Update on the latest in business:
Asian stocks lower after Fed report renews bond yield fears
HONG KONG (AP) – Most Asian stock indexes fell Thursday, tracking Wall Street’s decline after the latest Fed report rekindled fears about inflation and rising bond yields.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index sank 1.1 percent and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.9 percent but the Shanghai Composite jumped 2.0 percent, fueled by pent-up demand from investors in mainland China, where markets reopened after a weeklong holiday.
On Wall Street, major U.S. benchmarks ended lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.5 percent to 2,701.33. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.7 percent to 24,797.78. The Nasdaq gave up 0.2 percent to 7,218.23.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic reports due out today:
WASHINGTON (AP) – There are no major government economic reports scheduled for release today.
But Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases this week’s average mortgage rates.
HEALTH OVERHAUL-NEW PLAN
Beyond ‘Obamacare’: New liberal plan on health care overhaul
WASHINGTON (AP) – A major liberal policy group is raising the ante on the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all.
Called “Medicare Extra for All,” the proposal to be released Thursday by the Center for American Progress gives politically energized Democrats more options to achieve a long-sought goal.
Still, the plan would preserve a role for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required.
Even though the plan has no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, center president Neera Tanden says it’s time for Democrats to “go bolder.”
Picking up on the leftward shift among Democrats, Republicans are already working up rebuttals.
House panel seeks info on EPA chief’s first-class flights
WASHINGTON (AP) – A Republican-led congressional committee is demanding records related to premium-class flights taken by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy is seeking an accounting of all flights taken by Pruitt over the last year and whether the ticket was coach, business or first class. The EPA administrator defended his use of premium-class airfare in media interviews, saying security concerns were raised after unpleasant interactions with other passengers.
The South Carolina Republican’s letter cites the evolving explanations of EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox, who initially said Pruitt had a “blanket waiver” to fly first class before then saying a separate waiver had been granted for each flight. Federal employees are typically supposed to fly coach, and rules bar blanket waivers.
EPA did not respond to messages seeking comment.
SCHOOL SHOOTING-PENSION FUND
Florida workers’ pension fund invested in gun manufacturers
TALAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida’s main pension fund for state workers and teachers has a half-million dollar stake in the company that makes the rifle used in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Florida Retirement System had more than 41,000 shares in American Outdoor Brands Co. with a market value of $528,000, according to a Dec. 31 securities filing posted on its website. American Outdoor Brands is the Massachusetts-based parent company of Smith & Wesson.
Federal law enforcement officials say Nikolas Cruz used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle to kill 17 people at the school in Parkland on Feb. 14.
The pension fund also invested in gunmaker Sturm & Ruger and companies that make ammunition. The investments are a small fraction of the overall portfolio.
Federal food safety agency recalls Fareway chicken salad
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The federal government is recalling chicken salad made by an Iowa processing company and distributed by Fareway Stores which has now sickened people in five states.
The Iowa Department of Public Health says it has linked 115 cases of salmonella-related illnesses to the chicken salad sold by the Iowa-based grocery store chain and made at Triple T Specialty Meats Inc. of Ackley, Iowa.
Officials in South Dakota report two illnesses and Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois report one case each linked to the chicken salad. It was sold in plastic deli containers with a Fareway store deli label.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued the recall Wednesday.
Lawsuits have been filed in Iowa state court and in federal court by residents from Illinois and South Dakota.
Walmart to launch new online home shopping experience
NEW YORK (AP) – Walmart is launching a new online home shopping experience in the coming weeks that will let shoppers discover items based on their style.
The move is the first glimpse of Walmart Inc.’s broader efforts to redesign its site with a focus on fashion and home furnishing. The overhauled website will be launched later this year and will mirror how people shop for different items. Later this spring, Walmart will offer a dedicated space for Lord & Taylor fashions as part of a partnership signed with the department store’s parent Hudson’s Bay Co.
Walmart.com’s home shopping section will include curated collections and nine shop-by-style options.
The move comes as Walmart aims to be more competitive with online leader Amazon.com as well as home shopping sites like Wayfair.com.
Ford ousts top exec over ‘inappropriate behavior’
DETROIT (AP) – Ford Motor Co. has ousted one of its top executives over allegations of inappropriate behavior.
North America President Raj Nair is leaving the company effective immediately, Ford said in a statement. His replacement has not yet been named.
Ford didn’t say what behavior led to Nair’s departure. Ford investigated after a recent anonymous complaint about Nair was made to the company’s 24-hour hotline.
Nair had served as an executive vice president and head of North America since June 1, 2017. Before that, he was Ford’s head of global product development and chief technical officer.
Nair joined Ford in 1987 as a mechanical engineer. He held numerous leadership positions in Europe, Asia and South America. Prior to being named head of global product development, Nair oversaw engineering for all Ford and Lincoln vehicles.
Court considers banning diesel cars in German cities
BERLIN (AP) – A German court is considering whether cities should ban diesel cars to lower air pollution, a move that could have drastic consequences for the country’s auto industry.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is hearing an appeal by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars were effective and should be considered.
A decision could be issued later in the day.
The original court cases were brought by environmental groups who say excessive air pollution levels in dozens of German cities are largely caused by diesel cars. They accuse the government of putting automakers’ interests before citizens’ health.
German automaker Volkswagen was found three years ago to have used in-car software to cheat on U.S. emissions tests, resulting in large fines.
Judge orders gov’t review of Keystone pipeline documents
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A judge has told federal officials to go back and review documents related to the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline after environmentalists accused the government of withholding details on the project’s approval.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana said Wednesday that the government must provide any relevant documents by March 21 or explain why they should be withheld.
The ruling came in a lawsuit from environmentalists seeking to stop the 1,179-mile pipeline from Canada’s oil sands region to U.S. refineries.
The project has become a flashpoint in the debate over climate change. It was blocked by former President Barack Obama in 2015 before President Donald Trump revived it last year.
Government attorneys fought against releasing the sought-after documents. They said it could take years to review the material.
Snowboarders White, Kim boost NBC to weekly ratings win
LOS ANGELES (AP) – The aerial wizardry of snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim lifted the Winter Olympics and NBC to a weekly ratings victory.
According to the Nielsen company Wednesday, White’s gold-medal comeback in the halfpipe gave NBC last week’s most-watched night in prime-time.
Kim’s unprecedented combination of spins for a woman in competition captured gold for her and delivered almost as many viewers as watched the night of White’s competition.
Altogether, Olympic broadcasts from Pyeongchang, South Korea, claimed seven of the top 10 slots for the week of Feb. 12-18.
CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which included Oprah Winfrey’s second roundtable with Michigan voters, including supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump, was No. 8.
Stewart Airport is getting a new name as part of upgrade
NEWBURGH, N.Y. (AP) – Stewart International Airport is getting a slight name change as part of a $37 million upgrade.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced Thursday that the Hudson Valley facility will be renamed New York Stewart International Airport.
The goal is to emphasize the location an hour north of New York City while appeasing descendants of Archie Stewart, the Orange County airport’s namesake. Stewart’s daughter had contested an earlier proposal to rename it New York International at Stewart Field.
Planned upgrades include a new customs inspection area to better accommodate domestic and international passengers.
The expansion is expected to create 140 jobs.
Officials said last year nearly 450,000 commercial airline passengers used Stewart. That was up from approximately 275,000 total passengers in 2016.