Business Briefs – March 17, 2019

U.S. Industrial Production Rose Just 0.1 Percent in February

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. industrial production increased a slight 0.1 percent in February, as an increase in utilities and mining offset the second straight monthly drop in manufacturing. The Federal Reserve says that the manufacturing component of the index fell 0.4 percent last month, after having fallen 0.5 percent in January. Factory production has slipped 1 percent during the past 12 months.

China’s Premier Denies Beijing Tells Companies to Spy

BEIJING (AP) – China’s No. 2 leader has denied Beijing tells Chinese tech companies to spy abroad and promised to treat foreign and domestic competitors equally in an effort to defuse trade tension with Washington and Europe. Premier Li Keqiang’s denial was China’s highest-level effort so far to put to rest Western security concerns that threaten to block access to markets for next-generation telecoms and other technology.

American Airlines Suspends Flights to Venezuela

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – American Airlines says it is suspending flights to Venezuela because of safety concerns. The decision comes shortly after the pilots’ union told its members to refuse assignments to Venezuela because of a State Department warning about dangerous conditions. American was the last big U.S. airline still flying to the troubled country.

U.S. Job Openings Rise, Outnumber The Unemployed by 1 Million

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. employers posted nearly 7.6 million open jobs in January, near a record high set in November, evidence that businesses are still hungry for workers despite signs the economy has slowed. The Labor Department says hiring also rose and the number of people quitting their jobs picked up.

FAA’s Close Ties to Boeing Questioned After 2 Deadly Crashes

For more than six decades, the Federal Aviation Administration has relied on employees of airplane manufacturers to do government-required safety inspections as planes are being designed or assembled. But critics say the system, dubbed the “designee program,” is too cozy as company employees do work for an agency charged with keeping the skies safe while being paid by an industry that the FAA is regulating.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank to Hold Talks on Merger

BERLIN (AP) – Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank, and domestic rival Commerzbank have decided to open talks on a possible merger, the lenders said Sunday in an announcement that followed months of speculation regarding such a combination.

Commerzbank said in a one-sentence statement that the banks “have agreed today to start discussions with an open outcome on a potential merger.”

Deutsche Bank said its management board had decided to “review strategic options” and added that there was no certainty of any transaction emerging. It said “in this context, we confirm that we are engaging in discussions with Commerzbank.”

A merger would combine two banks that had more than 133,000 full-time employees between them at the end of last year and have had troubles in recent years.