Business Briefs – December 6, 2018

China Promises Prompt Action on U.S. Trade Pact

BEIJING (AP) – China’s government said Thursday it will promptly carry out a tariff ceasefire with Washington and is confident it can reach a trade agreement, suggesting Beijing wants to avoid disruptions due to the arrest of a tech executive.

Talks during the 90-day period during which President Donald Trump has agreed to suspend U.S. tariff hikes will start by focusing on farm goods, energy and automobiles, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng.

Asked to confirm whether Beijing promised to buy American goods immediately, Gao said China will “immediately implement the consensus reached by the two sides on farm products, cars and energy.” He said nothing about purchases.

OPEC Delays Oil Output Decision Pending Russia Talks

VIENNA (AP) – OPEC countries hoping to support the price of oil put off a decision Thursday on how much to reduce oil production until they negotiate with ally Russia on Friday on how much it will contribute to the cut.

Some saw it as a sign that the group of oil-producing nations may not have the political unity to rein in supply and is suffering under political pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to not push prices up again. Others interpreted it as a tactic to get Russia to agree to big cuts as well.

The price of oil has fallen about 25 percent because major producers — including the U.S. — are pumping oil at high rates. It fell further on Thursday after OPEC’s lack of action and amid broader concerns about global economic growth.

U.S., Average Mortgage Rates Fall; 30-Year Loan at 4.75%

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week amid a steep decline in stock prices.

Continued slides in the stock market and tumbling oil prices have been pushing mortgage rates lower, although home borrowing rates remain much higher than a year ago. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.75% from 4.81% last week. The key rate stood at 3.94% a year ago.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans declined to 4.21% from 4.25% the previous week.

The fall in mortgage rates “is a welcome relief to prospective homebuyers who have recently experienced rising rates and rising home prices,” Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said.

Survey: U.S. Businesses Added a Solid 179,000 Jobs Last Month

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. businesses hired new workers at a solid pace in November, adding 179,000 jobs, according to a private survey.

The report comes as other data also suggest the U.S. economy remains healthy, even as the financial markets have gyrated over concerns about a trade conflict with China and slowing global growth.

Payroll processor ADP said Thursday that last month’s job gains slowed from October’s strong showing of 225,000. Still, November’s hiring is enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

Job gains were strong in health care, which added 37,000 jobs, and in hotels and restaurants, which gained 26,000. Professional and technical services, which include high-paying jobs such as accountants and engineers, added 25,000.