider postponing Brexit because there may not be enough time to strike a deal with the European Union before Britain leaves the bloc a year from now.

The Exiting the EU Committee says if major aspects of the future relationship remain unsettled by October, Britain should seek a “limited extension” of its EU membership.

Britain and the EU want to seal a deal on their future relations by the fall, so national parliaments can approve it before Britain’s official exit day: March 29, 2019.

In a report published Sunday, the lawmakers say a proposed transition period of about two years should also be capable of being extended.

Seven pro-Brexit lawmakers on the 21-member, all-party committee refused to back the report.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appointed to second 5-year term

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ceremonial legislature has appointed the No. 2 Communist Party leader, Li Keqiang, to a second five-year term as premier and approved the appointment of a director for a national anti-corruption agency.

Delegates to the National People’s Congress on Sunday voted 2,964 to 2 to approve Li’s appointment. The vote comes a day after party leader Xi Jinping was reappointed China’s president with no limits on how many terms he can serve.

The premier traditionally is China’s top economic official but Xi has stripped Li of many of the post’s most prominent duties by appointing himself to lead party bodies that oversee economic reform and state industry.

The legislature also approved the appointment of a director for the National Supervisory Commission.


China’s next economic czar: Harvard-trained Xi adviser

BEIJING (AP) — China’s next economy czar is a Harvard-trained supporter of free markets who is President Xi Jinping’s top adviser. But he has no experience fighting the bureaucratic battles the post can require.

Liu He’s rise comes as the ruling Communist Party faces mounting pressure to make its cooling, state-dominated economy more productive. That will require politically fraught changes to open industries wider to private and foreign competition.

The 66-year-old Liu was Monday named one of four vice premiers by China’s ceremonial legislature. No details of his duties were immediately announced but he is widely expected to have broad economic powers.

As a vice premier, Liu would answer to Premier Li Keqiang, whose post traditionally is top economic official. But Xi has stripped Li of many of his job’s most prominent duties.


Japan’s February exports, imports grow amid trade war fears

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s exports in February grew 1.8 percent compared to the same month a year ago, according to Ministry of Finance data released Monday.

Worries are growing about a possible trade war over President Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Japan is asking for an exemption.

Exports are expected to grow in coming months, boosted by global economic growth. Japan exports much of its steel to Asia and not the U.S.

Exports grew to 6.46 trillion yen ($61 billion). Japan’s imports in February grew 16.5 percent on year also to 6.46 trillion yen ($61 billion), when rounded off, leaving a surplus of 3.4 billion yen ($32 million), the ministry said.

By country, Japan’s exports to the U.S. in February grew 4.3 percent.


US probes 4 deaths in Hyundai-Kia cars when air bags failed

DETROIT (AP) — Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes and four people are dead. Now the U.S. government’s road safety agency wants to know why.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s investigating problems that affect an estimated 425,000 cars made by the Korean automakers. The agency also is looking into whether the same problem could happen in vehicles made by other companies.

The agency says the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonatas and 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortes. The agency has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage. Six other people were injured.

The problem has been traced to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA will investigate whether other automakers used the same computer.


Senators want to know how FAA approved open-door flights

NEW YORK (AP) — A deadly helicopter crash has prompted New York’s senators to call for an investigation into how the Federal Aviation Administration ever approved open-door helicopter sightseeing flights and tight harness systems.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (KEER’-sten JIHL’-uh-brand) made the demand in a joint letter on Sunday to the Department of Transportation’s inspector general.

They say “clearly something went remarkably wrong” with the FAA’s approval process that allowed helicopters that fly with their doors open, often so passengers can take pictures, and use harnesses that can’t be quickly released.

On Friday, the FAA temporarily grounded open-door flights and the use of tight seat restraints.

The ban came amid concerns such harnesses prevented passengers from escaping when their helicopter plunged into the East River last Sunday, killing five people.


‘Black Panther’ tops box office for 5th straight weekend

NEW YORK (AP) — “Black Panther” has become the first film since 2000’s “Avatar” to top the weekend box office five straight weekends.

According to studio estimates Sunday, “Black Panther” grossed $27 million in ticket sales over the weekend, pushing its domestic haul to $605.4 million. Worldwide, “Black Panther” has grossed more than $1.1 billion.

The rebooted “Tomb Raider,” starring Alicia Vikander, opened with $23.5 million. That was a modest start for the $90 million film, but “Tomb Raider” is expected to be the top ticket-seller in China over the weekend.

The Christian drama “I Can Only Imagine” blew away expectations to open with $17.1 million. It’s about the singer who wrote one of the most popular songs in Christian music.

The gay teen romance “Love, Simon” debuted with $11.5 million.


Facebook seeks to expand Northern California campus

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Facebook is seeking to add a new office building to its Northern California headquarters.

The San Jose Mercury News reports Saturday that building permits compiled by Buildzoom show Facebook plans to erect the 465,000 square-foot (43,200 square-meter) building at its campus in Menlo Park, California.

The plans come as a number of technology companies including Mountain View-based Google and Cupertino-based Apple are seeking space to expand in the region.

John Yandle, executive managing director of a commercial realty brokerage office in Santa Clara, says this part of the San Francisco Bay Area has never seen so many companies embarking on major expansions at the same time.


German auto supplier opens $46.3 million plant in Alabama

WOODSTOCK, Ala. (AP) — MöllerTech, a German auto supplier, has opened a $46.3 million plant in central Alabama.

Company officials say 222 employees will be hired at the new supply plant by the end of 2019. Al.com reported the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held recently, just 16 months after the company announced it would build the plant in Bibb County.

Steve Jordan, President of MöllerTech’s North American division, says the supply plant currently has 50 employees.

It will be next door to Mercedes-Benz’s new Global Logistics Center in an industrial park.

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International CEO Jason Hoff attended the ribbon cutting to welcome MöllerTech.

MöllerTech’s parent company, MöllerGroup, has had a business relationship with Mercedes since the 1950s.

The German company also develops interior parts for Audi, BMW, Daimler, GM, Honda, Porche, Rolls-Royce and Toyota.


AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. filed false documents with NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — Jared Kushner’s family real estate company routinely filed false documents with New York City claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when, in fact, it had hundreds.

Documents compiled by a tenants’ rights group and shared with The Associated Press show the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 construction applications over three years claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in 34 buildings. Tax records show those buildings actually had more than 300 rent-regulated units.

Tenant advocates say the tactic is used by landlords to avoid protections that prevent them from forcing out low-paying tenants.

The Kushner Cos. says it outsources the preparations of such documents and fixes any mistakes immediately. Records show the company did file some amended documents, often more than a year later.


If you savor scallops, good news: Price drop may be in store

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Good news for fans of scallops. They are already one of the most readily available higher-priced seafood items to consumers, and prices could fall this year.

American scallop harvests have grown and are poised to go up again in 2018 due to potential increase in the amount fishermen are allowed to catch. Meanwhile, the country has been importing even more scallops from countries such as China, Japan and Canada.

Some seafood industry members say it could mean the shellfish price will fall to consumers. Fishermen have received slightly less money for scallops at the docks in recent years. Consumers could start to see it in restaurants and grocery stores this year.

State scallop fisheries have been strong. Maine fishermen had their largest haul in 20 years in 2017.

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