Business Briefs – July 11, 2019

Powell Sends Further Signals Of Future Rate Cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, testifying for a second day before Congress, said Thursday that the economy is in a “very good place” despite rising uncertainties and the Fed is prepared to do what it can to “keep it there.” Powell’s comments before the Senate Banking Committee strengthened the message he had sent to a House panel on Wednesday that the central bank is prepared to cut interest rates to support economic growth.

One Reason for a Fed Cut: Powell Now Fears Too-Low Inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) – In a shift from just a few months ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is worried that too-low inflation could persist for a while — and undercut the U.S. economy.

Powell’s concern is a key reason why the Fed will likely cut short-term interest rates late this month for the first time in a decade: A rate cut — and especially if it’s followed by others — could help lift inflation closer to the Fed’s target level.

The chairman’s newly expressed worries about chronically low inflation reflect another sea change at the Fed: Powell and other officials seem to have jettisoned a long-standing economic rule of thumb that a long streak of low unemployment will inevitably raise inflation too high.

Twitter Hit With Hour-Long Outage

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter was down for about an hour Thursday in an outage that appeared to affect users around the world. The company is blaming “an internal configuration change.” The outage began before noon PT; some users were able to access Twitter again by 12:45 p.m. Twitter says some users may be able to access the service as the company worked on a fix.

Trump Accuses China of Foot-Dragging on Farm Purchases

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is accusing China of “letting us down” by not promptly buying more U.S. farm products. “They have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Software Engineer Accused of Taking Trade Secrets to China

WASHINGTON (AP) – A software engineer is accused of stealing trade secrets from the Illinois locomotive company he once worked for and taking the information to China. A federal indictment charges Xudong Yao with nine counts of trade secrets theft. Prosecutors say Yao downloaded thousands of files from the suburban Chicago company while at the same time negotiating a job with a Chinese company. Prosecutors say Yao took the files with him when he flew to China in 2015 and began working at the company there.

Amazon, Seeking More Skilled Workers, Will Do the Training

NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon will spend more than $700 million to provide additional training to about one-third of its U.S. workforce. Amazon, which like other companies has struggled to find technically qualified U.S. employees, said it will provide its workers with the skills to transition into software engineering positions and technical roles. Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that its U.S. workforce will hit 300,000 this year. It has more than 630,000 employees worldwide.

Human Workers Can Listen to Google Assistant Recordings

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Google contractors are able to listen to recordings of what people say to its artificial intelligence system Google Assistant, via either their phone or through smart speakers such as the Google Home. The company acknowledged that humans can access those recordings after some of its Dutch language recordings were leaked. Google is investigating the breach.

France Adopts Pioneering Tax on Tech Giants After U.S. Threat

PARIS (AP) – France adopted a pioneering tax on internet giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook despite U.S. threats of new tariffs on French imports if Paris went ahead with the plan. The final vote came hours after the Trump administration announced an investigation into the tax under the provision used last year to probe China’s technology policies, which led to tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.

U.S. Long-Term Mortgage Rates Little Changed, 30-Year at 3.75%

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week amid signals from the Federal Reserve that it is preparing to cut interest rates soon.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year mortgage stood at 3.75%, the same as the previous week.