Business Briefs – July 1, 2018

Stocks Emerge From Wild, Unpredictable First Half With Gains

NEW YORK (AP) – The first half of the year was full of surprises on Wall Street.

Even experts and investors who expected more volatility after a historically calm 2017 were caught off guard by many of the developments inside and outside the markets this year, including the rapid gains stocks made in January, their abrupt descent into a “correction” and the ongoing trade tensions that threatened to undo the benefits of the GOP tax overhaul and strong corporate profits. Still, consumer-focused companies like retailers had a strong start to the year and technology companies rallied, while high-dividend stocks, especially phone companies and household goods makers, lagged behind.

U.S. Consumer Spending Weak in May, While Inflation Speeds Up

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S consumers increased their spending just 0.2 percent in May, a disappointing result after two months of much stronger gains. Meanwhile, inflation — as measured by a gauge monitored by the Federal Reserve — rose 2.3 percent for the 12 months ending in May, the fastest reading in six years.

Trump Touts Tax Cuts During Successful Week

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump says he “unleashed an economic miracle” with his tax cuts last year. Trump spoke Friday at a White House event marking the six-month anniversary of the $1.5 trillion tax cuts. The cuts are taking effect in the ninth year of an economic expansion that began under former President Barack Obama.

Asia Economies Discuss Trade Pact Amid Rising Protectionism

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday called for an early conclusion of a regional trade pact that ensures free and rules-based commerce in the face of an increasingly protectionist United states under President Donald Trump.

Japan co-chairs the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, with Singapore, and seeks to take leadership in shaping the pact as an alternative to a Pacific Rim free-trade grouping that Trump abandoned early this year.

Japan hopes to conclude the pact by the end of this year. Members of the initiative, launched in 2013, however still struggle with issues including tariffs, trade in services and investment rules. Japan is also cautious about China’s influence.

NYC Drivers for Uber, Others to Get Vision Care Coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — New York drivers for car services and ride-hailing apps like Uber will get coverage for vision care as well as phone or video appointments with doctors starting Sunday, industry representatives announced. The coverage for an estimated 43,000 drivers statewide will be paid for by the Black Car Fund, a workers’ compensation fund for car-service drivers that’s funded by a 2.5 percent surcharge on each ride.

Republicans Propose Using Sales Tax Money for New Tax Cuts

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling making it easier to collect online sales taxes could yield billions of dollars for state and local governments. But some states may not keep it. Rather than spend the windfall on schools, prisons or other government services, some Republican governors and lawmakers are proposing to give it away in the form of additional tax cuts. The new tax cut proposals come as some of those GOP officials are running for re-election.

Citigroup to Refund $335 Million To Credit Card Customers

NEW YORK (AP) – Citigroup has agreed to refund $335 million to a group of customers who may have been overpaying interest on their credit cards. In a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Citi will refund 1.75 million customers in overpaid interest by the end of the year.

Want to Start an Amazon Delivery Business? What to Know

NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon wants you to deliver its packages for them. The online retailer is enlisting small businesses — and those who want to start one — to pick up packages from its delivery stations and bring them to customers. The new program gives Amazon more ways to ship its packages to shoppers without having to rely on UPS and other package delivery services. Businesses created under the program would operate 20 to 40 vans and employ between 40 and 100 people. Start-up costs begin at $10,000.