Business Briefs – February 27, 2019

Walmart Is Getting Rid Of Greeters, Worrying the Disabled

(AP) – As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar “greeters” at some 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being unfairly targeted. Walmart told greeters around the country last week their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. That came as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other disabilities. Now Walmart is facing a backlash from customers and employees.

On Summit Sidelines, North Koreans Study Vietnam’s Economy

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – As Kim Jong Un prepared for his second summit with President Donald Trump, top members of his delegation made a whirlwind tour of one of Vietnam’s most successful conglomerates. Kim came to Vietnam with several senior foreign and economic advisers and gleaning insights into ways to improve the North’s economy appears to be a high priority.

Britain Reaches WTO Deal On Govt Contracts Post-Brexit

GENEVA (AP) – Britain has struck a trade deal for a post-Brexit world, obtaining approval from other World Trade Organization members to stay part of a competitive market for lucrative government contracts after the country leaves the European Union. The agreement allows Britain to retain its place among the 47 WTO countries that are involved in the Government Procurement Agreement.

Theresa May Gains Two Weeks’ Brexit Reprieve From British MPs

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May won a two week reprieve on Wednesday from British MPs, who postponed a threatened rebellion aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit after she agreed to a possible delay to Britain’s departure from the EU.

But the opposition Labour Party announced it would now support a new public vote on Brexit, the first time since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU that one of its main parties has backed giving voters a chance to change their minds.

After months of saying that Britain must leave the EU on time on March 29, May opened up the possibility on Tuesday of a short limited extension to the exit date.

That was enough to avert a showdown in parliament on Wednesday with MPs — including ministers in her own government who had said they were prepared to join a rebellion this week to avert an exit with no agreement.

May’s climbdown took much of the heat out of a series of votes on Wednesday that could have ripped control of the entire process away from the government.

In the end, MPs backed her promised timetable. But it now means British citizens and businesses will not learn how, or possibly even whether, they are to leave the European Union until the final weeks or even days before the deadline.

Southwest Gets FAA OK for flights To Hawaii From California

DALLAS (AP) – The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it has granted Southwest Airlines approval to begin flights between California and Hawaii, capping the airline’s effort to extend its reach 2,400 miles across the Pacific.

The Dallas-based airline’s chief operating officer, Mike Van de Ven, said Southwest will announce timing for selling tickets and beginning flights in the coming days.

The FAA will increase oversight of Southwest for the first six months, an agency spokesman said, adding that the additional monitoring is standard practice.

U.S. Pending Home Sales Rebounded 4.6 Percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in January as lower mortgage rates appeared to give the real estate market a boost.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday its pending home sales index rose 4.6 percent last month to 103.2. The rebound has come as average 30-year mortgage rates have fallen since peaking at nearly 5 percent in early November. Still, higher mortgage rates in 2018 depressed pending sales by 2.3 percent over the past 12 months.

The increase suggests that home sales may rebound this year after months of flagging purchases. Key to any increase in sales is 30-year mortgage rates, which slipped last week to an average of 4.35 percent, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. Lower borrowing costs improves affordability for homes, which until recently have generally seen their prices climb faster than wages.